Tag Archives: Dana Milbank

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/29/17: What’s Really Wrong With Single Payer, Incompletely Remembering Charles Kuralt, And Dana Milbank Boards The Ethics Train Wreck

(This is my favorite Arthur Sullivan hymn, even more than “Onward Christian Soldiers”…)

GOOD MORNING!

1 CBS’s “Sunday Morning” had a feature today on the late Charles Kuralt, the original host of the show, famous for his feature “On the Road” in which Kuralt visited “the real America,” meeting locals and revealing regional lore to the rest of the country. At the end of today’s segment, CBS bemoaned the fact that Kuralt, who died 20 years ago, was virtually forgotten, even among journalists if they had no grey in their hair.

This is an example of a larger crisis, cultural illiteracy, that often occupies my thoughts. The blame lies with our inadequate schools and its under-educated teachers, as well as popular culture. Barely knowing anything about George Washington, the root of the previous post, is an existential problem, but only slightly more dangerous are the multiple generations whose member can’t name ten U.S. Presidents, don’t know the dates of the Civil War or who the US defeated in World War II, and who have never heard of Jackie Robinson, Clarence Darrow, Brown v. Board of Education, Eugene McCarthy, Ingrid Bergman, or Lucille Ball.

CBS, however, was indulging its own special breed of disinformation by lionizing Kuralt. Yes, I remember well his plummy voice and avuncular style. I also remember, as CBS would have us forget, the fact that after his death it was revealed that being “on the road” allowed Kuralt to maintain one family in Montana and another, his official one, in New York City. His innovative proposal to CBS to fund his trek back and forth over the contiinent facilitated his betrayal of his family. Kuralt was a sociopath.

2. The most significant ethics story of recent weeks that I have thus far neglected was the announcement that Great Britain’s National Health Service will ban patients from surgery indefinitely if they are obese or smoke. Non life-or death operations, like joint replacements, will be put on hold  until such patients conform to the governement’s life style requirements

Obese patients “will not get non-urgent surgery until they reduce their weight” unless the circumstances are exceptional. Smokers will only be referred for operations if they have stopped smoking for at least eight weeks, with such patients breathalyzed before referral.

When the newly radicalized and Bernie-ized Democratic Prty going all-in for single-payer next year, this cautionary tale needs thorough debate. When the government controls health care, it has the power to constrict personal liberty. The British were horrified by this latest development, which can only be described as the other shoe dropping. What did they expect?

Of course, a party that controls a government that can withhold surgery until citizens conform to mandated life choices would never use that same power to demand other behavior from citizens. Or  assign priorities for surgical procedures to favored groups and constituencies.

Keep telling yourself that. You’ll feel better. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Citizenship, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Workplace

Responsible And Necessary: The Appointment Of A Special Counsel

The Justice Department appointed Robert S. Mueller III (above), a former F.B.I. director, as special counsel to handle the Russia probe.

I am reading conservative pundits fuming over this development for a number of reasons, some of them valid and troubling. However, there is no good argument to be made that a Special Counsel isn’t necessary now.

Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein explained his decision to make the appointment (remember, he is acting AG in the Russian investigation, because Jeff Sessions was bullied and hectored into recusing himself, also unavoidable):

“In my capacity as acting Attorney General, I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a Special Counsel to assume responsibility for this matter.My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination. What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.”

Exactly. As for the last sentence, President Trump has no one to blame but himself. His own, typical, blundering, blathering ways created this atmosphere—that and “Deep State” leaks calculated to undermine him, and a news media feasting on those leaks like sharks on chum.

It is being argued that you can’t appoint a special prosecutor unless there is a finding that crimes have been committed. Here are the relevant sections of the law:

§ 600.1 Grounds for appointing a Special Counsel.

The Attorney General, or in cases in which the Attorney General is recused, the Acting Attorney General, will appoint a Special Counsel when he or she determines that criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted and –

(a) That investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a United States Attorney’s Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances; and

(b) That under the circumstances, it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter.

§ 600.2 Alternatives available to the Attorney General.

