Tag Archives: civility

Evening Ethics Leftovers, 11/8/2018: Acosta, Beto, Tucker, And Claire

Good evening…

1.  The Jim Acosta Affair. I suppose my analysis of this hypocritical flap will surprise no one. No White House reporter who behaved as Jim Acosta did at the press conference yesterday would have been defended by his employers or other journalists. Dan Rather (with Nixon) and Sam Donaldson (with Reagan) were rude and confrontational (Funny how the only examples of journalists being disrespectful to Presidents involve Republicans–nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!), but nothing like Acosta was and has been. Imagine a journalist defying President Obama like that! It wouldn’t happen, but as with so much else, the rules are somehow different for President Trump.  This news media’s reporters have decided, consistent with the attitude of progressives and the “resistance,” to withhold even minimum respect and deference to the Presidency as long as Donald Trump occupies the office.

Acosta was not asking questions, but arguing his position with the President. That’s not his job, or his privilege. When the President told him repeatedly “That’s enough,” Acosta did not stop. That, all by itself, justified pulling Acosta’s credentials. The White House was foolish to concentrate on Acosta pushing the intern away. He had crossed the line before that; indeed, he had crossed the line of what the White House should require from a journalist many times before.

If Acosta apologizes to the intern and the President, and promises not to abuse his opportunity to ask questions at press briefings and press conferences, to exhibit a minimal level of respect, then the White House should give him another chance.

Commentators calling Acosta’s punishment a First Amendment violation should be ridiculed for the hypocrites they are. Ann Althouse points out that journalists were up in arms when  Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was charged with battery for grabbing Michelle Fields, a reporter. The level of contact in the two cases is similar. “Either both instances of battery matter or neither does. Pick one,” says Ann. But there’s a problem that Ann somehow doesn’t see. She writes, “I found myself thinking that Trump and Acosta are both in control and choosing to do this theater of mutual hate.” Acosta and Trump are not equals, however. Acosta is obligated to give due respect to the President of the United States, but the converse does not apply. Continue reading

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Boy, Will I Ever Want To Rub It In If The Democrats Don’t Take The House…

The Democrats deserve to lose these midterms more than any party has deserved to lose since Republicans got clobbered after Watergate. The corrupt Tom Delay-led GOP Congress during the Bush years was pretty bad, but that was just the elected officials. The whole Democratic Party has disgraced itself along with “the resistance,” the news media, Hollywood, academia and social media  for two full years.

This is hardly a new or original interpretation. Lindsey Graham, as close to an ethical member of Congress as I could name, put it pretty clearly squarely in his perfect rant during the Kavanaugh hearing: these people want power so much they will do and say almost anything. Over the past two years, they have relentlessly engaged in fearmongering, while accusing Trump of fearmongering. They have engaged in intimidation, defiance of democratic traditions and institutions, and rejection of core values that are bulwarks of democracy while accusing Trump of being a fascist. By enlisting the mainstream news media as a partisan ally when it is critical that journalists remain objective and neutral, it has crippled the integrity of a crucial component of what makes a democracy work. Graham accurately described this part of the tragedy as well:

“Well, one of the things we’ll learn from Kavanaugh is how in the tank the media really is for the other side. I don’t think they’re the enemy of the people. They’re just allies of the Democratic Party. If a Republican had done to a Democratic nominee what they did to Kavanaugh, it would be front page news everywhere. If Barack Obama’s jobs numbers were anywhere close to what we’re talking about, they would stop the Earth from rotating to make sure everybody heard about it. So the bottom line is it doesn’t work anymore. MSNBC and NBC have become one when it comes to the news cycle. Saturday Night Live is making fun of a guy who lost his eye in Afghanistan. There is a backlash growing in this country from the over the top effort by the left to portray everything conservative as bad and mean and un-American.

The news media deserves to lose the mid-terms, and imagine where we are when that statement actually makes sense. Continue reading

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Mid-Day Ethics Warm-Up, 10/16/18: The Jerk Squad

Good whatever it is by the time I post this; big time computer problems, and every keystroke may be my last..

1. Baseball Ethics, Jerk Divison. Should baseball reward or punish its jerks? Last night in the Brewers-Dodgers NLCS game, LA’s jerks were out in force. Free-agent slugger to be Manny Machado was penalized for one dirty slide, much like the one that helped put Red Sox second-baseman Dustin Pedroia on the sidelines for the entire 2018 season,  a night after loafing to first base. Are teams really going to break the bank to try sign this guy? Then, in the ninth inning, Dodger mega-jerk Yasiel Puig mocked the Brewers closer for not throwing him a strike. Said MLB analyst Harold Reynolds, “I would have hit him with the next pitch. You can’t let an opposing player disrespect you like that.” Old school nonsense  or cultural enforcement?

