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From “The Ends Justifies The Means” Files: Senator Feinstein’s Ugly Hybrid, And An Ethics Test For Democrats

The test is simple: how unethical are Democrats willing to be, and how flagrantly, as they desperately try to derail President Trump’s nomination to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, when the right to fill such a vacancy is one of the President’s unquestioned powers, as long as his choice meets basic minimum qualification standards?

Based on the recent tweets from superannuated California Senator Feinstein, fighting for her professional life and apparently pandering to the extreme Left as a result, the answer is “Very unethical, unfortunately.”  The Senator tweeted,

“Two-thirds of Americans don’t want women’s access to reproductive health care restricted. President Trump’s SCOTUS nominee could do just that by overturning Roe v. Wade and setting off at least 20 states’ “trigger laws” restricting abortions.

and…

“Overturning Roe v. Wade would take us back to the days of women being severely injured and dying because they can’t get basic medical care. We’ve come too far to go back to those days.

These are both ugly hybrids designed with malign intent, kind of like the Indoraptor in “Jurassic Park II,” except the components of the vile mutation in this instance aren’t a T-Rex and a Velociraptor, but misrepresentation and fear-mongering.

1. President Trump’s (at this point) un-named nominee can’t “overturn” anything; only the full court can do that. He or see could  ride in the Kentucky Derby, I suppose. Any of Obama’s appointees “could” also “overturn” Roe, if enough Justices went along with them. In a case presenting that possibility. Of which there are none currently before the Court. And which may not get before the Court.

Ethics offense: Deliberately making the public more ignorant. And fear-mongering.

2. Feinstein is falsely using “reproductive health care” as a substitute for “abortion.” They are not the same thing.  I don’t know what polling results the Senator is referring to, but if it involved “reproductive health care,” it wasn’t about abortion specifically. Pew, which is the closest thing we have to a fair and non-partisan survey organization, found only 25% of the public wants abortion to be legal in all cases, which is what no restrictions on access to abortion means, assuming Feinstein’s ” “reproductive health care” is the deceptive code it appears to be. (If she really means “reproductive health care,” she’s nuts. Who has ever stated an opposition to “women’s access to reproductive health care”?)

Ethics offense: Dishonesty. Deceit. Obfuscation. Misuse of statistics to confuse rather than clarify.

And fear-mongering.

3. The second tweet is irresponsible and flat-out false. Overturning Roe-–in that yet to be identified future case that has gone through the lower courts and poses the issue in a way that a majority of the Court deems appropriate for review, with the result accomplished by the presumed vote of the unidentified Justice who, like the rest of the yet to be assembled Court majority, will determine the case without regard for the facts or established law, stare decisus or the outcome of oral arguments—would not do anything but return the determinations of policies regarding what restrictions, if any, will be placed on abortion to the states, and to the voters in those states, with the results very much in doubt.

Ethics offense: Deliberately making the public more ignorant. Dishonesty. Deceit. Obfuscation.

And fear-mongering.

No elected official who deliberately engages in dishonest tactics like this can or should be trusted by the public with power or influence. We should all keep close watch on how much lower abortion advocates are willing to go. For the ends do not justify the means, and politicians, parties, and party leaders who signal otherwise are a menace to democracy, no matter what the issue may be.

 

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Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/8/18: Idiots, Bigots, Liars and Freakouts

Good Morning!

My favorite hymn, naturally: the first selection at my father’s 2010 funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, the stirring finale of “Mrs. Miniver,” and it was composed by none other than Sir Arthur Sullivan.

1. What’s the ethical response to these kinds of stories? I’m pretty sure I don’t have it, whatever it is. From today’s New York Times: “This year, a tourist in India was mauled to death when he tried to take a selfie with a wounded bear.” Last week, an Australian tourist was nearly killed when a shark that she was hand feeding dragged her into crocodile-infested waters. How should we feel about such people? “Serves the morons right” isn’t an ethical response, but that kind of clueless idiocy gets people killed all over the world, every day. Laughter is tempting, but seems cruel. I can’t apply the Golden Rule, because there is no way I can imagine myself behaving quite that stupidly. Is “I’m genuinely sorry that you’re an idiot” mockery, or compassion?

