Monthly Archives: September 2018

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/30/18: Gay Bashing, A Stupid Social Experiment, And The Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck Keeps Rolling Along…

Good Morning!

It’s the last day of the regular season for baseball, or should be: there could be two tie-breakers tomorrow, and they are officially considered part of the season. There were more baseball ethics posts this year than ever before. You can review them here.

1. And now for something completely stupid. I was temped to make this a free-standing post, but it triggered my stupid alarm, and doesn’t deserve it.

In Los Angeles, Boguslaw Matlak  and Laura Quijano decided to stage a “social experiment” to determine whether bystanders would act to protect an  endangered child. As their hidden cameras ran, they stuffed their 3-year-old son Leo into the trunk of their car. In truth, the back of the trunk had been rigged so Leo could climb into the back seat. He was in no danger.

“I was thinking maybe I should do a video to show people that they should do something about it when they see something wrong, to get involved,” Matlak said.  They got involved, all right. Witnesses called the cops, who arrested the couple and took Leo into protective custody.  The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services  placed the child with a relative. For the last three weeks, the couple has been trying to get him back.

“They are hurting my son emotionally at this point,” Quijano told reporters. “He’s not home with his parents who love him very much and what else do they want from us? I just don’t understand at this point.”

The agency recently informed the parents that it would would be returning Leo to their custody. Matlak  now faces one count of misdemeanor child endangerment.

Observations:

  • Ethics lesson #1: Don’t use human beings as props.
  • Ethics lesson #2: Three-year-olds can’t consent to such treatment.
  • Ethics lesson #3: Police have enough to do dealing with real crimes. Staging fake ones to see what will happen should be illegal, if it isn’t already.
  • What’s there to complain about? The social experiment was a success!
  • Is proof that parents of a small child are idiots sufficient to remove him? No, I suppose not.
  • The problem with this episode is that the child, who was innocent of wrong doing, is the primary one being punished.

Continue reading

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And The ACLU Takes A First Class Seat On The Brett Kavanaugh Ethics Train Wreck. Of Course It Has. (The ABA Stayed In Coach)

The American Civil Liberty Union has decided to make an “exception” to its supposedly unshakable policy of being non-partisan and non-political—Oh,  the pop-up fundraising appeal the group is currently showing on its website says to contribute to “stop Trump’s attack on civil liberties.” Then it vanishes, with the permanent text on the site staying abstract and without any overtly partisan slant.  Nice. And dishonest!—and announced its opposition to Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

This should not have surprised anyone, because the ACLU has become a sham organization, claiming to be non-partisan and apolitical while every day making it increasingly obvious that it, like so many organizations that take that pose (including virtually all of the mainstream news media), it is a fully committed ally of the Democratic Party. Nonetheless, there is always hope that at crucial moments in the nation’s history, organizations will find their soul, their guys and their principles before they seep away.

For this we need look no farther than The American Bar Association, another “non-partisan” group that habitually endorses Democratic Party agenda items that should not concern it at all. Its membership is overwhelmingly Democratic, and being that this entire section of the political spectrum is in the process of being ethically corrupted, many members, including members of its governing body, were prepared to turn on Brett Kanavaugh, a judge the organization had rated as very qualified for the Supreme Court, and recommend his rejection as a consequence of unsubstantiated, last minute allegations of sexual misconduct by an accuser dredging up dim memories from more than three decades ago. As a lesser tactic, many were in favor of bolstering the Democratic Party’s disingenuous call for an open ended FBI investigation, not because it is likely to clarify anything, but because it will accomplishe the Party’s stated objective since before Dr. Ford was persuaded, or pushed, to play the part of Anita Hill in this adaptation of “The Clarence Thomas Hearings.” They want to delay until after the November elections.

