Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/29/2019: ‘It Depends On What The Meaning Of _____ Is’ Edition” [Item #1]

One of the many things I deeply resent about the “resistance”/Democratic Party/ progressive/mainstream media assault on the President, elections, our democracy and the connective tissue that has held the United States together—aside from such minor inconveniences as the likely permanent damage it has done to society and the viability of the American experiment—is how it has rendered so many familial, personal and professional relationships unsustainable after one party or the other has fallen prey to Stage 5 Trump Derangement.

Commenter Greg has chronicled an experience that too many will find familiar. Here is his Comment of the Day on #1 in the post, “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/29/2019: “It Depends On What The Meaning Of _____ Is” Edition.”

I’m not on Facebook, so I can’t unfriend anybody. But inspired by Jack, I finally did block a (former) friend from texting me today after the following exchange, which is in tone exactly like all of the other text conversations that I have endured with him for over three years:

Former Friend: https://twitter.com/atrupar/status/1133766034874404864. Compare what Barr said and what Mueller said:

BARR: “[Mueller] made it very clear that was not his position. He was not saying that but for the OLC opinion he would have found a crime.”

MUELLER: “If we had confidence POTUS clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”

According to Barr, Mueller didn’t find that Trump committed crimes and the OLC didn’t have anything to do with it. But Mueller says Trump committed crimes and he would have charged him if not for the OLC opinion. So Mueller contradicted both of Barr’s LIES today. Barr lied and dropped the charges and let Trump go. We gotta impeach both these criminals.

Me: There’s no inconsistency between what Mueller said and what Barr said. There is a continuum:

1. Clearly did not commit a crime.
2. Probably did not commit a crime.
3. 50/50 whether he committed a crime.
4. Probably committed a crime.
5. Clearly (i.e., beyond a reasonable doubt) committed a crime. This is the only circumstance under which a crime would be charged.

Mueller said the evidence was not sufficient to establish #1 and he did not comment on whether it established #2 through #5. Barr said the evidence was not sufficient to establish #5 and he did not comment on whether it established #1 through #4. Mueller didn’t say that Trump committed crimes and he certainly didn’t charge him with any crimes.

Former Friend: Bullshit. Barr said the barrier to charging a president was NOT a factor in failing to bring a case against Trump. Mueller said today that is the only reason why they didn’t charge Trump. A LIE.

Me: No. Barr didn’t say that the barrier to charging a president wasn’t a factor in Mueller’s decision. He said that it wasn’t a factor in his own (and Rosenstein’s) decision. Barr and Rosenstein decided not to consider whether or not a president could be charged with a crime under any circumstances because they had determined that the evidence did not establish #5. Mueller decided not to consider whether or not the evidence established #5 because he had determined that a president could not be charged under any circumstances. There’s no inconsistency.

Former Friend: Read the fucking transcript.

Me: I read the transcript and I read the Mueller report and I read Barr’s letter. Barr’s letter said: “Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense. Our determination was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president.” That means that they determined that there was no proof of #5 even aside from the barrier to charging a president.

The Mueller report says, “We considered whether to evaluate the conduct we investigated under the Justice Manual standards governing prosecution and declination decisions, but we determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes.” That means they did not make any determination about whether or not the evidence established #5. They said they decided not to make that evaluation because the “threshold step” had not been satisfied. The “threshold step” was a determination of whether the president could be charged with a crime. Because they determined that the answer was no, they did not move to the second step, which would have been evaluating whether the evidence was sufficient to establish #5. That means they decided not to make a determination one way or the other about #5 because of the barrier to charging a president.

That’s what Mueller said today, too. “We concluded that we would not reach a determination one way or the other about whether the President committed a crime…. We will not comment on any other conclusions or hypotheticals about the President.” This is exactly the same as the report. They are not expressing any opinion about #2, #3, #4 or #5 and they refuse to speculate.

Former Friend: You are so full of shit. You just sit there and repeat Trump’s talking points over and over again. Evidence doesn’t matter to you at all.

Me: [block]

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/31/19: Confirmation, Computers, Clinton, Cruz, And Comments

Good morning.

Trying to get used to my new computer, Microsoft 10, files I can’t find and many other things. Everything is going sloooooowly. Be merciful.

