Lunchtime Ethics Appetizer, 2/12/20: With Just Desserts!

Bon Appetite!

In a perfect example of how avoiding bias can create bias, I am accumulating a backlog of genuine and valuable ethics stories that are triggered by or related to political developments, and deliberately talking myself out of posting them. As regular readers here know, this has been a problem since the beginning of the Trump administration, when the Democrats, the resistance and most of the media  resolved to try to bring him down and cancel the election results with a campaign to delegitimize President’s Trump’s election. I regard this as one of the greatest ethics crises in U.S. history (another, running concurrently, is the near complete abdication of professional ethics by journalists), and I can’t ignore it. But doing my job, as repetitious as it seems, also means that I am reluctant to write about other political stories that I would have included otherwise, and often they involve important issues.

1. Which reminds me: One of the Washington Post’s most reliable anti-Trump columnists, Greg Sargent, issued an opinion piece that would be a strong entrant in a “Hypocrite of the Year” competition. Here’s the line that made my head explode: “Such delegitimization of the opposition strikes at the core of our system. Recognizing the opposition’s legitimacy is a key pillar of accountability in government…”

Astounding! Sargent’s ideologically compatible pals have been working overtime to deny the legitimacy of Trump’s election, from attacking the Electoral College to claiming a Russian conspiracy,  encouraging and cheering “Not my President!” demonstrations, manufacturing impeachable offenses out of thin air, and turning such once-neutral and unifying events as the Inauguration, the Kennedy Center Honors and the White House Correspondents Dinner—and more recently, a State of the Union address where the speaker of the House, on camera, symbolically rejected the legitimacy of the speech by ripping it up on live TV——into opportunities to directly challenge this President’s right to be in office and to be accorded the same respect and civility of his predecessors. If anyone who has been part of this assault, and Sargent definitely has, makes the accusation that Trump is wrong to “delegitimize the opposition,” that critic is either deliberately gaslighting the public, or so devoid of self-knowledge as to be functionally crippled.

2. Here’s an unscientific poll result that should give Democrats chills. Ann Althouse asked her readers whether they would vote for Bernie Sanders or President Trump if that was the choice in November. Ann readership is Madison, Wisconsin heavy, consisting of many of her former students. She is resolutely politically neutral, laning Left, as she voted for both Hillary and Obama, twice. She has also criticized many of the attacks on Trump, including in the news media, causing her commenters, if not her readership, to see an exodus by the Trump-Deranged, much as what has occurred on Ethics Alarms. Those commenters remaining, I believe, are not uncritical of the President, and I would expect to find them on the “disapprove” side in a Gallup poll. I was very surprised at Ann’s poll results:

In a related development…

I’m temped to poll whether this is “just desserts,” “condign justice,” or, remembering  an iconic 50s TV show (sponsored by Skippy Peanut Butter!)

3. Good! A Cook County grand jury returned a six-count indictment charging Jussie Smollett with making four separate false reports of a hate crime to Chicago police. A special prosecutor has concluded that further prosecution of Smollett is “in the interest of justice.”

Back in March of last year, I had this note:

Explain this one: Attorneys for “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett announced today that all charges against him have been dropped.Smollett was indicted on 16 felony counts related to making a false report that he was attacked by two men. The two men were found and implicated Smollett, and the evidence that it was hoax appeared overwhelming.  A minimum condition of dropping cases requires some acceptance of responsibility, but the actor still professes that he’s innocent. “I’ve been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,” he said.

The African-American Cook County State’s Attorney just decided to let Smollett go after his fake hate crime was exposed, without ever adequately explaining why.

The special prosecutor said that a major factor in indictments was the fact that  Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office would not provide additional evidence explaining the decision to release Smollett an drop the charges. Well, let’s see: they could have submitted the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations list, highlighting #11,”The King’s Pass,” or the list of “Big Lies” (to be amended later today!) with sticky note by Big Lie #4: “Trump Is A Racist/White Supremacist,” ince we know all these reported hate crime attacks are the President’s fault.

The former “Empire” actor is due in court February 24.

4.  Following The Ethicist’s multiple Golden Rule failures discussed here, I decided to do a Golden Rule check on another Times advice columnist, Philip Gallanes of “Ethics Q’s.” He passed.

