Comment Of The Day: “Tit For Tat Ethics: The Anti-Biden-Pro-Trump Flags”

Mutual assured

Chris Marschner, in his Comment of the Day, once again raises the persistent ethics problem of when or whether unethical methods to foil the unethical acts and strategy of others become necessary, justified, and thus, except to the Absolutists, ethical. It is one of the great mysteries of ethics, and one that has never been answered to my satisfaction, or anyone’s satisfaction. This has many implications: the ethics of war is part of the controversy. So is capital punishment. And, of course, politics in general.

Here is Chris’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Tit For Tat Ethics: The Anti-Biden-Pro-Trump Flags”:

There is something to be said for the concept of Mutual Assured Destruction which is the ultimate Tit for Tat. The vitriol expressed against Trump and his supporter if left unchallenged will become the tactic of choice for all future challengers to the Democrat machine.

Political pendulums swing back and forth. The pendulum will not swing if sufficient numbers are not convinced that they are not alone. Complaining about what the AUC does has proven to be ineffective. Pick your poison – vulgar flags or riots. Flags such as these, while crass and vulgar, are simply tools to communicate that others feel as they do which gives more people an impetus for speaking out. The electorate seeks safety in numbers. These signs are no different that the BLM or End Racism signs in yards or “Tolerance” stickers on automobiles.

When the bully gets a taste of his or her own medicine the bully tends to behave differently. If there is a better way for the average person to broadly communicate a reasoned alternative perspective, when your local paper limits the number of letters to the editor for their position but promotes the printing of the paper’s preferred perspectives for whatever reason, well, I am all ears. These signs reflect who we are. Only when people see themselves in that mirror will they see just how ugly their own actions were.

Personally, I am tired of talking about the AUC [JM: For infrequent visitors here, the AUC is Ethics Alarms shorthand for the “resistance”/Democratic Party/ mainstream media alliance I call “The Axis of Unethical Conduct” for its behavior in response to the 2016 election.] and I am looking for ways to ethically combat their tactics. I will not, however, allow my liberties to be stolen through unethical practices so that I can be called an ethical player.

Ethics Quiz: The Fake Inspirational Story

1927NYYankees5

Ethics Alarms touched on this area here, when I related the example of a defense lawyer who won over the jury in the sensational Richard Scrushy fraud case with a vivid but made-up anecdote:

My favorite ethics moment is when Scrushy’s main trial lawyer, Jim Parkman, is asked about his headline-making anecdote in his opening statement, in which he quoted his grandmother as always telling him”every pancake, no matter how thin, has two sides.” “Did your grandmother really say that?” Parkman’s asked on camera. “No,” he admits after a long pause. “But she could have!”

Lying to a jury would seem to be a serious ethical violation for a lawyer, and by the wording of the rules, it should be. But every lawyer I’ve discussed Parkman’s tactic with agrees that such non-substantive lies would never result in professional discipline. (I think they should be.)

But what about inspirational stories and anecdotes that aren’t true? Does the end justify the means? Brian Childers’ story about Tommy Lasorda reminded me of another Lasorda story. Managing in the minors before becoming the third-longest tenured manager with a single team in baseball history, the ever-ebullient leader of the Spokane AAA team was faced with a dispirited squad that has lost nine straight games. Tommy bucked them up by reminding the players that the 1927 Yankees of “Murderer’s Row” fame, then and now the consensus choice as the greatest baseball team of all-time, also lost nine games straight. His team was cheered, and not only broke out of their slump, but went on a winning streak.

Asked later if it was true that the team of the Babe, the “Iron Horse” and the rest ever lost nine in a row, Lasorda answered, “Hell, I don’t know. But it turned my team around when they thought so!!”

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Two Ethics Movies For The Holidays

I typically use this time of year to catch up on or revisit ethics movies, especially since the ones in the Christmas sub-category are embedded in my brain already. Two ethics movies that I recently watched again are Ben Affleck’s “Gone Baby Gone” from 2007 and “Seven Days in May” (1964).

