I LOVE IT When This Happens!

Two recent Ethics Alarms posts collided on Ann Althouse’s blog today. She wrote that she was listening to the audiobook “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion,”by none other than Jonathan Haidt, who uttered the Ethics Quote Of The Month recently discussed here.

In his audiobook, Haidt said that this statement “captured the spirit and self-image of the modern American left”:

“I am a liberal, and liberalism is the politics of kindness. Liberals stand for tolerance, magnanimity, community spirit, the defense of the weak against the powerful, love of learning, freedom of belief, art and poetry, city life, the very things that make America worth dying for.”

Who authored this ringing declaration of liberal principles?

Garrison Keillor, that’s who. Continue reading

The Great Pie Controversy, or “Why Reporter April Ryan Isn’t Invited To The White House Christmas Party And Rightfully So”

Did you miss The Great Pie Controversy? Then sit down, children, and hear the tale…

It all began when White House spokesperson Sarah Hucklebee Sanders posted a photo on Thanksgiving showing a pecan pie she baked for Thanksgiving. Above  is the  2:40 p.m. tweet.  The next day, American Urban Radio Networks Washington bureau chief April Ryan tweeted her doubts that the pie was real, implying that Sanders was a liar.  She needed to “show it to us on a table,” Ryan demanded, and had to see “folks eating it and a pic of you cooking it.”

Now, let us pause and ponder what would make someone react like that to a simple declaration that someone had baked a pie for Thanksgiving.  Why would anyone set out to embarrass and impugn an individual’s honesty over something so innocuous, based on no evidence or good reason at all? This isn’t journalism. It ‘s just meanness, motivated by sheer bias and hate. Conduct like that is so contrary to the Golden Rule that it constitutes tarnish.

And, of course, Ryan’s demands were also stupid and unreasonable. How would Sanders, where she so inclined, produce photos of guests eating a pie after it had been eaten?

Never mind. This example of disgusting and gratuitous reporter enmity was quickly picked up by the anti-Trump journalism establishment as an actual news story. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces And Nominee For 2017 Assholes Of The Year: Ugly American Joseph and Travis Dasilva, a.k.a. “The Traveling Butts”

World traveling married couple  Joseph Dasilva, 38, and Travis Dasilva think it’s’ cute and funny to take what they call “belfies,” as in “below-the-belt selfies” at historical, religious and cultural sites in other nations. They then post the disrespectful  photos to Instagram. Above the witty pair is shown  at Bangkok’s Wat Arun, or Temple of the Dawn, baring their asses. Unfortunately, such conduct is illegal in Thailand. The Dasilvas were arrested at the Bangkok airport, fined 5,000 baht ( about$154) each, and will be facing charges of public indecency.

Writes Professor Turley, quite correctly:

So these two travel the world showing utter contempt for historic and cultural sites, then when they get into trouble, the United States spends money and time to try to secure their release from their well-deserved arrests….It remains a mystery why anyone over the age of 4 would find this “Traveling Butts” theme to be funny. Yet, their account had more than 14,000 followers before it was deleted. I find that following far more unsettling than the fact that two adults would engage in this type of offensive conduct. 

What do you want to bet that these two boors loudly condemn the President for projecting a poor image of the U.S. abroad? Continue reading

President Trump’s First Year: The Ethics Alarms Ethics Audit

 

I planned to do this on November 8, but other matters intervened. Properly I should wait until January, I suppose. Yet I don’t see the grades changing significantly in a month or two.

For the most part, this ethics audit doesn’t consider policy matters. Calling policies unethical is usually a cheap shot and an expression of partisan priorities. I believe that the DACA is unethical; many believe that killing it would be unethical. I could not make a useful analysis using these kinds of controversies.

To keep this simple, I’m going to use the relevant ethical values listed in the Josephson Institute’s Six Pillars of Character, and add some extra categories at the end. As a preface, I have to say that there aren’t many surprises here. I had already concluded long ago that the concept of ethics is meaningless to Donald Trump. In Three Circles terms, he has only one circle, his own, and a Core circle unmoored to either a formal code of ethics or public standards of conduct will only be ethical by accident. I was hopeful that, like other Presidents of dubious character and troubling pasts when they reached office, Trump might make a concerted effort to adopt more traditional Presidential ways. This was always a long-shot, and so far, I see no signs of it happening.

Here are President Trump’s ethics grades through November of his first term, with comments and explanations where needed: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/30/2017: Bad Tweets, Bad Rep., Bad Rap, Bad NBC…

Bad night, but…

Good Morning!

