Ethics Warm-Up, 11/5/2019: A Whistleblower’s Biases, A Technology’s Risks, And A Thinking Actor’s Values


1. So now we know…The mysterious “whistleblower” is almost certainly Eric Ciaramella,  a CIA analyst, former National Security Council staffer,  and  a career intelligence officer.who has served in both the Obama and Trump administrations. It would have been nice and reassuring if he were not so strongly tied to the Dark Side, meaning the Democrats and various “resistance” figures, but he is. That doesn’t mean he had an agenda, but somehow all of the leakers and rebels who have been instrumental in keeping the Left’s coup fires burning have aspects of their backgrounds that justify skepticism.

From the generally useful and fair article about in Heavy:

Ciaramella has worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for several years and was assigned to the White House during the end of the Obama administration. He worked closely with Biden in his role as an expert on Ukraine. Ciaramella also has ties to Sean Misko, a former NSC co-worker who now works for Representative Adam Schiff and the Intelligence Committee. According to The New York Times, the whistleblower first went to a CIA lawyer and then to an unnamed Schiff aide before filing the whistleblower complaint. The aide told the whistleblower to follow the formal process, but conveyed some of the information he learned from him to Schiff, without revealing his name, The Times reported.

“Like other whistle-blowers have done before and since under Republican and Democratic-controlled committees, the whistle-blower contacted the committee for guidance on how to report possible wrongdoing within the jurisdiction of the intelligence community,” said Patrick Boland, a spokesman for Schiff, told The Times.

The whistleblower’s ties to Democrats, including Biden, Schiff, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of Intelligence James Clapper and former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, have created controversy, with Trump and Republicans using his past work with them in an attempt to discredit him.

I did say generally fair. The fact that this guy who created the path to the latest impeachment excuse just happens to be a Democrat with connections to a veritable nest of anti-Trump zealots does and should discredit his objectivity to some extent. An “attempt” shouldn’t be necessary.

2.  Geewhatasurprise…. From the MIT Technology Review:

A study published today in JAMA Pediatrics warns that kids’ literacy and language skills suffer with screen use, and MRI scans of their brains appear to back up the findings…. Forty-seven 3- to 5-year-olds took a test to measure their cognitive abilities, and their parents were asked to answer a detailed survey about screen time habits. …The scans revealed that kids who spent more time in front of screens had what the authors call lower “white matter integrity.” White matter can be roughly thought of as the brain’s internal communications network—its long nerve fibers are sheathed in fatty insulation that allows electrical signals to move from one area of the brain to another without interruption. The integrity of that structure—how well organized the nerve fibers are, and how well developed the myelin sheath is—is associated with cognitive function, and it develops as kids learn language. …Lead author John Hutton of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital told MIT Technology Review there’s a clear link between higher screen use and lower white matter integrity in the children his team studied. That structural change appears to be reflected in the results of the cognitive test the kids took as well, which showed high screen time associated with lower levels of language and literacy skills. “The effect size is substantial, as these findings also rigorously controlled for multiple comparisons across the brain,” Hutton says.

One easy and ethical remedy would be for parents to make sure their kids don’t see them constantly staring at their phone.

3.  A terrific, ethical, extemporaneous speech from Richard Dreyfus. No, Richard Dreyfus is not, and has never been, a typical Hollywood knee-jerk leftist. Glenn Beck’s conservative website “The Blaze” was “astonished” when actor/educator Richard Dreyfus recently told Fox News host Tucker Carlson,

“You were talking about the speakers on university campuses. And I am totally, incontrovertibly on your side about this. I think any intrusion into freedom of speech is an intrusion into freedom of speech. And when one of the presidents of one of the colleges said, ‘this is a school, not a battlefield,’ I said, no, it is a battlefield of ideas and we must have dissonant, dissenting opinions on campuses and I think it’s political correctness taken to a nightmarish point of view

I have withdrawn from partisan politics. I am a constitutionalist who believes that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights must be central and the parties must be peripheral. What’s most important for me is what you just mentioned haphazardly, we are over 30. Civics has not been taught in the American public school system since 1970. And that means everyone in Congress never studied the constitution and the bill of rights as you and I might have. And that is a critical flaw because it’s why we were admired and respected for so long, it gives us our national identity, it tells the world who we are and why we are who we are, and without a frame that gives us values that stand behind the bill of rights, we’re just floating in the air and our sectors of society are not connected.

