And The Winner Of The First Ethics Alarms Readers Challenge Is….

First time commenter Aleksei!

atlantic-hillaryThe lateness of this announcement is embarrassing, and I apologize to all. The Challenge was to compose the best analysis, positive or negative, of a mind-melting pro-Hillary puff-piece in the Atlantic called—then, for the title was later changed because it was ridiculous)—“Why is Hillary Clinton So Widely Loved?”

A sample:

A conservative writer labeled her a congenital liar when she was first lady, and the label stuck because it was repeated over and over—and it was a convenient label to harness misogyny. If she was a liar, then the hostility she engendered could not possibly be because she was a first lady who refused to be still and silent. “Liar’ has re-emerged during this election even though Politifact, a respected source of information about politicians, has certified that she is more honest than most politicians—and certainly more honest than her opponent.

Because she is already considered guilty in a vague and hazy way, there is a longing for her to be demonstrably guilty of something. Other words have been repeated over and over, with no context, until they have begun to breathe and thrum with life. Especially “emails.” The press coverage of “emails” has become an unclear morass where “emails” must mean something terrible, if only because of how often it is invoked.

The challenge was issued on November 3rd, and my intention was to publish the winner on the 6th, two days before the election. There were not many entries, in part because Aleksei’s analysis was so quickly posted and thorough. In the frantic run-up to the election, including my own resolution of the many conflicts the choice represented for me professionally and personally, I just forgot to publish Aleksei’s work, and then moved on to other issues in the election.

I apologize to Aleksei and Ethics Alarms readers.

It  certainly is weird to read the article and the analysis now. It was written only two weeks ago, but it feels like a lifetime ago. The election was the ultimate rebuttal of the essay’s argument—if Hillary really was “so widely loved,” she’d be President today—and the kind of mindless worship and relentless denial the piece displays was a large factor in her defeat. It is bracing to read this in light of the efforts by the Clinton team, Democrats, and various pundits to absolve Clinton and the party from all accountability for the most stunning upset in presidential election history. Hillary blames the loss, predictably, on James Comey, which is like blaming the loss of your license for speeding on traffic cops. On MSNBC on this week, former Clinton campaign communications director Jess McIntosh put the blame on  white women with “internalized misogyny,” who couldn’t bring themselves to vote to elect the first woman president. Then there was the narrative that Trump’s win was based on massive support for “Misogyny, Racism and Xenophobia”—good names for triplets, now that I think about it. Slate’s star race-baiter, Jamelle Bouie, wrote that there is “no such thing as a good Trump voter.” To paraphrase the hysterical woman who gives “The Birds” its funniest moment, Bouie thinks everyone who didn’t vote for this beloved woman is “Evil! Evil!”

I don’t necessarily agree with all the analysis of the winning submission, but he was willing to slog through the Atlantic’s disingenuous mess, and Ethics Alarms is grateful.

Here then, late, is the winner of the first Ethics Alarms Readers Challenge:

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Presenting The First Ethics Alarms Readers’ Challenge!

loved

The Atlantic has published a jaw-dropping puff-piece on Hillary Clinton with the astounding title, “Why is Hillary Clinton so widely loved?”

I read the thing (for a thing it is), and was salivating over the chance to eviscerate it, but I’m feeling a little nauseous, and I’ve been indulging my disgust with Hillary and her apologists and minions a bit much lately. Thus I have decided to offer the task to you, dear readers. This is the first Ethics Alarms Readers’ Challenge, and the challenge is to write the most thorough, fair, well-argued and entertaining analysis. I will publish the best of the submissions in a separate post. Yes, submissions that defend the article and attempt to validate its position are welcome, and I would venture that any piece that successfully explains why it isn’t complete, intellectually and ethically indefensible crap would be a strong candidate for the prize.

Entries will be judged by the quality of their ethical analysis, the number of fallacious arguments identified, the number of rationalizations flagged, and the quality of the rebuttals, if any.

The winner will be published on the morning of November 6.

Good luck, and have fun!

 

Look! “An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments”!

bad arguments

As various thought fallacies and flawed arguments are constantly being exposed, used, debunked or otherwise referenced during our ethics discussions and debates—the Ethics Alarms compendium is here–this looked like something readers would enjoy. I probably should dedicate this post to former blog Commenter of the Year tgt, in appreciation for his ending—maybe just briefly, we shall see—his latest sabbatical with a flurry of 70 comments while I was lecturing in Newport last week. I didn’t have time to properly engage him or even read all the comments, but he seemed in characteristic form.

