Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/21/18: Comments, Clarkson, Bitter Hillary, And Weiner Dogs Amuck

Good morning, all.

1. Housekeeping note: Some commenters are expressing displeasure that I suspended a regular participant here following what I consider to be excessively disrespectful discourse toward me. Well. when they try moderating an ethics blog read by educated, passionate and verbally adept people for nine years, I’ll pay more attention to that displeaure. The task is much like that of a lion-tamer in the circus: as I learned when I read the autobiography of one who survived until retirement, the big cats growling is fine, and even the occasional swipe for show is tolerable, but when they start being disrespectful, you either show who’s boss quick or you get gang-mauled and eaten.

In about two weeks, I have to fly to Boston—on my own dime, of course— to ask a judge to dismiss a $100,000 defamation lawsuit from a banned commenter here. Am I bit inclined to be less than charitable to rude commenter outbursts aimed at me right now? Yes. The matter at issue right now involved flat-out, unambiguous personal mockery and derision, and the Comment Policies, accessible for years on the link above, specifically designate “6) Mockery without substance”  as commentary conduct that is not appreciated, , and also notes that a commenter risks be discipline for “…Insulting me, in particular by questioning my integrity, honesty, objectivity, intentions, motives, qualifications, or credentials.”

The commenter who was suspended can return to the wars at any time he chooses, after offering an acceptable apology.

2. Breaking my vow already…to eschew writing about the aftermath of the latest school shooting, I have to mention that Lelly Clarkson’s emotional speech at last night’s Billborad awards was played this morning on CNN and Headline News—and I assume elsewhere—as if she actually was saying something of substance. She wasn’t:

Is the news media going to keep on trying to steer a policy debate with complex social, legal, constitutional, cultural and practical factors into this emotion-flooded, intellectually useless dead end? Apparently so. I’m sure Kelly is sincere, but “moment of action” is nothing but another way of saying “do something,” which itself is just another form of screaming at the sky. What action, Kelly? Unless you make a relevant proposal that addresses the event you are crying about, your statement is worse than useless.

We should not keep pandering to this invitation to turn off our brains regarding guns, yet that is what the news media is actively campaigning for us to do.  They are irresponsible to do this.

But we knew that. Continue reading

Review: Ethics Alarms Concepts And Special Terms

Recently updating the Ethics Alarms list of concepts and frequently used terms reminded me that I had been meaning to post them for review and assistance to those relatively new here. Of course, the link has always been right there at the top of the home page, but I have this sneaking suspicion that it isn’t visited very often.  Here, then, is the up-to-date list.

CONCEPTS

Non-Ethical Considerations: Defined above, non-ethical considerations are important because they are often the powerful impediments to ethical conduct, and the cause of many conflicts of interest. Non-ethical considerations are many and diverse, and include:

  • The need and desire for shelter, health, wealth, fame, security, self-esteem, reputation, power, professional advancement, comfort, love, sex, praise, credit, appreciation, affection, or satisfaction
  • The desire for the health, comfort, safety, welfare and happiness for one’s family, loved ones, friends, colleagues, an co-workers
  • The pursuit of vengeance or retribution
  • Hunger, lust, pain, ambition, prejudice, bias, hatred, laziness, fatigue, disgust, anger, fear
  • …and many more

Ethical Dilemma: This is an ethical problem in which the ethical choice involves ignoring a powerful non-ethical consideration. Do the right thing, but lose your job, a friend, a lover, or an opportunity for advancement. A non-ethical consideration can be powerful and important enough to justify choosing it over the strict ethical action.

Ethical Conflict: When two ethical principles demand opposite results in the same situation, this is an ethical conflict. Solving ethical conflicts may require establishing a hierarchy or priority of ethical principles, or examining the situation through another ethical system.

Ethical Gray Area: Gray areas are situations and problems that don’t fit neatly into any existing mode of ethical analysis. In some cases, there may even be a dispute regarding whether ethics is involved.

