Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/13/2019: Oh, All Sorts Of Things…

A rainy good morning from Northern Virginia!

1. Weekend Update: I’d like to point readers to two posts from the weekend, recognizing that many of you don’t visit on Saturday and Sunday. I think they are important.

The first is” I Hereby Repudiate My Undergraduate Degree, As My Alma Mater Has Rendered It A Symbol Of Hypocrisy, Ignorance, And Liberal Fascism” about Harvard’s shocking punishment of a college dean and Harvard law professor for defending Harvey Weinstein. There was more to the story than I knew when I posted about it (thanks, Chip Defaa! ). Ronald Sullivan’s  wife is also being stripped of her position as a dean—Harvard now designates both spouses as “deans” when they lead residence Houses. It’s not exactly  “guilt by association,” since she also only had the job by association, but she still lost her job and cpmpensation. Ronald Sullivan had quit his position as a defense attorney for Weinstein the day before Harvard announced he would not be dean of Winthrop House for the next school year. That’s not very admirable on his part, but I sympathize with his dilemma.

The other is this multi-lateral ethics break-down, which I am upset about now and will continue to be. It demonstrates how far gone rational ethical decision-making is in  some segments of our society, and honestly, I don’t know what to do about it.

2.  Here’s one of the many little ways the “resistance” is undermining the President (and in so doing, our democracy.) The Children’s Hospital Association paid for a full page ad last month in the New York Times, thanking “Congress and the Administration” for passing the Advancing Care  for Exceptional Kids Act (ACE  Kids). This is pandering, partisan, ungrateful cowardice. Laws are passed by Congress and the President, who must sign legislation into law. “The Administration” has no Constitutional role in passing laws. This pusillanimous association was afraid of backlash if it dared to publicly thank Present Trump for making their bill law.

Presidential policies, words and actions that the “resistance” can complain about are over-publicized; accomplishments that they can’t find fault with are ignored or attributed to someone else.

Here’s another example, from this week’s Times book section. In a review of a book about the decision to fight the Iraq war, the reviewer refers to “Trumpian malpractice.” That’s just an unsupported and gratuitous slur, assuming that readers believe that the President’s name is synonymous with incompetence, or trying to embed the idea that it is.

3. Not news, not fact, just deceptive climate change propaganda. The New York Times liked this quote from a book review so muchg that it published it twice, in the book reviews supplement, and on page 3 of its front section:

“Global emissions could be cut by a third if the richest 10 percent of humanity cut their use of energy to the same level as affluent, comfortable Europe.”

“Affluent and comfortable” by whose standards? Since the Times is a U.S. paper, one presumes it means U.S. standards. Well, Britain is poorer than every U.S. state by our standards. Most of Europe is poorer than the U.S. Even much ballyhooed economies like those of Germany and Sweden would rank in the lower third of our states. How then, is it not misleading to refer to “affluent, comfortable Europe”?

4. The crucial distinction between rights and privileges. Presidential hopeful Cory Booker’s anti-gun plan would require  a citizen seeking to buy a gun  to apply for a license in the the same way one applies for a passport, except with far more requirements.  The applicant would have to submit fingerprints and endure  an  interview, and  applicants would have to complete a certified gun safety course. Each applicant would also undergo a federal background check before being issued a gun license and it would only be valid for up to five years.

When I read this, half-way through the Times article I thought, “Huh. He wants to convert a Constitutional right into government controlled privilege. You can’t do that.” Then later in the article I read this…

In a statement, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, a gun-rights organization, described Mr. Booker’s plan as a way to turn a “Second Amendment right into a government-regulated privilege.”

It is also flagrantly unconstitutional. Some of the leaders of the Democratic Party appear to want to gut many rights, and must be counting on a Supreme Court-packing plan to get away with it, perhaps bolstered by all those 16-year-old voters that Speaker Pelosi favors. I bet they can be conned into supporting the slashing of their own liberties even more easily than the grown-ups. (Incidentally, ultra-liberal Maryland’s legislature just voted to raise the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21. Go figure.)

5. More Fox fake credentialing . Fox News introduced contributor Jason Chaffetz as “Congressman Jason Chaffetz.” Arghh! Chaffetz isn’t a Congressman (he left the House in 2017) , and Judge Napolitano isn’t a judge. This is misleading.

