Yes Indeed, Elite College Grads Can Still Be Civically Incompetent Fools

They have been rumored, and caught in dubious, fuzzy photos, but does an intelligent, rational Donald Trump supporter really exist? The quest continues...

They have been rumored, and caught in dubious, fuzzy photos, but does an intelligent, rational Donald Trump supporter really exist? The quest continues…

In my constant quest to find someone, anyone, who can defend their support of Donald Trump with a substantive argument rather than the emotional, nonsensical rationalizations I have heard and read so far, I came upon  a USA Today essay by “Weekly Standard” contributing right-winger Charlotte Allen—she is kind of like Ann Coulter, but not funny— called “Why a Stanford grad joined the Trump revolt.” I was momentarily thrilled, then my hopes were immediately dashed. The answer to the headline’s question is simply “Because graduates of prestigious schools can be just as irresponsible and ignorant as anyone else.” Her pathetic essay proves it.

To begin with, appeal to authority is a lazy debate fallacy (“Proposition X is valid because Authority A says so”—you know, like “bats are blind because Neil De Grasse Tyson says so”…), but appealing to your own authority is ridiculous. “I went to Stanford, and I voted for Donald Trump. So did my husband. He went to Yale,” Allen begins. The required response: Who the hell cares? The only people who think a degree means you are smart are dumb people, some of whom have impressive degrees themselves.

Now, the essay could have been so dazzling in its pro-Trump logic that it simultaneously redeemed Trump supporters and the two schools the piece embarrasses. It was not.

The essay begins with the boot-strapping argument that it isn’t ignorant and irresponsible to vote for Trump because in Massachusetts a lot of educated people voted for him. “Low-information voter” doesn’t mean uneducated voter, however. It means people who aren’t paying attention, or who filter out information they don’t want to hear, or who are informed in some areas but get their political news from partisan websites and cable stations.  Continue reading

Adam LaRoche Drama Epilogue: A Reflection On Life, Kids, Baseball And Ethics


Well, I don’t recall anyone leaving baseball like this before.

When last we visited Adam LaRoche a couple of days ago, he was retiring from baseball (and abandoning his 13 million dollar 2016 contract  to play for the Chicago White Sox) because team executive Kenny Williams asked that he not have his 14-year-old son Drake living and traveling with the team, as well as being being perpetually in the clubhouse, as he was all last year. Today LaRoche released a remarkable statement explaining his decision.

It is well worth reading. I’ll have some comments at the end about the bolded sections, marked by me with letters. Now, here’s Adam:
Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Dick Masten—When Ethics Trumps Law

A heroic and ethical snack...

A heroic and ethical snack…

One way I can always start an argument on Ethics Alarms is to state my position that willfully breaking the law is per se unethical as a breach of citizenship. Like all rules, however, this one has exceptions. Dick Masten, the Director of Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers, recently demonstrated one of them.

The former police chief was ordered by Judge Victoria Brennan to reveal the name of a tipster in a cocaine possession case, State vs. Lissette Alvarez. Alvarez was arrested in 2013 and charged with cocaine possession. Brennan called for Masten to come into court and confer with her in chambers regarding the case. Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers sparked the eventual arrest after getting information from a tipster who was assured anonymity. Alvarez’s attorney insists that the tipster’s information is part of the evidence against his client, saying, “Ms. Alvarez, in this case, has every right to confront her accusers. But more particularly in this case, it’s not the accuser, but the evidence that the State will use against her.”

Ordered by the judge to reveal the name of the tipster, Masten, insisted that he couldn’t divulge information to be reviewed in closed court that might be discoverable as evidence. “There is a possibility that looking at certain documents, a defendant could work that case backwards and put the tipster at peril, and I’m not gonna let that happen,” he said. In a dramatic touch, Masten swallowed  a slip of paper that held the tipster’s name. “What is personal to me, is the promise,” Masten said before his ethical snack. “Some of these tipsters could end up dead. Not on my watch.” Continue reading

“Can The Democrats Find The Right Message On Obamacare?” You Mean Other Than, “We Lied To You And Gave You A Law That Doesn’t Work Right But You Should Still Trust Us To Fix It”?

One more time....

One more time….

“Can Democrats find the right message on Obamacare?” asks the Washington Post’s “Wonkbook,” as it reviews various strategic options for threatened Democrats after the party’s “fix Obamacare” candidate lost a winnable Congressional race in Florida. The question, objectively interpreted, really means “Can Democrats fool voters into trusting them one more time?” That’s a good question, and the answer is far from certain. The use of the word “right,” however, is cynical.  The Post means “effective.” The right message, as in the ethical and honest one, would have to be based on these undeniable and unpleasant facts: Continue reading

As The Obamacare Ethics Train Wreck Accelerates, A Plea To The Bitter-enders: “Stop It. You’re Disgracing Yourself.”