1. More on the Martin Luther King revelations. Yesterday I wrote about King biographer David Garrow’s article revealing the some disturbing and previously unrevealed results of the  FBI’s (illegal) surveillance of Martin Luther King. Predictably, Garrow is under fire for daring to sully an icon’s reputation, and because the source of the material is Hoover’s attempt to undermine King, that is the mode of attack. Garrow won a Pulitzer Prize for “Bearing the Cross,” his 1986 biography of King, and has said in the past  that FBI files should be treated with skepticism. However, he is obviously so disturbed at the new revelations that were inadvertently released that he is performing what he sees as his duty as a historian. He told the Washington Post that the summaries made by FBI agents who were spying on King are accurate, noting that different types of records warrant different levels of trust in their accuracy. The files claiming King was communist, he said,  “are coming literally third- or fourth-hand from a human informant,”so their accuracy is “highly dubious…But with the electronic surveillance records, those are very highly reliable, other than when the FBI can’t understand who’s talking.”

Confirmation bias is the key here. Garrow has none that I can see: his reputation is at risk if he is wrong, and he was an admirer of King, though not blind to his previously known flaws, like his epic infidelity. So far, the reflex deniers of Garrow’s conclusion all appear to be “keepers of the flame,” or at least invested in keeping King’s reputation intact.

It is encouraging to see the Post, which apparently refused to publish Garrow’s article,  covering the story. Most media sources are not, and that is signature significance. Many of the same sources have assumed that Donald Trump engaged in wilful sexual assault based solely on his recorded hyperbolic boasts to Billy Bush. The integrity of journalism in the U.S. could not be at lower tide.

In my case, I know enough about history and the important figures who stroll, dash and charge through it not to be surprised when any of them are revealed to have engaged in objectively horrible conduct at various points in their lives. Given King’s documented sexual appetites and epic infidelities, the likelihood that he was a sexual predator is strong. Again, my position is that King’s personal, even criminal conduct shouldn’t affect the assessment of or national gratitude for his public achievements at all. This isn’t the “personal conduct” dodge that Bill Clinton’s enablers used: his conduct with Lewinski and others was related to his job, his position, and in fact occurred in his office. That’s professional, workplace conduct, not personal.

I assume this will be another story inconvenient to the news media’s favorite causes,  that journalists and editors will attempt to bury, muddy, and minimize. Yes, and anyone who attempts to raise it, analyze it and verify it will be tarred as a racist. Perhaps I am naive and optimistic, but I don’t think that will work here. Just as eventually we had to face the truth about Thomas Jefferson and Bill Cosby, even those who want to deify King will have to deal with his private character, and decide whether they really want his statues and memorials, street signs and holiday, to come down.

Of course, there will be some good people on both sides of the argument. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/6/2019: Who’s The Worst? [CORRECTED]

Good morning!

The day got off to a grand start when the first thing that came up on TV was the ending of John Wayne’s “True Grit.” When the Coen Brothers did their (dark) remake starring Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, I wondered which version would survive as the definitive one. Sometimes remakes of classic films obliterate the originals, like “The Thing,” or “Invasion of the Body-Snatchers.” Sometimes the original films are so obviously superior that the remake just vanishes. Sometimes it should vanish, but doesn’t, like the ugly “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” created by Tim Burton. Both “True Grit’s ” are excellent, but so far, at least, the Duke’s Oscar-willing performance has prevailed. Good.

1. From the “You can’t fool all of the people all the time, especially if you’re a callow, arrogant fool” files:  Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez offended an audience made up predominantly of African Americans when she slipped into assumed regional slang to lecture them about the dignity of menial jobs for life

“I’m proud to be a bartender, ain’t nothing wrong with that!” Ocasio-Cortez proclaimed. [CORRECTION NOTE: Originally, the version of this statement I had was an Ebonics-fest that I got off of a tweet from an attendee. This was incorrect: thanks to Chris Marschner for the fact check.]

Actually, the real offense was her content, not her delivery. This is communist cant for the proles: don’t aspire to more than your hum-drum jobs, for you are serving the greater good (and your superior overlords). That’s not the American values system, or American culture, which encourages productive dissatisfaction, personal initiative, and determination to be better and do better.

