Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 5/12/2019: The Tricky Edition

Well, the news from Harvard has me half-headed and depressed, so I think I need to hear Winston Churchill’s favorite hymn…and my Dad’s, too.

1. I think this is known as “a drop in the bucket.”James Bennet, the editorial page editor of The New York Times, announced that he would recuse himself from any involvement in opinion coverage of the 2020 presidential election, after his brother, Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination. I suppose this is admirable, as it is a standard conflicts of interest move, but I’m sorely tempted to call it grandstanding, and maybe even a diversion. Bennet’s brother candidacy is hardly the only blatant conflict of interest on the times staff that makes its news coverage and punditry suspect. Virtually all of them are Democrats, for example, and progressives. What’s so special about an editor’s brother making a completely futile run for the Presidency? (Quick: if you’re not in Colorado, can you picture his face? Name anything he has accomplished?)

This note from 2017 (in RealClearPolitics) puts the Times editor’s decision in proper perspective:

There is a pretty substantial symbiotic relationship between the political left in Washington and the media. While a few people went from the media to the Bush Administration, it was never like it was with Obama.

Jay Carney went from Time to the White House press secretary’s office. Shailagh Murray went from the Washington Post to the Veep’s office while married to Neil King at the Wall Street Journal. Neil King has left the Wall Street Journal to work for Fusion GPS. Linda Douglass went from ABC News to the White House and then the Atlantic. Jill Zuckman went from the Chicago Tribune to the Obama Administration’s Transportation Department. Douglas Frantz went from the Washington Post to the State Department and Stephen Barr went from the Post to the Labor Department.

Ruth Marcus, who heads the Washington Post Editorial Board, is married to the Obama Administration’s former Federal Trade Commission Chairman. Jonathan Allen had been at the Politico before going to work for Debbie Wasserman Schultz, then back to Politico before going to the left leaning Vox. Now he is at NBC News. Andy Barr worked for the Politico before leaving for Democrat politics. Michael Scherer was at both Salon and Mother Jones before going to Time. Laura Rozen was at Mother Jones and the American Prospect before Foreign Policy magazine. Even Nate Silver had started out at Daily Kos. Then, of course, there is Matthew Dowd, who worked for scores of Democrats before working for George Bush. That, though he later washed his hands of Bush, bought him street credibility with ABC News to become its senior politically analyst alongside George Stephanopoulos, formerly of the Clinton Administration.

It goes on and on in a feedback loop of incestuous politics and worldview shaping. In the Obama Era, it was all about protecting their precious. Now it is about undermining the President.

2.  Puerto Rico Ethics. OK, explain to me, if you can,  why this isn’t incredibly unethical:

From the Times:

The government oversight board leading Puerto Rico through its $123 billion debt crisis sued dozens of banks and financial firms on Thursday, saying that they had helped the island issue $9 billion of debt illegally, and that the people of Puerto Rico should not have to repay it.

The board said the debt should be voided because it exceeded the territory’s constitutional debt limit, and it added that Puerto Rico would try to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in interest and principal payments that it has already made.

The board was joined in the litigation by the official committee representing Puerto Rico’s unsecured creditors in the territory’s bankruptcy-like legal proceedings. Both plaintiffs said they understood they were making an unusual request, but asserted that no other approach would be legal or fair.

“The laws of Puerto Rico limit government borrowing authority for a reason: to prevent the government and its financiers from hitching the Commonwealth and its instrumentalities, as well as taxpayers and legitimate creditors, to a level of debt that cannot be repaid without sacrificing services necessary to maintain the health, safety and welfare of Puerto Rico and its people,” the plaintiffs said in one of several complaints…

What a great theory! The government of Puerto Rico has managed its finances irresponsibly and needs more money. “Hey!” says a brilliant staffer. “There’s a law that limits how much debt we can run up. Let’s borrow billions from banks illegally, then later sue them saying that the debt is invalid because they abetted our illegal act!”

3.  Candidate for the Rationalization #22 Hall of Fame. Rationalization #22 is one of the most cited entries on the Rationalization List, and in my opinion, the worst of them all:

22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”

If “Everybody does it” is the Golden Rationalization, this is the bottom of the barrel. Yet amazingly, this excuse is popular in high places: witness the “Abu Ghraib was bad, but our soldiers would never cut off Nick Berg’s head” argument that was common during the height of the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal. It is true that for most ethical misconduct, there are indeed “worse things.” Lying to your boss in order to goof off at the golf course isn’t as bad as stealing a ham, and stealing a ham is nothing compared selling military secrets to North Korea. So what? We judge human conduct against ideals of good behavior that we aspire to, not by the bad behavior of others. One’s objective is to be the best human being that we can be, not to just avoid being the worst rotter anyone has ever met.