[I’m back from Colorado Springs, and as usual after that trip, momentarily cheered, encouraged and inspired by my experience discussing ethics with sheep farmer-legislators from Montana, surfer-legislators from Hawaii and other ordinary, diverse, dedicated, honest and smart Americans of all political persuasions who just want to do good things for their neighbors, communities, state and nation. This is, I think, what Mr. Jefferson and his friends had in mind. The annual training program for recently-elected state legislators run by the Council of State Governments is just marvelous—if only every legislator starting out could go through it (especially this really neat half-day ethics seminar a bald guy teaches).  In case you are wondering, the ACA despair, disgust and mockery was coming from both sides of the aisle—I did mention they were honest, right? And, obviously, not from Washington, DC. If we’re lucky, a lot of them will be here in a few years.]

Why are they still spinning? They're not getting anywhere, and they look ridiculous!

Why are they still spinning? They’re not getting anywhere, and they look ridiculous!

Now I’m trying to catch up—those few posts from Colorado Springs were by necessity early in the morning and late at night, and on less than earth-shattering topics. Sadly, the current Ethics Train Wreck involving the roll-out of Obamacare—-a rare example of one that could have and should have been seen coming years ago, and that some of us did see, and clearly—has only become worse. The integrity test that I announced  three weeks ago also continues to produce dispiriting results. I hope to do a summary of both the wreckage and the test eventually, but in the meantime, the Obamacare Ethics Trainwreck continues to pick up passengers who are flunking the Ethics Alarms Integrity Test in the process. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Josh Barro

“‘If you like your health plan, you can keep it’ was never a reasonable promise; health reform that addressed America’s combination of high cost, middling outcomes and spotty coverage was necessarily going to have to change a lot of people’s health plans. So yes, that statement is proving false — and it’s a good thing.”

—–Josh Barro in Business Insider, joining the ranks of the untrustworthy while discussing the unfolding realities of the Affordable Care Act.

Or as HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius would say: "Whatever."

Or as HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius would say: “Whatever.”

James Taranto has catalogued several more disgraceful efforts to deny the undeniable—that President Obama’s assertion that nothing in the Affordable Care Act would cause any American to lose a plan that he liked was a calculated and intentional lie—thus adding those individuals to the growing list of people Americans should never pay heed to again on any topic, because they have proven themselves to lack integrity and are thus untrustworthy.

Among them: New York Times pundit David Firestone, James Carville (I’m shocked!), Time’s Kate Pickert, and my friend Jason Linkins over at the Huffington Post, a funny, smart man who ought to be ashamed of himself.  The comments that most alarmed me, however, were those of another addition to the list, commentator Josh Barro. “The statement is proving false” is a particularly loathsome version of “mistakes were made,” which attempts to remove the human being responsible from identification and accountability. Obama’s statement isn’t changing or doing anything. Barro’s dishonest phrasing denies the fact of human agency. Obama made a promise regarding matters that he had complete control over in every way, and that promise was false when it was made. By him. The President could have guaranteed that his promise would be kept by refusing to sign a bill that didn’t make certain, through its provisions, that it would be kept. In fact, he has known all along (or has no excuse for not knowing)that millions of Americans wouldn’t be able to keep the plans they wanted to. The promise isn’t “proving false;” it was always false.

As for Barro’s airy declaration that the fact that it is “proving false” is a good thing, this is essentially an endorsement of lying as tool of public manipulation. Lying to the public is never a good thing, and a President lying to the public is a terrible thing. That so many of President Obama’s allies and supporters, like Barro, endorse lying and shamelessly so if it achieves ends that they happen to believe are beneficial should set off not merely ethics alarms, but democracy and republic alarms. Self-government cannot flourish or even survive when this kind of conduct by elected leaders becomes commonplace and accepted.

Although I have seen scant evidence of it so far, I hope that the progressives, Democrats, journalists and others who are now discarding all semblance of honesty and objective reasoning to rationalize away the President’s words in this episode recognize that their obligations to their illusions and ideologies must be secondary to their duties to the culture, fellow citizens, American values and the nation. Many of these desperate deniers are my friends, some are my family. I call on them to stop amplifying a lie and excusing betrayal. You’re disillusioned—I accept that. I’ve been in your position. It is devastating when those you have admired, believed, and tied your own credibility to show themselves to be unworthy of that trust, and abuse it. But denial makes the consequences of that conduct worse, and indeed ratifies it and guarantees that it will continue. This is cowardly and irresponsible. You are better than that; the country is better than that. This is not a culture that has embraced the concept of “the King can do no wrong,” indeed, the Constitution and the Declaration are predicated on the truth than leaders are fallible.