Thus it was that Robert Carlson, the latest Democratic Party contributor to lead the organization, wrote this letter on ABA letterhead, falsely stating that he was speaking for the ABA itself:

“The American Bar Association urges the United States Senate Judiciary Committee (and, as appropriate, the full Senate) to conduct a confirmation vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States only after an appropriate background check into the allegations made by Professor Ford and others is completed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Rather than allow him to hijack its process and integrity, the ABA sent this letter to the Judiciary Committee, clarifying that Carlson was speaking for himself only:

Of course, if it were really a non-partisan, non-ideological organization, the ABA would be in the process of removing Carlson from office. In every organization, falsely using one’s post to imply organizational support of a personal view is a firing offense. Instead, the ABA took the face-saving measure of posting Carlson’s misleading letter (lawyers are prohibited from engaging in misleading conduct) under a link saying, “ABA President Calls For…” THAT’S deceit (lawyers are prohibited from engaging in deceit). Most readers will not notice the material distinction between the President of the ABA’s position and the official ABA position, and that’s just the way the association wants it.

Well, it’s not exactly integrity, but it’s a lot closer than what the ACLU has become. Continue reading

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My Confession, Just In Case The FBI Investigates…

The scene of the crime…

In an earlier post about the Kavanaugh debacle, I introduced a poll with this:

Memory I: As a junior, I engineered an elaborate prank to steal a sofa from two classmates and friends who had swiped a sofa from two other students in their dorm. It almost worked, too: the pay-off was going to be when they visited our suite and saw their sofa there. The plan fell apart, and the original owners even got their sofa back.

Question: Should this episode, which technically involved attempted theft, disqualify me for some positions as an adult and professional?

The polls results:

Several commenters have admitted that their votes were tongue in cheek, so I don’t believe for a minute that there were really 13% of voters who believe that the episode when I was 20 should bar me from being an ethicist, a lawyer, or a SCOTUS judge, and needed to be investigated by the FBI. Just in case, however, I feel I should tell the whole, sordid story about what came to be called “The Great Sofa Caper,” and which is a tale told and retold at every reunion of my room mates.

It was the end of winter, and spring cleaning of sorts at the Harvard dorms. I lived in a suite at Lowell House with five other juniors, and was visiting friends and fellow classmates “Oscar” and “Felix” across the campus in the high rise dorms, Leverett Towers. “Oscar” was a theater friend who looked like a dissipated cross between Omar Shariff and Teddy Roosevelt; “Felix” looked like a pint-size Rodney Dangerfield. Shortly after I entered their abode, Felix said, “Hey, what do you think about the new sofa we swiped?” Indeed, prominently displayed in the main room was what appeared to be a very new, very nice, fully upholstered  sofa.

“You swiped it?” I said, and Felix laughed. “No, I was just kidding. Some upperclassmen were changing rooms, and this was left out in the hall for anyone to take. Nice, eh?”

“You swiped it! That’s brand new! Nobody would throw that out. Come on!” I said. Indeed, furniture and other junk was often being left out for communal expropriating in such moves, but this seemed like wilful, contrived ignorance by my friends to me. Nonetheless, Felix and Oscar swore that they would never steal anything, and that the brand new sofa was abandoned property.

Right.

I went back to Lowell House deep in thought and ethics conflict, wondering what the right thing to do was. I couldn’t report my friends for what was, even if it was theft in the real world, pretty standard college silliness. Still, I felt this was excessive. Then I hit on my plan. It would be both a good practical joke and a lesson for Felix and Oscar. Continue reading

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Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up: The Bad Guys, Continued.