When matters are brought to the attention of the Attorney General that might warrant consideration of appointment of a Special Counsel, the Attorney General may:

(a) Appoint a Special Counsel;

(b) Direct that an initial investigation, consisting of such factual inquiry or legal research as the Attorney General deems appropriate, be conducted in order to better inform the decision; or

(c) Conclude that under the circumstances of the matter, the public interest would not be served by removing the investigation from the normal processes of the Department, and that the appropriate component of the Department should handle the matter. If the Attorney General reaches this conclusion, he or she may direct that appropriate steps be taken to mitigate any conflicts of interest, such as recusal of particular officials.

I don’t read the law so narrowly. The law requires that there be a determination that a criminal investigation is warranted, not that crimes have been committed. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

WHAT??? Now It’s Sexist Not To Like Hillary’s Speaking Style?

mad hillary

Washington Post Democratic-shill-masquerading-as-a-journalist Dana Milbank is trying a new tact: if you think Hillary is a lousy campaigner, you’re a sexist. In fact, he came this close to saying that there’s “a special place in hell” for anyone who doesn’t find Hillary Clinton a treat for the eyes and ears.

Of course, he began his column–it is called “The sexist double standards hurting Hillary Clinton”— with a statement designed to make me break some teeth: “Much of Hillary Clinton’s difficulty in this campaign stems from a single, unalterable fact: She is a woman.” No, almost all of of Hillary Clinton’s difficulty in this campaign stems from a single, unalterable fact: She is an untrustworthy liar who can’t stop lying.

Never mind quibbling over that. Here is Dana’s argument in brief:

“The criticism is the same as in 2008: She doesn’t connect. She isn’t likeable. She doesn’t inspire. She seems shrill. “She shouts,” Bob Woodward said on MSNBC this month, also suggesting she “get off this screaming stuff.” Joe Scarborough, the host, agreed: “Has nobody told her that the microphone works?”…That’s not about Clinton; it’s about us. “It is a subtle kind of sexism that exists that we don’t recognize,” said Newton-Small, who literally wrote the book on the matter… “When women raise their voices, people tend to get their hackles up. People I talk to at Clinton events put her in a maternal role: Why is she screaming at me? Am I in trouble?”

Wrong. In fact, laughably wrong. In fact, political-correctness mongering in the First Degree. Clinton is engaged in  fields, advocacy, politics and leadership, where effective communication skills and tools are essential, and her job, indeed, is to communicate in ways that her intended audience finds persuasive and easy to listen to. She can’t say, as Milbank tries to on her behalf, “Enjoy or you’re oppressing me!” Continue reading

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Filed under Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Fairness To Ben Carson: There Is Nothing Wrong With Considering A Presidential Candidates’ Religion And Its Influences

It's true: if you don't think an Amish man should be President, you're violating the Constitution. Or something. Wait...What was the question again?

It’s true: if you don’t think an Amish man should be President, you’re violating the Constitution. Or something. Wait…What was the question again?

As with Donald Trump, I am once again faced with having to defend a Presidential candidate who should not be running and should have fewer supporters than Ted Nugent has functioning brain cells. For the second time in two days the victim is dead-eyed, hubris-infected, “I’m not a politician so I am allowed to be a lousy speaker and campaigner” Ben Carson, the candidate for those who are so disgusted with a President with no executive experience that they want a new President with no government experience or executive experience.

The gleeful news media freak-out spurred by the doctor’s silly generalities about the qualifications of Muslims for the U.S. Presidency was already embarrassing and intellectually dishonest (hence yesterday’s post) before the latest nonsense. The current narrative is that Dr. Carson doesn’t understand the Constitution. No fewer than three columns this morning in the Washington Post alone carried that message, and all quoted the same passage: Article VI’s directive that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office.”

Dr. Carson didn’t say that there should be a religious test for the Constitution. It is critics like Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Eugene Robinson, not Carson, who apparently don’t understand the Constitution. See, Eugene, Dana Milbank, Michael Gerson, Ted Cruz, The Nation, Whoopie Goldberg, Rachel Maddow, and too many others to name, the Constitution doesn’t tell citizens, including citizens you don’t like to see running for President, that they can’t use a religious test for any office, it says that the government can’t.

