Tag Archives: Progressives

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/19/18: Unethical Wedding Gifts, The Fairness Conundrum, What Really Makes Students Unsafe, And More

Good Morning!

1 A Not Exactly Hypothetical… A family member is getting married, and the social justice warrior spouse has decreed that no gifts should be sent, just contributions in the happy couples’ name to designated charities and causes, all political, partisan, and ideological. Does this obligate guests to give money to causes and organizations they object to or disagree with? One might be tempted to teach a life-lesson in abuse of power, and pointedly give a contribution to, say, The Family Research Counsel, the NRA, or Paul Ryan’s re-election campaign, but that would be wrong. Wouldn’t it?

2. “Progressive fines” poll update. The percentage of readers who regard so-called “progressive fines” as fairer than fining all law violators the same amount regardless of resources is about 6%, in contracts to 40% who think this is less fair. As I suspected, the schism is driven by the long-standing (and resolvable) arguments over what constitutes “fair” government policies, and whether it is the government’s job to try to make life less unfair. Is it “fair” to treat everyone the same, when we know that life doesn’t treat everyone the same? Are those who argue that life’s unfairness should be addressed by individuals, not society, taking that position because they are winners in life’s chaotic lottery? Can society and governments be trusted to address “unfairness” and inequality without being influenced by the conflicts and biases of the human beings making and carrying out laws and policies. I don’t generally care to spend a lot of Ethics Alarms time or space on abstract ethics questions, but some of them can’t be avoided. You can take the poll, if you haven’t already, here.

3. On the topic of fairness, here is a study that will make you bang your head against the wall: Following on the heels of this discouraging study I posted about on March 3 is this report by researchers at Stanford, Harvard and the Census Bureau, as described here by the New York Times. A taste sufficient to ruin your day: Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Business & Commercial, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Sports

Ethics Quiz: Income-Based Legal Penalties

In an op-ed in the Times,  lawyer Alec Schierenbeck argues for “progressive fines”:

“For a justice system committed to treating like offenders alike, scaling fines to income is a matter of basic fairness. Making everyone pay the same sticker price is evenhanded on the surface, but only if you ignore the consequences of a fine on the life of the person paying. The flat fine threatens poor people with financial ruin while letting rich people break the law without meaningful repercussions. Equity requires punishment that is equally felt.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is..

Do you agree that “progressive fines” are a more ethical policy than having the same fines for the same violation, regardless of the offender?

Continue reading


Filed under Citizenship, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

Addendum: The “Ableist” Accusation And The Insidious Spread Of Rationalization #64

I had not intended to post further on the Gal Gadot controversy, mentioned as item #5 in today’s Ethics Warm-Up, where she is being slammed as “ableist” for suggesting that Stephen Hawking might be relieved to shed the crippling limitations of his near lifetime battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. (Knowing Hawking’s famed sense of humor, I assume he appreciated the best gag ever executed on  “Friends,” when idiot Joey asked what Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig died of. “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” he was told. “Wow,” said Joey. “What are the odds of that!“) However, I realized that the argument against Gadot was yet another example of the increasing popularity of one of the most destructive and insidious of the rationalizations on the list, #64, Yoo’s Rationalization or “It isn’t what it is”:

Named after John Yoo, the Bush Justice Department lawyer who wrote the infamous memo declaring waterboarding an “enhanced interrogation technique,” and not technically torture,  #64 is one of the most effective self-deceptions there is, a handy-dandy way to avoid logic, conscience, accountability and reality.

Examples of this are everywhere. Paul Krugman, the progressive economist and Times columnist, began a column like this:

“Remember all the news reports suggesting, without evidence, that the Clinton Foundation’s fund-raising created conflicts of interest?”

The Clinton Foundation’s fundraising created a conflict of interest, by definition. For a non-profit organization, with family connections to either a current Secretary of State or a Presidential candidate, to accept money from any country, company or individual who has or might have interests that the Secretary or potential President can advance is a conflict. It’s indisputable. No further ‘evidence” is needed.”

How does Krugman deal with this problem? Simple: he convinces himself that screaming conflicts aren’t what they are without “evidence,” by which he means “proof of a quid pro quo.” But a quid pro quo is bribery, not a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest might lead to bribery, but a conflict is created as soon as there is a tangible reason for an official’s loyalties to be divided.

