Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/5/19: Bait And Switch, Inconvenient Honesty, Fake News

Oh, good morning, I guess…

1. Once again: this should be illegal, because it is unconscionable. Recently re-elected Rep. Don Marean, a multiple term Maine state legislator from York County, announced that he was leaving the Republican Party to become an Independent.  In a Friday text message last week, he said that “out of respect” for House Republicans  he would not  comment on the resaon for his decision and would let it “speak for itself.”

It does speak for itself; it tells us that Marean is an unscrupulous, liar who gained election to office fraudulently. Elected officials who betray voters this way have an ethical obligation to resign from office and run again under the party affiliation they will stick to.

2. Keep it up! Please! The freshman Democratic House members, in a single day, managed to strip away the mask of the Democratic Party and expose more of the ugliness beneath than the party veterans deemed wise. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) refused to be sworn in with her hand on the traditional Bible,  and insisted that a law book be used for the purpose instead. She is a member of the party that has been questioning whether Catholics are fit to be federal judges, and the message that one party is openly hostile to religion is becoming clearer and clearer. The Bible is a moral/ethical document, and accepting it for the purpose of a binding oath should not be a problem for anyone unless they are trying to make a point. Using a law book is no more appropriate or meaningful than using a Harry Potter novel: oaths are declarations of duty, honesty and integrity, not law.

Then, as noted yesterday, Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan told a crowd of progressive activists  that “we’re gonna impeach the motherfucker.” Gee, I wonder how she got that idea? Surely it wasn’t from the comments and behavior of other Democratic leaders! Politico reports,

“Rank-and-file Democrats, immediately fearful of the damage the comment could cause, unloaded on their new colleague Friday morning. Republicans, they argued, would hold it up as proof that Democrats are playing politics rather than pursuing genuine oversight of the president…”

Yes, that would be because Democrats are playing politics and have been seeking to use impeachment as a way to undo the 2016 election since the beginning of Trump’s term. In various statements, Tlaib has justified impeachment by saying that the President is “unfit” for office, and that actual crimes in office shouldn’t be necessary to justify tossing him out. What defeated party wouldn’t argue that the other party’s victorious President-elect isn’t “fit”? Democrats argues that Nixon, Reagan and George W. Bush were unfit. Republicans claimed Clinton and Obama were unfit. The theme of our system is that the voters decide. Once that principle is destroyed by anti-democratic demagogues like Tlaib, and our system is finished. I suspect, however, that this can only be accomplished by stealth and deception.

On the same fateful day, publicity magnet Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY.) called for a top tax rate of 70 percent to pay for her “Green New Deal.” “You’re talking about zero carbon emissions, no use of fossil fuels within 12 years?” CBS correspondent Anderson Cooper asked Ocasio-Cortez  for an upcoming “60 Minutes” segment.

“That is the goal,” the radical socialist answered. “It’s going to require a lot of rapid change that we don’t even conceive as possible right now….people are going to have to start paying their fair share.”

3. Today’s “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias1” note: [Pointer: Ann Althouse] In a Washington Post article titled “Three dead in national parks as shutdown wears on,”the Post says,

Three days after most of the federal workforce was furloughed on Dec. 21, a 14-year-old girl fell 700 feet to her death at the Horseshoe Bend Overlook, part of the Glen Canyon Recreation Area in Arizona. The following day, Christmas, a man died at Yosemite National Park in California after suffering a head injury in a fall. On Dec. 27, a woman was killed by a falling tree at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee…The deaths follow a decision by Trump administration officials to leave the scenic — but sometimes deadly — parks open even as the Interior Department has halted most of its operations. During previous extended shutdowns, the National Park Service barred access to many of its sites across the nation.

This flags how the news media is prepared to take sides in the government shutdown controversy: deceitfully, by concocting fake news. As Althouse writes,

It’s not as if a federal worker would have been there to catch them. What is even the theoretical connection between the shutdown and these fatal falls?…Oh, I see. If only the parks were closed, they wouldn’t have been there at all. This would argue in favor of permanently closing all the national parks because if people go there, they might die. But the real argument, thinly veiled, is that if only the parks were closed (like in past shutdowns), the shutdown would affect a lot of real people who could be shown complaining about their wrecked vacation.

You will recall that this was the Obama approach: choose discretionary targets to close that are calculated to cause the most public pain and generate the most outrage.

33 thoughts on “Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/5/19: Bait And Switch, Inconvenient Honesty, Fake News

  1. Last time the top marginal rate was 70% we were in Jimmy Carter’s stagflation. Excellent idea Rep. Cotrez, by all means let’s relive how great the Carter era was.

    What a maroon!

