Our Untrustworthy, Perplexing, Depressing State Legislators

As a passionate supporter of American democracy in both practice and theory, I find the proliferation of ignoramuses, fools and morons among both elected representatives and the voters who allow them to acquire access to the levers of power to be a constant source of discouragement. The old adage about democracy being the worst form of government except for all the others is scant consolation, true as it may be. I only tune in to the reliably idiotic goings on at the state legislature level when someone or some news story forces me to take a look, which I anticipate with enthusiasm akin to that I felt toward going down into our scary basement when I was a kid. (OK, up until I moved away at 21. OK, STILL.)

Here are two examples from today….that I know about.

Alabama took another step toward near-total abortion ban legislation, House Bill 314, the “Human Life Protection Act.”  The Republican-supported bill is  in  direct defiance of 1973’s Supreme Court  Roe v. Wade ruling, an obvious gambit to try to get the conservative Roberts court to overturn it. Grandstanding, obstinacy, call it what you will, this bill is futile, foolish, and incompetent. An outright reversal of Roe is not in the cards, not even in the most fevered fantasies of anti-abortion fanatics and pro-abortion absolutists. The new law, if it becomes a law, will be struck down by a the highest Alabama court, and won’t make it to the Supreme Court docket. It’s an illegal law, that’s all. A law reestablishing child labor or repealing female suffrage would have about as much chance of getting the Court’s attention.

If Roe is to be weakened or modified, it will occur incrementally, with the Court ruling on legitimately debatable regulations regarding when a fetus or unborn child qualifies for full Constitutional protection. It is understandable that ordinary, untrained, confused citizens might think that the way to remove established Court precedent is to directly oppose it with a state law, but  that’s because, for most of them, making laws isn’t their job. State legislators, on the other hand, have no excuse but their own lack of preparation for their civic duty, and ignorance. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/8/18: Last Weekend Before I Have To Decorate The %^&$! Christmas Tree Edition

Good morning!

1. How can this be? Based on the same documents, the President crowed that Mueller had nothin,’ and the mainstream Trump-hating media crowed that the walls were closing in. It’s a confirmation bias orgy! Charges aren’t evidence, and attempted contacts with a foreign power isn’t “collusion,” and we’ve already talked about the theory that paying off a floozy not to kiss and tell, which is 100% legal at all other times, is a stretch to call and election law violation when the rake is running for President. No such case has ever been brought; it’s dubious whether one would prevail; even if it did, this is a fining offense at most. [ For the record, this is the “resistance’s” Impeachment Plan K, in my view, one of the lamest.]

Both sides are jumping the gun. In the media’s case, it’s more fake new, future news and hype.

2. Stare decisis vs. the prohibition on double jeopardy. In Gamble v. US, just argued before the Supreme Court, the question is whether the federal government can try a citizen for the same crime a state court acquitted him of committing. I’ve always hated the rule that it can (the cops in the Rodney King case were jailed that way), because it seems clear to me that the Constitutional prohibition on double jeopardy (that’s the Fifth Amendment) was intended to prevent such trials. Still,  previous Supreme Court decisions have upheld the convictions.  In the current case, it appears from oral argument that a majority of the current justices agree with me, but are hesitant to so rule because of the doctrine of stare decisis,  which means respecting long-standing SCOTUS precedent.

A ruling to apply double jeopardy would be a ruling against stare decisis, meaning that Roe v. Wade might have less protection than many—including me–have thought. Stay tunes, and watch Justice Kavanaugh’s vote particularly.

3.  Is wanting to/needing to/ actually taking steps to changing one’s sex a mental disorder? There have been a lot of articles about this lately, especially in light of evidence that peer groups, the news media, LGBT advocacy and parents are making many young children want to change their sex before they even know what sex or gender is. The question is itself deceptive, because it pretends that “mental disorder” is anything but a label that can be used or removed with a change of attitude or political agendas. Vox writes,

Major medical organizations, like the American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association, say being transgender is not a mental disorder. The APA explained this in explicit terms when it stopped using the term “gender identity disorder” in favor of “gender dysphoria”: “Part of removing stigma is about choosing the right words. Replacing ‘disorder’ with ‘dysphoria’ in the diagnostic label is not only more appropriate and consistent with familiar clinical sexology terminology, it also removes the connotation that the patient is ‘disordered.’”

Well, “removing a stigma” is hardly a valid criteria for deciding whether something is a malady or not. What being transgender “is” can’t be changed by what we call it. Recently narcissism was removed from the mental disorder list—that doesn’t change the fact that narcissists see the world and themselves in a way that most people do not, and that this perspective causes them and the people around them a lot of trouble during their lives. The process worked in reverse with alcoholism, where being officially labelled a disease removed a stigma.

