Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/18/2019: Nauseatingly Unethical

Gooood Morning, and Ick.

1. Illegal immigration battles update:  a) The Empire State’s governor,  Andrew Cuomo,  signed legislation granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants—NBC calls them “undocumented immigrants, which is unethically deceptive —right after the measure passed the state Senate. New York is now the 13th state to take this unconscionable  course, creating an incentive as well as a reward for breaking U.S. laws and defying its borders.

There is no justification for ever rewarding lawbreaking  through public policy, unless the objective is to eliminate the law. Yet the Democrats who rationalize these measures still say that their party doesn’t want open borders.  How long can sentient individuals believe that? The existence of these laws, as well as sanctuary cities, prove otherwise. As idiotic and suicidal as it is, an open borders position should at least be honestly proposed and debated, since that is what progressives are really pushing for. I could have some respect for that approach. This one–lying about the intention while undermining immigration laws–is indefensible as well as cowardly.

b) In that vein, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez described the unavoidable detention facilities at the border as “concentration camps.” “I want to talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity to say that ‘never again’ means something,” she said in an Instagram rant yesterday. Calling the President  a “fascist” (This will be today’s Big Lie entry, as the directory continues), she went on, “I don’t use those words to just throw bombs,” she said, throwing bombs, “I use that word because that is what an administration that creates concentration camps is. A presidency that creates concentration camps is fascist and it’s very difficult to say that. The fact that concentration camps are now an institutionalized practice in the home of the free is extraordinarily disturbing and we need to do something about it.”

How many blatant misrepresentation and lies are in those statements? Well, how much time  ya got? Detention centers are unavoidable. They aren’t concentration camps, and the Holocaust comparison is ignorant, inflammatory and obnoxious as well as false. (“What happened to people in concentration camps?” asked OtherBill, who flagged this for me). The President is bound by his oath of office to see that the rule of law remains intact, and to protect the Constitution. A growing hoard of illegal immigrants breaching the law and established procedures to get over the border and then vanish into sanctuary cities creates a threat to both.  The Nazis put their own citizens into concentration camps (you know, like FDR did with Japanese Americans? ), and then murdered them. The illegals at the border are not citizens, they are not legally refugees until we say so, and the U.S. has no obligation, legal or otherwise, to accept what has become a cynical excuse to flout our laws. Continue reading

Political Fundraising Frauds And Scams, PART I: The Democrats

There’s nothing much  lower and making your iconic ,84 year old, women’s rights advocate on the Supreme Court look like she’s breached multiple judicial ethics rules, but the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) is up to the challenge, A current DSCC fundraising letter, forwarded to me by a friend, does this AND lies to its supporters in the interest of separating them from their money.

  • No, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg” does not “have a powerful message” about this topic. She made that statement more than 20 years ago, before she was “Justice Ginsberg,” when she told Senators that.

I assume that Justice Ginsberg neither gave her permission to be misrepresented  in this fraudulent manner, nor knew the DSCC was planning on making her a party to a scam. She’s old, but she’s not THAT old. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 5/12/2019: The Tricky Edition

Well, the news from Harvard has me half-headed and depressed, so I think I need to hear Winston Churchill’s favorite hymn…and my Dad’s, too.

1. I think this is known as “a drop in the bucket.”James Bennet, the editorial page editor of The New York Times, announced that he would recuse himself from any involvement in opinion coverage of the 2020 presidential election, after his brother, Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination. I suppose this is admirable, as it is a standard conflicts of interest move, but I’m sorely tempted to call it grandstanding, and maybe even a diversion. Bennet’s brother candidacy is hardly the only blatant conflict of interest on the times staff that makes its news coverage and punditry suspect. Virtually all of them are Democrats, for example, and progressives. What’s so special about an editor’s brother making a completely futile run for the Presidency? (Quick: if you’re not in Colorado, can you picture his face? Name anything he has accomplished?)

This note from 2017 (in RealClearPolitics) puts the Times editor’s decision in proper perspective:

There is a pretty substantial symbiotic relationship between the political left in Washington and the media. While a few people went from the media to the Bush Administration, it was never like it was with Obama.

Jay Carney went from Time to the White House press secretary’s office. Shailagh Murray went from the Washington Post to the Veep’s office while married to Neil King at the Wall Street Journal. Neil King has left the Wall Street Journal to work for Fusion GPS. Linda Douglass went from ABC News to the White House and then the Atlantic. Jill Zuckman went from the Chicago Tribune to the Obama Administration’s Transportation Department. Douglas Frantz went from the Washington Post to the State Department and Stephen Barr went from the Post to the Labor Department.

Ruth Marcus, who heads the Washington Post Editorial Board, is married to the Obama Administration’s former Federal Trade Commission Chairman. Jonathan Allen had been at the Politico before going to work for Debbie Wasserman Schultz, then back to Politico before going to the left leaning Vox. Now he is at NBC News. Andy Barr worked for the Politico before leaving for Democrat politics. Michael Scherer was at both Salon and Mother Jones before going to Time. Laura Rozen was at Mother Jones and the American Prospect before Foreign Policy magazine. Even Nate Silver had started out at Daily Kos. Then, of course, there is Matthew Dowd, who worked for scores of Democrats before working for George Bush. That, though he later washed his hands of Bush, bought him street credibility with ABC News to become its senior politically analyst alongside George Stephanopoulos, formerly of the Clinton Administration.

