Easter Ethics Warm-Up, 4/21/19: As Ethics Lays Some Eggs…

Happy Easter!

1.  A cultural note: there is no discernible Easter programming anywhere on TV, cable or network. Oh, TCM is playing “Easter Parade” and “King of Kings” in prime time, but that’s it. ‘Twas not always thus.

2. Speaking of TCM…Bravo for the classic movie network’s teaming with Fandango to offer big screen presentations of John Wayne’s “True Grit” in May. They could have justifiably chosen many other Westerns equally worthy or more so, like “Shane” or “High Noon.” I like to think that choosing the Duke’s Oscar winning performance is an intentional rebuke to the recent attack on Wayne’s legacy by the social media mob, a true “Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!” to the cultural airbrushers and statue-topplers.

I’ll be there, cheering Rooster on.

3. Other than journalists, have any other professionals debased themselves and their professional integrity more flagrantly that lawyers and law professors in their determination to Get Trump? This article in Slate by a law professor argues that asking or telling one’s lawyer to do something that the lawyer refuses to do—like firing Robert Mueller—can be criminal obstruction of justice. By this theory, every time a client says that he wants the lawyer to assist in an illegal act, it’s a crime.  But that’s not how attorney-client relationships work. The attorney is obligated to say, when appropriate, “No, you can’t do that, and I won’t do that for you, and here’s why.” In the end, it is indistinguishable from the client asking the lawyer’s advice, because clients only have the power to order a lawyer to do a very limited number of things, like accepting a settlement.

The professor’s argument also assumes that Trump firing Mueller would be obstruction of justice. Not only is this unprovable—that would have to be his intent—the President had a perfectly good reason to fire the special counsel, just as he had good reason to fire James Comey. Mueller’s investigation had been tainted many ways, and since Trump knew he was innocent, he saw the exercise as a calculated scheme to make it impossible for him to do his job. Firing Mueller and ending the investigation  would have been really, really stupid politically, but it wouldn’t be obstruction.

This, however, is how desperate “the resistance” is to bootstrap some kind of impeachment theory. Continue reading

SCOTUS: There is No Right To Be Executed Painlessly

Good.

Russell Bucklew’s   girlfriend broke up with him, so he threatened her. She ran to a neighbor’s house, but Bucklew chased her down. First he shot the neighbor dead. Then he beat his girlfriend and raped her. Police arrested him after a shootout, but Bucklew eventually escaped so he could attack his girlfriend’s mother with a hammer.

Bucklew was tried and convicted, then sentenced to death under Missouri law. Does this conduct, once proven in court, warrant the death penalty? Personally, I would prefer the bar to be set a bit higher, but I’m not disturbed, as a member of society, to be partially responsible for Bucklew’s demise. He made it clear that he has no intention of abiding by the social contract, and society has no obligation to let him keep breathing.

Two weeks before his schedule execution, Bucklew raised a medical condition as a unique barrier for the use on lethal injection on him, as described by the Court:

“Mr. Bucklew suffers from a disease called cavernous hemangioma, which causes vascular tumors— clumps of blood vessels—to grow in his head, neck, and throat. His complaint alleged that this condition could prevent the pentobarbital from circulating properly in his body; that the use of a chemical dye to flush the intrave- nous line could cause his blood pressure to spike and his tumors to rupture; and that pentobarbital could interact adversely with his other medications.”

Continue reading

Oscar Ethics: Let Us Pause To Marvel At The Unapologetic Jerkism Of Director Spike Lee

Director Spike Lee is a talented artist and an epic jerk, as he has proved too many times to mention. Lee reached his pinnacle of unethical grandstanding when he tweeted out what he thought was George Zimmerman’s address while the New Black Panthers were offering a bounty on Trayvon Martin’s shooter’s head. The man is an incurable race-baiter, as well as a constant catalyst for racial division. Last night’s Oscars put all of this on display, as well as a feature we don’t see that often so blatantly displayed: Lee has the sportsmanship and grace of a 9-year old.

When Green Book won the Oscar for Best Picture (as many had predicted),  Lee became visibly furious, then stood up and attempted to leave the Dolby Theater, the Associated Press reported. Lee stormed to the exit with his Oscar in hand, but was stopped by staffers who argued with him and eventually persuade him to  return to his seat. Lee’s film BlacKkKlansman was also nominated for Best Picture, and had won earlier in the night for its screenplay, which was co-written by Lee.