Behavior has to be assessed on its own terms, not according to some imaginary comparative scale. The fact that someone’s act is more or less ethical than yours has no effect on the ethical nature of your conduct. “There are worse things” is not an argument; it’s the desperate cry of someone who has run out of rationalizations.

Now outgoing Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel has boasted in the  New York Times about his success at  introducing  police reform and reducing crime.Emanuel  makes his case in part by comparing Chicago’s crime numbers over the last two years with those of  Baltimore, one of America’s most dangerous, murder-prone, mismanaged cities. He omitted mentioning New York orLos Angeles, perhaps because his city had more murders in 2018 than New York and L.A. combined, though Chicago is smaller then either.

I wonder if the Chamber of Commerce is considering “Less dangerous than Baltimore!” as a promotional slogan. [Pointer: City-journal]

The Absurd Media, Feminist And Progressive Hypocrisy Regarding Joe Biden’s Sexual Misconduct, PART II: “The View” Weighs In

(Part I is here.)

Some additional observations:

  • Jazz Shaw and other conservative pundits are writing that Joe’s handsy act “isn’t sexual harassment.” Wrong. If it was unwelcome, it was sexual harassment, and even if it wasn’t and made others in Joe’s workplace proximity uncomfortable, that was “third party” sexual harassment. To his credit, CNN’s Jake Tapper reached down deep and accessed his recently slumbering common sense and integrity to correctly point out that  other men who behave in the same way would get “reprimanded” or “potentially even fired” from their jobs.
  • Shaw and others are also harping on the timing of the harassment allegations. Are they politically motivated? Sure they are, just as Anita Hill’s sudden realization that she had been harassed after more than a decade was politically motivated; just as the sudden appearance of women claiming Donald Trump harassed them coincidentally occurred while he was running for President. In a word—well, two—so what? Biden belongs to a party that has taken a strict liability, no-tolerance, “believe all women” stance following the #Me Too eruption. He knew it, and progressives with eyes knew that Biden was a serial toucher/hugger/groper/nuzzler/sniffer/fondler. Given their professed position, it was hypocritical that Joe got away with his Dirty Uncle bit for so long, and arrogant (or stupid—it’s Biden, remember) that he thought he could get away with it forever.
  • My head had a  serious aftershock when the enabler and apologists for Joe settled on the “that’s just the way he is”; “he doesn’t mean anything by it”, and “he’s a decent man” talking points.

KABOOM!

See, there’s another one; even writing about this is dangerous.

If “that’s just the way he is,” then what he is is a serial sexual harasser. “He didn’t mean anything by it” has been a lamer than  lame rationalization for misconduct and criminal activity since the Madison administration, usually to excuse the mentally challenged. Finally, if he keeps fondling/touching/sniffing/nuzzling/ and kissing when all of his political kith are shouting to the skies about men being sexual predators, he’s not decent. Like the late George H.W. Bush, who told young women with his grasp that his favorite magician was “David Cop-a-Feel,” he’s willing to use his position and status to abuse women. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Rundown, 11/25/ 18: Liberty Games

Good Morning!

1. Baraboo hangover. Apparently the Wisconsin male high school students who gave a Nazi salute in an off-campus photo will not be punished. The superintendent overseeing Baraboo High, Lori Mueller of the Baraboo School District, said in the letter that the district was “not in a position to punish the students for their actions” because of their First Amendment rights. That’s right from a Constitutional viewpoint, and something good will come of the incident if it means that schools will stop punishing students for what they post on social on their own time. Here is the photo, in case you have forgotten…

The Times article sure is full of dissembling and nonsense, however. Peter Gust, the jerk who took and posted the photo, claims that it had been modified by “malevolent behavior on the part of some in society.” Sure. Jordan Blue, the boy in the upper right hand corner in the red tie, has embraced the role of ethics hero in the media, and is grandstanding and virtue signaling like mad, saying that he didn’t have time to leave the photo but that he didn’t raise his arm because “I knew what my morals were and it was not to salute something I didn’t firmly believe in.” Uh, that should be “firmly didn’t believe in,” Jordan. Then there is Brock Turkington, also  in the photograph, whose story is that  “As we were about to take that photo, the photographer instructed the boys to give a ‘high-sign.” The photographer instructed us to extend our arms out, no one knew what a ‘high-sign’ was. I asked another student next to me ‘What are we doing?’ He responded, ‘Stick your arm out.’” But that’s not a “high-sign.” That’s a Heil-sign.

