Tag Archives: rationalizations

NBC’s Chuck Todd Offers Dubious History To Cover For Democrats

One of these things is not like the other...

One of these things is not like the other…

[A frequent and valued commenter asked Ethics Alarms to examine this, and I am, as many of you know, always eager to delve into the history of My Favorite Men, the Presidents of the United States.]

Yesterday, NBC presented the nauseating display of a prominent member of Congress attempting to undermine the peaceful transfer of power after a legal and fair election. This was unprecedented, and not surprisingly. Only a hyper-partisan ethics dunce who believed that he was beyond criticism and accountability and who was confident that journalists would rationalize his conduct would do such a thing.  In this regard, at least, Rep. John Lewis was correct. The news media had his back.

Before the actual interview was broadcast, news of Lewis’s statement was out regarding Lewis’s attack, and Donald Trump, as he has with Gold Star parents, beauty queens and others and award-winning actresses, had foolishly reacted with an insulting tweet that allowed his critics to shift public attention from the provocation to the target. Is Trump really incapable of learning how stupid this is, no matter how many times he suffers for it? Apparently.

Meanwhile, it was time for the news media to play defense for Lewis, because that’s what they do when Democrats misbehave.

Chuck Todd, the host of “Meet the Press,” used hsiMSNBC show “Meet the Press Daily” to argue that a prominent member of Congress claiming that an elected President isn’t legitimate is just not that big a deal, saying

In case you missed it, Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.), civil rights hero and icon, said Donald Trump does not believe is a legitimate president because of the Russian meddling in the election. Leaving aside how you feel about Lewis’ position, it’s not first time a president’s legitimacy has been questioned.”

Then, no doubt thanks to some intern’s searches on Google, he regaled his audience with misleading American history:

In 1824 when John Quincy Adams won the presidency over Andrew Jackson, despite getting clobbered in the popular vote, a lot of people questioned the legitimacy of his victory. In fact, this happens pretty much every time the popular vote loser moves into the White House.

After the 1876 election, Rutherford Hayes, who was called Ruther-fraud Hayes when Congress gave him the electoral majority.

The same in 1888 with Benjamin Harrison. You may remember the occasional cry of foul in 2000 when the Supreme Court stopped the Florida recount and George W. Bush won the election.

Sometimes, though, it has nothing to do with voting. When William Henry Harrison died a month after taking office in 1841, a lot of people didn’t accept the idea that as vice president John Tyler or any vice president for that matter could legitimately ascend to the presidency. A lot of people just called him an ‘acting president.’

Most recently, of course, the conservative right and and some Republicans claimed to doubt President Obama’s citizenship and therefore the legitimacy of his right to serve in the office of the presidency.

None of this is meant to pass judgment on John Lewis’ position, it’s just to remind us all this isn’t the first time someone has questioned the legitimacy of an American president. Surely won’t be the last.

This is what our political system does, we have this back and forth. It doesn’t make it any less shocking, frankly, to some of us when you do hear it from people with big influence. That’s all for tonight.

See? No big deal! Happens all the time! Everybody does it! Continue reading

68 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Leadership

Presenting The First New Rationalization Of 2017: #32A Imaginary Consent, or “He/She Would Have Wanted It This Way”

roxieThe addition of  New Rationalization #32A Imaginary Consent, or “He/She Would Have Wanted It This Way” to the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List became obligatory after it got a work-out over the holidays. Disney turning long dead character actor Peter Cushing into a zombie performer for the new “Star Wars” film was defended with the claim, which was almost surely also used by his heirs who were paid handsomely for the use of Cushing’s CGI avatar.

And that’s always the way this rationalization arrives. Someone wants to profit through some dubious scheme or transaction, and uses the argument that a revered and quite dead family member, personage of importance or icon “would have approved,” or “would have wanted it.” Like its progenitor 32. The Unethical Role Model: “He/She would have done the same thing,” which employs misdeeds of presumably admirable figures of the past as precedent for misdeed in the future, this is an appeal to irrelevant authority. Worse, Imaginary Consent presumes what cannot possibly be determined without prior express statements from the deceased.