Yoo’s Rationalization or “It isn’t what it is” turns up everywhere, and has since time began. A mother swears that her serial killer son “is a good boy,” so she doesn’t have to face that fact that he’s not. It is denial, it is lying, but it is lying to convince oneself, because the truth is unbearable, or inconvenient.  It is asserting that the obvious is the opposite of what it is, hoping that enough people will be deluded, confused or corrupted to follow a fraudulent argument while convincing yourself as well. The Rationalization includes euphemisms, lawyerisms, and the logic of the con artist. Illegal immigration is just immigration. Oral sex isn’t sex, and so it’s not adultery, either. I didn’t steal the money from the treasury! I was just borrowing it!

And waterboarding isn’t torture.

#64  also could be named after Orwell’s “1984,” and called “Big Brother’s Rationalization” in homage to “War is Peace,” etc. But John Yoo deserves it.

Rationalization #64 is also closely related to the Jumbo.

The Republican denial that torture was torture remains the worst example of “It isn’t what it is”, but the list is getting longer and becoming more of a burden to public discourse and problem-solving every day. In the case of advocates for the disabled, the rationalization actually holds that a physical handicap isn’t a disability at all, and one without certain abilities we would naturally regard as normal are just “differently abled.” No, that individual is disabled. The fact that Stephen Hawking, with an IQ estimated at 280, had a compensating superpower that allowed him to achieve amazing things does not make his disability imaginary. Maybe he would have liked to play softball. Maybe he would have liked to tap dance. Maybe he would have liked to hold his grandchildren. Denying his disability accomplishes nothing but distorting reality and making it less vivid and clear. Continue reading


Filed under Education, Environment, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, U.S. Society

At CNN, Bias, Incompetence And Unethical Journalism Earns A Promotion.

You have to understand that CNN’s Chris Cuomo is an irresponsible, reckless and not very bright left-wing hack. Let’s just review the Ethics Alarms Chris Cuomo files from most recent back. Remember, he’s just one small part of what we follow here. If I watched Cuomo regularly, which I won’t, or read his social media blather, which I wouldn’t, this list would doubtlessly be much longer:

  • Here, he breezily asserted that Americans with mental illness should lose their rights.
  • Here, he falsely claimed that the President used “shithole” so children were exposed to the word, as Cuomo wrote it on a whiteboard, exposing children to the word.
  • Here, he told the public that “hate speech” wasn’t protected under the First Amendment, and ordered everyone to read the Constitution, which he obviously doesn’t comprehend.
  • Here, he advocated harassing, intimidating and threatening a private citizen for exercising his right to publicize his views on the internet if the views don’t meet with liberal approval.
  • Here, he cackled over a Simpsons clip that was run on his show solely because it attacked President Trump.
  • Here, he tried to spin an accurate story as false because it reflected badly on the Obama Administration.
  • Here, he promoted a documentary that pushed the false narrative that Michael Brown had his hands up and was crying “Don’t shoot!”
  • Here, he intentionally misresprested a Trump tweet condemning Berkeley’s student riots aimed at shutting down free speech as support for the extremist speaker.
  • Here, and my personal favorite, signature significance for an idiot, Cuomo told viewers that they couldn’t download the Wikileaks leaks, saying—and this guy’s a lawyer!— ”Also interesting is, remember, it’s illegal to possess these stolen documents. It’s different for the media, so everything you’re learning about this, you’re learning from us.”
  • Here, and there are dozens, maybe hundreds of other examples, Cuomo unethically took the role of a partisan advocate to debate a Trump surrogate.
  • Here, despite being a lawyer, Cuomo allowed the term “homicide” and “murder” to be conflated by non-lawyer protesters, who at least have an excuse for their ignorance.
  • Here, he stood by as a guest declared Thomas Jefferson as the author of the Constitution, not only failing to correct the gaffe, but endorsing it.
  • Here, a pattern, he encouraged an advocate of preventing “crazy people” from have gun ownership rights.
  • Here, he pandered to Jorge Ramos, saying that he “respected as a journalist” the  openly activist Mexican broadcaster who was properly ejected from a Trump campaign event.
  • Here, he led an embarrassing, partisan, live laugh-fest mocking the fact that the GOP was “stuck” with Donald Trump as its nominee.
  • Here, he showed his complete ethics ignorance by saying that rules determine whether conduct is wrong. I wrote, as my brains dripped down on me from the ceiling,

Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Professions

Saturday Night Ethics Update, 3/10/2018: 16-Year-Olds And The NRA

Good evening.

