Tag Archives: rationalizations

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/19/2017

1. The number of pundits, talking heads and formally respectable citizens on social media who have implied, suggested or come outright and said that Rep. Steve Scalise deserved to be shot because of the political positions he espouses should be an ethics alarms trigger for progressives and Democrats, but so far has not been. MSNBC’s Joy Reid:

“[I]t’s a delicate thing because everybody is wishing the congressman well and hoping that he recovers, but Steve Scalise has a history that we’ve all been forced to sort of ignore on race,” Reid said. “He did come to leadership after some controversy over attending a white nationalist event, which he says he didn’t know what it was.

He also co-sponsored a bill to amend the Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. He voted for the House healthcare bill, which as you said would gut health care for millions of people, including three million children, and he co-sponsored a bill to repeal the ban on semi-automatic weapons.

Because he is in jeopardy and everybody is pulling for him, are we required in a moral sense to put that aside at the moment?”

What? What’s a “delicate thing?” Absolutely opposing and condemning people shooting elected officials they disagree with is a delicate thing? It’s not a delicate thing at all. It is an ethically mandatory thing. Reid, and all the seriously ethics-deficient people on Facebook calling Scalise’s shooting “karma” are rationalizing assassination and violence, using weasel words. They are beneath contempt at this point in their lives, and need to be told so, repeatedly, until they get some help. They are directly validating violence as a legitimate political tactic.

2.  It will be very difficult to convince me that the horrific increase in opioid addiction and related deaths is not at least partially fueled by the surrender of the culture to the pro-pot lobby. I have long predicted this would happen once the government gave its blessing to recreational drug use on any level. The logical jump from “using this drug that incapacitates you and makes you unproductive, stupid, and a burden on society is just fine,” to “using this drug that makes you even more unproductive and might kill you is a crime  because it’s bad for society” is too great for a lot of people, and we already knew that. Never mind: the  well-to-do pot heads will never admit they were wrong, and this is an especially vicious genie that will not be tricked back into its bottle.

Salon has a list of proposed policy measures to combat the opioid epidemic. Not surprisingly, “Stop glamorizing and enabling recreational drug use” is nowhere to be found. Continue reading

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Filed under Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

From The Law vs. Ethics File: The Discriminatory Charlotte Pride Parade

Brian Talbert, a member of “Gays for Trump,” submitted  an application to Charlotte Pride, Charlotte’s Gay Pride parade, so they could have a float in this year’s event. His application was rejected, with this explanation:

 

Charlotte Pride reserves the right to decline participation at our events to groups or organizations which do not reflect the mission, vision and values of our organization, as is acknowledged in our parade rules and regulations by all groups at the time of their parade application. In the past, we have made similar decisions to decline participation from other organizations espousing anti-LGBTQ religious or public policy stances.

Charlotte Pride envisions a world in which LGBTQ people are affirmed, respected and included in the full social and civic life of their local communities, free from fear of any discrimination, rejection, and prejudice.

Charlotte Pride invites all individuals, groups, organizations and causes which share our values to join our community’s celebration of the LGBTQ community, history, arts and culture during the Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade, Aug. 26-27, 2017.

In other words, because Charlotte Pride does not support Talbert’s political views, he is being denied the opportunity to present a minority point of view. Constitutional Law prof Eugene Volokh explains why this is entirely legal:

“First, Charlotte and North Carolina do not ban discrimination by parade organizers based on political affiliation. Only a few jurisdictions include political affiliation on their lists of prohibited bases for discrimination.

Second, even if a public accommodation law did ban such discrimination, it couldn’t apply to parades organized by nongovernmental organizations. Such parade organizers have a First Amendment right to exclude groups from their parades based on the messages the groups convey about their members’ sexual orientation, political affiliation, religion, race and whatever else to make sure that a parade conveys just the speech that parade organizers want to convey.”

The precedent Volokh cites for this principle? Why, it’s Supreme Court’s holding in Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc. (1995), declaring that the organizers of Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade had a First Amendment right to exclude the gay/lesbian/bisexual group.

