Unethical Tweet Of The Week: Yes, It’s Representative Ocasio-Cortez Again!

I know we’re getting perilously close to Julie Principle territory here. The Congresswoman says and tweets so many ignorant, logically flawed, impulsive and silly things so often that it seem ungallant to keep swatting at them.

On the other hand, elected officials, especially members of Congress, have an ethical duty not to make their supporters, followers and the public in general dumber and more ignorant than they already are. The tweet above does that: it misrepresents laws, law enforcement, the nature of abortion, reality, justice, too much to process, really.

It also shows seriously damaged critical thinking skills and an abysmal grasp of analogies. “Right?” No, NOT right, you fool. Abortion bans target the intentional taking of what these laws deem human life. Got that? Intentional. No ICE agents set out to cause the deaths of premature babies that were, in fact, placed in peril by their mothers who endangered them by bringing them along as they attempted to break U.S. laws. There is no valid comparison here. None. Continue reading

The Incredibly Stupid But Nonetheless Revealing Nancy Pelosi Video Ethics Train Wreck

Seldom does a news story I deem too predictable and silly to warrant posting about suddenly explode into a full-fledged ethics train wreck, but this time, it did. President Trump apparently couldn’t resist the irony of Speaker Pelosi calling for “an intervention” for him in one of her typical rambling, halting, disturbing performances, and tweeted “PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE” along with a video.

This was, of course, both juvenile, petty and typical conduct by the President. At this point, I don’t see how anyone can get upset about it, be surprised by it, or pretend to be outraged by it. Doing so is one more marker of Trump Derangement: yes, we KNOW you hate the man and can’t stand his manner, manners, and mannerisms. These were a matter of record years before he was elected. Anyone who voted for him knew the was part of the package. What possibly is accomplished by railing about it now?

“The man’s an asshole! No, really, look, he really, really is an asshole! Don’t you see? HE’S REALLY AN ASSHOLE!!!!” We see, for God’s sake. We’ve always seen. Shut up! [See: The Julie Principle.]

Now, if Donald Trump were 14, or not President of the United States and obligated to be a role model and epitome of dignity and rectitude, one could sympathize with this latest example of tit-for-tat payback. Pelosi accused him of a “cover-up” because he has chosen not to cooperate with Democrats looking for things—something, anything— to impeach him with. This is the three year old “we know you must have done something horrible because you are horrible,” guilty until proven innocent smear that the “resistance” has used from the moment Trump was elected to try to undermine his Presidency in an  undemocratic, slow-motion coup unlike anything the nation has endured before. Then she made her “intervention” comment. Of course the President resents it and is furious, and he has never denied that his personal ethics code demands that he strike back when he is attacked. No, it isn’t ethical, admirable or Presidential. But it’s him.

The Speaker was also crossing lines of decorum that shouldn’t be crossed, but that horse not only left the Democratic barn long ago, it has traveled cross-country, mated repeatedly, and has nasty, mean-spirited, hateful colts galloping all over the place. One of Trump’s gifts is making his enemies behave worse than he does, and the Democrats and the “resistance” have taken the bait and asked for more, the fools. All they had to do was to take the high road, speak respectfully but sadly about the President’s transgressions, stick to the facts, and refrain from name-calling and ad hominem attacks. Like the man on the ledge heeding “Jump!” chants, they chose to follow the worst of their supporters’ demands instead, proving, of course, that they were no better than the President, and, I would argue, worse. Continue reading

How Does This Help, Mitt?

Hey Mitt: I want my vote back.

Utah’s U.S.  Senator-elect Mitt Romney cheered the New Year’s cockles of “the resistance” and Trump-haters everywhere with a Washington Post op-ed condemning the President’s character. In substance, Romeny’s argument is indistinguishable from what regularly appeared on “Ethics Alarms” throughout 2016. For example, Mitt writes,

“…To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. A president should unite us and inspire us to follow “our better angels.” A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect. As a nation, we have been blessed with presidents who have called on the greatness of the American spirit. With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.”

Thank you, Senator Obvious! And this observation and frontal insult helps the situation exactly how?

