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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/15/18: Overthrowing The Government, Replacing Umpires, and Fooling Some Of The People Who Never Did Their Science And Math Assignments [UPDATED!]

Good morning…

1. Baseball Ethics: Again, Robocalls, please! Last night, Game #2 of the American League Championship Series between the 2017 World Champion Houston Astros and some team from Boston again showed why Major League Baseball must install automated ball and strike calls and automatic video review if the game is going to have any integrity at all. Regarding the latter, there was a play in which a Houston batter’s swing and miss for strike three was erroneously called a foul ball by the home plate umpire, and the replay claerly showed that the bat had missed any contact by inches. Nonetheless, the batter got another chance. He struck out (“no harm, no foul” literally) a second time, but that was just moral luck. If he had hit a home run, altering the game’s outcome, the system would have been changed with lightning speed: Ye Olde Barn Door Fallacy.

Regarding the constant missed call and strike calls that risk changing the outcome in every game, the previous game in the serious contained a classic example. In a close contest with the two runners on base and a 3-2 count, Red Sox batter Andrew Benintendi was called out on a pitch about six inches outside the strike zone. Instead of the inning continuing with the bases loaded and the AL season RBI leader, J.D. Martinez, coming to the plate, the inning was over. Listening to the ex-players like TBS color man Ron Darling babble excuses and rationalizations is almost as infuriating as the obviously wrong calls. “Well, the ball wasn’t too far off the plate” and “That pitch has been called a strike earlier tonight” and “The umpires have a difficult job”: Shut up, Ron. The strike zone is set by the rules; a ball is either a strike or it isn’t, so a call is either correct or it’s botched. Blatantly missed calls were “part of the game” in an earlier era when nothing could be done about them, but that’s not true now. Baseball is supposed to be determined by the skill and performance of the players, not by random, unpredictable mistakes by the bystanding officials. Can you imagine a criminal defendant sent to prison in a trial where the judge repeatedly allowed inadmissible evidence against him because he misinterpreted the law, and the appeals court shrugging and rejecting an appeal with a unanimous opinion that said, “Hey, mistakes happen! It’s part of the system’s tradition and charm!”

2. Run, Fauxahontas, Run!  Fake Native American Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) announced that she finally did have her DNA tested. No cheapie home test for this aspiring Cherokee: she had the DNA test performed  by Carlos D. Bustamante, a Stanford University professor (and Democrat) and expert in the field who won a 2010 MacArthur fellowship for his work on tracking population migration via DNA analysis.  He concluded that “the vast majority” of Warren’s ancestry is European, but he added that “the results strongly support the existence of an “unadmixed Native American ancestor,” and calculated that Warren’s pure Native American ancestor appears in her family tree “in the range of 6-10 generations ago.” That’s a big range: six generations would make her 1/32nd American Indian, but ten generations would make her 1/1024th Native American. Nothing in the test proves she has the Cherokee ancestry she claims.

UPDATE: Apparently the Globe reporters and editors are among the math-challenged. Mid-day, it issued a second correction:

“Due to a math error, a story about Elizabeth Warren misstated the ancestry percentage of a potential 6th to 10th generation relative. The generational range based on the ancestor that the report identified suggests she’s between 1/64th and 1/1,024th Native American,” the Globe explained.

This means Warren is somewhere between 0.09 and 1.5 percent Native American, not between .19 and 3.1 percent as originally claimed.

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Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/1/18: Ethics Is Like Making Hamburger…[UPDATED]

Hello September!

1. More fake news, future news, and “if you hate Trump, you’ll like this” news. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!

Ann Althouse performs an expert take-down of an inexcusable piece of hackery by Megan McArdle in the Washington Post titled “Poll by sinking poll, Trump inches toward impeachment.”

[The wrong link to Althouse was up yesterday: it’s fixed now.]

How I love it when other do my work for me: Ann has been getting increasingly eccentric, but here she is at her best. Read both McArdle’s trash and Ann’s defenestration of it, but here are some key points from Althouse:

  • “what made me want to blog this is the first line of the column, “By any metric, Trump is in trouble,” which is followed by:

A poll out from The Post and ABC on Friday shows that 60 percent of voters disapprove of the job he’s doing as president, a new low. But that’s just one poll; the polling average at statistician Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight shows Trump with a mere 53.4 percent disapproval rating, which is better than its 56.8 percent peak last December.

