Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/14/19: Tlaib And Kavanaugh.

Good morning,

I hope…

1 Social Q’s ethics. I’m whomping the advice columnist in the Ethics Alarms poll regarding whether complimenting someone on weight loss can be reasonably taken as offensive by the object of praise. Looking at the same column, I have decided that Mr. Gallanes was just having a bad day. Another inquirer complained that he sleeps with her bedroom window open, and is often awakened in the morning when the next door neighbor takes his dog out for a 5 am walk, a ritual, she says, that is always preceded by his “disgusting” coughing. The advice columnist suggested that she ask him to do his disgusting coughing inside. Yeah, THAT will go over well. If you insist on leaving your window open, you have no standing to protest sounds that would not be heard if you kept it closed. Given the choice between waking one’s spouse with the morning hacking that most men of a certain age can identify with, and getting all the morning phlegm up while walking the dog, the latter is the wiser and more ethical choice.

2. Supreme Court ethics and pro-abortion fear-mongering.

a.) Somehow it was reported as news akin to squaring the circle that Justice Kavanaugh joined with the four typically liberal justices in a 5-4 ruling yesterday that left Thomas, Gorsuch, Roberts and Alito licking their wounds. This is non-news. It was a dishonest partisan smear on Kavanaugh to suggest that he would be a mindless puppet in lock-step with conservatives on every issue. Justices consider cases in good faith, and the fact that their judicial philosophies make some decisions predictable doesn’t mean, as non-lawyer, non-judge, political hacks seem to think, that they will not judge a case on its merits rather than which “side” favors a particular result.

b) Kavanaugh did join the conservative justices in a ruling that overturned a 1979 case in which the Court had allowed a citizen of one state to sue another state. This decision, being a reversal of an older case, immediately prompted the publication of fear-mongering op-ed pieces warning that the evil Court conservatives, having re-read and enjoyed “The Handmaiden’s Tale,” were slyly laying the ground for a Roe v. Wade reversal with a case that had nothing whatsoever to do with abortion. Don’t you see? Stare decisus is the SCOTUS tradition that older cases will generally not be overturned by later Courts, lest Constitutional law be seen as unstable and too fluid to rely on. Garbage. Stare decisus has never been an absolute bar to reversing a wrongly decided case, so no new affirmation of that fact is necessary. In addition, the case overturned yesterday was a relatively obscure case that seldom comes into play, exactly the kind of case in which a reversal is minimally disruptive. Roe, on the other hand, has become a foundation of supporting law and social policy. That doesn’t mean it can’t be overturned, but it does mean that the protection of stare decisus is strong. 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

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

Rare Species, Previously Believed Extinct, Sighted: A Balanced Analysis Of The Iran Nuclear Deal

On a matter of as much significance and complexity as the Iran nuclear deal, it is depressing to see that almost all commentary in the news media begins with a partisan bias, a “team” mentality, and the typical talking-point orientation that makes genuine public understanding unattainable today. People choose the position that already aligns with their friends and their loyalties, and adopt it uncritically. As a result, public discourse is useless.

This is no way to run a democracy.

Elliot Cohen is a prominent Never-Trump neo-con and foreign policy scholar, writing in the Atlantic, a generally “resistance”-favorable progressive publication. His analysis of the current contretemps involving the Iran deal is the closest I have seen yet to a fair and balanced one. That doesn’t mean I think he is right on all counts, especially ethically. The second half of this statement, for example is as  troubling as the first half is refreshing:

“The Iran deal was, in truth, a very bad one. It did nothing to inhibit Iranian behavior in the broader Middle East, did nothing to stop its ballistic programs, and opened the path for a resumption of the nuclear-weapons program in a decade or so. Some of us said so at the time. Walking away from it, however, will make matters worse not only because success is unlikely, but because this shredding of an earlier presidential agreement further undermines the qualities that those who look to American leadership have come to value—predictability, steadiness, and continuity. Even when American allies have doubted the superpower’s wisdom, they usually felt they could count on its constancy.”

They also have to be able to count on its competence, courage, and ability to change course when a current course is disastrous. It is unethical to make policies that are careless, expedient and dangerous in a setting where there is no recourse once the course is set.  Leaders have to undo mistakes and take new directions even when it means future distrust and present anger.  The previous President took unseemly joy in declaring previous Presidential policies wrong-headed, and reversing them forthwith. True: this is a bad habit, and all leaders should respect previous decisions and commitments by their predecessors, except in extraordinary circumstances. The standard should be similar to the Supreme Court’s rule of stare decisus, which means that previous SCOTUS rulings have the presumption of permanence, unless they are sufficiently bad for law and the nation. I am satisfied to move the Iran debate from the Obama-Kerry mythology to “it’s a bad deal.” The question is then whether it is sufficiently bad to justify a variance from the general rule that Presidents ought to leave agreements made before their election stand if at all possible.

