Category Archives: Government & Politics

Sean Spicer, The Great Crowd Size Controversy, And A New Ethics Train Wreck

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Today the talking heads’ heads couldn’t stop talking about the Great Crowd Size Controversy.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer called a special press conference yesteray evening to berate the news media for, he said, misrepresenting the size of Friday’s Inauguration crowd. He said, 

“[P]hotographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall…This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration—period —both in person and around the globe.  These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.”

This was gleefully pounced upon by Spicer’s targets, who then ran story after story showing that 1) the 2017 Inauguration crowds were smaller than the previous two Inaugurations, 2) Spicer was lying, and 3) hence Trump was lying, so 4) Trump had berated the news media for simply telling the truth, and 5) Spicer had forfeited all credibility on his first day on the job, the fool.

Points of ethical clarification and exposition:

1. The news media had already destroyed its own credibility regarding the Trump administration before Day One, with its unfettered hostility and bias against the incoming President. No assessment of the Great Crowd Size Controversy can commence without understanding that context. Everything the mainstream news media prints or says about Trump from here on–unless the journalistic establishment changes course—will be interpreted in that light by fair-minded, non-gullible  people. In addition, nobody sane, or not determined to diminish Trump in any way possible no matter how petty, gives an urban rodent’s derriere how the crowd at Trump’s Inauguration compared to Barack Obama’s. Quick: was Truman’s crowd bigger or smaller than the assembled at FDR’s second swearing-in? Was Polk’s throng larger or smaller than Lincoln’s? Was Wilson’s larger than Taft’s? I’m a Presidential trivia nut, and I don’t know or care. it just doesn’t matter. At all. Ever.

2. Other “scoops” from last week prove how derangedly anti-Trump the news media has been.. The New York Times intentionally misrepresented facts to make Secretary of Energy Rick Perry look ridiculous, when one hardly has to misrepresent anything to make Rick Perry look ridiculous.  TIME published a demonstrably false story about Trump removing the bust of Martin Luther King from its place in the White House. Why did it do this? Why do you think? The average reporter has adopted the Democratic narrative that Trump is racistxenophobicmisogynisthomophobic, so TIME’s reporter believed bad information without checking it, because it reflected badly on Trump, and TIME’s editors did the same. Is this crappy journalism? Yes. Fake news? Yup. Did Trump have every reason to resent this? Sure. Does it reaffirm his own biases against the news media? Bingo. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Wait—There Is Really Some Question About Whether It Is Ethical To Punch Someone In The Face For Holding Political Views You Disagree With?

Apparently so.

Richard Spencer, an outspoken  “alt-right” activist and white nationalist who has cheered on the rise of Donald Trump,  was punched in the face Friday, during an ABC interview, by a hooded Inauguration Day protester in Washington, D.C. The attack was caught on video, and promptly went viral on social media. There were many online discussions about whether the violence was justified, with Spencer being widely categorized as a Nazi. The majority view appeared to endorse the sucker punch.

Episodes like this make me simultaneously feel that what I do is important, since the level of ethical  literacy in the general U.S. population seems to be at a rudimentary level at best, and make me want to quit and become a paleontologist. Of course it’s wrong to attack someone physically because of his words and opinions. It doesn’t matter what they are. That is so unethical it makes my teeth hurt, and defending it is proof that you need to go live in cave.

I’d love to see a poll on the topic, but I’m afraid the results would send me into serious depression. I’m also afraid the poll would show that Democrats and progressives  favor face-punching Nazis with alarming self-righteousness, making ever more tenuous my respect for any Democrat, in the midst of the party’s embarrassing conduct since the election, who doesn’t wear a flour sack over his or her head in public and constantly mutter, “I’m sorry! I’m so, so sorry…”

I know that there are people in this country like those who used to appear on The Jerry Springer Show, whose only response to conflict is to start swinging. I assumed, however, that nobody who could name the President during the Civil War, spell “cheese” and knows where babies come from thinks that it is acceptable to walk up to someone on the sidewalk and cold cock him because his opinions are offensive. Silly me. I also assumed that there was no accepted list of punch-worthy positions, but I guess there is.

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Women’s March Ethics: Now THAT’S Ad Hominem!

