Veteran’s Day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/11/19: Wishing My Dad Hadn’t Died Before He Figured Out How To Comment On Ethics Alarms…[CORRECTED]

Pop Quiz:

How many military veterans are currently running for President in 2020?

Answer: Two…Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

[Correction notice: I forgot about Pete in the first version of the post. Thanks to Jutgory for the catch, and thanks to Mayor Buttigieg for his service.]

1.  Here’s that “violating democratic norms” Big Lie again. This one was flagged by Ann Althouse (Thanks, Ann!)

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman,  an appointee of President Bill Clinton,  said in a speech at  the annual Thomas A. Flannery Lecture in Washington, D.C. last week, “We are in unchartered territory. We are witnessing a chief executive who criticizes virtually every judicial decision that doesn’t go his way and denigrates judges who rule against him, sometimes in very personal terms. He seems to view the courts and the justice system as obstacles to be attacked and undermined, not as a coequal branch to be respected even when he disagrees with its decisions.'”

Althouse comments,

How do you get to be a federal judge and think the expression is “unchartered territory”? That’s a written speech too (presumably). Did he visualize some entity that issues charters authorizing people to speak about the courts in a particular way? You don’t need a license to speak in the United States, and to require one would, ironically, violate our norms. The expression is “uncharted territory,” which would simply mean that Trump is venturing into a new area of speech that we haven’t previously explored and therefore have not mapped…Now, I agree with the idea that Trump’s speech about law is unconventional, but what determines that he has violated all recognized democratic norms? It’s often said that the judiciary is the least democratic part of the government, that it’s countermajoritarian. So what are the norms of democracy that say a President should not criticize the courts?! You might just as well call this purported norm a norm of anti-democracy.

Anyway… the weasel word is “recognized.” It takes all the oomph out of “all.” Trump’s speech about judges violates “all recognized democratic norms.” Who are the recognizers? The judges? Judges certainly have a role talking about democratic norms, which are often part of the determination of the scope of the judicial role: Judges refrain from doing what is left to the processes of democracy. But part of democracy is speech about government — which includes the judges — and that speech is not limited to flattering and deferring to them. It does not violate the norms of democracy to criticize and attack judges.

Bingo. And it is because of judges whot say these sorts of things that the President is not unreasonable to accuse the judiciary of  bias. Ann chose not to mention that this was also a “norm” breached by Barack Obama, more than once, but I will, the point not being “everybody does it,” but that to this judge and others, what Obama did was apparently only objectionable when Trump did it too—a common theme in the anti-Trump propaganda of the last three years.

2. Here’s  new low for the New York Times in its campaign to paint Puerto Rico as victims of U.S. bias. Ever since San Juan’s mayor pulled a Katrina on President Trump, blaming the United States for everything that went wrong with Puerto Rico’s rescue and recovery efforts in the wake of hurricane destruction, the Times and other mainstream media have worked hard to use the dispute to bolster another useful Big Lie: that the President is an anti-Hispanic racist, and his administration’s policies reflect that. Yesterday, the Times published a largely sympathetic article about the suffering being faced by Puerto Rican cock-fighters, poor dears, because of new legislation banning the sport.

The correct approach to this story would have been “why did this take so long?” Cock-fighting is per se animal cruelty, though letting chickens maul and kill each other for the entertainment and gambling  enjoyment of humans doesn’t spark quite the universal outrage that dogfighting does. (“Seinfeld” even had an episode joking about it.) Since we eat chickens and raise them under horrible conditions before they become Popeye’s sandwiches, this is somewhat understandable.

However, the Times attempt to make us feel pity for the Puerto Ricans who will be put out of business by a  reasonable U.S. law is not. Here’s a sample rationalization from one of the soon-to-be-“victims” of U.S. “meddling in Puerto Rican culture”:

“This is our life,” Mr. Figueroa said on a recent morning as he tossed dried corn kernels into the birds’ feeding dishes. “If they take this away from us, what are we going to do? I’m 70 years old. No one else is going to give me a job….In the United States they hunt deer, and what harm have they done to anyone? The birds are going to fight no matter what. We prepare them to defend themselves.” 

I confess that my reaction could well be confirmation bias. Because the Times sneaks in attacks on the Trump administration, the nation for electing him President, and reflex sympathy and support for virtually any and all who are adversely affected by current U.S. policy, it is very difficult more me not to read an article like this one through that context.

3. Here’s a creative legal argument! Remember, zealous representation, not frivolous… Benjamin Schreiber, serving a life sentence for murder,  argued to an appeals court in Iowa saying that when his heart stopped in 2015 and he was technically dead, his life sentence had been served. The life he resumed minutes later, see, after he was revived by hospital staff, was a new life after death had wiped the slate clean. Right?

The three-judge panel rejected his request for the state to let him get on with his life, saying in part, “Schreiber is either still alive, in which case he must remain in prison, or he is actually dead, in which case this appeal is moot.”

Hey, it was worth a shot!

4. The Times is starting a series about the place of football in America’s culture. Here are some quotes from the first installment, describing the football industry’s concern over falling participation in high schools across the country because of brain damage concerns, that raised my metaphorical eyebrows…

Some parents? Why not all parents? They ARE placing their children in danger.