2. What’s going on here? I sure can’t figure it out. The quickest way for you to get up to speed is to click on the link and read the twitter feed backwards. Here’s a summary: two police officers claimed that they were harassed at a Raleigh, N.C. barbecue restaurant, with staff calling out “Fuck the police!” The police association wrote about the alleged incident on Facebook, the restaurant denied the account, and an investigation indicated that the complaints were exaggerated at most, and perhaps fabricated completely.  Then the association posted this:

Huh? The issue is NOT resolved until we learn what, if anything the officers were reacting to, why they made a false claim, and what kind of discipline they face, if any. Meanwhile, the story was reported on social media by a criminal defense attorney (all criminal defense attorneys hate and distrust cops, and vice-versa) whose characterization of the episode is that the police “terrorized a local business.” Terrorized? (Pointer: valkgrrl)

3. As the self-segregation of America continues...Outspoken conservative Hollywood actor James Woods was dropped by his agent, Ken Kaplan, who wrote, “It’s the 4th of July and I’m feeling patriotic. I don’t want to represent you anymore. I mean I can go on a rant but you know what I’d say.” Woods replied,

 “Dear Ken, I don’t actually. I was thinking if you’re feeling patriotic, you would appreciate free speech and one’s right to think as an individual. Be that as it may, I want to thank you for all your hard work and devotion on my behalf. Be well.”

Commenting on this, Constitutional Law expert Jonathan Turley opined, Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/3/2018: Remember Pickett’s Charge! Edition [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1. “General, I have no division!” At about 2:00 pm, , July 3, 1863, by the little Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee launched his last, desperate and audacious stratagem to win the pivotal battle of the American Civil War, a massed Napoleonic assault on the entrenched Union position on Cemetary Ridge, with a “copse of trees” at its center. The doomed march into artillery and rifle fire, across an open field and over fences, lasted less than an hour. The Union forces suffered 1,500 casualties,, while at least 1,123 Confederates were killed on the battlefield, 4,019 were wounded, and nearly 4000 Rebel soldiers were captured. Lee’s bold stroke had failed spectacularly, and would go down in history as one of the worst military blunders of all time.

That verdict is debatable, but this is not: Pickett’s Charge, as the attack came to be called, holds as many fascinating ethics lessons as any event in American history, and this blog has returned to it for enlightenment time and time again.

There is the matter of the duty to prevent a disaster that you know is going to occur, the whistleblower’s duty, and the theme of Barbara Tuchman’s work, “The March of Folly.” There was Robert E. Lee’s noble and unequivocal acceptance of accountability for the disaster, telling the returning and defeated warriors that “It is all my fault.” The defeat also turned on moral luck, with many unpredictable factors, such as the intervention of a brave and intrepid Union cavalry officer named George Armstrong Custer, who also teaches that our greatest strengths and most deadly flaws are often the same thing, and that the Seven Enabling Virtues can be employed for both good and wrongful objectives.  Pickett’s Charge shows how, as Bill James explained, nature conspires to make us unethical.

Pickett’s Charge also teaches that leadership requires pro-active decision-making, and the willingness to fail, to be excoriated, to be blamed, as an essential element of succeeding. Most of all, perhaps, it illustrates the peril’s of hindsight bias, for without a few random turns of fate, Robert E. Lee’s gamble might have worked.

2. Funny how if you continually denigrate someone based on his color and gender, he will eventually stop respecting you. Stanford University has established a Men and Masculinities Project  that aims to help men develop “healthy and inclusive male identities”—because they obviously don’t have those now.  “We acknowledge that male identity is a social privilege, and the aim for this project is to provide the education and support needed to better the actions of the male community rather than marginalize others,” anti-man-splains Stanford’s gurus. Stanford, of course, is not alone in pushing the ubiquitous progressive narrative that men are toxic, along with whites, making white men the worst of all. Perhaps this might explain why support for Democrats among young white men is falling fast.

Nah, it must be because they are sexist and racist…

3. But..but…settled science! The Economist estimates that as many as 400,000 papers published in supposedly peer-reviewed journals were not peer-reviewed at all. Scientists, scholars and academics are no more trustworthy or alien to unethical conduct than anyone else, but because most of the public (and journalists) don’t  understand what they write about and have to accept what they claim on faith, they are presumed to be trustworthy.

Think of them as the equivalent of auto mechanics. Continue reading

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An Ethics Alarms Future News Special, A Looming Ethics Test…And A Poll

There has been a regrettable proliferation of the sub-category of fake news that I call “future news” since the news media fully embraced “the resistance” after the election of Donald Trump. Future news had stuck its camel’s nose into the tent of real news as journalists started reporting climate change predictions as facts rather than speculation. Now future news is standard fare, even in headlines. “Cohen Ready To Flip On Trump” was popular today. “North Korea May Not End All Nuclear Activity.” Of course, the Mueller investigation has created endless future news, and the mainstream media has worked over time to make the public think that the smoking gun that would impeach Trump was just about to be revealed.