“Gone Baby Gone” is the more obvious ethics movie thanks to its famous ending, which sparked thousands high school essay assignments at the time of its release. I can’t write too much about that ending without spoiling the film for you if you’ve never seen it; let me just state that the climactic decision made by the film’s protagonist, played by Ben’s brother Casey, is or should be an ethics no-brainer. It’s depressing to me that so many viewers agreed with the character’s ethically clueless, emotion-driven girlfriend that his solution to an admittedly wrenching ethics conflict made him a monster. There is literally no ethical system that would legitimately support her argument, which can only be backed by using an army of rationalizations. That a large proportion of the public, perhaps a majority, would back her analysis shows how miserably the education system and our culture has failed in teaching basic ethics problem-solving skills.

“Seven Days in May” presents more diverse and complex ethical issues to consider, and also is old enough after almost 60 years that I have no hesitation in revealing the plot: if you have never seen it, you should have.

That movie is also fascinating as a period piece, flashing ideas and images that seem surprisingly familiar in today’s context in rapid juxtaposition with moments that are hard to imagine today. Silent protests in front of the White House? Women picketing in dresses and men in suits and ties? I found a review of the film from The Harvard Crimson in 1964 that featured this:

[T]he film has a civil rights tinge. The producer has dutifully used Negroes in minor roles wherever he deemed it appropriate. A Negro in the Pentagon running an automatic door receives a good deal of film footage. Negroes sit in the airports. They march in the pro and anti-treaty lines before the White House. Finally, there are Negroes at the President’s press conference as the film closes. These are simply kowtows to the New Republic set; if the producer had real guts he could have cast Sydney Poitier in Kirk Douglas’ role. But then Producer Edward Lewis would have been troubled by the script’s implication that Douglas will some day sleep with Ava Gardner, who plays Lancaster’s former mistress. Miscegenation might have confused the good guys and the bad guys, particularly for southern audiences. Anything that controversial would have detracted from the film’s propaganda force.

Fascinating, don’t you think? Today, mixed-race couples on TV and movies are de rigeur, even when it makes no historical sense whatsoever. Today, it takes courage to resist the political correctness edicts that “actors of color” be gratuitously shoehorned into stories and casts based on skin-hue and little else. But today the motivation isn’t “civil rights” but rather affirmative action and “racial justice.” I really don’t care that in Netflix’s “Enola Holmes” blacks turn up in highly unlikely roles for Victorian England, I really don’t. OK, it’s a misrepresentation of history, but the film is a fantasy. However, such blatant virtue-signaling and diversity box-checking does take me out of the story for a moment, and that’s just bad direction. (How many black female martial arts tutors were there in Victorian England, I wonder?)

But I digress. “Seven Days in May” was indeed anti-war, nuclear disarmament propaganda in 1964 at the height of the Cold War, but that’s not one of the ethics issues central to the film.

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The Inexcusable Big Brotherism Of Governor Phil Scott [Revised and Corrected]

Tim Scott

Just so I’m clear: it isn’t only Democratic governors and mayors who have revealed themselves as Big Brother wannabes in the pandemic, just mostly. They also win hypocrisy prizes over their GOP counterparts for their party’s pushing Big Lies # 3 and #6, which are both dependent on the verdict that the President is an autocrat. Yet when a gift-wrapped excuse arrived for totalitarian edicts, it was Trump’s critics, not the President, who eagerly began squashing rights and crossing lines. Thus, to evoke the last line of today’s post, the Democrats are the bigger assholes, though both parties’ tin despots can bite me.

Vemont’s Republican Governor Scott, for example, should be impeached. Luckily for him, he is the governor of the state with arguably the least American values-friendly state in the union: Vermont, where the citizenry have elected such strange creatures as Howard Dean, who thinks hate speech isn’t protected by the Constitution, and Bernie Sanders, who admired the Soviet Union.