2. I won a bet with myself! Cracked, the list and pop culture commentary website that evolved out of a cheap Mad Magazine rip-off from the Sixties, has a feature called “5 Laws From Other Countries (The USA Should Totally Steal).” Cracked is dominated by smug, if clever, social justice warriors, so I made a bet with myself that the list would contain  several concepts that were unconstitutional or that would advance the Left’s dream of perpetual power. (By the way, you can’t “steal” a law.) Sure enough, the tally was three out of five. I win!!! Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/14/18: Derangement!

Goooooood morning Vietnam!

(Well, not just Vietnam, of course, but did you know Ethics Alarms has had 643 views from Vietnam in 2018, and three already this morning? I wonder how many of those readers suffer from anti-Trump derangement…)

Prelude: I would prefer not to let this topic dominate a Warm-Up, but the alternative is to keep posting on it separately, and then I would get more of those “why do you keep posting about this when children are being taken out of the arms of their mothers at the border?” messages. I post about it for the same reason I began posting on it two Novembers ago, and for the same reason 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck is one of the fattest tags on the blog: the organized, multi-institution hysteria focused on the elected President is unprecedented, destructive, dangerously divisive and threat to the stability of the nation and our communities. Moreover, it is getting worse, more shrill, and to my eye and ear, more desperate, as President Trump’s successes, much as the new media and “the resistance” denies them, increasingly makes the Angry Left and Hillary Bitter-Enders realize that all their protesting and screaming at the sky and biased news stories and leaks and unethical investigations not only aren’t working, but are, in fact, increasing support for the President and public distrust of his sworn destructors. As proof of further lack of hinges, the Deranged think the rational response to this is to become more shrill and more obnoxious.

Unrelated but still annoying note: On HLN just now, after Lovely Robin Meade reported on a Norwegian study that purports to prove that “we is getting dummer,” with an estimated 7 point drop in average IQ since the 1970s, her sidekick Jennifer Westhoven noted off camera that all 730,000 test subjects were all men, in a tone clearly designed to suggest, “so that explains it.” Then the two women laughed like the witches in “MacBeth.” See the recent post on this phenomenon, and reflect. Then imagine if an on-air personality had said “blacks,” “Norwegians” or even “women” in the same context. I’m not accepting such jokes as amusing or acceptable from people who won’t accept the same kind of jokes from me.

1.  It’s time to break out the surgical masks and gloves, I fear. Ann Althouse found this comment on generic New Your Times Trump-hater Frank Bruni’s column, “How to Lose the Midterms and Re-elect Trump,” which begins

“Dear Robert De Niro, Samantha Bee and other Trump haters: I get that you’re angry. I’m angry, too. But anger isn’t a strategy. Sometimes it’s a trap. When you find yourself spewing four-letter words, you’ve fallen into it. You’ve chosen cheap theatrics over the long game, catharsis over cunning.”

The rant was the most popular of the many responses it received from on-line Times readers:

“What are we supposed to do? Speak calmly while he’s praising neo-Nazis? Wag our finger when he walls us in? Abide his ignorance and hate with good grace? Tsk tsk when he embraces murderers and war criminals while berating honorable Democrats? We’re not going to win over the deplorable nincompoops who voted for this man. Do you honestly think that we will offend their delicate sensibilities? These are the people who witnessed the vilest displays of hate, including his encouragement of skinheads to beat up protesters. They heard him brag about groping unwilling starlets. They watched as he mocked a disabled reporter. And yet they went into voting booths all across America and pulled the lever for this narcissistic, unread, vulgar excuse for a human being. Robert De Niro expressed openly the disgust that I have been feeling in my den, sitting in front of the TV and pretty much yelling the same sorts of things when I encounter the daily outrages that ooze from this pustule of a president. Who’s to say that Democrats aren’t scoring victories because of the palpable feeling of disgust that attends this so-called president’s every utterance? This man body-surfed into the White House on a wave of resentment and hate. Maybe a bigger wave of righteous anger will flush him and his Republican enablers out, and down into the metaphorical swamp from which they came.”

Althouse’s readers are almost unanimous in pronouncing this as the Trump Derangement equivalent of your neighbor vomiting black blood into the street. The comment is an impressive compendium of resistance talking points, distortions, and hysteria, culminating in endorsing a vulgar jerk shouting “fuck” at a non-political award show. What are you supposed to do? Oh, by all means, shouting “fuck” and “cunt” are the best options. How about being a responsible citizen, engaging in civil civic discourse based on substance rather than emotion, and respecting your fellow citizens when they have different opinions than you do? Despite the fact that Althouse is a centrist, her commenters overwhelmingly see the folly of the Trump Derangement strategy. One writes, Continue reading

Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 6/9/18: PART I, Bee’s “Apology”

Hi!

