Ethics Observations On Recent Developments In The Democratic Nomination Race

  • From CBS News: “Congregants at the historic Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Alabama, silently protested 2020 presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg as he delivered remarks there Sunday, standing and turning their backs on the former New York City mayor. Bloomberg addressed the congregation at Brown Chapel AME Church during a church service in which he discussed voter suppression and the fight for civil rights. But roughly 10 minutes into his remarks, several in attendance rose from their seats and silently turned away from him.The churchgoers remained standing through the end of Bloomberg’s remarks.”

Comment: Go ahead, Mike, spend your way out of this.

I had so many annoying discussions with Facebook Trump-haters who were  pinning their desperate hopes on Bloomberg to take the Democratic nomination and defeat Trump in November. Their logic: he would spend however much money it took. But people, even smart and experienced people, tend to wildly over-estimate the power of money, marketing, and advertising. People are lazy, gullible and often stupid, but they aren’t that lazy, gullible and stupid: no amount of hype and saturation advertising will persuade a market that a  self-evidently bad product is a good one.  Bloomberg is a bad product, at least for the Presidency. His record is wrong, his tools are inadequate, his character won’t be tolerated outside of the Big Apple. Hatred of Trump isn’t enough, and, as the Beatles sang, “Money can’t buy you love.”

  • Here’s the President of the United States doing a “Dorf” imitation to mock Bloomberg’s height.

Comment: I mention this because it’s funny. Wrong, but funny. Otherwise, I’m not going to complain about how un-presidential it is. This is how Trump is, and if he’s the President, this what Trump being President is and will be. Like it, tolerate it, or lump it.

The Julie Principle. Continue reading

Seven Ethics Observations On The Chaotic South Carolina Democratic Candidates Debate.

CBS hosted the debate, and its transcript is here.

1. Well that was embarrassing. I tried to find a YouTube clip of all the candidates simultaneously shouting,  talking over each other and waving their arms; I couldn’t, but I’m sure there are several, and I’m sure they will be used in Republican campaign ads. This group is objectively horrible even when they are coherent and well-behaved, but as I watched this debacle, I thought, “Boy, Facebook is really going to be cranky tomorrow.”

2. It’s not just the candidates who are to blame, of course. The story of the night was just how incompetent the CBS moderators were: timid, unprofessional, passive. In a situation like that, you have to blow a whistle, stop and warn everyone. You tell the group that if they don’t behave, there won’t be any more questions. You cut their mics if necessary. The moderators have a duty to do whatever is necessary to keep order, because the debate, which is supposed to help voters decide who our next President should be, is literally useless unless there can be an orderly and audible exchange of ideas.

Once again, the inept Gayle King was at the center of a televised mess. Oprah Winfrey’s “gal pal” <cough> has her job for one reason, and it’s her connections <cough>what is this in my throat?–and no other good reason. She’s a local TV news mediocrity elevated  beyond her merits, an example of the Peter Principle in action with a the ugly element of unethical influence added.

Usually the impact of King’s  glaring lack of ability is minimal, but in a case like this it does actual damage. Ann Althouse picked up on one example last night that annoyed me as well. Late in the debate, the moderators again asked the seven candidates to take a break from shouting over each other, and Joe Biden said, “Why am I stopping? No one else stops. It’s my Catholic school training.”

…Gayle King responds, “Vice President Biden, you’re a gentleman. Good home training. Thank you, sir.” But Joe Biden doesn’t want to be Gayle King’s good little boy. He says, “Yeah, gentlemen don’t get very well treated up here.”

 Good home training. Ridiculous. Biden was making a criticism — “Why am I stopping? No one else stops. It’s my Catholic school training” — a justified criticism, and Gayle King understood or pretended to understand that to be supportive of her and justifying her bonding with Biden, like the 2 of them are well bred and polite, but he cut her off.

“Gentlemen don’t get very well treated up here” — that’s superficially polite, not telling King she’s not doing her job, but the treatment in question is from the moderators.

He’s saying: I have been polite and gracious, but you’ve presided over an event where rudeness wins. Catholic school may have taught me good behavior, but you, Gayle King, are teaching bad behavior.

… it’s interesting that King changed “Catholic school training” to “home training.” She cleaned the religion out of it for him. She erased his Catholic identity. And if it’s home training, the implication is domestication by a woman.

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/17/2020: The Presidents Day Edition

Good morning, guys!

Thank-you for your service!