2. I knew Harvard wouldn’t be able to duck the college admission scandal! Harvard has launched  an “independent investigation” into a series of suspicious events that occurred in 2016. Wealthy businessman  Jie “Jack” Zhaopaid inexplicably paid $989,500  for a home in the Boston suburbs that was valued at only $549,300.  Seventeen months later he sold that home for $665,000, for a loss of $324,000. Continue reading

The Kamala Harris-Willie Brown Saga (That The News Media Wants You To Think Doesn’t Matter)-UPDATED

( A missing link to the “Truth or Fiction” site has been added.)

Enter this one under “Tales of Media Double Standards For Hypocritical Democratic Presidential Contenders Aren’t Elizabeth Warren.”

The mainstream news media has anointed Kamala Harris as one of its favorite Democrats, so it’s unlikely that we’ll see much objective or accurate analysis about her unethical relationship with Willie Brown while he was Mayor of San Francisco.  (Harris also appears to be on the road to dinging herself irrespective of this problem.) Watch a progressive “factcheck” site try to spin the Brown connection:try to spin the Brown connection:

Accusations that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California) had an affair with a married man have hovered around her since the 2000s, back when Harris first made a run for public office.

These rumors stem from a relationship Harris had with former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, but what it had to do with the beginning of her political career has been largely misrepresented.

Kamala Harris was elected to serve as the district attorney of San Francisco in 2003. In 2010, she was elected to serve as California’s state attorney general. Harris held that role office until she was elected to the United States Senate in November 2016.

Throughout her career, rumors that Harris had an affair with a married man (Willie Brown) and used it to launch her political career, have followed. We’ll take a look at the facts and provide a brief overview of the situation.

The Kamala Harris-Willie Brown connection

Kamala Harris and Willie Brown had a relationship in the mid 1990s. At the time, Harris was working as an attorney in various city offices. Brown, who is nearly 30 years older than Harris, had been elected mayor after serving in the state legislature for more than 30 years.

Willie Brown has led an eccentric, outspoken life, and his exploits with women have been well-documented. In 2001, news broke that Brown had impregnated his top fundraiser, for example. However, the claim that Kamala Harris had “an affair” with Brown, implying not only that they had a relationship but that it was furtive and seedy, doesn’t check out.

It’s true that Brown has technically been married since 1958. However, Brown and his wife separated amicably in 1982 — more than 10 years before his relationship with Harris began — according to a 1984 New York Times profile of Brown.

So again, claims that Kamala Harris had an affair with a married man just don’t check out.

Did Kamala Harris use her relationship with Brown to launch her political career?

Kamala Harris and Willie Brown made no effort to hide their relationship in the early 1990s. When Harris first ran for public office in 2003, long after the relationship ended, her previous relationship with Brown didn’t help her chances — it actually hurt them.

Harris’ opponents, incumbent District Attorney Terence Hallinan and local attorney Bill Fazio, turned her previous relationship with Brown into a campaign issue, arguing that Harris could not be trusted to hold Brown accountable as DA because they had been previously involved.

…Brown himself leapt into the fray in late January 2019 with a brief commentary in the San Francisco Chronicle just after Harris announced that she would be running for president, appearing to take credit for helping start her career:

“Yes, we dated. It was more than 20 years ago. Yes, I may have influenced her career by appointing her to two state commissions when I was Assembly speaker. And I certainly helped with her first race for district attorney in San Francisco. I have also helped the careers of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and a host of other politicians. The difference is that Harris is the only one who, after I helped her, sent word that I would be indicted if I “so much as jaywalked” while she was D.A. That’s politics for ya.”

Is this a masterpiece of obfuscation and spin, or what? Wow. Let’s look at a few details: Continue reading

The John Lasseter #MeToo Conundrum

What is the appropriate treatment for a leader, executive or artist who has been dismissed, disgraced, and exiled because of credible or proven instances of workplace sexual misconduct?

John Lasseter, the genius Pixar co-founder who was forced to resign from the Walt Disney Company in June after complaints that he engaged in unwanted “grabbing, kissing, and making comments about physical attributes” suddenly raises the question, because he is all of these, and now is one of the first men facing ruin in the #MeToo era to find a new position as impressive and lucrative—seven figures—as his old one.

David Ellison,  “Mission: Impossible” producer and founder of Skydance Media, a newish production company affiliated with Paramount Pictures, announced this week that Lasseter would become Skydance’s head of  animation and will start this month. “John is a singular creative and executive talent whose impact on the animation industry cannot be overstated,” Mr. Ellison said in a statement. “We look forward to John bringing all of his creative talents, his experience managing large franchises, his renewed understanding of the responsibilities of leadership and his exuberance to Skydance.”

