Trevor Noah’s Critics

Trevor Noah, the current Daily Show host who is more thoughtful than funny, made the same points Ethics Alarms did regarding Hillary Clinton’s weasel-like response to the New York Times exposé revealing that she protected a top adviser of hers, Burns Strider, Clinton’s faith adviser and founder of the American Values Network, when he was accused of repeatedly sexually harassing one of Clinton’s young subordinates during her 2008 campaign.

“Hillary’s Grammy cameo came at a weird moment for her,” Noah said, referring to the “Fire and Fury” skit at the Grammys Sunday that featured  Clinton reading excerpts from the book. “Because last night’s theme was #MeToo, Time’s Up, which is a message Hillary found herself on the wrong side of over the weekend. Look, there’s a few areas where I don’t necessarily expect Hillary Clinton to nail it,” Noah continued, “managing emails, visiting Wisconsin, you know, weaknesses. But I won’t lie, I expected standing up for a woman on her staff to be one of her strengths. So the story is disturbing.”

“It’s possible that Hillary Clinton had a good explanation for why she kept this guy on over the objections of her top campaign advisers but instead of an explanation, all we got was this,” Noah said, regurgitating Hillary’s nauseating tweet,

“A story appeared today about something that happened in 2008. I was dismayed when it occurred, but was heartened the young woman came forward, was heard, and had her concerns taken seriously and addressed…I called her today to tell her how proud I am of her and to make sure she knows what all women should: we deserve to be heard,”

“Yeah, ‘women deserve to be heard,’ and then quietly reassigned,” Noah said in reaction to this. “‘Thank you for speaking up — now into the closet…It feels like Hillary’s not only trying to dodge all the blame, she wants to present herself as having always been on this woman’s side, which doesn’t fly, because not only did the woman get reassigned, but this guy, Burns Strider, he went on to get another job in Democratic politics, where he got fired for doing the same thing to other women,” Noah said, correctly. “So you could argue that if Hillary had fired him, she would have been protecting many women, instead of just herself.”

I almost gave Noah an Ethics Hero for this, but thought better of it. The fact that none of his All-Trump-Bashing-All-The-Time comic colleagues, like Colbert, Kimmel, Samantha Bee, Bill Maher and Saturday Night Live lack the integrity to criticize Clinton doesn’t make him a hero. It’s a little like giving a medal to the only soldier who doesn’t run away as soon as the shooting starts. We should respect consistent standards and integrity instead of hypocrisy, not treat them like they are qualifications for sainthood.

However, the criticism Noah received on Twitter for stating the truth was an education in how people delude themselves and pollute their values with rationalizations to avoid facing uncomfortable facts: Continue reading

Unethical Mothers Day Quote Of The Year: Joanne Samuel Goldblum


“On Mother’s Day, many moms do not get taken out to brunch or presented with potted plants. For them, Mother’s Day is just like any other day – a struggle to get by. There is one gift we can collectively give them, though: We can stop judging. We can throw away the good mother/bad mother distinction. We can recognize that most mothers genuinely want to do what is best for their children. It is simply much easier for some of us than for others.”

—-, a social worker and the executive director of the National Diaper Bank Network, in Washington Post column titled “Stop judging poor moms. Bad policies hurt their kids — not bad parenting”—also a strong candidate for “Sweeping Generalization of the Decade.”

There’s an old Chinese proverb that goes, “When the only tool you have is a diaper, every problem looks like a baby’s butt.”

Or something like that. runs a laudable and necessary social service that provides diapers for families that can’t afford them. That’s a wonderful service and a wonderful charity, and she and her colleagues are doing a service for humanity. Unfortunately, her unique perspective on the problem of negligent and irresponsible parenting has produced her column in the Post, which uses a stream of rationalizations, logical fallacies and rhetorical deceits to reach an absurd and societally dangerous conclusion.

The fact that public policy may not do enough to help stressed mothers or minimize the damage caused by the irresponsible, negligent, dangerous or self-destructive—or just plain stupid—decisions by women that made them mothers in the first place, cannot mean that society should stop “judging mothers.” intentionally uses “judging” as a pejorative term (evoking the Biblical rationalizations), and with that tactic sides with the ethical relativists. Without critical judgment, there can be no standards. Without public conclusions regarding ethical behavior and unethical behavior, what conduct we encourage and what conduct we condemn, there can be no culture, no shared values, and no internal or external controls to limit destructive behavior. Everyone has a societal obligation to judge their own conduct, and that of everyone else. Judging conduct does inherently reflect on the purveyors of that conduct, but pointing out destructive conduct by mothers does not and must not preclude compassion, fairness, respect and charity.

Goldblum’s initial attack on anyone who dares to suggest that women should not have children they can’t afford to care for and that will permanently cripple their chances at success, proceeds by paring such critics with those who oppose the work of her organization.

“One man called me screaming that impoverished moms should “just use newspaper!” to diaper their infants. In letters and phone calls, others have accused us of encouraging mothers to keep “breeding.” (Barnyard animals breed, mind you. Women have babies.) Our critics believe the women who come to us are bad mothers who should not have had children in the first place. (We rarely get criticism of fathers, as if women become pregnant all by themselves)”

Breathtaking. She begins with the fallacy I call “The Bad Lawyer,”concluding from the fact that a proposition has some foolish advocates that the proposition itself is incorrect. Yes, anyone who advocates endangering a baby’s health by using newspaper as diapers is too mean and dumb to be in civilized society, but using that position to characterize critics or irresponsible mothers is dishonest debating. The suggestion that women decide to have babies they can’t afford because they are confident that they can get free diapers is similarly idiotic,but the position that it’s irresponsible to have children when you should know you can’t care for them is not only not idiotic, it’s blazingly obvious. Continue reading

Thank You: The Obamacare Defenders Give Us Rationalizations #36 and #37


With so many excuses, euphemisms, desperate justifications and outright denials flying around in print, online and over the airwaves in these fevered days of the Affordable Care Act debacle, it was inevitable that the Ethics Alarms rationalizations list would benefit. Sure enough, the Obama faithful and the Obamacare hopeful have alerted me to not one but two serviceable and popular rationalizations that I had missed.