I once directed the comedy/drama “Nuts,” which opines that “insanity” is just a view of reality not shared by the majority. It was on this basis that the Soviet Union sent dissidents to mental hospitals. I don’t care what various associations or professionals call these minority positions: we know that they are using bias and political agendas to devise the label. This is one area where a phrase I despise, “It is what it is,” may be appropriate. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week, Cross-Filed to “The Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck,” “Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias,” AND “Bias Makes You Stupid”: ABC Correspondent Terry Moran

“Overturning Roe vs. Wade by an all-male majority, two of whom have had credible accusations of sexual misconduct lodged against them, would not be a legitimate action.”

—–ABC correspondent Terry Moran, on an ABC news broadcast, as he discussed what would happen to the nation’s highest court if the Senate confirms Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh,

It doesn’t get much worse than this. The statement is irresponsible, unfair, ignorant, partisan, incompetent, inflammatory and untrue. It involves multiple distortions of law and fact. It is an opinion presented as fact by an individual lacking the credentials or authority to issue such an opinion. It also encourages defiance of lawful authority.

Moran is a journalist, trained as a journalist and as nothing but a journalist. His current role at ABC is as a foreign correspondent. He is no lawyer, and apparently has no idea what a conflict of interest is. For him to use his air time to make such a pronouncement, sure to be sucked up by the eager, empty brain cells of social media junkies everywhere, is an abuse of his position and influence. That is, however, what he and his colleagues increasingly call “journalism” in 2018. It isn’t journalism, not the ethical kind. It is propaganda, and worse.

For the sake of brevity, since these are major misrepresentations that could each be the subject of scholarly essays, allow me to just bullet point them:

  • More fake news, Future and Psychic News Division. Why is Moran talking about Roe v. Wade being overturned? There is no case before the Supreme Court that would do that. There is no pending case in the system that would lead to that. None of the sitting justices or Kavanaugh have argued that Roe should be overturned, and the conservative justices have all declared their fealty to the concept of stare decisus, in which established SCOTUS decisions are regarded as settled law except in extraordinary circumstances.

For a broadcast journalist to discuss a remote hypothetical—and it is remote by definition, since none of the conditions necessary for it to occur appear to exits—is brazen fear-mongering and misleading the public.

  • More fake news, Future and Psychic News Division, Part II.  Then Moran forsees what individual Justices will decide in this imaginary case that hasn’t been argued, or briefed. In this he reduces the Supreme Court, which analyzes difficult questions of law, to a group of agenda-driven knee-jerk hacks, which they are not.

Journalists like Moran are the agenda-driven knee-jerk hacks, and at least in his case, are unable to imagine anyone else treating important controversies objectively

  • Gender stereotyping. There is no justification for assuming that a male justice would automatically vote to overturn Roe, and the assumption is historically ignorant. After all, an all-male SCOTUS majority established Roe.

Moran also assumes that no woman on the Court would vote with the male members even if the particular facts and law related to the imaginary, hypothetical future case that may never exist required an honest, objective female Justice to do so. This is  simple-minded, biased thinking that reduces both genders to their lowest common denominators.

  • The misleading word, “credible.” “Credible” means “capable of being believed” by itself. I could state here that I am five foot three inches tall and once worked as Latin tutor to make extra money in school. Those are both credible claims: there’s nothing that makes them unbelievable. They are also untrue. Being credible is not the test for whether any statement of evidence should be believed, and in any dispute, such statements must be considered in the context of other evidence. Brett Kavanaugh’s denial is also credible, except to those who have a vested interest in disbelieving it.

In this nation, and in any just society, we do not make judgments about people based on “credible accusations.” The accusations must be corroborated and substantiated to some extent. Dr. Ford named witnesses, and none of them have confirmed her story. That does not make her accusation incredible, but no conclusions can be drawn from it either.

  • There’s no conflict of interest. I don’t know what tortured definition of conflict of interest Moran thinks he knows, but whatever it is, it doesn’t exist in law or ethics. I’m assuming that a conflict is what he thinks would undermine the legitimacy of his imaginary, future hypothetical SCOTUS decision. If mere gender created a conflict, then neither women nor men could consider abortion cases. Blacks couldn’t rule on civil rights cases. Motherhood, fatherhood, whether a judge had an abortion or chose not to have one, these at most create biases, not conflicts, which occur when a judge’s current tangible, real life, current interests will be affected by a decision he or she is obligated to make. Judges are pledged to ignore their biases, not to never have them. All human beings have biases; judges are professionally trained and obligated to do a better job than the rest of us recognizing them and overcoming them.

