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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/21/18: Good Bye Billy Graham, Wise Words From Mike Rowe, And Learning To Say No To Children…

GOOD MORNING!

1 Billy Graham has died. Graham is one of those towering figures who outlived his fame, and now most Americans neither remember nor understand what he was and what he did. I will be doing a thorough post on Graham and his cultural impact, I hope. (Note that I haven’t even finished the 2017 Ethics Alarms Awards posts.) Like most of you, I bet, I had forgotten that Billy Graham was still alive until an episode of “The Crown” on Netflix prompted me to check recently. In that episode, based on a real event, a troubled Queen Elizabeth was inspired by hearing Graham in one of his speaking tours in Great Britain, and invited him to Buckingham Palace to advise her.

It was not Graham’s fault that his remarkable and broad popularity sparked the deplorable TV evangelist fad that created mega-churches, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson, The Moral Majority, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Jessica Hahn, and other frauds and swine that made much of America cynical about all religion.  On Google, Graham’s photo is lumped in with many of these if you search for “evangelist.” He deserves better.  In the high-profile evangelical world, Billy Graham was, as one article put it today,“an exception – a leader who valued integrity over ego, a husband who lived in a full and thriving marriage, a man who offered not only words to learn by, but a life to admire.”

2. Updates:

  • By almost a 2-1 margin, readers voted that accusing Wes Anderson’s animated comedy “Isle of Dogs” of cultural appropriation was even stupider than Joan Walsh’s repeated use of the politically correct  and hilarious “strawpersons” on CNN. I thought it would be a lot closer.
  • Michael West gets his name on a Comment of the Day the very first time it appeared on an Ethics Alarms comment, with such a thorough examination of the rationalizations and logical fallacies exhibited in the Times op-ed defending the Nashville mayor’s unethical conduct that I won’t have to write one. I thank him, and Billy Graham thanks him. The Comment will be posted later today, but you can also read it here.
  • However,  if you haven’t gone through the exercise of reading Margaret Renkl unforgivable Times op-ed with the Ethics Alarms handy-dandy list of rationalizations by your side, you really should. Stupidly, I forgot that the Times is behind a paywall, frustrating many of you. I posted half the op-ed on the post last night. Posting the whole thing would have been unethical, but half, with a link, is fair use.

3. “Children’s Crusade” news and commentary

  • I almost made the Florida legislature an Ethics Hero for voting down an “assault weapons ban” with a throng of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had lobbied for te measure, in the chamber. I don’t have strong feelings about the measure one way or the other, but it is crucial that all lawmakers resist this organized effort at emotional blackmail. I don’t care what the kids are advocating. Parents spend years explaining to their children that they can’t go through life believing that demanding what they want is going to magically succeed, and now adults and the news media are telling adults that if these students shout, curse and cry enough, they should capitulate. Naturally, the news media tugged at our heartstrings by showing high school girls weeping after the vote. There’s no crying in politics, kids, and the most emotional advocates don’t always win, because, as Abe said, you can’t fool all the people all of the time.

Get serious, or get out.

If I were a legislator, I would announce that I would automatically vote against any measure where children are used as lobbyists, spokespersons, advocates, or props. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 1/18/2018: Enemies Of The People

Today’s Comment of the Day teaches a couple of lessons:

1 Contrary to common belief, and Ethics Alarms Comment of the Day does not have to be long, though many are. Indeed, I was tempted to make Willem Reese’s one sentence comment to the Kangaroo People abortion ethics thought experiment a Comment of the Day. He asked, shaming us all,

“The deciding case would likely be Roo v.Wade, then?”

2.  Late comments on older posts are still worth reading.

Here is Pennagain’s Comment of the Day on the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 1/18/2018: Enemies Of The People:

Over the past couple of decades, approximately, I have become increasingly uneasy, depressed, anxious, angry, isolate and finally maddened by what has gone into the methodical and insanely deliberate betrayal of ideals and freedoms, the destruction of respected, useful institutions, the disregard for all the high, bright values in “my” society, my culture. But even when the detrimental changes began to affect me directly — my person, my quality of life, my safety and security (such as it was: I’ve never needed much) — I clung to the mantra this too shall pass. But, as my historian friend kept reminding me, the 500+ year old Roman Republic went belly up within the same amount of time, and never found its feet again. Still, I wasn’t scared out of my wits until I read the word “COUNTERSPEECH.”

