Lunchtime Ethics Appetizer, 2/12/20: With Just Desserts!

Bon Appetite!

In a perfect example of how avoiding bias can create bias, I am accumulating a backlog of genuine and valuable ethics stories that are triggered by or related to political developments, and deliberately talking myself out of posting them. As regular readers here know, this has been a problem since the beginning of the Trump administration, when the Democrats, the resistance and most of the media  resolved to try to bring him down and cancel the election results with a campaign to delegitimize President’s Trump’s election. I regard this as one of the greatest ethics crises in U.S. history (another, running concurrently, is the near complete abdication of professional ethics by journalists), and I can’t ignore it. But doing my job, as repetitious as it seems, also means that I am reluctant to write about other political stories that I would have included otherwise, and often they involve important issues.

1. Which reminds me: One of the Washington Post’s most reliable anti-Trump columnists, Greg Sargent, issued an opinion piece that would be a strong entrant in a “Hypocrite of the Year” competition. Here’s the line that made my head explode: “Such delegitimization of the opposition strikes at the core of our system. Recognizing the opposition’s legitimacy is a key pillar of accountability in government…”

Astounding! Sargent’s ideologically compatible pals have been working overtime to deny the legitimacy of Trump’s election, from attacking the Electoral College to claiming a Russian conspiracy,  encouraging and cheering “Not my President!” demonstrations, manufacturing impeachable offenses out of thin air, and turning such once-neutral and unifying events as the Inauguration, the Kennedy Center Honors and the White House Correspondents Dinner—and more recently, a State of the Union address where the speaker of the House, on camera, symbolically rejected the legitimacy of the speech by ripping it up on live TV——into opportunities to directly challenge this President’s right to be in office and to be accorded the same respect and civility of his predecessors. If anyone who has been part of this assault, and Sargent definitely has, makes the accusation that Trump is wrong to “delegitimize the opposition,” that critic is either deliberately gaslighting the public, or so devoid of self-knowledge as to be functionally crippled.

2. Here’s an unscientific poll result that should give Democrats chills. Ann Althouse asked her readers whether they would vote for Bernie Sanders or President Trump if that was the choice in November. Ann readership is Madison, Wisconsin heavy, consisting of many of her former students. She is resolutely politically neutral, laning Left, as she voted for both Hillary and Obama, twice. She has also criticized many of the attacks on Trump, including in the news media, causing her commenters, if not her readership, to see an exodus by the Trump-Deranged, much as what has occurred on Ethics Alarms. Those commenters remaining, I believe, are not uncritical of the President, and I would expect to find them on the “disapprove” side in a Gallup poll. I was very surprised at Ann’s poll results:

In a related development… Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Ann Althouse

“You see what they are doing? They’re blaming Iowa. It’s not the fault of the Democratic Party. It’s Iowa’s fault. After the citizens of Iowa put up with all that interaction with candidates swarming the state for the past year (and more) and after they showed up for this elaborate nighttime gathering in groups in gyms and showing support with their bodies, they are blamed for the screw-up of the party!”

Iconoclastic blogger Ann Althouse, reacting to the Democratic Party’s attempts to mitigate the Iowa Caucuses debacle.

At least they aren’t blaming it all on Trump. Yet.

Ann continues..

The other blame-shifting I’m seeing is: The computers did it. There was an app and it somehow caused all the trouble. Reminiscent of Hillary’s wipe-it-with-a-cloth computer problems. I really don’t want to hear excuses that have to do with computers getting things wrong. This cannot have been a complicated app, and the backup was to use the phones, yet they want to blame the phone lines too! It’s just not credible.”

What triggered Althouse  were Washington Post  headlines telling her that
Sen. Dick Durbin said  it was time to end the Iowa caucuses and that Howard Dean said that Iowa should no longer lead the primary parade.

