Brand New Week Full Of Hope And Promise Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/9/2019

Ah! I also feel wefweshed!

1. On torturing the homeless with earworms. The city of West Palm Beach, Florida  has been blaring the horrible kids song “Baby Shark,” as well as another annoying song in the genre, “Raining Tacos,” outside an event center to drive homeless people away. Listen…

The homeless and their advocates object to the tactic as cruel and counter-productive. The city says it only wants to make them go to homeless shelters.

This is a case of “ick” rather than unethical conduct. Music is used to keep subjects of torture awake in some cases, and auditory assault by kids’ songs is only different in kind from high-pitched beeps and  other more direct methods used around the country, such as recordings of chain saws . Some cities have even outfitted parks and public spaces with devices that blast a high-frequency sound that only teenagers and young people can hear.

The use of annoying songs passes the utilitarian test, I think. In this case, the desired end justifies the means. I will change that assessment of there is evidence that one or both of the two songs are literally driving the homeless insane.

That is a distinct possibility. Here’s “Raining Tacos”:

2. Let’s try to think of the least qualified, most objectionable candidates who would still be better than this trio...It’s official!  Mark Sanford, who had to resign as South Carolina governor to avoid being impeached after going AWOL and conspiring to cover it up as he secretly visited his soul mate, a South American seductress, or, as such were called in less politically correct times,  “firecracker,” has now declared that he will accept the GOP nomination for President.  He now joins failed semi-Republican Senate candidate and Gary Johnson running mate William Weld, who is 74 and hasn’t held office in 22 years; he distinguished himself as a nominee of the Independent Party by announcing that he would vote for Hillary Clinton.  Then there’s Joe Walsh, who spent all of one term in the House, and was reduced to being a radio talk show host after it was revealed that he was a deadbeat dad.

The news media is faking fainting spells because the Republican National Committee is not going to hold debates among this ridiculous crew, and is cancelling primaries as well. The RNC’s position isn’t unethical, it is responsible. I held in 2015 that  the GOP had no obligation to allow Trump to run for the GOP nomination, and he was a more acceptable and serious candidate than any of these fools—which is not to say that he was serious or acceptable. These are three dead in the water political failures trying to use NeverTrump hate to breath life into the corpses of their careers.

Here’s how bad they are: I’d vote for Newt Gingrich (ugh) or Mitch McConnell (ugh X infinity) over any of them.

3.  And this is why our rights are in real and immediate danger. From the Washington Post:

“Americans across party and demographic lines overwhelmingly support expanded background checks for gun buyers and allowing law enforcement to temporarily seize weapons from troubled individuals, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, as President Trump and Republicans face fresh pressure to act.”

“Allowing law enforcement to temporarily seize weapons from troubled individuals,” aka the “red flag” laws, is a violation of due process, the Second Amendment, and also a “pre-crime” measure. The public support sit because a) unscrupulous politicians demagogue the issue of gun control, b)the average American, thanks to our incompetent public school system, can’t distinguish a constitutional right from prickly pear, and c) limiting the rights of hypothetical “bad people” is so easy, compared to when one’s own rights are being infringed.

This is a useful poll, because it shows how vulnerable the ignorant are to politicians who want to take over their autonomy and weaken our democracy under the impetus of “do something.” Who is going to explain to these millions of inattentive people with weak critical thinking skills why “red flag” laws are the totalitarian camel;s nose in the tent? President Trump, with his junior high school level rhetoric?  Me, with my essays that violate Facebook standards? The news medi-ack! Ack! Gag! Cough! I couldn’t even that ridiculous possibility out. Who?

And who gets to define a “troubled individual”? Anyone with symptoms of depression, anxiety, or stress? That describes 90% of the people I know. Those with irrational anger and obsessions? That’s  the entire Trump-hating Facebook Borg, based on my reading this week. People with rocky marriages, conflicts at work with supervisors and co-workers; ranting bloggers? Charles M. Blow? Kurt Schlicter? Stephen Colbert? Alec Baldwin?

