Ten Observations On The Latest Democratic Candidate Debate

If you have no life, you can watch the whole debate here. This is the transcript.]

1. I find the debates, all of them, profoundly depressing, much as I found the Republican debates in 2015.  These are not impressive people. A great nation needs great leaders, and it is increasingly clear that whatever great leaders the U.S. may have are not in politics. Is this group clearly less inspiring than Jeb Bush, Huckabee, Chris Cristie, Rubio, Carson (ugh), Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Cruz, and Trump? No. The Republicans had no Demagogue Extraordinaire at Elizabeth Warren’s level, or a babbling, doddering candidate on the uncomfortable cusp of senility like Joe Biden. The Democrats don’t have a bomb-thrower like Trump, either, unless you count Bernie, but Yang and Steyer cover the “outsiders who have no business running for President” niche covered.

The ethics takeaway? The political parties are incompetent at doing their job, which is training, recruiting and vetting competent leadership for our Republic.

2. Given what the recent James O’Keefe hit on CNN revealed, I question whether such a biased network should be allowed to host officially sanctioned debates.  Debate moderator Anderson Cooper, who only evades being designated as a hack because there are so many worse hacks working with him (Cuomo, Lemon), framed a question to Joe Biden this way:

“The impeachment inquiry is centered on President Trump’s attempts to get political dirt from Ukraine on Vice President Biden and his son, Hunter. Mr. Vice President, President Trump has falsely accused your son of doing something wrong while serving on a company board in Ukraine. I want to point out there’s no evidence of wrongdoing by either one of you.”

Hackery.

  • “Political dirt” is not reporting; it is a partisan characterization and misleading. “Dirt” means facts that the American public has a right to know, and in this case, evidence of high-level corruption and influence peddling by the Obama administration, which is absolutely a legitimate area for the White House to seek foreign assistance in exposing.
  • Of course Hunter Biden did “something wrong.” He did something wrong by accepting benefits from an entity seeking special considerations from the U.S. government when his father was a primary figure and power-broker in the administration in power. His position created a conflict of interest and the appearance of impropriety for Hunter’s father.
  • Joe Biden then told Cooperthat he never “discussed a single thing with my son about anything having to do with Ukraine. No one has indicated I have.” Hunter has indicated that he did. Did Cooper challenge Biden on this seeming contradiction? No. Did any of the other candidates? No.

3.  How can someone not be bothered by Biden’s rambling, mostly incoherent answers? (And yes, I was constantly bothered by Trump’s rambling answers last time around.) Continue reading

Monday Ethics Musings, 10/7/2019: Questions, Questions…

Thinking…

Wait, where are my clothes???

1. When will Mrs. Q make her debut as a regular contributor to Ethics Alarms? I’m working out the details. She’s ready, I’m behind, we’ll get it done. Very excited.

2. If everything is going to be done online, is it reasonable to expect those companies who force us to interact that way to be competent? Case Study: The Boston Globe just offered me a 6 month digital subscription for a buck. But an old password connected to my email address prevented me from entering the new one necessary to accept the deal. All links went to current subscription or subscribing at the regular price. It took 40 minutes of online chats with robots and a human being (who disconnected me one) to fix the problem, which was in how the Globe set up the offer acceptance page. I ended up using a password made up by “Sherry” because I couldn’t reset my password myself. This kind of thing happens all the time. I wouldn’t have a clue how to set up a website response system, but if that was my job, I would be obligated to do better than this.

3. What good are movie critics whose opinions and tastes aren’t shared by their readers? My view: not much. The job of a critic is to let readers know if readers would appreciate the movie or not. A critic who can’t or won’t do that, and most don’t, is useless. I was thinking about this when I encountered this article in The Guardian listing the films for which audience ratings and critical ratings diverged the most.

Much of the disparity today is caused by critics who allow their ideological biases to dominate their judgment: yes, bias makes them stupid. Another problem, harder to over-come, is that the judgment of people who see hundreds of movies a year and who are often steeped in the art of film-making often has no relevance to the movie average audience member at all. Yet another is the unavoidable fact that few critics are equally qualified to review all genres. Horror movies are especially frequent victims of this problem.

Incidentally, yesterday I watched a new horror movie, “A.M.I.” that exploited the inherent creepiness of online personal assistants like Siri and Alexa. It was pretty bad, but the final scene was so ridiculous (and predictable) that it almost justified the film. Almost. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/15/2019: Opinions, Ethical And Not

It’s a glorious day here in Northern Virginia!

Makes me feel like things are looking up, even though they probably aren’t.

1. I refer you to the most recent post about “the resistance’s” arsenal of big lies. specifically Big Lie #5, “Everything is terrible.” In the Times’ Sunday Review section, usually a resistance nest to one degree or another, though less so in recent months, Trump Deranged Times columnist Michelle Goldberg offers a long essay beginning with the assumption that current day America is a dystopian society. How does she justify this ridiculous assertion? Referencing the science fiction novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” in which women in the U.S. “are stripped of their identities and consigned to reproductive slavery for the elite.” Goldberg writes,

“It’s hardly surprising that in 2016 the book resonated with people — particularly women — stunned that a brazen misogynist, given to fascist rhetoric and backed by religious fundamentalists, was taking power despite the wishes of the majority of the population.”