Driving home from this morning’s ethics seminar, I heard two commentators on the Sirius-XM baseball channel talking about Houston Astros star Alex Bregman’s sending out a derisive social media message about Boston Red Sox pitcher Nathan Eovaldi in advance of tonight’s play-off game. They agreed that it was “good for the game” and appealed to kids for the athletes to show “personality” and “edge.”

This is “A Nation of Assholes.”  Being a jerk isn’t showing “personality.” It’s just being a jerk. No part of the culture should be extolling “edge.”

2. When in a hole, stop digging. If all goes well, Elizabeth Warren’s triumphant discovery that she is 99.9% white and therefore was justified in representing herself as a “person of color” for institutional diversity purposes will sink her career aspirations as deep as they deserve to be sunk. The fact that so much of the mainstream media is willing to have their credibility brought down with her is indicative of how stupid bias will make people. The Daily Beast, for example, writes in a headline, “Warren revealed results show Native American heritage Monday.”

Keep it up, guys. Pretty soon the jig will be up for identify politics, since  if 1/1,024th Native American means “Native American heritage,” then everyone is “of color” somehow. In that case, perhaps we’ll owe Warren a debt of gratitude. As for the news media, I am pretty sure all but the most reality-resistant progressive warriors recognize how absurd it is to call a distant, distant outlying contributor to the family gene pool sufficient to bestow “Native American ancestry,” especially when Native Americans themselves cry “hogwash.” Why are journalists so eager to rationalize Warren’s transparent distortion of fairness, science and logic? What could make them behave like that? Why should we trust people who take such manifestly ridiculous positions? Why should we respect a profession that treats us like idiots?

The news media appears to think they can keep getting further and further away from the boundaries of legitimate reportage and commentary without a critical mass of people asking these questions. Continue reading

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On The Disapproval Of President Trump

Talk about cognitive dissonance…

The recent barrage of  anti-Trump stories, self-inflicted Presidential wounds and media smears has the President’s approval ratings down again, back to his unshakable 37% or so core, presumable the American who, as he so memorably joked, would support him if he shot someone in Times Square. It has also been as high in some polls as 50% in the not so distant past, and substantively, not much has changed, except that the economic news keeps getting better. “There’s Never Been a President This Unpopular With an Economy This Good,”writes Bloomberg, and I’m sure that’s true. There was also never an individual as unpopular as Donald Trump elected President of the United States before he was.

The “disapproval rating” of his performance is incoherent, of course, because it is an undecipherable mis of apples, oranges, and wooden shoes.  Some disapprove of Trump because of his almost completely revolting character. Some disapprove of him because they disagree with his policies, since they are socialist, statist  One Worlders who believe, against all evidence, that Barack Obama was a great leader. Some are Republicans who are embarrassed to have such a man representing their party, no matter what policies he pursues. Some are conservatives who regard Trump as not sufficiently conservative, for indeed he’s not a conservative at all. Some are classist snobs. Some are morons who just believe what social media and the mainstream media tells them to believe. I’d love to know how this group breaks down, but we’ll never have that information.

Still, I find it encouraging that Trump remains unpopular despite his many positive achievements, some arguable, some not. It is good that the idea that there is more to being a respectable and admirable President than presiding over positive economic times, strong foreign policy, and military success. It is especially encouraging to see Democrats and progressives being driven to that position after stubbornly refusing to acknowledge that the character of a national leader is important during the Bill Clinton years, and after nominating Hillary. The President of the United States is not a CEO, and not a mere policy wonk (Yes, I recognize the absurdity of calling someone like Donald Trump a “wonk” of any kind). Leadership is as much a symbolic role as a pragmatic one. Leaders shift cultural values and norms; they define, or should, what a nation and its public regard as good, bad, right, wrong, admirable, and unacceptable. This was the basis of my initial, long-held, endlessly expressed, and unyielding opposition to his leadership style and personal demeanor, perhaps most forcefully explained here.

The importance of a President’s character goes far beyond being an automatic role model, however. A President, while he is in office, defines the Presidency itself. If he defines it in negative terms and values, everything connected to the Presidency suffers as well (See: the Cognitive Dissonance Scale): our system, democracy, the separation of powers, constitutional government and its institutions. A President has a duty to strengthen his office for future occupants, and to uphold the highest standards that his predecessors set. Donald Trump does not understand this aspect of his job, and never has. The reasons for this can be debated; he is obviously not a student of history, and as someone who has succeeded by breaking rules and defying conventional wisdom, he would be unlikely to understand why this role should be regarded as different from any other executive post. Continue reading

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Labor Day Ethics Leftovers, 9/4/18: Big Lies, Big Jerks, Big Mistakes [UPDATED]

 

Good morning!