1 Straight to the top of the charts…When we put together the definitive list of President Trump’s Top Ten (Top 100? Top 1000?) stupid, undignified and self-wounding tweets, yesterday’s sequence of unsubstantiated videos–from a radical right wing British group— of alleged violence by Muslims has to be on the list. I could counter that the eruption of indignation by the vast majority of people who can comprehend what’s wrong with this is a bit annoying from the progressive side—the official Obama Administration position that Islam is a lovely religion of rainbows and unicorns and that Muhammad doesn’t instruct his followers from the grave that infidels are scum and deserve to die is far more dangerous than Trump’s hate-tweets—but that would obscure the key point. Trump’s retweeting is ugly, unnecessary, undignified, looks bigoted, and plays into the hands of the worst of his enemies, who express themselves like this.

Now we have to listen to that dishonest and contrived 25th Amendment garbage again, which never quite stopped anyway. Once again, the President has blown more wind into the sails of anti-democratic hypocrites like Ezra Klein, who argues for a Constitution and Separation of Powers-wrecking version of impeachment to get rid of Trump. No, Trump hasn’t gone crazy: he’s exactly the man we elected, and exactly as able to do his job as he ever was. Tweeting irresponsibly is not a high crime and misdemeanor. Being Donald Trump is not a high crime and misdemeanor.

But the President is playing with fire by encouraging the large political movement that would criminalize not agreeing with their world view. That’s as indefensible as it is idiotic.

2. This much is clear. It is now clear that NBC only fired Matt Lauer because an explosive Variety exposé was on the way, and it was a close call at that. It is pretty clear that the mystery of why NBC rejected journalist Ronan Farrow’s investigative reporting on Harvey Weinstein has been solved: NBC had its own lurking sexual misconduct cover-up to worry about. It is, or should be clear from Variety’s reporting that the astounding brazenness of Lauer’s conduct had to be common knowledge among Lauer’s colleagues and NBC executives, and that they unethically applied The King’s Pass, deliberately allowing Lauer to abuse and terrorize female employees, some of whom played along to get along. TMZ uncovered an old interview in which Katie Couric happily revealed that one consequence of working with Matt was that she got her butt pinched a lot. Nobody paid attention, in part because our pathetic news media buried it. Continue reading

Alert! Garrison Keillor Becomes The Latest Smug Liberal To Get Run Down By The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck, And I Should Have Predicted It

Keillor on “The Charlie Rose Show.” I bet Charley agrees with you about Al Franken, Garrison!

From the Washington Post:

Garrison Keillor, who hosted the popular radio show “A Prairie Home Companion” for decades until his retirement last year, has been fired from Minnesota Public Radio after allegations of “inappropriate behavior,” MPR confirmed in a statement Wednesday.

“Minnesota Public Radio is terminating its contracts with Garrison Keillor and his private media companies after recently learning of allegations of his inappropriate behavior with an individual who worked with him,” the statement read.

I’m not surprised. In fact, when I read Keillor’s head-exploding rationalizations for Al Franken in an op-ed yesterday, also in the Post, I thought, “Hmmmm. This sounds like the logic of a sexual harasser to me. I wonder…?” Foolishly, I didn’t post my suspicions; it was a late cut from today’s Warm-Up.

In his op-ed, “Al Franken should resign? That’s absurd.”, Keillor made the astounding illogical leap of equating the tearing down of statues of historical figures whose conduct was offensive by current standards to excusing current individuals whose conduct—in this case, sexual harassment and assaults—would be acceptable under past standards.

To facilitate this unethical argument and wishful self-applying excuse, the plummy-voiced progressive minimized the complaint of Franken’s first reported victim. I’m numbering each awful section:

Sen. Al Franken…did USO tours overseas when he was in the comedy biz. (1) He did it from deep in his heart, out of patriotism, (2) and the show he did was broad comedy of a sort that goes back to the Middle Ages. (3) Shakespeare used those jokes now and then, and so did Bob Hope and Joey Heatherton when they entertained the troops. (4) If you thought that Al stood outdoors at bases in Iraq and Afghanistan and told stories about small-town life in the Midwest, you were wrong. (5) On the flight home, in a spirit of low comedy, Al ogled Miss Tweeden and pretended to grab her and a picture was taken. (6) Eleven years later, a talk show host in LA, she goes public, (7) and there is talk of resignation. This is pure absurdity, and the atrocity it leads to is a code of public deadliness. No kidding.(8)

Yecchh.

To be more specific: Continue reading

The Unabomber, The Red Light, And Me [UPDATED!]

I ran a red light last night, and I’m feeling bad about it. Ted Kaczynski made me do it.