The question was this:

My stepdaughter is in a polyamorous relationship with a married woman. My husband and I are saddened by her choice; we see no happy ending for her. Worse, after losing her job and apartment recently, she gave guardianship of her young daughter to a friend so she could stay close to her girlfriend. My stepdaughter now wants to visit us with her girlfriend. In the past, we’ve refused. But my husband is softening to the idea, so I will go along with him. They want to take us out. But I will not “double date” with these women at restaurants. I plan to keep myself very busy and otherwise engaged during their visit. Am I being too inflexible?

Gallanes replied in part:

Try to imagine the pain your stepdaughter may be suffering to have given up her child, even temporarily, to be with the person she loves. It sounds like a perfect time for her to reconnect with her father. What I can’t see is the upside (for anyone) in you positioning yourself as the antagonist here. Can you find some compassion ASAP?

…Having some flexibility about what arrangements work for other people seems required of you now…[N]o one knows how your stepdaughter’s romance or her bond with her own child is going to turn out. Be the kindest host you can be. Entertain the girlfriend warmly to allow your husband to have as much time with his daughter as possible….

That’s a pure, Golden Rule-driven response.


23 thoughts on “Lunchtime Ethics Appetizer, 2/12/20: With Just Desserts!

  1. Could you perhaps do a weekly Trump Derangement entry compiling all the junk that pops up in a week’s time, ala the Daily Warm-Up? That might give you some time to handle other ethics issues, even those in politics.

    Or like this…

    I want to know what kind of art critic thinks setting anything on a piece of art is acceptable. Even 12-year olds at an art museum know better.

    3. The Smollett case is another one of those issues that is related to both Trump-Derangement, as well as why Trump was elected in the first place. A great many people in this country rejected the racial divisiveness promoted by Obama Administration and its allies in the news media and entertainment industry. Hence, Trump. Unfortunately, the TDS-affected actor, believing the President to be racist solely because he thinks our immigrations laws should be enforced and that people coming here from other countries should be certified by those countries as being safe to live among Americans, decided to pull off a hoax that, again, a 12-year old could see through.

    • The art piece appears to be two thin supports holding up a pane of glass with a soccer ball, a loaf of bread, a large kitchen knife, and a tennis ball embedded halfway inside.

      I don’t see from the pictures that the can was placed “on top if it”, and based on the small pieces and where the objects fell, I am inclined to believe it did indeed spontaneously shatter, as tempered glass tends to do if it has had holes cut inside it.

      I think the blame lies with the artist not knowing his medium.

  2. Here is more from Fred Guttenberg.

    “Later on in the speech, when he got to the part about the Second Amendment and he said, ‘I will defend your Second Amendment rights, which are under attack and under siege all over this country,’ he’s saying to his followers that people like me want to attack the Second Amendment,” he continued. “And that’s just an absolute, brutal, disgusting, vicious lie. Under no circumstance, in no place in this country, is the Second Amendment under attack, and no legal, lawful gun owner feels the sting of gun safety measures that are being proposed.”

    He is not merely a grieving parent who lost a child to gang violence.

    He is a villain, now.

    Time to pull all stops.

  3. I voted in the Althouse poll. I was surprised at Trump’s lead. The segregation of the commentariat is all but complete. If you espouse anything that can construed as Republican adjacent, there will be an exodus. There will always be NYT and/or WaPo comment sections if you want to have a hearty chuckle.
    I go over to Althouse so I can guess which posts you will want to mention. I’m sure there are other EA readers that lurk over there. It “garners” interest!

        • I find word fads equally fascinating and annoying. Remember in the ’80s when everyone said, “Excellent!” in response to most anything? How about “wrap my/your head around [something or other]?” Or “Yes. No.”? “To your point?” I think a lot of these wan phrases are hatched and grown in corporate settings. “Garner” is preposterously ubiquitous these days. Journalists are just lazy and imitative. They should be professional wordsmiths but they’re just hacks, and I find that annoying. I always dread earthquake reportage and count the minutes until the word “temblor” rears its ugly head. Ugh. What the HELL is wrong with “earthquake?”

          There. I feel better now.