It seems that many groups advocate diversity, tolerance and fairness until they achieve the power to do their own discrimination. That is, good bigotry. Discriminating against gays is bad.  Gays discriminating against gays who support the President of the United States is good.

Sure it is. Golden Rule? What’s that? This is intolerance, bigotry, a failure of integrity, hypocrisy….and also bullying, as it aims to coerce group members to accept mandated political views that are not their own.

But it’s not illegal, so it’s all right! Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Ethics, Motives, Killing With Kindness, “Amadeus” And Related Matters

On a thread about the hysterical doom-sayers in response to the US’s exit from the Paris accords on climate change, one dedicated defender of progressive orthodoxy, lacking a genuine rebuttal for the proposition that the social media and pundit panic was nonsense (for there is none), defaulted to the argument that the withdrawal was unethical because the President’s stated motives for it were untrue. This raised two issues, one centuries old, and the other, an irritating one, of more recent vintage.

In order to sanctify many of the Obama administration’s policy botches, many people have adapted  aggressive versions of three prime rationalizations on the Ethics Alarms List: #13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”; #13A  The Road To Hell, or “I meant well” (“I didn’t mean any harm!”) and #14. Self-validating Virtue. To refresh your memory:

13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”

This rationalization has probably caused more death and human suffering than any other. The words “it’s for a good cause” have been used to justify all sorts of lies, scams and mayhem. It is the downfall of the zealot, the true believer, and the passionate advocate that almost any action that supports “the Cause,’ whether it be liberty, religion, charity, or curing a plague, is seen as being justified by the inherent rightness of the ultimate goal. Thus Catholic Bishops protected child-molesting priests to protect the Church, and the American Red Cross used deceptive promotions to swell its blood supplies after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Saint’s Excuse  allows charities to strong-arm contributors, and advocacy groups to use lies and innuendo to savage ideological opponents. The Saint’s Excuse is that the ends justify the means, because the “saint” has decided that the ends are worth any price—especially when that price will have to be paid by someone else.

13A  The Road To Hell, or “I meant well” (“I didn’t mean any harm!”)

This sub-rationalization to the Saint’s Excuse is related to its parent but arguably worse. Rationalization 13 is one of the really deadly rationalizations, the closest on the list to “The ends justified the means”:

 The Saint’s Excuse is that the ends justify the means, because the “saint” has decided that the ends are worth any price—especially when that price will have to be paid by someone else. 

But while the wielder of the Saint’s Excuse typically at least has a beneficial or valuable result to claim as justification for unethical and inexcusable acts, the desperate employers of 13A only have their alleged good intentions, which may be the product of emotion, misunderstanding, ignorance or stupidity. How a bad actor intended his unethical conduct to turn out is no mitigation at all. The underlying logic is that the wrongdoer isn’t a bad person, so the wrongful act shouldn’t be held against him or her as harshly as if he was. The logic is flawed (it is the same logic as in The King’s Pass, #11, which holds that societal valuable people would be held to lower standards of conduct than everyone else) and dangerous, encouraging the reckless not to consider the substance of a course of action, but only its motivations.

The Saint’s Excuse attempts to justify unethical actions that accomplish worthy goals The Road to Hell attempts to justify unethical conduct even when it does undeniable harm, just because it was undertaken with admirable intent.

14. Self-validating Virtue

A  corollary of the Saint’s Excuse  is “Self-validating Virtue,” in which the act is judged by the perceived goodness the person doing it, rather than the other way around. This is applied by the doer, who reasons, “I am a good and ethical person. I have decided to do this; therefore this must be an ethical thing to do, since I would never do anything unethical.” Effective, seductive, and dangerous, this rationalization short-circuits ethical decision-making, and is among the reasons good people do bad things, and keep doing them, even when the critics point out their obvious unethical nature. Good people sometimes do bad things because they are good people, and because of complacency and self-esteem they begin with a conviction, often well supported by their experience, that they are incapable of doing something terribly wrong. But all of us are capable of that, if our ethics alarms freeze due to our environment, emotions, peer pressure, and corrupting leadership, among many possible causes. At the end of the movie “Falling Down,” the rampaging vigilante played by Michael Douglas, once a submissive, law-abiding citizen, suddenly realizes what he has done. “I’m the bad guy?” he asks incredulously. Indeed he is. Any of us, no matter how virtuous, are capable of becoming “the bad guy”…especially when we are convinced that we are not.