In honor of our Presidents, Ethics Alarms is  posting some of the best and most important Presidential speeches during the day. We’ll see how many I get up; there are a lot of excellent ones to choose from.

In all of these cases, whichever I post, a President was acting in one of the non-partisan functions of the office, when the President’s job is to represent all of our nation’s citizens. It is a disturbing fact that the current President has been virtually blocked from discharging these duties, as part off the long, relentless effort by the A.U.C.—the Axis Of Unethical Conduct: Democrats, the “resistance,” and the mainstream media—to deny his Presidency’s legitimacy and to reduce his support among the public to the point where it becomes politically feasible to remove him without an election.

The nation needs those non-partisan Presidential moments, because they symbolize unity and strengthen, rather than weaken, our bonds: throwing out the first pitch of the baseball season, attending the funerals of distinguished Americans, hosting the Kennedy Center Honors. It is not this President’s fault that he had been prevented from doing his job.

1. Why look! Here’s another example! Yesterday President Trump, having been invited to serve as grand marshal for the Daytona 500, uttered the traditional “Gentlemen, start your engines!” and boarded  his official limousine, nicknamed “The Beast”, and, with a U.S. and Presidential flag on the front fenders flapping in the wind, headed out onto the track, pacing the full field of cars.

The Horror. Tweeted Maggie Halberman, the usual co-author of New York Times front page features—inevitably negative– on the Trump administration,

Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! Obama and Bush throwing out the baseball season’s ceremonial first pitches, Obama using his limo for a Jerry Seinfeld comedy bit, and prominently attending an NCAA basketball tournament game–all good! President Trump serving as grand marshal at a NASCAR event? Unacceptably political.

This is smoking gun bias from the journalist the Times uses to inform its readers about what this President does.

2. Now Trump’s stupid tweets, however, are another matter entirely.  Politico reports on what District Judge Reggie Walton, a Reagan appointee,  had  to say about President Trump’s gratuitous social media commentary on the McCabe investigation: Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The ABC Pre-New Hampshire Primary Democratic Candidates Debate

I just spent 20 minutes or so trying to find a complete transcript of last night’s debate, and I failed. If I can find a link or someone sends me one, I might revisit the post, but probably not.

It was a dull and repetitive debate; I, at least, didn’t learn anything I hadn’t observed before.

  • Yang was irrelevant, occasionally making obsrevations a politician never would make, but too passive to stand out: he spoke about half as long as Joe Biden, and the moderators barely noticed him.
  • Steyer continued to concentrate on race-baiting and diversity virtue-signaling.
  • Warren, as usual, made promises of passing sweeping laws she knows are impossible.
  • Klobuchar is still playing the long game, holding her niche as closer to sane than anyone else in the field and hoping that centrist voters migrate to her once Joe Biden drops out.
  • Buttigieg employs his supposed prodigious intellect to appear to take multiple sides of issues simultaneously; how anyone who can remember Bill Clinton would be fooled by his act escapes me.  Chris Christie, now reduced too being a “contributor” to ABC, said after one of Pete’s answers, “My goodness, he uses more words to say nothing than anyone on that stage!”
  • Sanders repeats his socialist talking points relentlessly while using “climate” like priests use “God.” I want that transcript to check the number of times he did this last night.
  • Biden, as he did in the very first debate, has the stench of metaphorical death about him. Anyone serious and honest knew he wouldn’t make it from the day he announced he was running. Joe was never a viable Presidential candidate even when he was younger: too transparently dim-witted, too smarmy. Now, in addition to those features, he is enervated, washed out, seemingly on the verge of full-fledged dementia. As a group, the seven show how tragically devoid of talented aand compelling leaders of character and courage both parties are.

So this won’t be too long. Continue reading

Verdict: Worst Candidates Debate Ever, Part III: “Oh, The Hypocrisy!”

OK, it’s not exactly on point, but this is my favorite meme, and I hadn’t used it this year….

The debate seems like old news now, I know, but I’m going to finish this ethics review if it kills me. There was valuable, if depressing, ethics revelations throughout.

A. No, really, the economy is terrible. Really. Trust us.

Let’s begin Part III with this exchange:

My question to you, Mr. Vice President, is what is your argument to the voter watching this debate tonight who may not like everything President Trump does but they really like this economy and they don’t know why they should make a change.

