Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/4/18: The Good And The Bad, And If Janus Had A Third Face, It Would be Ugly

Good morning!

1. Looking for biased but reliable progressive news aggregators! I have a long secret list of story sources, but my online leftist news aggregator supply is drying up. That’s where I can find the stories that reflect badly on the Right but that the conservative news sources choose to ignore. The key problem is “reliable.” Sites like Raw Story, ThinkProgress, the Huffington Post and the Daily Kos have all violated Ethics Alarms standards of basic honesty, fairness and trustworthiness—much like Breitbart, Red State and the Gateway Pundit, none of which I will  read or cite unless directed to a particular post, from the other side of the spectrum. The Daily Beast was long my favorite online leftist source, but now it requires a subscription, and I’m certainly not going to pay for biased analysis—beyond what I already get from the Washington Post and New York Times.

Memeorandum remains the most balanced and non-partisan online news aggregator, by far.

2. Retire, Pat. It isn’t just Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein who try to hold on to power long after their advancing age makes it unethical to do so. The GOP has its irresponsible geezers too. Today Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Ks) will announce whether he plans to end his political career or run for another term in 2020, which would take him to his 90th year if he survived it. The man is 82: he should not have run for his current term.

Of course, it doesn’t help that 85-year-old Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is providing an unethical role model for all elected officials and judges by ostentatiously refusing to retire and obviously resolving to leave the Supreme Court feet first.

3. Slapping down Big Brother in Oregon.U.S. Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman issued a permanent injunction against the Oregon Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying that tried to fine Mats Järlström, who has a degree in engineering and years of experience in the field, $500 for describing himself as “an engineer.”

The judge ruled that this was a violation of the First Amendment, which it clearly was. This wasn’t a case where the First Amendment right to lie came into play, because Järlström wasn’t lying. He was fined for going on television to talk about public policy issues while describing himself as an “electronics engineer” and writing the phrase “I am an engineer” in a letter. The Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying claimed he was practicing engineering without a license.

As government regulations proliferate without end,  they inevitably strangle individual liberty, expression and enterprise. Continue reading

Is It Unethical To Ban Stupid People From Congress?

In 1978, this last image from “Animal House” was hilarious. In 2012, it’s tragic…because it came true.

The Todd Akin debacle has me wondering why we don’t take measures to block the ignorant and dim-witted from gaining high elected office. I know what you are going to say: that’s what elections are for. But we can’t bar ignorant and stupid people from voting: that’s been settled in court. It shouldn’t surprise us that they frequently tip elections toward candidates that the pollsters describe as “people like them”, and voilà! Todd Akin.

Akin is far (well, maybe not very far) from the  most intellectually suspect member of Congress. For example, Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson once expressed concern that the island of Guam might tip over, like a raft. There are too many other telling anecdotes relating to other members of Congress, in both parties. For those who shrug cynically and argue that it’s always been that way, there is solid evidence that indeed, Congress is getting dumber over time. A study of every word spoken in Congress concluded that the grade level at which members of the legislative branch speak has fallen a full grade since 2005, to just half-way through the junior year of high school. Democrats are slightly more articulate (.4 of a grade) than Republicans as a group, but that just could be because Joe Biden left to be Vice-President. Continue reading

Ethics Train Wreck Update: Martin-Zimmerman Reflections

Is it only fair to show one version of the victim?

As the NAACP joined with Al Sharpton today to lead a protest of thousands in Sanford Florida, some notes on recent ethics carnage and confusion in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s shooting death:

  • Roslyn Brock, who chairs the national board of directors for the NAACP, perfectly illustrated  ignorance of the justice system and short-sightedness that has characterized this whole, sorry incident. “We come to make sense of this great tragedy and the entire world grieves with us,” she said . “When the Sanford police did not arrest George Zimmerman, they essentially placed the burden of proof on a dead young man who cannot speak for himself.” But of course, as every American should know, that is where the burden of proof lies. The alleged victim in a death is represented by the state, and it is the state that has the burden of proof of guilt as well as having the burden to justify an arrest. It is not Zimmerman’s responsibility to prove his innocence, though that is what the un-American process engineered by race-activists and the media has come to. Does the NAACP really want to take the position that there should be a presumption of guilt in criminal matters? Or just in circumstances where the victim is an African-American and the suspect is not?
  • While CNN has taken the lead in trying to present a balanced picture of the controversy, NBC, mostly through MSNBC, has thoroughly disgraced itself by essentially taking an advocacy position on Zimmerman’s guilt, even to the point of doctoring his 911 call to make it seem clear that this was a case of racial profiling. “This guy looks like he’s up to no good…He looks black.” is how Zimmerman’s 911 call was played on the  “Today Show” and relayed on MSNBC’s website. The actual conversation was this: Continue reading

John Avlon’s “Ten Congressmen Who Should Be Fired”: Too Short, By Far

John Avlon, a senior political correspondent at The Daily Beast and author of  the book Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America, has posted his list of “Ten Congressmen Who Should Be Fired.” Though Avlon’s definition of “wingnut” is too often “conservative,” and picking the ten most embarrassing members of Congress is like choosing the ten most offensive reality TV stars, it’s a reasonably good list, if far too short and only the beginning. The members on it seem to split into four main categories: outrageously uncivil, clearly incompetent, corrupt, and too outspokenly conservative for Avlon, who regards all Tea Party sympathizers, for example, as dangerous “wingnuts.”

Here’s the list, with highlights of Avlon’s reasons: Continue reading

Roman’s Rule, Guam’s Peril and Rep. Johnson: No Minimum Standards of Competence For Congress

Ever since I saw the video of Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) declaring his anxiety over the possibility that the island of Guam will “tip over” and “capsize,” I’ve been wrestling with the question: Shouldn’t there be some minimum level of intelligence and competence for members of Congress? I’m not considering anything lofty here, but a man whose vote helped pass a health care bill of unprecedented complexity that will affect every American just revealed that he thinks islands are like icebergs or floating trash can covers. This suggests that he may be subject to many other misconceptions, since he has apparently never read a newspaper, much less watched a National Geographic special. Not to be unkind about it, but such a statement, uttered on television for all the world to see, is prima facie evidence that he is an ignorant dim-wit. Whatever a safe and responsible cut-off point would be for admission to Congress, can we agree that fearing the capsizing of Guam would put one well below it? I don’t know about you, but I’m a little frightened. Continue reading