It doesn’t, of course. I cheered and admired Romney for taking the stand he did against Trump before the GOP Convention, writing,

Romney’s timing was superb. On the day of the GOP debate, he provided all of Trump’s opponents with twenty times the ammunition needed to sink most candidacies, and deftly alerted his audience to look for the personal attacks on Romney sure to come. The news media, which is so shameless in pursuit of a storyline, has been relentless characterizing Romney’s speech as “the establishment’s” declaration of war on The Donald. That unfairly minimizes what Romney did. Romney spoke for all Americans—you know, the responsible ones—who don’t want an unstable buffoon succeeding Washington, Lincoln, FDR and Ronald Reagan. He did it with the skill and power, and presenting anyone trying to rebut his points with a daunting, indeed, impossible task.

That speech in March, 2016 needed to be made, and it also needed to be heeded. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. GOP voters preferred the non-politician to the professional variety, and the debates showed why.  Chris Christie accepted his metaphorical silver for squishing Marco Rubio to help clear the way for Trump; Marco himself behaved like a juvenile amateur; John Kasich set new highs (lows?) in pandering wishy-washy-ness; Ted Cruz was loathsome as usual, and Ben Carson gave us all new doubts about the validity of assumptions that brilliant surgeons are brilliant anyplace but the operating room. Worst of all, none of the candidates had the guts to deliver in the debates the kind of “Have you no decency?” attack that might have cleared the fog from voters’ eyes and brains. Then the Republican Party declined to act responsibly and refuse to nominate someone who should not have been the nominee of a responsible party, and given the equally unpalatable option of voting for Hillary Clinton, the nation’s voters put Romney’s bete noire in the White House. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/29/18: ‘Infuriating Stuff I Wish I Didn’t Have To Know About Or Write About’ Edition

Screaming from mountain tops does no good, I know, but this is the life I have chosen…

Good Morning.

(My beautiful Christmas tree is drooping already, despite meticulous care. (Did you know that in Philadelphia it’s called a “Holiday Tree”? Did you know they had gone mad in Philadelphia?) I’ve had some last until February first. Not this one, I fear.)

1. Like most of the journalism establishment here, only less subtle about itDer Spiegel reporter Claas Relotius was exposed this month to be that publication’s version of Stephen Glass, a star journalist who just made stuff up. He, however, made stuff up to play to anti-Trump sentiments abroad, writing multiple stories to show how bigoted and backward the town of Fergus Falls, Minnesota was, explaining why it went for President Trump in the 2106 election.

The New York Times story on the hoax shows how Relotius could have accomplished the same mission using just spin, slanted framing and old fashioned bias. Read the thing: it just drips with thinly veiled contempt for Trump voters, and the President, of course. “The election results speak for themselves,” says the Times, knowing how the typical times reader will take that. The Times reporters reveal that the town isn’t full of racist yahoos as if that is news in itself.

2. Can’t let this pass, unfortunately. President Trump and first lady Melania Trump were taking calls from young children wondering about Santa’s whereabouts on Christmas Eve, as part of the NORAD Santa tracker (which I think is a waste of money no matter what it costs, and an example of the government being involved where it should not be), and had  this conversation  with 7-year-old Collman Lloyd which was videoed on both sides;

Collman told the President about the Santa visit preparations underway at the Lloyd household, saying “Probably put out some cookies and then we’re hanging out with our friends, so that’s pretty much all.”

The President: “Well that’s very good. You just have a good time.”

Collman: “Yes, sir.”

The President: “Are you still a believer in Santa?”

Collman: “Yes, sir.”

Trump: “Because at seven it’s marginal, right?” 

Collman: “Yes, sir.”

The trivial exchange triggered more Trump-bashing and a ridiculous amount of negative commentary. This approaches blind hate at a pathological level. The focus of the attacks were that the President’s “marginal” line supposedly destroyed the girl’s belief in Santa Clause. Ugh.

  • She later said that she had no idea what “marginal” meant. We  all know Trump can’t talk: this is Julie Principle territory. The only way one assumes that his intent was to shatter the girl’s innocent faith is if one thinks the President is a monster…which is what the news media wants the public to think.
  • If I had to guess, I would say that he was noting that not all of her friends did believe in Santa—which is, studies say, true. My son was a skeptic at 6. I. in contrast, believed in St. Nick until I was 28…
  • Collman also said that what the Evil Scrooge Trump said didn’t cause her not to believe in Santa, though this could be called moral luck.
  • Even at seven, a personal exchange with the President of the United States would have meant so much more to me than any dents in my Santa Claus beliefs that I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Of course, when I was seven it was the norm that all citizens respected and honored the President, because that was whom our democracy chose to lead us.

Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Eric Schneiderman Scandal

I probably shouldn’t say this, but the guy always looked a little scary to me….I sure would never get in bed with him.