Your refusal to be honest to the public and yourself is sad and wrong, guys, but at least you’re enriching the ethics resources on the blog.

The first of the new additions, #36, comes from a recent Obamacare column by Eugene Robinson. I was curious how Robinson, who would probably not abandon his support of the President if Mr. Obama was caught torturing kittens, would spin the current mess, and he didn’t disappoint. After somehow managing to describe relatively accurately what has transpired to date without either being critical of the President or explicitly exonerating him,  Robinson wrote:

“Transforming the health-care system was never going to be easy.”


“Nobody said this would be easy” can be an appropriate morale booster when a difficult challenge is proving more challenging than expected, and when unexpected obstacles cause new and daunting problems. Following the carnage of a totally botched task, however, where there is no new problem, just the realization that those tackling it are incompetent beyond belief, and have failed in minimally meeting their duties of diligence, care, and process for a mission that they and everyone else knew was risky and hard, “Nobody said this would be easy” is just a cynical deflection of responsibility and accountability, and a dishonest one.

The issue isn’t how difficult solving the health care problem is. The issue is how lousy the plan was that was sold as a solution to this difficult problem, how it was falsely represented, and how it has been ineptly, carelessly, and unforgivably managed. Robinson’s ploy is changing the subject at its most blatant. A surgeon who is supposed to cut out a cancerous tumor but who amputates the patient’s healthy leg instead dare not comfort the patient by saying, “Now, we both knew that battling this cancer wouldn’t be easy.” Yes, but the patient certainly was justified in assuming that the doctor wouldn’t make the battle harder by being a careless nincompoop. Thus the new entry…

36. The Maladroit’s Diversion, or “Nobody said it would be easy!”  Continue reading

Writers Writing About Ethics, Without Any

Sorry, can’t use you.

Writer Joe Konrath has written one of those blog posts about ethics that makes me want to defenestrate myself, a post that expounds on rationalizations as a substitute for ethical analysis because he is incapable of the latter, arriving at fatuous and misleading conclusions. Naturally his post was picked up and expounded upon by another blogger, Ben Galley, who has even launched an ethics-challenged website called Ethiks to promote similar ethics rot.

Both writers are holding forth about recent scandals in the publishing world, involving so-called “sock puppetry,” where a writer anonymously praises his own books on-line or trashes the work of competitors, and writers paying for positive reviews. Both are also laboring under juvenile ethical delusions, and obnoxiously so, among them:  that “everybody does it” is a valid excuse for cheating, that the fact that a critic of unethical behavior might engage in such behavior himself under certain conditions invalidates the ethical criticism, and that unethical people insisting that unethical conduct isn’t puts such conduct in a “grey area.” None of these is true; none of these is remotely true.

The ethically-clueless tenor of both posts can be gleaned from this section, by Galley:

“Ethics in life are a grey area. No less in the book industry. To borrow JA’s analogy, the claim of “I would never kill” goes out of the window pretty quickly when protecting your family against a murderous intruder. The line of ethics is never a straight one, often zig-zagging through a charcoal no-man’s land of right and wrong. The question is this: Where does the line lie for you? It’s nothing less than personal. Some people simply shrug at the thought of sock-puppetry. Others go a shade of red and grit their teeth. Sadly, we can write all the codes and edicts we like, the point is that not everyone will a) agree, nor b) abide.”

Let me see: wrong, wrong, irrelevant, wrong, not necessarily, no it isn’t, NO, it REALLY ISN’T, and so what?

Most ethical questions are not gray at all: these definitely aren’t. They are clear as clear can be. “Sock puppetry” is dishonest and unfair. An author paying for positive reviews, and a critic accepting payment from an author to review his work, is blatantly dishonest and a conflict of interest. There is no “gray” about it; they are just wrong. Anyone who draws the “line” anywhere else is wrong too. It doesn’t matter whether everyone agrees: those who don’t agree are unethical. So are those who can’t “abide.” Their unethical conduct doesn’t alter right and wrong.

Konrath’s piece wastes our time with a long argument claiming that unless one is as pure as the driven snow, not only can’t you call unethical conduct what it is,  the fact that you can’t calls into question whether the unethical conduct is really unethical at all. Here’s his “quiz,” which Konrath presents triumphantly as if it is a real brain-buster, when anyone with a modicum of honesty, decency and common sense should be able to score 100% without straining a neuron.

Here it is, with my answers in bold: Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Steelers Running Back Rashard Mendenhall

Translation: "I am an Ethics Dunce."

Twitter is a wonderful invention; it used to require a blog to efficiently alert the world to one’s intellectual, logical and ethical deficiencies.  Now NFL star Rashard Mendenhall is using 140 characters to accomplish the same task, and doing a bang-up job of it, I must say.

Mendenhall has his employers, the Pittsburgh Steelers—not to mention his agent—scrambling to do damage control after the athlete emitted a series of provocative tweets in response to the death of Osama bin Laden. My personal favorite:

“What kind of person celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side…” Continue reading