Morning Ethics Warm-Up, Charlottesville Aftermath Edition: 8/14/2017

Charlottesville, Virginia.

Good Morning?

1. Just a side note before the serious stuff: WordPress spell-check thinks “Charlottesville” is misspelled. It says the correct spelling is “Chancellorsville.”

And you wonder why I have so many typos…

2. Either one believes in, supports and will fight for freedom of speech, expression and assembly, or one does not. Those who do not also do not genuinely believe in democracy, the Constitution, civil rights or the core principles of the United States of America. This group, which has been slowly—not so slowly, really—taking over the progressive movement and the Democratic Party, and with them that party’s institutional allies, the U.S. education system and journalism, is far, far more dangerous than the alt-right, racist fools who tried to exercise their own rights over the weekend.

At the center of the implicit rejection of the freedom to say, express, demonstrate for and hold whatever wise, creative, idiotic or hateful opinions and ideas a U.S. citizen chooses were the despicable and anti-American comments of Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, ( WordPress thinks I should spell his name “Cauliflower”) who told a group of U.S. citizens that they were not welcome in his state, and that there was no place for them in the United States of America—you know, like the German Nazis told the Jews. Pathetically and dispiritingly, knee-jerk defenders of McAuliffe have spun this as mere “opprobrium,” a deflection that we technically refer to as “baloney.” When the leader of a government points to any group and says, “Get out!” based solely on what the group says and believes, that’s totalitarian oppression. It also paints a bullseye on the backs of every member of that group. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Charlottesville Riots

  • Is there a clear, complete, objective account of what happened in Charlottesville? I can’t find one. I have read about “clashes” between protesters and “counter-protesters,” who we are told outnumbered the white nationalist group protesting the removal of General Lee’s statue by about 2-1. What does that mean? Was the white nationalist rally peaceful, regardless of the racist slogans they were hurling? Were the counter-protesters just shouting back, or more physical? I see references to the “fray.” What fray? The key word seems to be that the white nationalists “sparked’ violence by marching. Do we now say that the civil rights marchers in Selma sparked the violence, and not the counter-protest racists. or is the theory that which ever group has the less popular position “sparks” the violence?

My suspicions are that the vagueness of the news media reports is a deliberate effort by the news media to avoid assigning any responsibility to Antifa thugs for the escalation into violence.

  • Obviously the automobile driven into the anti-white nationalist, counter protest crowd was a criminal act. Since this was done by the racists, it became the focus of all news reports, as if this was the only violence.

Was it? Somehow I doubt that.

  • Again, a counter-protest group “incites violence” as much as a protest group. The reaction from the news media and the political pundits appears to ignore the basic fact that Americans have the right to demonstrate and express their support for repugnant ideas as well as ideas most of us approve of. This was settled (I thought) with National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, 432 U.S. 43 (1977).

Apparently not.

  • President Trump’s statement regarding the riot was this:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time…We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!”

The immediate reaction by the newsmedia was that the statement asserted a false equivalency. CNN’s Chris Cillizza wrote,

“Both sides don’t scream racist and anti-Semitic things at people with whom they disagree. They don’t base a belief system on the superiority of one race over others. They don’t get into fistfights with people who don’t see things their way. They don’t create chaos and leave a trail of injured behind them. Arguing that “both sides do it” deeply misunderstands the hate and intolerance at the core of this “Unite the Right” rally. These people are bigots. They are hate-filled. This is not just a protest where things, unfortunately, got violent. Violence sits at the heart of their warped belief system.”

Both sides do “do it,” however, and when “it” is violence and refusal to allow a group with opposing views make their statements, there is no high ground. The starting point from the left is “the white nationalists are wrong, so they don’t deserve the same rights we do.” Yes, they do, and among those rights is the opportunity to protest whatever they choose without being attacked. “These people are bigots.” So what? They have the right to express their views. “They are hate-filled.” And the counter-protesters were not “hate-filled”? Or was the President supposed to distinguish that as good hate? Continue reading

Virginia’s Governor Restores The Vote To Felons

"First thing on my mind, now that I'm finally out of Shawshank, is to register to vote. Then I figure I'll look up Andy..."

“First thing on my mind, now that I’m finally out of Shawshank, is to register to vote. Then I figure I’ll look up Andy…”

Virginia’s Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order yesterday  that restored the voting rights of 206,000 ex-felons. The order applies to all violent and nonviolent felons who served their sentence. Virginia is one of a minority of states, only ten, that do not automatically restore rights upon completion of a felony sentence and one of only four  that require an application by each individual felon and action by the governor. Because this is an executive order, McAuliffe will have to reissue it every month.

McAuliffe, who is the political equivilent of Prof. Harold Hill in “The Music Man,” issued the predictable triumphal blather, saying from the Virginia Capitol steps after being introduced by a gospel choir,

“We benefit from a more just and accountable government when we put trust in all of our citizens to choose their leaders.It has taken Virginia many centuries, unfortunately, to learn this lesson. But today, we celebrate its truth.”

We get a more just and accountable government when we put trust in those who have proven themselves untrustworthy, eh?

That’s one of McAuliffe’s talents: he can make a measure that isn’t necessarily unethical at all seem like it.

