Tag Archives: “Think of the children!”

Saturday Afternoon Ethics, 6/23/18: Pondering Pandering And Zugswang By The Sea

Good afternoon.

It’s a good thing that I don’t pay myself anything for this, because I’d have to fire myself. Thanks to a full fledged computer crash at 6 am., all of my plans this morning to get a post up, get my notebook organized for tomorrow’s ethics training, and complete the outline for my Smithsonian Associates program on the influence of Gilbert and Sullivan on 21st Century America week from today before I had to fly to Tampa were as dust in the wind. This is especially bad for Ethics Alarms, as the blog gets virtually no traffic after noon on Saturday, no matter what I write about.

So here I am at the Wyndham Grand on Clearwater Beach—the sun is shining, the ocean is gleaming, and the pool, music, bar and beautiful women are right below my balcony—and what’s the first thing I do? This.

1 Ethics Zugswang and the illegal immigrant kids. The news media is now telling us that the President’s executive order creates an inherent conflict if he is serious about “no-tolerance” immigration violation enforcement. Yes, we knew that, or at least the people who didn’t blind themselves, Oedipus-like, rending their garments over “Think of the Children!” mania knew it. See, it goes like this:

A. Entering the country illegally is a crime.

B. People who commit crimes are supposed to be arrested, or more such people will commit those crimes.

C. Illegal immigration is a federal crime.

D. Children who accompany their parents while committing federal crimes cannot, by law, be  imprisoned with their parents.

E. They also cannot be held at all for more than a proscribed time, which is too short a period to process their law-breaking parents.

F. If the children have to be returned to their parents,, then the parents cannot be punished for breaking immigration laws.

G. If the children are separated from their parents, the government officials doing so are evildoers who must be shamed, excoriated and condemned.

F. Thus government officials are supposed to ignore the law, by the principle that Children Invalidate Laws, which they didn’t teach me in my college government classes or in law school but apparently that’s a rule.

G. But government officials are sworn to uphold and enforce the law.

Ethics Zugswang.

This Gordian Knot requires some distortion and deceit to stay tied, however…

One: “No-tolerance” is being used by the media to make “enforcing the law when people break it” sound like the equivalent of a school suspending a student for making his fingers look like a gun. Law enforcement is not supposed to “tolerate” crime and law-breaking. Illegal immigration is a serious breach of law, and what the news media is calling “no-tolerance” is really just enforcement.

Two: The Obama Administration opted for “catch and release,” which can be fairly described as “pretending to enforce the law, but not really doing it.” It was a dishonest, cynical, incompetent and unethical policy.

Three: There is no justification for treating the children of illegal immigrants differently from the children of citizens who are arrested and who have no one to care for their kids.

Four: The principle being advocated by the hysterical critics of the “separation of families” at the border (the accurate description is “the arrest of illegal border-crossers) is, now correct me if I’m wrong, “If a child or children accompanies a parent when the parent is apprehended while trying to violate a law carrying a substantial penalty, that parent will be treated with more leniency than if a child did not accompany him or her.” My puzzlement arises from this conundrum: Why do only law-breaking non-citizens get this benefit? Why don’t we “catch and release” good old American single parent bank robbers and burglars who bring their toddlers along as a “Get out of Jail ” card?

Five: What’s the difference? Here’s the difference: the progressive ghetto of our culture has adopted the convenient fiction that illegal immigration isn’t a crime at all, and illegal immigrants are heroes, or martyrs, or potential Elizabeth Warren voters, or something, but certainly they aren’t doing anything wrong. It’s an act of love (said Jeb Bush, proving that he had  squishy soft nougat center). Then why do we have a law against it, Jeb, et al.? Oh, because you can’t have open borders, that would be ridiculous and irresponsible. History shows us that. A nation most protect its borders!

Ethics Zugswang.

It is not ethics zugswang, though. It may be political zugswang because of the greed, dishonesty, emotionalism, and rationalizations driving this issue (in addition to its usefulness as another excuse to undermine this particular President), but the ethics are clear:

—The government’s primary duty is to enforce the laws.

—The integrity of national borders must be ensured using laws.

—The illegal border-crossers are breaking the law.

—They should be punished exactly the same regardless of whether they have brought children along or not.

