Joe Biden, The Human Lawn Chair

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States…”

I’ve been thinking about what would be the fair and expository Ethics Alarms nickname for Joe Biden, and I’ve settled on “The Lawn Chair,” or TLC for short.

In 2016, I wrote repeatedly in posts and comments that I would vote for a lawn chair over Donald Trump, using the same standard that I had applied in the past to first term Presidents who I had found unacceptably incompetent or untrustworthy (Nixon, Carter, Bush I, and Bill Clinton). Joe Biden, in his drastically diminished 2020 model, is the closest thing a U.S. Presidential contest has had to an actual lawn chair, and it is clear that those preparing to vote for him to lead the nation at this critical time would literally vote for a lawn chair over President Trump. In this there is epic hypocrisy.

Feminists who once proclaimed that sexual harassment and sexual assault, determined on the basis of unsubstantiated accusations, were sufficient to disqualify a man for high public office are supporting Biden, who has been photographed numerous times engaging in sexual harassment as Vice-President, and has been accused “credibly” (as they said about Brett Kavanaugh’s less than credible accuser) of sexual assault. Heck, one such feminist is his running mate. Soft coup proponents who have argued that President Trump is sufficiently cognitively handicapped that the 25th Amendment should be employed to remove him are supporting Biden, who is obviously more mentally impaired now than Trump has ever been even in the fever dreams of progressives.

Then there is the lying. Continue reading

From The Signature Significance Files: And Now We Know, If We Didn’t Already, That Spike Lee Is A Weenie

I had a long day yesterday, and then had trouble sleeping because I was so annoyed about last night’s Atlanta Wendy’s shooting—which should not have happened for many reasons, and the mass stupidity necessary for it to happen is staggering—so I’m not sufficiently alert and awake for too substantive a post. This I can handle though…

In an interview on two days ago, director Spike Lee said,

“I’d just like to say Woody Allen is a great, great filmmaker and this cancel thing is not just Woody. And I think when we look back on it… we are going to see that — short of killing somebody — I don’t know that you can just erase somebody like they never existed.”

Then, after the predictable reaction by the social media mob, Cancel Culture division, Spike did a sudden reverse-backflip with a twist, added a grovel, and tweeted,

I Deeply Apologize. My Words Were WRONG. I Do Not And Will Not Tolerate Sexual Harassment, Assault Or Violence. Such Treatment Causes Real Damage That Can’t Be Minimized.-Truly, Spike Lee.

Continue reading

Zoom Ethics: And You Thought The School Board President Who Had To Resign Because He Drank A Beer In His Home During An Online Meeting Was Crazy…

This is even worse.

The post about the scandalous swig of beer was less than a month ago, but in comparison to the events of the last couple weeks, the Covina, California story doesn’t seem anywhere near as nuts as as it did at the time. Then, Ethics Alarms was concerned with privacy and officious inter-meddlers dictating how citizens get to behave in their own homes. I even called the incident a “freakout”! Now we know what a real freakout looks like.

The poll on whether poor Brian Akers, the ex-president of the Charter Oak Unified School Board who impulsively guzzled a beer while on camera during a remote board meeting was unfairly maligned was pretty decisive:

I won’t bother to poll today’s Zoom ethics story. If I did, my question might be, “How could you justify continuing to let your child go to a school with employees like this?”

In Baltimore County Maryland, a 5th grade teacher at the Seneca School saw a BB gun hanging on the wall in an 11-year-old student’s bedroom.  The Horror. She notified the principal, who alerted the school safety officer, who then called the police, who made an unannounced visit to the student’s home.

The child’s mother, Courtney Lancaster, a military veteran, has extensive knowledge of guns, how to use them and how to store them, and she is ticked-off. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Neil deGrasse Tyson (Again) [Repaired]

I think the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, which recently allowed pop scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson to continue in his job after credible allegations of sexual harassment, might want to reconsider. Not because Tyson is a harasser, but because he is an arrogant jerk with the ethical instincts of a lemur, who doesn’t think before he tweets, or presumably, speaks.  The tweet above is smoking gun.

When you start sounding like Michael Moore—you may recall that Moore made similar comparisons to minimize the significance of the 9-11 attacks, which he couldn’t understand why everyone was all bent out of shape over—it’s time to start checking out the used-brain market. Tyson’s tweet is literally the “Comparative Virtue Excuse,” Rationalization. #22, the worst of the worst. He is arguing that the Dayton and El Paso massacres really aren’t so bad when you consider other deaths. If he’s this stupid, the Planetarium needs to start running help wanted ads. Continue reading

From Acculturated, A Perfect Rationalization #22

The post by Mike Judge on the pop culture site Acculturated is such a perfect example of The Worst of All Rationalizations, #22 The Comparative Virtue Excuse, that I might add a permanent link to it in the Rationalizations List.

