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

When Absolutism Must Prevail: “Choice Of Evils”

“Choice of Evils,” taken from the utilitarian philospher Jeremy Bentham’s (1748-1832)  famous quote above, is an ethically rich “Law and Order” episode from 2006 that I recent watched again. Assistant DA Jack McCoy decides to prosecute a mother for murder after she admits to shooting her homeless, psychopath son. Her defense: she did it to protect the community, or, in cruder terms, he needed killing. She had met his girlfriend who was pregnant,  and told her that her son would eventually kill her and the baby if she didn’t get away.

The mother explained that her first husband and the dead man’s father is in prison for murder, and like his son. lacked empathy or a conscience. She related how her son displayed all the traits of a psychopath growing up, such as torturing and killing animals. In sympathy for her plight, McCoy offered the mother a manslaughter plea and short prison time, but she turned the deal down, adamant that she hd done nothing wrong.  She was then charged with second-degree murder (that’s also generous, since the killing was premeditated), and the trial began.

The problem of how to deal with “bad seeds” is a  societal dilemma of long standing, and one without a satisfactory solution. It is easy to sympathize with the mother’s plight, but a society that approves of preemptive executions when an individual  seems likely to harm someone before he or she actually does is on a fast track to chaos; it’s not even a slippery slope. Once again, the seductive appeal of pre-crime measures has to be resisted decisively, or individual rights and justice mean nothing.

Does society have to wait until a loudly ticking time bomb goes off? If it’s a human time bomb, absolutely, and no exceptions. Sometimes, that metaphorical bomb turns out to be a dud, and every human being has the same right to be judged on the harm, if any, he or she actually does rather than the harm some feel they are certain to do.

In the episode, it is discovered mid-trial that the son had in fact murdered a man, which his mother did not know at the time she murdered him. McCoy argued to the judge that this was irrelevant to the case and likely to mislead the jury. He was correct. The mother’s act was exactly as illegal and intolerable whether her son was a likely killer or a proven one. The discovered homicide is an example of moral luck: it changes how the mother’s act is perceived, but doesn’t change the ethical analysis at all.

In the end, the jury votes guilty, and sends the mother to prison for 25 years. This is because she admits on the stand that her current husband had threatened to leave her if her son moved back into their home, which he announced he would soon do. Thus the preemptive murder began to look less like an altruistic act to spare society, and more like one for the mother’s personal benefit.

Again, it shouldn’t have mattered. Killing a human being based on probabilities and presumed future harm to society can never be deemed just or tolerable.

Never.

Ethics Warm-Up, 11/13/18: ” Not Dead, Just Wishing I Was” Edition

I’m here.

The weekend was a near total wipe-out for me, as the incipient flu-cold or whatever it is that has been stalking me for at least a couple of weeks finally ended all ambiguity by leveling me  just as the long weekend was getting started. I was in bed virtually all day yesterday, most of the day before, and if I’m getting better, damned if I can see it. I’ve always got to be wary when I cough like this, as I am susceptible to bronchitis, but ProEthics, and ethics itself, wait for no Weenie.

1. What do you do with these idiots? The guys in Baraboo High School’s class of 2019 posed with Nazi salutes at their junior prom this year.

It isn’t Mel Brooks High School: “the  Heil sign” is only amusing or satirical in the most carefully constructed context. In any other time of place, it trivializes a historical nightmare, genocide and the engineered murder of millions of people by a madman,  his henchmen, and a poisoned culture. The Wisconsin school district that included Baraboo claims to acting on the photo,  but since it went viral on social media, current and former students have said that the school itself has a culture of racism and bigotry openly that is allowed to thrive by indifferent teachers and administrators.  There’s a lot I don’t understand about the photo.  Where are the girls? Are these only the Nazis in the class, or is it all of the boys? The kids that aren’t saluting: are they protesting against the display? Did they just miss the shot? Why are they in the photo at all? Who in their right mind would participate in such a stunt?

2. Fact: acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has no conflicts of interest with the Mueller investigation. So why are Democrats insisting that he recuse himself, now that his is overseeing the investigation as Jeff Sessions could not? As far as I can see, the only reason is that they want Rod Rosenstein, who had been the acting AG for only the Mueller matter to continue to supervise it because he is perceived as being hostile to the President. Rosenstein does have a conflict, and properly should have recused himself long ago. He was very much involved in the Comey firing, which is part of the  Mueller investigation’s inquiry into alleged obstruction of justice by the President. He conceivably possesses information about the President’s  motives in firing Comey, and quite possibly has  a personal interest in how the episode is interpreted. Rosenstein thus would very likely be a necessary fact witness in any obstruction inquiry in connection with the Comey firing. That’s a conflict.

Whitaker, however, has no conflict. His statements about how Mueller has run the investigation don’t create a conflict of interest under the applicable ethics rules, not does it raise the appearance of impropriety. Democrats are signaling here, as they have repeatedly for two years, that their objective is to “get Trump” by any means necessary, and they will torture and distort, law, ethics and common sense to achieve that goal. Continue reading

Review: Ethics Alarms Concepts And Special Terms

Recently updating the Ethics Alarms list of concepts and frequently used terms reminded me that I had been meaning to post them for review and assistance to those relatively new here. Of course, the link has always been right there at the top of the home page, but I have this sneaking suspicion that it isn’t visited very often.  Here, then, is the up-to-date list.