Scott informed Vermont via Twitter that schools will be adding new questions about how students spent their holiday to daily health checks. If the answer shows that a family didn’t toe the line, kids may have to take online classes for a two-week period or quarantine for a week. Or the Vermont State Stasi may drop by and take Mom and Dad to a re-education camp. You never know. Businesses are being instructed to similarly9nquire into employees’ private lives:

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Wednesday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/18/2020: The Betraying Friend, The Abusive Model, The Grandstanding Lawyer, And The Partisan CEO

Several of these items could support stand-alone posts, I suppose, but I have bigger metaphorical fish to fry. I’ve also figured out that traffic would look better if I broke some of these 800-1000 word posts into multiple 400-500 word bites, but to hell with it: a post should be as long as it has to to make the points I want to make. Traffic has also been excellent lately: from Election Day through yesterday EA has had the best extended streak since 2017. As usual with such surges, this has involved some quirks. For example, the post about Margaret Thatcher’s favorite poem has been leading all posts in clicks for three days. I didn’t see that coming…

1. Ethics Quiz: Which is more unethical, the creep who offers such tales out of school, or the publication that gives her a platform?

The entire genre of former school mates coming forward with unflattering and ancient anecdotes about political figures is unethical. Now that Ivanka Trump’s father is likely to be out of the White House next year, her seventh grade friend Lysandra Ohrstrom decided it was a safe to reveal what a creep the First Daughter was as a 13-year-old, because so few of us lacked a functioning ethics compass at that age. She also decided that she would enjoy being interviewed on various Trump-hating TV shows, I assume.

Why the woman continued to stay friends with someone she now says was an elitist snot is a mystery; yes, some of Lysandra’s tales impugn adult Ivanka as well as the child version.

One of her earliest memories of Ivanka is her blaming a fart on a less popular classmate. The monster! In their twenties, Ivanka asked Ohrstrom for a book suggestion and when her friend suggested “Empire Falls,” replied, “Why would you tell me to read a book about fucking poor people?” Ohrstrom also recalls Ivanka once telling her “You’ve really turned into a Marxist” during a discussion about affordable housing in Manhattan.

Is there anyone who has ever lived who doesn’t have embarrassing incidents that occurred early their lives and that they trust that the family and friends who witnessed them have the decency and loyalty not to inform the world? Ohstrom’s ignorance of the Golden Rule and her pathetic lunge for 15 minutes of fame tell us more about her character than reveal anything relevant about Ivanka Trump.

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“How Is Rewarding Unethical Behavior Ethical?”

Every now and then a comment on Ethics Alarms that I have not answered personally sticks in my brain like a musical earworm, literally keeping me awake at night. This was one of those times. That proclivity is one reason I have made over 50,000 comments on my own blog among the 300,000 here in the decade Ethics Alarms has been in existence. The vast majority of bloggers don’t do that; most don’t comment at all. I do it because, in addition to the biological need for sleep, I designed this forum to be a colloquy and an ongoing ethics seminar as much as a platform for my own analysis.

This time, the comment that stuck in my brain like “Thank-You Girl,” the Beatles’ all-time earworm, began,

“How is rewarding unethical behavior ethical?”

The comment came as a response to yesterday’s post explaining why it would be best for all concerned  if President Trump would stop claiming that the election was “stolen” or “rigged” (though it was both) and concede with graciousness and honor now that the chances of his prevailing in the Electoral College are vanishingly small.

I could answer that question in two sentences, or with a book. I will try mightily to come much closer to the former than the latter.

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The Ethics Arguments For Voting For President Trump And Joe Biden, Part 2

2020 election

Part I is here.

At the end of this post, I will repost, from the archives, my Ethics Alarms essay from November 7, 2016 titled, “Donald Trump: A Pre-Election Ethics Alarms Character and Trustworthiness Review: 2005-2016.” I’m going to comment on how and why my assessment now is different (and how it is not) before the piece, because it’s long, and to some extent out of date.

Reading over the essay below, I had two thoughts immediately. One was that it was more vociferous than I remembered, and the other was amusement, looking at it again, of how many times I have been accused of being a “Trumpster” and a “Trump supporter” over last four years.

My assessment of Donald Trump has changed over that period in the following respects:

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Observations On The Hunter Biden Emails Ethics Train Wreck

train wreck - b

That’s democracy falling over…

  • Lawyer/blogger Ken White, in his new incarnation of Popehat, has a useful, informative but misguided post about the misunderstanding of the law as it applied to Twitter and Facebook manipulating the news to push Joe Biden over the finish line. Yes, it’s true: there is nothing illegal or unconstitutional about the social media platforms choosing to censor communications they don’t like, even if its objective is to “rig”—in President Trump’s term—the election. It is still, however, wrong. Ken is usually a bit more nuanced in recognizing the critical law vs ethics problem. Okay, I got it” members of Congress and conservative pundits arguing that Section 230 requires social media platforms to be fair and unbiased are wrong. They, are, however 100% right that the current conduct of those platforms threatens to undermine democracy. You can’t, as one of the links White points readers to does, call Section 230 “the internet’s First Amendment” and then complain that politicians think the law ought to prevent partisan censorship.

