Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/19/2019: Easy Ethics Edition [Corrected]

I’m baaaack!

Ann Althouse has boasted that she has only missed one day of blogging since she started the Althouse blog, long before Ethics Alarms took its first metaphorical breath. This has enlightened me regarding how much time tenured professors must have on their hands. Missing a full two days of ethics commentary, as I did this week, makes me feel like an irresponsible slug-a-bed who is betraying loyal readers who depend on a service, but it was literally impossible for me to research a post, never mind write one, between hotels, meetings with my teaching partner, meals, travel and the seminars themselves. When I finally arrived at home and office, I almost immediately had to handle a long conference call in which I was quizzed on some tricky legal ethics issues, and then was officially brain dead for the rest of the evening. It is hard to think clearly about ethics when one is exhausted. And I still am, but the warm-up format is a relatively safe way to ease myself back into the saddle.

Thanks for your patience and understanding.

1. Getting the really important stuff out of the way first...Sean Spicer made his debut on “Dancing With The Stars.” I posted last month about the double -standards and bias of the pundits who criticized the show for having the former White House spokesman as a contestant, and their animus is still one more example of unethical mainstream media partisanship. However, Spicer taking a pay-off to look ridiculous on national television—he gets $125,000 for each week he “dances” before he is mercifully voted off—is unprofessional, even though increasing numbers of public servants are doing it. Spicer is giving media critics of the President another stick to beat him with, and denigrating his own role as well as the administration by casting himself as a clown.

Spicer was a slow loris even by the miserable recent standards of press secretaries, and emblematic of how the President’s pledge to appoint and hire “the best people” appears in retrospect as a cruel joke. I can’t say I feel sorry for him, still, in presenting himself as target, he has provoked the mistreatment media into exposing its pettiness and apparently irrepressible gratuitous hostility to the President. The New York Times covered Spicer’s terpsichoral misadventures in the politics section, so it could write sections like…

In the White House, Mr. Spicer held a job that has usually been considered a golden ticket to future respectability and financial comfort. His predecessors have landed in lucrative corporate gigs at Amazon and United Airlines, or become the hosts of their own television programs. But trading in his famously ill-fitting suit to become a trending neon GIF felt like the culmination of a different kind of post-White House journey, one that is q.uintessentially Trump.

The job has been a “golden ticket” for “respectability” for recent press secretaries of Democratic administrations, because the mainstream news media seldom had adversarial relationships with Presidents they helped elect. Of course, the Republican varieties who have been hired by Fox News aren’t respectable. Spicer’s fate is “quintessentially Trump” because the current President is the first that the press has refused to grant even minimal respect from the beginning of his administration. Continue reading

Observations On The President’s Stupid Hurricane Map “Scandal.”

Destined to take its place in “resistance” and mainstream media obsessions along side President Trump’s stubborn misrepresentation of his inauguration crowd, the controversy over the bizarrely altered Dorian path  map was one more in a long nauseating chain of similar incidents. If you were lucky enough to miss it, here’s the scoop.

In the middle of a Labor Day tweeting frenzy, President Trump issued an erroneous tweet that Alabama would be affected by Hurricane Dorian. I have no trouble in filing this part under “Who cares?” He’s not a meteorologist, a scientist or even a relaible source of information. Over-heated and contrived complaints that his goof “endangered citizens” are just familiar Trump derangement: anyone who depends on the President for weather predictions when there are so many obviously more reliable authorities available may be doing the gene pool a favor.

Officials with the National Weather Service quickly issued a public correction, tweeting, “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.” That should have ended it

But, in the throes of the kind of inexplicable, self-destructive, foolish impulse that we have all grown to expect and love, President Trump then appeared in a video released by the White House in which he displayed a weather forecast map, dated from 11 a.m. on Aug. 29, supposedly showing that Alabama would  be affected. The graphic appeared  to have been crudely altered with a black Sharpie, however, as you can see above.

“We had, actually, our original chart was that it was going to be hit — hitting Florida directly,” Trump says. “That was the original chart,” Trump said. “It could’ve, uh, was going towards the Gulf.”  Later, he tweeted out that chart, saying,

This was the originally projected path of the Hurricane in its early stages. As you can see, almost all models predicted it to go through Florida also hitting Georgia and Alabama. I accept the Fake News apologies!

Here’s the  chart that he tweeted:

It also includes misleading lines drawn onto the graphic.

Why, why, WHY??

Observations: Continue reading

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