This is one reason why DNR (“Do not resuscitate”) orders are essential. Using a fictional consent to absolve a decision-maker from actual responsibility is both a dodge and cowardly, as well as dishonest. I remember the horrible day that my sister and I were called upon to decide whether to terminate my mother, who was unconscious, on life support and beyond recovery. We made the decision quickly, and what my mother “would have wanted” was never a factor. (She had delegated the decision on her own DNR to my sister.) What my mother wanted, we both agreed, was to live forever. She would have been willing to have her comatose body waiting for a miracle or a cure until the hospital crumbled around her….in fact, that’s why she delegated the decision without instructions. Sure, it would have been easier to fool ourselves with #32A. But it would have been a lie.

The other true story this rationalization makes be think of is the time the elderly parents of a friend decided to euthanize their wonderful, bounding, big and joyful dog Roxie, some kind of a felicitous hybrid between a boxer and a freight train. They were moving into a resort where dogs were not allowed.  I was aghast, but they insisted, “We just know Roxie wouldn’t be happy living with anyone else.”

I argued(they did not appreciate it), “You know what? I bet if she could talk, Roxie would say, ‘You know, I really like you guys, really, and I’ll miss you a lot, but on balance I think I’d rather keep living, thanks. I’ll miss you, but I’m pretty sure I’ll get over it. Have a great time in Florida.'”

They killed her anyway.

#32A is a way to pass off responsibility for an ethically  dubious decision on someone who is beyond participation in that decision, and sometimes even the victim of it. It is cowardly, unaccountable, and based on an assertion that may not be true.

___________________

Special Thanks to Reader/Commenter Zoltar Speaks!, who suggested the new entry.

39 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Family, Health and Medicine

“Start The Car!” Ethics

“Start the car!” shouts the woman in a ubiquitous IKEA TV commercial for its “Winter Sale.” She has received her receipt, and  the total is so low that she assumes there has been a mistake.  She quickly exits the store with bags of purchases, and while running calls to her husband in the car outside so he will pick her up and hit the gas before someone comes to reclaim the merchandise or demand more payment. As they drive away with what she thinks are her ill-gotten gains, she lets out a whoop of triumph.

The narration explains that IKEA’s sale prices are so low, this how you will feel.

The commercial is unethical. It trivializes and normalizes theft, and rejects the ethical values of honesty, integrity and responsibility. Apparently the ad has been running internationally for a long time (it only just started showing up in my region) and is very popular. Writes one industry commentator, “People relate to the message because at one point or another while shopping we’ve all had that feeling that we just got away with something.”

Really? I haven’t. My father didn’t either (my mom was another story.) I’ve told waitresses and clerks that they undercharged me. I’ve returned excessive change. I’ve handed back money to tellers when two bills stuck together. You don’t? What the hell’s the matter with you? Were you raised by Fagin?

Though the commercial was a hit and positively accepted in all of the nations where it was viewed, there is hope:  it also received many negative comments and complaints. An Advertising Standards Board—I cannot for the life of me find out which; the U.S. has no such board. I’m guessing Sweden— thus considered whether this advertisement breached   its Advertisers Code of Ethics.

The breach would be that the commercial isn’t socially responsible, since it represents taking merchandise from a store that hasn’t been fully paid for as normal and acceptable conduct. The Board viewed the advertisement in light of the complaints and decided that the ad was ethically inoffensive.

Guess why.

No, go ahead, guess.

Continue reading

18 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Marketing and Advertising, Professions

Obamacare’s Epitaph: “Live By The Rationalization, Die By The Rationalization”

obamacare-gravestoneRemember in 2010, when the Democrats ensured that the Affordable Care Act would clear its final hurdle to passage this way?

Democrats will finish their health reform efforts within the next two months by using a majority-vote maneuver in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. Reid said that congressional Democrats would likely opt for a procedural tactic in the Senate allowing the upper chamber to make final changes to its healthcare bill with only a simple majority of senators, instead of the 60 it takes to normally end a filibuster.The move would allow Democrats to essentially go it alone on health reform, especially after losing their fillibuster-proof majority in the Senate after Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) special election victory in Massachusetts.

Republicans have protested the maneuver as a hyperpartisan tactic to ram through a health bill, and have said that plans to use the reconciliation process make moot a bipartisan summit at the White House this week, where both GOP and Democratic leaders are supposed to present their ideas on healthcare.