“Good morning,”

…he said through grimly clenched teeth…

1 My pledge. That’s it. I’ve had it. Every single time I read or hear a reference to how women accusing men of sexual assault or harassment have a “right to be believed,” and anytime I read or hear someone quoting such a reference with approval, I’m going to point out in the strongest possible terms how sinister, unethical, and certifiably stupid this is. If you want to believe Dr. Ford’s dredged up memories of a party—somewhere—where she was jumped and groped by two drunk teens, go ahead. You do have a right to believe anything, including in the Hindu elephant god,  the brilliance of Sean Hannity, and the virtue of Bill Clinton: I don’t care. Be gullible. Asserting that women have some special chromosome-based right to be judged 100% reliable when they make damning and destructive accusations against men violates all standards of logic, ethics, equal protection, fairness , justice and common sense, and threatens tangible harm to innocent citizens and society. It needs to be condemned, and those making it must be condemned until this insidious, ideologically-spawned Big Lie is killed, squashed, burned and vaporized for all time.

For some reason, the tipping point for me was not the nauseating conduct of the Democratic Senators yesterday, which included a dramatic multi-NO! from perhaps the worst of them—well, after Diane Feinstein—Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono, the one who told Jake Tapper that the very fact of being a conservative is sufficient to disqualify Brett Kananaugh from any presumption of innocence. Stalin reasoned like that. That Hawaii would elect such an un-American, totalitarian-minded fool—she is more ignorant than evil, I think, but I could be wrong—to represent the state is enough to make me resolve to vacation elsewhere when the tropical breezes beckon. What a disgrace she is, and any voters who would allow someone like that to have access to power.  But no, what made me snapo was a small note in today’s paper about how Rep. Leonard Nance’s race to be re-elected to his New Jersey Congressional seat was seen as threatened because he “seemed to cast doubt on Ms Blasey’s allegations” in remarks to a group of college Republicans.

What the hell? Her allegations are over three decades old, she never spoke of them until a SCOTUS nominee she opposed was about to be confirmed, she has no corroboration or evidence whatsoever, and the man she accused uncategorically denies her story under oath. There is nothing but doubt in this controversy. If you don’t see doubt, then you are a bigot, a hopelessly close-minded ideologue, or incapable of rational thought. Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Week: Andrew Sullivan

Which brings me to Kavanaugh’s testimony, which was spellbinding in a different way. He behaved, it seemed to me, exactly as an innocent man would behave if accused of a crime in his teenage years — especially a crime that was unveiled by his political opponents at the very last moment. It was one that he could not possibly refute (no one can prove a negative) and it catalyzed a media frenzy — multiple gang rapes! — that continues to get more extreme every day. There’s a reason we have statutes of limitation. When alleged crimes happened decades ago, proof is very hard, and allegations much easier. And when the alleged perpetrator was also a minor, we’re in a very weird and difficult place….

Of course he was angry. Wouldn’t you be if you were innocent or had no idea where this allegation suddenly came from? He wasn’t being accused of sexual harassment, or sexual abuse as an adult in a way he could have refuted or challenged. His long-lost teenage years as a hard-drinking jock were now under the microscope. Even his yearbook was being dissected. Stupid cruelties and brags from teenage boys were now being used to define his character, dismiss his record as a judge, his sterling references, his respected scholarship, his devoted family, his relationship with women in every capacity. He had to fend off new accusations, ever more grave and ever more vague.

…To the extent that the hearing went beyond the specifics of Ford’s allegations and sought to humiliate and discredit Kavanaugh for who he was as a teenager nearly four decades ago (a dynamic that was quite pronounced in some Democratic questioning of the nominee), it was deeply concerning. When public life means the ransacking of people’s private lives even when they were in high school, we are circling a deeply illiberal drain. A civilized society observes a distinction between public and private, and this distinction is integral to individual freedom. Such a distinction was anathema in old-school monarchies when the king could arbitrarily arrest, jail, or execute you at will, for private behavior or thoughts. These lines are also blurred in authoritarian regimes, where the power of the government knows few limits in monitoring a person’s home or private affairs or correspondence or tax returns or texts. These boundaries definitionally can’t exist in theocracies, where the state is interested as much in punishing and exposing sin, as in preventing crime. The Iranian and Saudi governments — like the early modern monarchies — seek not only to control your body, but also to look into your soul. They know that everyone has a dark side, and this dark side can be exposed in order to destroy people. All you need is an accusation.

