Now THAT’S A Norm Presidents Shouldn’t Mess With…

Apparently President Trump lobbied Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to bar two of the President’s least favorite members of Congress, Representatives Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota,  from entering Israel for official visits. Israel then reversed an earlier  decision to admit the two Muslim Democrats, both supporters of the international Israel boycott movement.

From the Times:

An Israeli official close to the prime minister’s office said on Thursday that a call came from the Trump administration as recently as this week pressing Mr. Netanyahu to bar the congresswomen. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss delicate information, said the prime minister found himself in a “lose lose” situation, having to choose between upsetting Mr. Trump or the Democrats.

Of interest but irrelevant to the ethics issue is this morning’s news that Tlaib is now being allowed to enter Israel on humanitarian grounds in order to visit her 90-year-old grandmother, provided the Congresswoman pledges  “not to  promote boycotts” while in the country. That’s nice. But it doesn’t change the analysis of what Trump did.

One of the “Big Lie” attacks (I haven’t yet added this one to the Ethics Alarms Big Lie Directory, but it will be #6) on President Trump, spurred by partisan academics and gullibly swallowed whole by history-challenged members of the public, has been that this President uniquely ignores or violates so-called “democratic norms,” meaning that he frequently takes actions that may be within his power, but that traditions, precedent and the practices of his predecessors have established as un-Presidential or even taboo. For the most part, this is contrived criticism representing a double standard and requiring historical amnesia. Presidents break norms, and the stronger ones break them frequently. Democrats attempting to equate  breaking precedents as the equivalent of “high crimes and misdemeanors” are showing their hand: this complaint is just one more unethical justification for a “resistance” coup.

The fact that there is nothing automatically wrong with breaking norms does not mean that all norms should be breached, or that breaching a particular norm is wise, responsible, or ethical. A President enlisting a foreign ally to take negative action against a member of Congress is one norm that shouldn’t be violated.

The action is unethical by any ethical standards. From a Golden Rule standpoint, no President would tolerate members of Congress lobbying foreign governments to take adverse action against him, though I have little doubt that this has been attempted by legislators in the past. Kant’s Rule of Universality would reject the practice as a new norm, and from a utilitarian standpoint, it’s hard to see how such conduct by a President would result on balance in more beneficial consequences than negative ones. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Catch-Up, 8/11/2019: Cape Cod Dreams And Nightmare Jerks

Sigh.

This would be the week that my dad typically took his vacation. At this moment, when I was 10, I would be on a beach in Dennisport on the Cape, sampling the sandwiches my mother packed,  sitting in bathing trunks on my father’s army blanket that he carried all over Europe during the war, and listening to Curt Gowdy describe the Red Sox game on mt transistor radio  . Nothing could have been farther from my mind than ethics. Those were the days…

1. Once again, 7-11 ethics in Alexandria, VA.. I’ve written about several ethics encounters at my  local convenience store. This time I was patiently waiting for a space to open up (eventually I am going to tell one of the jerks who have finished their errands and sit in the space texting and surfing on their smart phones while others are desperately seeking parking spaces that he or she is an antisocial blight on the community) when a car backed out almost in front of my vehicle. before I could slide in around him from the right, an SUV that just entered the parking lost quickly moved into the space. The driver had seen me; he just did it because he could. As the young black male moved toward  the store, I got out of my car and shouted: “Classy. You knew I was waiting for the space, and you jumped in ahead of me anyway. You’re an asshole.”

Two thirty-something African American women exited the car in the space next to the one I have just lost. “Sir?” one said. “My girl friend just said exactly what you did. He is an asshole. Some black men just don’t care abut anybody, and I can say that, because I’m black. It really pisses me off. Look—take my space. I can park across the street. Please.” I told her that really wasn’t necessary, but she insisted.

My wife came back to the car after she had purchased the items we came for, and as we drove away, I could see the Good Samaritan giving hell to the young man who had snatched my space.

