Comment Of The Day: “Yes, It’s Open Forum Time Again!,” And Reflections On The State of Our Democracy, Part 2

Part I, and Michael R’s Comment of the Day, are here.

The embedded government bureaucracy has always been recognized as a necessary evil, because the pre-Civil Service system of cleaning house after every election was inefficient and an invitation to cronyism. It cannot be denied, however, that partisan biases and loyalties within the “Deep State” create other serious problems, including individuals taking it upon themselves to undermine and  sabotage policies they disagree with.  Usually the phenomenon is subtle and not routine, but the partisan hysteria weaponized it against Trump, with anti-Trump government employees with influence and power felt more justified in betraying the President than ever before. Prime among this group has been the judiciary, the intelligence community, the State Department, and the diplomatic corps.

Seduced by a partisan narrative, spread daily by the mainstream media, that an illegitimate President who was elected by racists and morons was poised to destroy the country, and maybe the world, because of his greed, stupidity–and insanity!–once unthinkable levels of disloyalty and active opposition to a President by those paid to support the leader chosen by the people were not only justified, but necessary. This attitude quickly metastasized into a coup mentality. This too is routinely derided as a Fox News talking point, but denial only works for so long. In this case, time is almost up.

I finally concluded, early in 2017, that Trump’s election showed that our democracy works and remains vital. The nation was being dragged into a new culture which was violently contrary to core American principles and values that have made the nation what it was, in great part because of the Left’s ideological  capture  of American institutions, notably education, the legal profession, journalism, and the political elites. Somehow, in the inexplicable wisdom of crowd, the ignorant, confused, misinformed and emotion-driven U.S  public found a way to say “Enough!” in the most startling, obnoxious, disruptive way imaginable.

Lincoln was proven right. You can’t fool all the people all the time. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Yes, It’s Open Forum Time Again!,” And Reflections On The State of Our Democracy, Part 1

The discussion on the Open Forum this week, unmoderated, was remarkably effective in covering important topics in my absence that I would have been writing about had I not been caught in a conflict of duties. Among them: the impeachment hearings; Chic-Fil-A capitulating to public bullying; Bob Barr’s speech; the President’s pardon of several officers convicted by military courts, and several others, including the AFP news service botch of using Obama era figures to condemn Trump’s illegal immigration policies.

Excellent job, everybody. Thank you.

This may not be the only COTD to come from that Open Forum, but long-time contributor Michael R. hit on several points that I would have written about, and have before. It is important to keep the context of and motives underlying the Trump Impeachment Ethics Train Wreck before us, even if it involves returning again and again to a repulsive topic, and repeating the factors that make the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck the threat to the nation’s comity, security, viability and continued success that it has become.

I’ll be back at the end, but for now, here’s Michael R.’s Comment of the Day:

The election of Trump shows that elections of Republicans can be democratic. The treatment of Trump seems to show that elections don’t matter. The people can elect anyone they want, but if they elect the wrong person, the government will make sure that mistake is rectified. It looks like we have a Lt. Colonel who decided he didn’t like the President’s foreign policy and started impeachment proceedings against him. We have 5,6,7…I don’t know how many head FBI executives who fabricated evidence, lied, and leaked classified information, and investigated every facet of the President’s life to try to remove the President. We have how many Justice Department and State Department officials who have willfully obstructed the President’s orders if not blatantly tried to have him removed from office. The bureaucracy even raided the office of the President’s personal attorney and leaked files they seized.

How many Federal Judges have cancelled his executive orders merely because they don’t agree with them? How many federal judges have ruled that the President can’t cancel an executive order if the judges disagree with the decision? How many judges ruled that it is OK to spy on a Presidential campaign as long as they don’t like that candidate?

Democracy may not be dead, but it isn’t very healthy. I have begun to see lots of posts along the lines of “What do we do when elections stop working. What do we do when we can’t change things no matter who we elect?” Looking at the last 3 years, how many people need to be removed from the government before elections matter? 2000? 3000? 10,000? 100,000? Maybe have a poll…

I’m back. Continue reading

Addendum And Correction To The Complaint Form Revision Discussion [Updated]

In Item #3 of this morning’s Warm-Up, I wrote, “The intelligence community quietly eliminated a requirement that whistleblowers provide direct, first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings that had existed since May, 2018. The revised version of the whistleblower complaint form was not made public until after the transcript of the President’s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. It had eliminated the first-hand knowledge requirement, allowing government employees to file whistleblower complaints even if they lack direct knowledge of underlying evidence and only “heard about [wrongdoing] from others.”

I now know that this description was misleading and incorrect, because my source had confused a change in the reporting form, which it documented with screen shots, with a change in the whistleblower law, which had remained the same. This was explained in a twitter thread by Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a  technology and privacy expert. I will note that based on the Federalist’s screen shot above, one can understand their confusion.