—Andrew Sullivan in his essay today, essentially stating the same points we have discussed at Ethics Alarms, but in his own inimitable, erudite style.

He’s 100% right, of course. Andrew is also a gay, Trump-hating liberal, so this is a good essay to send to your friends who are teetering on the brink of madness. They won’t listen to me; maybe he can break through.

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Ethics Morning Sickness, 9/29/2018: The Ford-Kavanaugh Hearing Hangover

According to several sources, Republicans not only have the votes to confirm Brett Kananaugh,  a couple of Democrats may even join their ranks. If true, that’s amazing, and also the most encouraging piece of news I’ve heard since Aaron Judge went on the Disabled List.

I don’t have any special fondness for Brett Kavanaugh, and I have no stake in his confirmation. All I have ever cared about is having outstanding, smart, analytical judges on the Supreme Court. I was thrilled when President Obama nominated Elena Kagan, who fits that description; depressed when he appointed touchy-feely mediocrity Sotamayor, lowering the quality of judicial talent so he could check off a diversity box, but then, that’s Obama. Justices like Blackmun, Souter and Kennedy, all appointed to skirt controversy rather than to ensure a competent Court, do subtle, long-lasting damage to our laws. Aggressive, thoughtful, brilliant jurists like Scalia and Ginsberg keep the third branch of government strong. Kavanaugh is undeniably the kind of qualified, experienced judge who has always been routinely confirmed by the Senate regardless of the President nominating him or his party affiliation. What the Democrats and their allies among activist and the news media have done to Brett Kavanaugh is more than wrong; it is very dangerous, and threatens further the basic comity and respect without which no democracy can function. The treatment of Kavanaugh, which I have discussed in detail elsewhere—the demonizing, the fear-mongering, the character assassination, based purely on an unremarkable judicial philosophy—continues down a slippery slope, already greased by “the resistance,”  that ends in civil war.  The Democrats will only turn away from this disastrous path when they conclude that it won’t work, that the American public rejects “the ends justify the means” as an operating strategy. There are signs that the Democratic Senators televised conduct during the Kavanaugh hearings may be a tipping point. I hope so. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Nothing much has changed in my assessment since I wrote this post ten days ago. I still don’t believe or disbelieve Ford or Kavanaugh. There is no basis on which to believe either of them, but the accuser has the burden of proof, and as was true ten days ago, she can’t meet it and didn’t meet it. Nobody confirms her account. She cannot provide specifics, even as to where the alleged attack occurred, who held the party where it allegedly occurred, or an exact date, making investigation nearly impossible. Her parents, who are alive, have not confirmed her account; apparently she didn’t even tell them about the incident. Her testimony was convincing. So was Kavanaugh’s. Those who say “they believe” either party might as well have a “Bias has made me stupid” sign on top of their head. In yesterday’s New York Times, a full page ad listed thousands of names of men proclaiming “We believe Anita Hill. We also believe Charistine Blasey Ford.” All they are doing is virtue signaling for their pals, proclaiming their partisan affiliation (believing Ford is required to save abortion, and depending on which hysterical activist or pundit you listen to, female suffrage, gay marriage and the continued abolition of slavery), and or proving that they lack the power of critical thought.

I’ll have to sort through all of the logical fallacies used against Kavanaugh later: I’m sure a new rationalization for the list or twelve is in there. For example, I have been told and read that women believe Ford because they know other victims of sexual assault who never reported it. But that doesn’t justify believing Ford! It indicates that the fact that she waited all this time, until evidence was gone and memories faded, to suddenly make her accusation when it was most politically useful to her party doesn’t prove she isn’t telling the truth, but it doesn’t make it any more likely that she is, either. A commenter yesterday suggested that there should be more sympathy and accommodation for victims who are afraid to come forward soon after a sexual assault. “I would like to remind you that women often are not able to speak out against harassment until long after the fact because they are afraid and unable,” she wrote. I replied,