So there’s an obvious “metric” — the famous Nate Silver metric — by which Trump is doing better than last December, but “By any metric, Trump is in trouble”?!

  • But a presidency is not in good shape when the best spin on the new poll is “It’s an outlier! Only 53 percent of the country thinks the president is terrible.” The poll is especially ugly for Republicans with midterms looming in two months.

No. 53 percent didn’t say “the president is terrible.” They said “disapprove” when asked whether they approve of disapprove. And they might disapprove of other options too, such as impeachment or even (if it could be magically possible) Hillary for President.

  • More McArdle:

It’s all too easy to imagine a similar scenario for Democrats intent on impeaching Trump as they come up short looking for Republicans to help them make it across the finish line. But it’s not entirely impossible to picture a few Republicans going along….

We’ve gone from “by any metric” to “it’s not entirely impossible.” Come on! Were we not supposed to read this far into the column? WaPo is all headlines and first lines these days. Get your hit, and maybe you can face another day with Trump as President.

Ann’s last line is spot-on, and describes exactly what social media is like these days. Oooo! Trump flew the White House flag full-mast a couple of days early! What a monster! …What? People say Trump doesn’t like Jeff Sessions’ accent? He’s horrible!Hey! The Trump Administration is doing pretty much exactly what the Obama administration did, but it’s Trump, so now it’s wrong!”

2. More Aretha Franklin Ethics. Even a funeral of a beloved pop star can’t proceed without manufactured outrages, controversies and PC offenses. Bishop Charles H. Ellis, III, felt that he had to apologize for touching singer Ariana Grande like this after she performed during the funeral service for Aretha Franklin…

The funny thing is that this could indeed constitute sexual harassment in a workplace setting, if the singer decided that the touch—unconsented, arguably a mini-grope–was “unwelcome.” So the Bishop had to grovel, which he did, saying,

“It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast. … I don’t know I guess I put my arm around her,” Ellis said. “Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize….I hug all the female artists and the male artists. Everybody that was up, I shook their hands and hugged them. That’s what we are all about in the church. We are all about love. The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin.”

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Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/15/2018: Rationalizations, Corruption And Mass Impeachment [UPDATED]

Mornin’, all!

1. “That Dog” Ethics. I can think of more accurate and meaner names for Omarosa than “that dog,” but then my vocabulary is larger and more versatile than the President’s…but then, whose isn’t?  I have never heard of “dog” being identified as a racist term—because it isn’t one—though it is a sexist term, often used to denote an unattractive female. Nonetheless, this is presidential language, indeed gutter, low-life language that demeans a President, his office, and the nation he leads when it issues from the White House.

Among the rationalizations that suggest themselves are 1A.  “We can’t stop it” (apparently not, and neither can John Kelly), 2. A. “She had it coming” (nobody short of a traitor or a criminal deserves to be attacked by the President of the United States using such language), 7. “She started it” (which is excusable if you are in kindergarten), 8A. “This can’t make things any worse” (oh, sure it can), 22. “He’s said worse” (true) and many others: I don’t have the energy to go through the whole list.

Of all the dumb, incompetent, self-inflicted impediments to doing the job he was elected to do, the Omarosa fiasco might be the worst and most unforgivable. I’m not sure: I’d have to go through that list, and not only do I not have the energy, I think I’d rather rip my eyelids off.

2. I’m sure glad the new Pope fixed all of this. This story would normally fall into the category of being so obviously unethical that it isn’t worth writing about. Moreover, Ethics Alarms had referenced the Catholic sexual predator scandals in many ways, on many occasions. What distinguishes the latest chapter in this ongoing horror is that the latest revelations are coming after all of the lawsuits, damages, mea culpas and promises of reform, and they did not come from the Church. This means that the cover-up was and is ongoing. It means that even with the thousands of children who were raped and abused that we know about, there were many more. It also means, in all likelihood, that the abuse is continuing. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/18/18: The Persecution Of Josh Hader And Impeachment Plan N [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

It’s 4:40 am. I can’t get to sleep because I’m nauseous and my stomach’s upset, probably because of Fox’s miserable coverage of the baseball All-Star game as if it was a slow day on the boardwalk. At points when the game would normally be suspenseful, the awful Joe Buck was having inane conversations about facial hair and other trivia with players in the field. Such utter disrespect for the sport it was covering in what is supposed to be a showcase!