The New Yorker revealed yesterday that four women who had relationships with Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, accused him of violent abuse. In response, he  issued the kind of explanation that is usually as damaging as the allegations it responds to : Schneiderman, 63, denied abusing the women, and said, “In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity. I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.”

Ah! As long as it’s not rape, he’s OK with it then.

This did not help. Demands that Schneiderman resign flooded the internet and airwaves, including one from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. By the end of the day, Schneiderman, who had been a champion of both the #MeToo movement and the anti-Trump “resistance,” had resigned. His statement:

“In the last several hours, serious allegations, which I strongly contest, have been made against me. While these allegations are unrelated to my professional conduct or the operations of the office, they will effectively prevent me from leading the office’s work at this critical time. I therefore resign my office, effective at the close of business on May 8, 2018.”

The irony and hypocrisy are strong with this one. In 2010, as a state senator, he introduced a bill to make intentional choking to the point of unconsciousness a violent felony. Coincidentally, one of his accusers quoted in the New Yorker revealed

“It just came out of nowhere. My ear was ringing. I lost my balance and fell backward onto the bed. I sprang up, but at this point there was very little room between the bed and him. I got up to try to shove him back, or take a swing, and he pushed me back down. He then used his body weight to hold me down, and he began to choke me. The choking was very hard. It was really bad. I kicked. In every fiber, I felt I was being beaten by a man.”

 The state chapter of the National Organization for Women, Bill Clinton’s fan club, endorsed Schneiderman in his successful bid for attorney general, citing his “unmatched work” in “protecting women who are victims of domestic abuse.” Once elected, his office published a “Know Your Rights”  brochure for victims of domestic violence…you know, when you get beat up by the man you are sleeping with.  Schneiderman had rushed to the front of the #MeToo movement, filing a lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein’s company and seeking to re-open a prosecution against the harraser/abuser/rapist mogul.

“We have never seen anything as despicable as what we’ve seen right here,” Schneiderman said of Weinstein’s conduct.

Weeeell, that may depend on one’s point of view. For example, one of the ex-AG’s bed-mates told The New Yorker, “We could rarely have sex without him beating me….He started calling me his ‘brown slave’ and demanding that I repeat that I was ‘his property.’”

Nice. Continue reading

Review: Ethics Alarms Concepts And Special Terms

Recently updating the Ethics Alarms list of concepts and frequently used terms reminded me that I had been meaning to post them for review and assistance to those relatively new here. Of course, the link has always been right there at the top of the home page, but I have this sneaking suspicion that it isn’t visited very often.  Here, then, is the up-to-date list.

CONCEPTS

Non-Ethical Considerations: Defined above, non-ethical considerations are important because they are often the powerful impediments to ethical conduct, and the cause of many conflicts of interest. Non-ethical considerations are many and diverse, and include:

  • The need and desire for shelter, health, wealth, fame, security, self-esteem, reputation, power, professional advancement, comfort, love, sex, praise, credit, appreciation, affection, or satisfaction
  • The desire for the health, comfort, safety, welfare and happiness for one’s family, loved ones, friends, colleagues, an co-workers
  • The pursuit of vengeance or retribution
  • Hunger, lust, pain, ambition, prejudice, bias, hatred, laziness, fatigue, disgust, anger, fear
  • …and many more

Ethical Dilemma: This is an ethical problem in which the ethical choice involves ignoring a powerful non-ethical consideration. Do the right thing, but lose your job, a friend, a lover, or an opportunity for advancement. A non-ethical consideration can be powerful and important enough to justify choosing it over the strict ethical action.

Ethical Conflict: When two ethical principles demand opposite results in the same situation, this is an ethical conflict. Solving ethical conflicts may require establishing a hierarchy or priority of ethical principles, or examining the situation through another ethical system.

Ethical Gray Area: Gray areas are situations and problems that don’t fit neatly into any existing mode of ethical analysis. In some cases, there may even be a dispute regarding whether ethics is involved.

Reciprocity: The ethical system embodied by The Golden Rule, and given slightly different form in other religions and philosophies. It is a straight-forward way of judging conduct affecting others by putting oneself in the position of those affected. Reciprocity should always be available in any ethical analysis, but it is frequently too simple to be helpful in complex ethical situations with multiple competing interests.

Absolutism: Absolutist systems do not permit any exception to certain ethical principles. The champion of all absolutists, philosopher Immanuel Kant, declared that the ethical act was one that the actor was willing to have stand as a universal principle.