BIDEN: Well, I don’t think they really do like the economy. Go back and talk to the old neighborhoods and middle-class neighborhoods you grew up in. The middle class is getting killed. The middle class is getting crushed. And the working class has no way up as a consequence of that.

Well, which is it: is Biden lying here, or is he completely ignorant of what is going on?

The question is particularly timely now, after the Christmas season was a smash hit. So called “Super Saturday” had the most money spent by consumers ever. Amazon  had record-breaking holiday season drove its stock up 4.5% and helped lift the Nasdaq composite index above 9,000 for the first time ever. This doesn’t happen, Joe (Bernie, Liz) in an unpopular economy, and what’s not to like? Unemployment is the lowest it can go; wages are rising across the board. Black employment is up, jobs generally are up. It isn’t just the stock market. Obviously consumer confidence is high.

Do the Democrats really believe they can convince the public that the economy is bad by just lying over and over again, and saying it’s bad, like Biden did? Apparently. Buttigeig, Yang, Sanders, Steyer and Warren followed Biden claiming that the middle class—you know, all those people who spent that money on Christmas gifts, was “hollowed out” in Warren’s words. “[We should beat Trump] on the economy where he thinks he’s king and where, in fact, he’s a fraud and a failure,” said Steyer.

Because they know that good economies almost always re-elect Presidents, the Democratic candidates are adopting the Sanders-Warren, or Marx-Lenin, definition of what a “good economy” is. As Sanders keeps saying, the problem is income inequality: if there are people making a lot more than you, you should be miserable, and it’s time for a revolution.  This was the justification for Rep. Ocasio-Cortez saying last week that the U.S. was a fascist country. Her comments , noted John Daniel Davidon of the Federalist, were characteristic of what he called the Left’s “economic illiteracy” and their belief that some people don’t have money because others are simply hoarding wealth. He said,

“She complained about America not being an advanced society, because it doesn’t matter how much gold you amass, you know, if people aren’t taken care of. It was a perfect illustration of the the economic and historical illiteracy of the left. Nobody is amassing gold. GDP doesn’t stand for gold deposit pile. That’s not how the economy works…Wealthy Americans are investing [their money]. They are creating jobs. That is why wages are going up, that is why unemployment is down. That is how the real world works. These people are out to lunch on the stuff.”

And the candidates for President, based on their debate performance, desperately want to keep them “out to lunch” as well. Continue reading

The Ethics Of Wasting Money

 

The position here has always been that nobody has any business telling you how to spend your money. This  topic usually comes up in the context of charity, as in, “How dare that individual spend money on what they think is important when they should be spending money on what I think is important!” A couple of recent developments have raised the issue in a different context, however: incompetent and irresponsible expenditures of large amounts of money.

Take “Cats,” for example. The already immortal flop film cost a reported $100,000,000 to make, and marketing costs are on top of that. It is sure to lose many, many millions of dollars, and the question becomes, “How could movie professionals make a blunder like that?”

I always assumed that “Cats” could not be a successful movie because of its purely theatrical nature. Surely the lesson of the film version of “A Chorus Line,” another Broadway musical that never should have move to the screen, was guide enough. Yet it happened. The fiasco put me in mind of other infamous and avoidable screen disasters, like 1978’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” starring Peter Frampton and the Beegees. Before the film’s release, Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees announced: “There is no such thing as the Beatles now. They don’t exist as a band and never performed Sgt Pepper live in any case. When ours comes out, it will be, in effect, as if theirs never existed.”

Good prediction. The huge MGM film with dozens of celebrity cameos was instantly and universally reviled. Even worse, a few years later, was “The Pirate Movie,” another misbegotten big budget musical. The idea here was to do a new version of “The Pirates of Penzance” but without the dialogue, plot and music that has made the Gilbert and Sullivan show popular for more than a century….and to star Kristy MacNichol, the androgynous, non-singing teen star, as the heroine. How could such a brilliant concept fail? Continue reading

Verdict: Worst Candidates Debate Ever, Part II: Everything Is Terrible!

  • The most publicized statement during the debate that has been described as horrifying by conservative pundits was this one, by Joe Biden, after he was asked, “As president, would you be willing to sacrifice some of that growth, even knowing potentially that it could displace thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of blue-collar workers, in the interest of transitioning to that greener economy?'”

Biden answered immediately, “The answer is yes.”

