Ethics Alarms Verdicts: The Second Debate

Some Ethics-related conclusions on Wednesday’s second Presidential debate:

Were the candidates uncivil?

I didn’t think so. There were a lot of Twitter comments about Gov. Romney being disrespectful to the President. The deference due to the President of the United States isn’t an issue when debates hew to the formal, detached format of the past. In those debates, the tone of the exchanges are so muted that the two candidates could be in different time zones. Once a different tone is set, with either candidate directly challenging statements while the other candidate is speaking, that tradition has fled, as it did last night. The challenger to a sitting President can hardly be told that he needs to be deferential in a debate; that is the equivalent of asking him to fight with one hand tied behind his back. I thought that both candidates were within the bounds of civility under the circumstances. It was certainly not the civility that I complimented in the second debate—it was a heated, sometimes rancorous argument, but it was the argument of two passionate, forceful, serious public servants, and it served the public well. Neither candidate displayed the contemptuous, rude attitude that Joe Biden adopted in the Vice-Presidential debate. Biden crossed the civility line, but the President and his challenger did not.

Was the moderator biased? Continue reading

Illegal Immigration Insanity

I wonder what HE thinks is the sensible way to handle illegal immigration. It can't be much crazier than almost everyone else's opinion.

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on the legality of Arizona’s anti-immigration legislation, and in today’s Washington Post, columnist Dana Milbank, one of the Post’s house liberals who has the integrity to be up-front about it, presented us with a related column that reminded me how ideology can become indistinguishable from insanity.

Illegal immigration is perhaps the best (or worst) illustration of this phenomenon, a problem that requires essential and obvious measures to address, one of which—finding a route to allow current illegal immigrants to achieve legal status—is opposed “on principle” by the Right though there is  no feasible alternative, and the other—taking effective measures to block entry by future illegals and to eliminate the benefits of breaking immigration laws through tougher enforcement—is opposed by the Left on humanitarian grounds, though it is irresponsible, expensive, and dangerous. In the middle of this absurd impasse is the government, which refuses to aggressively enforce the laws on the books, either because of unholy alliances with business interests that want cheap and exploitive labor (the Republicans) or because of a cynical strategy to court a large and growing demographic group to ensure future political power (the Democrats).

In short, Nuts, Nuts, Corrupt and Corrupt. Continue reading

The News Media’s Unethical Political Word Games

Reasonable people can disagree about the prudence and fairness of the various get-tough state and local laws targeting illegal immigrants, such as the recent law passed in Alabama (I like it, by the way). They can even disagree—though I personally don’t see how—about the wisdom of state-sanctioned incentives for illegals to smuggle their children into the country, like Maryland’s batty “Dream Act.”

What reasonable people should not accept and must not accept is the increasingly routine practice among many news outlets of dropping “illegal” from the phrase “illegal immigration” and “illegal immigrants” when discussing such measures. The practice is no less than a lie, an effort to misrepresent as bigotry legitimate objections to providing the benefits of American citizenship to those who willfully violate U.S. immigration laws and procedures. The papers, reporters, columnists and bloggers who do this inevitably follow the misrepresentation by denigrating anyone who doesn’t think scofflaws should be celebrated as heroes and handed the keys to the country as “nativists.”

I resent it, because my maternal grandparents were immigrants, the legal kind, and I would no more oppose the progress and success of law-abiding immigrants in the country than I would saw off my arm. I condemn it, because the tactic—and it is a tactic— is unethical journalism, an example of intentionally muddying an issue by imprecision so that the apathetic, the lazy or the none-too-bright—a sizable group, that—are confused about what is the real issue. Continue reading

If President Obama Is So Smart, Why Does He Keep Doing the Same Dumb, Unethical Thing?

I have written before, more than once, about President Obama’s astonishingly flat learning curve regarding what is and is not appropriate subject matter for the nation’s Chief Executive to render public opinions about. Without knowing the facts, he has denigrated a local policeman’s handling of a difficult and racially charged situation; he has rendered opinions on state governance matters that are not the federal government’s proper concern; he has warped public opinion by condemning a state law while misrepresenting its provisions. He has criticized citizen critics and media figures by name, something that is almost unprecedented for a president. He has declared corporations negligent or guilty in matters that had not been fully investigated, before any lawsuits or charges had been filed.  He took sides in a purely local dispute over the location of an Islamic center near the 9/11 scene, and he even injected himself into NBA star Lebron James’ free agency, suggesting that he should consider Obama’s home town Chicago Bulls.