6. Does “so help me God” belong in the swearing-in oath for witnesses? Democrats are increasingly cutting “so help me God” when administering witness oaths. The fatuous explanation of usually-fatuous Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties notwithstanding (“I think God belongs in religious institutions: in temple, in church, in cathedral, in mosque — but not in Congress.  Republicans are using God, and God doesn’t want to be used.” How the hell do YOU know what God “wants,” you ass?), it’s an ethical conflict of some complexity. If the government can’t constitutionally establish a religion, can it continue to use official language that presumes a government connection to religion generally? I don’t see how, and I’ve never seen how.

Prayers before legislative sessions, “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, “In God We Trust” on coins and currency, and “so help me God” all should be excised to be consistent with the Establishment Clause.  Oaths should be based on law rather than faith: “under penalty of perjury” works just fine.

7. Transgender powerlifter update! Earlier this month we discussed the ethics issue of a biological man, Mary Gregory, who is undergoing gender reassignment treatment setting the Masters world records for women’s squat, women’s bench press, and women’s deadlift.  Now the  Powerlifting Federation  has stripped Gregory of her wins, stating,

“It was revealed that this female lifter was actually a male in the process of becoming a Transgender female. Our rules, and the basis of separating genders for competition, are based on physiological classification rather than identification. On the basis of all information presented to the Board of Directors for this particular case, the conclusion made, is that the correct physiological classification is male.”

Good. It’s a start.

15 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/13/2019: Oh, All Sorts Of Things…

  1. “Global emissions could be cut by a third if the richest 10 percent of humanity cut their use of energy to the same level as affluent, comfortable Europe.”

    . . . I’m always up for a righteous piece of cynical humor. . . .

    • How about if all the progressive and climate change advocates cut theirs in half? Put their money where their mouth is? Cut back on the tech and cars and get a horse and buggy? No high fuel importing or fast deliveries either. They can use the manure on their gardens and share a party line with their five closest neighbors.

      • Progressives are never expected to suffer for their ideals. They can have as large a carbon footprint, or neglect to pay their taxes, or defy any law necessary to further the cause.

        In the instant case, only the peons and deplorables should have to cut their energy use: there are more of them, anyway.

  2. Ronald Sullivan had quit his position as a defense attorney for Weinstein the day before Harvard announced he would not be dean of Winthrop House for the next school year. That’s not very admirable on his part, but I sympathize with his dilemma.

    One could plausibly argue that the external threat to his wife and his careers, as well as the negative press focusing on him, could be a conflict of interest and/or an adverse impact to the interests of his client….

    Yet, causing such a conflict is precisely the strategy.

    Back during the Kavanough hearings, Ken White argued that Kavenough’s statement that “what goes around, comes around” was a disqualifying statement by a judicial nominee. Yet, his opponent’s precise goal was to goad him on until he said something disqualifying, blatantly dragging his name through the mud towards that end.

    Ultimately for Sullivan, his duty as a professional includes an inherent risk to his own interests in favor of those of his client. Doctors run into villages with Ebola; lawyers run into prisons full of alleged felons. He should volunteer to stay on with Weinstein, but disclose his new conflicts. Ultimately, it ideally should be the client’s choice, absent serious conflicts demanding immediate recusal.

  3. #3 So what they’re saying is if we make Hollywood, CEO’s, Congress, NYT reporters, media people, et al. take the bus and train (no flying!), then we will be saved and won’t die in 12 years? Where can I sign up for this petition?

  4. Presidential hopeful Cory Booker’s anti-gun plan would require a citizen seeking to buy a gun to apply for a license in the the same way one applies for a passport, except with far more requirements. The applicant would have to submit fingerprints and endure an interview, and applicants would have to complete a certified gun safety course. Each applicant would also undergo a federal background check before being issued a gun license and it would only be valid for up to five years.

    And these are the same people who claim that requiring a photo ID to vote is racist.

    • Please remember that I have already had to do this to get firearms licenses. However, I still have to get a background check to purchase most firearms. Strangely, Booker’s proposal seems LESS restrictive than our laws now in many ways.

      • In Texas, Concealed Carry License holders can forgo the background check when purchasing a firearm.

        Seems these fine folks are more law abiding than actual law enforcement officers, statistically speaking.

        Imagine that.

  5. 2. Re: “Trumpian Malpractice”. Did you ever see that episode of “The Office” in which Andy, attempting to undermine Dwight Schrute, not only repeatedly calls out Dwight for real or perceived flaws, but also comes up with a fake word (“Schruted”) and tells Michael the employees use it whenever something goes wrong (“I schruted it”).