  2. On point 1 is it possible for a voter who chose a candidate based on party affilliation and or position claims (ie platform) to sue a candidate for election fraud for changing party or positions after being elected If not, it should be.

    I wonder which law book Ms Sinema chose? That might give us insight into her claimed moderate positions. Maybe she chose a law book so she can argue both sides depending on which way the winds are blowing.

    The media is also showing overflowing trash cans and clogged toilets resulting from the shutdown. If the parks are closed the trash had to have been brought in by visitors. They should pack up their trash and take it with them. And, toilets dont clog up unless people flush materials the toilets are not designed to accomodate. The shutdown is not the problem. The problem is that too many people believe government is their maid or butler.

    • I would certainly think the candidate’s former party would have a pretty good case for a lawsuit, as the candidate used their brand recognition (and probably at least some money) to get elected.

  3. Ocasio-Cortez is seriously misguided.

    The only people more frightfully imbecilic than she are the people that really think she knows what she’s talking about.

    Keep_A-Hot_Mic_In_Her_Face & she’ll take herself, if not out of commission, out of relevance.

    • People don’t really think about what they’re being pitched.

      Not long ago, I was chatting with a co-worker about the concept of civil service reform in the 19th century. To give her context, I explained how civil service positions were filled by the political party in power every time the White House changed hands. I was not able to say anything further when she nodded her head and said, “That sounds like a good idea”.

      Of course, I then had to explain that this practice was, in part, what needed to be reformed because political parties would hire only those who were owed favors or relatives of those who were owed favors leading to an incompetent and politically partisan civil service that, especially in the case of New York, was often expected to “donate” part of its wages to the party in question.

      • I wonder if civil service reform (at least applied to thge U.S. government) is constitutional.

        For example, civil servants in the executive branch exercise the authority of the President of the United States. To try to legally restrain the President from firing a civil servant is, in effect, giving the President’s authority to another party.

    • You mean like Steve Cohen or Maxine Waters or the Senator from Hawaii , Hirano, or Al Sharpton or, come to think of it, Nancy Pelosi? Dang nabbit, Paul, it doesn’t seem to work these days. People who shoot off their mouths just get more coverage and a promotion.

      Personally, I’m not real thrilled about the diverse new House insofar as it includes a woman who bills herself as a Palestinian American? What does that mean? She wants a “one state solution.” So she wants Israel obliterated ASAP by the return of non-Jews and their children. Is this a great person to have in the House? Does she have an H for Hamas or a PA after her name?

      • But, if you dare point any of that out, or call her “the representative from Hamas” or something relatively mild like that, you’ll be tarred as an islamophobe or a racist. You see, outrage is a one-way street on the left.

  4. I had to look up the President pro tem of the Senate, too, and thereby learned that for 26 years, either Robert Byrd or Strom Thurmond was three heartbeats away from the presidency.

  5. 3 people died at national parks since the government shutdown!!!

    Also 150 people died in 2018 before the shutdown….

    Also, 300,000,000 people visited nationals parks in 2018

    Also, 3,000,000 people died in the US as whole,

    Also, national parks and forests make up one-third of the United States total land.

  6. . She is a member of the party that has been questioning whether Catholics are fit to be federal judges, and the message that one party is openly hostile to religion is becoming clearer and clearer.

    But only one religion.

    They seem to bend over backward for militant Islamism.

  7. 1 More likely Marean is setting himself up for the post-LePage world. He’s term-limited out in 2020, so he’s going to be looking for a new job at that point. To switch immediately upon reelection is transparently about self-interest, same as Arlen Specter’s transparent attempt to save his own political skin by giving the Democrats that 60th vote in the Senate.

    2. It isn’t unheard of for atheist/agnostic officeholders, like former Prime Minister Zapatero of Spain, to take the oath of office with their hand on the Constitution rather than the Bible, in fact one organization of atheists petitioned Bush the elder to do just that (he said no, twice). That said, to do so sends a clear message that the officeholder believes the Bible has no value. It should come as no surprise, though, given the rise of rejection of religion among millennials and the prevailing Democratic attitude that all religion sucks, except black churches and mosques, which are awesome.

    Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez are attention whores, plain and simple. They are no different than a Cindy Sheehan, a Noam Chomsky, or a Steven Crowder, who have to say progressively more and more outrageous things to keep the spotlight. The thing is, they are both already so far out there that there really isn’t that much farther to go to either tyranny or anarchy. If that kind of behavior and those ideas are what the Democratic party wants, them so be it, but let’s not pretend it’s anything more than what it is: young hotheads spouting old ideas that have never worked.

    3. (Shrug) This is so predictable it’s almost not even worth talking about anymore. Of course there’s a bias, and of course the media is going to spin anything the way that looks worst for Trump, just like it spun everything the way that looked best for Obama. It’s not going to change.