Continue reading

From “The Ends Justifies The Means” Files: Senator Feinstein’s Ugly Hybrid, And An Ethics Test For Democrats

The test is simple: how unethical are Democrats willing to be, and how flagrantly, as they desperately try to derail President Trump’s nomination to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, when the right to fill such a vacancy is one of the President’s unquestioned powers, as long as his choice meets basic minimum qualification standards?

Based on the recent tweets from superannuated California Senator Feinstein, fighting for her professional life and apparently pandering to the extreme Left as a result, the answer is “Very unethical, unfortunately.”  The Senator tweeted,

“Two-thirds of Americans don’t want women’s access to reproductive health care restricted. President Trump’s SCOTUS nominee could do just that by overturning Roe v. Wade and setting off at least 20 states’ “trigger laws” restricting abortions.

and…

“Overturning Roe v. Wade would take us back to the days of women being severely injured and dying because they can’t get basic medical care. We’ve come too far to go back to those days.

These are both ugly hybrids designed with malign intent, kind of like the Indoraptor in “Jurassic Park II,” except the components of the vile mutation in this instance aren’t a T-Rex and a Velociraptor, but misrepresentation and fear-mongering.

1. President Trump’s (at this point) un-named nominee can’t “overturn” anything; only the full court can do that. He or see could  ride in the Kentucky Derby, I suppose. Any of Obama’s appointees “could” also “overturn” Roe, if enough Justices went along with them. In a case presenting that possibility. Of which there are none currently before the Court. And which may not get before the Court.

Ethics offense: Deliberately making the public more ignorant. And fear-mongering.

2. Feinstein is falsely using “reproductive health care” as a substitute for “abortion.” They are not the same thing.  I don’t know what polling results the Senator is referring to, but if it involved “reproductive health care,” it wasn’t about abortion specifically. Pew, which is the closest thing we have to a fair and non-partisan survey organization, found only 25% of the public wants abortion to be legal in all cases, which is what no restrictions on access to abortion means, assuming Feinstein’s ” “reproductive health care” is the deceptive code it appears to be. (If she really means “reproductive health care,” she’s nuts. Who has ever stated an opposition to “women’s access to reproductive health care”?)

Ethics offense: Dishonesty. Deceit. Obfuscation. Misuse of statistics to confuse rather than clarify.

And fear-mongering.

3. The second tweet is irresponsible and flat-out false. Overturning Roe-–in that yet to be identified future case that has gone through the lower courts and poses the issue in a way that a majority of the Court deems appropriate for review, with the result accomplished by the presumed vote of the unidentified Justice who, like the rest of the yet to be assembled Court majority, will determine the case without regard for the facts or established law, stare decisus or the outcome of oral arguments—would not do anything but return the determinations of policies regarding what restrictions, if any, will be placed on abortion to the states, and to the voters in those states, with the results very much in doubt.

Ethics offense: Deliberately making the public more ignorant. Dishonesty. Deceit. Obfuscation.

And fear-mongering.

No elected official who deliberately engages in dishonest tactics like this can or should be trusted by the public with power or influence. We should all keep close watch on how much lower abortion advocates are willing to go. For the ends do not justify the means, and politicians, parties, and party leaders who signal otherwise are a menace to democracy, no matter what the issue may be.

 

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/28/2018: The Post-Kennedy Retirement Announcement Freak-Out

Good Morning!

1. How prescient of me to headline yesterday’s warm-up “Deranged” before Justice Kennedy announced his retirement and the progressive/Democratic/ mainstream media/social media freakout commenced!

2. Duh. Since nobody seems to be writing about how perfectly this proves the Trump-inflicted brain damage on the Left, allow me:

  • Justice Kennedy is 81. As my dad used to say when he entered his 8th decade, he’s in the red zone, and can drop dead at any second. Did Democrats really assume he would keep working forever?

Their shock at this is ridiculous and unbelievable. WHAT? An 81-year-old judge is retiring?

  • This is a wonderful example of how people assume that everyone else thinks as they do. The Trump-Deranged have reached the point where they would saw their pets in half to undermine the President, so they assume that Kennedy feels the same way.

There is no evidence that he does, in part because, unlike Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who has periodically trumpeted her contempt for the President, he has been judicially discrete and professional.

  • It is per se irresponsible for an 81-year-old in a challenging job with national impact not to step down before he or she becomes incompetent, or drops dead. Scalia was irresponsible not to retire. Ginsberg should retire (she is 84). Breyer is two months short of 80: he should retire.

Outside of judges, we have multiple members of Congress, notably Pelosi and John McCain, who are being unethical by not stepping aside.

  • The bottom line is that nobody should be freaking out, because everyone should have been prepared for it.