What I especially like about Ann is that her academic detachment allows her to focus on aspects of an issue that most analysts miss because they care about the results more than she does. This talent is annoying when it results in her going off on tangents about how a particular word is used in a quote or article–she’s been obsessed with the word “garnered” for a couple of weeks now—but this is an example of her picking up on an ethics issue that nobody else, including me, was mentioning: the avoidance of accountability.

I was shocked when I woke up this morning after sleeping in—bad night—to see that the results of the Caucus still hadn’t been announced. It’s a massive embarrassment for the party, and again—commenter Michael West disagrees with me on this, but I’ll double down now—it is bad for everyone, not just Democrats. Ann was focusing on this as well, I think.

The Iowa Caucuses have long been celebrated as old fashioned democracy in action: citizens meeting in firehouse hall and churches, debating, making their preferences known. I come from Arlington, Massachusetts, the largest municipality in the nation that still uses the town meeting system of governance. Local and regional democracy, though the Left increasingly derides it in its quest for global government, is the heart of American values. This kind of breakdown, catalyzed by inflicting technology on a system that has worked just fine without it, undermines public trust in our institutions.

That is dangerous.

Moreover, it is in everyone’s interests, in a two party system, for both parties to find the best possible candidate. This was a point I kept making in 2016. For either party’s system to blow up increases the likelihood that chaos will taint the  process, and cause unforeseen and unintended results—as it did the last time.

That said, the conservative pundits are certainly having fun. Like here. And here. And here. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/14/2020: And The Ethics Beat Goes On…

Good morning.

That’s a perfunctory good morning, to be transparent. Mourning would be more accurate. Yesterday’s news that Red Sox manager Alex Cora, a man who had impressed me with his leadership ability, personality and, yes, ethical values, was exposed by an investigation as the primary instigator of cheating schemes that involved two baseball teams and World Series champions (the Astros and the Red Sox), disillusioned two fan bases, harmed his sport, and led, so far, to the fall of two of the games most successful and admired management figures. Cora is also the first minority manager the Red Sox have had, and was regarded as a transformational figure for the team and the city, both of which have long and troubled histories of prejudice and discrimination. Smart, articulate, creative, funny, brave, knowledgeable—all of his positive qualities, rendered useless by the lack of functioning ethics alarms.

1. Congratulations to Ann Althouse…on this, the 16th anniversary of her blog. With the demise of Popehat, she supplanted Ken White as my most admired blogger, and most quoted by far. The fact that her fiercely non-partisan analysis of ethics issues so frequently tracks with my own is a constant source of comfort for me , particularly during these difficult times. Ann has an advantage that I don’t—“I only write about what interests me” is her description of her field of commentary— because this blog is limited to ethics and leadership. Fortunately, Ann is interested in ethics, though she seldom says so explicitly.

2. Bernie vs Liz. Feeling that Bernie Sanders was pulling away as the standard-bearer of the Leftest of the Democratic base as her own support appears to be waning, Elizabeth Warren went low, and had her aides reveal the content of what was supposed to be two-hour a private summit between the fake Native American and the Communist sympathizer in December 2018. According to them, Bernie told Warren that he disagreed with her assertion that a woman could win the 2020 election. Bernie denies it. Observations:

  • This kind of thing stinks, though it is kind of fun to see Democrats dirtied by it instead of President Trump. Anonymous accounts of what was said in phone conversations and private meetings in which the participants reasonably believed they could speak freely are unreliable, untrustworthy and unethical.
  • The Warren camp’s spin on Bernie’s alleged statement is that it shows he’s a sexist. That makes no sense. If I say that I can’t win the election in 2020, does that mean I’m biased against myself? There is no logical reason to assume an opinion like “A woman can’t win is 2020” represents bias, though it could. I will state here and now that a gay man can’t be elected President in 2020, even if that man weren’t a pandering asshole like Pete Buttigieg, but I am not anti-LGBTQ is any way. The statement reflects my objective analysis of the state of the culture.
  • I suspect that Sanders meant, “YOU can’t win in 2020, nor can Kamala Harris nor any of the other equally weak announced female candidates.” The truth may hurts, but that doesn’t make it biased
  • (Psst! Bernie! A delusional septuagenarian socialist who honeymooned in the Soviet Union can’t win either!)

