Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/19/2018: The All-Denial Edition

Good Morning!

On this day in ethics, 1918: Washington catcher Eddie Ainsmith claimed that he should be deferred from the draft because he was a major league baseball player. Uh, nice try, Eddie, but no,  Secretary of War Newton D Baker ruled, as he tried to suppress uncontrollable eye-rolling..

1. “California, here I come!…here I come!…here I come!…” Oh. Never mind. The California Supreme Court took a measure off the ballot that would have allowed Californians to vote on whether the state should be divided into three smaller states, like this:

In its opinion, the Court argued that the changes demanded by the ballot measure exceeded California voters’ broad authority to enact laws by initiative, established in 1911. If enacted, the measure would have in effect abolished the state Constitution and all existing laws, which would have to be replaced by lawmakers  in the three new states. The measure would also alter the laws that define California’s boundaries, amending the state Constitution. That cannot be done by initiative, but instead requires approval by two-thirds of both houses of the Legislature to be placed on the ballot.

I know that the splitting up of California was a transparent effort to hijack the Senate by adding four more guaranteed Democrats. It was also doomed, since this plot would need to pass Congress and not be vetoed by the President. Still, wouldn’t something as obvious as violating the state Constitution arise before the wacko measure was placed on the ballot? How incompetent can you get? How much more incompetent can California get?

2. THIS will end well… Facebook claims that it will be removing false information from its pages when it threatens to cause violence, before it will cause violence. Sure, we all trust Facebook as an objective, trustworthy arbiter of speech, don’t we? Don’t we? Especially since they use the ever-reliable Snopes to check. During an interview with ReCode’s Kara Swisher, Mark Zuckerberg cited Holocaust denials as the kind of misinformation Facebook would allow to remain on the platform.  “At the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong,” Zuckerberg told Swisher. “I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong.”

He doesn’t? I’m not sure Holocaust denial is automatically eligible for Hanlon’s Razor; on the other hand, there are good faith idiots. Speaking of idiots, Zuckerman was surprised when his ignorant shrug sparked angry attacks like that of Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, who said, “Holocaust denial is a willful, deliberate and longstanding deception tactic by anti-Semites that is incontrovertibly hateful, hurtful, and threatening to Jews.Facebook has a moral and ethical obligation not to allow its dissemination.”  Continue reading

Franken’s Resignation Speech: The Lost Opportunity

Senator Al Franken took to the Senate floor to announce that he would be resigning his seat.  It was Harry Truman who said,

“Fame is a vapor, popularity is an accident, riches take wings, those who cheer today may curse tomorrow and only one thing endures – character.” 

What did we learn about Franken’s character today?

Part of me feels that we shouldn’t be too hard on Franken. He is a human being, and this entire scenario for him must be humiliating, frustrating, and infuriating. Yet he is also a U.S. Senator, and knew that he had, perhaps for the only time in his life and professional career, an opportunity to talk when everyone would be listening, or at least interested in what he had to say. Under these circumstances, and in his high elected position, Senator Franken had a unique opportunity to accomplish great things. He had the bully pulpit, essentially, with nothing to lose except the opportunity before him. Nathan Hale had that opportunity minutes before he died, and found the character to make a statement that has rung out in the minds of patriots ever since. Even Richard Nixon, who had blown such an opportunity 12 years earlier when he thought his political career was over, made the best ethics statement of his life when all eyes were on him as he prepared to leave the White House forever. He said in part,

“Remember, always give your best. Never get discouraged. Never be petty. Always remember, others may hate you. But those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.”
Al Franken couldn’t muster the character to say something memorable, inspiring, beneficial or important. He couldn’t even bring himself to apologize: there was no apology anywhere to be found. Given the opportunity to be a statesman, an ethics leader, a role model, Al could only show us the real Al, a petty, small, angry little man. Good to know, I guess, though we already knew it.The Washington Post mercilessly handed the job of annotating the Senator’s speech to Amber Phillips, who could reliably be expected to give no quarter, and she didn’t. She was fair, however, and Al deserved what she gave him.

Franken began by virtue-signalling, saying that he had been excited that

“We were finally beginning to listen to women about the ways in which men’s actions affect them. The moment was long overdue. I was excited for that conversation and hopeful that it would result in real change that made life better for women all across the country and in every part of our society.”