Counter. Speech. Against speech. Not just anti-First Amendment, something to STOP PEOPLE FROM SPEAKING. Not just “free” speech; simply not using any words that mean anything. The language of technology, the language that becomes more abbreviated with all its faster-than-life(sic) changes, a spoken version of texting and twitting, a dumbing of vocabulary, a numbing of nuance. . A muffling of all meaningful voices. The left will pull the blanket over its head first, and willingly, and not even understand what is happening until it wakes up in the middle of the night with its headphones glued to its brains, silently screaming.

Much as I hate to bring up the name of der Furher because it has become such a cliche, he has the most appropriate description of what “Counterspeech” can become. It is akin to what Hitler first announced at the Wannsee Conference in 1942 as The Final Solution.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/25/2018: Special “Was That Wrong? Should I Have Not Done That? I Gotta Plead Ignorance On This Thing Because If Anyone Had Said Anything To Me At All When I First Started Here That That Sort Of Thing Was Frowned Upon…” Edition*

Good morning, all.

Let’s get warmed up…

1  Social media censorship. Tom Champlin, who owns the libertarian news aggregator The Liberty Review and runs its associated Facebook page was banned from Facebook for 30 days under its “community standards” for posting this:

Facebook prohibits posts that promote harmful conduct, eating disorders and suicide, but no one but an idiot–is the Facebook community made up of idiots?—would misinterpret the meaning of that meme. It’s a political statement, and if it really violates Facebook’s “community standards,” then Facebook is demanding ideological conformity in its already largely mindless left-wing echo chamber. Either enough Facebook users who believe in free speech make a stink over this kind of attempted regulation of public opinion to force Facebook (and Twitter, and Google) to cut it out, or the open expression of ideas in social media will be doomed.

I suggest every Facebook user post this meme, not to chide Obamacare, but to show support for freedom of expression, and contempt for Facebook’s attempt to strangle it. Of course Facebook, as a private business, can ban what it wants. That doesn’t mean abusing its power and influence is any less dangerous or despicable.

I just posted this item, with the meme, to my Facebook page. I’ll be interest to see a) if I get banned, even with the above preface, and 2) how many of my knee-jerk progressive friends have the integrity to post the meme themselves.

2.  Predators who don’t get it, Part 1. Like many others, I wondered if the NPR banishment of Garrison Keillor and the deposit of his iconic “Prairie Home Companion” radio show  in the Void of Shame was just witch hunt mania. Keillor dismissed it as the result of a single ex-employee making a late fuss over an accidental laying on of hands. Finally, after being attacked by Keillor fans for Frankening him unjustly, Minnesota Public Television, which was the NPR station that investigated the plummy humorist, decided that it had to go public with the real story. Yesterday it posted a statement that said in part…

When Minnesota Public Radio abruptly severed ties with Garrison Keillor in November, the sole explanation offered by the company was “inappropriate behavior” with a female colleague.

For his part, the creator and longtime host of A Prairie Home Companion described his offense as nothing more than having placed his hand on a woman’s back to console her. An investigation by MPR News, however, has learned of a years-long pattern of behavior that left several women who worked for Keillor feeling mistreated, sexualized or belittled. None of those incidents figure in the “inappropriate behavior” cited by MPR when it severed business ties. Nor do they have anything to do with Keillor’s story about putting a hand on a woman’s back:

  • In 2009, a subordinate who was romantically involved with Keillor received a check for $16,000 from his production company and was asked to sign a confidentiality agreement which, among other things, barred her from ever divulging personal or confidential details about him or his companies. She declined to sign the agreement, and never cashed the check.

• In 2012, Keillor wrote and publicly posted in his bookstore an off-color limerick about a young woman who worked there and the effect she had on his state of arousal.