3. No, the fact that there are no more African-Americans running for President doesn’t mean an African-American can’t win. It means weak African-American candidates like Cory Booker, who just dropped out, and Kamala Harris, who is long gone, can’t win, not because of their race, but because they can’t convince voters that they could do the job. Continue reading

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/4/20: Abortion, Ann Althouse, A Big Lie And The Big Stupid

Good morning!

We’ve started a year without a dog enriching each day for the first time in over three decades. Don’t like it much.

1 . Lobbying the Supreme Court against abortion.  207 members of Congress — 39 senators and 168 House members from 38 states — filed  an amicus  brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold a Louisiana anti-abortion law when it hears the case in March, stating they “have a special interest in the correct interpretation, application and enforcement of health and safety standards for elective abortion by the people of the states they represent.” In the brief, the mostly GOP legislators (two Democrats also signed on) implore  the Supreme Court to uphold a lower court’s decision to let stand a Louisiana statute that requires physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of where the procedure is being performed. SCOTUS declared virtually the same law unconstitutional in Texas; the argument for this law is that Texas is bigger than Louisiana.

I’m serious.

The Center for Reproductive Rights argues that the Louisiana law is really an effort to “regulate abortion out of existence,” claiming that only one physician in the state would be able to  provide abortions if the law is allowed to stand.

Oh, I think it’s pretty obvious what’s going on.

2. Another Big Lie. When I went to a local cineplex to see “Ford vs. Ferrari,” I was stunned at how few employees were in evidence at a movie house with 18 screens and hundreds of people buying tickets. There was one human being selling tickets, the rest were dispensed by automated kiosks. There were no ticket-takers at all; we figured out that we could have just walked into any of the theaters without showing a ticket to anyone. To buy drinks and snacks, I  had to stand in a line for over 20 minutes, because only one person was filling orders. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/28/2019: As Another Ethics Tree Falls In The Deserted Forest…

Hellooooo?

Well, I missed the 2-ish deadline, after which only the most dedicated or bored Ethics Alarms readers check in on Saturdays, and the blog is already mired in the predictable holiday slump. My fault. But as Saroyan said, if just one human being sings your song, you haven’t lived in vain…

1. I see that Ann Althouse has a leftist troll. Interesting. Although the Wisconsin law prof blogger is a center-left commentator herself, her commentariat has gradually become almost completely anti-progressive in tone and substance. I see this happening on all the blogs where the predominant and virtually mandatory anti-Trump bias isn’t encouraged or observed. Now she has a recently-pressed commenter named “President Toilet Paper Shoe’s Perfect Phone” who is flooding threads with supercilious attacks on the other commenters and even Ann herself. The comments are obnoxious, abrasive, and smug. Why does Althouse tolerate them, as she is an aggressive moderator? I think she is letting this guy get away with comment misconduct because she wants more viewpoint diversity.

I sympathize, but this is “The Leftist Jerk’s Pass.” She should ding him. I would.

2. Cute or not, having a baby mayor is child exploitation.  Whitehall,  Texas, has a seven months old honorary mayor after his parents bought the title  a charity auction in October, but his anti-abortion activist parents are promoting Charlie McMillan as the “new face of the anti-abortion movement in America.”

They have even attached a slogan to his “office”: “Make America Kind Again.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/27/2019: Two Bingos, Two Drag Shows, and Poop

Good morning!