It was after midnight, and I was returning home after seeing the pre-Broadway production of the musical “Mean Girls,” based on the cult Lindsay Lohan comedy. I was late, my phone was dead, I knew my wife would be worried, and I was stopped at an intersection where I could see for many football fields in all directions. There were no cars to be seen anywhere.

Ted, , aka “The Unabomber” or “Snookums” to his friends, cited my exact situation as an example of how we have become slaves to our technology. Why do we waste moments of our limited lifespan because of a red light, when there is no reason to be stopped other than because the signal says to. Admittedly, this had bothered me before I read Ted’s complaint. Stop lights should start blinking by midnight, allowing a motorist to proceed with caution, as with a stop sign.  If one isn’t blinking, we should be allowed to treat it as if it is.

Last night, I ran the light. With my luck, there was a camera at the intersection, and I’ll get a ticket in the mail. But..

…whether I do or not doesn’t change the ethical or unethical character of my conduct. That’s just moral luck.

…it was still against the law to run the light, even it I was treating it as a blinking light, because it wasn’t

…breaking the law is unethical, even when the law is stupid, and

…there was no legitimate emergency that could justify my running the light as a utilitarian act.

So I feel guilty. Not guilty enough to turn myself in, but still guilty, since I am guilty.

But Ted wasn’t wrong.

Update: Let me add this; I was thinking in the shower.

On several occasions in the past, I have found myself stopped by a malfunctioning light that appeared to be determined to stay red forever. Is it ethical to go through the light then? The alternative is theoretically being stuck for the rest of my life. So we run such lights, on the theory the frozen stop light is not meeting the intent of the law or the authorities who placed it there, and to remain servile to the light under such circumstances is unreasonable. Yet running it is still breaking the law, and isn’t stopping for a light in the dead of night with no cars to be seen also not consistent with the intent of the law and the light? What’s the distinction?

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/29/2017: Featuring Vital Questions Such As: Will Women Now Try To Look Unattractive? Should A Hospital Employ A Nurse Who Hates White People? Is That Man Trying To Rape A Manniquin With An Ice Dildo?

Good Morning!

1  Documented insanity. The New York Times has been on an extended binge of highlighting the suffering of deported illegal residents. I could probably post several more episodes of the Ethics Alarms “Good Illegal Immigrant ” series every week. The intellectual dishonesty of almost all of these Times stories, like the pro-illegal immigrant movement itself, is impressive. Essentially, they all can be reduced to, “Isn’t it terrible that these lawbreakers have to endure the consequences of their own actions?”

Complementing these stories are periodic opinion pieces like “ICE’s Courthouse Arrests Undercut Democracy,”‘ by César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, an associate professor of law at the University of Denver. He writes a pro-illegal immigration blog, identifiable in motive by its habitual use of the cover word “migrant” to mean “illegal immigrants” and the deliberately misleading word “Immigration” to mean “illegal immigration.” Hernández’s op-ed’s argument follows as the night follows day:

“In El Paso, ICE arrested a woman moments after she requested a court’s help keeping away an abusive partner. Fear and uncertainty caused by this type of courthouse arrest are already keeping people away from the halls of justice. In Denver, the city prosecutor gave up on four domestic violence cases because the victims said they were too afraid of ICE to appear in court. In a nationwide survey conducted in April by the nonprofit Tahirih Justice Center, four out of 10 social service providers working with immigrant survivors of abuse said they had clients who had abandoned legal claims because of fear of what will happen if they call the police or go to court.”

Wait: why were these people afraid of ICE? By immigrant survivors, doesn’t Hernandez mean illegal immigrant survivors? If he does, why doesn’t he say so? His favorite terms are “unauthorized” immigrants, and here and there “undocumented” immigrants, poor things. Whatever happened to their documents?

It’s not a threat to democracy if illegal immigrants are afraid to come to court. They should be afraid to come to court. They should be afraid to take advantage of any aspect of  our government or American society. Underlying the professor’s claimed concern for democratic institutions is his contempt for the rule of law. He wants to blur the distinction between illegal and legal immigration to the vanishing point. He quotes the California chief justice as she writes that “the vast majority” of “undocumented immigrants” “pose no risk to public safety.” Is that the desired standard for law enforcement now? As long as a known law-breaker poses no risk to public safety, he or she should be immune from arrest when they turn up in court?

The Times is apparently committed to bombarding its readers with this unconscionable position in perpetuity: our monstrous government has decided to enforce its immigration laws, and the very fabric of our democracy is threatened as a result.

2. CNN Tales.   On a related note, this morning I saw a slick TV ad on CNN supporting “Dreamer” legislation. The terms “illegal,” and even the cover words “undocumented” or “unauthorized” were never used, as various Presidents were shown extolling “immigrants.” “Dreamers” were described as “immigrants” who came here as children.