CONCEPTS

Non-Ethical Considerations: Defined above, non-ethical considerations are important because they are often the powerful impediments to ethical conduct, and the cause of many conflicts of interest. Non-ethical considerations are many and diverse, and include:

  • The need and desire for shelter, health, wealth, fame, security, self-esteem, reputation, power, professional advancement, comfort, love, sex, praise, credit, appreciation, affection, or satisfaction
  • The desire for the health, comfort, safety, welfare and happiness for one’s family, loved ones, friends, colleagues, an co-workers
  • The pursuit of vengeance or retribution
  • Hunger, lust, pain, ambition, prejudice, bias, hatred, laziness, fatigue, disgust, anger, fear
  • …and many more

Ethical Dilemma: This is an ethical problem in which the ethical choice involves ignoring a powerful non-ethical consideration. Do the right thing, but lose your job, a friend, a lover, or an opportunity for advancement. A non-ethical consideration can be powerful and important enough to justify choosing it over the strict ethical action.

Ethical Conflict: When two ethical principles demand opposite results in the same situation, this is an ethical conflict. Solving ethical conflicts may require establishing a hierarchy or priority of ethical principles, or examining the situation through another ethical system.

Ethical Gray Area: Gray areas are situations and problems that don’t fit neatly into any existing mode of ethical analysis. In some cases, there may even be a dispute regarding whether ethics is involved.

Reciprocity: The ethical system embodied by The Golden Rule, and given slightly different form in other religions and philosophies. It is a straight-forward way of judging conduct affecting others by putting oneself in the position of those affected. Reciprocity should always be available in any ethical analysis, but it is frequently too simple to be helpful in complex ethical situations with multiple competing interests.

Absolutism: Absolutist systems do not permit any exception to certain ethical principles. The champion of all absolutists, philosopher Immanuel Kant, declared that the ethical act was one that the actor was willing to have stand as a universal principle.

One principle of absolutism is that human beings can never be harmed for any objective, no matter how otherwise worthwhile. Absolutism has the advantage of making tough ethical calls seem easy, and the disadvantage of making debate impossible. One sees absolutism reflected today in the controversies over war, torture, abortion, cloning, and capital punishment.

Utilitarianism: Utilitarianism accepts the existence of ethical conflicts and the legitimacy of some ethical dilemmas, and proposes ethical analysis based on the question, “Which act will result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people?’ It entails the balancing of greater and lesser goods, and is useful for unraveling complex ethical problems. Its drawback, or trap, is that utilitarianism can slide into “The ends justify the means” without some application of absolutist and reciprocity principles.

Consequentialism: In formal ethics, utilitarian schools of philosophy are sometimes lumped together as “consequentialism,” in that the ethical decision-making is based on seeking the best result. Here we just uses the above term, utilitarianism.  Consequentialsm, in contrast, is the flawed belief that the rightness or wrongness, or even wisdom, of chosen conduct is measures by its actual results rather than its intended results. If “if all worked out for the best,” in other words, the conduct that created the desirable result most have been ethical, whatever its intent or however the conduct was determined to be necessary or desirable. This is a fallacy.

Cognitive Dissonance:
Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon first identified by Leon Festinger. It occurs when there is a discrepancy between what a person believes, knows and values, and persuasive information that calls these into question. The discrepancy causes psychological discomfort, and the mind adjusts to reduce the discrepancy. In ethics, cognitive dissonance is important in its ability to alter values, such as when an admired celebrity embraces behavior that his or her admirers deplore. Their dissonance will often result in changing their attitudes toward the behavior. Dissonance also leads to rationalizations of unethical conduct, as when the appeal and potential benefits of a large amount of money makes unethical actions to acquire it seem less objectionable than if they were applied to smaller amounts.

Moral Luck: The common situation where an unethical act is only discovered, noticed, or deemed worthy of condemnation due to unpredictable occurrences that come as a result of the act or that affect its consequences. Moral luck is the difference, for example, between two mildly intoxicated drivers, one of whom arrives home without incident, while the other has an unwary child dash in front of his automobile, leading to a fatal accident that he couldn’t have avoided if completely sober. Yet the unlucky driver will be a pariah in the community, while the more fortunate driver goes on with his life.

SPECIAL TERMS USED ON ETHICS ALARMS

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/29/2017: Featuring Vital Questions Such As: Will Women Now Try To Look Unattractive? Should A Hospital Employ A Nurse Who Hates White People? Is That Man Trying To Rape A Manniquin With An Ice Dildo?

Good Morning!

1  Documented insanity. The New York Times has been on an extended binge of highlighting the suffering of deported illegal residents. I could probably post several more episodes of the Ethics Alarms “Good Illegal Immigrant ” series every week. The intellectual dishonesty of almost all of these Times stories, like the pro-illegal immigrant movement itself, is impressive. Essentially, they all can be reduced to, “Isn’t it terrible that these lawbreakers have to endure the consequences of their own actions?”