“Displace,” of course, is a euphemism for “put out of work.” The relative nonchalance with which Biden, who is supposed to be the practical, sensible candidate, immediately said he was willing to disrupt hundreds of thousands of middle class lives in order to “transition” to “that greener economy,” whatever that means, reveals Biden as a first-rate panderer. He has also endorsed the ridiculous “Green New Deal,” which also means nothing.

  • The climate chance section of the debate was an ethics trap for several of the candidates. Amy Klobuchar, who was generally praised for her performance, said,

“And the problem right now is that this climate change is an existential crisis. And you are seeing it here in California with the fires that you just had. You saw it in Northern California, as was mentioned with Paradise. And the most moving video from that to me was the 30-second video of that dad driving his little girl through the lapping fires with his neighborhood burning behind him and singing to her to calm her down.”

Every time one of the candidates uses doomsday rhetoric regarding climate change, he or she is laying the foundation for government control, and totalitarian measures. Rep. Octavio-Cortez’s political Svengali admitted as much, and had to be fired for his candor. A candidate who says climate change is an existential crisis and then follows that hysterical assessment  with stating that the California wildfires are proof has told us that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, but is pretending she does. Then she pivots to a single “moving” video, as if it proves anything at all. Message: I’m talking to emotion-driven ignoramuses now. I’m betting there’s enough of them.

Then Amy kow-towed to the Green New Deal too, endorsing draconian regulations, including the mind0blowingly expensive “upgrading” of existing buildings. I did like the transcript’s typo that quoted her as wanting to build a “fridge to the next century.” Now there’s a solution for global warming. But I’m pretty sure she said “bridge.” Continue reading

Lunchtime Ethics Warm-Up, 4/23/19: Sanders, Warren and Steyer

Good Morning!

I don’t know about where you are, but Spring has finally arrived to stay in Alexandria, Virginia!

1.  Mea Culpa. The first post today made it up without a final proofing and edit, the result of three consecutive computer crashes and an intervening work crisis. Veteran reader Tim Levier flagged the mess, which I cleaned up on Aisle 9 after pulling the post down. This has happened a couple of times before, and makes me want to throw myself in the shredder.

2. Stop making me defend Bernie Sanders! Apparently Bernie spent $444,000 dollars in campaign money in 2015 on his own book, which, of course, put money in his pockets. Some conservative writers have compared this to the scam that has caused the Mayor of Baltimore to go on “leave,” which in her case means “I’m resigning, except that I’ll still be getting my salary.” That’s unfair to Bernie. Pugh’s self-dealing was genuine corruption, using her place on a non-profit’s board to get the organization to buy her book rather than many other options. A candidate’s book is legitimate campaign material: it’s not like the campaign can distribute another candidate’s book. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 2/8/2019: Coming Out Of My Green New Deal-Induced Coma Edition

Good afternoon!

Sorry; this was all set to go up by 10 am until I read the Green New Deal, and it sent me back to bed.

1. Green New Deal-related, he typed warily: Let’s see if the news media and pundits are as scrupulous about transparent flip-flops when they come from a cute socialist. During an interview with NPR, host Steve Inskeep pointed out to Rep. Ocasio-Cortez how much government involvement it would take to implement the so-called Green New Deal,” She responded,

“It does, it does, yeah, I have no problem saying that. Why? Because we have tried their approach for 40 years. For 40 years we have tried to let the private sector take care of this. They said, ‘We got this, we can do this, the forces of the market are going to force us to innovate.’ Except for the fact that there’s a little thing in economics called externalities. And what that means is that a corporation can dump pollution in the river and they don’t have to pay, but taxpayers have to pay.”

Then, a few hours later, Chuck Todd that same day asked Ocasio-Cortez about the same issue: wouldn’t this require a massive government take-over of private enterprise? This time, she resorted to Authentic Frontier Gibberish and said:

“I think one way that the right does try to mischaracterize, uh, what we’re doing as though it’s, like, some kind of massive government takeover. Obviously, it’s not that, because what we’re trying to do is release the investments from the federal government to mobilize those resources across the country.”

When the truth proves unpalatable, resort to double talk. There is no reason to trust anyone who does this. They are trying to deceive you.

2. But—But–I thought putting Kavanaugh on the Court meant that abortion was doomed, since all the justices appointed by Republicans vote in lockstep! The issue was whether a Louisiana law that required doctors to have admitting privileges in hospitals before they could provide abortions should be stayed pending a Supreme Court challenge. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh wanted to deny the stay, with Kavanaugh writing in part,

[E]ven without a stay, the status quo will be effectively preserved for all parties during the State’s 45-day regulatory transition period. I would deny the stay without prejudice to the plaintiffs’ ability to bring a later as-applied complaint and motion for preliminary injunction at the conclusion of the 45-day regulatory transition period if the Fifth Circuit’s factual prediction about the doctors’ ability to obtain admitting privileges proves to be inaccurate….

