Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/13/2019: The Defending The Unsavory Edition

Good morning from Alexandria, VA.!

I love Atlanta, but it sure is good to be home.

1. I just posted this note on Facebook to make my “friends'” heads explode:

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez:: “I know when I was growing up, I didn’t see any women like me in positions of leadership, And so when you’re only seeing white dudes just like, running the world, you think you need to act like a white dude to run the world.” She’s a stone-cold bigot as well as arrogant and ignorant. There is no “acting like a white dude” any more than acting like a black dude, or a gay dude, or acting “Asian,” or “acting like a girl.” The woman is an idiot, and is being given a pass by progressives and the media…and many of YOU. She embarrasses her party , the House and her generation just about every time she opens her mouth. Ocasio-Cortez even manages to be an embarrassment to Socialists, which I didn’t think was possible.

2. Now Stop making me defend AOC!Ocasio-Cortez Blames Pipeline That Hasn’t Been Built Yet For An Oil Spill” is a typical headline around conservative media today. It’s a cheap shot: the lively Miss O-C got here South Dakota pipelines mixed up, as would I, as would you. This is the kind of biased and petty “gotchas!’ that these same pundits complain about when the mainstream news media uses them on President Trump. Hypocrites, all of them. The exact same principle applies to Trump and Ocasio-Cortez: they say enough things that genuinely deserved to be criticized without manufacturing targets for mockery.

3.  And stop making me defend Pete Davidson, too! SNL’s Pete Davidson, the same smug jerk who mocked candidate, now Congressman, Dan Crenshaw for wearing an eyepatch (he lost an eye in combat) is under fire again for this joke: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/21/2019: Smollett And His Friends

Good Morning.

(Be honest: how many of you once thought this song was sung by The Beatles?)

1. Jussie Smollett hoax notes:

  • The actor is in custody, is being charged, and the Chicago’s Police Superintendent just gave a withering speech condemning him, asking rhetorically what kind of black man uses a noose as a prop for a false hate crime accusation. It also appears that Smollett had previously sent himself a fake hate crime letter.

Has Smollett wrapped up “Asshole of the Year”? Only in the Hollywood Division, would be my guess, but the year is young.

  • Speaking of contenders, stop making me defend Adam Schiff. The House’s #1 Trump-Hunter deleted this tweet…

Now he’s being criticized by conservatives for trying to send his embarrassing embrace of Smollett’s facially absurd story “down the memory hole.” I don’t blame anyone for deleting stupid social media posts, especially public figures. Why give your enemies a graphic club to bash you with…forever? Of course, a public statement that he was wrong, rash and inflammatory would be appropriate, but this is Adam Schiff we’re talking about. Watch him spin when the Mueller report turns out to be a dud.

  • Here’s part of a Boston Herald editorial:

As Jussie Smollett’s account of his alleged assault falls apart, it is important to note that politicians, the media and influential voices did their best to fan the flames of outrage, based on nothing but the dark premise that conservatives and Trump supporters are evil….It was a flimsy yarn from the outset, which only became more precarious with each passing day. That didn’t stop those most deeply invested in the narrative of Evil Trump to jump into action.

Presidential hopefuls Cory Booker and Kamala Harris each labeled the supposed attack a “modern-day lynching,” with Harris adding that, “We must confront this hate.” Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted, “This is a sickening and outrageous attack, and horribly, it’s the latest of too many hate crimes against LGBTQ people and people of color. We are all responsible for condemning this behavior and every person who enables or normalizes it …” Joe Biden tweeted, “What happened today to @JussieSmollett must never be tolerated in this country. We must stand up and demand that we no longer give this hate safe harbor; that homophobia and racism have no place on our streets or in our hearts. We are with you, Jussie.”…freshman congressman, Rashida Tlaib, tweeted, “The dangerous lies spewing from the right wing is killing & hurting our people.”

… Hollywood notables also reacted as expected. Director Rob Reiner tweeted, “The horrific attack on Jussie Smollett has no place in a decent human loving society. Homophobia existed before Trump, but there is no question that since he has injected his hatred into the American bloodstream, we are less decent, less human, & less loving. No intolerance! No DT!”

The media has comported itself badly as well. Almost immediately after getting the Covington Catholic story so wrong, many in the news industry immediately accepted the Smollett story as true…. a Washington Post writer named Nana Efua Mumford wrote this: “If Smollett’s story is found to be untrue … The incident would be touted as proof that there is a leftist conspiracy to cast Trump supporters as violent, murderous racists. It would be the very embodiment of ‘fake news.’ And that reason, more than any other, is why I need this story to be true.”

In other words, Trump supporters are violent, murderous racists. That dark premise is a lie, fake news and untrue. Let us hope one half of the country can correct their horrifically jaded view of the other half before we lose ourselves.

