It’s Time Again For The Ethics Alarms Mailbag! The Question: Wait, What? Your Vote In 2016 Was A Write In?

Here I was, all set to write a substantial post  updating the newly launched Coronavirus Ethics Train  Wreck, and I encountered this question in the comments to today’s Warm-up, in reaction to my reply to another commenter:

“Wait…at the time you were lecturing all the commentariat about how it was unethical to “throw away your vote” by not voting for one of the two major political party candidates? When did you change your mind on that a do a write-in?”

The questioner was Tim Levier, one of five active Ethics Alarms regular commenters who date back to the old, still off-line (but coming back!) Ethics Scoreboard, so attention had to be paid. If he could have missed my late campaign reversal of the position he described–I would describe my stated logic a bit differently, as “the lesser of two evils is still the lesser of two evils—then that critical moment could have been missed by anyone, or even everyone.

Thus I went back into the October and November 2016 archives, which was fascinating.:

  • As always when I do this, I start wondering what became of some previously active commenters. Whither THE Bill? Where have you gone, wyogranny, T Bird, carcarwhite, joed68?

I know I take this too personally, but it still bothers me.

  • You know, this is damn good blog: thorough, extensive, unpredictable, well-written, diverse, funny, educational. I like it! The only one that comes close to being as interesting without descending into periodic eccentric weirdness or ideological rigidity was the old Popehat, and that’s gone now.  I worked hard on it that year, and have ever since. It should have a lot more traffic and influence than it does, but that’s a reflection on the inadequacies and bad taste of those who don’t come here. I’m proud of the product.

There. I said it.

  • The first time I expressed doubt in my position that I would have to hold back my gorge, defy my principles, and vote for Hillary Clinton was earlier than I thought. It was here, on September 25, 2016. The subject of the post was Clinton’s campaign manager, Robbie Mook, saying that  debate moderators should run interference for her and intervene to contradict and rebut Trump’s assertions, “unlike every other Presidential debate and every legitimate and fair debate of any kind, where that responsibility rests with the debaters.”

I responded to his  Unethical Quote Of The Month by writing, in part, Continue reading

Sad Saturday Ethics Distraction, 8/24/2019: The Let Sean Spicer Make A Fool of Himself If He Wants To Edition

I hope you are feeling much happier than I am today.

I just returned from a memorial gathering for a very dear friend’s wife of 37 years, who died suddenly, painfully, and based on what I have heard, unnecessarily at the end of July. One positive take-away from the event: People really aren’t so bad. My friend was stunned and touched beyond measure by the turn-out, with nearly 200 people attending just to say good-bye to her and express their love and support for him. Some traveled great distances,  interrupted vacations, or made it despite illness and handicaps.  I saw friends, former colleagues and acquaintances that had been out of this region for decades, but all it took was an email informing them that their friend, who  is one of those rare people who is always there to render help and support, now needed their support himself.

Gee, those endings of “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “Easter Parade” aren’t as corny as I thought...

1. What a surprise! Only 35% of those polled support impeaching a President who has done nothing impeachable! Choose: Either the Democrats and the resistance have been lying about there being real and substantive high crimes and misdemeanors in order to sabotage the elected President, or there are such offenses, and they don’t have the guts to do their Constitutional duty and act to remove a President who is the existential threat to the nation they have claimed he is since, uh, before he was sworn in, somehow.

The same poll says that 57% would prefer someone else as President. That number is astoundingly low. The Someone Else dude is terrific! What a great President he’d be; I can’t fathom why he’s never made it! I know I sure wish he was President;  I’ve wished he were President ever since Ike left the White House.

Today’s quote from a “someone else” who I would rather set my face on fire than see have any power whatsoever: Bernie Sanders, who, while bloviating that “Climate change is an existential threat to the entire country and the entire world and we must be extraordinarily aggressive,” proposed an impossible, bankrupting, irresponsible 16 trillion dollar plan to “fix” what he doesn’t personally understand, couldn’t explain with a gun to his head, cannot say with certainty how it can be addressed effectively, and could be stumped by a cross examination by any climate change skeptic with a science degree. Bernie doesn’t even understand political science, and that was his college major. Proposing spending trillions of dollars on something you don’t understand is unethical. Isn’t that obvious? Continue reading

Reparations Again.

Almost all of the Democratic Presidential wannabes are claiming that they support reparations for slavery. This is signature significance for shameless pandering and dishonesty, of course, and pretty redolent, in my assessment, of buying black votes. There are many, many things coming out of the mouths of the various demagogues, empty suits and crypto-socialists aspiring to unseat Donald Trump that are impossible–banning combustion engines, free college for all, ending the Electoral College, and many more—but reparations is a special species of fantasy, wrong in every way.