The law has not yet taken effect, so the case comes to us in the context of a pre-enforcement facial challenge. That means that the parties have offered, in essence, competing predictions about whether those three doctors can obtain admitting privileges….

Before us, the case largely turns on the intensely factual question whether the three doctors—Doe 2, Doe 5, and Doe 6—can obtain admitting privileges. If we denied the stay, that question could be readily and quickly answered without disturbing the status quo or causing harm to the parties or the affected women, and without this Court’s further involvement at this time…. [D]uring the 45-day transition period, both the doctors and the relevant hospitals could act expeditiously and in good faith to reach a definitive conclusion about whether those three doctors can obtain admitting privileges….

Roberts joined the four Democratic appointees—the liberal wing, natch—to allow the stay. Conservatives are horrified, but all this means is that he’s evaluating the case on its merits as he sees it, not following a pre-determined ideological script in lock-step fashion, like, say, the four liberal justices he voted with.

It’s called integrity and independence. Good for Roberts. Maybe he can persuade other justices to view their roles similarly. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/9/17: Everyone Behaving Abysmally Edition

Let’s scream “Good Morning!” to the sky!

1 The FBI is now complaining that it’s too difficult to break into smartphones, since the Texas maniac, Devin Kelley, had one that has so far resisted cracking. By all means, let’s make sure we have no privacy from government intrusions into our lives and relationships. I’m sure—I really am sure—that the “think of the children!” mob and the “if it saves only one life!” brigade will happily surrender the right to privacy, which is, per the Supreme Court, is also in the Bill of Rights, just like the rights of free speech and the right to bear arms.

The solution is right in front of the FBI anyway.  Just take Kelley ‘s body on a plane trip to Bali, manipulate his dead thumb, and use it to unlock the phone.

2. I see little to choose from ethically between Facebook selling space for deceptive ads to the Russians and CNN selling time on their newscasts for a billionaire to make his personal, dishonest and ignorant demand that President Trump be impeached. I had heard and read about the ad, which is basically Maxine Waters’ warped version of the Constitution and the impeachment clause, with a little Richard Painter thrown in, but I assumed I would have to go online to see it. Nope, there it was this morning during a break on Headline News. Respectable news sources, not that CNN qualifies any more, have traditionally rejected factually misleading political ads from private interests, and a Constitutionally moronic rant from a rich guy with money to burn surely should qualify.

The rich guy is Tom Steyer, who apparently once was an intelligent human being even as you and I. His ad claims that “Donald Trump has brought us to the brink of nuclear war, obstructed justice, and taken money from foreign governments. We need to impeach this dangerous president.” Let’s see: the first is pure hysteria and an attempt to criminalize policy and international poker (I’d argue that the weak response to North Korea by the U.N. and previous administrations has been what has “brought us to the brink,” as well as, of course, the rogue country threatening nuclear attacks and firing missiles over Japan).

The second is a gonzo anti-Trump resistance theory that would be tossed out of any court, except maybe in Hawaii. The third is intentionally dishonest: this is the Emoluments Clause fantasy that holds the discredited theory a hotel owner has to be impeached if he doesn’t sell his hotels. Steyer’s ad also says that that Trump should be impeached for various tweets, half-baked opinions and comments. As one would expect from a  Democratic mega-donor, he apparently believes that speech qualifies as a high crime when it annoys progressives.

Naturally, again as one would expect, Steyer implies in his ad that Bill Clinton, who really did commit a crime as President and really did obstruct justice, was impeached by a Republican Congress for “far less.” This disqualifies him as a serious person.

3. Baseball fans know that Roy Halladay, a near-Hall of Fame pitcher with the Blue Jays and Phillies renowned for his durability until his arm fell off (metaphorically speaking), was killed this week when he crashed his single engine plane into the Gulf of Mexico. Observers say he was flying recklessly, and there is evidence that he wasn’t properly experienced to be operating the plane as he was. In Boston, radio sports jockey Michael Felger went on an extended rant excoriating the dead pitcher for being irresponsible, especially as a husband and father.  Here’s a sample: Continue reading