What’s really important is that the assumptions of the left and the right are all skewed wrong. We have to find areas of agreement and areas that we share. And we do share the notion that education accomplishes certain things. One, it turns students into citizens. And, two, it teaches students how to run the country before it’s their turn to run the country. And, three, it teaches the values of this nation.

People come from all over the world or are born into this nation without the values that we have here. That’s why they came here, to get them. And what are they? You can put them in opportunity, rise by merit, mobility, and freedom. That’s what we sell. And if you don’t want that, you’ve chosen the wrong place. And you don’t get a pass by being born here, you have to learn it. Even the Ten Commandments are not known at birth. You must learn them. And we must learn our values and if we don’t, we are fatally, fatally wounding ourselves. We will not have any way to really combat the ideas behind ISIS because we won’t know our own. And we have to.


Fox News should give Dreyfus a show.

13 thoughts on “Ethics Warm-Up, 11/5/2019: A Whistleblower’s Biases, A Technology’s Risks, And A Thinking Actor’s Values

  1. The whistleblowers will likely not testify in the open. They are the Carter Page’s of this newest foray into impeachment. Find an ounce of hearsay and parlay it into a ton of misinformation and propaganda and hope it sticks. This time, however, make sure the leftists ideologues are completely in control of the process and are not required to acknowledge the accused’s rights. And Trump is a danger to democracy?
    This would be hilarious if it wasn’t so dangerous.

    • >And Trump is a danger to democracy?

      It occurred to me recently that IF the Democrats actually go and impeach Trump, successful conviction in the Senate has a snowball’s chance in Hell, especially without any Republican buy-in during the impeachment inquiry.

      The truly dangerous aspect is what happens after Trump is acquitted: will Democrats respect Double Jeopardy?

  2. What’s most important for me is what you just mentioned haphazardly, we are over 30. Civics has not been taught in the American public school system since 1970.

    This is a perplexing idea. I took civics in high school, and I am pretty sure it was part of the curriculum, not an elective. Are other school’s curriculums defective? I am also just over 30; I hope my school hasn’t dropped in intervening decade…

    • It may be different in different districts, but it would explain a lot…I have no idea how many times I’ve been really startled by people’s misperceptions and have had to say, ”They can’t do that, the government/courts/ impeachment process actually works like this”. People have been surprised that you can’t impeach a President for something he said while being surreptitiously taped over a decade ago, that it has be a pretty serious crime, committed while in office. You can’t impeach a President for being a business owner, or because you think he’s uncouth. The lack of civics education explains the hysteria immediately post-election, where people were predicting everything from Trump pushing the nuke button in a fit of pique, to Pence outlawing all forms of birth control ( seriously….there were calls to ‘stock up, or, if you’re absolutely sure you don’t want children, get sterilized now while you can!”).
      I’ve said to my husband over and over that it’s amazing and sad that so many Americans have no idea how the system works, and how the balance of power works.

  3. I’d read a couple of years ago that Richard Dreyfuss was forming an organization dedicated to educating people about the Constitution. I applauded it then and I applaud it now.

  4. Here is an interesting story.

    I was constantly bullied. I tried it Mom’s way…tell a teacher, avoid the bully, run away if I could, but I still got busted lips, torn clothes, and bruises.

    Finally Dad couldn’t take anymore. He pulled me to the side and said, “Boy, this is just a secret between you and me. Next time you are bullied….fight back. Go nuts on them. I don’t care if they are bigger. Just go crazy and try to make them hurt. Don’t worry about Mom. I’ll deal with her. Don’t worry about the school either….tell them you won’t accept any punishment without them talking to me…and only me….first.”

    Armed with this permission, when the bully cornered me in the changing area before gym, I went off. I got a busted lip out of the deal, but the bully ended up with two black eyes, a concussion, three cracked ribs, and a loose tooth. I just went berserk, and even when he gave up I continued the beating. The funny thing is, the coach saw the whole thing, knew what I had endured, and let me cut loose.