—The responsibility for placing the children in this position belongs to the parents, and only the parents.

—Making the fate of the children the primary focus of any portion of the illegal immigration debate is intellectually dishonest, manipulative, and unethical, or, at best, innocently ignorant and emotional. Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/22/18: Boy, Am I Ever In A Bad Mood This Morning…

Good morning.

Grrrrr…

1. The TIME “Welcome to America” cover.  This is probably worthy of a full post, but I’m really sick of this topic, and losing respect for so many previously sane and reasonable people who have become blathering “Think of the children!” zombies that I want to spit.

TIME, that dying, irrelevant, completely left-biased news magazine, grabbed one last moment in the sun with this cover:

It nicely symbolizes the media dishonesty and public manipulation regarding the border mob of children, with or without parents. I assumed that the cover was symbolic art: obviously this stand-off never occurred. But TIME used a photo of a real Honduran girl who we were told in other media reports and viral social media rants was crying because she had been separated from her mother when mom was arrested for trying to enter the country illegally. As CBS reported today, though, the little girl was really crying because her mother was apprehended at eleven o’clock at night crossing illegally into the US, the tot was tired and thirsty. She was never separated from her mother at all. Here’s the original photo:

Perfect. Fake news, through and through. If TIME wanted to make a symbolic image, the magazine was obligated to either make it clear that it was art only. Using a photo that had already been falsely represented in the news media to represent exactly what it had been falsely claimed to represent advanced a lie. Here is the original photo:

The Daily Mail got  this part of the story  from the girl’s father:

Denis Javier Varela Hernandez, 32, said that he had not heard from his wife Sandra, 32, who was with his two-year-old daughter Yanela Denise, for nearly three weeks until he saw the image of them being apprehended in Texas.

In an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, Hernandez, who lives in Puerto Cortes, Honduras, says that he was told yesterday that his wife and child are being detained at a family residential center in Texas but are together and are doing ‘fine.’ …

He revealed that his wife had previously mentioned her wish to go to the United States for a ‘better future’ but did not tell him nor any of their family members that she was planning to make the trek.

“I didn’t support it. I asked her, why? Why would she want to put our little girl through that? But it was her decision at the end of the day….‘I don’t have any resentment for my wife, but I do think it was irresponsible of her to take the baby with her in her arms because we don’t know what could happen.”

2. Charles Krauthammer. Unfortunately, this is what I will most remember about the conservative columnist and commentator who died yesterday. After the first Republican candidates debate, the one in which Megyn Kelly called out Donald Trump on his habitual misogyny, Krauthammer, today being lauded for his brilliance and perception, stated unequivocally that Trump had proved himself “not ready for prime time,” and that hos poor performance in the debate had effectively ended his candidacy. Continue reading

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The Controversy Over Separating Children From Illegal Immigrants At The Border: What’s Going On Here?

The current political controversy over the Trump Administration policy of separating parents from children at the Mexican border when they are apprehended for illegal attempts to cross into the United States involves many ethical issues, and, as usual, conduct and rhetoric that confounds ethical analysis, perhaps intentionally.

With most complex ethics problems, the starting point is to ask, “What’s going on here?” This is especially useful in this case, where the news media, open-borders advocacy groups, and various political faction are intentionally steering the debate, and public comprehension, into box canyons of pure emotion.

So: What’s going on here?

 Despite the fact that its editorial page is cheer-leading the box canyon effort, and its journalists are coloring reports on it with their partisan biases, the New York Times has provided the facts, if you can ignore the static Here is the main one:

“For more than a decade, even as illegal immigration levels fell over all, seasonal spikes in unauthorized border crossings had bedeviled American presidents in both political parties, prompting them to cast about for increasingly aggressive ways to discourage migrants from making the trek…Last month, facing a sharp uptick in illegal border crossings, Mr. Trump ordered a new effort to criminally prosecute anyone who crossed the border unlawfully — with few exceptions for parents traveling with their minor children.”