I especially like the “despite the wishes of the majority of the population” part, but the whole statement is dishonest  agitprop. Nobody “took power;” an election took place under Constitutional constraints. Goldberg cannot possibly gauge the “wishes” of the majority, since, as usual, the majority didn’t feel sufficiently concerned about the Presidential election’s outcome to bother to vote, meaning they didn’t “wish” for either candidate to win with enough seriousness or commitment to be  part  of any persuasive analysis. Meanwhile, the President was elected according to the system the United States has operated under since its inception. And describing Trump, who is about as religious as most recent Presidents, which is to say, not at all, was “backed by religious fundamentalists” is as accurate as saying that Barack Obama was backed by anti-white racists.

Read the whole stupid thing. It is irresponsible for a legitimate newspaper to publish such crap, but no more so than for one to employ a biased disinformation specialist like Goldberg as a regular contributor.

2. Once again, Andrew Sullivan finds his way toward calling out unethical journalism. In a recent essay for New York Magazine, the occasionally conservative, gay, religious, emotional but determined truth-teller—as he sees it, anyway—declares  the New York Times a publication that has abandoned journalism for activism.

Two quick reactions: a) Ya think, Sherlock? and b) THIS was your first clue?

He concludes strongly, though, writing, “To present a truth as the truth is in fact a deception. And it is hard to to trust a paper engaged in trying to deceive its readers in order for its radical reporters and weak editors to transform the world.”

Hard? The right word is “irresponsible.”

Related: This excellent essay by Peter Wood expounds further on the duplicity of the Times’ much heralded “1619 Project.” Continue reading

This Would Be The Most Unethical Tweet Of Any Normal Year, But The 2019 Competition Is Too Tough…

Observations:

  • I can’t respect anyone who would support a candidate who could think this, much less publish it, to be President of the United States.
  • By the way, did you know that President Trump is a threat to democracy? Bernie has said so many times.
  • Sanders really needs to bone up on what “democracy,” “rule of law,” “due process,” “ex post facto,” and other core concepts mean.
  • Trump puts out tweets like this occasionally, suggesting that there “should” be some way to legally penalize various individuals who do things that are completely legal. This usually spawns angry, insulting and indignant op eds all over the media. I will patiently wait for the equivalent reaction to Bernie’s tweet. In vain.
  • Will anyone ask Sanders about this sentiment in the next debate?
  • For a U.S. Senator and political leader to state that it is appropriate to imprison U.S. citizens for the non-existent crime of not conforming to progressive cant is itself undermining democracy.
  • Yet Presidential candidates who do this should not be criminally prosecuted for the destruction they are knowingly causing. They should  be ridiculed, condemned, and ignored.

Comment of the Day Trio: “Principled Or Betrayer: Pete Buttigieg’s Brother-In-Law, Pastor Rhyan Glezman”

I won’t make a habit of this, I promise: a Comment of the Day deserves its own post. However, the comments on the question of whether Mayor Buttigieg’s brother-in-law was crossing ethical lines or not by making an inter-family disagreement into media fodder have been uniformly excellent, and bundling the three of moderate length coming up makes sense to me.

Incidentally, the polling shows a real split of opinion, but 59% agree on the basic question: they feel the pastor was ethical. (I’m still not sure about that.)

Here’s the poll so far…

The first of the trio of Comments of the Day on “Principled Or Betrayer: Pete Buttigieg’s Brother-In-Law, Pastor Rhyan Glezman” comes from James M….

As a pastor, Pastor Ryan Glezman has an obligation to attempt to resolve his conflict with his brother-in-law in a way that respects Biblical teachings. (If he doesn’t respect the wisdom of the Bible, he’s probably in the wrong line of work…)

Fortunately, the Book of Matthew, Chapter 18, has some straightforward instruction for dealing with such conflicts. Since both profess to be believing Christians, they are “brothers”, and Matthew’s Gospel gives clear direction:

Verses 15-17:
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.
16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Pastor Glezman has expressed his concern that Pete Buttigieg’s frequent forays into Biblical interpretation pose a risk of leading others astray. He didn’t go public over this right away: Mayor Buttigieg has been bloviating about what he thinks Christians should do for quite some time now. Based on that, I’d guess that the pastor has already attempted to privately address the issue with his brother-in-law, and has now moved to treating him as if he were “a pagan or a tax collector”.

Since Chapter 18 gives dire warnings to us all not to cause others to stumble in their faith, Pastor Glezman has ample cause for his concern. Pete Buttigieg’s religious pronouncements do pose a risk of misleading others.

The chapter also emphasizes the vital importance of practicing forgiveness and grace when we deal with others. Now, some people think that means that Christians need to let bad actors continue to cause problems, “turning the other cheek” and “going the extra mile”. That is only part of the truth. Our obligation as Christians includes helping bad actors to understand whatever they’re doing wrong and repent of doing it. We’re not doing a bad actor any favors if our compliance leads him to continue screwing up. We need to approach the problem with love for the bad actor, but we may also cause the bad actor significant heartburn if that’s what it takes to deal with their behavior.