    This told the others I was not to be bullied. Word got around quickly. It was no longer fun to pick on me, and with the damage I had inflicted, it gave other bullies pause.

    However, the bully’s parents were not so pleased. They complained to the principal, who called me into the office and said I had to be suspended for a week. As planned, I told him I wouldn’t accept the suspension until he talked to Dad. I gave him Dad’s work number. He called, and Dad came right over.

    My Dad at the time worked in a lumberyard. He had to lift 150 lb. stumps into the back of a deuce and a half (a large truck) all day. Dad was HUGE. He came into the office, nodded to me, and listened to the principal rage about how I was the one who caused trouble fighting, and how I almost killed the other guy. My Dad didn’t say a word and got up from his seat.

    He walked around and picked up the principal by his throat and pinned him to the wall. He then quietly said, “Every day my kid came home, torn clothes, beat up, crying, miserable. You folks did nothing. He tells you he’s getting bullied. Still nothing. He tried to avoid fighting, and they chase him down. You still do nothing. Now he’s beaten up a bully. NOW’S THE TIME TO DO NOTHING.”

    “He’s not getting suspended, doing sentences, standing in a corner, nothing. If I hear he gets any punishment for this, or gets bullied in the future, and you guys do nothing, I’m coming back here….and giving YOU what the bully did to my son. Understand?” The principal croaked out a yes.

    There were a few more incidents with others after that. One involved me getting tripped and my nose got broken. That ended with me destroying half the classroom, and two boys having their desks flung down the stairs. But because of it being a case of me being bullied, not a word was said, and no punishment was put upon me. But the word was out…I was a victim no longer, and to mess with me meant swift justice, a thing no bully wanted. It was a lesson I had to teach a couple of times in high school as well.

    Unfortunately, history has repeated itself. My son is disabled, and was being picked on. I however, witnessed it myself, and put the fear of God into them.

    We should all teach our kids that fighting is a last resort when all other efforts have failed. But we also need to teach our kids that when they stand up for themselves, we have their back.

    Any ethical analysis?

    • Sounds right. Are the police ‘police’ because that’s what we call them, or are they called police because they police? That’s rhetorical, of course. If we called sawdust food and cheeseburgers sawdust, I’d eat the “sawdust” rather than the sawdust. Authority, likewise is in what the object is rather than what it’s called. Nominalism is categorically false, so the wood-heaving father is in the right.

    • I find no fault with the ethics the father used to protect his son. I am admitting bias, here, as well. Let me explain my bias.

      I grew up in a very small town, a teacher’s kid. The school was painfully rural: watching paint dry WAS legitimate entertainment. Salt of the earth people, though. As an (undiagnosed) autistic child who, moreover, was a straight A student, I was the target of abuse. Taunts, nasty rumors, trips, slaps, pinches… you name it. There was no way, in those days decades ago, to run to a teacher… and my parents WERE teachers. If a teacher SAW the abuse, there was help, but by sixth grade the bullies watched out for each other and made sure no adult saw the action.

      I endured. Rarely was the abuse enough to make me fight back, not enough to justify fighting as a teacher’s kid: punishment would be repeated at home, I well knew. Nor was I seriously hurt. This was the way of things, and I knew no other.

      As I entered High School, I came to realize that I really was smarter than those persecuting me. I began to try different methods to prevent being the target, without getting someone else targeted. This, and a little judicious targeting of offenders to let them know I would fight back in ways they could not foresee, made me less the victim by freshman year. Except for one bully we will call Frank.

      Frank was a mama’s boy, whose father was hen pecked into submission. Any time Frank got in trouble growing up, his mother was at school, insisting that her boy was the victim. Her boy had flunked a couple of times, and was a large muscular specimen (I mean, who had to shave in seventh grade?), so of course the 75 pound kid with the black eye was the bully, picking on her 6 foot 4 angel. Frank got away with as much as he paid for. This was also the way of things.