We have a dumb, ignorant, lazy, badly educated, civically incompetent  electorate that the news media and politicians want to make worse on all counts, and work constantly to accomplish that goal.

Ethics Warm-Up, 11/13/18: ” Not Dead, Just Wishing I Was” Edition

I’m here.

The weekend was a near total wipe-out for me, as the incipient flu-cold or whatever it is that has been stalking me for at least a couple of weeks finally ended all ambiguity by leveling me  just as the long weekend was getting started. I was in bed virtually all day yesterday, most of the day before, and if I’m getting better, damned if I can see it. I’ve always got to be wary when I cough like this, as I am susceptible to bronchitis, but ProEthics, and ethics itself, wait for no Weenie.

1. What do you do with these idiots? The guys in Baraboo High School’s class of 2019 posed with Nazi salutes at their junior prom this year.

It isn’t Mel Brooks High School: “the  Heil sign” is only amusing or satirical in the most carefully constructed context. In any other time of place, it trivializes a historical nightmare, genocide and the engineered murder of millions of people by a madman,  his henchmen, and a poisoned culture. The Wisconsin school district that included Baraboo claims to acting on the photo,  but since it went viral on social media, current and former students have said that the school itself has a culture of racism and bigotry openly that is allowed to thrive by indifferent teachers and administrators.  There’s a lot I don’t understand about the photo.  Where are the girls? Are these only the Nazis in the class, or is it all of the boys? The kids that aren’t saluting: are they protesting against the display? Did they just miss the shot? Why are they in the photo at all? Who in their right mind would participate in such a stunt?

2. Fact: acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has no conflicts of interest with the Mueller investigation. So why are Democrats insisting that he recuse himself, now that his is overseeing the investigation as Jeff Sessions could not? As far as I can see, the only reason is that they want Rod Rosenstein, who had been the acting AG for only the Mueller matter to continue to supervise it because he is perceived as being hostile to the President. Rosenstein does have a conflict, and properly should have recused himself long ago. He was very much involved in the Comey firing, which is part of the  Mueller investigation’s inquiry into alleged obstruction of justice by the President. He conceivably possesses information about the President’s  motives in firing Comey, and quite possibly has  a personal interest in how the episode is interpreted. Rosenstein thus would very likely be a necessary fact witness in any obstruction inquiry in connection with the Comey firing. That’s a conflict.

Whitaker, however, has no conflict. His statements about how Mueller has run the investigation don’t create a conflict of interest under the applicable ethics rules, not does it raise the appearance of impropriety. Democrats are signaling here, as they have repeatedly for two years, that their objective is to “get Trump” by any means necessary, and they will torture and distort, law, ethics and common sense to achieve that goal. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/16/2018: First They Came For Wonder Woman….[CORRECTED and UPDATED]

Good Morning

… to end a frantic ethics week…

(An unusual number of the items this morning deserve a free-standing post. I’m not sure what to do about that; it’s been happening a lot lately.)

1 Not fake news, just a false news story that everyone ran with...Oops. All the angry condemnations of new CIA director designate Gina Haspel and President Trump (for nominating her, along with existing) were based on a mistake. From ProPublica:

On Feb. 22, 2017, ProPublica published a story that inaccurately described Gina Haspel’s role in the treatment of Abu Zubaydah, a suspected al-Qaida leader who was imprisoned by the CIA at a secret “black site” in Thailand in 2002. The story said that Haspel, a career CIA officer who President Trump has nominated to be the next director of central intelligence, oversaw the clandestine base where Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding and other coercive interrogation methods that are widely seen as torture. The story also said she mocked the prisoner’s suffering in a private conversation. Neither of these assertions is correct and we retract them. It is now clear that Haspel did not take charge of the base until after the interrogation of Zubaydah ended.