That’s  “all” that has happened. Illegal immigration is...illegal. The Trump Administration has decided to treat breaking immigration laws like the country is supposed to treat all law-breaking—as the crime that it is. The law-breakers are arrested. When law-breakers are arrested for robbery, murder, rape, fraud, embezzlement…anything, really…they are separated from their children. This is not remarkable, nor are the law enforcement officers typically blamed. If a man takes his child to a burglary and he is arrested, then the child is going to be, to use a phrase I am seeing too much lately, “ripped from his arms.” If he is a citizen with a resident family or not a single parent, and the child is also a citizen or in the country legally, the child will be handed into the care of a relative. If not, then that child may also wind up in the custody of a government facility.

The children are being taken from the parents because children are always taken from parents when parents are arrested for a serious crime. What is unusual, and making this situation vulnerable to emotional manipulation on the level of the gun-control debate  in which “Think of the children!” instantly lobotomizes a large segment of the public and obliterates all ability to process reality, are several factors:

  • Criminals don’t typically take their children with them when they break laws.
  • Illegal immigrants can claim to be legitimate “asylum-seekers,” even though most of them are not.
  • Progressives, Democrats and those who aren’t paying much attention either refuse to acknowledge or don’t realize that entering the country illegally is a crime.
  • The illegal border-crossers are, in many if not all cases, using their children to create exactly this political firestorm. Think of them as the equivalent of human shields.
  • Previous Presidents have been willing to be extorted through this emotional black mail–Think of the children!–to  neglect enforcement of immigration laws. This is, in great part, how the United States ended up with 11-13 million illegal immigrants.
  • It is also how the U.S. ended up with President Trump.

Under President Obama, and presumably Bush as well, children trying to cross the border illegally were also held, just with their parents rather than without them, in a politically motivated exception to usual criminal enforcement practice. Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

On The Santa Fe School Shooting

  • That the latest school shooting, this one in Sante Fe, Texas that left ten dead, came so soon after the last one, barely three months ago, is meaningless. It is moral luck. Never mind, though: the timing, like everything else in the incident, will be politicized and used for political agendas.

Well, maybe not completely moral luck. A case can be made that the increasingly hysterical and long-running news coverage these tragedies receive—the last one dominated the news for more than a month—increases the likelihood that some sick kid who wants to go out in a blaze of infamy chooses this guaranteed route. No, you can’t blame CNN, much as I would like to. Nor is there any way to limit news reports and publicity, especially when it also becomes entertainment programming, and that is what the last school shooting’s emotional finger-pointing exercises became. The publicity, however, is more “to blame” than, say, the NRA.

  • I checked developments just before I was going to write this bullet point: sure enough, the guns used and the shooter’s method of obtaining them had absolutely nothing to do with all of the “sensible” gun-control measures that have been shouted at us since Parkland. The shooter took his father’s guns, which were legal. The guns used didn’t include an “assault-type weapon.”

Indeed, this school shooting had nothing to do with gun regulations at all. Do you think that little detail will stop the anti-gun zealots from using it to advance their agenda anyway? Of course not; facts have always been irrelevant when gun-banning is the topic.

  • And, sure enough, the first elected politician to intone about the matter lied, pandered, and made the job of anti-Second Amendment advocates easier. Said Texas Governor Abbott: “We need to do more than just pray for the victims and their families. It’s time in Texas that we take action to step up and make sure this tragedy is never repeated ever again.”

How, governor? How do you make “sure” this kind of tragedy never happens again? Confiscate guns? Ban schools? Ban children? I know the idea is to say comforting things, but the idea, repeated constantly after the Parkland shooting, that such shooting can be prevented (“easily” claim the student scolds) is foolish, dishonest, and invites bad policy. Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/25/18: “March For Our Lives” Hangover Edition

Good Morning!

1 Exploitation carnage. I feel so sorry for David Hogg. No teenaged male so obviously locked into the arrogation asshole stage of the maturation process, should be exposed to public scrutiny like this. His intemperate and foolish rhetoric will haunt him for the rest of his life. He will either be humiliated when his brain cells kick in, or he will develop into a full-fledged monster. What if he wants to go in a different direction in his life and career? I wouldn’t hire him. Who would? He’s restricted to left-wing activists until he changes his name or does a high-profile mea culpa and goes on a reinvention tour. Celebrity, as Paul Petersen has spent his life trying to teach us, is disastrous for kids; never mind: the cynical, ruthless partisan operatives who made Hogg into their weapon and shield don’t care about him, just the momentary political advantages he represents. When he is chewed up and spit out, as he certainly will be, they will have forgotten his name.