At the time, Republicans, as is their wont, over-stated their objections to the maneuver, calling it unconstitutional and a breach of rules. No, it wasn’t quite that, nor was it as unusual as the GOP claimed. It was within Senate rules, but still the first time it was ever used to amend a bill that had already passed the Senate via cloture, and under such contentious circumstances.  Reconciliation was legal, all right, but since the Affordable Care Act was so revolutionary and controversial, its passage needed to be seen as democratic, and it wasn’t. Democrats ignored the Golden Rule, and extended the acceptable use of reconciliation by using a number of rationalizations, as well as “the ends justify the means.”

Let’s see: “Everybody Does It” wouldn’t work, because the problem with using reconciliation was that everybody didn’t do it, at least not very often.  So Democrats opted for 13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”23. Woody’s Excuse: “The heart wants what the heart wants”#24. Juror 3’s Stand (“It’s My Right!”)25. The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice!”28. The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times.”31. The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now” 40. The Desperation Dodge or “I’ll do anything!”59. The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do”…and perhaps a few other rationalizations on the list. Continue reading

46 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

Are No Professions Safe From The 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck? Now Even Restaurant Critics Have Gotten On Board!

circus-train-wreck

As a professional ethics specialist, I find the enthusiasm with which alleged professionals have used the election of Donald Trump to excuse their abandonment of such ethical values as fairness, responsibility, respect and citizenship deeply discouraging, and I am seriously considering becoming a beachcomber. I already knew that the journalism profession no longer could distinguish ethics from a hairy crab, so this wasn’t too surprising, nor was it too much of a shock that the New York Times has become a non-stop anti-Trump fear-fest and rant machine. Let’s see, in today’s edition alone  there is a hit piece on Trump advisor Steve Bannon called “Bannon’s Coriolanus Rewrite,” then  “Donald Trump’s Racial Ignorance,” “Where the Right Went Wrong,” (an amazing title, given the current balance of political power after Hillary’s botched campaign), “How the Truth Got Hacked,” “Is Democracy in Danger?” “Trump, the Russian Poodle,” and “Is This Collective Trauma?” The  last, I guess,  explains why mass trauma is inevitable for progressives, moderates and “Never Trump” Republicans when “the political order they long took for granted — defined by polarization, yes, but also by a commitment to basic principles of democracy and decency — is suddenly gone.”  One would almost wonder from that sentence which side of the political spectrum is calling for armed insurrection, pre-inaugural impeachment, and the overturning of the election results. The Times is also a showcase for columnists whose minds have snapped like dry branches in the wind,  causing them to leap manically onto the Trump Hysteria Express. Economist Paul Krugman has long been a hyper-partisan scold for whom fairness is alien territory, but this tweet was spectacularly vicious even for him:

“Thought: There was (rightly) a cloud of illegitimacy over Bush, dispelled (wrongly) by 9/11. Creates some interesting incentives for Trump.”

An ethical newspaper wouldn’t want someone capable of such a comment working for it.

Many broadcast journalists were stunningly unprofessional, indeed amateurish, on election night. Martha Raddatz choked up with emotion reporting Clinton’s loss; now there’s an objective reporter. Rachel Maddow described the evening as a “nightmare.”

Education has been racing journalism to the ethics barrel bottom for years, but I did not expect universities to send such intimidating messages to their students that they were expected to either be in mourning or on the verge of emotional breakdowns because the Democrats lost. Once, higher institutions of learning aimed to teach students critical thinking skills so they could make up their own minds regarding civic affairs. High school administrators and teachers also forgot their duties, and allowed students to skip school because, you know, TRUMP!!!!, and “ARRRGHHHHH!!!!”

Lawyers have lost their ethical bearings, of course, as have law professors, with perhaps the best example of the latter being the Georgetown Law Center adjunct who claims that the Constitution is unconstitutional, because following it will elect Donald Trump. My law alma mater isn’t faring too well in the train wreck: another professor, Paul Butler, argued that Supreme Court justices shouldn’t normally attack a President Elect, except when it’s Donald Trump.

Other academics have disgraced themselves. A prominent historian, for example, even resorted to making up history to provide an excuse for Democrats losing to such a horrible creature. Professor Larry Lessig of Harvard Law, who heads an ethics institute there, is encouraging electors to be “faithless,” as in “double-cross the voters who elected them.” Some ethics institute you have there, Harvard!

