Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/26/17: Rationalizations And Double Standards [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1 Flat learning curve  On “Meet the Press” today, Nancy Pelosi’s defense, if you could call it that, of besieged Democratic representative John Conyers was a special display of what a total integrity void looks like. It was so obvious one has to wonder—again—if these people have that much contempt for the public, or if they are just not very bright. She called for “due process,” which presumably means a formal investigation or some kind of official proceeding, but Democrats haven’t cared about “due process” while demanding that Roy Moore withdraw because of the allegations by his teenage dream dates, or while attacking candidate Trump based on his boasting on the “Access Hollywood” tapes. Nor was “due process” a concern when they sicced Anita Hill on Clarence Thomas during his nationally televised confirmation hearing.

Pelosi then appealed to Conyers’ status as an “icon,” saying,

“John Conyers is an icon in our country. He has done a great deal to protect women – Violence Against Women Act, which the left – right-wing – is now quoting me as praising him for his work on that, and he did great work on that.”

In other words, “The King’s Pass.” Conyers should be treated differently from any regular, run-of-the mill member of Congress, because his many accomplishments should be able to offset any wrongdoing. I’m sure Pelosi endorses this anti-ethical principle; after all, she thinks that she’s an icon too. In truth, kings, stars and icons should be held to higher ethical standards, not lower. If not, they become ethics corrupters.

Pelosi also employed another cynical rationalization, saying she was sure Conyers would do “the right thing.” This is a sneaky version of Rationalization #14. Self-validating Virtue, since she never says what the right thing would be. She is saying that whatever Conyers does would be the right thing, because he’s an icon and what he does must be right.

As a final hypocritical flourish, Pelosi questioned the credibility of Conyers’ accusers. Wait–isn’t the position of the Democratic party and progressives that such women should be believed? Pelosi also spoke as if none of the alleged victim of misconduct had been identified. Naturally, “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd let Pelosi get away with this, although she said, “I do not know who they are. Do you? They have not really come forward.”  An ethical and non-partisan journalist would have said, “Actually, Rep. Pelosi, government ethics lawyer and former staffer Melanie Sloan is one of the Congressman’s accusers. Since her organization, CREW, is a government watchdog that is habitually easy on Democrats, she has a lot of credibility.  Why don’t you believe her?

UPDATE: Conyers has surrendered his leadership position on the Judiciary Committee.

2. Nah, there’s no progressive media bias! The Daily Wire—just because its a conservative website doesn’t mean it’s facts are always wrong–produced this list of 24 sex scandals involving Democrats that CNN chose not to report on.

3.  Blame Senator Moore on Franken, Conyers and Pelosi…and Alabama Republicans, of course… If Roy Moore wins a Senate seat, spectacles like Pelosi’s doubletalk and spinning will be a major reason why.

4. A new rationalization! A comment in the Joe Morgan/steroid/Hall of Fame thread made me aware of a missing rationalization. LoSonnambulo wrote, in an excellent comment explaining the history of the dispute over allowing baseball’s proven steroid cheats into Cooperstown,

“Last year’s gains by Bonds and Clemens also might have been influenced by Hall of Fame action. Early in the voting period, a special committee of the Hall that focuses on executives voted to induct former commissioner Bud Selig, who was commissioner during the entirety of the steroids era, including the record-breaking home run seasons of Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa. It seems some writers consider it hypocritical not to vote for players when the man with the ultimate responsibility for “the best interests of baseball” failed to stop the rot in the game and was honored, anyway.”

I replied in part,

The argument that admitting Bud justifies admitting Bonds et al. makes my head hurt. Is “hey, we’ve gone this far, might as well go the whole way!” on the Rationalizations list? If not, I have to add it.”

It isn’t on the list, and I’m adding it now. Presenting Rationalization #66, The Cynical Endorsement, or “If we are going to be wrong, might as well be really wrong!”:

This is almost too stupid to be a rationalization, but, sadly, we often hear or see it invoked. The idea is to show disgust with the unethical acts of another, by magnifying their damage with a subsequent act or decision that follows the same unethical instincts and that will magnify the harm of the original decision. #62 arises from a horrible recipe consisting of other rationalizations, such as..

  • 1A. Ethics Surrender, or “We can’t stop it”

“If society is incapable of effectively preventing unethical conduct,  we might as well stop regarding that conduct as wrong…”

  • 19. The Perfection Diversion

If it can’t be perfect, why bother with standards at all?

  • 62.  The Doomsday License

We’re doomed anyway. so why nit-pick over ethical technicalities?

