Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/26/17: No, Everything Isn’t Horrible, But It’s Much Better If You Aren’t Ugly Or Paul Krugman…

Good Morning!

1 A strange disconnect. Does anyone else find it strange that Turner Movie Classics, which I would generally describe as a national cultural treasure, would choose Christmas Day of this year to highlight the career of director Alfred Hitchcock? As Hollywood and the movie industry are going to extreme lengths to purge themselves of the sexual predators in their midst, in some cases literally sending artistically outstanding works and careers into cultural purgatory, and with even calls for moderation and proportion (Matt Damon) or protestations of naive or denial-fueled ignorance (Meryl Streep) being sufficient to spark a professional crisis and widespread public criticism,  TCM, the modern day TV curator of Hollywood’s Golden Age, selected the most infamous sexual predator among all legendary American directors as its special Christmas treat.

Yeesh.

I don’t know what to make of this. Did the ethics alarms just go dead at TCM? Is this a case of “The King’s Pass,” as in, “Yes, male power figures in Hollywood engaging in sexual misconduct has been a terrible problem and it is important that this is finally being addressed, buuuut this is Alfred Hitchcock, after all. We have to over-look all of that because he’s a genius…”? The work of an artist should not be devalued because of his character or his unethical conduct, personal or professional, but at the same time, cheering the great sexual harassers of the past while trying to destroy tolerance of sexual harassment in the present seems like activities that should not be occurring simultaneously, since the two objectives undermine each other.

2. Is fake “doom and gloom” unethical?

The constant representation to the American people that the nation is in the midst of existential disaster when it obviously–well, if one isn’t completely addled by confirmation bias it should be obvious—is not can’t exactly be called “fake news,” but it is just as sinister in intent and just as dangerous in its potential results.

My errant focus was brought to this phenomenon in a film review, of all places. A.O. Scott, the New York Times reviewer who is incapable of not bringing his partisan and political biases into his reviews (thus making him a lousy reviewer, like the New Yorker’s late Pauline Kael) began his take on Matt Damon’s eco-fantasy “Downsizing” with this statement:

“A radically dystopian future seems like the best we deserve these days..”

Then I began looking for sentiments in pundit pieces and other commentary in the news media about how uniquely horrible it was to be an American in 2017. That assumption has tainted so much news reporting this year that it amounts to virtual brainwashing, and yet that characterization is false, in both comparative and absolute terms. Not only are many trends and developments uncontroversially positive, such as the long-delayed economic recovery, including booming business and consumer confidence, but in other areas as well. Yet The New York Times consistently publishes pieces like this one, by Paul Krugman on Christmas Day, titled, “America Is Not Yet Lost.” It is like a medical school case study on derangement, or a broadcast from the Bizarro Planet. We are told, directly or indirectly, that the reasons that the United States is in historically dire straits is because the Democrats lost the election, the headlong rush towards becoming just like the European socialist nanny states that they thought was finally assured has been stalled, and because, most of all, Donald Trump is President.

I can’t decide whether all these pundits really believe this, in which case they are mentally and emotionally unfit to do their jobs, or if this is a concerted, desperate effort to create panic and hysteria in defiance of reality, in order to justify undoing the election.  The characterization of the GOP tax bill was the most recent example of how the negativism makes legitimate analysis impossible. “This is wrong !” is always a perfectly responsible argument in a democratic society. “This is evil and will destroy us all!” is not. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/11/2017: Boston, Racism, Morality And The Media’s Continuing Conspiracy

Good Morning!

1 That’s my town! Spotlight, the Boston Globe investigative team that was the focus of the Academy Award-winning film about its crucial role in exposing the  Catholic Church’s child-molestation scandal, has published the results of an investigation into racism in Boston. Nobody who lives in Boston or did for any length of time (like me) can find that the conclusion of the Spotlight team qualifies as news: Boston is an overwhelmingly white city—the whitest of all the major metropolitan areas—which may have softened its traditional hostility to African Americans, but that so far hasn’t changed the impression among its black residents that they are outsiders, and tolerated rather than welcome.

I love Boston, and would move back there in a heartbeat if it didn’t mean uprooting my life in unpleasant ways. The report, however, is depressing, for that ironic feature of the city was a blight on it when I lived there, and decades have failed to change it significantly.

2. Not “Morality Alarms”. Let me stick this in quickly.

A commenter on the most recent Comment of the Day on the Masterpiece Cakeshop controversy sent in a defense of the baker’s conduct based on Scripture. I stated,

I dismiss this argument out of hand.