(The combination of an early morning seminar, a $^%%#! D.C. marathon that closed down access to the venue, and a lost power cord rendering my netbook useless conspired to prevent both late posts yesterday and early ones today: I’m sorry. I’m back at my desk, chagrined but unbowed…)

1 Why not 10? Why not 2? Poor, declining, Twitter-addict Lawrence Tribe’s ridiculous claim that the voting age should be lowered to 16 was so self-evidently silly that I assumed no one serious would adopt it.  But, as H. L. Mencken kind of said,  “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public,”  and as I’ll say now, nobody can underestimate the level of irresponsible proposals that anti-gun zealots will float in their desperation to gut the Second Amendment.

Last week, Temple University’s Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology, issued a Times op-ed arguing for Tribe’s new voters, ignoring his own profession’s conclusions that children that young, in addition to not being, you know, adults, also have not mastered stable reasoning ability because their brains are not fully formed. Never mind, says the prof:

“The last time the United States lowered the federal voting age was in 1971, when it went from 21 to 18. In that instance, the main motivating force was outrage over the fact that 18-year-olds could be sent to fight in Vietnam but could not vote. The proposal to lower the voting age to 16 is motivated by today’s outrage that those most vulnerable to school shootings have no say in how such atrocities are best prevented. Let’s give those young people more than just their voices to make a change.”

Wow, what a well-reasoned argument! I can”t wait for the proposal to lower the voting age to minus-eight months out of outrage that those most vulnerable to abortions have no say in how such atrocities are best prevented. Yes, it’s true: the anti-gun Left is willing to follow President Trump with President Kendall Jenner, as long as we let the government and police have all the guns.

Maybe Temple psychologists and lapsed Harvard Law professors should lose the vote, since they apparently can’t reason above the level of 16-year-olds. Continue reading


Filed under Childhood and children, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/3/18: Museums And Victims And Brooks, Oh My!


Good Morning, bad night…

(and thank goodness it’s Saturday…)

1 Programming young victims to lie. In my mailbox today is a message from the Democrats.org, which, I must note, has ignored multiple requests to stop sending me their hackery. I have unsubscribed: it apparently makes no difference. This is both illegal and unethical, and only reinforces my previous conclusions about the House of Clinton, Perez, Pelosi, Wasserman Schultz, et al.

The message is allegedly authored by Sarah Imam, who announces herself as Parkland shooting survivor and writes in part,

On February 14th, I lost 17 members of my community in a mass shooting at my school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas. But we, the survivors, refuse to let their names be forgotten. We refuse to let their deaths be in vain. We have decided to take action to ensure that an event like this will never happen again. We are calling for stricter gun laws. We are calling for change.

Now, is Sarah lying, or is someone lying to Sarah, or to us? There is no “change” that will ensure that no mass shooting, in a school or anywhere else, will ever happen again. This is a false promise. Does Sarah know that, or is she just a puppet, being used to promote a dishonest message? Then we must ask, is Sarah smart enough to know that the only “change” that could even theoretically “ensure that an event like this will never happen again” is to ban and confiscate all guns. Is that what she means? Is that what Democrats really want to do, but can only express it that desire in code, and through the willing, naive mouths of grieving teens?

2. David Brooks doesn’t get it. Again. New York Times Stockholm Syndrome-addled formerly- conservative op-ed writer David Brooks nicely encapsulates the central delusion of “the resistance” and others, arguing that the gun control battle will be the tipping point for a progressive victory in the culture wars because…

“Progressives could be on the verge of delegitimizing their foes, on guns but also much else, rendering them untouchable for anybody who wants to stay in polite society. That would produce social changes far vaster than limiting assault rifles. Two things have fundamentally changed the landscape. First, over the past two years conservatives have self-marginalized. In supporting Donald Trump they have tied themselves to a man whose racial prejudices, sexual behavior and personal morality put him beyond the pale of decent society. Second, progressives are getting better and more aggressive at silencing dissenting behavior. All sorts of formerly legitimate opinions have now been deemed beyond the pale on elite campuses. Speakers have been disinvited and careers destroyed. The boundaries are being redrawn across society.”