Reciprocity: The ethical system embodied by The Golden Rule, and given slightly different form in other religions and philosophies. It is a straight-forward way of judging conduct affecting others by putting oneself in the position of those affected. Reciprocity should always be available in any ethical analysis, but it is frequently too simple to be helpful in complex ethical situations with multiple competing interests.

Absolutism: Absolutist systems do not permit any exception to certain ethical principles. The champion of all absolutists, philosopher Immanuel Kant, declared that the ethical act was one that the actor was willing to have stand as a universal principle.

One principle of absolutism is that human beings can never be harmed for any objective, no matter how otherwise worthwhile. Absolutism has the advantage of making tough ethical calls seem easy, and the disadvantage of making debate impossible. One sees absolutism reflected today in the controversies over war, torture, abortion, cloning, and capital punishment.

Utilitarianism: Utilitarianism accepts the existence of ethical conflicts and the legitimacy of some ethical dilemmas, and proposes ethical analysis based on the question, “Which act will result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people?’ It entails the balancing of greater and lesser goods, and is useful for unraveling complex ethical problems. Its drawback, or trap, is that utilitarianism can slide into “The ends justify the means” without some application of absolutist and reciprocity principles.

Consequentialism: In formal ethics, utilitarian schools of philosophy are sometimes lumped together as “consequentialism,” in that the ethical decision-making is based on seeking the best result. Here we just uses the above term, utilitarianism.  Consequentialsm, in contrast, is the flawed belief that the rightness or wrongness, or even wisdom, of chosen conduct is measures by its actual results rather than its intended results. If “if all worked out for the best,” in other words, the conduct that created the desirable result most have been ethical, whatever its intent or however the conduct was determined to be necessary or desirable. This is a fallacy.

Cognitive Dissonance:
Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon first identified by Leon Festinger. It occurs when there is a discrepancy between what a person believes, knows and values, and persuasive information that calls these into question. The discrepancy causes psychological discomfort, and the mind adjusts to reduce the discrepancy. In ethics, cognitive dissonance is important in its ability to alter values, such as when an admired celebrity embraces behavior that his or her admirers deplore. Their dissonance will often result in changing their attitudes toward the behavior. Dissonance also leads to rationalizations of unethical conduct, as when the appeal and potential benefits of a large amount of money makes unethical actions to acquire it seem less objectionable than if they were applied to smaller amounts.

Moral Luck: The common situation where an unethical act is only discovered, noticed, or deemed worthy of condemnation due to unpredictable occurrences that come as a result of the act or that affect its consequences. Moral luck is the difference, for example, between two mildly intoxicated drivers, one of whom arrives home without incident, while the other has an unwary child dash in front of his automobile, leading to a fatal accident that he couldn’t have avoided if completely sober. Yet the unlucky driver will be a pariah in the community, while the more fortunate driver goes on with his life.

SPECIAL TERMS USED ON ETHICS ALARMS

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Partisan Hypocrisy And Dishonesty: A Facebook Case Study In Clinton Corruption

dont-despair

The unethical individual in this case is an old and cherished friend. She isn’t a fool. She is, in most matters, compassionate, fair, informed, thoughtful and rational.  I cannot begin to describe how disappointed I am in the lack of integrity and self-awareness in her conduct.

Before the election, she posed the meme above.  That’s the friend I know, or thought I knew before the toxic values of Hillary Clinton corrupted her.

After the election, she has posted this, a typically vile, sneering anti-conservative screed by Paul Krugman. A quote:

We thought that the great majority of Americans valued democratic norms and the rule of law.It turns out that we were wrong. There turn out to be a huge number of people — white people, living mainly in rural areas — who don’t share at all our idea of what America is about. For them, it is about blood and soil, about traditional patriarchy and racial hierarchy. And there were many other people who might not share those anti-democratic values, but who nonetheless were willing to vote for anyone bearing the Republican label.