The President lied to everyone, and that is not “a good thing.” It is something that should never be trivialized nor allowed to pass without serious, meaningful consequences, and there can be no consequences when good and intelligent people abdicate their duty of self-government, which includes the duty of oversight, to protect the wrongdoers. All the polls say that we want our government to be trustworthy. Well, it can’t be trustworthy if we excuse its lies. For the government to be trustworthy, we have to be trustworthy too. We have to be able to trust each other not to aid the lies we are told, and to confront the liars.

It’s not too late.


Pointer and Source:Forbes, Business InsiderWall Street Journal

Bad Valedictorian Ethics, Round #2: The Cut-Off Mic

This one is easy.

I would have pulled the plug too.

I would have pulled the plug too.

At  Joshua (Tex.) High School, a Valedictorian, in this case one Remington Reimer, agreed to deliver school-approved text and nothing else as his graduation speech. Following the unethical example of double-crossing Valedictorian Roy Costner, recently slobbered over by Fox News as if he were a hero (imagine if Costner had torn up his promised speech and began bashing the Tea Party—do you think Megyn Kelly would have been kissing his shoes on the air then?), Reimer decided to grandstand as well, changing his speech from what he had assured the school he would be delivering. But while he broke his promise, the school, to its credit, did not. He had been told that if he pulled a Costner, his microphone would be turned off. As the wags at Fark neatly put it,  “If you go off-script during your valedictorian speech and mention that you were threatened with having your microphone cut if you were to indeed go off-script, then your microphone just might get cut off for going off-script.” That’s what happened to Remington.

Good. Continue reading

Bad Valedictorian Ethics In Pickens County

People have to learn to stop applauding unethical conduct.

Hijacking in progress.

Hijacking in progress.

Roy Costner IV, honored with the opportunity to give the valedictory speech to fellow graduates of Liberty High School in Pickens County, South Carolina, decided to defy the School District’s decision to exclude prayers at graduation ceremonies.  He began his prepared and approved  graduation speech, then tore it up dramatically and segued into the Lord’s Prayer, to the apparent delight of many in attendance.


Roy accepted the invitation to give the speech under known conditions. He submitted text, supposedly in good faith. The school trusted him to meet his commitments. Instead, he hijacked the graduation ceremony for his own religious agenda. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “‘The Ethicist’ and the Doctor”

"Your secret is safe with me, but I have to ask...what that stolen Renoir doing up there?"

“Your secret is safe with me, but I have to ask…what that stolen Renoir doing up there?”

Jeff Long scores his first Comment of the Day with a welcome excursion into the thickets of medical confidentiality. As I expected, many readers were troubled by my support of strict patient-doctor confidentiality as dictates by AMA medical standards. Jeff does an excellent job elaborating on why I (and the professions like law, medicine and the clergy) take the position they do. In professional relationships, trust is essential, and you can trust professions that approve of breaching confidentiality when a damaging secret is involved.

Here is Jeff’s comment, on the post “The Ethicist and the Doctor.”

“First, with regard to Matthew’s example of the cheating spouse who contracts an STD, I think it would probably be difficult to come up with a better example of “the system working as intended.” In the world where doctors respect confidentiality, at least one person gets treated. In the world where the doctor blabs to the world (or at least, to the spouse), there’s a good chance that nobody does. In fact, if the cheater forgoes treatment out of fear of exposure, s/he is putting the spouse at even GREATER risk than in the former scenario, since the STD goes untreated and has a larger window in which to infect the spouse. Certainly, the ideal world is the one where the cheater gets treated AND confesses to the spouse, but the onus for that lies with the cheater. It’s not the doctor’s place. Continue reading

“The Ethicist” and the Doctor

It's all Greek to "The Ethicist"!

It’s all Greek to “The Ethicist”!

The third New York Times writer to take over the mantle of “The Ethicist” column, Chuck Klosterman, may be the most reliable yet, but he ended up wandering into the ethical weeds in his recent advice to an ethically-perplexed doctor, and engaging in advice column malpractice.

A physician asked him what was his ethical course when a patient divulged to him that his persistent headaches may have arisen from the stress of keeping a secret: he was responsible for a crime that had been pinned on an innocent man. Before the consultation, the doctor had promised his patient that “whatever he told me would not leave the room.”  Now the physician was having second doubts, and wondered if he was right to keep the confidence to his patient at the expense of an innocent man’s freedom and reputation.

Klosterman’s answer:

“I would advise the following: Call the patient back into your office. Urge him to confess what happened to the authorities and tell him you will assist him in any way possible (helping him find a lawyer before going to the police, etc.). If he balks, you will have to go a step further; you will have to tell him that you were wrong to promise him confidentiality and that your desire for social justice is greater than your personal integrity as a professional confidant.”

First of all, I don’t understand why a doctor is asking this question to a newspaper ethicist unless he doesn’t like what professional and medical ethicists are telling him. Klosterman, in reaching his reasonable-sounding but flat-out wrong reply, simply discards the concept of professionalism, beginning with the Hippocratic Oath…. Continue reading