This has led to the seeming absurdity of recent arguments, some accepted in court, that the same conduct can be right or wrong, depending on whether the conduct is based on “good” motives, and who is the actor. Since, to take one random example, Barack Obama is obviously good and means well, even inept, poorly planned and irresponsible policies are ethical. Because President Trump is a villain, the same conduct emanating from his dastardly motives would make the same conduct unethical. I have dealt with this biased approach before and will again, but not today.

It is the second, older question that concerns me at the moment, and that is whether human motives should be used in the analysis of whether conduct is ethical or not. The conundrum come up repeatedly in one of my favorite ethics books,  “The Pig That Wants To Be Eaten.Continue reading

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Australia Embraces Pre-Crime

It is crucial to understand is that if you are willing to discard ethical values as soon as they become inconvenient, you never really accepted them in the first place.

Thus  Australia’s looming decision to take away the passports of previously convicted pedophiles because officials are sure that some of them are taking child sex “vacations” to Asian nations active in the illegal trade tells us that when it is crunch time down under, ethics is disposable.

Under a proposed new law backed by the Prime Minister and the judiciary that still needs to be approved by the Australian Parliament, registered child sex offenders will lose their Australian passports as a draconian measure aimed at preventing  pedophiles from abusing children in foreign lands. Advocates proudly call the policy a “world first” in the fight against child sex tourism.

They don’t get it, but then, many people don’t. Many American communities continue to oppress registered sex offenders after they have paid their debts to society, restricting their access to public places like libraries and parks. Vigilante groups publish their addresses so they are subject to harassment and worse. The Constitution, however, limits the extent of the abuse, though that still doesn’t make what many registered sex offenders endure just or fair. Australia has no such limitation.

“The Australian” reports that the law would affect an estimated 20,000 registered offenders who have served their sentences but are still under supervision. Last year, approximately 800 Australian registered child sex offenders traveled overseas. Half of them went to Southeast Asia, where child sex-trafficking is epidemic. Nobody knows how many of the 400 or so travelers actually engaged in the criminal activity, but never mind: Think of the children! Undoubtedly some of the past offenders were traveling to do disgusting things to innocents, and if even one child is saved….well, you know the rationalizations.  Here are the ones the Australians appear to be relying upon:

  1. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”
  2. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”
  3. The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice!”
  4. The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times.”
  5. The Altruistic Switcheroo: “It’s for his own good” 
  6. The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now”
  7. Victim Blindness, or “They/He/She/ You should have seen it coming.”
  8. The Maladroit’s Diversion, or “Nobody said it would be easy!”
  9. The Desperation Dodge or “I’ll do anything!”
  10. TheApathy Defense, or “Nobody Cares.”
  11. The Universal Trump, or “Think of the children!”
  12. The Golden Rule Mutation, or “I’m all right with it!”
  13. The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do”

The primary theory here, however, is “the ends justify the means.’

“This new legislation represents the toughest crackdown on child sex tourism by any government, anywhere,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said, while noting that Australia is “determined to prevent the sexual exploitation of vulnerable young children overseas.” The “crackdown” means that over 20,000 law-abiding Australian citizens will have their right to travel taken away because of what some of 400 travelers to Southeast Asia might have done.

This is pre-crime. The proposed law, and there is little chance that it won’t pass, punishes people who might commit a crime before they do, taking away the basic human right to go where they want to go because they have a particular history or characteristic in common with actual offenders. Maybe some child trafficking will be curtailed.

This end does not justify the means. The fact that the culture in Australia has come to believe it does should constitute a warning that human rights are not sufficiently safe there.

 

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring: A Coach With CTE Continues To Allow Young Players To Risk Brain Damage

…but he felt really guilty about it, so that’s OK.