Flat, flat, flat. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: President Obama

“Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where they’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like more of an assault on unions. I think everybody’s got to make some adjustments, but I think it’s also important to recognize that public employees make enormous contributions to our states and our citizens.”

—-President Obama, commenting on Wisconsin’s budget balancing measures, which will include ending collective bargaining by some public employee unions.

"Ladies and gentlemen...The President of the United States!"

This an abuse of power. No doubt about it.

For all his vaunted intellect, the President has displayed a stunningly flat learning curve in acknowledging and respecting the limits of Presidential influence, otherwise known as “sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong” or “shooting of your mouth about something that is none of your damn business.” In less than three years in office, he has… Continue reading

Ten Ethics Questions for the Pat-Down Defenders

I, like you, have been reading and listening to my various “My Obama, may he always be right, but my Obama, right or wrong” friends try to argue that having TSA agents sexually assault non-consenting adults is a perfectly reasonable and benign exercise of government power. I, like you, am tired of the posturing and excuse making. Their arguments, in essence, all boil down to: a) they have no choice b) they have our best interests at heart c) it’s no big deal, and 4) trust them, they know what they are doing.

I suggest that you, as I will, pose the following questions to your trusting friends, perhaps beginning with a preliminary query regarding whether they themselves have undergone the humiliating and invasive pat-down procedure that they so willingly approve of for others.

Then ask them these: Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: The Los Angeles Times

“If you can’t handle such a minor inconvenience, perhaps you should stay on the ground.”

The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board, in an editorial called “Shut up and Be Scanned,dismissing the objections of travelers who find the gonad and breast-fondling patdowns now being used by TSA screeners embarrassing and obtrusive. Continue reading

Anatomy of An Unethical Report on the Cost of S.B. 1070

The Center for American Progress is out with the results of a study that purports to show the adverse economic effects that Arizona’s economy suffered as the result of conference cancellations and economic boycotts in the wake of the state’s controversial S.B. 1070, which gave police the authority to check on citizen status under some circumstances.

The study itself is fine; it is by a reputable research group, and anything can be studied. The Center’s use of it is manipulative, deceptive and hypocritical, however. Continue reading

Yucks All Over:Sifting Through the Whitman/Allred/Diaz/Brown Ethics Train Wreck

Is anyone doing or saying the right thing for the right reasons in the current controversy in California over Meg Whitman’s housekeeper? I think not. Let’s look at the main participants, and avert your eyes. It ain’t pretty:

Gloria Allred: Emerging out of nowhere to manufacture a campaign controversy that may sink conservative Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman’s chance of beating liberal Democrat golden oldie Jerry Brown, feminist advocate Allred is exploiting a long-time illegal immigrant for political purposes (Allred’s support for Brown goes back decades), torpedoing the campaign of a woman trying to be the state’s first female governor. Continue reading

Fairness and Gov. Brewer’s 16 seconds of Panic

[Personal Note: I apologize for the dearth of posts since Wednesday. I have been on short but intense road tour of Virginia, presenting three three-hour legal ethics seminars in three days, and driving long distances in-between. My sincere intentions to keep up the commentary on ethics developments elsewhere fell victim to fatigue, age, and the surprising discovery that vene I get sick of thinking about ethics sometimes. I am sorry, and will catch up diligently.]

Governor Jan Brewer suffered through an elected official’s nightmare, beginning her televised gubernatorial debate with Democrat Terry Goddard with an embarrassing meltdown, complete with a garbled opening statement and a 16 second pause when she lost her bearings entirely and went mute, despite having her notes in her hand. Ben Smith of Politico wrote that “Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s opening statement in last night’s debate reflects either an amazing lack of preparation, or sheer panic.” Well, nobody who is going to appear on television for a debate that will decide her future employment fails to prepare. It was obviously panic, and the kind of panic that has very little to do with being governor of Arizona or the ability to do any other job, except perhaps host the “Tonight Show.” Continue reading