1. Speaking of the All-Star game...Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader,  who has been a break-out relief pitching star this season, gave up four hits and a three-run homer, his worst performance of the year, on his biggest stage to date, the All-Star game in Washington, D.C. That was the least of his rotten day, however. Earlier in the evening, some  sleuth dived into Hader’s Twitter history and found some high school tweets with racist, anti-gay and sexist words and sentiments in them. The dirt was slurped up by reporters while the game was going on, and they confronted Hader immediately after the game, which Hader’s team, the National League All-Stars, lost by two runs, or one less than he had given up.

To his credit, Hader didn’t deny that he had written the tweets. “No excuses. I was dumb and stupid,”he said. He was 17-year-old when he published them.

Let’s say that again: he was 17. This shouldn’t be news, and it shouldn’t have been reported. Yet some are speculating that Major League Baseball will fine or otherwise punish Hader, and worse, that they should. If they try, I hope the players’ union makes them sorry. Hader was legally a minor; he hadn’t been drafted by a MLB team yet when those tweets were made, and  MLB didn’t even have a social media policy then. If Hader is punished, it will be one more example of craven organizational misconduct and abuse in response to, or fear of, the speech police and the political correctness mob.

2. Per se negligent homicide. In another situation in which I reject the “he’s been punished enough” defense, six-year-old Makayla S. Bowling  was shot in the head and killed by her father last week when his gun accidentally discharged while he was cleaning it. He didn’t know the gun was loaded. He did know his daughter was within shooting range, however. The authorities won’t prosecute unless they find evidence of foul play, but there is already sufficient evidence of fatal negligence. He should be charged with manslaughter.

3. Plan N! Some Democrats and journalists who have real jobs and don’t live in a padded room really are saying in public that Donald Trump should be impeached for what he said in a press conference in Helsinki. Astounding. Astounding, and unethical, because a lot of Americans—you know, like the ones on Facebook who are passing around a meme showing Obama with the legend “Share if he’s your favorite President!” (Why not just a label that says “I have never read an American history book”?)—are so ignorant about law, politics, diplomacy, and just about everything else, that they can be convinced by ravings.

If you are keeping track, and it is hard, be sure to add Plan N (Calling comments at a press conference treason) to the list of “resistance” impeachment and removal plots. Oh, heck, I need to update the list anyway: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/18/18: George Sanders Memorial Edition

Good morning….

1. Why George, you ask? “Dear World,” famed actor George Sanders wrote in his suicide note in 1972, ”I am leaving because I am bored.”

I can relate. I am so bored with the unchanging patters of the news media’s irresponsible obsession with “getting” Donald Trump, the unethical and obsessed Ahab-like mania of his foes, and the depressing–I’m really ashamed of all of you—conduct of my many left-wing friends who still, after all this time, erupt in unseemly barking and seal-flipper applause over any Trump-hating pundit’s warped analysis. I’m bored, and I don’t understand why everyone else isn’t bored. How can Saturday Night Live fans still pretend to think Alec Baldwin’s amateurish, fury-sweating, repetitive Trump mockery is interesting? We’re at the point now where everything is being repeated from months ago: the resistance is running through the alphabet AGAIN.  A few days ago an ex-Obama official went all the way back to the Resistance’s Plan C, the arcane Constitutional dead letter known as the Emoluments Clause, and like the lapdogs they are, the Democrats’ impeachment lynch mob and anti-Trump news media predictably followed suit. This was widely interpreted by cooler heads as a sign of Trump Derangement Desperation, and maybe so, but this is like “Groundhog Day.” I never dreamed that I would still have to write about this 18 months after the initial post-election freak-out—“He’s a Nazi!” “He’s insane!” He’s a racist!” “He stole the election!” “He’s a Russian puppet!” —which was embarrassing enough. And I do have to write about it, because it is, in the end, an ongoing story of Americans acting horribly toward their own institutions, and professionals, who are supposed to be trained to be better, leading the way while in many cases acting worse.