The New York Times had a very strange sports story yesterday. Its subject was the late Don Horton, a prominent assistant coach at Boston College and North Carolina State for nearly 20 years who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease but was also experiencing symptoms linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated hits to the head strongly linked to football. The sensitive reporter, Bill Pennington asks,

“Was his deteriorating health, Horton wondered, a consequence of his many years as a football lineman?” Even worse, he worried, was he responsible for exposing hundreds of players to the kind of head trauma now impairing his life? After all, as he had recruited and encouraged scores of athletes to play major college football….There was only one way to be sure if he had C.T.E. His brain would have to be examined post-mortem, the only way to confirm the disease since there is no reliable test for the living. At first Horton balked, but as his cognitive difficulties intensified, he relented and even insisted that the findings of his brain examination be made public.”

The Times article makes this sound like a noble and brave resolution of his crisis of conscience. It was not, however. Having his brain dissected after his death was no sacrifice at all; Horton would be dead, of course.  In the meantime, Horton, despite his symptoms and his wife’s investigation into them, continued sending young men out to get their brains beat in.

We learn,

In 2009, seven years before Horton died, [Horton’s wife] called Chris Nowinski, a co-founder and the chief executive of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, and told him that she thought her husband had C.T.E. She also raised her suspicions with Horton’s doctors, but they said that, even if true, it would not change the course of his treatment.

Horton continued his duties at North Carolina State.

“He never missed a day of work and still produced great offensive linemen,” said Jason Swepson, an assistant coach at North Carolina State at the time. “You could see him struggling sometimes, but he never opened up about it because, I think, he didn’t want to feel like he was letting the group down.”

At home, however, Horton’s illness was leading to a variety of changes, physically and philosophically. His daughters, Libby, 14, and Hadley, 9, had begun playing soccer, but Horton pointedly refused to allow them to head the ball in games or in practices, aware that some studies had linked heading to brain injury.

“Don told them, ‘If I ever see you head the ball, I’ll run onto the field and yank you off myself,’” Maura said.

Although Horton kept his misgivings about football’s potential consequences within his household, he talked about it regularly.

“Don would ask, ‘Are we just carrying this cycle on?’” Maura Horton said. “That was a question I couldn’t answer. But it’s definitely the right question to ask.”

It’s not just the right question to ask, it was a question with an obvious answer, and both Hortons knew it. YES he was just carrying the cycle on. YES, he was continuing to coach college players when he had first-hand, personal knowledge of the horrible fate in store for some or many of them as a result, and said nothing.Was he responsible for exposing hundreds of players to the kind of head trauma now impairing his life?” If he refused to let his daughters head the ball while playing soccer, we know he was responsible, and so did Coach Horton. Was he in denial? Was he willing to let his player risk crippling cognitive impairment because he wouldn’t and couldn’t give up the only job he knew? Why does the Times suggest that there was any question about his culpability or breach of duty?

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Health and Medicine

New Orleans’ Historical Air-Brushing Orgy

New Orleans is in the midst of completing a plan to remove four Confederate monuments from public spaces in the city. In April, city workers removed a monument to a Reconstruction-era insurrection, and last week, they dismantled a statue of Jefferson Davis. Statues of the Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and P. G. T. Beauregard will be coming down soon.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu exploited the murder of nine black churchgoers  in Charleston, South Carolina to push for historical censoring, a long-time goal of civil rights groups and progressives.  Now the city says it is weighing a new location for  the monuments so they could be “placed in their proper historical context from a dark period of American history.” The favored new location is rumored to be Hell.

There are protests, of course, and most objections are coming from the perfect advocates from perspective of the historical amnesia fans: Confederacy fans, “Lost Cause” adherents, white supremacists, and other deplorables.  Seldom has George Orwell’s quote been more relevant:

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

I’ve written so much about the efforts from the left to purge America of any memory of or honor to historical figures who do not meet its 2o17 lock-step mandate for politically correct views and statements that I hesitate to repeat myself. You can review the record here.