I detest future news, and most of the time, it is unethical, a slimy way for journalists to use innuendo and speculation as a substitute for reality. See, news is what has happened or is happening. Future news increasingly is what reporters want to happen, which is generally “bad things involving Donald Trump.”

Just for giggles, though, let’s play the future news game. Here’s my headline:

Democrats May Fail To Take Over House, Lose Seats In Senate. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/29/2018: Reflections On Hubris And Chaos

Good Morning!

 I’ve been feeling sorry for my Democratic and progressive friends ( less so for their ideological allies in government and the news media) who are obviously upset and angry about how matters have proceeded, spinning horribly out of control from their perspective, since November 8, 2016. I hate to see friends in pain, even if they react to it by lashing out against me—well, maybe especially if they lash out against me—and I think I could help them understand why this happened if they were willing to listen, which they are not.

Most of all, their fate is due to hubris of a Euripidean scale, or perhaps Icarus (above) is the better comp. A truly democratic public understands and accepts–must understand and accept— that their side won’t always prevail , and that democracies are like a roller coaster on the way to someplace arguably better over time, based on common principles all of its citizens understand and embrace. Democracies are based on trust in the essential good will of neighbors, and also respect for adversaries, an ethical principle that has great pragmatic benefits as well: eventually, you will be on the bottom looking up, and if you didn’t plant your boot on the faces of those above you now, you are less likely to be tasting leather on a regular basis.

Despite historical lessons such as the nation swinging from Johnson to Nixon and Carter to Reagan, Democrats began to believe their own hype that they were on “the right side of history” in all things, and that the election of Barack Obama guaranteed a constantly ratcheting process towards the transformation of the United States into a socialist, European-style culture. Obama’s smug, superior character catalyzed this fatal error, and the device (which he permitted, if not encouraged)of automatically condemning his critics as racists became a mindset: anyone who disagreed with progressives were racists, sexists, bigots, and otherwise villainous. (You can see this attitude in the recent article in Splinter, a left-wing site, that refers to all of the jurists on the Federalist Society’s Supreme Court candidate’s list as “monsters.” )

This persistent contempt for the humanity of one’s political opponents in a nation is the stuff that totalitarian regimes are made of, and the Democrats, without (perhaps) even realizing it, were well on their way. Adding to their cockiness was the complete abandonment of objectivity by the mainstream media, which during the Obama administration devolved into an uncritical cheering section. Nobody was going to call them racists! Continue reading

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The Controversy Over Separating Children From Illegal Immigrants At The Border: What’s Going On Here?

The current political controversy over the Trump Administration policy of separating parents from children at the Mexican border when they are apprehended for illegal attempts to cross into the United States involves many ethical issues, and, as usual, conduct and rhetoric that confounds ethical analysis, perhaps intentionally.

With most complex ethics problems, the starting point is to ask, “What’s going on here?” This is especially useful in this case, where the news media, open-borders advocacy groups, and various political faction are intentionally steering the debate, and public comprehension, into box canyons of pure emotion.

So: What’s going on here?

 Despite the fact that its editorial page is cheer-leading the box canyon effort, and its journalists are coloring reports on it with their partisan biases, the New York Times has provided the facts, if you can ignore the static Here is the main one:

“For more than a decade, even as illegal immigration levels fell over all, seasonal spikes in unauthorized border crossings had bedeviled American presidents in both political parties, prompting them to cast about for increasingly aggressive ways to discourage migrants from making the trek…Last month, facing a sharp uptick in illegal border crossings, Mr. Trump ordered a new effort to criminally prosecute anyone who crossed the border unlawfully — with few exceptions for parents traveling with their minor children.”

That’s  “all” that has happened. Illegal immigration is...illegal. The Trump Administration has decided to treat breaking immigration laws like the country is supposed to treat all law-breaking—as the crime that it is. The law-breakers are arrested. When law-breakers are arrested for robbery, murder, rape, fraud, embezzlement…anything, really…they are separated from their children. This is not remarkable, nor are the law enforcement officers typically blamed. If a man takes his child to a burglary and he is arrested, then the child is going to be, to use a phrase I am seeing too much lately, “ripped from his arms.” If he is a citizen with a resident family or not a single parent, and the child is also a citizen or in the country legally, the child will be handed into the care of a relative. If not, then that child may also wind up in the custody of a government facility.