Boy, I sure hope Trump Derangement hasn’t gotten Ken too…

  • Imagine if the Hillary Clinton server story was buried by the news media the way it is trying to run out the clock on the Joe Biden/Hunter Biden influence peddling story. That tells you just how far the news media has deteriorated in four years (and also how much more certain journalists were that Hillary would win no matter what they reported).

I’ll wait to see what kind of coverage the story gets on the CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox Sunday shows, but even if it is adequately covered, those programs have a relatively select viewership. By past standards, the Hunter Biden emails should be front page, above the fold material, and yet only a conservative New York City tabloid and its ilk are making it so.

And one more time, this should not be pigeon-holed as a “conservative” lament. All Americans of any ideological persuasion should fear and loathe the news media trying to slam its heavy fist on the electoral scales this way. Why don’t they? Are that many citizens really willing to see elections “rigged” if their favorite party wins? If so, theRepublic is lost no matter what happens in 2020.

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Weekend Ethics Update, 10/18/20: As The Election Nears…Seeking Contrast And Perspective

  1. Ethics movie alert. Its heart is true blue—this is an Aaron Sorkin film, after all—but “The Trial of the Chicago Seven,” now on Netflix, is excellent, as well as must-watching for the astounding number of Americans under 40—50? 60?—who know almost nothing about the previous period of liberal arrogance, political incompetence and institutional failure, the late Sixties. The cast is excellent and star-studded; whoever came up with the idea of casting Sasha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman should win a casting Oscar, for example. For me, the movie brought back memories sharp and grim: what a shitstorm that trial was. Frank Langella, whom I just watched in his remarkable performance as Richard Nixon more more than a decade ago in “Frost/Nixon,” is a memorable if unsympathetic Judge Julian Hoffman. Hoffman, I think, deserves better: like Judge Ito, Hoffman never had a chance to avoid judicial infamy once that trial became a circus, and that bwas something no judge on Earth could have stopped.

Then there is the frightening reality that the Chicago Seven (and Bobby Seale made Eight), who seemed like fringe-y, juvenile extremists at the time, look moderate and reasonable in comparison to today’s antifa, Black Lives Matter followers, and…dare I say it? … a nearly critical mass of Democrats.

2. Speaking of which…Senator Diane Feinstein is under attack from that nearly critical mass for indulging in traditional professional civility and bi-partisan responsibility by not pushing the recently completed hearings on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett nomination to turn into a hyper-partisan fiasco, like the Kavanaugh hearings. She even praised her Republican counterpart, Senator Graham, for doing a good job (it wasn’t that good a job) in chairing the hearings, unlike, to just pick an example out of the murky past, the job Senator Joe Biden did during the infamous Clarence Thomas hearings. Feinstein is nearly 90, and should not be in the Senate at that age just as the unjustly sainted Justice Ginsburg should not have been on the Supreme Court long enough to die in office. Nonetheless, she is trying to hold the line against forces in her own party that would make peaceful and functioning Democracy impossible.

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Ethics Quiz: The Robot Dog

Robot seals work too, apparently…

From a recent New York Times story:

When Linda Spangler asked her mother, in a video chat, what she would like as gift for her 92nd birthday, the response came promptly.

“I’d like a dog,” Charlene Spangler said. “Is Wolfgang dead?” Wolfgang, a family dachshund, had indeed died long ago; so had all his successors. Ms. Spangler, who lives in a dementia care facility in Oakland, Calif., has trouble recalling such history.

So Linda, who is a doctor, got her mother a dog.

Well, Mom thought it was a dog, anyway. It was a robot dog. Sensors allow it to pant, woof, wag its tail, nap and awaken, and users can feel a simulated heartbeat.

Hmmm.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Was this ethical?

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