It just kills the blog, as well as the fun of writing it, which has always been the eclectic and broad influence of ethics in our lives. The issue has just gutted traffic here: the anti-Trump virus-infected  can’t bear to read any objective commentary that doesn’t drip with hatred of the President, so they retreat to the warm second-hand lies of social media, rapid Trump supporters don’t want to frequent a periodic defender who won’t ignore his flaws, and serious ethics followers who view the whole episode as a bad dream that they would rather not think about while pondering the nuances of utilitarianism find the essays on the topic of the Trump Wars repetitive—which, inevitably, they are.

2. “Animals.” Look at yesterday’s ridiculous effort by journalists and pundits to intentionally misinterpret the President’s off-the-cuff comments in response to a comment about the violent MS-13 gangs at a White House roundtable discussion on the subject of immigration and so-called “sanctuary cities.” Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims raised the problem of  Mara Salvatrucha gangs, better known as MS-13. “There could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t have a certain threshold, I cannot tell [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] about it,” Mims said, thus triggering a typical Trump word cloud in which he described the gang members as “animals.” Never mind: multiple news sources deliberately omitted the context of Trump’s remarks to advance the “Trump is a racist and hates all immigrants” narrative. Incredibly, this was so blatant that CNN, of all people, decided to weigh in on the President’s side—all the better to allow them to claim objectivity when they smear him later. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day, Rebuttal #2: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2018:…A Presidential High Crime…”

This is the second rebuttal to my criticism of the President’s effort to use his influence and power to harm Amazon. I’m very impressed with it, but I have to give a rationalizations alert, for there are several evoked here, including, a few versions of #1, Everybody does it,” #2 A. Sicilian Ethics, or “They had it coming,” #3. Consequentialism, or  “It Worked Out for the Best” #39. The Pioneer’s Lament, or “Why should [He] be the first?,” #45. The Unethical Precedent, or “It’s Not The First Time,” and probably others.

Here is Greg’s Comment of the Day on the #2 in “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2018: Baseball Lies, A Presidential High Crime, And A Judge Makes A Panty Raid”:

There is nothing wrong, much less anything impeachable, about the President making valid, policy-based attacks that target specific companies, even though the attacks may “suppress the companies’ stock values.” Attacks on Standard Oil were justified, even though stockholders in Standard Oil may have suffered. Trump’s comments about Amazon are fair. In any case, there is no reason to think that his remarks were intended to drive down Amazon’s stock price and very little reason to think that they will cause any particular harm to Amazon or its stock.

Trump’s recent tweets have made three points about Amazon, all of which he has made many times before: (1) Amazon benefits from a sales tax loophole that unfairly costs states money and disadvantages brick-and-mortar retailers, (2) Jeff Bezos uses the Washington Post to lobby for the continuation of this advantage and (3) the US Postal Service undercharges Amazon and should negotiate higher rates.

Trump has been making the first two points since at least 2015. He made them repeatedly during his campaign in tweets, in interviews and in speeches. Here’s the earliest reference that I found: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/12/07/donald-trump-called-out-jeff-bezos-on-twitter-then-bezos-called-his-bluff/?utm_term=.8573b4279b6d.

Trump has continued to make both points since he became president. Here’s just one example: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-17/trump-s-bruising-tweet-highlights-amazon-s-lingering-tax-fight. His Treasury Department has been studying the sales tax issue for over a year, http://thehill.com/policy/finance/343972-mnuchin-trump-administration-is-examining-online-sales-tax-issue, and his Justice Department last month filed an amicus brief in South Dakota v. Wayfair, a case currently before the Supreme Court, arguing that the Court should close the sales tax loophole that benefits Amazon and other online retailers.

Trump has been making the third point (about USPS rates) since at least December last year. http://fortune.com/2017/12/29/trump-amazon-post-office.

None of those previous statements and actions by Trump and his administration caused Amazon’s stock price to fall. Trump could not have expected that thisweek’s tweets, repeating exactly the same points that he has made many times before, would have any effect on Amazon’s stock price.