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/17/2018: The Tragedy Of The Commons Bites Starbucks (Good!) And Other Fiascos

Are we having holiday fun yet?

Not yet…

1. ” Madness! Madness!” (Culturally literate readers will be able to name the movie.)

An 11-year-old boy named Joshua Trump has been forced to go by a different name at his Delaware middle school because he has been relentlessly bullied and punched on the a school bus because of his last name.  School officials said that as soon as they learned of the bullying they took action, including disciplining students  involved. The school should be investigating teachers, who may be signalling their biases against the President, and we should be looking at the bullies’ parents and the toxic influence of the media.

This story is just a tiny tip of a very large, very deep, very dangerous cultural iceberg.

President Trump should write the boy and his family, or better yet, call him.

2. “My Bloody Valentine” ethics. I am compiling a list of the very best horror movies for a relative who professed ignorance of the genre. I have done the same for Westerns (this became a Smithsonian program) and movie musicals. It is really annoying to hear people say that they don’t like movie musicals when they have never watched “Singin’ in the Rain” or Fred and Ginger at their best, or that they don’t like Westerns when they have never seen “Shane.” What they are really saying is “I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I have strong opinions on it anyway.”

But I digress. I had remembered that the 2008 remake of “My Bloody Valentine” had impressed me with its original and gory special effects, like the maniac mine murderer jamming a shovel into a victim’s face between her nose and mouth, causing the top half of her head to sliiiide down the shovel blade, or the killer yanking another victim’s lower jaw off with a pick- axe. What fun! But when I selected the film on Netflix to see if it was list-worthy, I discovered that those moments and many others had been edited out. This effectively renders the film pointless and scare-free, but it is also a bait-and-switch. If the film isn’t really the film the director made, a notice to that effect is mandatory. I assumed that Netflix only showed the movie, the whole movie, and nothing but the movie. Guess not.

3. Tucker Carlson, boycotts, and virtue signaling. On his Fox New show, Tucker Carlson was discussing the attitude exhibited by some politicians toward illegal immigration and the economic impact it has on the United States:

“Our leaders demand that you shut up and accept this. We have a moral obligation to admit the world’s poor, they tell us, even if it makes our own country poorer, and dirtier, and more divided. Immigration is a form of atonement. Previous leaders of our country committed sins; we must pay for those sins by welcoming an endless chain of migrant caravans. That’s the argument they make. Somehow the immigration-as atonement idea has become the official position of virtually every guilty liberal in the United States. Our tech overlords, the ones always lecturing you, corporate America, Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan—they all believe this, and anyone who disagrees with them is denounced as a bigot and fired.”

But how do you really feel, Tucker? I think Tucker would like to take back “dirtier”—how do illegal immigrants make the country dirtier?—but then he’s speaking extemporaneously. His overall point, while a bit inflammatory in the rhetoric used to express it, is valid. However, Pacific Life, which ran an ad on Fox right after Carlson’s rant proclaiming that the company had been “protecting generations of families for 150 years,” decided it was time to grandstand. (Carlson has also been a target of Media Matters efforts to get sponsors to abandon his show, because the best way to win arguments is to muzzle opposition, especially when your own position makes no sense.)

The company released this:

“Pacific Life’s national advertising campaign runs on numerous networks and cable stations on a variety of news, business and sports programs. One of our ads appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show last night following a segment where Mr. Carlson made a number of statements regarding immigration. As a company, we strongly disagree with Mr. Carlson’s statements. Our customer base and our workforce reflect the diversity of our great nation, something we take great pride in. We will not be advertising on Mr. Carlson’s show in the coming weeks as we reevaluate our relationship with his program.”

Carlson made it clear that he was talking about illegal immigration, though he gave those who want to misconstrue him sufficient rope for them to do so. If it is going to say it disagrees with Carlson, Pacific Life is obligated to say how. (I ding comments on posts here that just say “You are wrong,” “I disagree,” or “You’re an idiot.”) They don’t, because they can’t, and don’t have the guts to take a clear position. Do they believe that the U.S. has an obligation to take in all of the world’s poor? Do they not agree that unregulated and unrestrained immigration will make the country poorer and less united? Do they disagree that liberal guilt and race-baiting are primary tools of those pushing for open boarders? They probably haven’t thought about any of these things beyond the thought a puppy gives a biscuit. They just want to signal “Immigrants good!” and, to use Ann Althouse’s phrase, “Orange man bad!”

Are there corporations with integrity? Right now I can’t think of any. Continue reading

Lost Tuesday Ethics Scraps, 12/11/18: Statues, Tucker Carlson And “To Kill A Mockingbird”

Good whatever it is.

I guess I’m not as recovered as I thought: one high energy ethics presentation to a sluggish audience today and I was fried. This better not be encroaching old age, or I’ll be pissed.