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Ashley Judd, indulging her inner Trump.

I often have to correct commenters on Ethics Alarms who accuse me of engaging in the argument fallacy of ad hominem after I pronounced them jerks, fools, or idiots based on their comments. (I shouldn’t do that, but sometimes I can’t help myself, and if it stops me from going crazy from all the stuff I have to  read every day to decide what gets published, we all benefit. well, I do, at least.) No, I explain, with more or less patience, that’s not ad hominem. It would be ad hominem if I wrote, “Your argument can be safely ignored because you are an idiot.” Then I would be using an author’s presumed character, intelligence or acumen to discredit his or her opinion. That’s unfair and illogical. An argument derives its value and persuasiveness from its contents, not its messenger. It would also be an ad hominem attack if I responded to a comment with a stream of vile insults.

If, however, I read a comment, determine it to be based on bad facts, bias, poor reasoning and faulty logic, I may justly conclude that only a dolt would express such an opinion in public, and say so, as in, “You are a dolt.” That is a diagnosis—an insulting one, to be sure, but still just a diagnosis.

Now, thanks to actress Ashley Judd’s performance today at the Washington, D.C. version of “The Women’s March,” I can use her as an illustration of what an ad hominem attack is, and why it should be avoided.

Judd read a poem by an angry 19-year-old, that contained the lines..

“I am a nasty women.’I’m not as nasty as a man who looks like he bathes in Cheeto dust…I’m not as nasty as your own daughter being your favorite sex symbol, your wet dreams infused with your own genes…”

Stay classy, Ashley.

You see, mocking someone’s appearance—it is a cardinal sin if it is a woman’s appearance that is being mocked, of course, adding hypocrisy to the mix—is pure, unadulterated ad hominem. It is also gratuitous meanness that has no communication value other than to say, “I hate you.” “I hate you” is not an argument. In fact, “I hate you” is a statement of bias. I can’t trust the assessment of an individual regarding what another individual says or believes if the critical individual hates him.

Additionally, the denigration is pure tit for tat, Rationalization 7.  That’s Donald Trump’s favorite rationalization. Stooping to Trump’s favorite method of debate, name-calling, isn’t persuasive or helpful. I’m sure it feels good, though. I guess that’s enough for Ashley and all the protesting women who clapped and cheered.

Morons.

See, now that isn’t ad hominem, because by behaving like this, Judd undermines the whole protest. And that’s just plain stupid. Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: Hillary’s Ghost Cabinet

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Former Politico staffer Mike Allen published a leaked list of what he says are the names of individuals who were being considered for Hillary Clinton Cabinet jobs.

Nobody knows if the list is accurate or genuine, but Allen is well connected, and many assume it is. For the purpose of the Ethics Quiz, we will also assume the list is authentic, but whether it is or not doesn’t matter regarding the ethical principles involved. Here is the list:

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No, the quiz query does not involve The Horror of John Podesta for Secretary of State. Note rather the 11th bullet point: “EPA: likely an African-American (and/or at Education).”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is this:

Is it ethical to make race the primary qualification for a Cabinet post?

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Ethics Hero: Hillary Clinton

hillary-inauguration

The criteria for an Ethics Hero honor here includes doing the ethical thing despite significant countervailing non-ethical considerations, and often at some personal sacrifice. It was Bill Clinton’s duty to be present at Donald Trump’s Inauguration yesterday, but not Hillary’s.  While defeated Presidential candidates usually attend, they sometimes don’t, especially when they feel  particularly aggrieved byt the way the successful campaigns against them were handled. Recent inauguration no-shows include Mitt Romney and Michael Dukakis, both of whom felt, with some justification, that they had been ill-treated on their way to defeat.  Four Presidents didn’t even attend the swearing in of their successors: John Adams (bitter), John Quincy Adams (bitter, and Andrew Jackson hadn’t attended his inauguration, so there!) Andrew Johnson (impeached), and Richard Nixon (persona non grata).

Nobody, especially her supporters, would have blamed Mrs. Clinton if she had passed. However, it was important that she be there, as her presence symbolized acceptance of the result and the orderly transfer of power as much as Barack Obama’s presence did. She came, she was seen, and it was the right thing to do.