      Frank has a group of servile groupies, who sucked up to him for protection or who simply enjoyed the pain of others. They traveled in a pack, acting as lookouts for Frank’s depredations. One day that freshman year, Frank pushed me in the hallway, or some such. Being poisoned by testosterone, I bowed up to him, and he suggested that we meet where there were no teachers. I was not stupid, and declined his offer. Still, the school campus was given to such places, and a few days later Frank’s pack cornered me in one. I had had enough. I told Frank that unless he was willing to kill me, I was going to fight them all, and then take my injuries to the school administration (I called the two principles ‘Uncle’ and had lived under the Superintendent’s roof many times, so was like a son) and would ask charges be filed. I asked them who would be believed: a group constantly in trouble, or the straight A student who had not been in trouble ever?

      They knew I would be believed, even with all of them against me. Frank turned three shades of red, my face inches from his, uhhh, breastbone (He was a BIG dude), and then he backed away. I then told the group if they ever touched me again, I would make sure they saw the inside of juvenile detention. They never gave me more than grudging respect the rest of High School.

      My sons had situations where the school refused to stop bullying. After teacher and administrator meeting getting zero results, I informed my grade school son (who knew karate) that the next time he was attacked, to put the bully on the ground and make sure he hurt. I then also told the school that my son was going to protect himself, and I would see them held personally responsible if he were punished for doing so. I had documentation of our meetings, and my emails. Suddenly the bully was removed from the class (seems he bullied others as well) and his parents told the reason why.

      My other son is autistic, and a big kid himself. He is gentle as a fly, too empathetic to want to hurt another. His bully was a pip squeak, half his height and a third of his weight. This kid was visiting an on-campus after school care program (for free) since his mom worked late there each day. There he decided to pick on the child who was different.

      Because the bully was a teacher’s kid, and so small, he got away with his abuse… right up until I threatened to call the state in to investigate. See, my boy had state enforced protections, paperwork documenting his disabilities, and my documentation asking the school to separate the boys. I told the school that I was going to tell my son to beat the ever loving snot out of the bully the next time he acted out, and if my son got even a stern glare from the school I would be contacting a lawyer. I asked, being uneducated about civil and criminal affairs, whether they though the lawyer would sue, contact the state for an investigation, or both?

      The bully’s teacher mom was told to make other arrangements for her child after school, and that he was forbidden to play with the other kids in that program.

      Force, or the threat of it, was needed when the social contract did not stop abuse. Our social contract with authorities states that they will protect us, or at least avenge us after the fact. When a school does not enforce their side of the contract, it is up to each of us to find a way, within the rules or not, to protect our families.

      This is the only ethical response.

      • What happened to Frank? I am glad you asked, as it is a nifty little morality play in and of itself.

        Later in High School, Frank and his pack stayed in shop most of the day. They got grades for staying out of trouble, in other words: the shop teacher was 6 foot 8, and a mass of muscle himself… and was given a free hand to, well, lay hands on the disruptions as needed. There were 20 or so boys under his tender care each day, almost all of whom could not be expelled under the rules of the day (free lunch until age 21) but who would not allow others an education if placed in a classroom.

        This group included an inoffensive teen we will call ‘Pookie.’ (This was actually his nickname: everyone got a nickname in those circles) Pookie was experimenting with drugs, and was not violent naturally. Frank leaned into Pookie one morning, that ‘accidental-on-purpose’ body shove boys use to establish dominance, and when Pookie protested Frank turned on him, asking what Pookie was going to do about it? When Pookie (being high and not liking the options) declined and turned away, Frank shoved him to the ground and turned his back.

        There were lots of shop materials stored around the room. One barrel had lengths of iron pipe stored against future use. Pookie grabbed a piece of pipe, ran and jumped on Frank’s back, and proceeded to attempt murder. He rode Frank to the ground, and got several concussion-causing blows in before being dragged off. Pookie went to jail, and never returned. Frank went into the hospital for several days.

        After mom visited and told Frank how terrible it was that he was assaulted this way, his father got alone with him. To hear Frank tell it, his father said something like this:

        “Frank, you are an adult now, in age if nothing else. Mom cannot protect you any longer, and your next victim might just decide to shoot you and be done with it. Think about that.”

        Frank was the nicest person I knew when he returned to school. The pack was disbanded (Frank said HE would hunt them down unless they stopped picking on folks who would blame Frank) and we discovered Frank HAD learned manners… he just never used them before.

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