Complementing these stories are periodic opinion pieces like “ICE’s Courthouse Arrests Undercut Democracy,”‘ by César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, an associate professor of law at the University of Denver. He writes a pro-illegal immigration blog, identifiable in motive by its habitual use of the cover word “migrant” to mean “illegal immigrants” and the deliberately misleading word “Immigration” to mean “illegal immigration.” Hernández’s op-ed’s argument follows as the night follows day:

“In El Paso, ICE arrested a woman moments after she requested a court’s help keeping away an abusive partner. Fear and uncertainty caused by this type of courthouse arrest are already keeping people away from the halls of justice. In Denver, the city prosecutor gave up on four domestic violence cases because the victims said they were too afraid of ICE to appear in court. In a nationwide survey conducted in April by the nonprofit Tahirih Justice Center, four out of 10 social service providers working with immigrant survivors of abuse said they had clients who had abandoned legal claims because of fear of what will happen if they call the police or go to court.”

Wait: why were these people afraid of ICE? By immigrant survivors, doesn’t Hernandez mean illegal immigrant survivors? If he does, why doesn’t he say so? His favorite terms are “unauthorized” immigrants, and here and there “undocumented” immigrants, poor things. Whatever happened to their documents?

It’s not a threat to democracy if illegal immigrants are afraid to come to court. They should be afraid to come to court. They should be afraid to take advantage of any aspect of  our government or American society. Underlying the professor’s claimed concern for democratic institutions is his contempt for the rule of law. He wants to blur the distinction between illegal and legal immigration to the vanishing point. He quotes the California chief justice as she writes that “the vast majority” of “undocumented immigrants” “pose no risk to public safety.” Is that the desired standard for law enforcement now? As long as a known law-breaker poses no risk to public safety, he or she should be immune from arrest when they turn up in court?

The Times is apparently committed to bombarding its readers with this unconscionable position in perpetuity: our monstrous government has decided to enforce its immigration laws, and the very fabric of our democracy is threatened as a result.

2. CNN Tales.   On a related note, this morning I saw a slick TV ad on CNN supporting “Dreamer” legislation. The terms “illegal,” and even the cover words “undocumented” or “unauthorized” were never used, as various Presidents were shown extolling “immigrants.” “Dreamers” were described as “immigrants” who came here as children.

An ethical broadcast news organization should not accept money to run ads that intentionally misinform its viewers.

But THIS is CNN!…and so is this:  A CNN spokesperson told Politico…
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A New Rationalization For A Slow Sunday: #57A The Utilitarian Cheat, or “If It Saves Just One Life”

On another thread, a reader attacked the Rationalization List <GASP!>,, the beating heart of Ethics Alarms, arguing that many of what are labelled rationalizations are valid justifications and cited as such on this very site. A vile canard! Of course many rationalizations can also be valid arguments for or against conduct. Take #59. The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do.” We do the right things because they are right, but we also have calculated why they are right, which means dealing with and rebutting the counter-arguments that might suggest those decisions are not right.  However, #59 addresses the frequent use of the “It’s the right thing to do” as a argument-ender, employing it as evidence when it really has to be a conclusion based on other evidence and analysis.

The latest addition to the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List does not have this problem. It is almost always a cheap rhetorical device, slyly edging what needs to be a clear-eyed, rational analysis of proposed conduct into the confounding realm of emotion. #57 A, The Utilitarian Cheat or “If its saves just one life” is a sub-rationalization under #57, 57. The Universal Trump, or “Think of the children!”  (It could easily be the other way around.)

#57 A. The Utilitarian Cheat or “If it saves just one life”

Invoking Rationalization #57A is as good a test as there is for identifying an untrustworthy demagogue. The claim that something is worth enacting, eliminating, establishing or doing is ethically and morally validates “if it saves juts one life” is aimed directly at the mushy minds of sentimentalists  and the dangerously compassionate. If the argument is made in good faith, the speaker is an incompetent dolt; usually it is the desperate last resort of a someone who has found that their real arguments are inadequate or unpersuasive.

The insidious trick inherent in the device is that we agree that human life is precious, and that we can not and will not place a dollar sign on a human being. The next step, however, in which a single life, or even many, is deemed justification for any expense or other draconian societal trade-offs, is impractical and irrational. It would save many lives if automobiles were built like tanks and could never exceed five miles an hour. Locking up ever angry husband that threatened the life of an estranged spouse with a menacing phone call would save many lives. So would forcing women to carry their babies to term, eliminating the right to have an abortion. Torture used without restrictions probably would save one life or more. Prohibition was sold using #57A.

All of these policy conundrums and many others are too complex by far to use simple-minded absolutism as their ethical guideline, and about 30 seconds of logical clarity will usually make that clear.  Those who employ The Utilitarian Cheat, however, don’t want clarity. It is an appeal to embrace acts that can do wide-ranging harm to society, civilization, human aspirations and liberty, because un-named lives can be saved. Though it is opposite of the exploitation of human life for other goals that Kantian ethics forbids, it is equally invalid.

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Graphic: gunssavelives.net