It goes on and on in a feedback loop of incestuous politics and worldview shaping. In the Obama Era, it was all about protecting their precious. Now it is about undermining the President.

2.  Puerto Rico Ethics. OK, explain to me, if you can,  why this isn’t incredibly unethical:

From the Times:

The government oversight board leading Puerto Rico through its $123 billion debt crisis sued dozens of banks and financial firms on Thursday, saying that they had helped the island issue $9 billion of debt illegally, and that the people of Puerto Rico should not have to repay it.

The board said the debt should be voided because it exceeded the territory’s constitutional debt limit, and it added that Puerto Rico would try to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in interest and principal payments that it has already made.

The board was joined in the litigation by the official committee representing Puerto Rico’s unsecured creditors in the territory’s bankruptcy-like legal proceedings. Both plaintiffs said they understood they were making an unusual request, but asserted that no other approach would be legal or fair.

“The laws of Puerto Rico limit government borrowing authority for a reason: to prevent the government and its financiers from hitching the Commonwealth and its instrumentalities, as well as taxpayers and legitimate creditors, to a level of debt that cannot be repaid without sacrificing services necessary to maintain the health, safety and welfare of Puerto Rico and its people,” the plaintiffs said in one of several complaints…

What a great theory! The government of Puerto Rico has managed its finances irresponsibly and needs more money. “Hey!” says a brilliant staffer. “There’s a law that limits how much debt we can run up. Let’s borrow billions from banks illegally, then later sue them saying that the debt is invalid because they abetted our illegal act!”

3.  Candidate for the Rationalization #22 Hall of Fame. Rationalization #22 is one of the most cited entries on the Rationalization List, and in my opinion, the worst of them all:

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

If “Everybody does it” is the Golden Rationalization, this is the bottom of the barrel. Yet amazingly, this excuse is popular in high places: witness the “Abu Ghraib was bad, but our soldiers would never cut off Nick Berg’s head” argument that was common during the height of the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal. It is true that for most ethical misconduct, there are indeed “worse things.” Lying to your boss in order to goof off at the golf course isn’t as bad as stealing a ham, and stealing a ham is nothing compared selling military secrets to North Korea. So what? We judge human conduct against ideals of good behavior that we aspire to, not by the bad behavior of others. One’s objective is to be the best human being that we can be, not to just avoid being the worst rotter anyone has ever met.

Behavior has to be assessed on its own terms, not according to some imaginary comparative scale. The fact that someone’s act is more or less ethical than yours has no effect on the ethical nature of your conduct. “There are worse things” is not an argument; it’s the desperate cry of someone who has run out of rationalizations.

Now outgoing Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel has boasted in the  New York Times about his success at  introducing  police reform and reducing crime.Emanuel  makes his case in part by comparing Chicago’s crime numbers over the last two years with those of  Baltimore, one of America’s most dangerous, murder-prone, mismanaged cities. He omitted mentioning New York orLos Angeles, perhaps because his city had more murders in 2018 than New York and L.A. combined, though Chicago is smaller then either.

I wonder if the Chamber of Commerce is considering “Less dangerous than Baltimore!” as a promotional slogan. [Pointer: City-journal]

Comment Of The Day: “Boy, The GOP Really, Really Likes Census Scams!”

In this Comment of the Day, Chris Marschner expresses more sympathy for the frauds, scammers and bait-and-switch artists of the world, and less sympathy for the scammed, than I have. He is right, I think, that by the time someone fooled by fundraising letters masquerading as something else actually send in a donation they have figured things out. It doesn’t matter. The scam is fooling people into opening the letter.  And donors are indeed fools to willingly give money to any organization or entity that show such disrespect by using deceptive tactics.

Chris writes that people should read envelopes and mailers carefully. Sure they should, but reality is that they don’t. They also don’t read the small print in contracts, or users agreements on smart phones and social media sites. Human beings are wired to be trusting, not to assume that everyone is trying to pull something over on them. That’s a good thing. Society is based on trust. And little by little, in almost imperceptible ways, manipulative, unethical people and organizations erode that trust.

Here is Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Boy, The GOP Really, Really Likes Census Scams!”:

I understand why people see this as sleazy but to say people sent money in because they were duped is unsupported. All one has to do is read the questions and see it it is pro- fill in the party. You can (should – provided you were not born yesterday) assume there will be an appeal for a donation.

Let me be very clear. Congress passed a law with a hole in it a 777 could fly through. I thought the lawyers that write the text of these laws are trained in writing. All that law needed to say is that the word census cannot be visible to tbe recipient prior to opening. Or, if you don’t want any misunderstanding simply say the word census may not be used anywhere in the mailing.

I get these types of fundraising letters from a variety of groups; police, firefighers, veterans etc. All appeal to some authority to compel action. Continue reading

Boy, The GOP Really, Really Likes Census Scams!