  4. 3–A local blog which Steve W. and I frequent used to suffer regular imbecilic slobberings by a Mensan Brain Trustee/Moron Savant who, despite the urgent petitions of a fact-based Universe, used to wallow luxuriantly in any disgustingly aqueous porcine excreta he hilariously believed put Righty in a poor light.

    To no one’s surprise, the Smollett thing was one of them.

    To wit:

    richard lesiak says: March 26, 2019 at 6:55 pm
    ”BBBWAHAHAHAHA. Poor butt-hurt (Cornelius Hieronymous Gotchberg). After all your yapping about Smollett he walks. 16 felonies, count ’em, 16 felonies DROPPED. No charges. The WITCH-HUNT is over. What grinds your gonads is that a black guy walked. AMIRIGHT?”

    I say used to feature because this former Blog Idiot was expeditiously banned by the site administrator, who left little to the imagination while taking summary action 6 months ago.

    “I have banned Lesiak and would be happy to Jeffrey Epstein (verb transitive) more. I am getting more ornery by the day. Do not piss me off.”

    Words to live by!

  5. To be in a polyamorous relationship one must be involved with at least two intimate partners. Given that the girlfriend is married we are left to assume that the other party in the polyamorous relationship is the girlfriends husband/wife. If not, what is called poly-amorous is just cheating.

    Agai, poly-amorous relationships require all the members have more than one intimate partner. We have no idea whether this woman is being exploited by another couple, or, if she and her partner are exploiting another female. Without knowing all the players here I am not sure how the golden rule should be applied; as described or should stepdaughter consider the position she is putting everyone else in if she is merely a sex partner for a cheating spouse or one person in an open relationship.

    My family has had to deal with exactly this issue.

    • Some modernists came by, so the monogamy Chesterton fence and tore it down with gusto. Gnon laughs as the Gods of the Copybook Heading have their revenge.

    • Second. What do you do when you see family members trotting merrily down the road to perdition? Have them over for tea? Whatever happened to disapproval as a societal force for good?

      • What good are you using disapproval to force on someone here? The idea that a monogamous relationship is the only way to live? On what basis do you come to this conclusion – there has been plenty of historical and anecdotal evidence of nonmonogamous relationships functioning just fine within a variety of societies.

        Presuming this relationship is truly polyamorous, and involves the consent of all adults involved, what harm is being done by the individuals involved in it? Why is it necessary to disapprove of them creating a family structure that works for them?

        • “There has been plenty of historical and anecdotal evidence of nonmonogamous relationships functioning just fine within a variety of societies.”

          There really hasn’t.

    • I’d like to take a moment to correct a few misunderstandings that your post might create Chris,

      Polyamorous relationships do not require that every partner have multiple partners of their own, at least as the term is commonly used by most people within the polyamorous community. It does, however, imply that every member in the reationship would be free to have multiple partners, if they so choose (and subject to the particular agreements they’ve made with their partners). Additionally, there is no reason to expect or believe that individuals involved in a polycule will be having relationships only with each other – each individual is going to have their own sexual identities and orientations, and hopefully all partners will respect each other’s preferences. To avoid the cheating label that you so liberally applied, what matters is that all partners are informed of the other partners behaviors, and give whatever level of consent their relationship structure requires. If a partner is added to the polycule without others being informed, and in violation of the agreements that have been made, THEN it can be said that some members of the polycule are cheating on the others.

      For instance, I can be in a relationship with my girlfriend, but not be seeing anyone else (either by inclination or by circumstance). If she is polyamorous, and has other partners, and we are all informed of each other and abide by our agreements about what activities we undertake, then we are all in a polyamorous relationship – the focal point of the polycule being the individual with multiple partners (those of us who are not partners with each other will often use the term metamour to describe our connection, but not always. Polyamorous relationships get messy that way). There is no reason to expect or believe that I am seeing another individual, or any of her other partners, or that we have massive orgies, or that anyone is cheating on anyone else. If my girlfriend were to take up another lover without telling us about it (our relationship requires each of us consent to the addition of a new sexual partner, which is a pretty common requirement within the polyamorous community), then she would be cheating. This creates some oddball scenarios where a polyamorous individual might be cheating on some members of their polycule, but not all of them, depending upon how good lines of communication are, and what agreements have been made.