Tgt loves the fallacies and delights in slapping them down whenever they occur. His favorite is “No True Scotsman.” I immediately thought of him when I  stumbled upon “An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments” by the multi-talented Ali Almossawi. Tgt’s  pet fallacy is here, as well as ad hominem, appeals to authority, the straw man, equivocation and others, some under different names than those I am used to. I haven’t read it carefully: there may be one or two that needs to be added to the Ethics Alarms list.

This is a well-researched and written exposition of some major fallacies with lovely illustrations, presented like a vintage children’s book. Someone should actually publish a children’s book like this: I would have been grateful for one when my son was a boy, or when I was a boy.  I’m grateful for this now.

You can find this amazing work of art, ethics, rhetoric and logic here. I’ve already sent the link around to many friends, young and old, and you may want to do the same.

 

Further Ethics Observations On The Planned Parenthood Videos

hand

1. The fourth in a series of surreptitiously obtained videos depicting Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal body parts for research has been released. The Center for Medical Progress is the anti-abortion group that has created these videos: it defines itself as a “citizen journalist” project. Since these videos have been made using deception and without the safeguards of established journalism ethics by untrained and non-objective journalists, Ethics Alarms has consistently held that they are the result of unethical conduct, regardless of the motives behind them or what they show.

I am, reluctantly, reversing that verdict. The reason is the now undeniable refusal of the mainstream media and professional journalists to do their duty regarding the abortion issue in general and Planned Parenthood in particular. Despite the significance of these videos, the attack on Planned Parenthood and the fact that abortion is the most contentious and least resolved moral-ethical issue of our time, the news media, broadcast and print, have intentionally and unconscionably avoided covering the Center for Medical Progress videos and the issues they raise. The average American who does not monitor the news over the internet probably isn’t aware of the videos at all, and certainly has no sense of their content.

Journalism ethics codes state that deception and surreptitious means are only justified as investigative methods of reporting when more open and transparent reporting cannot obtain the facts. When professional journalists shrink from their duty to obtain the facts and report the truth, citizen journalists must take over, because democracy requires truth and transparency. Journalists should have made these videos. Because reporters abdicated their duties, those who picked up the dropped banner of probing investigative journalism regarding vital national issues should not be condemned. They should be praised, and by everyone, including journalists. If a fire fighter refuses to enter a burning building to rescue a child, and a citizen knocks down a door to do the job, I don’t want to see that citizen charged for the cost of the door, or criticized for acting. The videos are a public service, and necessary perspective on our society’s war against the unborn. Continue reading

Planned Parenthood’s Callousness Toward Life On Video, ACT II

In her op-ed for  USA TODAY, Kirsten Powers, one of the token liberals (she’s a moderate conservative, really) on Fox News, does an excellent job of compiling the inadequate and indeed damning responses of Planned Parenthood and the pro-abortion establishment to the video evidence of its executives’ stunning lack of respect for  unborn human life. (I covered much of the same territory here and here.) There is now a second video, and that means that the “this is just an aberration and one woman’s mistake” rationalization for Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical research, Deborah Nucatola casually talking about crushing the heads of living human beings to preserve their organs for medical research. Powers quotes her “friend and former Obama White House staffer Michael Wear” as tweeting “It should bother us as a society that we have use for aborted human organs, but not the baby that provides them.”

Well said. Does it bother us? It certainly doesn’t bother Democratic presidential candidates, none of whom have breathed a word about the videos. Neither have they been asked about them, because with the exception of the evil Fox News, none of the news organizations have treated the first video as anything but a one day story. Writes Powers, accurately,

It’s a measure of how damning the video is that Planned Parenthood’s usual defenders were nowhere to be found. There was total silence from The New York Times editorial board and their 10 (out of 11) pro-abortion rights columnists. Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi — both recipients of Planned Parenthood’s highest honor, the Margaret Sanger Award — have been mum.

They want the story to go away, and the reason is that the ethics of abortion is extremely vulnerable to facts and honest discussion. Shouldn’t the news media be promoting both? Let me rephrase that: wouldn’t objective, unbiased, ethical journalists have a duty to examine the issue in the light of the videos, and not shrink from them?

Of course. Continue reading

More On The Planned Parenthood “Sting” Video: A Fake Apology, The News Media Embargo, Misdirection, Another Dishonest Defense…And New Rationalization #38 A : “Mercy For Miscreants”

Side issue: Newsbusters used this photo of Petula Dvorak. Is that unethical, as in gratuitously mean? There are nicer ones. (Of course, I'm using the photo to raise the issue. Honest.)

Side issue: Newsbusters used this photo of Petula Dvorak. Is that unethical, as in gratuitously mean? There are nicer ones. (Of course, I’m using the photo to raise the issue. Honest.)