ProPublica, unlike, say, CNN, knows how to accept responsibility for a bad journalism botch. Stephen Engelberg, editor-in-chief, sums up the episode after explaining how the story was misreported:

A few reflections on what went wrong in our reporting and editing process.

The awkward communications between officials barred from disclosing classified information and reporters trying to reveal secrets in which there is legitimate public interest can sometimes end in miscommunication. In this instance, we failed to understand the message the CIA’s press office was trying to convey in its statement.

None of this in any way excuses our mistakes. We at ProPublica hold government officials responsible for their missteps, and we must be equally accountable. This error was particularly unfortunate because it muddied an important national debate about Haspel and the CIA’s recent history. To her, and to our readers, we can only apologize, correct the record and make certain that we do better in the future.

Perfect. This is a news source we can trust.

2. That was ProPublica. This is CNN (The Chris Cuomo post was here originally, but it got so long I posted it separately.) Continue reading

Once Again, Stop Making Me Defend President Trump, And Tell Fox To Stop Making Me Defend The People Who Are MAKING Me Defend Him!

 

See? What does Comey have to complain about?

Fred, my topic scout, sent me this and suggested that it was the apotheosis of  Rationalization #22, Comparative Virtue or “It’s not the worst thing.”

Boy, was he right.

In last night’s episode of the Tucker Carlson show—right-wingers are actually impressed with Tucker’s skills at taking down lame liberal fanatics, which is sad in so many ways—featured the Fox News conservative dilettante agreeing with guest James Rosen, who was making the fatuous and ethically offensive point that people shouldn’t get so upset about what Trump does because the Civil War and the Cold War were worse.

This argument is the Mother of All Terrible Rationalizations, and especially bad because it spoils a good point, which is that absent historical perspective, it’s not easy to know what a real crisis is. Arguing that people shouldn’t object to something, however, because something else was worse is the mark of desperation as well as intellectual deficiency. Explain why the alleged crisis isn’t one (as in the Comey firing); explain why the assumed harm is exaggerated, or being hyped, or the product of bias and emotion. But to say, as Rosen, a “conservative historian,” which only means he isn’t an aggressive leftist like almost all of his colleagues, did,

“During Watergate, the term ‘crisis’ was thrown around as well and there were people at that time who were old enough to remember when there were legless Civil War veterans still in the streets of Washington.”

And I’m sure conservative historians were reminding those Civil War casualties while their legs were being sawed off without anesthesia that the Civil War wasn’t nearly as horrible as the Black Death. “Ah, I feel much better now,” they smiled. “Just call me ‘Stumpy!’

Here, for the sake of reference, is the description of #22 on the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List: Continue reading

From The “American Journalism Is Crumbling Before Our Eyes” Files: Unethical Quote Of The Month: CBS Radio]

“The viral video of a beating and knife attack in Chicago suggests the assault had racial overtones. CBS’s Dean Reynolds tells us the victim is described as a mentally-challenged teenager.

In the video he is choked and repeatedly called the n-word. His clothes are slashed and he is terrorized with a knife. His alleged captors repeatedly reference Donald Trump. Police are holding four people in connection with the attack.”

—–From the CBS Radio News report on the horrific crime streamed on Facebook, where four young blacks  tortured a mentally teen, forcing him to say “Fuck Trump” and “Fuck white people.”

Time to roll over, Ed. Again.

Time to roll over, Ed. Again.

Fake news. The intent of the report is obviously to make a listener believe that four whites attacked a black teen. Mediaite, in its piece about the deceitful report, calls it “technically correct.” Wrong. A technically correct work of journalism does not intentionally mislead its readers. A technically correct work of journalism does not suggest an incident has “racial  overtones” but omit the material information that the attackers were black and the victim was white, while suggesting that the opposite was true.