      As to how the golden rule should be applied… I think Jack and Gallanes hit it on the head.

      • Personally, what people do privately is their own concern, not mine. Here is what I said:

        “Without knowing all the players here I am not sure how the golden rule should be applied; as described or should stepdaughter consider the position she is putting everyone else in if she is merely a sex partner for a cheating spouse or one person in an open relationship.”

        I will stipulate that one member in a polyamorous relationship could be monogamous but by definition one of the two must have other partners. That is what used to be called an “open” relationship.

        Further, we have no idea of the power balance in this relationship. We only know that the stepdaughter lost her job and apartment creating financial vulnerabilities, and then turned her own child over to a friend who will be the guardian. WHAT OF THAT CHILD. Will she grow up with abandonment issues or some other psychological issue? Will her daughter seek to find love in all the wrong places at some point in time because mommy left her and that is all she knows of love and relationships? Will society have to cover the future costs of this abandoned child because of this abandonment? I do not know but the odds are long that such a child will grow up perfectly well adjusted. This situation is the real problem, not whether stepdaughter has a fulfilling relationship with a polyamorous married woman who want to take dad and stepmom out to dinner. If they can afford taking people out to dinner she can afford to raise her own child. Choices baby!

        The Golden Rule states do unto others as you would have them do unto to you.

        If I read the issue correctly the obstacle is not having them come for a visit but to go to a restaurant on what she considers a double date. Explain to me why the feelings of the stepdaughter take precedence over the feelings of the stepmother? Does one person’s moral belief trump another’s moral belief?

        Lets examine the letter:

        “My stepdaughter is in a polyamorous relationship with a married woman. My husband and I are saddened by her choice; we see no happy ending for her. ”

        First line: If the parents see no happy ending for her that feeling is as valid as her stepdaughters feelings.

        “Worse, after losing her job and apartment recently, she gave guardianship of her young daughter to a friend so she could stay close to her girlfriend. ”

        Second line: The stepdaughter seems to have come on hard times and is vulnerable. So vulnerable she gave guardianship of her own child to a friend so she could be close to her girlfriend. That indicates a sense of self importance such that her needs and desires were more important than her responsibility as a parent.

        “My stepdaughter now wants to visit us with her girlfriend. In the past, we’ve refused. But my husband is softening to the idea, so I will go along with him.”

        Third line: She is willing to have them visit. She is compromising.

        ” They want to take us out. But I will not “double date” with these women at restaurants. I plan to keep myself very busy and otherwise engaged during their visit. ”

        Fourth line: She has compromised on the visit but will not go out to a public venue with them. This is called freedom of association. At what point do we see any understanding of the stepmom’s feelings by the stepdaughter. Dad is perfectly capable of going with them alone.

        “Am I being too inflexible?”

        Fifth line: She is asking for guidance.

        I’m sorry but I find it implausible to believe that stepdaughter was forced to give up custody of her child because she loved this other woman and became involved with her. What court would require that? Why give custody to a friend and not the child’s father? Why give guardianship to anyone? This is relevant but sorely missing information. Is it possible that the married girlfriend did not want the child around? Sure it is. If that is the case, we can begin to see who has the power in this relationship.

        It is not speculation to say she chose the married woman over her own child. That suggests a self-indulgent personality. Without knowing any other facts of the case why I am supposed to side with a stepdaughter who is involved with a married woman over the stepmother? That was my point. Tolerance is a two way street.

        Finally, does anyone think stepmom knows the rules of polyamory as described by Tim. And even Tim admits that not everyone follows the rules.

  6. 1. I don’t think that essay says too much that we haven’t already heard over the past three years. It just says it a different way and from a slightly different angle. I’ve written enough over the past three years here to probably write a book on the topic, but it all boils down to the left wanting monopolies. They want a monopoly on honor (their statues and holidays, no one else’s) . They want a monopoly on government power (their candidates and votes, no one else’s). They want a monopoly on virtue and justification (their hatred is fine, anyone else’s not so much). They want a monopoly on the use of force (Antifa=fine, Proud Boys= criminal).