I have been periodically reading scholarly and not so scholarly debates about the feasibility  and justification for reparations for decades, and I have come to see this as less of a policy debate than a confession of defeat. Of course, every year that the timeline retreats from the end of slavery, the more logically untenable the mass hand-out of massive amounts of money that the nation cannot afford  to the descendants of slaves becomes. Ethically it was always untenable, and guaranteed, if such an irresponsible thing actually happened, to exacerbate racial divisions while creating endless demands for similar programs to benefit other groups, especially Native Americans. And why shouldn’t women receive reparations for all those centuries of forced labor and childbearing without civil rights, if the United States is going into the retroactive damages business?

Polling is a bad way to conduct a nation’s business, but sometimes the public can detect a true stinker when it sees one:. Reparations are unpopular with about 80% of the population, and I sense that even progressives just pretend to tolerate politicians who blather on about it because they know it’s all for show, and designed to harvest naive votes for more practical crazy leftist proposals.

Many of these proposals involve trying to somehow solve the gaps between black and white success and achievement in America, and mostly consist of rigging the system in various ways, especially now that Affirmative Action’s days are numbered, (and didn’t work that well anyway). Are a disproportionate number of blacks getting tossed out of school? Stop holding blacks to disciplinary standards—better yet, stop holding any students to disciplinary standards. Bad test scores making it more difficult to justify discriminating against Asian-Americans with better test scores? Eliminate testing as part of the college admission process!  Are too many African-Americans incarcerated? Legalize as many of the crimes as possible, and then  stop sending non-violent law-breakers to prison. These and other measures are no more fair of logical than reparations, just cheaper and easier to con or guilt Americans into accepting.

Back in March of 2016, I temporarily lost my mind in the wake of our first black President’s utter failure to address our race problems, despite his soaring rhetoric.  Charts from the Brookings Institution’s Social Mobility Memos blog were posted to the web, and starkly indicated that the  apparently intractable problems of American blacks that I studied in college had failed to improve in 50 years. I wrote this post, in which I  concluded, after a number of depressing observations, Continue reading

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

Award Ethics: Just In Case You Forgot, The Nobel Peace Prize Is Confirmed As Having No Integrity Whatsoever

…sort of like the Academy Awards.

The ex-Secretary for the Nobel Prize Geir Lundestad admitted in a recent interview that President Barack Obama did not deserve the 2009 prize but was given  the award to strengthen Obama politically. This is, or should be, no surprise. However, the brazen admission is nauseating.

Not only were there real, deserving candidates for the prize. it is clear that they were passed over in a cynical effort to influence U.S. politics and policy. In his memoir entitled Secretary of Peace, Lundestad writes, “No Nobel Peace Prize ever elicited more attention than the 2009 prize to Barack Obama . . . Even many of Obama’s supporters believed that the prize was a mistake. In that sense the committee didn’t achieve what it had hoped for.”

By using Nobel’s honor this way, the committee devalued the award for all past and future recipients, no matter how deserving. Lundestad, meanwhile, shows that those who have controlled the most ethics oriented of major awards have no comprehension of ethics. His regrets about the award being given to an individual who had done nothing to earn it arise only from the fact that it didn’t work. Indeed it did not, as Obama drone-killed hundreds without due process, carried on illegal bombing in Libya, refused to act when Syria used chemical weapons, and generally practiced feckless, timid, principle-free politics in international affairs. That, however, was moral luck, and the argument is consequentialism. It would have been equally wrong to give the award to Obama if he had achieved real success in promoting world peace afterwards.

I want to be explicit that no one should hold Barack Obama responsible for this fiasco in any way. Awarding  the prize was unfair to him as well. Nor should he have allowed the honor to influence his decision-making at any time during his Presidency. There is no evidence that he did.

Once an award has been given based on politics and ideology rather than merit, it is no longer an award, but a lie. The Nobel Peace Prize is meaningless, not because it was awarded unethically once, but because there is no evidence that it won’t be again, the next time the Committee thinks they can manipulate a nation’s leadership and policies.

_________________________

Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur

 

NOW What? The Most Discouraging News Of All

From the Washington Post:

Fifty years after the historic Kerner Commission identified “white racism” as the key cause of “pervasive discrimination in employment, education and housing,” there has been no progress in how African-Americans fare in comparison to whites when it comes to homeownership, unemployment and incarceration, according to a report released Monday by the Economic Policy Institute.

In some cases, African-Americans are worse off today than they were before the civil rights movement culminated in laws barring housing and voter discrimination, as well as racial segregation....

Among the study’s shattering findings…

…7.5 percent of African-Americans were unemployed in 2017, compared with 6.7 percent in 1968 — still roughly twice the white unemployment rate.