This is essentially a Cognitive Dissonance Scale argument by an elitist who can’t distinguish between the public’s scale and his own. Donald Trump is President of the United States because he was elected, despite what Brooks calls his racial prejudices, sexual behavior and personal morality. Can’t Brooks see that he’s essentially making Hillary’s deplorables argument? He is saying that nobody who voted for Trump is a member of “polite society’! Incredibly, he’s also saying that supporting the President of the United States is marginalizing. Wow: get out of that echo chamber, David—RUN! No, you idiot, refusing to support the institution of the Presidency and the integrity of elections marginalizes Democrats, the “resistance,” the New York Times, and YOU. Then Brooks writes that progressives will win because they are getting “better” at totalitarian methods, like suppressing speech. Nah, this isn’t self-marginalizing, not at all! Americans love to have their freedoms disrespected, and to be told that only pre-approved opinions and viewpoints will be allowed when Democrats are in power. Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Rights, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/23/18: Stupid And Incompetent Edition

Good Morning…

(That’s Phathon, by the way, the son of Helios, the Greek sun god, falling to his death after trying to drive his father’s sun-chariots across the sky. I’m sure you knew that...)

1 “Children or Guns?” We can’t be too critical of 16 and 17-year olds who employ poor reasoning and bumper-sticker rhetoric to demand “something” [New York Times two-page paid ad—sure,  the kids are responsible for it; you believe that don’t you?—reads: “We’re children. You guys are the adults….get something done.”—Parkland school shooting survivor] When the adults are making similar “arguments.” “Children or Guns?”  was the title of the  New York Times editorial two days ago. Yup, that’s the choice: either we can have children, or we can have guns! The Facebook declarations from users too old to go trick or treating are similarly hysterical. This messaging maleducates our young, especially the already harmed shooting survivors. The shooting made them justifiably angry and paranoid, now the cynical adults exploiting them are making them stupid. More notes from the re-invigorated Sandy Hook Ethics Train Wreck:

  • A teaching moment: Ethics Alarms has a flurry of high school students weighing-in here, some with more success than others. This is a good teaching blog for a lot of skills and disciplines, like rhetoric, logic, political debate and, of course, ethics.  At least one college course on ethics uses EA as a permanent resource (or did).

I’d love to see more students comment here, as long as they don’t expect to be coddled. This is a tough forum, and was designed to be. One piece of advice: Read the comment policies and the list of terms and concepts.

The armed officer stationed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., resigned Thursday after an internal review found he did not enter the school during last week’s deadly shooting. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel announced Deputy Scot Peterson chose to resign after Israel suspended him without pay. “Scot Peterson was absolutely on campus through this entire event. He was armed. He was in uniform,” Israel said at a press conference…

“We’re not going to disclose the video at this time, and we may never disclose the video, depending on the prosecution and the criminal case,” Israel said. “But what I saw was a deputy arrive at the west side of building 12, take up a position — and he never went in.”

When asked by a reporter what Peterson should have done, Israel said the deputy should have “went in, addressed the killer, killed the killer.” Israel said the video made him “sick to [his] stomach” and left him feeling “devastated.” “There are no words,” he said.

Sure there are: “Moral luck” are two of them. So is “chaos.” Children and journalists are screaming with fury at the NRA, whose sole job is to set up the most absolute defense possible to protect the Second Amendment as the ACLU is pledged to do with the First, for what we now know was a catastrophic breakdown in multiple human government systems.

We know that the school, the police and the FBI were warned that Nicholas Cruz could be a school shooter multiple times. We know he posted a YouTube video with  the comment: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” Law enforcement reportedly flagged the comment last September so YouTube would remove it. Problem solved! Now we know that the professional with a gun—the fail-safe— whose job it was to protect the students from exactly this kind of threat was derelict when the system needed him to do his job rapidly and well.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an anomaly, and it would be helpful if the students learned that. The government is made up of fallible humans, and often fails, even when it isn’t corrupt and abusing power. Systems, even the best ones, break down and allow metaphorical dinosaurs to run amuck. You’re never going to be “safe,” and if you think so, someone has lied to you, or you are deluded. For many years beginning in high school, I kept a newspaper clipping about a man, minding his own business and walking home from work ,who was killed by “a flying mailbox”–a truck had slammed into one and it was hurled hundreds of feet in the air, eventually landing on this poor guy, who not only didn’t know what hit him, he wouldn’t have believed it if he had been told.