To his credit, Cohen displays almost equal contempt for the Obama administration and President Trump. Some notable excerpts: 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

Ethics Note To Bill Maher: Be Funny Or Be Accurate, Otherwise You’re Just Being A Divisive Asshole

Stop! Stop! You’re killing me!

I used to watch Bill Maher regularly during his Comedy Central days, before he decided he was such an insightful political pundit that he could afford to eschew comedy and just engage in full-time conservative and Republican smearing. On his HBO show Bill is only useful now to remind us of the ugliest tendencies of the Young Angry Left, as Maher will engage in such “comedy” as calling Sarah Palin a cunt, while his audience of fawning dim bulbs clap and bark like hyper-active seals. All Maher does is try to fan the flames of societal division and hate, and HBO is apparently satisfied with that, since there are enough progressive fans of societal division and hate that being funny isn’t deemed essential.  Maher’s weekly partyist ranting has even spawned imitators on other networks, like Samantha Bee and John Oliver. Both are funnier than Bill.

Still, millions of people see this poison and spread it around the internet, so I guess it’s past time to point out how Maher is either ignorant or determined to spread stupidity via confirmation bias. We can stipulate that he’s no longer funny, and seldom even attempts to be.

At the end of last week the latest episode of “Bill Foams At the Mouth” debuted, with the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch the primary object of Bill’s wrath, I mean “wit.”  He began with his monologue.

If anyone senses a joke, raise your hand.

“I don’t know why you’d be happy today. Today is a day Republicans are happy. They got their two favorite things — a right-wing asshole on the Supreme Court and Trump finally blowing some shit up.”

Please note:

  • Bill assumes that only one side of the political divide watches him. He’s right, but it’s not healthy for the culture, and he’s one of the reasons comedy and the arts now divide rather than unite us.
  • Maher calls a dedicated jurist and legal scholar an “asshole” simply because he’s conservative. This is bigotry. Denigrating, stereotyping and demonizing whole categories of people based on their priority of values is no different ethically from denigrating them based on their religion or ethnicity. It’s unfair, disrespectful, irresponsible and undemocratic.
  • Did you raise your hand? Maher, a professional comedian, gets laughs by using words like shit, asshole, and cunt. There was a guy I knew named Larry who did that quite successfully too.

Of course, we were in the 5th grade…

Then Maher, as usual, moved on to calling Republicans racists.

In 2013, 98 Republicans signed a letter saying bombing Syria in response to a chemical attack was unconstitutional without congressional authorization. But this is different because Obama was President then. That would have involved bombing while black, and you can’t — can’t do that.

In the wake of the embarrassment and the exposure of President Obama by President Trump’s decisive handling of an issue that his predecessor made into a trademark display of his weakness, fecklessness  and dithering, the desperate Obama Fan Club has virtually made Maher’s spin a talking point. Almost all media accounts bolstering their narrative leave out the actual sequence of events, which was… Continue reading

Supreme Court Vacancy Ethics: A Competent Choice, An Unethical Announcement, And An Irresponsible Reaction

gorsuch

You know, if every day is going to set off multiple political ethics controversies, I’m not going to have time to write about lobster hats.

Last night, President Trump selected Colorado federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee.

A. The Choice

Except for those who literally are determined to freak out and condemn anything President Trump does, this was a competent, responsible choice. He would be one of the best of the available choices for any Republican President, more qualified than Obama’s snubbed selection, Merrick Garland, to fill the same vacancy, and Garland was certainly qualified. It’s ridiculous that Gorsuch is one more Harvard grad on a Court that is exclusively Harvard and Yale, but that aside, he adds some diversity of outlook by being from the middle of the country rather than the coasts. He writes clearly, unlike, say, Justice Kennedy, and is not a pure political ideologue, like Ginsberg or Alito.

Before the Democrats’ rejection of Robert Bork shattered the tradition of allowing every President the privilege of having his SCOTUS nominations approved absent real questions about their competence or honesty, a nomination like this one would have garnered bipartisan praise. Trump made a responsible, competent, choice. Really. He did.

B. The Announcement Continue reading