I don’t know how we go forward from here. Is America a failed state and society? It looks truly possible.

 

No despair there!

Next up was this hysterical piece, from the New Yorker, called “An American Tragedy.” I can’t let this part go unanswered, because it is becoming the accepted manipulative and deception euphemism of the election. Hillary’s beaten, she’s gone, and unlike Richard Nixon, she’s not going to rise like Dracula and make a comeback. I want to leave her alone just as I never want the slimy Clintons to darken my brainpan again, but first, I want the biased journalists who tried to sell her as Joan of Arc to stop the lies.

The author writes,

“Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate but a resilient, intelligent, and competent leader, who never overcame her image among millions of voters as untrustworthy and entitled.”

Donald Trump could just as justifiably could be called “flawed,” as well as Pol Pot. What are the “flaws” this cover-word is hiding? Well, she is greedy, venal, willing to use conflicts of interest and influence peddling for personal gain, violates rules and laws when she knows she is shielded by her power and crony connection from accountability, a ruthless foe of the victim of alleged sexual assault when it is advantageous, and an outspoken advocate for them when that is advantageous. When she is caught, she lies. When the lies are exposed, she spins, and her apologies are misleading too. That’s why she “never overcame her image among millions of voters as untrustworthy and entitled“—she IS untrustworthy and entitled, and couldn’t hide it long enough to be elected President over a completely unstable, ignorant ass. Resilient—I’ll give her resilient. Intelligent too, although she sure did and said some incredibly stupid things for an intelligent person. But competent? Competent people learn about cyber-security when they run the State Department. Competent people are not “extremely careless” (rather than “grossly negligent”) in handling classified information.

Then my friend posted this, from Vanity Fair. It’s a letter Hollywood liberal Aaron Sorkin supposedly wrote to his daughter. It is full of scaremongering like this:

“The Klan won last night. White nationalists. Sexists, racists and buffoons. Angry young white men who think rap music and Cinco de Mayo are a threat to their way of life (or are the reason for their way of life) have been given cause to celebrate. Men who have no right to call themselves that and who think that women who aspire to more than looking hot are shrill, ugly, and otherwise worthy of our scorn rather than our admiration struck a blow for misogynistic shitheads everywhere. Hate was given hope….And the world took no time to react. The Dow futures dropped 700 points overnight. Economists are predicting a deep and prolonged recession…”

Yes, “economists” like Paul Krugman, who wrote Tuesday night that the stock market would NEVER recover. The stock market rebounded almost immediately, and stocks are now soaring. Bias makes you stupid.

Not finished yet in her efforts to avoid despair, my friend posted this editorial from the New York Times, which encompassed boiler-plate progressive talking points:

“There is a planet to save. The earth is in peril from a changing climate no matter how many deniers say otherwise. There may be millions of immigrants to shield from a Trump homeland-enforcement regime. State and local governments may need to step in if the federal government retreats from protecting consumers or helping educate children. And there may be sick people to care for, should Mr. Trump dismantle the Affordable Care Act.”

Of course, Mrs. Clinton never articulated a course for “saving the planet” or its price-tag, because she knows that spending massive amounts on speculative “fixes” will make the debt even more frightening than it has become under Obama, and will require either cutting social spending or massive tax hikes. That part is just Bernie-speak. There are no legal immigrants to shield from anything, and the New York Times just declared that the prospect of enforcing our laws is apocalyptic. Under federal funding and guidance, America’s education at all level is disgraceful now. And the Affordable Care Act has mass heath care increasingly affordable for those who didn’t need a government subsidy. Trump might try something else that actually works? The monster.

The specifics are a tangential issue though, I know. The point is that this, and a huge number of other irresponsible editorials, assays, columns creeds and internet posts like them, are seeding despair. So are the Clinton Corrupted who are plastering them all over public media.