2. A half-Fick sighting! A (she says) transgender woman who calls herself “Lauren” on Twitter claimed to be drugging attendees of a conservative conference in Phoenix, Arizona yesterday, tweeting

“I love my job at the phoenix convention center starbucks and i love slipping my spare estradiol pills in the coffee of anyone wearing a #WesternConservativeConference lanyard.”

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Education, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Unethical Website Of The Month, “March For Our Lives” Edition: Change.Org

This page, the petition for gun control to “save our children” is what earns the “honor.” I see many Facebook friends, many on whom are genuinely gifted intellectually, surrendering to emotion and signing this junk, as junk it is. The petition neatly encapsulates the serial intellectual dishonestly,  misleading rhetoric and appeal to emotion that we will see bloviated all over the National Mall this weekend: I guess that has some value for historical purposes. Otherwise, it is an engine of ignorance designed to either attract the ignorant, make the less ignorant more so, or deceive.

Let’s look at this mess, shall we?

In the tragic wake of the seventeen lives brutally cut short in Florida, politicians are telling us that now is not the time to talk about guns. March For Our Lives believes the time is now. Created by, inspired by, and led by students across the country, we will no longer risk our lives waiting for someone else to take action to stop the epidemic of mass school shootings that has become all too familiar.

Nobody is saying that “now is not the time to talk about guns.” Who has said that? The statement is straw man. Agreed: now is a good time to talk about anything: guns, pangolins, acne, cabbages and kings. We have a First Amendment as well as a Second, something those Other Civilized Nations that are always being extolled in the gun debate don’t have.

Created by, inspired by, and led by students across the country, we …

Not to be pedantic, but a serious petition should be written by someone  who can speak the language. Signers are created by students? It’s bad enough that they are being led by students, who are after all, students. They do not know enough, either through knowledge or experience, to be seriously participating in a complex policy debate, much less leading it.  “We, the undersigned adults who are duty-bound to be teaching and leading our rising generation, are allowing them to dictate to us.” Good plan. How can anyone sign such a petition and not hide their head under a bag?

…will no longer risk our lives waiting for someone else to take action to stop the epidemic of mass school shootings that has become all too familiar.

This is pure appeal to emotion rather than reality. The existence of the right to own guns no more “risks lives” than the existence of anything else that is dangerous when misused. There are 10.6 deaths per 100,000 U.S. citizens due to guns according to latest statistics, including those of suicides and those killed by law enforcement. Three times that many die in alcohol-related automobile accidents. Nobody argues that we risk our lives because “someone” hasn’t taken “action” (aka, “do something,” “make it go away” “make us feel safe when nobody in a free society is ever safe”, aka. “ban and confiscate guns.”) regarding that risk we accept as part of living in a free society that includes jackasses, fools and criminals, and that’s just one of many.

There is no “epidemic” of school shootings. Students in school are safe; if they don’t feel safe, it’s because of fear -mongering from activists and the news media.

“We support the right of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms, as set forth in the United States Constitution.”

No, you obviously don’t. This is a pure lie (or inexcusable stupidity.) A movement called “Never Again” is either lying in its title by implying that any public policy, laws or regulations will guarantee no more gun deaths, in schools or anywhere else, or it is telling us its real purpose in the name, while lying about the movement’s real intent.

Many, many, if not most mass shooters were “law-abiding” until they started shooting. This statement either endorses pre-crime measures, profiling citizens to decide if they are a risk to eventually abuse gun rights—unconstitutional—is magical thinking, or is, again, a lie. The statement—and while it is always a fine time to talk about guns, it is never a fine time to resuscitate this zombie tautology that the NRA has been knocking down for decades—is self-rebutting.  Laws only affect law-abiding people, as long as they obey laws. Restrictive gun laws are violated by criminals, because they don’t obey laws. Nobody has ever explained how a law will not infringe “ the right of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms” while somehow keeping the same kinds of arms out of the hands of those who are not law-abiding. This is because it’s impossible.

“But with that right comes responsibility.”