The surreptitiously filmed video of a Planned Parenthood official talking about butchering babies like Ed Gein talking about how to make lampshades out of a human face presented anti-abortion advocates with smoking gun evidence of the callousness and disregard of fetal life the pro-abortion movement has cultivated. One cannot think about fetuses, even advanced fetuses, as living, human beings and blithely encourage their destruction. The recorded comments of Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical research, released in the shortened version of a three hour video, should inform a national debate regarding abortion, a debate that the pro-abortion forces desperately want to avoid. The video itself makes it clear why.

Thus the news media is determined to bury the story, just as it barely covered the abortion House of Horrors of Dr. Kermit Gosnell. The ugly reality of abortion is not supportive of abortion, just as the reality of slavery was rejected and avoided by slavery proponents until Uncle Tom’s Cabin shocked the culture out of its denial. Abortion advocates focus on the beneficial results of abortion– freedom for women, workforce flexibility, family planning, personal power—and it is the equivalent of slavery advocates pointing to the Old South’s agricultural affluence and pleasant lifestyle to justify keeping hguman beings in chains. The news media shouldn’t be picking winners in this cultural debate. It has a duty to report facts, especially facts that might shock the public out of ignorance and apathy on such a vital issue involving law and ethics.

As activists are wont to do in their passion, the Live Action-affiliated group that released the video over-reached in its interpretation of it, thus giving the news media, Planned Parenthood and the pro-abortion lobby an easy path to deflection. The video doesn’t prove, or even strongly suggest, that Planned Parenthood is selling baby parts for research. By making that accusation, the group opened the door to attacks on the legitimacy of the video. Every media report says that it is “heavily edited,” a phrase intended to suggest that it is deceptively edited. The video is heavily edited because the raw video, which is available to view as well, is three hours long and watching it is like watching paint dry while being hit in the face by an occasional rock.

Unless the media defenders of Planned Parenthood think that the unedited video contains moments when Nucatola says, “Oh, by the way, I didn’t mean what I just said, even though I sounded like I did,” the woman displayed a callous, core attitude that killing a human embryo is as ethically significant as stepping on a cockroach. That’s what is so disturbing about the video, why it is important, and why abortion foes should make certain it is viewed by as many U.S. citizens as possible. Political figures, candidates for office and elected officials should also be forced to confront the video, with “well, that’s heavily edited” being immediately called what it is: a dodge.

On the topic of dodges, we have Planned Parenthood’s apology for Nucatola. Cecile Richards, the group’s president, stated in a video:

“Our top priority is the compassionate care that we provide. In the video, one of our staff members speaks in a way that does not reflect that compassion. This is unacceptable, and I personally apologize for the staff member’s tone and statements. As always, if there is any aspect of our work that can be strengthened, we want to know about it, and we take swift action to address it.”

On the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, this is a solid #9,“apologizing for a tangential matter other than the act or words that warranted an apology.” Compassion toward whom? The issue in the video is the disgusting lack of compassion for the unborn who are being reduced to body parts for medical research, not lack of compassion for the mothers of those little bundles of body parts.

As with the Slate’s attempted defense of the indefensible, Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak was propelled by the perceived threat to Planned Parenthood and abortions galore into a near hysterical condemnation of the video, one that, also like the Slate column, nicely illustrated the ethical and logical deficits in the pro-abortion position.

She begins by defining the latest addition to the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List with her very first sentence: “Planned Parenthood has become one of the most attacked groups in America.” The simple rejoinder to that is, “So what?” Either the group deserves a particular criticism, or it doesn’t. The fact that some criticism is unfair or excessive does not invalidate legitimate criticism, or suggest that it is unfair or cruel to offer it.

Nonetheless, we see this rationalization often. It is favorite dodge of Hillary Clinton’s supporters: “There they go, attacking Hillary Clinton again!” they say, as if the frequency of criticism can only be attributable to the unfair zeal of her critics, and her conduct has nothing to do with it. I call this rationalization “Mercy For Miscreants.”

Its theory is that it is only fair to assign a criticism quota to groups and individuals: at a certain point, no more criticism is allowed, because nobody should have to be criticized that much. It is so darn mean to keep heaping abuse on someone, even if they deserve it. This new rationalization  is #38 A,  classified as a sub-rationalization under rationalization number 38. The Miscreant’s Mulligan or “Give him/her/them/me a break!”  “Mercy For Miscreants,” or “Why don’t they pick on someone else?is arguably more sinister and illogical that its parent, because it is based on the Bizarro World theory that the more someone is criticized, the less they should be criticized. On occasion, this rationalization also appeals to #21. Ethics Accounting, on the batty theory that if someone, or a group like Planned Parenthood, has been unfairly criticized in the past, that should count in their favor and relieve them of being legitimately criticized later.