On this last one, I lightly pointed out to my friend that the essay was less that fair or accurate, as did another.

She deleted both comments.

Now I understand, unfortunately. That reasonable, measured, rational, responsible appeal to calm and fairness was only supposed to apply to Republicans. Since my friend never dreamed that she might be held to the same standards she preached to those whose opinion she did not agree with or respect, she never considered having to follow her own advice, or the ethical value of doing so.

Like anything else, ethics is just another political tool to the politically corrupted, to manipulate and deceive.

UPDATE: Kelly Ripa, Ethics Corrupter, Makes My Ethics Alarm Explode

explosion

When last we visited Kelly Ripa, erstwhile star of ABC’s “Kelly and Michael Live!,” she was engaging in a wildcat strike against her employer, her staff and her audience because she had her pert little nose out of joint over her co-star being snapped up to host “Good Morning America” without her blessing. Her hissy-fit ended today, and she delivered a scripted announcement to begin her show.

To say it was awful is an insult to the word “awful.” The statement not only displays unethical values, it celebrates them. Let me provide the text here—I honestly got so agitated watching the video that I had to turn it off, as I was awash with disgust—with my ethics commentary in bold. I will color it “vomit,” however, because that’s what Ripa’s arrogant, smug,  unethical grand-standing deserves. Continue reading

Help! Hillary Clinton And Her Media Apologists Are Trying To Kill Me!

exploding-head5

You know, my head can only explode so many times. It is already a callenge chore getting through the day without a ceiling clean-up when I have to listen to otherwise smart and reasonable friends and relatives justify their defense of Hillary Clinton’s corruption and dishonesty by resorting to rationalizations and selective memory, but the cranial pressure becomes unbearable when Hillary herself provides another example of her ethics corruption wizardry and reporters applaud.

As has been thoroughly explained here and elsewhere, Clinton decided to duck Bernie Sanders’ accusation that her Wall Street contributors expect something in return and that her pose as a tough Wall Street reformer was inherently incredible by changing the subject and playing the 9-11 card. Her entire explanation for why Wall Street firms were throwing millions her way:

“So, I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country.”

Somehow, I missed what happened next, which is why I didn’t mention it in the two debate posts. Maybe I was stricken with a merciful moment of deafness. Maybe Clinton’s answer caused me to black out temporarily. Or maybe that was the moment I was screaming at my sister, “THAT’S WHO YOU THINK SHOULD BE PRESIDENT??? WHAT THE HELL’S WRONG WITH YOU???” For whatever reason, I just learned about this now.

After Clinton’s 9-11 spin, a rueful tweet from a law professor arrived during the debate: “I’ve never seen a candidate invoke 9/11 to justify millions of Wall Street donations until now,” wrote Andy Grewal, a law professor at the University of Iowa.

CBS passed it on to Hillary.  “And Secretary Clinton, one of the tweets we saw said this,” said CBS’s tweet-mistress Nancy Cordes.  “I’ve never seen a candidate invoke 9/11 to justify millions of Wall Street donations until now.” The idea being, yes, you were a champion of the community after 9/11, but what does that have to do with taking big donations?”

Hillary’s answer—Let me strap down my head after wrapping it in duct tape—there— “Well, I’m sorry that whoever tweeted that had that impression because I worked closely with New Yorkers after 9/11 for my entire first term to rebuild.”

KABOOM!

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Ethics Observations On The Second Democratic Candidates Debate, Part 2 of 2

Dems three

The transcript is here.

Part I is here.

6. Sooner or later, a Democrat is going to have to answer a question about the “safe places,” microaggressions,” college campus meltdown that is, I think, just gathering momentum, and choose between alienating the young black base that elected Barack Obama, or horrifying people who believe in free speech and thought, presumably a few iconoclast Democrats and a lot of independents. Significantly, CBS didn’t ask Sen. Sanders that question.