It could not have been easy or pleasant. Some in the audience were heard to chant “Lock her up!” when her name was announced. (See: “A Nation of Assholes”) Bill may have embarrassed her by being caught on video seeming to ogle Ivanka Trump. (I wrote a satirical song about Clinton ogling Julie Eisenhower at Nixon’s funeral in 1994, but that was a joke. Good old Bill. ) Jerkish journalists pestered Hillary with the predictable and needless questions: “Madame Secretary, how does it feel to be here today?” and  “How are you feeling, Madame Secretary?” Ann Althouse made me laugh out loud with her comment:

What’s she supposed to say? I’ll say it for her: How the fuck do you think it feels?

 

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Inauguration Day Ethics Dunces

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Three of many…

Ethics Dunce: ABC’s Byron Pitts

Wow.

Earlier today I wrote,

A friend posted on Facebook yesterday that she was “disgusted” by all the white people wearing “Make America Great Again” hats around the Capitol yesterday. This struck me as akin to the joke about the boy who murdered his parents seeking mercy from the court because he was an orphan. African Americans, especially around D.C., have been urged and in many cases bullied to boycott everything having to do with Trump, and now people like my friend are suggesting that blacks are being excluded, proving the racism of the new President.

I actually deleted a section that said: “Just watch: some inveterate news media race-baiter will cite the abundance of whites to impugn Trump and Republicans. Which will it be?” The answer, we now know, is Byron Pitts. Virtually the entire Congressional Black Caucus boycotted the event, blacks who expressed support for Trump or even hinted that the supported the Inauguration faced shunning and threats, and this guy had the gall to say, during the ABC coverage today,

“Think about this crowd and think about the divided America. We talked about the noise of the racial divide, this is the whisper of the racial divide in America. Think back to when President Obama took office for the first time. How diverse the crowd was. You saw the rainbow of America. Today this looks like the ice cream of America. Right? It is an overwhelmingly white audience.”

What does that tell Pitts? It tells me that one segment in society is willing to put color and politics aside and support a duly elected leader, and one is not.

Ethics Dunce: George Will

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Inauguration Day Ethics Scorecard

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They did not. Which party is the civil party?

  • If only it could be a harbinger…Nah. For all the network’s transgressions during the campaign and after, CNN’s coverage throughout the day has been remarkably upbeat, factual, and fair.

The sourest note in the media commentary that I caught was on Fox News, where Juan Williams pronounced Trump’s speech as the likely work of advisor Steve Bannon and described it as far from unifying. I have to wonder about anyone who would listen to that speech and call it divisive, but I’m sure Williams will have company. The speech sure sounded like 100% Trump to me.

  • The Address.  It is refreshing to hear a major political speech from a President that isn’t full of soaring language that obviously is a speechwriter’s creation. I was initially dubious of Trump’s reported decision to write his own Inaugural address, but now that I have heard it, I realize that a President who presented himself to voters as unfiltered and genuine had no other choice, lest he appear false and hypocritical. The speech wasn’t eloquent, but it was, as CNN commentators said, historic. Trump didn’t use “I” but “we.” The speech was non-partisan, equally indicting both parties. One could imagine Bernie Sanders giving the same speech with few changes. The pledges Trump made will be hard to keep: If he knows that, then he was courageous to make them.

If he doesn’t know it, he is frightening naive. We shall see.

  • Praise is due to Senator Roy Blunt for producing a tight, professional event that every American can be proud of. He did this despite the despicable efforts of the show business community and others to discourage and intimidate talent so that the Inauguration and related events would not be worthy of nation. They failed, he succeeded. Thank-you, Senator.

Like so much of the bitter, nasty, un-American conduct of beaten Hillary supporters, the efforts to harm the event only harmed Trump’s opposition, and alienated everyone else.

  • Ethics Hero: 16-year-old Jackie Evancho, who gave a heartfelt rendition of the National Anthem after a month of  social media abuse and death threats. She sang in a slightly immature but lovely soprano, and unlike Beyoncé four years ago, actually used her own voice, eschewing lip-syncing. At its launching, at least, the Trump Presidency didn’t begin with deception. A young teen tackled a difficult composition under challenging conditions, and pulled it off without resorting to fakery, like the superstar who had the job before her.

Perfect. Continue reading

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