Petula is just getting started, however. Here next two paragraphs are about how unfairly Planned Parenthood has been attacked in the past, and what wonderful things it does, neither of which are even faintly germane to the current controversy, which involves a high-ranking executive saying things like…

“We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver. . . . So I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact…”

…about unborn children. That’s what she is crushing. And she is crushing the life out of them, beyond question. Continue reading

Pro-Abortion Ethics: Amanda Marcotte’s Defense Of The Planned Parenthood Fetal Organ-Harvesting Video Is Even Uglier Than The Video Itself

Planned Parenthood is hustling to deal with the public relations embarrassment of a sting video (above) by an anti-abortion group, catching a PP executive enthusiastically discussing the harvesting of tiny livers and other fetal organs.

Over lunch at a Los Angeles restaurant, two of the group’s activists, posing as employees from a biotech firm, met with Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical research. They made a surreptitious video capturing Nucatola over a three-hour span as she chatted about Planned Parenthood’s work providing fetal tissue to researchers. The hit job—these stings are per se unethical, no matter what they reveal, no matter who they target, and no matter how virtuous their motives—emerged as a shortened, edited version of the session featuring the most disturbing  of Nucatera’s comments. The group responsible, the Center for Medical Progress, is accusing Planned Parenthood of illegally trafficking in aborted fetal organs.What is more significant from an ethical perspective, however, is the stunning callousness of this executive’s attitude toward unborn human beings.

She casually describes “crushing” fetuses so that their internal organs remain usable for research. “I’d say a lot of people want liver,” she as she munches on a salad. ( I wonder if she a vegan, since it’s, you know, unethical to kill animals for food, and we’re so cruel to cattle and chickens. ) “And for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance so they’ll know where they’re putting their forceps.”

Nucatera later boasts, “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”

I continue to believe that a tipping point may lie ahead for the abortion controversy. When a cultural equivalent of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” cuts through the deceit and fantasy, forcing the public to confront the ethical and moral depravity of the most extreme pro-abortion position, civilization may come to view the current period with shame akin to how we now look at the slavery era.

Maybe not, however. I don’t understand how the ghoulish rhetoric of abortion advocates hasn’t already had this effect. Perhaps the ethical corruption of the culture on the topic of destroying innocent human life in the womb has already proceeded too far. Perhaps groups like Planned Parenthood have succeeded in imbedding the factually untenable concept that the welfare and life of only one individual is at stake in an abortion choice, rather than two. Continue reading

Deconstructing The Unethical “It’s Impossible To Be President Today!” Excuse For President Obama

Presidents since WW II

Chris Cilizza’s latest of several attempts to relieve President Obama of responsibility for his spectacularly incompetent and disastrous presidency is too full of falsities, fallacies, rationalizations and illogical assertions to let pass, as I would dearly love to. Duty calls, however, so here we go. I’m not going to comment on the quoted “terrific” Ron Brownstein piece, which is not essential. Cilizza is in bold, my comments are not….

“Being president is the most powerful job in the world. At which you will almost certainly fail.”

  • First, I must ask, fail at what? Fail at solving problems? Fail at being popular? Fail by leaving the country in worse shape than when the President took office? Fail at leadership, at management, at foreign policy, at vision? Fail at handling crises? Fail by not dealing with long-term problems? By not bothering to define the central concept of his thesis, Cilizza just betrays his ignorance and laziness. If he won’t define his terms, he can’t be challenged.
  • Let me give Mr. Cilizza, who is really, absurdly arguing that succeeding as President is harder now than it has ever been, a brief history lesson focusing on how difficult this job has proved to be for others. George Washington, numero uno, had by far the most difficult job, being President of an unstable, new, confused nation with no precedents for his office, all while being second guessed by some of the most brilliant minds the nation ever produced, who were fighting among themselves to steer the country’s culture and government in radically different directions. He did a superb job, because Washington was a natural leader, perfectly suited for his grand moment in history. The next three Presidents were not, and had a terrible time of it (Jefferson’s reputation was saved by having the Louisiana Territory fall into his lap, but he was no leader, and call me a stickler, but any time a foreign power burns down the White House, I’m calling that President–James Madison—a flop), but James Monroe got the job down, beginning with having Cabinet members–like Daniel Webster–who were smarter than he was and properly delegating and managing them. The job defeated John Quincy Adams, but the next natural leader, gutsy, crazy Andrew Jackson, managed to keep the nation from dissolving over regional differences, and solved potentially disastrous  financial problems, in part because he was able to project strong leadership. Being a killer will do that….