This has always been the brilliance of the Founders’ vision of a nation and a culture where citizens not only take individual responsibility for their lives, but are guaranteed that right. The bad luck and confluence of unpredictable and uncontrollable circumstances (chaos) tell us that a society where citizens have freedom and guns  available will have periodic tragedies. The fact that multiple government employees and systems failed in Parkland also tells some citizens that the more they are able to protect themselves, the safer they will be.

They are not wrong.

  • The Second Amendment version of the Streisand Effect. Gun sales, which spiked to record levels during the Obama administration because of its irresponsible anti-gun rhetoric, is booming again, as citizens decide they better arm themselves, especially with semi-automatic weapons, before the Left’s “sensible” gun grab. Thus the end result of all the screaming and finger-pointing  will be more guns than ever.

Good job!

  • New vistas in virtue signalling…My Facebook friends, who are drooling all over themselves right now, were cheering the viral video of the guy burning his own AR-15 so it “would never be used” in a mass shooting. This is right up there with Rhett Butler shooting Bonnie Blue’s pony because she was killed trying to ride it, but even dumber. Yes, that rifle is going to escape and kill kids.

The words this time are “showboating” and “virtue-signalling.” That gun was never going to used in a shooting. It’s fungible, so its destruction does nothing and means nothing. The individuals who would misuse their weapons would never do what he’s doing. This is like a non-drinker pouring a bottle of whiskey down the drain before he gets in a car, to protest drunk-driving. It’s like the owner of a loving American Pit Bull Terrier killing his dog because he’s been convinced the breed is dangerous. It’s like him castrating himself so he won’t rape anyone, like Harvey Weinstein.

It’s not an argument, it’s not an example, it’s not intellectually honest. Naturally, everyone is cheering.

This is the incompetent level of the current gun debate.

  • And so is this: At President Trump’s White House meeting with survivors of school shootings and their family members, a father asked, “How many more children have to get shot?”, and this was deemed worthy of a front page headline. That’s an unethical question, a “When did you stop beating your wife?” question, in which answering it accepts a false premise. “No more!” would be a commitment to installing a police state. “647!” would also be unacceptable, presumably.  The President, neither a deep thinker nor a Constitutional expert, gamely foundered with random suggestions, one of which, the arming of teachers, was furiously attacked and ridiculed by the anti-gun zealots, who have yet to suggest a measure that would have stopped the latest shooting and wouldn’t involve gutting the Bill of Rights.

2. We are poor little lambs who are dumb as hell...I suppose it is gratifying to know that Yale’s institutions are as silly and self-destructive as Harvard’s. I was expecting this one: it is Hasty Pudding Show Redux. Harvard was stupid first, though!

Yale’s Whiffenpoofs, the country’s oldest collegiate a cappella singing group, capitulated to #MeToo anti-male  attacks on campus and this week named Sofia Campoamor, a junior, as the first female member of the all-male  singing group since its founding in 1909. Well, that’s the end of that. Apparently certain kinds of sounds are now politically intolerable in Progressive Cloud Cuckoo Land. All male singing groups, all female singing groups, and mixed gender singing groups have different, distinctive and aesthetically pleasing sounds. Unless Sophia is a bass, or plans on taking hormones, the addition of a female voice to an all-male harmony ensemble changes its sound. Have you ever heard a mixed gender barbershop quartet? It doesn’t sound like a barbershop quartet, just as adding a male to the Supremes would mean the group wouldn’t sound like the Supremes.

The Progressive drive for agenda-driven conformity is a symptom of its totalitarian proclivities. There is nothing wrong or unethical about all-male musical ensembles, and the sound they create is worth preserving. I wouldn’t cross the street to hear the ‘Poofs, but the group has allowed itself to be sacrificed to political correctness.

3. Finally, this entry in the “When ethics alarms don’t ring” files. A dining hall at New York University advertised a special meal in honor of Black History Month:  barbecue ribs, corn bread, collard greens, Kool-Aid and watermelon-flavored water. After black students complained, two low-level black employees were fired for choosing  a menu that Andrew Hamilton, the president of New York University, called “inexcusably insensitive.” 

Foul. The black employees were given an impossible assignment, a trap, really: “OK, decide what we’re going to serve for the Black History meal.” Their supervisors gave inadequate guidance, and no oversight. What would you serve? My answer: nothing different from any other meal, except maybe better than usual. But without guidance, I can see how this gaffe was made. And so self-righteous, privileged black students got two people fired as retribution.  Victory.


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Education, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, Rights