1. Thank you for making the open forum this morning active: I wish you all had been in my audience today. I haven’t read any of it yet (I did finally get your excellent comment out of moderation, Michael R!); I’m trying to get my own posts up.

2. Stolen art ethics. No doubt: the looting of art from the Old World by American tycoons and museums is a long-time ethics scandal, and the international court battles settling the disputes will continue for a long, long time. The argument over a 2000-year-old bronze statue, known as “Victorious Youth between the Getty Villa and Italy, however, is not as clear as most. Italy’s highest court has ordered that the sculpture should be returned to Italy. Currently, it is on display at the villa on the outskirts of Los Angeles, which is part of the J. Paul Getty Museum. It was retrieved from Adriatic waters by Italian fishermen in 1964, and sold to successive collectors and dealers. After a decade-long legal battle, Italy’s Court of Cassation ruled  that the statue should be confiscated and brought back to Italy, rejecting the Getty’s appeal. Getty is not giving in.

The ethics as well as the law is murky. This is not a case like King Tut, where Indiana Jones-style archeologists and adventurers, just uncovered foreign cultural treasures and took them home. Before acquiring the prized artifact, the Getty undertook a comprehensive, five-year study of whether the statue could be purchased legally and in good faith. Their due diligence extensive analysis of international, Italian, American and California law and of Italian court decisions pertaining to the work.

In 1968, Italy’s Court of Cassation ruled that there was no evidence that the statue belonged to the Italian state; after all, it is Greek. Although the fishermen took the statue onto Italian soil, the court did not find that its brief presence in Italy transformed the sculpture into a component of Italian cultural heritage. Eventually the statue made its way to a German art dealer who put the statue up for sale. According to the Getty, in 1973, acting on a request from Italy, German police initiated an investigation into whether the German dealer had received stolen goods. The investigation was dropped for lack of evidence of wrongdoing. In 1977, the Getty purchased the bronze in Britain for almost $4 million from a gallery affiliated with the German dealer. The bronze has now been publicly exhibited, studied and cared for at the Getty for 40 years. Continue reading

Evening Ethics Leftovers, 11/8/2018: Acosta, Beto, Tucker, And Claire

Good evening…

1.  The Jim Acosta Affair. I suppose my analysis of this hypocritical flap will surprise no one. No White House reporter who behaved as Jim Acosta did at the press conference yesterday would have been defended by his employers or other journalists. Dan Rather (with Nixon) and Sam Donaldson (with Reagan) were rude and confrontational (Funny how the only examples of journalists being disrespectful to Presidents involve Republicans–nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!), but nothing like Acosta was and has been. Imagine a journalist defying President Obama like that! It wouldn’t happen, but as with so much else, the rules are somehow different for President Trump.  This news media’s reporters have decided, consistent with the attitude of progressives and the “resistance,” to withhold even minimum respect and deference to the Presidency as long as Donald Trump occupies the office.

Acosta was not asking questions, but arguing his position with the President. That’s not his job, or his privilege. When the President told him repeatedly “That’s enough,” Acosta did not stop. That, all by itself, justified pulling Acosta’s credentials. The White House was foolish to concentrate on Acosta pushing the intern away. He had crossed the line before that; indeed, he had crossed the line of what the White House should require from a journalist many times before.

If Acosta apologizes to the intern and the President, and promises not to abuse his opportunity to ask questions at press briefings and press conferences, to exhibit a minimal level of respect, then the White House should give him another chance.

Commentators calling Acosta’s punishment a First Amendment violation should be ridiculed for the hypocrites they are. Ann Althouse points out that journalists were up in arms when  Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was charged with battery for grabbing Michelle Fields, a reporter. The level of contact in the two cases is similar. “Either both instances of battery matter or neither does. Pick one,” says Ann. But there’s a problem that Ann somehow doesn’t see. She writes, “I found myself thinking that Trump and Acosta are both in control and choosing to do this theater of mutual hate.” Acosta and Trump are not equals, however. Acosta is obligated to give due respect to the President of the United States, but the converse does not apply. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/27/2018: Unhinged

Good Morning.

1. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias…This is one of the times that I am sorry that the Trump Deranged on Ethics Alarms have temporarily withdrawn from the Comment section battles, as I would love to hear their self-indicting rationalizations.