So far, nobody has been able to recall another nominee behaving so childishly and disrespectfully after losing in an Oscar race. Lee was defiantly unapologetic after the show, joking that he thought he was at a Knicks game and reacting to a ref’s “bad call.” That comment is also unethical, as the Oscars are supposed to be a collegial celebration of the art of movie-making, with all involved at least publicly supportive of the final awards, whoever they go to. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Ruth Graham, In Slate.

This is almost too easy, especially now, and others have flagged it too, but really, she can hardly be shunned enough for this…

“But I think the real reason the clip has spread is simpler: It’s the kid’s face. The face of self-satisfaction and certitude, of edginess expressed as cruelty. The face remains almost completely still as his peers hoot in awed delight at his bravado. The face is both punchable and untouchable. Many observers recognized it right away.”

Ruth Graham in her Slate piece, , “The MAGA Teenager Who Harassed a Native American Veteran Is Still Unnamed, but We’ve Seen His Face Before” an attack on Coventry Catholic school student Nick Sandmann based on what we now know was a politically motivated fake news smear based on a deceptively edited video and knee-jerk media bias against anyone daring to support the President.

Her post is still up.

I was going to include this in my hate-themed warm-up yesterday, but Graham deserves her own post, so utterly despicable is she. Ann Althouse’s son, also a blogger, issued two tweets that almost encompass her void of ethics and fairness, writing,

How is it OK to make a national news story out of not liking someone’s smile? Mocking someone’s smile is as bad as telling someone they have to smile more, and we’re all supposed to think the latter is blatantly offensive, right?,

and

Slate’s Facebook post of this article calls the kid’s facial expression “the smirk of evil.” I don’t know how adults can sleep at night after publicly trashing a kid and calling him “evil.”

Graham wasn’t alone. Here’s BuzzFeed writer Anne Helen Petersen on Twitter about Sandmann’s face:

One theme of the conversations over the past 24 hours = how deeply familiar this look is. It’s the look of white patriarchy, of course, but that familiarity — that banality — is part of what prompts the visceral reaction. This isn’t spectacular. It’s life in America.

After the more extensive videos acme out, Petersen, like many others, just refused to accept the fact that she was wrong, and the kids had been smeared:

I have watched all of the videos. You can understand that the situation was more complex than the first video and still recognize why the sight of that face caused a visceral reaction in so many.

Yeah, I understand why: Petersen is a bigot who is now incapable of accurate perception. She has absorbed the Big Lie that “Make America Great Again” is some kind of coded white supremacy slogan, along with the narrative that white men are viruses in society. The correct analogy is the “Hands up, Don’t shoot” lie. It was accepted as true by the news media and activists who wanted to hang the involved police officer to advance their propaganda that innocent young blacks were being gunned down in the streets, and even after the lie was exposed, many still repeat it as fact today. In that spirit of convenient denial,  Deadspin’s Laura Wagner wrote, “Don’t Doubt What You Saw With Your Own Eyes,” and accused the Covington student’s’ defenders “siding with some shithead MAGA teens and saying that 2+2=5 in the face of every bit of evidence there is to be had.” Continue reading

You Know, Every Piece Of Sentimental Inspiration Doesn’t Have To Be Debunked: Of Dogs, Death, And “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”

There was a nice, heartwarming photo yesterday of George H.W. Bush’s service dog lying by his casket.  This was accorded the usual sniffling interpretation, which is fine: the image is moving. Nonetheless, Slate felt it necessary to publish “Don’t Spend Your Emotional Energy on Sully H.W. Bush/He’s a service dog who had been with the president for six months, not his lifelong companion.”

“It’s wonderful for Bush that he had a trained service animal like Sully available to him [for 6] months. It’s a good thing that the dog is moving on to another gig where he can be helpful to other people (rather than becoming another Bush family pet). But it’s a bit demented to project soul-wrenching grief onto a dog’s decision to lie down in front of a casket. Is Sully “heroic” for learning to obey the human beings who taught him to perform certain tasks? Does the photo say anything special about this dog’s particular loyalty or judgment, or is he just … there? Also, if dogs are subject to praise for obeying their masters, what do we do about the pets who eat their owners’ dead (or even just passed-out) bodies?…”

Oh, thank you, thank you SO much for that lovely image.

Of course the dog doesn’t understand that Bush is dead, or that he’s in the casket, or anything. So what? Anyone who knows anything about dogs can figure that out. Why was this snark necessary? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/15/2017: The All-Embarrassment Edition

Happy Sunday Morning!