As an ethicist, I object to a cynical use of the language of ethics to deceive, which is what this is. If the topic is responsibility, then we are talking about law-abiding citizens again, as well as ethical ones. They usually don’t use guns irresponsibly, or if they do (like killing themselves), such irresponsible use is not addressed by the measures proposed here. If I am a law-abiding citizen, I won’t be more likely to abuse my gun ownership whether I have had a background check or not. Irresponsible gun ownership includes not keeping guns where children—you know, citizens the age of the people “leading” those who sign the petition—can find them and hurt themselves and others. It includes not learning how to use a gun safely and appropriately. This petition isn’t about promoting responsible gun ownership. It’s about replacing the right to own guns responsibly with the right to own sling-shots.

We call on all the adults in Congress elected to represent us, to pass legislation that will protect and save children from gun violence.

There it is: “Think of the children!” A pure, unadulterated, inexcusable appeal to emotion over facts and reason. Continue reading

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The Definitive Reason Why The Parkland Shooting Freak-Out Is Cynical, Dishonest Fear-mongering, And Why We Should Not Tolerate It Any Further

David Ropeik, who teaches at Harvard and who is a risk assessment expert, finally wrote the article I’ve been waiting for…and it was published almost a month after the Parkland shooting, following almost a month of the ignorant and arrogant grandstanding  by the high school students who have been used as virtual human shields by the anti-gun lobby, almost a month after the news media and expedient politicians, including the President, began pandering to grief and ignorance while going out of their way to make the public believe that school shootings are a national crisis.

I’m glad that some sunlight of reality made it through the human-made fog, but it is unconscionable that it took this long, Now let’s see how thoroughly the news media, a full partner with the ban-gun effort, will bury it.

Before I start, however, let me salute the Washington Post. I have not read a Post Sunday Outlook section since switching over to the Times—a better paper but far, far more partisan and biased than its only close competitor—and it was stunning to be reminded what a Sunday news commentary supplement looked like that didn’t feature hysterical Trump -bashing in 75%-90% of its articles. Not only that, the Post had the courage to challenge the conventional, and false, wisdom about school shootings being actively promoted by the Times and the rest of the mainstream media.

Among the points made by Ropeik in his essay, “School shootings are extraordinarily rare. Why is fear of them driving policy?”:

  • “The Education Department reports that  roughly 50 million children attend public schools for roughly 180 days per year. Since Columbine (1999), approximately 200 public school students have been shot to death while school was in session, including the recent slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. (and a shooting in Birmingham, Ala., on Wednesday that police called accidental that left one student dead). That means the statistical likelihood of any given public school student being killed by a gun, in school, on any given day since 1999 was roughly 1 in 614,000,000.”

This is not a great risk. This is not even a significant risk. To say, as the Kiddie Corps has been telling us, that this risk is “unacceptable” can only mean that the official, anti-gun position is that no risk is acceptable. Surely no one is going to argue that a 1 in 614,000,000 chance of being killed in another Parkland or Newtown is unconscionable, but a one in 1, 228,000,000 chance is just fine. And how do we reach no risk? We spend incredible amounts of money, trash our national liberties, send kids to lightless, joyless iron boxes…and there will still be a risk

  • “[S]ince the 1990s, shootings at schools have been getting less common.”

What? What about all those statistics that claim the opposite? They are advocacy statistics, spun and manipulated.  Cheating, in other words. Ropeik is hardly an NRA shill: it’s clear that he is venturing to make these observations while aware that he is risking his progressive bona fides, and thus his invitations to Cambridge cocktail parties. He writes for example,

The problem with all of this is what our excessive fears could lead to. Having more guns in schools, as President Trump advocates — or more guns anywhere — increases the likelihood of gun violence. …The Parkland tragedy itself teaches that more guns don’t automatically mean more safety: The school was patrolled by an armed guard.

The studies claiming that more guns lead to more gun violence are all based on cross-cultural, international comparisons, which many believe (as do I) pollute the findings. Do more guns in the US lead to more gun violence? Reiko himself  cited a stat that suggests otherwise: there are more guns in the U.S. now than before Columbine, and a decline in the frequency of shootings at schools. As for the armed guard, citing a professional with a gun who doesn’t do his job tells us nothing about guns, just that it is who is holding it that matters—which is what the NRA has been saying since I was knee-high to a chipmunk.

More from Ropeik: Continue reading

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