Then the first accusation came his way, and Franken, despite his supposedly sincere statement at the time, didn’t say he was “embarrassed,” or “sorry,” or that there “was no excuse,” that he was “disgusted with himself,”  or that his conduct was “completely inappropriate.” He says he was upset. Says Phillips in her notes,

“Upset” is a pretty strong word to use on the Senate floor, suggesting he was really angry that these women would accuse him of sexual misconduct.”

Franken’s whole demeanor today was angry.  Next he went off the ethics rails:

“But in responding to their claims I also wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation, because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously. I think that was the right thing to do. I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that in fact I haven’t done.”

We have talked about this before. Franken had smugly joined his progressive colleagues in promoting the unethical, dangerous, irrational concept that any woman who accuses a man of sexual assault must be believed, even without evidence. It was this anti-American radical feminist claptrap that had led the Obama administration to issue the vile “Dear Colleague” letter extorting colleges and universities into putting young men accused of sexual assault before biased and unqualified Star Chambers, to be labelled rapists without due process or representation. This was also the most hypocritical stance imaginable for the party that had rescued a President from impeachment by airily arguing that “everyone lies about sex.”

So his convoluted argument was that he chose to bolster the dangerous party cant by pretending that the accusations against him had merit–that is, not challenging whether they were true—when in fact he doesn’t believe they were true. Yes, this is what his second apology sounded like he was doing, and it was obvious: I rated it cynical doubletalk.

And today, Al literally said that cynical doubletalk was “the right thing to do.” In reality, you see, all those women that good progressives should believe were in fact shouldn’t be believed. Got it.

Bye, Al.

Then he said, “Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others, I remember very differently.” Phillips pounced:

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/17/2017: Groping And Griping [Updated]

GOOOOOOD  Morning!

1 Well THAT took an excruciatingly long time! Ethics Alarms finally reached its high water mark in followers this week, and has held the line for a change. Traffic has been disappointing in 2017; this will be the first year in which visits have fallen from the previous one. I blame the anomalous lack of any viral posts, which usually number two or three a year, (and are completely unpredictable), and the Trump-and-Hillary-driven polarization of the web. I have seen a significant net drop in followers every time Ethics Alarms unequivocally criticizes one “side” over the other, no matter how richly the ethics criticism is deserved.

People really do prefer echo chambers. It’s dispiriting.

Update: Right after I posted this, EA lost a follower.

2. Speaking of echo chambers..It is incredible how quickly the Democrats and progressives on Facebook  started defending Sen. Al Franken in the exact same terms, excuses, rationalizations and fallacies used all week by Roy Moore’s unprincipled defenders. The timing is suspicious…it’s only one time…this is politically motivated…we need his vote regardless…I believe him, not her…it was a long time ago…why did she wait so long?…he wasn’t in politics then…What about Trump?...everybody does it. In many cases they  mocked virtually the exact same statements by Republicans spinning for Moore that they are now making themselves.

Those who aren’t quite so hypocritical nonetheless praise Franken’s deceitful and manipulative apology. I guess Al’s supporters and journalists are exactly as dumb as he’s betting they are. The news media has also swallowed that apology whole. If they would just read Ethics Alarms, they wouldn’t embarrass themselves. Well, not so much and so often anyway.

(I’m sorry. The traffic stuff is getting to me…)

3. Read this, and get a surprise! Here’s an interesting website: Your Morals. Org. It has a list of studies you can participate in online—there’s a registration process that isn’t too time consuming— that gather data while purporting to measure your values, political leanings, tolerance for opposing views, and “morality.” I took the political orientation and attitudes survey.

I scored almost exactly in the center, leaning juuust a smidge…Democrat!

4.  NOW they tell us! I’m sorry, but I don’t care to hear Democratic politicians say  that Bill Clinton should have resigned during the Lewinsky scandal. Senator Gillibrand, who brought “Mattress Girl” to the State of the Union, has the immense gall to say that, 20 years after the  issue became moot. Of course he should have resigned. He lied under oath, lied to the American people, directly, calculatedly and intentionally, and obstructed the investigation, legally and illegally. But Democrats and feminists threw their principles into a big bonfire for political expediency, and it is a cheap, transparent and nauseating tactic to reverse themselves after all the damage Clinton’s pass for his “personal conduct” —I remember all the doges and rationalizations–did to the culture.

Paul Mirengoff,  a prominent Maryland-based lawyer who handles labor and employment-law cases, does an excellent job debunking a current Democratic talking point being used to explain why the party’s disgraceful posturing and enabling for Clinton was the result of sexual harassment “not being taken as seriously as it is today.”  He concludes,

Given the history I’ve just described, the argument that feminists and Democrats shrugged off claims of sexual misconduct against Clinton because of “the times” is unsustainable. The argument that, if Bill Clinton were president today, feminists and Democrats would believe Clinton’s accuser, or even just treat them with a modicum of respect, is unpersuasive.