2000 year old biases are now called ignorance. They can be justified as of their time, but pretending nothing has changed since then is indefensible and willfully obtuse. The taboos against homosexuality were a matter of common sense when procreation was essential to a tribe’s survival. Before there was psychological research and knowledge of brain chemistry, ignorance about homosexuality was excusable, and even natural. 2000 years is a long time. There is no excuse for pretending that it isn’t, that human beings haven’t learned, that knowledge hasn’t expanded, and that ancient texts are not often dangerously and cruelly out of date.

In two follow-up comments I wrote, stitching them together,

That’s not reasoning or argument, and this blog is about ethics (what’s right?) not morality (what does God say is right?)…At some point discrimination and prejudice is still discrimination and prejudice. “The Bible says I should be prejudiced” is better, sort of, than “I just hate these people,” but it also is a cover.

Needless to say, an argument that relies entirely on the Bible is just an appeal to authority. That’s not a reasoned argument, but a declaration. Nor is it possible to argue with God, who works in mysterious ways, meaning that “but that makes no sense!” doesn’t work.

This isn’t a morality blog, and never has been. Simple as that. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/23/2017: Oh, Lots Of Stuff…

Let’s clear the runway; flights are being delayed…

1 Please, somebody do me a favor and read Fattymoon’s Medium piece  on why he doesn’t comment here any more. Let me know what it says. I don’t know if it’s another “I hate Jack” web piece, but I have feelings too, and miles to go before I sleep. He should have posted it here, and assuming it is as quirky and thoughtful as many of Fatty’s posts were, I might have made it a Comment of the Day. Posting it elsewhere without a heads up is a Golden Rule breach.

2. Jamelle Bouie’s racialist demagoguery in Slate is an ongoing embarrassment to the once readable web-mag, and in a recent exchange on Twitter, he showed that he’s not too quick on the uptake either.  Tweeting about the planned hit job on the President plotted by Rep. Wilson and an angry, grieving anti-Trump Gold Star wife. Bouie wrote,

“Trump and the White House have an unmistakable pattern of going after prominent black women.”

Quick! Hands: who believes that if the Democratic Representative who accused the President of being  insulting on his condolence call had been a white male, Trump would have behaved any different? Anybody? This is Bouie personified: he will engage in race-baiting no matter how forced, unfair and absurd it is.

I’m not a Ben Shapiro fan, but the conservative pundit knows a hanging curveball in his wheelhouse when  he sees one. He responded,

“Yes, McCain, Hillary, Barack Obama, Cruz, Jeb!, Rosie O’Donnell, Kim Jung Un are all black women”

And he didn’t even mention Bob Corker!

Exposed, owned, embarrassed and squashed, a wiser, smarter progressive would know enough to shut up and allow his idiocy to be gently wiped from cultural memory by the sands of time…like in about ten minutes. But no, Bouie shoots back,

“Nice. A retweet from Honest Conservative Ben “The genocide of Native people’s was Actually Good” Shapiro”

YES! A perfect example of a real, genuine, ad hominem attack, the kind that says, “I have no rebuttal for your devastating argument, so I’m just going to say that you’re personally horrible, so your arguments don’t count.” I’ve gotten so sick of explaining to commenters that their accusations of ad hominem are mistaken and ignorant that I put a warning in the Comments guidelines. “Your argument is idiotic, so I think you are an idiot” is not ad hominem (not nice, but not ad hominem). “You’re an idiot, so your argument must be idiotic” is ad hominem. Now I have a perfect example–from an editor at Slate! (If you think ad hominem  is logical, then you are unqualified to be an editor, even if you aren’t a race-baiting anti-white bigot.)

Not surprisingly, Shapiro knocked this one out of the park too, tweeting,

“Thanks for the ad hominem non sequitur, guy who says every Trump voter is an evil racist”

3. If there was any doubt that John McCain’s recent escalation of his anti-Trump, burr-under-the-saddle, “I’m going to make you rue the day your denigrated my prisoner-of-war heroism” campaign is personal and motivated by revenge, his gratuitous swipe at the President’s deferment from the draft almost 50 years ago should eliminate it.  That is personal, it is a cheap shot, it is intentionally disrespectful, and it is deliberately throwing raw meat to the President’s enemies.

It is also a Golden Rule breach: how would McCain react if Trump referenced the Keating Five scandal just to impugn McCain?

A lame duck who may well be dying, McCain has apparently decided that he can misbehave, settle scores, and undermine his party’s President with impunity. Somebody should tell him that he is dismantling his own reputation and legacy in the process, revealing himself as petty, vindictive, and willing to place his own vendetta over national interests and his duty as a U.S. Senator.

This is one more reason that he should resign.