  • “The New York Times commissioned a national online poll of 1,000 14- to 17-year-old boys. The survey, conducted by Pollfish and PredictWise this fall, found 9 percent of those who identified themselves as football players said they had parents who voiced concerns over head injuries, compared with 3 percent of wrestlers and 2 percent of hockey players. Still, only 4 percent of boys who had quit football said that personal concerns over head injuries were the main reason they quit. A third of former players said they just lost interest, another third became busy with something else and 15 percent said they simply started playing another sport.”

I wonder what percentage of parents have no knowledge of the CTE research and the risks of subjecting young brains to the battering of football.

  • “Even though coaches have tried to address their concerns by teaching new tackling techniques and monitoring head injuries closely, Houser said it could be very hard when “parents get caught up in the ‘let’s don’t take a chance’ thing.”

Oh that.

  • “By May 2018, the campaign #FootballMatters had begun to spread across multiple platforms. On the Football Matters website, there were resources for parents on rule changes and safety advances; articles about leadership and teamwork and overcoming adversity; and football-friendly data, such as the number of colleges that field football teams (775, with seven more being added by 2022) and the number of college players who are working on their master’s degrees (1,439 out of about 73,000). Each Friday, fans who connect with Football Matters on social media get “hype videos” of high school coaches’ pregame talks to their teams.”

Brilliant! A “Let’s distarct parents from the reality that they may be condemning their kids to dementia by their forties!” campaign.

14 thoughts on “Veteran’s Day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/11/19: Wishing My Dad Hadn’t Died Before He Figured Out How To Comment On Ethics Alarms…[CORRECTED]

  1. 4. Youth team sports are an important part of development, and if football were the only option I could make an utilitarian argument for keeping it. But there other three major team sports in the US and a smattering of smaller ones (soccer, lacrosse, etc.) that children can practice in a safer environment. Add the smaller possibility of wanting to become a pro if what you’re doing is competitive curling and you have a recipe for the end of youth football, hopefully sooner rather than later.

    • Agreed. If you want to stop head injuries, maybe rugby can offer some advice: take away the helmet and shoulder pads and you reduce the likelihood someone will launch himself head-first into another player. I say do away with the whole damn sport. Baseball, soccer, basketball, swimming are non-lethal alternatives. Volleyball, though, is problematic: Those balls coming flying at your face at the speed of light and damn near take your head off. Sheesh.


  2. Re: No. 3: Benjamin Schreiber; Revitalized Prison Term.

    Well, the formerly disanimated and subsequently revitalized Mr. Schreiber is now Schrodinger’s Convict,proving Schrodinger’s theory of the duality of being: Mr. Schreiber is simultaneously alive and dead without the need of a third party observer to determine his state of being, somewhat disproving Schrodinger’s theory. As we know, Schrodinger posited that if you place a cat and something that could kill the cat (say, a radioactive atom) in a box and sealed it, you would not know if the cat was dead or alive until you opened the box, so that until the box was opened, the cat was (in a sense) both “dead and alive”. Quantum Mechanics the world over want to check under THAT hood!


  3. 1. Yesterday Ann had two excellent entries. One a fisking of an article by Andrew Sullivan in the New York Magazine regarding the “cult” of Republican supporters of Trump and the other a response to 32 writers asking the NYT to avoid using the phrase quid pro quo when writing about the impeachment inquiry. Both are classics.

    2. Cock fighting is brutal and unconscionable. I had a step-grandfather who raised fighting cocks and saw it first hand. I suppose if they had gladiator contests we would have to avoid destroying that also. After all, people are going to fight no matter what and we can prepare them to defend themselves.

    4. I agree about the risks of football and feel that at least HS level needs to be ended. A fact that is seldom mentioned when discussing traumatic brain injury and football is that female soccer players face similar risk. A study showed that female soccer players suffered concussions at a rate only slightly lower than males playing football. For unknown reasons, the rate of concussion among boys playing soccer is much lower than that of girls. I personally know a very promising young female goalie who suffered a severe concussion while playing. Fortunately, she seems to be recovering well.

      • Six? That is some dangerous sport!

        In 15+ years of competitive tae kwon do I saw two concussions, and maybe a third one that was not confirmed (as the guy was not on my team, so no access to their doctor). During that time I competed in at least a hundred bouts and didn’t suffer any myself (only injury was a low kick that fortunately did not have lasting consequences).

        I do wonder what the difference is between boys and girls soccer, or if it may be something . Another data point, in my local leagues headers are disallowed until high school and in the lowest recreational level for everyone, including adults.

        • Just a shot in the dark, but maybe the boys are taller, on average (tall girls tend to play volleyball or basketball, so soccer-playing girls may be disproportionately shorter than their male counterparts), so the boys get hit more in the upper chest than the head. Males statistically have faster reaction times than females, also, so maybe the boys are better at dodging head shots.

          Just a hypothesis, based on knowing virtually nothing about soccer…

          • Males statistically have faster reaction times than females, also, so maybe the boys are better at dodging…

            A fact that is intuitive to those of us who grew up playing coed dodgeball, from about the second grade. Few girls ever saw the final rounds, even the athletic ones.

  4. Ann chose not to mention that this was also a “norm” breached by Barack Obama, more than once, but I will, the point not being “everybody does it,” but that to this judge and others, what Obama did was apparently only objectionable when Trump did it too—a common theme in the anti-Trump propaganda of the last three years.

    Do not forget the threat of court packing by President Roosevelt.

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