An ethical broadcast news organization should not accept money to run ads that intentionally misinform its viewers.

But THIS is CNN!…and so is this:  A CNN spokesperson told Politico…
Continue reading

The Three Circles, Prime Directives, And President Trump [With Addendum]

I can’t believe I have never written about this diagram before, but apparently I haven’t. That’s my fault, and a major one.

The diagram, the creation of my friend, attorney John May, shows the inter-relationship of the three ethical systems professionals must employ when they face ethics problems. For although we tend to think about making decisions in one context, there are several, and which sphere—these are circles after all—we choose will often determine what balance of values, principles and outcomes dictates the ultimate course.

Here are what the circles represent:

The Big Circle, in yellow, includes the ethics culture that we all live in. It includes our nation, society, community, family, and friends, and is a messy, inconsistent, multi-faceted, often contradictory melange of traditions, religion, customs, literature, history, heroes, fables, family influences, teachers, peers, laws, and more. This the largest system of all, the sun to the planet-sized influence of the other two systems. within it are not only the often competing ethics theories of Reciprocity, Absolutism, and Utilitarianism, but also all the variations in between and beyond–Ayn Rand, Nietzsche, Marx, and many others. In his invaluable book “The Science of Good and Evil,” Michael Shermer posits that despite all the internal inconsistencies, the Big Circle is remarkably functional, agreeing on what is right and wrong perhaps 97% of the time. The disagreements are in the realm Shermer calls provisional ethics,  akin to what Ethics Alarms is referring to when it cites The Ethics Incompleteness Principle. These are the troublesome problems where the usual principles don’t always work.

 

The Core Circle, in green, represents the values, principles, beliefs and the priority of these for an individual–you. It comprises all of those, plus such core qualities as conscience, self-esteem and courage. It’s location in the Big Circle varies with the individual. A section of it even may protrude outside Big Circle, representing the degree to which a person does not embrace the values of his or her community or culture.

Finally, there is the Compliance Circle, in red. That circle defines the special ethics of a profession, and includes ethics codes, traditions, aspirational values and professional obligations and duties.

Notice that part of the Red Circle is outside the Yellow one. These are the values about which a profession is bound to adhere to at all costs, even though the society at large often and even usually does not have the same ethical priorities. Quoting Star Trek, this is Prime Directive territory. In Gene Roddenberry’s fictional Star Fleet, it was forbidden to use the immense power a starship could muster to interfere with a planet’s inhabitants and their conduct, even to prevent what appeared to be a horrible wrong.  This principle would be repugnant to the the public at large. For example, if a starship had an opportunity to stop a genocidal race from wiping out another race on its planet, the Prime Directive would make it a crime to do so. The Big Circle would certainly view this as monstrous, but the Prime Directive wisely holds that interference must be avoided. Continue reading

An Ethics Hero Epic: Johnny Bobbitt, Jr, Kate McClure, And Americans

Kate, Johnny, and Kate’s boyfriend. I bet you can tell which is which…

I learned about this story days ago, and got so distracted by all the nauseating ethics news that I neglected to write it up. I apologize. This kind of story should always be the top priority.

Kate McClure of Bordentown, New Jersey, was driving through Philadelphia to visit a friend when her car ran out of gas in a tough section of the city. McClure pulled over, got out of her vehicle and began to walk to the nearest gas station. But Johnny Bobbitt, Jr, an ex-Marine who lives on the streets, saw her plight and immediately took charge. The neighborhood was a dangerous place for a woman to walk alone, he told her, and suggested that she get back in her car, lock the doors, and leave matters to him.

A few minutes later, Bobbitt was back with a full gas can, and gave Kate  20 dollars, the only money he had to his name,  to make sure she could get home safely.

McClure said she did not have money to pay Bobbitt back that night, but she returned several times to the spot where he sits, offering him a few dollars and useful items.. Then McClure started a GoFundMe for her rescuer. She wrote,

I would like to get him first and last month’s rent at an apartment, a reliable vehicle, and 4-6 months worth of expenses. He is very interested in finding a job, and I believe that with a place to be able to clean up every night and get a good night’s rest, his life can get back to being normal.

So far, her campaign has attracted donations totalling almost $380,000 for Bobbitt.

The veteran has been homeless for over a year because of real problems. He has battled drugs, bad choices and probably emotional issues as well. I hope this story has a happy ending. So far so good, though. Johnny demonstrated exemplary ethics, sacrificing his own well-being for a stranger. Kate demonstrated genuine gratitude, empathy and concern, and took affirmative action to try to pay him back. And the American public, as it usually does, showed that when sufficiently alert, it knows how to reward good and selfless deeds.