…The rate of home ownership, one of the most important ways for working- and middle-class families to build wealth, has remained virtually unchanged for African-Americans in the past 50 years. Black home ownership remains just over 40 percent, trailing 30 points behind the rate for whites, who have seen modest gains during that time.

…The share of incarcerated African-Americans has nearly tripled between 1968 and 2016 — one of the largest and most depressing developments in the past 50 years, especially for black men, researchers said. African-Americans are 6.4 times as likely than whites to be jailed or imprisoned, compared with 5.4 times as likely in 1968.

…The wealth gap between white and black Americans has more than tripled in the past 50 years…The typical black family had zero wealth in 1968. Today the median net worth of white families — $171,000 — is 10 times that of black families.

After all the rhetoric, all the safety nets, The Great Society, the Civil Rights Act, nothing. After busing, 50 years of affirmative action and diversity training in employment and educational institution admissions, nothing. After an explosion in the numbers of African American House members, police commissioners, judges, lawyers, doctors, big city mayors, and governors; after home rule in the District of Columbia, after Barack Obama…no progress. After 50 years that saw attitudes on mixed race marriages, cultural representation in academia,  media and entertainment, broadcasting and sports; after Barbara Jordan, Michael Jordan, Bernie Shaw, “The Cosby Show,” Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Serena Williams, Flip Wilson, Johnnie Cochran, Spike Lee, Oprah, Michael Jackson, “Hamilton,” “Scandal,” “The Butler,” “Hallelujah Baby!”, Rhianna, Beyonce, Jay-Z…how can this be possible?

Naturally, the Post article on the report’s first answer is simple: it’s racism, that’s all:

“We have not seen progress because we still have not addressed the issue of racial inequality in this country,” said John Schmitt, an economist and vice president of the Economic Policy Institute, citing the racial wealth gap and continuing racial discrimination in the labor and housing markets. “One of the key issues is the disadvantages so many African-Americans face, right from the very beginning as children.”

If that’s going to be the reflex response to this disaster, then the next 50 years will bring minimal progress as well. There is more, much more, to this multi-level failure of policy, planning, education, leadership and culture. I have mentioned before that just about 50 years ago I took an excellent course on the problems facing African-Americans in the United States. The Professor was a renowned expert in the field, Thomas Pettigrew. It was also the most depressing course I ever took. We studied how poverty and the lack of leadership and positive role models led to crime and destructive cultural norms; how this led in turn to prison and single parent, female-headed families, which encouraged single women to have children, which fed the cycle. We studied various innovative policy initiatives, and why they seemed doomed to failure. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Day: A Lovely, Smart, Trump-Deranged, Left-Biased Facebook Friend

“How do we know the Trump administration is racist? well, they’re all white – and if this had been a white student murdered by a black student or immigrant student in what appears to be a racially-motivated hate crime, they’d have plenty say about it.”

—-A Facebook friend who works at Bowie State, exploiting the tragic death of a black student there at the hands of a white student from the University of Maryland, to attack President Trump in a post on his page.

How hysterical, unfair and unethical is this statement? Let’s see:

1.The administration is not all-white. Even if it was, that would not prove it was racist, except in the warped logic of progressives and social justice warriors. People like my friend know Trump is racist because that’s the narrative, and they just decided that he was, mostly by designating as  racist comments that were not, and using race-baiting as substitute for substantive arguments to support their irresponsible love of illegal immigration.

2. The assertion that simply by being white, one must be racist is itself a racist statement. (My friend is white, but this is virtue -signalling on the Left. Denigrate men, whites and conservatives, and that means you are good.)

Addendum: a commenter on the post who had the bad manners to point out that “we know they are racist because they are all white” was a questionable assertion saw his comment immediately deleted.

2. “We know you are racist because we are sure what you would do, though you have never done it.” This kind of reasoning from a faculty member is what Bowie students pay tuition for.

3. In fact, earlier this month a black student attacked and stabbed FOUR white students in Austin, Texas.

The President had no comments, though it was unquestionably a “racially-motivated” crime.  Never mind though, you know he wanted to say plenty.

4. Presidents should have nothing to say about such incidents. They are local, they are single events, they don’t prove anything, and their comments can undermine the justice system and inflame public opinion. President Obama never learned that, repeatedly making inappropriate comments about events that were none of his business, often exacerbating racial tensions, as in his uninformed, slanted statement about the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman tragedy. Obama also did exactly what my Facebook friend suggest is racist. He never commented on incidents where whites were the victims, as when Francisco Sanchez, a repeatedly deported Illegal immigrant,  shot and killed 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle in 2015. Does that prove Obama was a racist? Of course not! When you are in the grip of irrational Trump paranoia and hate, these standards only apply to this President, not the previous one. Continue reading