  8. The Bible is a moral/ethical document, and accepting it for the purpose of a binding oath should not be a problem for anyone unless they are trying to make a point.

    I was under the misapprehension that it was an explicitly religious scripture.

    I agree that it does contain some moral and ethical guidance. Judges 19-20 immediately springs to mind. Perhaps you could comment on the morality expressed in those two chapters, and the desirability of using them as an ethical guide?

    • (yawn) The argument that the Bible got it wrong on some things, particularly in the Old Testament, like slavery, so the whole thing should be thrown out as unworthy has been around for over a century. I suppose you can play stupid and talk about burnt offerings or what would be a fair price to sell your daughter into slavery or how you should kill your neighbor for wearing two different kinds of cloth together, but that just makes you look ignorant and self-impressed for passing over the covenant between God and Abraham, the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and, you know, all that other stuff that forms the basis of Western morality.

      • The point is still valid: If the Bible is the word of God, not fallible men, and God, being divine, knows all and cannot be wrong by definition, then such obvious botches and anachronisms prove that in fact it is NOT the word of a deity, but rather the flawed and frequently mistaken assertions by men of their time. Which, of course, is exactly what it is. This was the basis on which Clarence Darrow more or less made a monkey out of William Jennings Brian when he was trying to defend fundamentalism in the Scopes Trial.You can’t have it both ways. You can’t dismiss saying that the sun goes around the Earth and then argue that the story of Adam and Eve is literal because God is never wrong and its in the Bible.

        • Or maybe it’s the word of God as He chose to reveal it, some at a time. Some of the books of the Bible were written hundreds of years apart. Divinity alone doesn’t mean omniscience, but the God of the Bible is supposed to be omniscient, so I get that. It’s also indicated in the Bible that there is room for evolution of thinking, such as when Christ alludes to divorce being allowed in the Old Testament only because man wasn’t ready to give it up.

          That said, I’m not a strict textualist, I don’t believe that the world was created in six days or that there was a worldwide flood that only eight humans survived, and those who assert such things, like the now dead Jack Chick, look like fools.

          However, scoffing at the whole thing because of one part is just atheistic mockery, and there’s no discussion of faith with mockers.

          • It’s not scoffing at the whole things to point out that “It must be right/true because it says so in the Bible” is circular logic and, essentially, bullshit, and embarrassingly so. Your intital argument is what Bryan tried in Dayton: “God spoke in ways that could be understood by the people of the time. Oh. So he said the sun went around the Earth knowing that it was the other way around because people of the time had it wrong. Apply that principle to any enlightenment plan. Come on. Talk about a desperate rationalization. Men wrote the Bible based on what THEY understood at the time. Obviously. It doesn’t mean the Bible should be ignored or mocked, but it does mean that claiming something must be accepted as true because it’s in the Bible is just lazy and a way to duck the obligation of rational thought.

            The people who should be mocked are those who simultaneous argue that X is the divine work of an infallible deity and Y is just an inaccurate or immoral statement that shouldn’t be taken seriously because, you know, God is fooling around sometimes and works in mysterious ways.

            • “It doesn’t mean the Bible should be ignored or mocked,”

              You’re right. It shouldn’t be, which is exactly my main point here.

              • You misunderstand.

                I’m atheist. I don’t believe in gods. Not in Odin, not in Santa Claus, nor any other.

                I take oaths seriously though.

                I don’t “hate” Santa Claus. I rather admire the idea that those who are good should be rewarded. So I’m not against that. It’s unfortunate that in my observation those who are rich get presents, those who are poor get bupkis, with goodness having nothing to do with it, but that is not the Santa Claus creed.

                But no way would I make some 5 yr old’s life less happy by telling him or her that Santa doesn’t exist. When I was 4, I told my older sister that. It did no good. My defence is that I was 4 years old. She was 12.

                Anyway, I take oaths seriously. “Santa at the North Pole” may be a guide to moral and ethical behaviour, but it would be wrong for me to swear an oath by it. It would be disrespectful towards all those who believe in Santa.

                Similarly it would be wrong for me to swear an oath on any other explicitly or implicitly religious work, even though it may contain worthwhile ethical or moral principles.

    • I dob’t write about morality in general, because it excludes reason. Of course, the Ten Commandments are the primary moral Code in the Bible. Jesus gets into ethics in the New Testament, but frames it as morality.

      • Let’s take care look from an atheistic view of this moral code.

        Thou shall have no other gods before me
        This implies there exist multiple gods, and to give complete preference to one of them. For someone who doesn’t believe gods exist, it has no meaning.

        Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image
        Some ambiguity here. Worshipping idols appears to be right out, but worshipping icons, or books, or flags, or relics as being holy objects might be prohibited too. In any event, to those who don’t believe in supernatural objects, not really relevant.

        Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain
        Don’t diss this particular god any more than you’d diss Santa. It would be unkind to believers. A problem though for atheists and polytheists, who don’t have one god as their personal one.

        Remember the Sabbath Day, and keep it Holy
        There’s good moral reasons for giving everyone a break of one day a week. Even those imprisoned for crime. Holy as a concept is meaningless to atheists, but again, don’t rub the noses of believers in it, and don’t fuss over whether it’s Tuesday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Let believers fight that out.

        Honour thy father and thy mother
        Don’t warehouse them in some foetid nursing home when they become demented and decrepit. Don’t take it too far though, if they’ve raped or maimed you, they’re not real parents. Anyway, this is something atheists find unobjectionable, it is a moral guide not a superstitious one. It is an a-theist principle, one where belief or disbelief in the supernatural is irrelevant.

        Thou shalt not kill
        Some wiggle room may exist for warfare or capital punishment, or to prevent a greater evil. Or may not. But in any event, an atheist moral guide.

        Thou shalt not commit adultery
        This might be interpreted as don’t cheat a marriage partner, or don’t have sex with, kiss, make out with or have contact with anyone not married to you, or don’t be cruel and dishonest in either formal or informal emotional relationships. Again though, an atheist moral guide.

        Thou shalt not steal
        Leaving aside knotty problems of ownership – like the descendents of those your ancestors killed to take their stuff now wanting it back, when it’s been your family’s for generations – an atheist moral guide.

        Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour
        Plenty of ambiguity here. Does it mean don’t lie? Don’t lie to be hurtful to someone? Does it apply just to bearing witness? Just to neighbours? Again though, an atheist moral guide.

        Thou shalt not covert (a list of assets, owned properties, but including wives and slaves)
        Leaving aside the question whether wives are property (yet not husband’s? Is it ok to covert them?).. Does this mean don’t be jealous? Does it mean don’t take steps to deprive someone else of what’s theirs just because you want it? Again, an atheist moral guide.

        I think from an atheist viewpoint, it’s the seven pretty reasonable moral precepts, though all negative. There should be a positive duty to help others, not just not murder or steal from them. The bar is set too low.

        Be Kind. Don’t be a Dick. The rest is commentary.

  9. Let’s not beat around the bush: the Bible is a religious document, and the ritual of leaving one’s hand on the Bible and swearing an oath is predicated on the book’s sanctity, not on its ethical content.

    I see nothing whatsoever wrong in an ethical sense in foregoing this ritual, unless Ethics Alarms is now going to explicitly abandon the idea of secular ethics and declare any failure to observe the Christian religion to be unethical. Our own constitution, of course, weighs in on the question and absolutely bars any religious test for public office.

    That being said, just because one does not observe a particular religious tradition does not mean one should publicly mock its rituals. I therefore disagree with the idea of placing one’s hand on some secular document and swearing an oath upon it, in imitation of the western, Christian tradition. They should make an affirmation, and it requires no prop.

    • 1. Let’s not beat around the BURNING bush:

      2. “Thou shalt not bear false witness” is an ethical principle embraced by virtually all religions (except Islam, which permits lying to advance the cause of Allah.) Using a religious text that includes that principle makes the document used meaningful. A typical law book does not necessarily discuss the duty to tell the truth.

      • What is the value of an oath sworn on a document that has no value to the oath taker? I was raised Roman Catholic, but I stepped away from the Church as soon as I was old enough to start thinking critically. If someone were to come to me today and ask me to swear an affirmation on a Bible or to God, it would mean nothing to me. It has no inherent value to me in my life.

        However, ask me to swear an oath on my character or anything else of value to me personally and that will carry a lot more weight. Breaking my word or my reputation is a lot more important and meaningful than a religious book. To use your own analogy Harry Potter has as much value as the Bible to me at this point in my life. If you believe in the rule of law, I see now reason to swear an oath to uphold the law and represent the public lawfully and with integrity.

            • Ah, but if you do understand the meaning of the word “honour”, then no book is necessary. And if you don’t, no book is sufficient.

              It’s a real problem in the legal system. Some would quite literally rather die by execution rather than falsely swear to their guilt to get a plea bargain.

              • But Zoe, you know the book is necessary because the act of swearing an oath is a ceremony. Sure, you could just ask witnesses, “You know you have to tell the truth, right?” But that casual procedure undermines the message that this is a formal and enforceable pledge.

              • Thank you, Zoe. If, however, it makes people happy to believe that I am more likely to adhere to an oath because my left hand is resting on a Bible, I say break out the Bible (or Koran, or Tora, or Book of Mormon or whatever). I’m going to keep the oath because I swore I’d do so, on my honor.

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