(if I keep saying “good morning” the same way every day, you’ll think I’m insincere…)

1 I’m going to have a full post about the current status of the NFL Anthem Protest Ethics Train Wreck later today, but in general: when will the players and the NFL just shrivel up with embarrassment? I’m thinking of absurdist theater like this: CNN contributor Donte Stallworth said yesterday that the NFL kneeling protests aren’t just about police brutality and racism, but also about…wait for it… the “gender pay gap.” (Which is largely fictional, by the way.) Stallworth, is a former NFL wide receiver. He actually had the guts to say,

“The number one stated goal was to bring awareness to a lot of these issues and again, its a broad spectrum of issues. Again, it’s not just police brutality and community policing. It’s also, again from what I’m hearing from players directly involved in these talks–they’re telling me it’s also about the gender pay gap, it’s also about housing discrimination, they have so many things that they are interested in and advocating for and they want the NFL to take ownership in and help be able to use the NFL’s platform. Not just the players platform but the NFL’s platform and that from what I am hearing is a big conversation.”

Yes, that’s another CNN contributor who is too ridiculous for an ethical news source to allow in a studio. So let me get this straight: the kneeling NFL players aren’t protesting the anthem that they are refusing to respect by standing, not the flag, nation, history and values it represents, but they are protesting over issues that nobody involved has breathed a word about, like gender pay gaps. What else? LGTB rights? Wait, football players aren’t too keen on gays, forget that. Free college, Bernie style? No, all of these bozos already got their college free. Please, tell us what your protest means. Are you protesting against Harvey Weinstein yet? Maybe you have been all along!

Embarrassing.

2. I remember when Slate was a fresh, shiny, diverse, certainly left-leaning but often incisive commentary e-mag, Its founder, Mike Kinsley (he’s a college classmate of mine, though I didn’t know him except through my room mate’s stories) is less of an ideologue than a detached cynical nihilist with a great sense of humor. Now, however, his baby is just a shrill progressive scold. On the home page, Slate urged me, “Support Jamelle Bouie’s coverage of Trump’s America: Join Slate Plus Today!” As anyone could discover by searching for Bouie in the Ethics Alarms archives, the writer is a stone-cold anti-white racist and race-baiter who left his fairness and integrity in a taxi years ago. The only reason what he writes weekly isn’t protested as hate speech is that only conservatives are accused of hate speech, them’s the rules. Any publication that promotes a writer like Bouie as a reason to become a reader has decided that it is acceptable to insult more than half of America.

I often wonder what Kinsley thinks about this. He probably thinks it’s funny.

It’s not. It’s embarrassing.

3. Hillary’s book tour involves going everywhere and explaining that she wasn’t at fault for losing the election, but that she takes full responsibility. Both Clintons are ethics corrupters of long standing, but the distaff Clinton threatens to permanently warp the concept of accountability for anyone who listens to her or reads her book without breaking into giggles. In a a recent interview, there was this exchange, for example,

And, yes, I take responsibility. Obviously, there were things I must have been able to do differently in order to have won. But at the end, there was this really perfect storm, and so you had the Comey letter and you had the enormous impact of the Russian theft of emails, the release of them by WikiLeaks, basically now a part of the Russian intelligence apparatus, and the weaponization of that. These were all new phenomena.

“So you’re still blaming others more than yourself?” her British interviewer asked, unlike any US interviewer, since Clinton won’t subject herself to being cross-examined by anyone in the US that didn’t weep on election night.

“No, I take ultimate responsibility, I don’t blame others, but I think it’s important that people understand what happened. It easy to say, ‘Well, you know she wasn’t a good candidate.’ Then why did lead all the way to the end, why did I get nominated overwhelmingly?”

Memo to Hillary: You were a terrible candidate, and always have been; the pollsters were incompetent and biased; and you were nominated because the process was rigged from the beginning. Continue reading

The NFL Anthem Protest Ethics Train Wreck, Part Two

The overview of our latest Ethics Train Wreck continues from Part One

  • Slate published an essay by African-American musician John Legend that itself makes an excellent case against the protests while supposedly glorifying them. Never mind the standard anti-Trump spin at the beginning about “Islamophobia” and the rest, though it is nice for any author to state up front that he’s completely biased and his opinion should be discarded as such. Legend and Slate have the audacity to evoke actual protests that were clear and targeted in comparison the all-purpose “knee”:

“Protest is patriotic. Protest has played a critically important role in elevating the voices of the most vulnerable in our nation. Protest in America has been essential to ending war, to demanding equal rights, to ending unfair practices that keep citizens marginalized. If we quell protest in the name of patriotism, we are not patriots. We are tyrants.