Artist, actors and show business professionals have debased themselves even more than usual, beginning with the Broadway cast of “Hamilton’s” breach of the Performer’s First Commandment: DON’T ABUSE THE AUDIENCE. They have even started turning on each other: Jon Voight, whose sin was that he expressed support for the man elected President, was booed at recent awards show by his fellow actors. Nice.

But as bad as this has been, I didn’t expect food critics to be corrupted. Continue reading

10 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Citizenship, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Social Media

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Slate Legal Columnist Dahlia Lithwick and Law Professor David S. Cohen

if you think THAT's a distortion, just try looking as the Golden Rule in the mirror...

If you think THAT’s a distortion, just try looking as the Golden Rule in the mirror…

“If Mr. Trump had lost the Electoral College while winning the popular vote, an army of Republican lawyers would have descended on the courts and local election officials.”

—-Slate Editor Dahlia Lithwick and Drexel University law professor David S. Cohen in a NYT op-ed, “Buck Up, Democrats, and Fight Like Republicans.”

I love this quote! It is a pure example of one of the many invalid Golden Rule permutations that appear on the invaluable Ethics Alarms Rationalizations list under #58. The Golden Rule Mutation, or “I’m all right with it!” Among the blatant rationalizations disguised in Golden Rule cloaks are…

  • Do unto others as you know others would do unto you.
  • Do unto others what they did unto you.
  • Do unto others as you wish others would do unto you even though you wouldn’t deserve it.
  • Do unto others as those others treat others.
  • Do unto others as they threatened to do unto you.
  • Do unto others as others who think like you do would also do to those others.
  • Do unto others according to how you feel about what they did unto you.
  • Do unto others before they do it unto you.
  • Do unto me as you would want to have done unto you if you were as devoid of civilized values as I am.

As for #58, it translates into…

“Do unto others as if the others felt like I do, even though they may not.”

The possible variations are infinite, and every one of them is intellectually dishonest and unethical. It’s astounding, and depressing, that two lawyers, one an alleged analyst and the other a law professor, would endorse such an unethical proposition.  They do it because they are openly partisan and politically biased, and as we all should know by now if you’ve been paying attention here, bias makes you stupid.

The op-ed’s Golden Rule mutation is one I should add to the list, though it’s a bit long:

“Do unto others as you conveniently assume the others would do unto you, even though there is no evidence that they would.” Continue reading

32 Comments

Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Ethics Dunce: Texas Elector Christopher Suprun [UPDATED]

Shut up, Chris; shut up, Alexander.

Oh, shut up, Chris; you too,, Alexander.

Another faithless Texas elector has announced himself. This time, it’s Christopher Suprun, the latest previously anonymous figure to exploit the 2016 Presidential candidacy of Donald Trump for 15 minutes of fame. Let’s see: there was Trump’s former lawyer, who breached or nicked several legal ethics duties to get a column in the Huffington Post, Trump’s ghostwriter, and all of the women who never saw fit to complain of being sexually assaulted by the President Elect until their accusations could do maximum harm and spark maximum exposure. Now we have Suprun, who penned a self-righteous op-ed for the New York Times explaining why he feels he is entitled, all by himself, to ignore the will of the people and cast his vote as elector for someone other than the candidate Texas insisted he pledge to vote for: the winner of the most votes by participating Texas citizens in the November 12 election.

The measure of Suprun’s gravitas and qualifications to take this responsibility on himself is aptly illustrated by the first of his justifications for his untenable position: “Mr. Trump goes out of his way to attack the cast of “Saturday Night Live” for bias.” Naturally, he appeals to the authority of Alexander Hamilton, whose various employments in the post-election train wreck has convinced me that he, not Old Hickory, really should move off the currency and make way for someone with the right number of chromosomes. If I hear one more quote from Federalist Paper 68—which no one is 100% certain that Hamilton even wrote—I may strip off my clothes and run screaming Norse epithets into the night. Assuming, as most do, that the author was Hamilton, so what? The paper was written after the Constitutional Convention. Hamilton’s concept for that document and the structure of the government was rejected. He didn’t trust the public, or democracy, wanted George Washington to be king, and championed a system the resembled Great Britain’s. Using him to justify a concept of the Electoral College that has never been employed or accepted in the United States is a classic logical fallacy. Continue reading

145 Comments

Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Leadership