1. So, so predictable. Yesterday was fun: I assumed that the post about the undeniable pettiness, incivility and hypocrisy at Senator McCain’s funeral service in D.C. would prompt multiple exclamations of “But…but…Trump deserves it!”, “He’s worse!” and “What about what Trump does?” I was not disappointed. Each one of these desperate efforts to avoid facing the issue discussed and admit reality is signature significance for having crippling flaws in one’s ethics analysis abilities, gaping holes in one’s basic understanding of right and wrong, and a victim of stupidity-inducing bias. Nothing in the post excused or referenced the President’s own conduct in any way.

2. Baseball ethics. No, it is not unethical for pitchers to carry crib sheets. During the top of the eighth inning in Saturday night’s Phillies game against the Cubs in Philadelphia, third base umpire Joe West noticed the Phillies  pitcher looking at a card he had pulled from his pocket, and confiscated it. The card contained scouting reports on how to pitch a Cubs batter. The advanced analytics baseball teams now use to devise how to position fielders and pitch to batters are too detailed for the typical player to commit to memory. Lots of them carry little cheat sheets, sometimes in their hats. Although lots of old school players and tradition-loving fans hate the development, it’s here, and there are no rules against it.

Never mind: Joe West, who is one of the more arrogant and autocratic umpires, felt that the piece of paper constituted a “foreign substance” under the rules, and thus surmised that it was prohibited by the provision designed to stop pitchers from making the ball do tricks by surreptitiously applying K-Y Jelly or slippery elm. Yup, ol’ Joe thought the pitcher, Austin Davis, was  going to use the card to doctor the baseball. Good thinking, Joe! MLB quickly set him straight the next day, announcing that West, as he often is, for he is an awful umpire,  was mistaken.

The fact that West couldn’t figure that out himself, and that he is the longest tenured MLB ump, tells you why we will have robo-umps calling strikes within five years or less.

3. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! Today’s nauseating example of mainstream media’s refusal to report and comment on the news objectively comes from the New York Times—Surprise!—which writes sympathetically about the Democratic Party’s dilemma as it tried to derail the Supreme Court nomination of Bret Kavanaugh. There’s no filibuster any more! Multiple Democrats tell the Times how unfair this is. Guess whose name is completely absent from the article? Why, former Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who resorted to the so-called nuclear option to pass Barack Obama’s judicial nominations over Republican opposition. “They are making a mockery of the process, and that is because the No. 1 goal …. is to stack the bench with ideologues, because they know they cannot achieve their goals through the elected branches,” said the Republican leadership at the…no, wait, that quote is from Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the current Democratic leader. He doesn’t mention that his predecessor is the reason the system is “broken.” At least the Times, in one brief sentence , acknowledge that “Democrats” eliminated the filibuster for federal judges below SCOTUS level. They do not make it clear that this shattered a long-standing Senate tradition, and that it made the GOP follow-up of killing the device for Supreme Court nominations both politically feasible and inevitable.

The Times also does not remind readers that its editorial board applauded Reid’s move at the time. Continue reading

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Now THIS Was Hypocrisy: John McCain’s National Cathedral Service

Ethics Alarms has spent a lot of time and space trying to clarifying the term hypocrisy, which like another term abused here by commenters, ad hominem attacks, is more often  misused than used properly. Hypocrisy is conduct that proves insincerity and  dishonesty (or, Hanlon Razor fans, stupidity), in which one’s conduct does not match one’s contemporaneously stated belief regarding what one’s conduct should be, under circumstances that suggest that the objective of the words was to deceive, by falsely claiming dedication to principles the speaker in fact does not possess or aspire to. Thanks to the orgy of hypocrisy that the Washington, D.C. funeral service for the late Senator John McCain this weekend deteriorated into and the equally hypocritical reporting on it, we now have a perfect example of hypocrisy for the ages.

Let’s start with the fact that a theme of the service was McCain’s alleged dedication to civility. The fact that the Senator openly planned his own funeral to settle scores and act on old grudges is the ultimate rebuttal of that claim. It was undeniably uncivil to dis-invite the President of the United States from what would otherwise be a display of unified and bi-partisan Washington community respect for a departed public servant. That was an insult, and intended as one. Insults are not civil. The retort to this is that the President was not civil to McCain, which is true. However, if the professional duty of civility is waived by another’s breach of it, then there is no such duty.

McCain’s own daughter launched the proceedings with her own uncivil rant, saying in part, “We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness—the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who lived lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served.” Later, she added, “The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again, because America was always great.”