The children are being taken from the parents because children are always taken from parents when parents are arrested for a serious crime. What is unusual, and making this situation vulnerable to emotional manipulation on the level of the gun-control debate  in which “Think of the children!” instantly lobotomizes a large segment of the public and obliterates all ability to process reality, are several factors:

  • Criminals don’t typically take their children with them when they break laws.
  • Illegal immigrants can claim to be legitimate “asylum-seekers,” even though most of them are not.
  • Progressives, Democrats and those who aren’t paying much attention either refuse to acknowledge or don’t realize that entering the country illegally is a crime.
  • The illegal border-crossers are, in many if not all cases, using their children to create exactly this political firestorm. Think of them as the equivalent of human shields.
  • Previous Presidents have been willing to be extorted through this emotional black mail–Think of the children!–to  neglect enforcement of immigration laws. This is, in great part, how the United States ended up with 11-13 million illegal immigrants.
  • It is also how the U.S. ended up with President Trump.

Under President Obama, and presumably Bush as well, children trying to cross the border illegally were also held, just with their parents rather than without them, in a politically motivated exception to usual criminal enforcement practice. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/15/18: Spin Wars (Part I)

Good Morning…

…from a galaxy not nearly far enough away…

1. Quick takes on a remarkable 51 minutes on the White House lawn. I just, and I mean just, finished watching President Trump’s spontaneous press conference on the White House lawn, standing within easy spitting distance—brave, given how much so many of these people detest him—of a pack of reporters as Fox’s Baby Doocy held a microphone for him, and picking questions, often hostile, out of the cacophony. Has any previous President done something like this? I’ve never seen such a thing.

If you can’t admire this performance, your anti-Trump virus is raging out of control. I miss the reflex, knee-jerk Democrats and progressives who have, I hope temporarily, taken a hiatus from Ethics Alarms because, in my assessment, they no longer can muster credible defenses of the way this President has been treated by the news media and the resistance, so they have retreated to the warm cocoon of the left-wing echo chamber. Trump’s appearance this morning as well as the Inspector General’s report on the Clinton email investigation are integrity tests. I’d like to think the otherwise intelligent and analytical progressives here would pass them. Ducking the challenge is not a good sign.

Of course, Trump was Trump. As I wrote long ago, constantly harping on what we all know is wrong with Trump is boring and pointless. (See: The Julie Principle) He exaggerated. He spoke in infuriatingly inexact and colloquial word clouds. He celebrated himself and pronounced himself brilliant. I know, I know: if his very existence in the universe is offensive to you, then this performance would be painful. (When Donald Trump isn’t the elected President of the United States, his existence  will probably be offensive to me once again, just as as it was right up to November 8, 2016.) However, the fact is that President Trump showed mastery of the situation. He managed the chaos and maintained his dignity while a generally angry and adversarial mob was shouting at him and interrupting him. I run interactive seminars with lawyers for a living, and I am qualified to say this: what he did is difficult, and he handled it very, very well. Anyone who watches those 51 minutes and refuses to say, “Well, he’s not senile, demented, unstable, dumb or teetering on the brink of madness, I’ve got to give him that much”  had disqualified themselves as a credible Trump critic. He was in command, quick, calm, and in his own way, masterful.

The response of the anti-Trump news media will be to “factcheck” him. He said, for example, that the IG report “exonerated” him, as the pack screamed, “But the report doesn’t discuss the Russian investigation at all!”  This is the old, dishonest and so boring, “Trump is lying when he expresses his feelings and impressions in the cloudy, semi-inarticulate imprecision that he always speaks in, which we will pretend isn’t what we already know it to be.” Of course the report doesn’t formally or actually exonerate him. It does,  in his view (and mine), show a corrupt and untrustworthy culture in the FBI and the Obama Justice Department that treated the Clinton investigation in exactly the opposite fashion that they have used to investigate him. This means, to Trump, that the Mueller investigation is a political hit job, and he regards that as the equivalent of exoneration. Well, he can regard it as cheesecake, if he chooses. His opinion is not “a lie.” (I am being sued, you may recall, by an Ethics Alarms commenter who maintains in his complaint that opinions are lies, so I am rather sensitive on this point.)

Several of Trump’s responses were succinct and effective, as well as infuriating to the anti-Trump journalists, I’m sure. He said that President Obama lost the Crimea when he refused to enforce his own “red line,” thus destroying his credibility and causing Putin to correctly assume that he could move on the Ukraine without consequences. True. He said that he was not worried that Michael Cohen would cooperate with the Mueller investigation, because he, the President, had done nothing wrong. (Headlines like “Will Cohen flip on Trump?” over the last few days imply that there is something to flip about, because the Left, “the resistance,” the news media and those AWOL Ethics Alarms readers have assumed from the beginning that Trump is guilty of some dire and impeachable conduct. Continue reading

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