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

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Ethics

President Trump, we are told, is considering or has decided to end President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, reportedly with a six month delay to give Congress a chance to  pass a law addressing the issue. The Obama-era program, instituted by executive order,  grants two-year renewable work permits to those brought into the country illegally as children.

There are legitimate arguments for and against this policy. Even saying this is blasphemy for its supporters, whose brains, reasoning and sense of national interest have been completely swallowed by Ethics Alarms Rationalizations #55, “We’re Better Than This!” and #56, “Think of the Children!”

Jenifer Rubin, the conservative Washington Post blogger who has been driven both leftward and also near madness by her hatred for Donald Trump, authored a post titled “Ending DACA would be Trump’s most evil act.” Evil! Naturally, she attributes the decision to racism. On Facebook, the progressive echo chamber where most of my friends dwell doesn’t even require an explanation  of why eliminating DACA is proof of a malign soul. “Trump will end DACA Tuesday!” a distinguished Trump-hater writes, as if it were self-explanatory, like “Trump will broil and eat Nancy Pelosi with a nice Chianti.”

I guess I’m evil too. To begin with, Obama violated the Constitution with his unilateral edict that should have been a bill, passed the old-fashioned way, with it being voted on by Congress and signed into law, or not, by the President. The President should end every single one of Obama’s over-reaching, unconstitutional end-arounds of Due Process that exceeded his office’s powers, whether Trump agrees with them or not. The integrity of our system is the most important thing of all, and he is sworn to protect it.

That is the procedural and precedentiary justification to end DACA. There are ethical and legal reasons too. Never mind, apparently. What matters in this issue are feelings. The argument is so marinated in sentiment and emotional blackmail—if you don’t love “the dreamers,” then you are a monster—that a coherent and responsible debate is literally impossible. All of the emotion-based arguments employed to argue that the illegal immigrant children who piled up at the border during the Obama administration should be allowed to cross the border, or that the U.S. should accept, barely vetted, refugees from nations packed with terrorist activity because their children weren’t terrorists have been repurposed in this debate, plus others. I am especially unmoved by the Hurricane Harvey line of argument: because some “dreamers” have done yeoman rescue work  in the wake of the flooding, the fact that they are in the country illegally should be forgiven, and not only that, take that fact as validation of the desirability of ALL “dreamers.” Continue reading

Anti-Trump Brain Virus Case Study: The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin

Not all of the unrestrained anti-Trump zealots are progressives and Democrats. There are a lot of conservatives who detest him sufficiently to surrender their integrity, fairness and common sense as well. The Federalist’s Sean Davis has chronicled a revealing example: Washington Post pundit Jennifer Rubin.

Blogger Rubin is one of the rare in-House Post conservatives. Her 2016 columns regarding Trump were only slightly less vehement than mine, and once he was elected, she threw restraint to the wind. Before that, however, Rubin was one of the few reliably critical voices regarding President Obama and his feckless and bumbling Presidency.

One of the more frequent targets of her acid pen was the Paris climate deal. In a column mocking Obama’s “phony accomplishments,” Rubin wrote  that a Supreme Court decision on environmental regulations proved “how ephemeral Obama’s Paris climate change deal is.” Before that, Rubin  suggested  the accord was a cynical and transparent effort to take attention away Obama’s failure to deal effectively with radical Islamist terrorism, writing, “The president has no answer, so he goes to Paris to talk about climate change.”  Then she cited  the climate change pact as evidence that Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry lived in a “fantasy world” where “a piece of paper”was a signature accomplishment “even if it achieves nothing.” Rubin accused them of selling the progressive base a “bill of goods” on the Paris deal, while Rubin called it “footprints in the sand.” Still later, Rubin cited approvingly Oklahoma’s Senator Jim Inhofe , the most infamous climate change skeptic in the the U.S. Senate, when he said that the Paris climate change deal was “devoid of substance.”

But Rubin really detests President Trump. For a man she hates to embrace her opinion is so unbearable that her only way out is to reverse the opinion. Before Trump announced that he was quitting the 2015 deal but had hinted that he would, Rubin transformed into a Paris accord booster, and declared that such a move would be a disaster. She wrote:

No, Trump’s pullout from the international accord would be a political act — one that signals solidarity with his climate-change denial, right-wing base that revels in scientific illiteracy. Being a climate-change denier — which entails dogmatic opposition to the Paris agreement — is a dog whistle to the far right, a snub to “elites,” who in this case include academics, government and private scientists, technology chief executives and others whose livelihood depends on accurate data. (Between “2013 and 2014, only 4 of 69,406 authors of peer-reviewed articles on global warming, 0.0058% or 1 in 17,352, rejected AGW [anthropogenic, or man-made, global warming]. Thus, the consensus on AGW among publishing scientists is above 99.99%, verging on unanimity.”)

This would also be an international dog whistle, reflective of Trump’s rejection of the Atlantic Alliance and the bonds of cooperation that tie Western democracies together. R. Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat, is quoted as saying, “From a foreign policy perspective, it’s a colossal mistake — an abdication of American leadership. The success of our foreign policy — in trade, military, any other kind of negotiation — depends on our credibility. I can’t think of anything more destructive to our credibility than this.”

How could President Obama be so wrong to sign what Rubin termed a phony pact, yet President Trump such a villain and a fool to repudiate it?

Simple: if Donald Trump does it or says it, it’s horrible by definition, and previous conclusions and analysis is inoperable.