The claims against Clinton were brought at a time of intense consciousness of the problem of sexual harassment. If anything, that consciousness subsided after Clinton’s presidency, thanks to the unwillingness of feminists and liberals to take his sexual misconduct seriously.

That unwillingness cannot be defended on the theory that times were different.

An aside: I saw that Move-On.Org has called for Franken to resign. Hilarious. The organization was created to argue that the nations should “move on” from the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal and let Bill off the hook. I invoke the Ethics Alarms principle of Ethical Estoppel. This group, of all groups, may not argue that any politician should resign after allegation of sexual misconduct. Ever.
Continue reading

And The Witch Hunters Come Calling At Al Franken’s Door…Desperately, He Tries To Explain Away The Pointy Hat, The Black Cat, And The Broom He’s Been Riding

Al Franken!

Of course! Why didn’t I see that coming?

Homely guy, gets involved in the theater club as the class clown to meet girls, moves through the sex and party culture of Harvard theater, on to the hedonist crisis culture of Saturday Night Live and Hollywood, where anything goes, where Harvey and Woody are gods, where sexual harassment and assault are a tradition and everybody does it…after all, it’s just sex…

Leeann Tweeden, a Los Angeles radio news anchor and former Playboy model,  accused Senator Al Franken (D-Minn) of sexual assault and harassment when they were both on a USO tour in 2006. Her story was accompanied by the photograph above, which takes it out of the “he said-she said” category immediately. Within hours, a second woman, a conservative who argued with Franken on an edition of  Bill Maher’s old Comedy Central show, Politically Incorrect, reported that he had harassed her as well, though not sexually, in 2000.

Franken immediately issued a non-apology apology, saying, “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”

In other words, ‘I don’t believe you about my pushing myself on you when you were awake, and feeling you up while you were asleep was obviously a joke, but I apologize anyway, because you obviously can’t take a joke, and my apolologing  the easiest way to get out of this.” On the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, this is a hybrid bad apology with elements of Level #7…

“A forced or compelled version of [a legitimate apology] in which the individual (or organization) apologizing may not sincerely believe that an apology is appropriate, but chooses to show the victim or victims of the act inspiring it that the individual responsible is humbling himself and being forced to admit wrongdoing by the society, the culture, legal authority, or an organization or group that the individual’s actions reflect upon or represent .”

and the even worse #9…

“Deceitful apologies, in which the wording of the apology is crafted to appear apologetic when it is not (“if my words offended, I am sorry”). Another variation: apologizing for a tangential matter other than the act or words that warranted an apology.”

This was lousy, and the reviews were immediate and negative. So Franken came back with a second version, this time in a formal statement:

If you examine it closely, the second apology was more unethical than the first one, but a lot more sneaky about it. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Unethical Quote Of The Week: Bill Clinton”

cartoon

Rich (in CT) delivered a masterpiece yesterday, and a remarkably bold one: I have never seen anyone, pundit, logician, jurist or linguist, attempt to plum the machinations of Bill Clinton’s deceitful arts when he is in top form. Yet astoundingly Rich dissected yesterday’s classic Unethical Quote of the Week from Bubba professing, well, something regarding the Clintons’ various maneuvers  through the devise of the Clinton Foundation, and all I can do is radiate awe.

For the record, that quote was, “There is no doubt in my mind that we have never done anything knowingly inappropriate in terms of taking money to influence any kind of American government policy. That just hasn’t happened.” 

Here is Rich (in CT)’s Comment of the Day, my early favorite for COTD of the Year (but I am biased: the Clintons’ flagrant and joyous celebration of their ethics vacuum fascinates me almost as much as the fact that so many otherwise intelligent people don’t recognize it, though it is as obvious, and almost as long-standing, as the Grand Canyon), on the post, Unethical Quote of the Week : Bill Clinton:

Let’s try a flow chart!

>> “There is no doubt in my mind that”:
>>>> “we have never done”:
>>>>>> “anything knowingly inappropriate”:
>>>>>>>> “in terms of taking money”:
>>>>>>>>>> “to influence”:
>>>>>>>>>>>> “any kind of American government policy”.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> “That just hasn’t happened”.

Parsing the logic: Continue reading