Next is first time commenter Barbara Ravitch. I love when a new commenter enters with such a high-level splash, and with some recent defections and unexplained disappearances, the Ethics Alarms binders full of women could use some replenishment.

Here is her Comment of the Day: Continue reading

Principled Or Betrayer: Pete Buttigieg’s Brother-In-Law, Pastor Rhyan Glezman [Corrected]

 

Pastor, brother, candidate..

In what appears to be a case of the Popeyes (“It’s all I can stand, ’cause I canst stands no more!”), the evangelist minister brother-in-law of cult candidate for the Democratic Party nomination Pete Buttigieg found it necessary  to publicly rebuke the young mayor of South Bend.

Buttigieg, who has hardly been an unqualified success in his only elected executive office so far, has also distinguished himself, if that’s the right word, by embracing Ocasio-Corte- level climate change fear-mongering, has suggested that the nation should not honor Thomas Jefferson, and is all-in on with his party’s determination to remake our system to make it easier to dictate progressive policies to the public, as he has endorsed abolishing the Electoral College, packing the Supreme Court, and eliminating the Senate filibuster. He has called for a National Service, forcing or enticing teens to participate in government-dictated social programs.

Most significantly, Buttigieg has been at his most arrogant and obnoxious when he uses Christianity and God as crude weapons against conservatives.

For example, he has accused Christians who don’t support the $15 an hour minimum wage of being poor Christians and hypocrites. Paul Miragoff nicely explains the intellectual bankruptcy in that claim, writing, ” Why isn’t Buttigieg a hypocrite for not supporting a $20 an hour minimum wage? For the same reason that other Christians aren’t hypocrites for opposing $15 an hour. The Bible doesn’t address the minimum wage rate and there are public policy arguments against raising it.”

Ah, but God is on this candidate’s side, you see.

Now he is arguing that the Bible can be read to favor late-term abortions, meaning that if one opposes killing the unborn, one is a bad Christian. In an interview this morning on “The Breakfast Club” radio show, Pete Buttigieg said, Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/7/2019: Trump’s Obsession, Joe’s Hands, And University Ethics Stumbles

Good morning!

September has always been my favorite month at the beach….not that I’m at one. But I can dream…

1. Dumbest Ethics Train Wreck of the Year. Incredibly, people are still arguing over whether the President “lied” about Alabama being at risk from Hurricane Dorian, and the news media is still writing about it as if it mattered. I wish I had the time to make a list of all the real news stories with actual impact on the nation that the mainstream news media has buried or ignored in recent years to contrast with this nonsense. Of course, the President is also at fault, since he is incapable of letting stuff like this go, as, say, a well-adjusted adult and responsible leader would. The latest (from the AP);

…The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a statement from an unidentified spokesman stating that information provided by NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to the president had demonstrated that “tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.” The advisories were dated from last Wednesday, Aug. 28, through Monday, the statement read.

Friday’s statement also said the Birmingham NWS tweet Sunday morning “spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.”

The statement from NOAA contrasts with comments the agency’s spokesman, Chris Vaccaro, made Sunday. “The current forecast path of Dorian does not include Alabama,” Vaccaro said at the time.

Friday’s NOAA statement, released just before 5 p.m., points to a few graphics issued by the National Hurricane Center to support Trump’s claims. The maps show percentage possibility of tropical storm force winds in the United States. Parts of Alabama were covered, usually with 5% to 10% chances, between Aug. 27 and Sept. 3. Maps on Aug. 30 grew to cover far more of Alabama, but for only 12 hours, and the highest percentage hit 20% to 30% before quickly shrinking back down.

Alabama was not mentioned in any of the 75 forecast advisories the hurricane center sent out between Aug. 27 and Sept. 2. From Aug 28 to Aug. 31, a handful of locations in Alabama were mentioned in charts that listed percentage chance of tropical storm force winds or hurricane winds, maxing out at about 7 percent chance for Whiting Field to get tropical storm force winds.

Former National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read blasted NOAA leadership Friday night on his Facebook page calling the situation “so disappointing” and saying he would comment because NOAA employees were ordered to be quiet.

“Either NOAA Leadership truly agrees with what they posted or they were ordered to do it. If it is the former, the statement shows a lack of understanding of how to use probabilistic forecasts in conjunction with other forecast information. Embarrassing. If it is the latter, the statement shows a lack of courage on their part by not supporting the people in the field who are actually doing the work. Heartbreaking,” Read wrote.

Takeaways: This is only news because 1) so many people will grab on to anything if it will allow them to denigrate the President and 2) the President acts the way he does.

2. Least shocking ethics story of the week: Campaigning in Cedar Rapids, Joe Biden grabbed pre-school teacher Jessica Roman’s  hands and held them while he double-talked around her  question about his plans to help unionized teachers deal with Iowa’s collective bargaining laws. She later told the news media that his physical contact was “unwelcome”: Continue reading