Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/21/2018: Bad, Worse, Worst, And Beyond Comprehension…

Good Morning, Everyone!

1 Whew! This guy was almost on the Supreme Court! Retired Harvard Law School Constitutional law prof Lawrence Tribe. whose recent misadventures on Twitter have become the cause of mirth and dismay in the legal world, tweeted this:

The premise of the 2015 post “A Nation of Assholes” was that a President Donald Trump’s crudeness, incivility and boorishness would permanently degrade the culture through the influence the office of the Presidency traditionally has on the young. Bill Clinton, for example, made blow-jobs cool to high school students.  This, Ethics Alarms held, was alone good reason to defeat him. However, I did not see his influence affecting the likes of Larry Tribe, as well as Trump’s adult adversaries in academia, the news media, and the Democratic Party, all of whom have allowed their own discourse to head into Tarentinoville because of Trump Derangement. This, in turn—you morons!-–minimizes and normalizes Trump’s vulgarity.

The President has not, unlike Tom Perez, Senator Kamala Harris and others, used any vulgar words in his public utterances or tweets. The infamous “shithouse” line was used, if it was used, in a private meeting, whereupon CNN took it into the living rooms of America an estimated 200 times.

And by the way, Professor, #SchumerShutdown is accurate, and TrumpShitdown isn’t even clever unless one is about 11.

2. And speaking of assholes… Bill Maher had a blinding moment of clarity, and ranted this yesterday on his HBO show (I have to rely on Ann Althouse for this quote, because I would no more watch Bill Maher than I would chew off my foot):

“I’m down with #MeToo. I’m not down with #MeCarthyism. Something is way off when Senator Kirsten Gillibrand can go unchallenged saying ‘when we start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping, you are having the wrong conversation.’ Can’t we just be having an additional conversation? Can we only have one thought now? I get it that Al Franken had to become roadkill on The Zero Tolerance Highway — a highway, it seems, only Democrats have to drive on — but do liberals really want to become The Distinction Deniers, the people who can’t tell or don’t want to see a difference between an assault in a van and a backrub by the watercooler? Masturbation is normal and healthy. But not in the park. Giving up on the idea that even bad things have degrees? That is as dumb as embracing the idea of ‘alternative facts.’ I get it when Trump’s side doesn’t want to talk. He only knows 88 words. But we are supposed to be The Conversation People. Justice requires weighing things. That’s why Lady Justice is holding a scale, not a sawed-off shotgun. Senator Gillibrand went on to say, ‘You need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is okay.’ Yes. Agreed. But we can’t walk and chew gum anymore? We can’t agree that groping and rape are both unacceptable and one is worse?…”

Not quite Ethics Hero material, but for a hero of the young Left to make this point can’t be anything but good. Maher isn’t really a progressive, and he’s certainly no feminist (Does Proudly Promiscuous Bill fear the knock on his own door from #MeToo in the middle of the night? I’d bet on it…); he’s a self-serving libertarian who hates Republicans. Nevertheless, he knows, as my father would say, which side of the bread his butter is on, so for him to challenge the witch hunters is, for him, principled and courageous. Quick observations:

  • Did Senator Gillibrand really say that?
  • Why did Senator Franken have to become roadkill, Bill? Because those wild-eyed progressives you pander to are ruthless and obsessed, that’s why.
  • Bill’s periodic virtue-signals during his rant are obvious and undermine the force of his message. “A highway, it seems, only Democrats have to drive on”—what does that mean, exactly? That Republicans should have to drive on the same highway Bill is condemning? No, that makes no sense. That Democrats are being absurd, and Republicans are being reasonable? No, Bill doesn’t want to say that. What then? Oh, Bill has no idea, he just knows that if it sounds like Republican-bashing, that’s good enough for his typical, half-stoned fans.
  • I am about to add the “alternative facts” jibe to my list of misleading comments that I am pledged to correct every time I hear it. This was a live TV gaffe, not by the President but by Kellyanne Conway. Repeating it ad nauseum as if it was an official statement of policy is a lazy cheap shot at this point.
  • In Althouse’s comments, someone claims that Maher’s reference to “88 words” was a coded reference to Trump being a Nazi (H is the 8th letter, so “Heil Hitler” is “88”) Is Maher really that slimy?

3. Why would it be wrong to use the death penalty on the Turpins? My position on capital punishment is that it is an essential tool for society to establish what it regards as the worst possible violations of societal and cultural standards, the crimes that civilization must reject in the strongest possible terms if it is to survive.  Treason, terrorism, mass and serial murder, and kidnapping children for ransom are reasonable crimes to ethically justify death by execution. What David Allen Turpin and Louise Anna Turpin reportedly did to their 13 children is arguably as bad or worse than any of these. We just don’t have a name for the crime. It would have to be some combination of torture, imprisonment, child abuse, depravity, and sadism–and even that doesn’t describe it.

I believe the nation, our jurisprudence and civilization would benefit if what the Turpins did henceforth was punishable by death, even if, as I hope, the opportunity to use the law never occurs.  Unfortunately, there is no law on the books now to permit killing them.

Too bad. Continue reading