Is it unethical to tell felons that they are banned from voting and running for office for life? It’s a policy choice, that’s all. A state can make lifetime disenfranchisement part of the official price for serious lawbreaking on the theory that felons have shown themselves to be  insufficiently respectful of the laws and society in general, and lowered themselves into the ranks of permanent second class citizens by their own choices and conduct. I won’t say that’s not fair: it depends what one thinks fair is. It’s tough. It signals a high regard for the rights to participate in self-government. Continue reading

Ethics Tales Of Three Governors, As Hope Slowly Dwindles


The U.S.’s recent experiment with a Senator-President has been disheartening—persuasive words unhinged to action and actual principles. There was a remarkable example of this in the President’s NSA speech, in fact, in a quote that would have been the Ethics Quote of the Month had it not been so cynical coming from him. The President said

“Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say: Trust us, we won’t abuse the data we collect. For history has too many examples when that trust has been breached. Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends on the law to constrain those in power.”

Wonderful! If only this had been uttered by a leader with credibility and integrity, rather than one who has shrugged off, firing no one, interference with the federal election process by the IRS, illegal spying by the NSA, and the intentional facilitation of illegal firearms coming into the murderous hands of drug cartels by his Justice Department, after bombing Libya illegally in defiance of law, selectively enforcing immigration laws, using drones to kill American citizens abroad without due process, making recess appointments when the Senate wasn’t in recess, and more recently, unconstitutionally amending the ACA on his own after it was signed into law.

This was all foretold, however. Community organizers and senators make speeches and inspire people, but unfortunately seldom have a clue how to actually govern unless, as Obama himself has wistfully noted, they have absolute power. This is why, in theory, at least, state governors, who at least have experience governing, now seem like a better recruitment field for the next occupant of the Oval Office. It sounds good in the abstract, but the recent news from the state houses  is like ice water in the face—-

Manipulated: “The Fact Checker’s” Top Ten Lies Of 2013

liars2Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post “Fact Checker,” came out with his list of the ten worst “Pinocchios” of the year (Kessler rates lies from one little growing-nosed puppet to four.) The Post’s version of this kind of column is fairer than most (The fairest and least tarnished by bias is, by a mile. Its list of worst lies is here.), and I don’t want to quibble with him too much, but it is clear to me that the top ten was rigged not to embarrass the President and his administration more than it already does.

The list gives Obama’s infamous pledge about Obamacare letting everyone keep the plan and doctors they want the #1 slot, which was unavoidable and most deserved. (Want to know how a really left-biased source handles the same statement? When Dick Chaney stated in an interview that this was a lie, the Daily Beast’s headline was “It takes one to know one..”) Obama also was rewarded two more top lies on the list, relating to the sequester and Benghazi, giving him the year’s championship and a total of three, but some of his statements in the post-Newtown gun control push were equally dishonest, and this one absolutely deserved a place: Continue reading

Ethics Conundrums From “The Fick Of the Month’s” Fake Black Campaign Strategy

Big deal. Bill and Hillary ran as a faithful and loving married couple...

Big deal. Bill and Hillary ran as a faithful and loving married couple…

It’s not the seat of great power, true, but the strategy Republican Dave Wilson employed to win on the Houston Community College Board of Trustees is ethically indefensible. Wilson, who is a prominent conservative politician who once ran for mayor and who has made a name for himself with anti-gay rhetoric,  won a seat  on the board by 26 votes after deceiving some less attentive voters in his predominantly African-American district that he was “one of them.

His election materials contained photographs of smiling black faces, lifted off the web, captioned “Please vote for our friend and neighbor Dave Wilson.” One particularly deceitful mailer said he had been “Endorsed by Ron Wilson,” invoking the name of former African-American state representative. But just like the ads and TV commercials for weight loss products, Dave Wilson’s flier contained fine print that made the misrepresentation “honest.” Instead of “Results not typical,” the campaign flier’s tiny disclaimer said, “Ron Wilson and Dave Wilson are cousins,” a reference to one of Wilson’s relatives living in Iowa who is also named “Ron.”

Wilson can be safely accorded status as a fick*—he is openly amused by the fact that his lie assisted in his election, and shows no remorse at all. He also invokes the “everybody does it” rationalization, saying, “Every time a politician talks, he’s out there deceiving voters.”  The news media and the blogosphere is joyfully flogging Wilson for his stunt, and he deserves every lash. The episode, however raises some uncomfortable ethical issues that require objective thought and consideration: Continue reading

The Associated Press And The Scandal That Wasn’t

It was tough giving my dog the bad news that the AP had screwed up...

It was tough giving my dog the bad news that the AP had screwed up…

Over the local evening news came a stunning report: Terry McAuliffe the Democratic candidate for Governor of Virginia, where I vote and make my home, had been accused in federal documents of lying to investigators checking the facts behind a Rhode Island death benefits scheme. Confirmation bias being what it is, I had no trouble giving the report full credence ( I long ago concluded that McAuliffe is sleazy and will lie whenever there is a perceived up-side for him, though I never thought he was stupid), and informed my dog, Rugby, for whom I am organizing a write-in campaign, that his chances of being Governor were looking up. Then, less than two hours later, I was preparing to write about this latest development in the most ethics-free governor’s race in the country, and checked online for more details. I discovered only this:

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) The Associated Press has withdrawn its story about documents in a federal fraud case alleging that Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe lied to a federal official investigating a death benefits scheme. The indictment did not identify McAuliffe as the “T.M.” who allegedly lied to investigators.

Wait…how could this happen? How could the Associated Press, the nation’s premiere news agency, essentially accuse a candidate for high office in a highly contested election of a felony less than a month before votes are cast, just in time for the story to be the lead story all over the state in question, and then withdraw it shortly thereafter? Don’t tell me about “mistakes”: the AP and the profession of journalism have standards and procedures of long-standing that, if followed diligently, ensure that this never happens. Facts must be checked and confirmed by reliable sources. Supposition must not be stated as truth. Here is the AP’s distillation of its ethical framework: Continue reading