Did you miss that part?

I don’t know how! Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

“Negative Polarization,” Bigotry, And…Hillary

destroying America

Today in the Times, last week, and over the weekend, there were numerous essays (like this onethis and this) about a recent study that examined the growing phenomenon I have previously written about here and here. The paper’s authors, Alan Abramowitz and Steven Webster, use the term “negative polarization,” but what they are describing is really a kind of bigotry, citizens making important democratic decisions purely on the basis of conditioned hatred and dislike based on gross generalizations about political parties and their supporters rather than dispassionate analysis and independent consideration.

Their conclusion isn’t original; it’s not even surprising. It closely follows last year’s study out of Stanford reaching the same conclusion. Americans increasingly demonize one party or the other and all their representatives and members, thus automatically rejecting policy initiatives, arguments and positions not because of their content, but based on their origins and the identity of their supporters—pure, blind cognitive dissonance. As a result, they will choose candidates and policies irrespective of any rational analysis, based solely on the assumption that the opposing candidate and policy come from a vile and intolerable source.

These studies indicate that Americans now discriminate more on the basis of party than on race, gender or any of the other great divides— and that discrimination extends beyond politics into personal relationships and non-political associations. Americans increasingly live in neighborhoods with like-minded partisans, date and marry fellow partisans and disapprove of their children partying with members of the other party. They are, the data says, more likely to choose partners based on partisanship than physical beauty or personality.

The Stanford study concludes (the Emory study concludes similarly),

“Unlike race, gender and other social divides where group-related attitudes and behaviors are constrained by social norms, there are no corresponding pressures to temper disapproval of political opponents. If anything, the rhetoric and actions of political leaders demonstrate that hostility directed at the opposition is acceptable, even appropriate. Partisans therefore feel free to express animus and engage in discriminatory behavior toward opposing partisans.”

Naturally, this has set off the usual round of finger-pointing by pundits and the media, which itself shares much of the blame. I know who and what have seeded these dragon’s teeth, and the list is long, beginning with Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levine, Bill Press, the Clintons, Lanny Davis, Matt Lauer, Newt Gingrich, Tom Delay, the idiots who made out Florida’s 2000 ballot, Al Gore, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Paul Begala, Jerry Falwell, Mary Matalin, James Carville, David Axelrod, Chris Matthews, Ted Cruz, the Congressional Black Caucus, Fox News, Donald Trump, Truthers, Birthers, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, MSNBC, Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch, Eric Holder, the New York Times editorial board, Charles Blow, the Daily Kos, David Brock and Media Matters, Move-On, Breitbart, Michael Moore, Al Sharpton, Pat Robertson, Harry Reid, Tom DeLay, Nancy Pelosi, the Tea Party, Michael Savage, Salon, Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, and many others, a majority of whom made a conscious decision to exacerbate the divisions in our nation for their own gains in power, influence and wealth. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

Ethics Whistle On The Post’s Dana Milbank…So Blood Won’t Shoot Out My Nose

I know just how you feel, Lewis...

I know just how you feel, Lewis…

I was going to ignore this, I really was. Most Washington Post readers know Dana Milbank is a hard left, often unstable partisan reporter pretending to be an objective analyst. Most also know that he is prone to jump the rails of logic, fairness and reality from time to time, like here, when he blamed a “scandal of the week” mentality on the press and Republicans, and not the fact that the incompetent Obama Administration averages a scandal a week…or here, when he called millennials selfish for not supporting their President’s misbegotten health insurance scheme and acting in their own interests rather than their President’s political interests.

But his most recent column was churning around in my brain like Lewis Black’s routine about overhearing a young woman say, at a table next to him in a restaurant, “If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.” ( Black: “Now, I’m gonna repeat that, because it bears repeating. “If it weren’t for my horse…” as in, giddyup, giddyup, let’s go — ‘I wouldn’t have spent that year in college,’ which is a degree-granting institution. Don’t think about that too long, or BLOOD will shoot out your NOSE!”) Milbank’s columns are often like that for me, and this one, expressing his outrage that the Republicans are trying to repeal what’s left of the estate, or “death tax,” was one of the worst. So you can regard this post as saving my life, if you wish.