1  Bee gets an Eff. If I didn’t find Samantha Bee so loathsome and her transparent grab for headlines and attention by the cynical device of intentionally violating all standards of public civility and fairness, her on-air apology might warrant a full post here. “Where does it fall on the Apology Scale?,” I have been asked. She really does richly deserve to be shunned and ignored, however, not that she didn’t before. Her act is monotonous, obnoxious (Is there anything more revolting than someone who aggressively  presents themselves as smart and clever who obviously is neither?) and divisive. Like others, she exists to constantly reassure the “resistance” that they are justified in acting and talking like assholes because they lost an election.

Boy, they must need a lot of reassurance.

But since her apology on her show was an abomination (distinct from her apology on Twitter, which was a lie), I have to talk about it. What a crappy way to start a weekend. I’ll save time by commenting as we go. Yes, this is as long as a full post; it’s as long as a long full post. I know it’s silly, but even if it’s just a technicality, I refuse to give someone as contemptible as Samantha Bee more than Warm-Up status.

She said:

“You know, a lot of people were offended and angry that I used an epithet to describe the president’s daughter and adviser last week.”

In other words, “some people” were offended, not you, team member, because you LIKED me calling Ivanka a cunt, but we still have to deal with “those people,” who might be sponsors. Essentially Bee makes it clear immediately that this isn’t an apology  at all. The “you know” is a verbal shrug, and signals, “I don’t think this is a big deal, but I have to say something.”

This sentence, like the whole apology, is signature significance for a terrible human being. If she were my employee, I would stop her and say, “Start again.”

“It is a word I have used on the show many times..”

First rationalization in the second sentence! This is a subset of “Everybody does it”: “I do it all the time.”

“…hoping to reclaim it. This time, I used it as an insult. I crossed the line. I regret it and I do apologize for that. The problem is that many women have heard that word at the worst moments of their lives.”

Doubletalk. The word she used was “cunt.” It has never been anything but an ugly gutter word. What’s to “reclaim?” How it might have been used at other times is irrelevant, making this theme a flagrant act of misdirection, which is itself the theme of the whole phony “apology.” Imagine a male comic under fire for calling one of Obama’s daughters a “bitch”  saying “I have used that word many times–as a dog breeder, to describe swishy men, and in the phrase ‘son of a bitch’…” So what?

Bee’s bait-and-switch also cleverly reframes the issue. The offense was describing Ivanka Trump, on television, using a denigrating, misogynist word. Bee is now declaring that her offense was the rhetorical mistake of  misusing “cunt” as an insult. That was the line she crossed, according to her. Then: “The problem is that many women have heard that word at the worst moments of their lives.” Oh, the problem is when they heard it, not the use of the word itself.

Imagine a comic trying to weasel out of calling, say, Barack Obama a “nigger” making that argument in a parallel “apology.”

“A lot of them don’t want that word reclaimed. They want it gone, and I don’t blame them. I don’t want to inflict more pain on them.”

Wow—I hadn’t read this atrocity for a couple of days. It’s even worse than I thought.

Now Bee says the problem is that her using the word to denigrate the President’s daughter (who had done absolutely nothing to inspire such an attack) inflicted pain on other women—the good ones, you know. The ones who hate President Trump and his family.

“I want this show to be challenging and I want it to be honest, but I never intended it to hurt anyone, except Ted Cruz.”

Translation “You all know Ivanka IS  a cunt, but I didn’t want to hurt any other women by saying so, at least none who voted for Hillary.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, “June Had Better Be Better Than May” Edition: Wait, CNN Is Condemning Double Standards? [UPDATED]