The story was intentionally, not accidentally, presented as another “pro-Trump” hate crime: the attackers “referenced Donald Trump,” CBS claimed, which is a long, long way from “forced their bound victim to say ‘Fuck Donald Trump,'” so far away that the difference cannot be plausibly be explained as benign. The news writers couldn’t find a way to spin “Fuck white people” so the story could be falsely reported as white on black violence, so they omitted it from the account altogether.

Now, this was CBS. CBS! The proud U.S news pioneer, home of Edward R. Murrow,  Eric Severeid, Robert Trout, William Shirer,Walter Cronkite, Dan R…okay, okay, let’s stick with Edward R. Murrow,  Eric Severeid, Robert Trout, William Shirer, and Walter. This wasn’t Fake News Tonight, or BLMN, the Black Lives Matter Network. This was CBS, a trusted name in broadcasting since 1927, and it deliberately allowed a false and misleading story to go out under its call letters to inflame anti-white racial tensions and distort the truth of what occurred.

It is a major journalism scandal, and one that should be followed by investigations, firings, a corporate apology, and reform.

Observe with me and see if it is.

Any bets?

From The Ethics Alarms “Double Standard” Files: Now THIS Is A Hate Crime! Wait…What’s That? There’s No Evidence Yet? I Stand Corrected!

Boy, some people see race in everything...

Boy, some people see race in everything

From Fox News yesterday:

Chicago investigators are questioning four African-Americans after a Facebook Live video shows a group of people torturing a white mentally disabled man while someone yelled “F*** Trump!” and “F*** white people!”

Chicago police were made aware of the video Tuesday afternoon. A young African American woman streamed the video live on Facebook showing at least four people holding the young white man hostage.

In the video, the victim is repeatedly kicked and hit, his scalp is cut, all while he is tied up with his mouth taped shut….The victim is … believed to have been held hostage and tortured in an apartment in the 3400 block of West Lexington on the West Side, Guglielmi said.

(That’s “Fuck Trump!” and “Fuck white people!”, just in case you thought the phrases were “Free Trump!” or “Feel white people!”)

Now here is how the Associated Press initially reported the story:

Chicago police say they are investigating a video circulating on social media that shows several people beating a man at a residence. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said at a news conference Wednesday that four suspects are in custody. Formal charges have not been filed.

Johnson says the victim, who has “mental health challenges,” is recovering. Johnson calls the video “sickening,” and Police Cmdr. Kevin Duffin says the suspects made “stupid decisions.” Officers were called to a residence on the city’s West Side Tuesday evening where they found signs of a struggle and damaged property.

Videos of the alleged incident were posted on social media. Police say it is too soon to make a determination if the attack was racially motivated.

“Police say it is too soon to make a determination if the attack was racially motivated.”

!!!

KABOOM!

exploding-head5

There it is! The first head explosion of 2017!

[A brief pause while I mop, scoop, and re-fill…] Continue reading

Observations On The Fox GOP Candidates Debate in Detroit

GOP-DEBATE_

The transcript is here.

1. I’m in Atlanta, teaching ethics to lawyers, and watching some shows I seldom get to see. I believe I have discovered why so many citizens are ill-informed, have warped priorities, are entranced by a vulgar reality TV star, and appear not to comprehend that electing a President isn’t something that should be used as the means to express free-floating frustration. This morning I made the excuse of tuning into “Good Morning America!,” the top rated morning show,and watched in disbelief as the happy, giggly crew “covered” the debate by briefly highlighting Donald’s defense of his penis and the silly exchange about yoga Romney’s thorough dismantling of Trump didn’t make the cut, but the big news, according to ABC, was that a GMA cast member was announced as new “Dancing With The Stars” contestant. We were treated to a 10 minute segment including her mother, her DWTS partner, and a montage of the career of a typical TV weather girl.  The news that Hillary Clinton’s tech guy who set up her server and who had used the 5th Amendment to avoid answering the FBI’s questions was granted immunity yesterday by the Justice Department wasn’t anywhere to be found. Hey, the gang on GMA don’t seem to think who gets to run for President matters, why should anyone else? Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), what isn’t reported has as much effect on distorting Americans’ views, beliefs and civic conduct as much as what is.