BUT, he  continued: “We did not enter into this decision lightly. John has acknowledged and apologized for his mistakes and, during the past year away from the workplace, has endeavored to address and reform them.”

On his own behalf, Lasseter, who was the moving creative force behind multiple Pixar classics like “Toy Story” as well as Disney’s “Frozen,” said that he that he had engaged in “deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made many colleagues uncomfortable, which I deeply regret and apologize for.” He added that he planned to build Skydance Animation in the same way he built Pixar, but with renewed dedication to the need for “safety, trust and mutual respect.”

Good enough? No, #MeToo is not pleased. Time’s Up, the #MeToo-spawned political group founded by Reese Witherspoon and Shonda Rhimes among others, protested in response to the announcement that offering a high-profile position to an abuser who has yet to show true remorse, work to reform their behavior and provide restitution to those harmed is condoning abuse.” The hire, Time’s Up added in a statement, “endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence.”

Got it. Women, at least these women, want to see men ruined, shunned and reduced to living by crowdfunding and begging on the street if possible, without the certainly of due process and regardless of circumstances. How does someone like Lasseter show “true remorse”? They get to decide. What work do they have to do to reform their behavior? That’s the activists’ call too, I suppose. Meanwhile, absent a trial, what is restitution? If the women involved have a lawsuit, let them bring it. What is the cost of an unwanted workplace hug? Continue reading

Comment Of The Day (1): The Transgender Secret: Was I Right Then, Or Am I Right Now?

Many, many excellent comments followed this post. The issue, covered here before but long ago, was when a transgender individual is ethically obligated to reveal that fact to a romantic target, or partner. The Ethics Alarms poll on the question reached these results:

Here is the first of two Comments of the Day from The Transgender Secret: Was I Right Then, Or Am I Right Now?; this one is by Rich in CT.

I voted “before having sex” and/or “when the relationship becomes serious”; as these were the earliest stages on the list. I also included “when marriage becomes a possibility” as the latest possible time to reveal. (I did not include “first kiss”, as this is too vague a time period)

My take would be as soon as practical (including at soon as the overt risk of a violent reaction is ruled out). The current consensus is that gender and orientation are spectrums, not binary absolutes. Within this logic, we have a duty to understand and respect our romantic partner’s place on the spectrum. One (of ant orientation) might be exclusively attracted to the extreme end of the female gender spectrum, for instance. This might preclude attraction someone with a surgically transitioned body. Since gender and orientation are considered persistent traits, it is not necessarily bias alone that dictates this exclusive attraction.

One must also consider cultural values of a partner. Any relationship I’ve been in, I’ve made known early on that kids (naturally conceived) are a long term goal of mine. On this basis alone, I might decline to pursue any women with known infertility. Were such detail withheld, I would feel extremely hurt and betrayed. Continue reading

The Transgender Secret: Was I Right Then, Or Am I Right Now?

I recently wrote here that I have been pleasantly surprised when looking back on old posts to find that I am almost always in agreement with them. Naturally, I have immmediately been confronted with an issue where I now question Past Jack’s verdict.

Ebony has a “confession’ article—it may be fake, but the issue isn’t—by a trans woman who writes in part regarding her husband,

We were months into dating and contemplating sex before it ever occurred to me that Carlos might need to know… It was wrong, but I chose to keep the secret rather than risk losing him. Now, four years later, Carlos and I are happy and madly in love! It has been a roller coaster, but we couldn’t be happier. But it’s this happiness that is causing me such pain because Carlos feels that it is time to add to our happy family. He is excited to be a father and his face lights up at the very thought. So how do I break his heart? How do I tell him that all of our trying has been in vain because, despite my best efforts to be the person I always felt I was, I’m still not who he thinks I am?

My answer: Suck it up and tell him the truth. Maybe have him watch “The Crying Game” a few times. The relationship has already been built on a material lie, and now adding to the dishonesty by concocting a reason why children are not an option just damages the relationship further.

I do think that transgendered individuals have a difficult choice regarding the timing of this revelation as they enter a relationship, but that’s a different issue (There’s a poll on that one coming up.)

In 2012, however, I did post following an Emily Yoffe advice column (“Dear Prudence”) , and came to the opposite conclusion, in contrast to Yoffe. Then I wrote, Continue reading