3. We get it! You are vicious, juvenile, angry, rigis and irrational people. The Daily News nicely sums up the calm, analytical, reasoned reaction by the Left:

Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/24/17”

The debate over what kind of tolerance is required and justified in a democracy inspired reader Chris Marschner to submit a thoughful and thought-provoking comment, as he has before, that takes the discussion in a diferent direction.  I’ll let you read it and have your own reactions; Chris needs no further preface.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post,Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/24/17:

Let me begin with the question, what lies as the foundation of tolerance? Is it understanding, empathy, or a just a willingness to comprehend an alternative perspective? Perhaps it is all three. By definition, tolerance is a willingness to live and let live, so to speak. But, the notion of willingness to live and let live does not preclude the actions of those who seek to change minds through cogent rational argument.

I have listened at great length to those who oppose and support the destruction or removal of Confederate iconography in today’s world. If we start with the assumption that what is right and good will triumph over that which is bad and evil in time without the need to resolve the dispute violently we might move toward a more tolerant and enlightened social structure.

My thesis is neither a defense of nor a condemnation of societal issues that continue to pit one against another. I will merely juxtapose the historical issue which divided the nation into camps that found the practice repugnant and those that found no problem with it an a modern day issue that one group find morally repugnant while others do not and attempt to draw parallels to historical events that sanctified, or at least legitimized social behavior.

Again, I am trying not to cast any judgement on any behavior but to develop my thoughts I needed to find a modern day issue that a majority segment of our population finds morally repugnant and another minority segment sees as perfectly acceptable. I then asked myself the question to what lengths might the minority segment go should the majority segment impose its will by executive or judicial fiat? How much will the minority tolerate before it finds the political majorities imposed will too much to tolerate. What issue might create substantial animus toward the ruling segment that it too may seek to enjoin itself from laws of the land. What parallels in history do we see that might engender such animus and how might future generations view the loser if the debate escalated into a full on confrontation? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/11/17…”Alan Brady” Shows His Ignorance, And The New York Times Shows Its Bias.

Good Morning!

[By the time I finished #1 on today’s list, there was no room for the rest, except for the shortest item. Oops. But it’s Carl Reiner’s fault: he ticked me off.]

1. Carl Reiner, comedy legend and still kicking in his 90s, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times urging Supreme Court Justice Kennedy not to retire, as some believe he is preparing to do. Kennedy is a relative  whippersnapper at 8o. That Reiner’s argument is unethical in multiple ways should be obvious, but then expecting the editors of the New York Times to spot an ethics problem is naive.

Reiner tells Kennedy that he shouldn’t retire because ” the best part of your career has just begun. As a nonagenarian who has just completed the most prolific, productive five years of my life, I feel it incumbent upon me to urge a hearty octogenarian such as yourself not to put your feet up on the ottoman just yet. You have important and fulfilling work ahead of you.” The problem is that the decision shouldn’t be based on what Kennedy wants or will enjoy. He’s supposed to act in the best interests of the nation, not to maximize the rewards of his golden years. Reiner uses a comparison to his own career—he still acts periodically, but even Reiner can’t possible think that his last five years were objectively more productive than when he was writing and performing in “Your Show of Shows,” or playing Rob Petrie’s hilariously nasty boss on “The Dick Van Dyke Show”—which shows a narrow perspective. If Carl can’t perform the way he used to but movie-goers still like watching him, there’s no harm done. A SCOTUS justice who no longer is in top mental fettle, however, can do substantial harm.

How many screenplays has Reiner had produced since he turned 80? How many studios have hired him to direct? The last movie he wrote was in 1989, when Carl was 67.  His last directing assignment was 20 years ago. So Carl has retired from those jobs that are too demanding for him, just not acting. His argument to Kennedy is disingenuous. Gee, maybe the Justice should try acting, like Carl.

Reiner’s entire piece is a sham: it isn’t about retirement, it’s about liberal politics. He writes,

“The country needs justices like you who decide each case with fairness and humanity, and whose allegiance is to the Constitution of the United States of America, not to a party line. You have always voted your conscience, and defended the rights and liberties of all our citizens.”

Is  Reiner seriously arguing that there are no younger qualified judges “whose allegiance is to the Constitution of the United States of America, not to a party line” ? That’s what all SCOTUS justices are pledged to do.  Does anyone think that Reiner would like Justice Ginsberg, also in her 80’s, to step down because she reliably hews to Democratic Party positions in virtual lockstep? No, of course not. What he is really saying is that when Republican-appointed justices consider cases, they violate their duty to be objective, but when Democrat-appointed justices decide in favor of progressive positions, they are just being wise and fair. This also the position of the New York Times, which is using an old man as its mouthpiece. Nice. Continue reading