Twitter is terrible format to make a substantive argument or explain anything, but I guess Sanchez doesn’t have a blog or a Facebook account, or something.  He writes that he contacted the site’s editor Mollie Hemingway and she didn’t correct the post.

[Notice of Correction: I had written here, erroneously, that the Federalist doesn’t allow comments. It does: I missed the tiny link at the bottom of the page. In fact, there are a lot of comments to that post. They are not helpful…]

I considered trying to put the following in coherent chronological order, but I’m just going to post Sanchez’s tweets as they appear on his feed: Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/29/2019: Updates, Coincidences And Suspicions [CORRECTED]

The same as what?

I heard this song yesterday for the first time in many years, and immediately wondered how many people  my son’s age (he’s 24) or even older would know what “Spanky and Our Gang” referred to. Then I made the mistake of briefly watching HGTV’s “A Very Brady Renovation” and saw to my horror that all the “Brady Bunch” kids are senior citizens. “Who’s that old lady? OHMYGOD It’s JAN!!!!”

1. Well, it was nice while it lasted...Traffic here increased by about 30% over three days last week after Facebook slipped up and allowed a link to one Ethics Alarms—it violates Facebook community standards, don’t you know— post to be circulated on among users.

2. Here’s a poll on the previous post, about a controversial joke related to the Texas governor’s disability that was made by a female judge. Governor Abbott has been in a wheelchair ever since he was struck by a falling tree almost 40 years ago. Noting that Texas Republicans have opposed proposed environment-minded legislation, “even local tree ordinances,”  the judge quipped to her partisan Democratic crowd, “Governor Abbott hates trees because one fell on him.”

While we’re on the subject of polls, the Ethics Alarms readers were strongly opposed to the course of action discussed here, here, and here, with about 88% holding that a Swedish man should not have allowed a doctor to euthanize his sister despite her past consent to the procedure, because she was resisting.

Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/16/2019: The King’s Pass And Kool-Aid

Good morning…

1. A literal “King’s Pass”! The King’s Pass, #11 on the Ethic Alarms rationalization list, was acted out with perfection in Great Britain, where Prince Philip, despite causing an automobile accident that injured another driver, was not charged or ticketed by authorities. The nonagenarian royal has been persuaded to surrender his driving license, however.

2. Politics do not belong in the sports pages...but don’t tell the New York Times. In another King’s Pass-related story,“Patriarch’s Racist Emails Stagger Cubs Owners” (the print version), in which the Times subtly lobbies for the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball to take punitive action against Joe Ricketts, the billionaire whose family owns the team, we had the following statements…

  • “The false assertion that Obama, who identifies as Protestant, was Muslim and born outside the United States were prevalent in right-wing politics during his presidency.” This is just false. The birthers were a radical fringe of the conservative opposition to Obama, and that weak conspiracy theory was never “prevalent.” Nor can the birther claims be fairly called “racist,” though certainly many of their adherents were racist. Among the “racist” sentiments attributed to Ricketts in the article were “we cannot ever let Islam become a large part of our society.”  At worst that’s religious bigotry, not racism. At best it’s a defensible point of view.

In fact, I tend to agree with it, and the experience of Western Europe supports the position.

  • The article approvingly cites the mandatory grovel by Tom Ricketts, chairman of the Cubs, who denounced his father’s emails in a statement, saying, “We are aware of the racially insensitive emails in my father’s account that were published by an online media outlet. Let me be clear: The language and views expressed in those emails have no place in our society.”

Let me be clear: any language and all views have a place in a society founded on the principles of freedom of thought and expression. The casual and routine endorsement of thought-crime and censorship by the mainstream news media (and academia) is far more alarming than any private emails by an elderly billionaire. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 1/13/19: Walking Through The Ethics Woods On A Snowy Evening

Good evening!

1. Pro tip for James Comey: appealing to the Cognitive Dissonance Scale is the tactic of a scoundrel. Also an idiot. Comey, responding to one of President Trump’s anti-Comey tweets—it doesn’t matter which–responded yesterday,

It takes only a rudimentary knowledge of world history to recognize how many absolute villains, psychopaths and sociopaths could and would make that statement. Vlad Tepes (aka “Dracula,”), feared foe of the Turks. Joseph Stalin, enemy of Hitler. Hitler, enemy of Stalin. Comey and President Trump are both equally loathed by Hillary Clinton: puzzle that out.

How did someone with Comey’s character deficits last as long as he did, and what damage did he do over that time that we don’t know about? The mind boggles.

2. And speaking of mind-boggling: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Apparently not capable of figuring out that her problem is her own big mouth and some serious critical thinking issues, the irrepressible Congresswoman from New York is playing the pity AND the victim cards simultaneously. Unfortunately, as is her wont, she also inadvertently played the “unqualified to be in Congress because she never read the bill of Rights” card. “When does nonstop criticism of me by the Daily Caller rise to the level of ‘harassment’?” she tweeted plaintively.