Good morning…

1. How low can the New York Times go?  Even lower than I thought...In today editorial, the Times editorial board complains about President Trump’s pardon of conservative writer  Dinesh D’Souza, whom it describes as a “right-wing troll.” Okay…and by that kind of measure, the entire Times editorial staff is a collective left-wing troll. The Times notes that D’Souza is “known for, among other things, posting racist tweets about President Barack Obama [ The Times identified a single “racist tweet,” but in any event, such tweets are not illegal]  spreading the lie that George Soros was a Nazi collaborator [ Not a lie, just an unfair characterization that D’Souza may genuinely believe. Lying is also not illegal, and the Times should be grateful for this given its own proclivities] and writing that “the American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well” [ An opinion, if an obnoxious one, and also not illegal.] So what? None of that justifies D’Souza’s prosecution on a technical election law violation that many found to be politically motivated and pushed by those who took offense at, well, exactly what the Times cited about him. Bill Clinton, during the 2016 primaries, openly violated the law by politicking for Hillary at a polling place in Massachusetts without any consequences. That was selective non-prosecution if the offense was usually enforced, and would have been selective, suspicious prosecution if he had been charged when most violators are not. There are good reasons, in other words, to believe that an anti-Obama, anti-Democrat gadfly was targeted vindictively by the Obama administration to chill his political speech. Trump’s pardon is defensible, if provocative. Then the Times writes,

“The tendency of presidents of both parties to reward cronies with clemency — from Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton’s of the financier Marc Rich — is one Washington tradition that we’d welcome Mr. Trump smashing.”

You read that correctly. The New York Times just sunk to a new low, which is quite an achievement, comparing Gerald Ford’s brave, wise, and politically ruinous pardon of Richard Nixon for the good of the nation (and it was good for the nation, while a protracted political show trial of a disgraced President would not have been) to Bill Clinton’s probably criminal pardon of fugitive Marc Rich, whose ex-wife coincidentally followed up Clinton’s  defiantly perverse  act with a huge financial gift to Clinton’s Presidential library.

2. How to invalidate an apology in one, stupid step. Yesterday “Cunt”-Hurler Samantha Bee apologized “sincerely” for her scurrilous attack on Ivanka Trump after it began to appear that her incivility might lose her show some sponsors. Then she almost immediately showed how sincerely ( as in “not one bit”) at last night’s award ceremony, as the Television Academy  honored Bee’s  “Full Frontal”  for “advancing social change” (as in ‘pushing partisan anger and hate to the point where a civil war is no longer unthinkable.’ Yay Samantha!). Her award should have been cancelled, of course, and by awarding it to Bee anyway, the Academy tacitly endorsed the position that Ivanka Trump is a “feckless cunt.” Continue reading

Thanks To CNN, Ethic Alarms Welcomes Rationalization #42, The Irrelevant Mitigation: “He’ll/She’ll/They’ll get over it.”

He’ll get over it…

When I hear or read an obvious rationalization that somehow had been left off the Ethics Alarms list, now closing in on ninety ( the new addition makes 89), I think, “That must be on the list somewhere!” When I check and it is not, I marvel, “How did I miss that one?” This was especially true with Rationalization #42, which, please note, bumps “The Hillary Inoculation” to 43, and every subsequent rationalization up one. This is not just a rationalization, but one of the near-evil ones, employed by unrepentant miscreants who count on gullibility, generosity, kindness, forgiveness and fading emotions to allow them to avoid accountability, and harm the same people again later

I almost christened the new arrival “Jake’s Rationalization,” for it was CNN’s Jake Tapper, once a real journalist, now in the final throes of  Sienenization, who uttered it. The topic was the recent CNN “town hall” on guns (described here and here), with an audience packed with angry Florida students and their  families, yielding questioners who were rude, hostile, and frequently full of misinformation.

The The Hollywood Reporter described the reactions of CNN head Jeff Zucker and Tapper as they tried to deny that their disgraceful stunt was what it so obviously was:

…[E]ven as the town hall was receiving plaudits from the mainstream media, the Florida event was being used as an example of how CNN has morphed into a partisan player. “CNN has decided to take this path where they are kind of left-wing advocates,” says Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and organizer of CPAC.

It’s a characterization that CNN president Jeff Zucker finds insulting. “That criticism is silly,” Zucker tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The fact is we were there, we presented both sides. People who want to criticize are looking to just criticize before they even think about it.” He points out that Sen. Marco Rubio could have been joined by Trump or Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott, but both declined CNN’s invitation. “That’s not CNN’s problem,” he adds.

Yes, it was being used as an example because it was an example. The fact that the mainstream media gave this monstrosity “plaudits” confirms that it isn’t only CNN that has morphed into a partisan player. “Both sides” were represented like “both sides” were represented at the Alamo. The audience was unbalanced (in more ways than one), the questions were ridiculously unbalanced (but that’s what happens at town halls when the audience is unbalanced), anti-gun activists and pandering anti-gun Democrats were allowed to make factually misleading statements on national television without corrections from the passive moderator (Tapper, in slug-mode), and the two designated defenders of the Bill of Rights on the stage, Marco Rubio and NRA pretty face Dana Loesch were inept and defensive (or perhaps defensive and inept.) Continue reading