Then they lose their chance. There are a lot of things in life like that. If I’m reluctant to speak up and challenge a mob harassing a US Senator while he’s dining with my family, I can’t wait 20 years and do it then, can I? If you are afraid to report a community criminal when you have evidence against him because you’re afraid to snitch, it’s no mitigation to report the evidence after more people have been hurt because of your delay. How about women who don’t stop their boyfriends from sexually molesting their children because they are afraid? Is it acceptable that they wait until the Statute of Limitations has run, the damage has been done, and the kids are grown and molesting children themselves before they speak up?

You don’t have to remind me of the dilemma. I’m sorry, but I am really sick of this argument…It’s an excuse and a rationalization. It makes fairness and due process impossible, and it allows false accusers to manipulate others. Three decades? Holding a complaint until the exact moment when it can’t be defended against AND will do the most damage?

It’s explainable, perhaps, but it isn’t ethically excusable.

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KABOOM! Diane Feinstein’s Statement Before The Judiciary Committee This Morning

Well, thanks, Senator Feinstein: having my head explode was is such a wonderful way to begin the day.

This was not the first post I intended this morning, but I made the mistake of listening to the Senator’s brazen, dishonest, self-contradictory, hypocritical ,cynical and insulting statement. It’s amazing her own head didn’t explode out of embarrassment at being used this way. It was in defiance of logic and awareness. It was, in fact, like an intentional imitation of Claude Rains in “Casablanca,” which would have been very funny if it didn’t signal tthe end of any doubts that a major political party had abandoned decency.

Feinstein was shocked–shocked!—that Judge Kavanaugh would call the Democrats’ political hit job a political hit job. Shocked–shocked!–that Kavanaugh would say the the process of advise and consent had been turned into “search and destroy,” which is exactly what the Democrats did, and were not even sly about doing so. Shocked–shocked!–that Kavanaugh would express anger at being subjected to mass humiliation as he was denigrated in public as a sexual predator based on the completely unsubstantiated accusation of 35-year-old high school misconduct. Senator Feinstein had never seen anything like it in all her years in the Senate, and was shocked–shocked!

Never mind that no human being had ever had rumors, insults, innuendos and unsupported accusations heaped on him in a hearing like Judge Kavanaugh, who was Borked, and when that didn’t work, was Anita Hilled. If Kavanaugh had not expressed anger, outrage and indignation toward Feinstein and her thugs, I would have lost any respect for him. He not only had every right to go on the offensive in his own defense, he had an obligation to do so. But men, in the era of #MeToo being weaponized to ruin careers without evidence, are supposed to meekly submit to their new feminist masters, and withdraw into shame and ignominy, grovelling and submissive. Feinstein was shocked—shocked!— that Kavanaugh didn’t know his place.

“Incredible!” said Feinstein. Then, incredibly, she went on to apppeal to emotion, jerking at the heartstrings by quoting the most intense sections of Dr. Ford’s testimony, concluding that her intensity and emotion was enough, in the absence of any evidence or corroboration at all, to prove to Feinstein’s satisfaction that her accusation was true.

Oh, Feinstein was shocked–shocked!—at so many things. How could anyone accuse her of deliberately withholding Ford’s letter for two months so she could leak it after the hearings and demand an FBI investigation that would just coincidentally delay the vote on the nomination until after the election when her party has been demanding for months that the vote be until after the election? I’m trying to think of an analogous scene in a move where the pathetic villain expresses hilarious outrage at being suspected of wrongdoing as smoking gun after smoking gun is revealed. I could, I’m sure, if my head were intact. But it’s not.

The Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck has become both an integrity and an IQ test for progressives and Democrats, but with a surprising easy final challenge. Anyone who isn’t insulted or mordantly amused by Feinstein’s channeling of Captain Renault is either completely corrupted or an idiot.

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