Of course, as any reasonably well-educated 6th grader should be able to explain, the answer is “never,” or perhaps, “Never, you idiot,” even if the frequent criticism wasn’t warranted, which it obviously is.

3. Political Hot Stove suggestion. This is the time between baseball season known as the “Hot Stove League,” where baseball fans concentrate on free agent signings and trades, real, hoped for, or imagined. Here’s one involving politics: the Republicans should offer to trade Steve King (R-Iowa) to the Democrats for Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. The problem is that even the Democrats aren’t stupid enough to take the bait. King is a long-running disgrace and embarrassment, the embodiment of what the news media and Democrats want the public to think every Republican and conservative is really like. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/11/18: As They Read The Names Of The Twin Towers Bombing…

Sad morning….

1. Serena ethics updates An indignant Facebook friend appeals to authority by telling me that  Chris Evert and Billie Jean King are defending Williams, and that they know more about professional tennis than I do. That’s a classic appeal to authority, and a very lame one. What a surprise that female tennis superstars have each others’ back! Chris and Billie Jean sure aren’t ethicists. I’d love to interview them. “So you believe that coaching from the stands, even though forbidden by the rules, should be allowed? Do you think that an unknown player who behaved like Serena did would have been treated any differently? Do you think that anyone would be supporting her if she were penalized? Since the record shows that Ramos does not treat men any differently than he treats women on the court, doesn’t Serena owe him an apology? Can you comprehend why calling a ref, whose reputtaion depends on being regarded as fair and unbiased, a “thief” is worse that calling him a “four-letter word”?

I can play the biased expert witness game too: here’s Martina Navratilova’s op ed, which is comparatively ethically astute and tracks with my post in many respects.

The polls about Mark Knight’s “racist and sexist” cartoon has these results:

85% side with Knight. I’d love to hear the explanation of the one voter who said the cartoon was sexist but not racist.

The reason I made the issue an ethics quiz is because I’m really torn in the issue. Yes, cartoons of blacks employing exaggerated features naturally evoke Jim Crow and minstrel show racist images. But political cartoons exaggerate features, often in unflattering ways. That’s the art form. Does this mean that blacks are immune from ever being portrayed cruelly in a political cartoon? I think that’s what the anti-Knight contingent is arguing.

My view is that double standards are destructive and unethical. By the by, were Jimmy Carter’s lips that big?

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 1/12/2018: Sigh. It Never Ends. (Part I)

Good Morning.

Blecchh.

I can’t begin to describe how much I would rather discuss something else. But I don’t control the universe, why, I don’t know.

1 Is this Plan K? Oh, probably. Sigh.

With the rapid demise of Plan E, this time around, anyway—that’s the “let’s remove President Trump because he’s mentally disabled” plot, which was quickly reactivated once Plan J (“Let’s force the President to resign like Al Franken because of unverified sexual misconduct accusers that voters knew about when they elected him”), the over-heated reporting of alleged vulgar and arguably racist comments the President may have made in a non-public meeting would suggest that “the resistance” and the mainstream media (but I repeat myself) will be fulminating and demanding dire consequences for the foreseeable future.Plan K will be “Vulgarity and undiplomatic statements about immigrants pretty much exactly like how Trump began his Presiential campaign is grounds for impeachment” or something similar. Please send me the link to the first appearance of this argument, will you?

This obviously will never end, and I despair. Democrats will never accept their obligations as citizens and regard the elected leader of the Unites States as legitimate and entitled to do his job until he is either defeated or prevails in the next election. They would prefer to dangerously divide the nation and undermine its institutions, perhaps doing permanent damage.

Yesterday, Times op-ed writer Nicholas Kristoff wrote another Trump/hate/fear-mongering piece indistinguishable from dozens—hundreds?— that have been written and published since January of last year. “Trump’s Threat To Democracy,” it was called—ironic, since the only current threat to democracy is not the President, but Kristof and his fellow travelers seeking to overthrow an elected government “by any means possible,” via Plans A-J and whatever’s next. His screed is an appeal to the authority of two Harvard profs, because as we have seen in the sad cases of Larry Lessig and Lawrence Tribe, you can find previously distinguished Harvard professors who will say almost anything to polish their progressive creds in the age of Trump Derangement.

Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have a book coming out–no, I won’t plug it—that argues that Trump displays what they call “the four four warning signs” that a political leader is a dangerous authoritarian:

1.The leader shows only a weak commitment to democratic rules.

2. He or she denies the legitimacy of opponents.

3. He or she tolerates violence.

4. He or she shows some willingness to curb civil liberties or the media.

“A politician who meets even one of these criteria is cause for concern,” they say. Of course, as the professors show  in their examples and  Kristoff proves in his column,  what constitutes evidence of those “warning signs” is a subjective judgment that can be manipulated and built on biased political calculations. He writes, Continue reading