But isn’t it exciting that Ginger is going to get to wear those skimpy dance outfits, and so soon after having her baby?

2. Back to Donald’s penis: I was tempted to re-post this in it’s entirety. I correctly forecasted that a President Trump would transform the culture and leave us with a “nation of assholes,” but I did nor foresee that he would be able to substantially accomplish his mission by just running.  In a Presidential debate, a candidate discusses his penis size and the audience hoots delightedly like Bill Maher’s crowd when he says “fuck you.” A civilized U.S. worthy of international respect would regard a candidate who stooped to such crudeness and idiocy as having eliminated himself from consideration.

3. Marco Rubio showed that Trump’s reliance on rationalizations is communicable. Asked why he spent last week name calling and suggesting that Trump wet his pants, after once vowing that he wouldn’t stoop to personal attacks,  Rubio answered that the media gives “an incredible amount of coverage” to Trump’s attacks—Oh. so it’s OK because it works. How big is your penis, Marco?– and Trump “deserves” to be attacked the same way. Great: the ends justify the means, and “he had it coming.” Later, Rubio objects to Trump calling him a “little Marco” instead of giving a substantive answer to a plocy question. Yes, ad hominen attacks are the hallmark of weak thinkers, bullies and fools. Explain to us again why you started using them, Senator?

4. Nonetheless, Trump’s constant use of “little Marco” should be the last strawfor any parent who doesn’t want to raise a bully or have a child tormented by one. Trump is validating bullying behavior, at a high level. Here, I’ll link to “A Nation of Assholes” again. Insufferable conservative bloggers and pundits who know how bad Trump is but who are actively rooting for him to destroy the Republican party as retribution—Why don’t they just root for a dirty bomb to take out the Capitol?— write about how the “elites” just don’t understand:

“To the establishment, this breakdown looks like chaos. It looks like savagery. It looks like a man with a flamethrowing guitar playing death metal going a hundred miles an hour down Fury Road. But to the American people, it looks like democracy.”

Well, that’s because the “elites'” contempt for people who applaud bullies, torture and penis-boasting is absolutely justified, and if the American people think electing someone like Trump is democracy, then it proves that they understand neither democracy nor their obligations as citizens. There is nothing noble, or admirable, or justifiable about someone supporting Donald Trump. Writes another right-wing apologist for Trump supporters (the pompous conservative gang are all saying the same thing—they are interchangeable):

“The messenger doubtless is deeply flawed. Trump is no Washington, that’s for sure. Donald Trump would not have been my first choice as a GOP nominee. He wouldn’t have been my 100th choice. But if the counter-revolutionaries decide they want Trump as the nominee, I will not oppose them. And I will hope that the counter-revolution has now become too big for one deeply and profoundly flawed man to derail.”

What an irresponsible statement. And by the way, if Trump would be your 10,000th choice, your respect for ethical values and responsible leadership is woefully insufficient. The Left ridicules Trump, and the Right roots for him to wreck the country. The Left is correct, and the Right is disgracing itself while showing the deep, deep cynicism and ugliness within.

4. Trump was, of course, asked if the tape of his off-the-record discussion with the New York Times, in which he supposedly expressed a willingness to be flexible on his immigration stance, should be released, and he says he won’t authorize it. This is identical to Hillary Clinton refusing to release her  Goldman Sachs  speeches. If the tape wouldn’t contradict what he has said in public, there is no reason not to release it.  Trump’s angry zombie supporters will excuse this just as Hillary’s corrupt zombie supporters will ignore the fact that she says what any given audience wants to hear.

When I hear the complaint that politicians have contempt for ordinary Americans, I am tempted to say, “And they have earned every bit of it.” Continue reading