Well, it’s significant if you  believe that CBS is protecting the Democrats. As we saw in Bernie’s coddling of Black Lives Matter, and know from the fact that he’s a Marxist at heart, he doesn’t really expect to be nominated and has no spine (see Part I), Sanders was a good bet to fully endorse the anti-free speech position taken by the students at Yale, Amherst and Mizzou. That would have put the whole Party, which right now is Hillary, on the spot. Surely CBS would never do that. The alternative is to believe that last night’s journalists were inept.

Only Hillary was asked the question, and she ducked it with something akin to what Olson Johnson called “authentic frontier gibberish”:

DICKERSON: Secretary Clinton, you told some Black Lives Matter activists recently that there’s a difference between rhetoric in activism and what you were trying to do, was — get laws passed that would help what they were pushing for. But recently, at the University of Missouri, that activism was very, very effective. So would you suggest that kind of activism take place at other universities across the country?

CLINTON: Well, John, I come from the ’60s, a long time ago. There was a lot of activism on campus — Civil Rights activism, antiwar activism, women’s rights activism — and I do appreciate the way young people are standing up and speaking out. Obviously, I believe that on a college campus, there should be enough respect so people hear each other. But what happened at the university there, what’s happening at other universities, I think reflects the deep sense of, you know, concern, even despair that so many young people, particularly of color, have…You know, I recently met with a group of mothers who lost their children to either killings by police or random killings in their neighborhoods, and hearing their stories was so incredibly, profoundly heartbreaking. Each one of them, you know, described their child, had a picture. You know, the mother of the young man with his friends in the car who was playing loud music and, you know, some older white man pulled out a gun and shot him because they wouldn’t turn the radio down.Or a young woman who had been performing at President Obama’s second inauguration coming home, absolutely stellar young woman, hanging out with her friends in a park getting shot by a gang member.And, of course, I met the mothers of Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, and Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin and so many of them who have lost their children.So, your original question is the right question. And it’s not just a question for parents and grandparents to answer. It’s really a question for all of us to answer, every single one of our children deserves the chance to live up to his or her god-given potential. And that’s what we need to be doing to the best of our ability in our country.

DICKERSON: All right, over to Kevin Cooney.

Hilarious.

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Boehner, Leadership And The Consequentialism Exception

At the end of John Beohner’s press conference responding to his sudden resignation, there was this exchange:

QUESTION: Can you talk about what you think your legacy is as you’re leaving? What are your most important accomplishments, and what are you going to do on November 1st? Are you moving to Florida?

BOEHNER: I was never in the legacy business. You all heard me say it, I’m a regular guy with a big job. And I never thought I’d be in Congress much less I’d ever be speaker. But people know me as being fair, being honest, being straightforward and trying to do the right thing every day on behalf of the country. I don’t need any more on that.

I will frequently inveigh here against the fallacy of consequentialism, the mistake of believing that whether conduct is ethical or not can be judged by its results. This leads inexorably to an “ends justifies the means” orientation and a misunderstanding of ethics. The ethical nature of an act can only be weighed according to how it was arrived at, its intent, and whether the conduct itself meets the tests of one or more ethical systems. Then moral luck takes over: an ethical decision can have catastrophic consequences and still be ethical, and the most unethical conduct can have wonderful results.

In life, however, and especially in some fields, ethics isn’t enough, and we all know it, or should. This is why consequentialism can’t be snuffed out of our thinking. There are fields of endeavor in which results are the primary standard by which we can—and should— judge whether someone was competent in the role he or she took on for themselves when others could have done the job better. In these fields being ethical isn’t enough, and often is grossly inadequate.  If one is a leader, for example, it cannot be right to lead those behind you to disaster, indeed to fail. In a field that is defined by the successful completion of a task that affects others, failure and ethics are incompatible. A failed leader is a bad leader. The objective in leadership is not just to “do the right thing,” but to succeed at ethical objectives in the right way. Continue reading