Let me quote my favorite writer—me, of course—to set this one up. From March 17, 2010

It was [Chairman of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele] who approved some sleazy direct mail hack’s clever idea to send potential GOP donors counterfeit census forms. Arriving in thick envelopes with “Do Not Destroy. Official Document” on the front (“See, it’s not a lie! It IS an official document, right? Just from a different official—you, Mr. Steele! Get it? …), and the imposing legend  “Census Document Registered To: [ the name  of the recipient]” stamped there as well  (“It  really is kind of a a census document, capiche, Mister Steele? So they can’t complain later—it’s just not the one they think it is! But they’ll open it every time! I love this mailing!”), the package included a four-page form complete with an eight figure “Census Tracking Code.” (“Nice touch, eh Mister Steele? Joey here thought that one up. It will really have them believing this, the suckers!”) But the questions would quickly begin striking anyone not half asleep as rather odd for the Census, with queries like,

“Do you traditionally vote in all elections?”

“Do you generally identify yourself as a: Conservative Republican, Moderate Republican, Liberal Republican, Independent Voter who leans Republican or Other?”

“How much does it concern you that the Democrats have total control of the federal government?”

“Do you think the record trillion-dollar deficit the Democrats are creating with their out-of-control spending is going to have disastrous consequences for our nation?”

Even the sleepy, drunk or stupid, however, should have figured out the scam when they read, “When finished answering your Census, please return it along with your generous contribution in the enclosed postage-paid envelope.”

Gotcha! So clever! So well-executed! Soooooo dishonest, deceitful, and wrong….Not only did the mailing aim to deceive, it also confused, and the Census Bureau expressed worries that the fraudulent mailings would undermine response rates for the official census forms, causing citizens to ignore or not fill out the real forms when they arrived later. Lower mail response rates will increase Census costs, because the Bureau must send census-takers to every home that does not respond.

The good news is that the incident reminded House members what it was like to agree on something, and they passed a unanimous, bi-partisan measure banning fake census fundraising appeals, because the fact that such mailings were obviously and putridly unethical wasn’t enough any more. Not with Michael Steel in charge of the Republican fundraising. His influence is strong, after all: doing his best Steele impression after the House vote, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Paul Lindsay said, “The NRCC remains opposed to misleading mailings,” which is 1) a lie 2) an insulting lie 3) an embarrassingly obvious lie. It is opposed to them although it just sent out an intentionally misleading mailing of epic dimensions. The statement means one of these three things: “We are being controlled by Satan!”, “We are completely insane!”, or “We are lying our heads off!” One guess, and the first two don’t count.

But wait! There’s more! Continue reading

Regarding Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s “Fun Run”: You Cannot Trust People Who Do Things Like This

I want to begin by saying that I search, every day, for misbehaving and unethical conservatives and Republicans to try to balance the flood of outrageous conduct and rhetoric by “the resistance” and Democrats lately. This is how I end up writing about the comments by the Governor of Kentucky relating to an event I never heard about.  I also try to find any source other than Fox News when the story involves a Democrat or progressive, except that so often such stories go unreported in the mainstream news media. When I get the inevitable complaint that I am picking on AOC for this story because of my right-wing bias, I will ask for the name of any Republican House member who has done something like this. Count on it.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez held a 5k in Queens yesterday that she billed as “a Family Fun Run supporting U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal on the Saturday following Earth Day.”

That was sort-of true, but not true enough. In fact, the proceeds of the run went directly into Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign account. The Fun Run raised money for her. Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/17/19: March Ethics Madness!

Good morning!

Any week that starts off with John Belushi’s immortal reflections on March just has to be a good week.

1. Connecticut: Judicial ethics and guns. Anti-gun fanatics are cheering this week’s ruling by the Connecticut Supreme Court  reversing  a lower court judge dismissing a lawsuit by the families of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting against Remington Arms Company, allowing the case to proceed. In the 4-3 decision the court  possibly created a path that other mass shooting victims can follow to get around the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, known as PLCAA, which has protected the manufacturers of the AR-15 assault rifle from lawsuits, thus setting the stage for a sensational “Runaway Jury”-type trial. The court’s reasoning is that the Sandy Hook families should have the opportunity to prove that Remington violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) by marketing what it knew was a weapon designed for military use to civilians. The problem is that the ruling ignores the law, as John Hinderaker explains (but he’s not the only analyst trashing the decision):

“Firearms of all kinds have been ‘designed for military use.’,” he writes. “The 1911, designed by John Browning, was the standard U.S. military pistol for many years and remains one of the most popular pistol designs today. So what? There is no such exception in the Second Amendment…Under the Supremacy Clause, federal law will govern over state law. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act is intended to avoid precisely the result reached by the Connecticut Supreme Court. The PLCAA puts firearms manufacturers on the same plane with all others. If their products are not defective–if they do not malfunction–they are not liable. If someone stabs a victim to death with a knife, the victim’s heirs can’t sue the knife manufacturer. It is the same with firearms.”

Hinderaker correctly concludes that significance of the ruling is not that it opens a road for the Second Amendment to be constrained, or for ruinous liability to applied to gun-makers, but that it shows how courts will deliberately ignore the law to reach political goals. Continue reading