    I think the “resistance” watches too much television.

  6. Re: So help me god.

    I can see eliminating that phrase because as you point out perjury is a violation of man’s law.

    I am not a big fan of organized religions that prescribe specific ways to live one’s daily life or else. Religion requires faith but faith needs no religion. Athieism is as much a religion as is Catholicism, other derivitives of Christianity, Buddhism, or Islam it requires faith that their belief is true. None require proof because no proof can be had. The problem with conflating Athieism with absence of religion is that it substitutes athiest values for all other sect’s values. In a sense eliminating all theological references from government actually establishes Athieism as the official religion of government.

    I also take issue with the notion that the first amendment creates a duty of government to ensure freedom from religion. The very foundations of ethical behavior derives from religion. Religious dogma plays an important role in establishing how we interact as a society. Without religion I would challenge the relativists to settle on what is consider what is right and wrong. There would be no benchmark absolutes by which we could assess the relative negative merit associated with an offense

    Consider the concept of charity. Without religion the entire concept of charity would be built on a foundation made of egg shells. Why should we have a social safety net when people are merely a mass of cells rather than a gift of imeasurable value originating from a power we have yet to fully comprehend.

    Why should any one care about ethical behavior when some clerk decides what I should do and what I shouldn’t do. Why should I obey just another shlub like me? What happens when the official rule enfircers choose not to enforce or worse use selective enforcement. Why can’t I decide what you should do and not do? Religious underpinnings eliminate that problem; the rules come from a creator not the guy next door.

  7. (2.) I was not able to find the NY Times ad by the Children’s Hospital Association, so my perception could be off. But, it seems to me that calling that ad an example of the resistance seem a bit of a stretch.
    The ad did not mention the President (I suppose – I haven’t seen it), but did it mention the Speaker or Majority Leader by name or title? I suspect not. Did it list the sponsors or co-sponsors by name? I suspect not.
    Both ‘the administration’ and ‘the Congress’ include a lot of people besides the leaders and members who play a role in passing legislation. And, the Association did issue a press release after the bill was signed into law, citing President Trump by name in the first paragraph and including this statement in the third:
    “Children’s hospitals thank President Trump and Congress for getting the ACE Kids Act across the finish line,” said Sandra Fenwick, president and CEO of Boston Children’s Hospital and a member of the Children’s Hospital Association’s Board of Trustees. “This is an exceptional moment, when leaders from both parties have come together to establish a stronger foundation for the future of children’s health.”
    It also seems to me that there are plenty of instances of so-called resistance and actual attempts to de-legitimize the president, so many that highlighting a ‘maybe/maybe not’ item is a bit much.
    (If there is a link or a cite for the NYT ad, I’d like to see it. I don’t care to page through weeks of that rag to find something Google can’t find.)

    • To me, the press release proves my instinct was correct. They got crap for thanking Trump, so in the ad, they eliminated him. That stinks. Congress passes law, with the cooperation of POTUS. If you thank one, you thank the other.

  8. #6 – In every relevant context I can think of, it is already permissible to make an affirmation in lieu of an oath. The affirmation is decidedly secular in nature, and is treated no differently than an oath under the law. An oath, by its traditional meaning, involves invoking some element of the sacred. I have no problem with allowing oaths “under God” or whatever divinity the oath-taker may choose, so long as it remains their choice and secular affirmations remain allowable, and such declarations are legally equivalent. That way neither becomes “established”, and all religious viewpoints are allowed free exercise.

    The Pledge of Allegiance ought to be subject to a similar analysis. If we consider it as a solemn commitment and not just a jingoistic slogan, then the one making the pledge ought to be the one to decide whether to invoke Divinity or not, and either way should be looked upon equivalently.

    I agree that “in God We Trust” should be stricken from the currency. it is commonly defended as a case of “Ceremonial Deism”, which is to say the words are supposed to have been rendered void of any real religious meaning through common use. I believe this argument is offered in bad faith, for if it were true it would be repugnant to the Big 3 monotheistic faiths, all of which prohibit the use of God’s name in vain.

  9. 2. How about “New York Timesian” malpractice.

    3. So who decides what level of affluence and comfort I should be allowed?

    4. Thank God for morons like Senator Booker. Please tell us all the anti-constitutional overreaches your ideological fellow travelers intend.

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