4. While we are mentioning embarrassment, it appears that the news media is not yet embarrassed by treating as substantive news the self-evident set-up and subsequent escalation of a non-incident into another manufactured anti-Trump race scandal . It should be.  Imagine: yesterday all of the Sunday talking head shows gave far more time to this transparent hit-job than to the revived Russian influence allegations involving the Clintons. ABC and NBC have yet to mention that story at all; CBS, five days after it broke, gave a few seconds to it on “Face the Nation.” The excuses for this from journalists sound an awful lot like “Hey! We buried this story once; she shouldn’t have to report on it now.” FACT: As of this moment, there is more public evidence suggesting that Hillary Clinton was colluding to help the Russians than there is to suggest that President Trump did anything improper in that regard.

Back to the Rep. Frederica Wilson smear-job: The Congressional Black Caucus  called for Chief of Staff John Kelly to apologize for his remarks defending the President.  “We, the women of the Congressional Black Caucus, proudly stand with Congresswoman Wilson and demand that General Kelly apologize to her without delay and take responsibility for his reckless and false statements,” the female lawmakers said in a statement.

The wife of the late La David Johnson, meanwhile, has been making the rounds of talk shows. To recap: a woman who was determined to hurt Trump made sure that a Congressional Black Caucus member who had boycotted the President’s Inauguration was listening in on his condolence call, then collaborated on accusations of disrespect. When Trump denied their characterization–at best an example of likely confirmation bias if there ever was one —he was accused of racism, since both women are black. Then other members of the Caucus expanded the attack to Trump’s Chief of Staff, implying that he is racist as well.

This might have been a bit more convincing if the entire Caucus hadn’t declared their revulsion at Trump before he took office. Who believes that any criticism from this quarter is anything but cynical, political, and unfair? Meanwhile, as this was going on, esteemed CBC member Maxine Waters declared that she was going to “take out” the President, presumably not meaning that they were going on a date.

I note that even many of my Democratic, anti-Trump Facebook friends are rolling their metaphorical eyes at this one. Some of them—many, in fact— are still capable of feeling sympathy when a President is being mistreated.

5. I’ve been getting better at suppressing my head explosions, and just in time: Harvey Weinstein has supposedly completed rehab for his sex addiction already. What was that, less than a week? What an insult to everyone’s intelligence for Weinstein to say he was getting “help” for his “problem.” It couldn’t have been too much of a problem if it could be fixed in few days. The other side of the ethics coin is this: going into rehab has been the routine PR response whenever a Hollywood figure misbehaves. We should thank Harvey for making it clear for all time that this is often, perhaps usually, a cynical sham. Continue reading

Unethical Meme Of The Week: Democratic Underground

Meme

I know I could batter internet memes all day, but this one, by the Democratic Underground, particularly annoys me, as has the “chicken hawk” canard that knee-jerk anti-war activists have been wielding for decades.

To begin with, it’s an ad hominem argument, and thus unethical on its face. The question is whether a military option is the best and most responsible solution to an international problem, not who is asserting that it is. It is also an incompetent argument, as in stupid. There  is nothing about typical military experience that conveys expertise in foreign affairs or international politics. Military service, as in training, marching, being deployed and shooting a gun, and military action, as a strategic tool of diplomacy and international politics, are two different things. Lincoln was a superb Commander in Chief, but he didn’t gain that ability from his brief combat experience fighting Black Hawk Indians.

In fact, what is  the statement above supposed to imply? No Commander in Chief has had to risk personal combat if he chose war. Because there has been no draft since the the Nineties, the only way a political leader would ever have military experience would be if he chose a military career, which would mean that the meme suggests that a military career is a prerequisite for national leadership. But Democrats don’t believe that; nobody believes that. In fact, Democrats are wary and suspicious of the military, which they believe, with some justification,  is biased toward military involvement. They don’t even especially respect military service: look at how James Webb was treated in his brief presidential run. Continue reading

Fetuses In Landfills: “Ick” or Unethical?

"Rest in Peace, my potential son"

“Rest in Peace, my potential son”

From the a press release from Ohio’s Attorney General, Mike DeWine:

(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today announced that his office has concluded its investigation into the alleged sale of fetal tissue by Planned Parenthood affiliates. While the investigation did not find any indication that fetal tissue was sold by Planned Parenthood affiliates in Ohio, the investigation did reveal that that aborted fetuses from Planned Parenthood facilities are ultimately disposed of in landfill sites.

…Mike DeWine directed his Charitable Law Section to investigate whether Planned Parenthood affiliates … were violating Ohio law by selling fetal tissue…in violation of Ohio Revised Code 2919.14….The investigation showed that the disposal methods documented by the Planned Parenthood affiliates violate Ohio Administrative Code 3701-47-05, adopted in 1975, which requires that a “fetus shall be disposed of in a humane manner.” Specifically:

  • All three Ohio Planned Parenthood affiliates have sent fetal remains to companies which disposed of the fetuses in landfills.
  • Additionally, the Planned Parenthood facility in Bedford Heights stated it uses only one company for disposal. However, that company stated to investigators it does not accept fetal remains for disposal as a corporate policy.