• A producer fired from The Writer’s Almanac in 1998 sued MPR, alleging age and sex discrimination, saying Keillor habitually bullied and humiliated her and ultimately replaced her with a younger woman.

• A 21-year-old college student received an email in 2001 in which Keillor, then her writing instructor at the University of Minnesota, revealed his “intense attraction” to her.

MPR News has interviewed more than 60 people who worked with or crossed professional paths with Keillor. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity because they still work in the industry or feared repercussions from Keillor or his attorneys…

Is it possible that Keillor really believes that he never did anything wrong? Yes, it’s very possible, and this Ethics Alarms post from yesterday in all likelihood applies to Keillor, another weird, homely guy that learned early in life that show business was a great way to attract women. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/16/18: “Murder at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” The Institution Of The Presidency, And Thought Control

Good Morning, Ethics World!

1 “Murder at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue” Yesterday, finding myself in desperate straits thanks to our recent decision that premium cable TV stations were not worth the money, I watched the film version of “Murder at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” How time flies! The always excellent Diane Lane was still playing ingenues, instead of the unusually lovely mothers she plays now. Wesley Snipes still had a career.

And this: after a bloodily murdered young woman is discovered in a White House bathroom, the head of security explains to the police why it is crucial to shield the President from any speculation or hint of scandal, saying,

“You won’t question the President! The Presidency is an institution, not a person.  And that institution will be protected at all costs.”

Gee, how old IS that movie? I just checked: it’s 20 years old. The novel was written by one-time first daughter Margaret Truman, who once lived at at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with her Democratic President father. The quote wasn’t considered remarkable at the time: it didn’t even make it into the IMDB’s quotes page for the film. The quote is certainly striking today. All it took was 20 years, a shocking upset and a President who “breaches norms” to make the Democrats, Republicans, the news media and much of the public forget that is in our interests as a nation to protect and respect the institution, and that the person occupying it is secondary.

I knew there was a reason I liked that movie, other than Diane Lane.

There’s another interesting quote from the film too:

“I think President Teddy Roosevelt said it best: ‘If I must choose between righteousness and peace, I choose righteousness.'” 

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/8/2018: Regrets, “It Rings True,” Bannon The Weasel, And “But It Would Be Wrong…”

Good Morning, everyone!

1 On the other hand, “Bite me!” I find myself feeling bad about a Facebook retort yesterday laying out an old friend, also a former Democratic official’s staff member, for taking a snide shot at my “bias” after my answer to a query about anti-Trump legal ethicist Richard Painter. Painter has been on the “remove Trump by any means possible” bandwagon since the 2016 election, and because he was an ethics advisor to the Bush White House, he has been a favorite go-to source for CNN and MSNBC while authoring bizarre op-eds that distort the Constitution.  My response about Painter was that he has apparently been driven mad by the whole Trump experience, and is now in the process of wrecking a very fine reputation as his colleagues in the field, like me, roll their eyes and weep. (Painter is a Bush family loyalist, and the guessing is that he is following the lead of the two Georges, who hate Trump to pieces.) Yes, Richard was among the first to advocate Plan E, removing Trump because he is “unable” to do the job, so he’s especially hot right now.

I feel bad because I’m a nice guy, but I’ll be damned if I will put up with being called “biased” for correctly pointing out what is dishonest and wrong about the various plots to circumvent the election. It’s not a “bias” to believe that an entire party attempting to undermine an elected President is wrong, and that lawyers and ethicists who pander to that mob have slipped a professional cog. I sent my friend to this website to find any evidence that I am a Trump fan, other than being the apparently rare critic who will give the President credit when he deserves it, and who will defend him against fake news and dishonest accusations. I’m a passionate supporter of U.S. values, the system, our institutions, the Presidency itself and elections. That’s not bias. That’s called being an ethical citizen.