Moreover, Trump’s tweets haven’t made any threats against Amazon and he doesn’t seem to have any intention of taking any unilateral action to hurt Amazon. To the extent that his tweets may have affected Amazon’s stock price, they most likely did that by drawing investors’ attention belatedly to genuine issues regarding Amazon’s business model, in particular the possibilities that the Supreme Court might actually close Amazon’s sales tax loophole and that the USPS might actually negotiate a better deal with Amazon. If his tweets have pointed out concerns that investors previously hadn’t given proper weight, then he has done a valuable service for the markets. If these concerns turn out to be unjustified, then Amazon’s stock price will soon recover and Trump’s tweets will have done no harm. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day, Rebuttal #1: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2018:…A Presidential High Crime…”

Is Teddy looking down from Rough Rider Heaven and smiling at Trump’s Big Tweet?

Of course, I knew suggesting that President Trump’s deliberate attacks on Amazon via Twitter was an impeachable offense would set heads a-blowing. The resulting debate has been fascinating, with interesting historical parallels being proposed. This comment, by Chris Marschner, is the first of two erudite and well argued rebuttals.

Not to hold you in unnecessary suspense, I am not convinced or dissuaded. I do not see Teddy Roosevelt’s  policy-oriented attacks on the era’s monopolies, correctly leading a movement to reform an area of widespread capitalist abuses that eventually were agreed to be criminal, with Trump’s tweeting crudely phrased animus to the public. Nor do I find Obama’s general criticism of big money lobbying efforts by energy interests in general and the Kochs in particular at the same level of abuse of power as Trump taking aim at the owner of the Washington Post,

I am a lifetime fan of Teddy, but he crossed many lines, and could have been legitimately impeached himself. As I have stated before in multiple posts, the power of the Presidency is too great to be abused with casual wielding against individuals and named businesses. As always, there are exceptions.  I’ll concede that taking on the robber barons and the monopolists in the early 20th Century can be fairly designated as one.  Chris seems to feel that there is a close parallel in Amazon’s growing power, but that’s not the case the President chose to make, instead focusing on a deal Amazon forged with the Postal Service, as much to keep the latter in business as to benefit Amazon.

Basic lessons in POTUS leadership: if you are going to cross lines of appropriate uses of  power, 1) You better be right and 2) Be Presidential about it.

Other examples, like Obama designating Massey Energy as responsible for the Upper Big Branch mining disaster before the investigation was complete, can not be so easily excused, but can be fairly labelled a mistake. (Obama made many, too many, such mistakes.) Trump’s attack on Amazon is neither as limited as Obama’s mistake, not as carefully considered and justifiable as Roosevelt’s trust-busting. I would like to see future Presidents restrained from abusing power in this way, even if it takes a trail before the Senate to do it. If we don’t restrain it, we will be sorry.

But the other side has some good arguments: by all means, read them.

Here is Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day on the #2 in “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2018: Baseball Lies, A Presidential High Crime, And A Judge Makes A Panty Raid”:

I would like to point you to this in 2015:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2015/08/26/war-words-obama-v-koch-brothers/32423959/

“When you start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests, or conservative think tanks, or the Koch brothers pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards or prevent new clean energy businesses from succeeding, that’s a problem,” Obama said at the summit. “That’s not the American way.”

“Josh Earnest said the exchange illustrates the kind of president Obama set out to be.”

“This is exactly why the president ran for office, it’s why he ran for this office, is that for too long, we saw the oil and gas industry exert significant pressure on politicians in Washington, D.C.,” he said. And when Obama fights that influence, “the special interests, including the millionaires and billionaires that have benefited from that paralysis, start to squeal. And I guess in this case, at least one billionaire special interest benefactor chose to squeal to a Politico reporter.”

This type of rhetoric does not include Obama officials publicly stating (incorrectly and improperly) that one of the Koch brothers paid no income taxes. (http://freebeacon.com/politics/hazy-memories/)

Is it only an abuse of power when referencing specific individuals? Does it matter if you say the 1% don’t pay their fair share or is it an abuse of power only if you identify them by name?

I will concur with the Koch brothers that it is beneath the dignity of the president to go after a specific individual, but to suggest that it amounts to even a misdemeanor abuse of power is a stretch. If calling out a specific firm is an impeachable offense then why was there no call to impeach Obama when he routinely criticized and mocked Koch Industries, Fox News and others that did not line up with full throated support of his agenda.

But , Obama was not the first to chastise “punch down” on a business person. Who can forget the trust buster himself Teddy Roosevelt. JP Morgan was singled out for bad behavior. Continue reading

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