Still, some things bear repeating. The last time I wrote about this issue was in February, when Yale capitulated to student thought-control advocates and eliminated the name of John C. Calhoun from a residential hall.  For it isn’t just leaders of the Confederacy who are targets of this cultural self-cannibalism: it is all past leaders who were proven wrong in some respects by subsequent wisdom, experience and events, including American icons like Jefferson and Jackson.  That last post listed the rationalizations  employed by the statue-topplers and the spineless officials who capitulate to their purges , including

 The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times” 

The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now.” 

The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do.”

Ethics Surrender, or “We can’t stop it.”

The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”

The Futility Illusion:  “If we don’t do it, somebody else will.”

The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”

The Coercion Myth: “We have no choice!”

The Desperation Dodge or “I’ll do anything!”

The Unethical Precedent, or “It’s not the first time”

The Abuser’s License:  “It’s Complicated”

 The Apathy Defense, or “Nobody Cares.”

When you can throw up twelve rationalizations, that’s more than enough to convince the average, ethically-deficient citizen, not to mention social justice warriors.

That  post concluded,

A friend, lawyer, and Democrat had chided me on Facebook for suggesting that the frenzy to make America a safe place for anyone troubled by the opinions and actions of American patriots of the past could reach as far as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and accused me of engaging in wild hyperbole. Soon thereafter, the Connecticut Democratic Party purged the names and images of Presidents Jackson and Jefferson from its annual dinner, in order to kowtow to progressive activists. In November of last year, hundreds of University of Virginia students and faculty members demanded that President Teresa Sullivan stop quoting Thomas Jefferson, because doing so “undermines the message of unity, equality and civility that you are attempting to convey.”…I believe it is fair to say that I was right to be alarmed, and my friend was wrong. (I’m still going to let the statue of him in my backyard stay there, though.)

The cultural ethics alarms are sounding, as the toxic combination of the ignorant, the cultural bullies and the cowardly brings the United States closer to an Orwellian society where the past is remade to suit the perceived needs of the present.  Yale’s treatment of Calhoun redoubles my conviction that I expressed last year more than once. We have to honor what deserved and deserves to be honored. If we do not, history becomes political propaganda, useful only to support current political agendas. A nation that does not  honor and respect its history has no history.

And a nation that has no history is lost.

The New York Times published separate interviews with a leading critic and a prominent supporter of the historical airbrushing in New Orleans. Continue reading

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Once Again, Stop Making Me Defend President Trump, And Tell Fox To Stop Making Me Defend The People Who Are MAKING Me Defend Him!

 

See? What does Comey have to complain about?

Fred, my topic scout, sent me this and suggested that it was the apotheosis of  Rationalization #22, Comparative Virtue or “It’s not the worst thing.”

Boy, was he right.

In last night’s episode of the Tucker Carlson show—right-wingers are actually impressed with Tucker’s skills at taking down lame liberal fanatics, which is sad in so many ways—featured the Fox News conservative dilettante agreeing with guest James Rosen, who was making the fatuous and ethically offensive point that people shouldn’t get so upset about what Trump does because the Civil War and the Cold War were worse.

This argument is the Mother of All Terrible Rationalizations, and especially bad because it spoils a good point, which is that absent historical perspective, it’s not easy to know what a real crisis is. Arguing that people shouldn’t object to something, however, because something else was worse is the mark of desperation as well as intellectual deficiency. Explain why the alleged crisis isn’t one (as in the Comey firing); explain why the assumed harm is exaggerated, or being hyped, or the product of bias and emotion. But to say, as Rosen, a “conservative historian,” which only means he isn’t an aggressive leftist like almost all of his colleagues, did,

“During Watergate, the term ‘crisis’ was thrown around as well and there were people at that time who were old enough to remember when there were legless Civil War veterans still in the streets of Washington.”

And I’m sure conservative historians were reminding those Civil War casualties while their legs were being sawed off without anesthesia that the Civil War wasn’t nearly as horrible as the Black Death. “Ah, I feel much better now,” they smiled. “Just call me ‘Stumpy!’

Here, for the sake of reference, is the description of #22 on the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List: Continue reading

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