Would there have been a Civil Rights Act without the Birmingham protests? When Bull Connor unleashed his fire hoses and dogs on the schoolchildren taking to the streets, racial disparities and the violence facing people because of the color of their skin became the issues of the times. With savage images of the brutal attack in the news every day, President John Kennedy had little choice but to push for a Civil Rights Act that demanded equal services and equal rights.

Protests in Selma, Alabama, changed the trajectory of this nation and catapulted the Voting Rights Act into being.”

A recipe for tapioca would be as germane to the NFL protests as the Selma march. There is no definable law, principle or position these protests bring into focus. Let’s check the Ethics Alarms Protest Ethics Checklist against the NFL grandstanding:

1. Is this protest just and necessary?

No. How is it just? How is it necessary?

2. Is the primary motive for the protest unclear, personal, selfish, too broad or narrow?

Unclear and too broad by definition, since no two protesters make the same argument.

3. Is the means of protest appropriate to the objective?

Obviously not. What does football have to do with “racial justice”?

4. Is there a significant chance that it will achieve an ethical objective or contribute to doing so?

None whatsoever.

5. What will this protest cost, and who will have to pay the bill?

It’s already cost the NFL millions. But nobody is protesting the NFL…

6. Will the individuals or organizations that are the targets of the protest also be the ones who will most powerfully feel its effects?

No.

7. Will innocent people be adversely affected by this action? (If so, how many?)

Sure: every single fan who wants to just watch football.

8. Is there a significant possibility that anyone will be hurt or harmed? (if so, how seriously? How many people?)

The relentless politicizing of sports and entertainment harms U.S. society and frays the fabric of democracy. That means everyone.

9. Are you and your group prepared to take full responsibility for the consequences of the protest?

Clearly not: witness the constant complaining that NFL teams won’t hire Kaepernick so their season is dominated by racial politics rather than, you know, football..

10. Would an objective person feel that the protest is fair, reasonable, and proportional to its goal?

No.

11. What is the likelihood that the protest will be remembered as important, coherent, useful, effective and influential?

My guess: no chance whatsoever, unless unintended consequences count, like getting more votes for President Trump and crippling the NFL count.

12. Could the same resources, energy and time be more productively used toward achieving the same goals, or better ones?

It’s hard to imaging what wouldn’t be a better use of resources, energy and time.

Verdict: It’s an unethical protest. There is nothing patriotic about unethical protests. We have a right to protest; as with free speech, that doesn’t make all examples of exercising that right good, and certainly not “patriotic.”

  • However, let me argue in the alternative, as lawyers often do. Let’s say that, as Legend claims, all protests are patriotic. Fine. Then then Charlottesville protest against tearing down a statue of Robert E. Lee was also patriotic. Why, the, was the President attacked—by Legend and Slate, among others, for not condemning it?

The Left believes that protests are sacrosanct only when they are doing the protesting. There is nothing wrong or unpatriotic about accurately labeling a dumb, badly-conceived or destructive protest, and this one is all three.

“Football was down. The end. We, the good people who read the NYT, must say no to football. What is known cannot become unknown except by willful, immoral forgetting. No decent person can take pleasure in football. No fit parent can allow a child to take up the game. The era of American football is over. Bury it. We can end the misery through the simple and necessary refusal to watch anymore. Say no, America… or hey, wait a minute. Here’s that nasty President of the United States and he’s calling for a boycott of football…

So, watch the liberal media endeavor to save football from bad old President Trump. He’s a racist. This is his racism once again, stirring up the stupid people who voted for him. Here‘s the NYT today:

“The tweet suggested that the president, who used an expletive on Friday night to refer to players who kneel or sit in protest during the anthem — a practice that took hold last season among some African-American players after Colin Kaepernick, the now-former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, did so to protest racial and social injustice — is bent on deepening a bitter culture-war fight with the N.F.L.

It is a highly charged debate, with unmistakable racial undertones, pitting advocates of free speech who argue that professional athletes should have a right to use their positions to call attention to social issues against those who contend that refusing to honor the anthem disrespects the military and the nation, and that sports is no place for such displays.”

 Ann’s line:

“Let the brain damage continue. We’ve got a culture war to fight.”

Continue reading