1. Is it me, or is this TV commercial indefensibly gross, and signals the impending end of civilization?

2.  Reasons not to duck the New York Times op-ed pages…Yale student Kathryn Hu contributed a sane and thoughtful essay on the topic of classic operas with characters and plot elements that seem sexist or racist to today’s more enlightened audiences. As we know, today’s “woke” censors of the arts and arbiters of what we are allowed to watch and hear have their own solution: never do the piece again, despite its obvious virtues, or interpret and rewrite it out of existance or into nausea, like John Legend injecting “It’s your body and your choice” into the lyrics of “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” I had to suppress my gorge from rising while reading this article, for example, that described the current production of  J.M Barry’s 1904 classic “Peter Pan” in Washington D.C:

In [Playwright Lauren Gunderson’s] version now playing at Shakespeare Theatre Company (retitled Peter Pan and Wendy…), the character of Tiger Lily has been completely reconceived. No more the helpless princess in distress, Tiger Lily is now a spirited and fearless Native rights activist whose people thrived in Neverland long before Captain Hook’s pirate ship dropped anchor and Peter showed up with the Lost Boys.

Because as we know, there were so many Native American activists in 1904. To anyone with brain cells and cultural perspective that haven’t been woked to death, it is obvious that Barry’s Neverland is a child’s fanciful impression of Indians, pirates, and friendly wild animals. It has nothing to do with reality , so imposing current day adult political views on the and characters is neither fair nor necessary.

Hu’s solution to the supposed horrors of 19th Century biases and social mores in opera: Continue reading

Even MORE Of The Kinds Of Things That Would Have Been On A Full-Time Impeachment News And Commentary Blog…

1 . You know I can’t let this pass: New Age guru and cool Democratic Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson tweeted out both fake news and, given her number of followers and <cough> far more effective disinformation for the kind of idiots who believe Russian bots than any foreign mischief-maker on Facebook:

She only could believe this absurd “report” if  a) she was so ready to believe anything bad about this President that literally nothing could be too absurd to swallow, and b) if she was so irresponsible that she would tweet it to her gazillion followers without checking.  It seems that she read a phony article published on Nov. 16 by MoronMajority.com. by the light of her lava lamp, after itwas then picked up by  the Daily Kos, which could easily use the name “MoronMajority.” After pulling down the tweet, Williamson had the chutzpa to write she wrote that we had to be vigilant against “big lies” in the coming campaign….you know, like hers.

2. Then there is this from Rep. Al Green, who was calling for Trump’s impeachment, and entered resolutions to that effect, long, long before there was any Ukraaine phone call:

Rep. Al Green (D-TX) said on Saturday during an interview on MSNBC that President Donald Trump needed to be impeached “to deal with slavery.”Green, who has previously stated that Trump must be impeached or else “he will get reelected,” said this week that there is “no limit” to the number of times that Democrats can try to impeach the president.

In other words, he is just like every other House Democrat, just not as subtle. And perhaps a little bit more stupid. Asked to explain what slavery has to do with impeachment, Green replied,

I do believe, ma’am, that we have to deal with the original sin. We have to deal with slavery. Slavery was the thing that put all of what President Trump has done lately into motion.We cannot overlook what happened when he came down the escalator and just demeaned people of color when he talked about the s-hole countries. It’s insidious … racism, the president has played on racism and he’s used that as a weapon to galvanize a base of support to mobilize people.So, I appreciate whatever we will do, but until we deal with the issue of invidious discrimination as a relates to [the] LGBTQ community, the anti-Semitism, the racism, the Islamophobia, the transphobia, and also the misogyny that he has exemplified, I don’t think our work is done.

Ah! Now he sounds more typical. This is, of course, Big Lie #4, “Trump is a racist.” John Hinderaker correctly notes on his blog:

Green’s rant is valuable, not because it makes any sense, but because it gives us a window into the Democrats’ real motive for wanting to impeach the president–sheer hatred over political differences. Combined, of course, with the realization that in all probability, he will be re-elected next year if they do not succeed in evicting him from office.

How long can the news media and the public fail to acknowledge this? Continue reading