I have no philosophical objection to taxing rich people, none at all. However, I have a very great ethical disagreement with those, like Milbank, who seem to think that there is something so sinister about parents trying to amass wealth for their kids that it justifies the government laying claim to what they have achieved, grown and saved through their own had work and responsible decisions. This was the ethic that drove our grandparents, great grandparents and great grandparents to build values, families, businesses, communities and a nation.  Making life better and easier for their children than it was for them was a virtue, and properly recognized as such.

Many studies, out of fashion now and suppressed in academia because they are politically incorrect, have suggested that poverty persists through generations  in part because of the acculturated lack of a future time perspective among some groups, which is a nice way of saying that when people seek instant gratification and don’t save and invest their assets, they become poor and stay poor. It is essential to progressive cant that there are no differences between successful people and unsuccessful people…not intelligence, talent, diligence, industry or ambition…just opportunity and privilege, or the lack of them.* People really believe this, especially the people I see in worn-out clothes buying 30 bucks worth of lottery tickets at a pop in the 7-11 rather than saving the cash to get some job training, or start a college fund for their children, who, this being the D.C. area, probably don’t live with him anyway. No, there’s nothing these unfortunates can do to better their lot, you see. Meanwhile, the government preys on their present-time proclivities by creating rigged lotteries to take their money from them.

Of course, someone born into a wealthy, two-parent, stable and supportive family is equally deluded to think, as the late Texas governor Ann Richards once said derisively of George H.W. Bush, that he hit a triple when in fact he was born on third base. That still does not mean, as Milbank seems to think, that there is something wrong and undesirable about  American’s parents working and sacrificing to make sure their children aren’t left sitting on the bench, or can’t even get in the park to see the game. Milbank, like the lock-step progressive he is, believes that every individual in every generation should have to start life without any competitive advantages over anyone else, and if that means giving his competitors a head start, or making him run with weights on his feet, or tripping him at the start of the race, well, too bad, and too bad for his parents.

That’s fairness to our many Milbanks. To me, fair is for each individual to be able to make the most of what life and luck  provides, through their own abilities and efforts, with the help and assistance of parents and family being a a vital and respected inheritance that reinforces a duty and obligation to do the same for the next generation.

Anyone is free to see it differently. What should not be tolerated are statements like this, by Milbank: Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Rights, U.S. Society

The Benefits of Mutual Respect and Civility vs. Hate and “Partyism”

A New York Times feature from October 3 tells the inspiring tale of a friendship between two scholars, one a Christian, the other an atheist. Their friendship does not thrive in spite of the conflict between their core beliefs, but rather because of it.

Prof. David Skeel, the Christian, recently published  a book, “True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World.”  His atheist friend, Patrick Arsenault,  is  acknowledged in the book and quoted as well, and the Times notes that “True Paradox” “might not have existed at all, or certainly would not exist in its present shape and voice, without the secular scientist as its midwife. And that odd reality is testament to a rare brand of mutual civility in the culture wars, with their countervailing trends of religious fundamentalism and dogmatic atheism.” Says Skeel:

“One of the things we talked about was whether it matters if we persuade each other. I long to have Patrick converted to my perspective. So how can we have a friendship? I see it as toleration in the deepest meaning. We don’t just ‘put up’ with each other’s beliefs. We interrogate them.”

Arsenault tells the Times that “in the culture wars, the rhetoric is acerbic on both sides. On the humanist side, there’s this tendency to view people of faith as not rational. And David is clearly rational. He’s just looked at the same evidence as me and come to a different conclusion.”

Contrast this attitude—rational, respectful, practical, fair, constructive and profoundly ethical, with the “partyism” and bigotry being practiced with increasing intensity as the mid-term elections approach. There is Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank in the video clip above, for example,  not merely accusing Republicans of fear-mongering, but suggesting that their criticism of the Secret Service is insincere: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Religion and Philosophy