Interesting! Continue reading

Planned Parenthood Videos Surprise: Forced To Defend Abortion Ethics Acknowledging The Existence Of A Second Human Life In The Equation, Advocates Run Out Of Arguments, Part Two: Bad Analogies

The involuntary liver transplant from Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life." Why, you're RIGHT, Amanda! It's EXACTLY like a pregnancy!

The involuntary liver transplant from Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life.” Why, you’re RIGHT, Amanda! It’s EXACTLY like a pregnancy!

(Part One is here.)

If an advocate has persuasive, honest, strong arguments not based on fallacies and rationalizations, I assume that those would be the ones he or she would use.

The recent Center for Medical Progress videos featuring employees of Planned Parenthood and StemExpress describing in graphic detail the process by which fetal tissue is harvested for research, and in some cases showing the process itself, have made abortion advocates squirm by making it difficult for them to deny that a tiny, growing human being is sacrificed in the act of abortion. This makes the evasive “choice” defense of abortion inadequate. Why shouldn’t unborn lives matter? Either because of neglect (“It’s legal” and “it’s my right” have been used to cut off debate for decades), because the rationale for debate has been built on a convenient fiction (“Life? I don’t see any life!”), or because there really aren’t any ethically satisfying justifications for abortion on demand, the pro-abortion lobby’s attacks on the videos have been notable for their lack of substance and abundant desperation.

This has been especially true of the analogies offered for the relationship between a mother and unborn child, and the fetus itself.

In the Washington Post last week, Margo Kaplan, who as an associate professor at Rutgers Law School should be skilled at analogies, attacked anti-abortion advocates with what she seemed to think was a definitive “gotcha!” She notes that there is nowhere near the same level of attention paid to frozen embryos that are donated to research as aborted fetuses, and from this concludes all manner of horrible things about abortion opponents: Continue reading

Planned Parenthood Videos Surprise: Forced To Defend Abortion Ethics Acknowledging The Existence Of A Second Human Life In The Equation, Advocates Run Out Of Arguments (Part One)

The Center for Medical Progress released a trailer yesterday promoting its yet to be released eighth undercover investigative video, this one, like the last, focusing on StemExpress, a biotech company in northern California, that has worked with Planned Parenthood to obtain aborted fetus tissue to be used in research. In the clip, StemExpress CEO Cate Dyer explains that her company receives “intact” aborted fetuses from the abortion clinics they work with.

“Oh yeah, I mean if you have intact cases – which we’ve done a lot – so we sometimes ship those back to our lab in its entirety,” Dyer says on the trailer.

Later, she jokes about shipping little aborted heads. “Tell the lab its coming,” she chuckles. “They don’t want to open the box, go, ‘Oh God!’”

I can’t wait.

Undoubtedly the allies of abortion-on-demand feminists and progressives will attack this video as they have the rest, focusing on anything and everything but the single powerful issue it raises that the abortion movement has successfully obscured, denied and obscured since Roe v. Wade and before. These are small, helpless, innocent human beings being killed, chopped up and distributed like prime beef, and the adults doing it and insisting on it have devolved into callous, cold-eyed mutants incapable of considering what their conduct is. They have not had the courage or integrity to confront the ethical conflicts that abortion raises. These videos are making that avoidance increasingly difficult. As I wrote yesterday, bravo for the The Center for Medical Progress and their allies, who are finally forcing the passive public and cynical political class to consider the issues.

The most fascinating revelation is how weak the case for abortion appears to be, once its advocates are required to stop pretending that there is only one human being—the mother—involved. We know it is weak because the attacks on the videos have largely not addressed the ugly fact on display in them—that human, unborn babies with beating hearts and functioning organs are being killed—nor found a persuasive justification for it.

They haven’t had to do either since Roe v. Wade. “It’s my right!” has been enough, though this is a rationalization that does not address the question of right and wrong. Meanwhile, by adopting the deceitful and misleading label “pro-choice,” aided by lazy and sympathetic journalists to facilitate a deceptive framing of the issue (we are seeing the same process now as “immigrant” is substituted for “illegal immigrant”), the pro-abortion lobby has warped all policy debates into a discussion of the effect of an unwanted pregnancy on women, and never about the effect of ending those pregnancies on the women’s’ off-spring. (They die.)
Suddenly, the videos have made the existence of other human beings in the abortion dilemma is unavoidable, so what are the pro-abortion advocates and their allies doing? Let’s survey them; I’m not going to rehash all the earlier deflections of the videos by Planned Parenthood and pundits (“All medical procedures are hard to look at!”) and the usual hyperbolic accusations of evil motives (“This is a war on women! They want to control our bodies!”). I’ve covered them before, and they should be self-rebutting anyway.

“The videos are illegal!”

Continue reading