All are moronic and cowardly, and #66 is worse than any of them. Criminals reason this way. “Oops! Didn’t want to kill anyone in this burglary! Well, might as well murder the whole family!” It seems like it shouldn’t be necessary to point this out, but to be absolutely clear:

If two wrongs don’t make a right, and they don’t, making a wrong more wrong really doesn’t make a right.

5. Leave Malia alone. Malia Obama posted a YouTube video of herself blowing lovely smoke rings, just like the Caterpillar in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland…

Very impressive, in both cases. Now she is being attacked on social media and some websites for smoking. Malia Obama is a private citizen, and nobody, including the news media, should being interfering with her social life, school activities (she’s a student at Harvard), and life choices as she begins the challenging, scary process of growing up. Being the President’s daughter shouldn’t cause her to forfeit the right every other college student has to experiment, challenge conventional wisdom, try on various life-styles and opinions, and to learn, sometimes the hard way.



16 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/26/17: Rationalizations And Double Standards [UPDATED]

  1. First off, you skipped from 1 to 3.

    Second, I would like to suggest a new tag: This Will Help Elect Senator Moorce, along with This Helps Explain Why Roy Moore Is In The Senate.

    File Kate Harding’s Washington Post op-ed, Pelosi’s double-talk, Emily Linden’s declaration that she doesn’t care if people are hurt by false accusations, and the apparent media double-standard under this.

  2. No. 5. I have no problem with presidents’ kids getting to be screw ups. But why do the Democratic kids get to do it at Harvard or Stanford instead of any less prestigious school? And why do they always have to be regarded as absolutely wonderful in every way, unless their father was a Republican.

    No. 1. There’s no significance regarding her intelligence in what Nancy Pelosi may say. She’s just reading professionally prepared talking points which media types will never, ever, double dog dare you, call a Democrat on. I think this practice appeared during the Lewinsky era. Pelosi’s comments only evidence the fact she’s capable of reading and regurgitating talking points.

      • You really think the Bush girls would have been let into Yale and Harvard? I’m not sure. But yes, it does annoy the HELL out of me that any admissions committee from Stanford to Oxford to The Sorbonne falls all over itself to admit celebrities and children of politicians and judges and so forth. Brings out my inner Marxist.

          • That’s the problem with legacy admissions (and on the other end of things, affirmative action): you can never be sure if they were admitted on merit or otherwise.

            I imagine that’s a curse that afflicts the children of presidents throughout their lives, too: how would anyone (including the children themselves) know for sure that any of their achievements are genuine, and not simply a reward for having a famous name?

            • The classic example is Robert Lincoln, who despite being a successful lawyer and businessman, secretary of war in the administration of James A. Garfield, continuing under Chester A. Arthur, and minister to the UK in the Benjamin Harrison administration, refused multiple offers to run for office because he felt that whatever trust, respect or popularity he attained was because he was Abe’s son.

    • I had that in the original post when I mentioned how criminals think, but I couldn’t imagine a modern day criminal saying, “in for a penny, in for a pound,” so I cut it.

      It’s also in my favorite chorus of my favorite encore trio from my favorite Gilbert and Sullivan show, “Iolanthe”:

      Never, never, never,
      “Faint heart never won fair lady!”
      Nothing venture, nothing win –
      Blood is thick, but water’s thin –
      In for a penny, in for a pound –
      It’s Love that makes the world go round!

  3. “Democrat Scott Chamberlain has been on the New Milford town council since his election in 2015, though will leave the position by Monday after screenshots of his page circulated online.

    The website hosts profiles for members of the furry fandom, a group of people who create anthropomorphic animal avatars for themselves and occasionally dress up as the characters to meet in person.

    Many furries also have a sexual fetish involving the costumes, though Chamberlain insisted to the Danbury News Times his own participation in the fandom had “nothing to do with sex; it’s an interest in cartoon animals.”
    So….on the hand, this seems a bit furry-phobic, and I have no doubt that in the future furries, otherkin, and adult babies (don’t Google it) will have their day in the sun and no longer have to stay in the closet while serving in government.

    On the other hand, when a politician tells the press, “Yes, I like to dress up like a cartoon animal, but it’s not a sex thing,” it’s probably time to step down, because you’re not going to be remembered for anything else.

  4. Conyers also didn’t have enough signatures to get on the ballot, but he was allowed on the ballot anyway. Just like when Rahm Emmanuel didn’t meet the eligibility requirements to run for mayor of Chicago. If you are an important Democrat, the laws don’t apply to you.

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