2. Signature significance for a weasel. Five days after his reported quotes in “Fire and Fury” including one accusing Don Jr. of “treason” caused President Trump to slam him on Twitter, former White House aide and Breitbart power Steve Bannon sent an “apology” to Axios, of all places. This is known as ” crawling back.” Bannon, while at the White House, leaked to reporters and played both ends against the middle to further his own agenda, and betrayed the President’s trust and confidence by aiding and abetting sleazy political gossip-monger Michael Wolff.  Now, after Bannon’s split with Trump has obviously cost him support, influence and credibility, the man who chomped on the hand that fed him wants a do-over. Only the worst species of unethical and unprincipled weasel would try something like this. If he genuinely regretted the quotes, he would have  immediately said that they misrepresent him, and repudiated them. Waiting five days makes it clear that Bannon was waiting to see how the episode was playing in the media and public to decide whether to stand by his own words or not. The short version of this is: “Integrity? What’s that?”

Moreover, the text of the “apology” shows that Bannon isn’t very bright. Why bother looking pathetic and weak if you aren’t even going to do it effectively? He doesn’t even apologize:  he says that he regrets his “delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr has diverted attention from the president’s historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency.”

Ha! I bet he does. But this is a Level 10 apology on the Apology Scale:

An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.

3. Is expressing “regret” the same as an apology? Let’s look closely at which mainstream media outlets call Bannon’s statement an “apology.” Axios does. When President Obama was making his so-called “apology tour,” as it was dubbed by the Right, journalists rushed to his defense, arguing that saying in multiple nations that he “regretted” the policies of his predecessors and the past actions of the United States was not the same as apologizing for them.

4. Somewhere, Dan Rather is smiling...I’m putting this in the Warm-Up because, as you may have noticed, yesterday’s posts were dominated by “the resistance’s” Plan E and the news media’s dutiful assist by hyping “Fire and Fury.” Incredibly—yes, I’m an idiot: the degree to which the news media will abandon core journalism ethics if it means bringing Trump down still surprises me–there was little effort on the news shows yesterday to hide the fact that much of Wolff’s book is unreliable,  and that the author admits it. Nonetheless, they reported on the salacious quotes and accounts, debated in panels whether it “proved” the President is disabled, and generally presented the book to the public as fact, not fiction.

How can journalists possibly justify this? It can’t be justified, but the news media’s anti-Trump bias has made them stupid and incompetent.

For example, CNN MEDIA ETHICIST—I have to place both hands over my head to prevent an explosion when I type that, which means I have to type with my noseBrian Stelter tweeted,

Big picture point: Wolff’s errors are sloppy, but many Trump experts say the book “rings true” overall.

Continue reading

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“The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: I Can Say The Republican Party Is Rotting, Democrats, But You Can’t

“That’s all I can stands, ’cause I can’t stands no more!”

—Popeye the Sailor, when he felt like I did while so many of my progressive friends were posting this op-ed by David Brooks.

Democratic posturing and moral outrage over Roy Moore’s support by Republicans is too much to bear. The hypocrisy and historical amnesia their caterwauling requires is truly nauseating. I could not believe that David Brooks of the Times would write about how the REPUBLICAN PARTY is rotting while the Democratic Party was wildly oscillating between defending a Congressman who had apparently harassed multiple staff members while in office because he was an “icon,” to playing the race card against its own Senator because he had been accused of conduct he denied years before he was elected, to dispensing with due process to demand that another Democratic Congressman resign, to forcing the Senator to resign (but probably only because their party controlled that State House), to forcing a vote on a shamefully contrived impeachment resolution, to all but guaranteeing the election of Moore because of revelations of the astounding sexual hypocrisy of their core allies among the news media, their key donors and their mouthpieces in Hollywood, while their bitter, losing Presidential candidate’s claim of a conspiracy to excuse her inexcusable defeat became less and less tenable as the investigation it spawned revealed itself to be incompetent and conflicted.

But the Republican Party is rotting.

Now, Ethics Alarms, unlike Brooks, unlike the Times, unlike MSNBC , unlike Hillary Clinton and unlike the Democratic party and any citizen so devoid of integrity to align with such a crew, can say the Republican Party is rotting. In fact, like Mr. Kimball would say on “Green Acres,” I will say it: the Republican Party is rotting. I can say it now because I said two years ago that it would commence rotting if it could not and would not stop Donald Trump from getting its nomination, something the party leaders had the power to do but neither the will nor the integrity. I said this, in various ways and with assorted provocation, right up to the convention.