In case you have been out of the Ethics Alarms loop, here is #22:

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.

Judge spends his post, titled “Why Are Some Journalists Acting Like Snowflakes?,’ mocking journalists who complain when the President punches down at them, which is unethical conduct on his part, or when the public is openly hostile to reporters, which is wrong, but it is the escalating bias and trustworthiness of the news media that arouses the public’s ire. In contrast, he reminds us that George Orwell (above) was shot in the neck when he was on assignment as a reporter, that young reporter Ernest Hemingway was hit with a mortar in World War I, and that Woodward and Bernstein thought their lives were at risk. Continue reading

Unethical Blog Post Of The Month: The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler

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I normally would not have read this post, not being a regular fan of The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler. However, more than one political website that I do frequent cited the post with favor, and this is profoundly depressing. The pots expresses classic non-ethical reasoning, based entirely on emotions like anger, hatred, desire for revenge, and joy at the pain of others. The blog, interestingly, includes a page on logical fallacies, but not one on rationalizations. The post, titled “How’s That Shoe on the Other Foot, Prozis?,” is the wholesale expression of an especially destructive rationalization, “Tit for Tat,”  that is well-expressed in the Golden Rule distortion, “Do Unto Others As They Did Unto You, But Even Harder, If Possible.”

This screed does have value: it does support my theory that a large portion of Donald Trump’s support was akin to Delta House’s decision in “Animal House,” spurred by this kind of logic:

Otter: Bluto’s right. Psychotic… but absolutely right. We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!

Bluto: We’re just the guys to do it.

I wrote,

“In Germany, The Big Cheese says jump and the Germans say “How high?” In the US, the response is “Fuck you!” Obama never understood that. He and the Democrats are finally getting the “fuck you!” they have been asking for. I love that about America. And much as I hate the idea of an idiot being President, I do love the message and who it was sent to. America still has spunk.”

I should have also noted that the spunk is often registered in reckless and unethical ways.

The post begins with approving cites to quotes from a commenter: Continue reading

It’s Time For That Exciting Ethics Alarms Game Show,”Spot The Hypocrisy!”

time-to-play

Are you ready?

Here comes…

Hypocrisy Challenge I

The New York Times

Like much of the mainstream news media but more so, The New York Times is flogging the “fake news” narrative. In part there is something legitimate to report, as with the crazy conspiracy theory about a pedophilia ring run out of a Washington, D.C., pizza place by John Podesta and Hillary Clinton that culminated in a nut case showing up there with a gun “to rescue children.”  (Most of the “fake news” crisis is really the “Stupid people” crisis.) The media’s excessive enthusiasm and daily fulminating about fake news, however, appears to be a desperate effort to make its own incompetent, inaccurate, slanted and dishonestly selective reporting during the campaign and election just completed appear more palatable by invoking Ethics Alarms Rationalization #22, Comparative Virtue, or “It’s not the worst thing.” This story, for example, was on today’s Times front page, where its headline read, “As Fake New Spreads Lies, More Readers Shrug At Truth.”

Meanwhile, tucked away at the bottom of the op-ed page of the same issue, was this “Correction”:

Because of an editing error, an Op-Ed essay on Friday about Donald Trump’s efforts to keep jobs in the United States misstated the change in auto sector employment in both the United States and Mexico between 2007 and 2015. In Mexico, jobs grew to 558,000 from 405,000, not to 675,000 from 174,000. In the United States, auto jobs declined to 762,000 from 828,000. The article also misstated plans by Detroit car companies in Mexico. Ford and General Motors plan to invest a combined $9.1 billion and hire 12,200 more workers; Detroit car companies are not planning to invest $30 billion and hire 30,000 more workers.

Now…

Spot the Hypocrisy!

Continue reading

In Defense Of Hillary, A Perfect #22

Not running....

Not running….

Rationalization #22, Comparative Virtue or “It’s not the worst thing,” is my personal candidate for the worst rationalization of them all. It is so objectively so devoid of common sense, and so desperate in its relativism, that I am amazed at how often allegedly intelligent people employ it. Ethics Alarms is always on the lookout for a perfect #22, and this summer has brought a bumper crop. Donald Trump, master of rationalizations, had one in June, just four days after Madeleine Albright scored one, saying about Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal,

“…nobody is going to die as a result of anything that happened on emails”

Albright also could well have been wrong about that, as we now know, and only moral luck prevented one of Hillary’s carelessly handled e-mails from falling into hands that might have engineered harm for a U.S. agent abroad. Clearly, however, partisans trying to minimize Clinton’s absolute incompetence, recklessness and dishonesty regarding her private server and its illicit use are drawn to Rationalization #22, because today’s example is also an unethical attempt to excuse Hillary’s conduct by putting it in “perspective”—and what a perspective!