In addition to being uncivil—I have never been to a funeral that consisted even in small part of veiled insults and attacks on someone else, and Marc Anthony aside, have always understood that using a funeral service for this purpose is boorish and unethical—the attacks on the President, like Meagan McCain’s, were cowardly. The man (and the office) being savaged wasn’t present, and the crowd was united in its hostility to the target. George Washington’s 110 Rules of Civility cover that kind of conduct neatly:

89. Speak not evil of the absent, for it is unjust.

Leading up to the ceremony, the news media were equally dishonest in describing McCain. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post declared that McCain  “never forgot that political opponents are not his enemies, and that there are things more important than winning elections.” Funny, it seems pretty clear that McCain regarded Donald Trump as his enemy, treated him as such, and made certain that his admirers would carry out his vendetta. The description also was historical revisionism, at least through the news media’s own assessments. After fawning over the “maverick” when he was challenging George W. Bush, journalists turned on McCain and discovered his dark side when he ran against a man the entire journalism establishment had decided to elect President. The Pew Research Center found that between the Republican National Convention’s close on September 4, 2008 and the final presidential debate on October 15, McCain’s media coverage was more negative than positive by a 4-to-1 ratio, and pundits like Milbank were writing statements like this one, from New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who said ,“Even some of McCain’s former aides are disturbed by the 73-year-old’s hostile, vindictive, sarcastic persona.”

When it was George W. Bush’s turn to speak—his family had enhanced its stock with McCain by barring the President from Barbara Bush’s funeral—one of his accolades was that McCain “detested the abuse of power”, though not, apparently, sufficiently to do the right and responsible thing and give up power when he was no longer well enough to discharge his duties. Is an octogenarian Senator with aggressive brain cancer still fit to serve in the U.S. Senate for almost a year as his condition deteriorates? To ask the question is to answer it, yet McCain insisted on keeping his power to the end, in part so he could continue undermining the President of the United States. Let’s say McCain “detested the abuse of power” by others.

That’s hypocrisy too. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/27/2018: Petards, Conflicts, And Bullshit Edition

Good Morning!

1. Oh no! Hoisted by my own petard! I’m pretty certain that Clinton fixer Lanny Davis has an unwaivable conflict of interest in his representation of Trump fixer Michael Cohen. The legal ethics establishment is soft-peddling the issue because most legal ethicists apparently hate President Trump more than they like ethical lawyering, but I’ve been wrestling over whether to file a disciplinary complaint. The problem is that any complaint that has even a tinge of political motivation won’t be touched by the Bar (if prior performance is any indicator), so a complaint by me would be the proverbial lonely tree falling in the forest. The remedy would be to issue a publicity release about the complaint, but I’ve criticized that tactic as unethical right here, on more than one occasion. Rats.

It might be just as well. After the mere hint that I was defending Donald Trump (I was not) on NPR appears to have gotten me blackballed there after many years as an ethics commentator, I probably should not criticize the lawyer for the most popular sleaze in D.C. these days.

2. Neil Simon Ethics. In an alternate universe, my still operating professional theater company, dedicated to keeping unfairly buried, forgotten or unfashionable American theater works of the past in front of audiences who deserve a chance to see them, is looking at a lot of Neil Simon productions. The works of the —by far—most successful writer of comedies in Broadway history are already sneered at as sexist and “outdated,” and I can vouch for the fact that all it takes is one militant female board member with a checkbook and a chip on her shoulder to kill a production. Remember S.N Behrman? Seen any Philip Barry plays lately? How about Kaufman and Hart? Simon just died, and he’s already heading to obscurity along with those guys, and most of their plays are still funny too.

3. Here’s another topic it’s dangerous to get intoFrom CBS:

A pregnant Washington state woman said she was fired via text message from a sub shop where worked, with a store manager telling her “it’s not a good time to have somebody who is leaving for maternity leave in several months anyway.” Kameisha Denton told CBS Seattle affiliate KIRO-TV that she had told the manager she was pregnant and due in December, asking for maternity leave.

Denton said she realized that she hadn’t been assigned shifts at Jersey Mike’s sub shop in Marysville, Washington, so she sent a text to her manager inquiring about the hours. The response she says she received was shocking.

When Denton asked for her “updated schedule” she received something a bit different. The store manager named only as “Marcos” in Denton’s phone responded, “I am sorry to inform you but it’s not going to work out with Jersey Mikes. It’s not a good time to have somebody who is leaving for maternity leave in several months anyways. You also failed to tell me this during your interview.”

Denton posted the exchange on Facebook in a post that had garnered over 1,000 shares in just two days.  

Denton told KIRO-TV,  “I was just like in shock, it took me a minute to face reality — I was like this is really happening.”

Continue reading

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