    Now they want a monopoly on legitimacy. It’s perfectly ok for them to call Trump and his supporters illegitimate eight ways from Wednesday: he didn’t win the popular vote, his vote is tainted by Russian corruption, those who back him are white supremacists, and he and his supporters both are racist, xenophobic, warmongering, hateful crazies who can’t wait to lead us back to the 1950s, therefore they are all illegitimate and should be run out of power and jailed. However, if he or his supporters dare to point out that Mueller came up empty after 2 years, that impeachment was poorly handled and doomed from the start as it was transmitted to the Senate, that all the gloom and doom the other side has spouted has failed to materialize, and that the other side has displayed something bordering on a pathological obsession with destroying this president, then suddenly they are committing some kind of political mortal sin, because only the left is ever legitimate.

    Then again considering the Harvard Law Review published an anonymous piece that talked openly and frankly about splitting Washington DC up into 127 (!) new states, stripping the Senate of all power, scrapping the Electoral College, and creating a ton of new judgeships that they could then fill with liberal judges in order to guarantee liberal dominance, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Anyone who’d think of that and talk about it without marking it as satire a la “A Modest Proposal” is too far gone to reason with.

    2. This comes as no surprise either. A good one-half, I’d say, of the voters who lean left in this country are liberal, but not nuts. Obama partly got as many votes as he did because he disguised who he was, or his positions conveniently later “evolved” and moved farther left. Bernie has never attempted to disguise who or what he is. Everyone knows it, and, although he may have been able to scrounge up enough votes to be elected mayor of a college town of 40,000, then parlay that to be elected to Congress and then the Senate by a state where all the old hippies went to retire, winning the national vote is another matter. Wall Street doesn’t want him, for obvious reasons. Most industries don’t want him, he’d choke the life out of them, and the communities that depend on those industries would lose a lot of breadwinners. The uniformed services don’t want him, he spent his life fighting them. Outside the poor communities and colleges, his support doesn’t exist. Realistically, who wants a president who must win by promising to steal from those who work to buy the votes of those who don’t? Salvador Allende-Gossens tried that in Cuba a few September 11ths ago, stealing private property and nearly bankrupting the place. How’d that turn out?

    3. I agree. No reason this slug should get the King’s Pass.

    4. Better, without slamming tradition or faith.

  7. Re: No. 4; The Heart wants . . . what?

    I fully accept that I am a Philistine, or an outlier here. I agree with the advice that one should treat a guest with respect – there is no reason to be intentionally cruel. That is wrong. But, let’s not pretend that the step-daughter’s relationship is perfectly normal.

    I agree that the step-daughter is an adult. I agree that, if she wants a polyamorous relationship, that is her choice. I have little sympathy with the step-daughter and her putative pain for giving up her daughter to be close to her lovers, though.
    As a parent, you make sacrifices for the benefit of your children. putting their needs first. It is called growing up or maturing.

    Someone should grab the step-daughter by the scruff of her nec . . . wait, what am I saying? Perhaps the step-daughter unloading her daughter in someone else is in the best interests of that child, saving the child from the mother’s selfish, narcissistic behavior.


    • This was my reaction to this situation. She gave up her daughter to be the third wheel in a relationship? The polyamorous part hasn’t even hit me yet. If she gave up her daughter to a friend to move in with her boyfriend, I would have the same gut reaction. And no, I wouldn’t be supportive of it and no, I would not condone it. What is the daughter going to do with her next relationship? Same thing? How do you explain to the granddaughter that she doesn’t just take a backseat to Mommy’s romantic flings, she isn’t even allowed in the car with them. Imagine when the granddaughter figures out Mommy thinks she is just too inconvenient to be around. The quote “Try to imagine the pain your stepdaughter may be suffering to have given up her child…” just seems like “Sure she murdered her parents, but have sympathy because she is now an orphan”.

      Here’s a scary question. If it were legal, would this woman ‘abort’ her daughter to be with her girlfriend? It has been suggested that we ‘let Mothers draw that line’. Where would this mother draw the line?

  8. 4. To quote one of the deacons at my church, “The train is coming down the tracks. Get off the tracks and be at the station when your adult child needs you. Otherwise you’ll just be run over.”

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