2. Hollywood ethics, confused as usual. Universal is temporarily cancelling the release of “The Hunt,” an R-rated satire in which progressive elites hunt “deplorables” for fun.  The film was scheduled to open in September. The reason for the cancellation was apparently the recent mass shootings. “While Universal Pictures had already paused the marketing campaign for “The Hunt,” after thoughtful consideration, the studio has decided to cancel our plans to release the film,” the studio said in yesterday’s statement. “We stand by our filmmakers and will continue to distribute films in partnership with bold and visionary creators, like those associated with this satirical social thriller, but we understand that now is not the right time to release this film.”

Interesting question: what is the “right time” to release a film like that? The answer, I would think is either “never,” or “now is as good a time as any.” It’s an ugly, tasteless, offensive idea for a film, but Ethics Alarms will defend to the death Hollywood’s right to make ugly, tasteless, offensive films. On the other hand, maybe releasing this film while the antifa is roaming the fruited plains and Democrats are encouraging people to harass and attack anyone wearing a MAGA cap is a tiny bit irresponsible. On the other hand—there I am with three hands again—if we are going to go down the road of speculating what bad behavior movies and TV might trigger, we’ll end up with Care Bears, Smurfs, and not much else. Continue reading

Every Day Ethics: The Case Of The Missing Pancakes

These are the ethics conundrums that drive me nuts.

After a very hard week, a large, late-arriving check from a client relieved our intermittent cash flow anxiety (“This is the life we have chosen!”—Hyman Roth), so we decided to indulge ourselves with a carry-out feast from the best Chinese restaurant in the area, the  Peking Gourmet Inn, famous for its Peking Duck and President George H.W. Bush’s frequent visits during his White House residency. I’d say it’s one of the three best Chinese restaurants I’ve ever had the pleasure to dine at, though it would be hard to top a little place we discovered in London, with this caveat: the Peking Gourmet egg rolls with garlic sauce are the best egg rolls I can imagine, and no, even that miraculous place in Kensington couldn’t match them.

But I digress. It’s a longish drive to the restaurant, and the food isn’t cheap: our order of a whole duck, Salt and Pepper Shrimp ( another specialty), and two orders each of egg rolls and (for my son, who loves them) steamed pork dumplings came to $115. The pungent smell of the shrimp nearly drove me mad on the way home; no wonder those DoorDash drivers eat the food so often. When I arrived home, drooling, everything was perfect, as usual, except for some pangs because we missed the ritual of tossing fortune cookies to Rugby, our recently departed and still deeply mourned Jack Russell Terrier. Rugby would circle excitedly awaiting his treat, which I would toss high in the air. He would pounce on the cookies, rip open the wrappers, and eat delicate things with gusto, pausing only to spit out the fortunes. Continue reading

A Kardashian Sister Is Exposed As Hypocritical And Mean. What A Surprise…

Khloé Kardashian–thatr’s her on the right— was long the ugly duckling of the Kardashian sisters—taller, chunky, cruder features. Her travails at dieting and her insecurities in comparison to her more glamorous—but equally trivial and useless—sisters Kim and Kourtney was an ongoing theme in the brain-meltingly crude and cretinous reality TV show “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” which has been making Americans idiotic for 16 years, enough time for Khloe’s half-sisters Kendall and Kylie Jenner to grow from little girls into professional sluts too.

After yo-yoing on the weight spectrum in full view of America, Khloé found the right combination of cosmetic surgery, exercise and diet to transform into  Khloé 2.0:

Well, good for Khloé . Now she fits right in! See?

 

Somehow this all reminds me of the creepy Twilight Zone episode, “Number 12 Looks Just Like You.”

But I digress. Here’s the scandal:Khloé’s various sexual liaisons are hard to keep up with—she’s partial to NBA players—and the various affairs and infidelities her love life involves are reliable tabloid fodder. Lately a model named Jordyn Woods has become a Kardashian bete noir for her romantic involvement with one of Khloé’s exes,  Tristan Thompson of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. Continue reading

Memorial Day Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 5/26/19: The Fish, The Fist Bump, And Harriets’s Lament

Good Morning!