Here was this morning’s New York Times, big black headline:

JUSTICES  BACK TRAVEL BAN, YIELDING TO TRUMP

Outrageous in every way. The Court did not “yield” to anyone or anything but the law as it stands and has stood for centuries. As Constitutional Law expert Eugene Volokh succinctly put it, “The federal government may pick and choose which foreigners to let into the country (at least setting aside foreigners who have are already been granted residence), even based on factors — political beliefs, religion, and likely race and sex — that would normally be unconstitutional.” He explains:

This used to be called the “plenary power” doctrine, referring to the principle that the government has essentially unlimited power when it comes to at least this aspect of immigration law, unlimited even by the Bill of Rights. It is not based on the constitutional text; textually, the First Amendment would apply to all exercise of Congressional authority, whether under the Commerce Clause or the District of Columbia Clause or the Necessary and Proper Clause under Congress’s power over immigration. But, right or wrong, it is based on longstanding American legal history; and the majority adheres to that history.

Historically, this has even be used to authorize Congress to discriminate based on race (query whether the Court would today condemn this as “irrational”; more on that below). It has long been seen as authorizing Congress to discriminate based on country of citizenship, without investigation into whether such discrimination might actually be motivated by ethnic hostility. And, most relevant to today’s decision, it was seen in Kleindienst v. Mandel (1972) as authorizing discrimination based on political ideology, which would otherwise be forbidden by the First Amendment….The Court rejected the First Amendment claim:

Recognition that First Amendment rights are implicated, however, is not dispositive of our inquiry here. In accord with ancient principles of the international law of nation-states, the Court in The Chinese Exclusion Case (1889), and in Fong Yue Ting v. United States (1893), held broadly, as the Government describes it, that the power to exclude aliens is “inherent in sovereignty, necessary for maintaining normal international relations and defending the country against foreign encroachments and dangers—a power to be exercised exclusively by the political branches of government ….” Since that time, the Court’s general reaffirmations of this principle have been legion. The Court without exception has sustained Congress’ “plenary power to make rules for the admission of aliens and to exclude those who possess those characteristics which Congress has forbidden.” Boutilier v. Immigration and Naturalization Service (1967). “[O]ver no conceivable subject is the legislative power of Congress more complete than it is over” the admission of aliens. Oceanic Navigation Co. v. Stranahan (1909)….

As a result, the Court held that, if decisions to exclude aliens could ever be set aside, this would be so only if there was no “facially legitimate and bona fide” reason to exclude the alien. In Mandel’s case, the dissent noted, those reasons — labeled by the government as Mandel’s “flagrant abuses” during his past visits to the U.S. — “appear merely to have been his speaking at more universities than his visa application indicated.” The dissent argued that “It would be difficult to invent a more trivial reason for denying the academic community the chance to exchange views with an internationally respected scholar.” But the Court didn’t investigate whether the government’s true motive might have been the Administration’s disapproval of Mandel’s political ideas, rather than the supposed violation of past visa conditions; the requirement of a “bona fide” reason did not appear to require an investigation into the government’s true motivations, but rather simply focused on whether the “facial[]” reasons seemed sufficient:

In summary, plenary congressional power to make policies and rules for exclusion of aliens has long been firmly established. In the case of an alien excludable under [the provision involved in Mandel], Congress has delegated conditional exercise of this power to the Executive.

We hold that when the Executive exercises this power negatively on the basis of a facially legitimate and bona fide reason, the courts will neither look behind the exercise of that discretion, nor test it by balancing its justification against the First Amendment interests of those who seek personal communication with the applicant.

The majority’s decision in Trump v. Hawaii basically applied this logic to another clause of the First Amendment — here, the Establishment Clause (which normally bars discrimination based on religious denomination, including the use of neutral rules in a discriminatorily motivated way) rather than the Free Speech Clause….

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/13/18: You Can’t Get Much More Ethics Issues Variety Than This!

Good Morning!

[Mickey is really playing that piano. Boy he was amazing…]

1 A Russian Jumbo!  And it worked! In Russia, Irina Kudinova was charged with mocking the Church after she  posted a photograph that prosecutors alleged was obscene and thus constituted the “deliberate desecration of a religious object” and “insulting the feelings of believers.”   Gee, I can’t imagine why anyone would think THAT..Here’s the photo:

The judge ruled that it was merely a photo of an Easter cake and nothing more. Elephant? What elephant? Or maybe “What elephant phallus?” would be more accurate. Kudinova was awarded 20,000 rubles in a court action for false accusations.

Few cases better illustrate the principle that in Bizarro World attempts at ethical acts become unethical. The problem is that Russia has laws that discourage free speech. In order to undermine an unethical law, the judge in this case made a ruling that is obviously contrary to reality, and what anyone can see with their own eyes. If judges can ignore evidence and deny reality to protect citizens from an unjust law, then they can do the same to unjustly punish citizens who break no laws at all.

I’m happy for Kudinova, but the Russian judge is a well-intentioned ethics dunce. His solution does as much damage as good.

2. “Thanks, Mom and Dad…and bite me.” The parents of GOP Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson each gave $2,700, the maximum allowed, to the primary campaign of the Democrat their son is challenging, Senator Tammy Baldwin. Continue reading