One principle of absolutism is that human beings can never be harmed for any objective, no matter how otherwise worthwhile. Absolutism has the advantage of making tough ethical calls seem easy, and the disadvantage of making debate impossible. One sees absolutism reflected today in the controversies over war, torture, abortion, cloning, and capital punishment.

Utilitarianism: Utilitarianism accepts the existence of ethical conflicts and the legitimacy of some ethical dilemmas, and proposes ethical analysis based on the question, “Which act will result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people?’ It entails the balancing of greater and lesser goods, and is useful for unraveling complex ethical problems. Its drawback, or trap, is that utilitarianism can slide into “The ends justify the means” without some application of absolutist and reciprocity principles.

Consequentialism: In formal ethics, utilitarian schools of philosophy are sometimes lumped together as “consequentialism,” in that the ethical decision-making is based on seeking the best result. Here we just uses the above term, utilitarianism.  Consequentialsm, in contrast, is the flawed belief that the rightness or wrongness, or even wisdom, of chosen conduct is measures by its actual results rather than its intended results. If “if all worked out for the best,” in other words, the conduct that created the desirable result most have been ethical, whatever its intent or however the conduct was determined to be necessary or desirable. This is a fallacy.

Cognitive Dissonance:
Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon first identified by Leon Festinger. It occurs when there is a discrepancy between what a person believes, knows and values, and persuasive information that calls these into question. The discrepancy causes psychological discomfort, and the mind adjusts to reduce the discrepancy. In ethics, cognitive dissonance is important in its ability to alter values, such as when an admired celebrity embraces behavior that his or her admirers deplore. Their dissonance will often result in changing their attitudes toward the behavior. Dissonance also leads to rationalizations of unethical conduct, as when the appeal and potential benefits of a large amount of money makes unethical actions to acquire it seem less objectionable than if they were applied to smaller amounts.

Moral Luck: The common situation where an unethical act is only discovered, noticed, or deemed worthy of condemnation due to unpredictable occurrences that come as a result of the act or that affect its consequences. Moral luck is the difference, for example, between two mildly intoxicated drivers, one of whom arrives home without incident, while the other has an unwary child dash in front of his automobile, leading to a fatal accident that he couldn’t have avoided if completely sober. Yet the unlucky driver will be a pariah in the community, while the more fortunate driver goes on with his life.

SPECIAL TERMS USED ON ETHICS ALARMS

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 1/12/2018: Sigh. It Never Ends. (Part II) [UPDATED]

A Nigerian locale, and not an atypical one.

From the Washington Post:

President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers.

Trump then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway, whose prime minister he met with Wednesday. The president, according to a White House official, also suggested he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries because he felt that they help the United States economically.

In addition, the president singled out Haiti, telling lawmakers that immigrants from that country must be left out of any deal, these people said.

“Why do we need more Haitians?” Trump said, according to people familiar with the meeting. “Take them out.” 

Ethics Observations:

I. “According to several people briefed on the meeting”? What? Not even according to people AT the meeting?

Based on this, without any attributions, the news media is stating that Trump making those alleged comments are fact. Here’s the Times version,

“…according to people with direct knowledge of the conversation.

No, they don’t have “direct knowledge.” What someone tells you about what someone else said at a meeting you were not attending is indirect knowledge. It is, in fact, hearsay. If the Times and the Post did not get confirmation on the record from someone who heard what he said, then this is not fact, but rumor, inadmissible in court because of extreme prejudice and lack of reliability.

Never mind. The Times headline is Trump Alarms Lawmakers With Disparaging Words for Haiti and Africa, as if the second-hand accounts were  confirmed fact. This is unethical journalism. Outrageously so, in fact. Meanwhile, all of the news channels, including Fox, were basing hours of reporting on it.

This is not acceptable. It is not professional, and it is not justifiable. It is a disgrace, and if you accept it, you should be ashamed of yourself.

II. Trump denies that he uttered those words, on Twitter, of course:

“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!…Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said “take them out.” Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings – unfortunately, no trust!”

The denials mean nothing, I know. The President has such a bizarre view of reality and such a record of misstatements and reversals that he has no credibility and deserves none. However, that doesn’t mean that he did make the alleged statements either. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. I certainly wouldn’t be “shocked.” It sounds like something he would say, because nuances of language and tone, not to mention civility ande diplomacy, are alien concepts to him. In other words, it rings true. That doesn’t mean it’s ethical to report it as fact. Continue reading