Writes Davis,

What changed that could possibly explain Rubin’s complete reversal on the necessity of a deal she once said was “ephemeral,” “phony,” “fantasy,” and “devoid of substance?” Nothing. It’s the same deal today as it was when it was agreed to in 2015. The only difference between then and now is that Trump eventually endorsed Rubin’s take in its entirety. And because Rubin now calibrates her political compass to the opposite of whatever Trump is doing, she feels compelled to vociferously support a vapid agreement she at one time opposed on the merits.

Bias makes you stupid. It also makes pundits untrustworthy, and it’s stunning that neither Rubin nor her editors noticed her sudden reversal sufficiently to recognize that some explanation was mandatory. Maybe they think “Trump” is explanation enough.

They probably do.

The Clinton Foundation’s Latest Donor Policy Prompts This New Ethics Alarms Policy: Hillary and Bill Clinton Are Henceforth Ineligible For Future “Ethics Dunce” Awards, Since They Both Understand Ethics Very Well— They’re Unethical Because They ChooseTo Be

clinton_foundation

“Making life easy for the Clinton family, and ethics be damned”

I apologize for taking such a long time to figure this out. Upon reflection, it’s been obvious for a long time. I wonder if the Clintons’ fans and supporters understand that their heroes have no respect for ethics? Perhaps they don’t care.

The lightbulb went off for me when it was revealed that the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation has changed its policy on soliciting and accepting contributions from foreign governments and has now received millions from foreign governments including Qatar, a prominent backer of Hamas.

Playing stupid (and protecting the Clinton’s flanks the best they can, as is their nature), the Washington Post and other media outlets have written that this raises “ethical questions as Hillary Clinton ramps up her expected bid for the presidency.” No, it doesn’t raise any ethical questions at all. This is unethical. It’s blatantly unethical. The Clintons know it’s unethical, but because they are themselves unethical, they are doing it anyway. What’s the question?

At the National Journal, that Passenger Pigeon of journalists, Ron Fournier, correctly calls the decision “sleazy and stupid.” I’m not so sure about stupid, if the only objective is to elect Hillary Clinton, and it is reasonable that Bill and Hillary have concluded that anyone who still supports them care as little about ethics as they doe. Besides, ethics schmethics, LOOK AT ALL THIS MONEY, BILL!

From the Washington Post: Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: CNN Morning Anchor Carol Costello

Sorry Carol; you should have had this years ago.

Sorry Carol; you should have had this years ago.

I just checked. I was certain that I had named Carol Costello an Ethics Dunce a half-dozen times at least, and discovered, to my shock and shame, that she has never been designated one here. Unethical Quotes of the Month, the chief offender in various disgraceful and biased performances by CNN or the news media as a whole, but somehow the most throbbingly ethics-challenged broadcast journalist not employed by MSNBC or Fox has never been honored as an Ethics Alarms Ethics Dunce!

Well, that streak ends now, and I can make it short and sweet.

This morning, Costello once again confidently proclaimed her lack of familiarity with the concept of ethics by summing up the conviction of former Virginian Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife for bribery and corruption this way:

“Now the Virginia legislature needs to pass tough new ethics laws so this never happens again.

I’m just going to go into my shed with a hammer, and club myself into oblivion, because obviously my life is pointless and an utter failure. Continue reading

A New “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” For Conservative Politicians? You Wish, Jennifer Rubin…

creationismOne of the Washington Post’s rare conservative columnists has a solution for GOP candidates and office holders whose views on some subjects are likely to make them targets of furious criticism: refuse to express them. She writes in her latest column:

“Not everything is a political issue, nor one on which politicians have any particular insight. Candidates are not asked their views on divorce, for example. Each state has laws on the topic, and one’s religious views aren’t a topic for public debate. It is not (and shouldn’t be) asked of nor answered by politicians…Creationism? Unless you are running for school board and intend to be guided by your religious convictions, it does not matter. Born again? None of my business.

“…[Q]uestions about creationism, gay marriage, the nature of homosexuality and other value-specific questions serve no purpose other than to provide targets for faux outrage. These questions are designed to divide the population into believers and nonbelievers, between those who share the same cultural touchstones and those who differ.

“If a topic has no relevance to public policy or character or fitness to serve, why ask the question and why answer it? We aren’t electing pastors, family counselors or philosophers; we’re electing politicians whose job description and qualifications don’t include a great many topics. If we are heading for a more tolerant society, we have to agree to disagree on some issues and to respect some realm of private opinion and faith. For Republicans running in 2016, I would suggest a simple response to the sort of question intended to provoke divisiveness over irrelevant topics: “I can’t think of a single instance in which [creationism/the origin of homosexuality] would be relevant. I’m not here to sow division or take sides in faith-based debates. Let’s talk about something germane to the presidency.”

Wrong.

Incredibly wrong. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of The Week: Washington Post Blogger Jennifer Rubin

“How about this for a new communications plan: No one investigates themselves. No one take the Fifth. No executive privilege is asserted to protect anyone in the White House from testifying. Everyone tells the truth. And Holder goes. Otherwise it just looks like more spin and more prevarication from a White House determined to do everything but tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

—-Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin, discussing the Obama Administration’s defensive and evasive posture in response to the various scandals within.

Good sign!

Good sign!

I was torn about how best to raise the issue of why Eric Holder’s removal as Attorney General is an ethical imperative. Labeling President Obama an Ethics Dunce in his ridiculous decision to leave the investigation of Holder’s conduct in the various news media investigations to the Justice Department itself was fair, but obvious. Noting the apparent dishonesty of Holder’s denial to Congress that he was involved in the surveillance of James Rosen—

“In regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material — this is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy.”

—-seemed too easy, and I also do get tired of the word-parsing employed by the seemingly impenetrable Obama defenders here, for which this would be blood in the water. Continue reading