Here is another of my father’s favorite Sousa marches, “The Black Horse Troop.” I remember thinking about the march when I saw that the riderless horse in my father’s Arlington funeral procession was all black.

1. Let’s start with a fish story…

That’s Tom Volk holding  the nearly 17-pound walleye he caught along the Heart River in Mandan, North Dakota. Little did he know that what was briefly a happy experince for him would end up with him being attacked on social media and prosecuted by the state. A fish is considered hooked illegally—it’s actually a crime—if the hook was in the fish’s back rather than its mouth. As soon as Volk claimed the record, he was accused of cheating. The Game and Fish Department opened a criminal investigation. Volk had to hire  a lawyer, and the prosecution could have an impact on his career:  Volk serves as a city councilman in North Dakota and works in drug prevention for the state government.

Finally game wardens compiled an 11-page report on the fish after conducting witness interviews. The county prosecutor said  his office had reached “a consensus view” that the walleye had been improperly hooked. The chief game warden said he was convinced that the fish was “foul-hooked,” but also believed that Mr. Volk might not have known about the infraction until after he left the riverbank. His department issued a written warning, disqualifying the fish from record consideration, but no criminal citation.

The walleye could not be reached for comment. Continue reading

From The “Easy Ethics Questions That Some People Think Are Hard” File: “Should A Father Warn His Daughter’s Boyfriend That She’s A Sociopath?”

Of course not.

On the the sub-Reddit “AmITheAsshole” board,  a father consulted the group as to whether it would be  wrong for him to warn daughter’s fiancé-to-be  that she’s been diagnosed  as a clinical sociopath. She is  attracted to her boyfriend, he said, she has told him in the past that  she doesn’t feel love or empathy towards anyone, nor guilt or  grief.  Yup, that sounds like a sociopath, all right. A doctor diagnosed the daughter as suffering from antisocial personality disorder at age 18.

“She exhibited odd, disturbing behavior at a young age, and after a serious incident of abuse towards her younger sister, I realized she needed professional help,” Dad wrote. “Throughout her elementary years she struggled heavily, getting in lots of trouble in school for lying, cruelty, and all other types of misbehaviors. With an enormous amount of therapy and support, her bad behavior was minimized as she grew older.”

Her boyfriend has no idea, the father believes, what kind of person he will be marrying, and the father believes that he has a right to know, saying,  “I really like and respect this young man, and would feel awful keeping this ‘secret’ from him, and letting him walk into a marriage without this piece of knowledge.”

Yet since her diagnosis, the daughter seems to have her behavior under control. She has a good job, successfully navigated through college and has  many friends. She is also popular on the dating scene.

The Reddit participants seem to have been flummoxed by the father’s dilemma. I’m not. The ethical course is clear. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Notables. 5/18/2019: More Social Media Partisan Censorship, A-Rod’s Potty And Ian’s Potty Mouth…

Why, I asked, on such a beautiful May day, am I inside writing about ethics? And my wife turned into Hymen Roth…

1. PLEASE stop making me defend Alex Rodriguez, who is one of my least favorite human beings, never mind former athletes, on the planet, and yet…this is a strict Golden Rule issue. The ex-Yankees (also Texas and Seattle) slugger  was photographed sitting on his toilet in his luxury apartment’s bathroom. The shot was apparently taken by a rogue photographer in a high rise office building next to the apartment building where A-Rod shares a  $17.5 million apartment with Jennifer Lopez, whose movies are now beneath those of Adam Sandler and Tom Arnold on my playlist.

Legal precedent in New York suggests than  Rodriquez has no case, because in 2015, an appeals court ruled that a gallery show of images snapped through less famous New Yorkers’ windows by an “artist” was not a privacy violation. (I wrote about that photographer here; perhaps the title gives you a sense of where I came out on my analysis: “Why Photographer Arne Svensen Is An Unethical Creep”]

Fine, I see the legal point. If you don’t want people taking photos of you, then keep your window blinds down. However,just because you can do something crappy to another human being doesn’t make it right.

Even if it’s a crappy human being. Continue reading