Roy Moore? He’s minor rot, comparatively, and the Democrats don’t even honestly or competently argue what is most rotten about him. They want to concentrate on his “Deliverance,” hillbilly, low-life, dating preferences enabled by ignorant Alabama mothers forty years ago, when the man  today thinks he can defy the Supreme Court and the Constitution, thinks America was at its best under slavery, thinks women should be kept barefoot and pregnant, would love to see gays stoned to death, and wants a Christian theocracy to rule the land.

But that’s quibbling: Moore is certainly rotten, and the GOP doing anything but declaring him a human pathogen for the Senate and democracy is certainly proof of rot. Until, however, Republicans make Moore the keynote speaker in a future convention dedicated to condemning a “war on children,” I’ll handle the rot assessments, thanks, along with any other commentators, academics and citizens who didn’t spend the last, oh, half century or so extolling the likes of Jack Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Teddy Kennedy, and the Clintons.

The Democratic Party has happily celebrated, covered up and profited from rot. As Obi Wan would say, “The Rot is Strong Within Them.” Thus they are estopped from calling out rot anywhere. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/7/17: Election Day Edition”

JP‘s timely and thoughtful Comment of the Day on #4 in yesterday’s Warm-Up would also be a germane COTD on #3 of this morning’s Warm-up.

Unlike the anti-gun “Do Something!” chorus, JP actually examines the likelihood of two widely proposed gun regulations having any measurable effect on the problem they are supposed to address.

Below is JP’s Comment of the Day on the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/7/17: Election Day Edition. 

I’ll be back at the end, with quite a bit, frankly.

I think [the “We have to do something!” response] is virtue signaling because it accomplishes nothing and because doing something just to do something can  be reckless. Mostly, I have been ignoring these incidents because I have no better solution. Americans have a right to own a gun. However, in the increasingly intense aftermath of the 2016 election, I have been amazed at the number of people who I believe to be intelligent that have thrown logic and reasoning out the window. Therefore, I have decided to investigate some versions of “doing something” to see what they might accomplish.

Outside of total gun confiscation, the most common types of gun control proposed are bump stock bans and closing the gun show loophole. According to CNN (take that for what it’s worth) there were 12 bump stocks found on the weapons used in the recent Vegas strip shooting. For those of you who are not aware of what a bump stock is,  it is a device that is attached to the weapon to simulate rapid fire. What it actually does is compensates for the slowness of the user at the expense of accuracy. For example, if you were using an AR-15 you would steady the weapon with your shoulder. If you are pump firing, the rocess involves bracing the rifle with the non-trigger hand, releasing the grip on the firing hand (leaving the trigger finger in its normal position in front of the trigger), pushing the rifle forward in order to apply pressure on the trigger from the finger, and keeping the trigger finger stationary. During a shot, the firearm will recoil (“bump” back) and the trigger will reset as it normally does; then, the non-trigger hand pulls the firearm away from the body and back to the original position, pressing the trigger against the stationary finger again, thereby firing another round when the trigger is pushed back. During this process, it is common for the magazine to be emptied in a quick manner.

Bump stocks cost about $100, though the price depends on the quality. I’ve read that you could do a makeshift bump stock using some rubber bands, making it difficult to regulate. So the question remains, is the bump stock something that should be  available to the public? To me, the answer is no. A bump stock is not a feature of a weapon. As such, banning it does not infringe on  Second Amendment rights. Furthermore, the bump stocks create a loophole in the assault weapon ban. Finally, since its purpose is to sacrifice accuracy for speed, using the bump stocks are dangerous and irresponsible. A smart gun owner knows the importance of environment, accuuracy, and aiming at a target. While it might be fun to shoot quickly, I can see no way a bump stock could ever be used responsibly (though feel free to contribute one). Continue reading

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