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Obamacare Game Plan: The Lies Worked, Now On To Deceit

gameplan

As President Obama was in the midst of his unseemly, unwise and typically unleaderlike victory lap over the Obamacare sign-up figures, Tonight Show comic Jimmy Fallon had the cheek to point out that it’s amazing how many people will sign up for something when the law says they have to. (In a slightly different version of the same point, Daily Standard editor Bill Kristol said on ABC today that this is like  saying, “…you’ve got to give the Soviet Union a lot of credit. 200 million people bought bread in their grocery stores. If it’s the only place you can buy health insurance, they’re going to get people to buy health insurance there.”)

Yes, that would be an example of the near constant spin and deception that the President and Democrats have been relentlessly throwing at the American public regarding the “success” of the Affordable Care Act.

The way I would put it, as indeed I did when I was shouting at the TV screen during the President’s statement in the wake of the final totals on March 31, is that how many people sign up for the Affordable Care Act doesn’t make the law successful. Whether the law accomplishes its goals at an acceptable cost will determine if the law is successful. Whether the government proves to be capable—as all evidence to date suggests it isn’t—of administering such a complex and wide-reaching law will determine if it’s successful. Most of all, the fact that the law almost certainly can’t be repealed now doesn’t make the Affordable Care Act a success, and any politician who thinks that way should be despised and distrusted.

No law should ever be beyond the possibility of rejection or repeal, if it becomes obvious that it was poorly conceived or that another approach would be better. I understand that’s not the way our busted system currently “works,” as horrible, expensive, corrupt, unworkable and wrongful laws routinely become imbedded in bureaucratic cement, and that the last large scale law to be repealed was probably Prohibition. This forward-ratcheting effect is one of the factors that makes our growing debt so frightening, as our leaders lack both the will and the means to stop anything, no matter how ill-considered, once it has a budget and a lobby. But for any national leader, especially the President, to celebrate this dangerous and dysfunctional feature of American lawmaking is profoundly disturbing, and demonstrates a preference for political warfare over governing. (This is perhaps, understandable in Obama’s case, as he is adept at the former and hopelessly inept at the latter.)

The goal, may I remind all participants, is to come up with policies that are good for the nation, not to “win” by inflicting laws that the other side can never remove. “HA! We won! Now you’ll never be able to repeal the lousy law we rammed down the country’s throat!” (of course, I’m paraphrasing) is unseemly, and shows toxic and unethical priorities .

Whether the verdict on the ACA law is ultimately positive or not—and despite what the pols say, the jury is obviously still out—it should never be forgotten or forgiven that its path has been paved with lies. Yet another one came to light this week. Leading up to March 31, press releases, tweets and blog posts from the Administration emphasized that the last day in March was the final opportunity to get health insurance in 2014, as in this White House blog post on the so-called “deadline”:

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The Ethics Alarms List of Debate Cheats and Fallacies

fallacy

I realized it was time to post the definitive Ethics Alarms List of Debate Cheats and Fallacies after once again having to point out to an indignant commenter that calling  him a jerk based on a jerkish comment was not an ad hominem attack, and that saying idiotic things on-line carry that risk. Here, at last, is the current list, adapted from multiple sources. As with the Rationalizations List, with which this occasionally overlaps, I invite additions. Participants here should feel free to refer to the various fallacious arguments by number, and to apply critically them to my posts as well as the comments of others. Am I immune from occasionally falling into one or more of these bad debate techniques and rhetorical habits? No. The other reason I wanted to get the list up was to reinforce my own efforts to be persuasive without being manipulative.

1. Ad Hominem Attack

An ad hominem attack means that one is substituting the character or quality of an adversary’s thought for the argument the adversary is presenting. This is unfair, as well as misleading. “Your argument is invalid because you are a crook, a fool, an idiot” is an ad hominem attack. It is not an ad hominem attack to prove an argument idiotic, and conclude, on the basis of signature significance, (which requires that an  argument be so idiotic that no non-idiot would conceive such a thing and dare express it),that the one making the argument is an idiot, since only an idiot would make such an argument. Confusing the true ad hominem attack with the latter is a useful deflection by poor advocates of the fair consequence of their advocacy. Idiots can still hold valid positions, and disproving the position has nothing to do with proving they are idiots.

1 a. The Toxic Introduction.

A more subtle application of the ad hominem attack is The Toxic Introduction, where the argument of another is introduced by noting a negative quality about the individual. The effect is to undermine the argument before it has even been heard, by its association with a less than impressive advocate.

2. Butch’s Stratagem (The Straw Man)

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