First let’s again review the rationalization…

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.

(It is also the mark of someone corrupted by the Clintons. #22 got a workout, you may recall, when Bill Clinton’s lies, cover-up and obstruction of justice  regarding the intern he transformed into a Presidential sex toy got him impeached.)

Now here is the perfect #22, a headline on an editorial at MassLive, a Massachusetts news and politics website, Can it get better than this?

Clinton’s email shenanigans weren’t crime of the century

Continue reading

From The Man Who Would Be President, And Who Thinks That Rationalizations Are Cogent Arguments, A Perfect #22

22

Just two weeks ago, I breathlessly announced that Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, against all odds. had pulled into a lead over Donald Trump for the 2016 Unethical Rationalizations Championship by giving us a perfect #22, the worst rationalization of them all. That’s this one:

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

If “Everybody does it” is the Golden Rationalization, this is the bottom of the barrel. … 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, Donald Trump never runs out of rationalizations; as I wrote in the Albright post, “Trump is capable of hitting the entire list of rationalizations, all 68 of them (including the sub-rationalizations) given the opportunity.” He also rose to the challenge posed by Albright quickly, for he not only gave America a Full 22, he did so in the context of arguing for an unconstitutional government breach of First, Second, and Fifth Amendment rights on a massive scale! Bravo!

On Face the Nation  yesterday, talking about the Orlando shooting,  this idiot—sorry, sorry!—Mr. Trump said..

“Well I think profiling is something that we’re going to have to start thinking about as a country.Other countries do it, you look at Israel and you look at others, they do it and they do it successfully. [DINDINGDINGDINGDING! There are two more rationalizations right there:#1, Everybody Does It, and  #3, Consequentialism, or  “It Worked Out for the Best”! I mean,this guy is a rationalization machine! ] And I hate the concept of profiling but we have to start using common sense and we have to use our heads. It’s not the worst thing to do.” Continue reading

How Conservatives Make Themselves Untrustworthy: A Case Study Starring Brent Bozell

Brent-Bozell-SC

Brent Bozell, founder of the Media Research Center, is one of the heroes of the hard right. Joined by  reporter Tim Graham on Bozell’s media watchdog website ( it only bites liberal media, but that’s still a mouthful) Newsbusters,  he provides a depressing example of how conservatives sabotage their credibility and end up crippling their ability to persuade even when they are right, which is frequently.

In a column called “America’s Wrong To Love Football?,” Bozell and Graham complain about an NPR segment that makes the exact same point Ethics Alarms has made many times.[ You want one? Here’s one.]  After citing just some of the waves of evidence that professional football (and probably college football too) is maiming and, in slow motion, killing a large percentage of its players, they write one dishonest, irrelevant, fallacious and rationalized argument after another:

“Count on flower children at NPR to go over the edge with this issue..”

Conservatives used to use the ad hominem tactic of denigrating all liberals as hippies–drugged out, long hair, unwashed, funny clothes, pacifists, Communist sympathizers–in the Nixon era. It was a cheap shot even then—Counter their positions, don’t make fun of their haircuts!—but 50 years later it’s pathetic, and screams “I’m estranged from reality!” How many people under the age of 60 even know what “flower children” were?

Bozell and Graham continue..

“The problem isn’t the size and strength, and therefore power of professional football players. No, it’s — ready? — the evil game of football itself…”

This is devoid of logic. If the huge athletes and the way the game of football is played maim human beings, then the sport—game, sport, sport, game– of professional football maims human beings. No, Brent, it’s true, the rule book never hurt anyone. Nevertheless, the sport of pro football, as it is played, results in a large number of young men losing their minds before they are sixty. That doesn’t make the game of football “evil,” it makes the sport unacceptably dangerous. No, that doesn’t make the game “evil”—Deford never says it was “evil.” It makes people–like you, in fact—who pretend the game isn’t unreasonably dangerous and misrepresent the arguments that it is—complicit. It corrupts them. It corrupts society to have the culture spend so much money, passion and time on a sport once we know it kills people and ruins lives.

“Commentator Frank Deford used to love football, but now he just drops bombs on it. On Wednesday’s Morning Edition on National Public Radio, Deford’s weekly commentary was titled “What Is Football Doing to Us as a People?” He asked on air “So what is football doing to us as a people? How do we explain an America that, alone in the world, so loves this savage sport?…”

It is a legitimate and revealing question. Bozell and Graham just don’t like the answer. Yes, Deford loved football, until he learned that it was turning healthy young men into sad, tortured, middle-aged dementia victims while the NFL’s  leadership tried to cover up that fact. Like any decent, ethical person, he changed his mind according to new information, something conservatives like Brent Bozell often regard as heresy. Continue reading