Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/15/18: Money, Massacres, Mudd And More

Good morning.

1. Another mass shooting, another explosion of demagoguery. Reading various rants from usually smarter Facebook friends after one of these mass shootings—there is now literally no difference in the reactions or the rhetoric; it’s like a TV show re-run—is just boring and annoying at this point. I wrote to one, a lawyer, who had immediately erupted into furious insults hurled at the NRA, Republicans, and the President, followed by lots of “likes’ and near identical blather, in the wake of the Parkland shooting yesterday:

“Anyone making the anti-NRA argument is obligated to articulate exactly what regulations not already in existence would have stopped the Florida shooting. Banning guns and confiscating guns are not going to happen, can’t happen and shouldn’t happen, and anyone who claims they can is being ignorant or dishonest. The reflex response of anti-gun advocates is to appeal to anger and emotion every time, usually, as in this case, without even knowing all the facts. So they get tuned out, and deserve to get tuned out, as do grandstanding demagogues like Sen. Christopher Murphy. “Do something!” is not a policy, and removing rights from law-abiding citizens because crazies and criminals abuse those rights is neither just nor practical.”

I’ll report if he or any of the “Do something!” and “Think of the children!” hysterics respond with something constructive.

Murphy was, as usual, on his feet and making his time-tested facile argument about how “this happens nowhere else” before the full information regarding what had happened was available. Yes, Senator, this happens more often in the United States because this country values individual liberty more than other nations, and because, so far, at least, we don’t take away individual rights because we know rights will be abused. We also don’t lock up people who act and talk crazy based on mere words because we think they might commit a horrible crime. THAT was a civil libertarian-led reform and a noble one, back when the Left believed in the rights of individuals, unlike now. Once, when people like the Parkland shooter started scaring people, we just committed them, and they could spend decades or a lifetime  loaded-up with Thorazine and locked  away in padded rooms. My great uncle was such a man. After about 50 years, the doctors decided that he had never been crazy after all, but by then he couldn’t function outside the institution, so they let him stay. He never shot anyone, though, so there is that.

I have a suggestion to Murphy and his colleagues, however, as well as to the mainstream news media that is revving into its usual anti-gun act.  The most productive thing they could do might be to reduce the hateful, angry, fear-stoking rhetoric that they have bombarded the nation with for over a year. I believe that the atmosphere of constant conflict and uncertainty, along with non-stop accusations and allegations of dark forces lurking and preparing to pounce may make some unstable people more likely to snap and adopt the Sweeney Todd philosophy, in the words of Stephen Sondheim:

They all deserve to die.
Tell you why, Mrs. Lovett, tell you why.
Because in all of the whole human race
Mrs. Lovett, there are two kinds of men and only two
There’s the one staying put in his proper place
And the one with his foot in the other one’s face
Look at me, Mrs Lovett, look at you.

No, we all deserve to die
Even you, Mrs. Lovett, Even I.
Because the lives of the wicked should be made brief
For the rest of us death will be a relief
We all deserve to die.

2. Mudd doesn’t deserve to die, just to be fired. CNN counterterrorism analyst Philip Mudd broke down on the air sobbing last night while discussing the school shooting on CNN, blubbering,

“I have 10 nieces and nephews. We’re talking about bump stocks, we’re talking about legislation. A child of God is dead. Can not we acknowledge in this country that we cannot accept this?…I can’t do it, Wolf,” he then said to his host, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I’m sorry, we can’t do it.” Blitzer then cut away to a different analyst.

If you can’t do it, you self-indulgent hack, then stop appearing on television. It’s called “professionalism.” Professionals are supposed to be able to do their jobs without being incapacitated by emotion. News professionals are obligated to be able to inform the public about tragedies without falling apart. That wasn’t analysis. That was virtue-signalling and grandstanding. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month: CNN Reporter April Ryan

“Sarah, is slavery wrong? Sarah, is slavery wrong? Does this administration think that slavery was wrong? Sarah, does this administration believe slavery was wrong?”

CNN’s April Ryan, yelling to White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders as today’s press briefing ended. She really did.

President Andrew Jack…no, that’s wrong. It’s President …Johnson, right? Lyndon Johnson? No, no..Barry Lyndon? No…Barry Goldwater? Barry Bonds? U.S. Bonds? U.S. Grant? Boy, history is hard

I assume that this was intended as a rhetorical rebuttal to the position of President Trump and those non-totalitarian-minded citizens—I hope not just conservatives and Republicans— who regard toppling statues and memorials of important figures in America’s past as a form of Orwellian thought control and manipulation of the historical record. Maybe she attends Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia.

Whatever it was, it wasn’t journalism, fair, or professional. Since Ryan knew the only answer that could or would be given, if Sander had been foolish enough to dignify the insult with a reply, it was really just partisan harassment and race-baiting, the equivalent of  a reporter shouting out at a Johnson era press conference, “How many did LBJ kill today?,” calling out after a Bush briefing, “Hey, any signs of those weapons of mass destruction?,” or calling out after an Obama White House briefing, “Does the President still promise that if we like our health plan, we can keep it?”

A news organization that doesn’t immediately discipline a reporter behaves like this at a White House press briefing—and Ryan should have been suspended, removed from the White House beat, or exiled to cute kitten stories on Headline News—it is announcing one of the following:

a) This new organization will  no longer apply minimal standards of respect, fairness and professionalism to coverage of this President.

b) This network no longer has any standards.

c) This network will allow gross demonstrations of bias and partisan animus by its reporters.

Under these conditions, the White House has no obligation to permit such an organization to attend press briefings, any more than it has an obligation to permit anti-Trump demonstrators to attend, or to tolerate reporters chanting slogans and carrying placards. And it should not. If CNN won’t uphold minimal standards of professional journalism, then the White House must. CNN should be told that until it receives a public apology for Ryan’s outburst, she is replaced by a trustworthy reporter, and the network pledges that it will not permit such conduct by its employees to occur again, CNN will no longer be invited to briefings. Its place will then be taken by Ethics Alarms, or Weekly Reader, or any entity with a concept of journalism ethics superior to CNN’s.

Meanwhile, while we are on the topic of professionalism, I have this to report: Continue reading

Weeping And Screaming At The Sky: Dear Democrats, Progressives, And “The Resistance,” Are You Embarrassed Yet? Why Not?

The emerging strategy of the traumatized and indignant Left since the debacle of last November 8 has been, it seems, to try to cause President Trump to snap, so he would do something that unequivocally justifies removing him from office. Actively trying to drive your elected leader nuts is border-line treasonous, of course, so this strategy is unethical, but never mind: so far, it’s not working. Instead, President Trump’s foes are the ones snapping like dry twigs in the woods. The spectacle is unprecedented in U.S. history, and should be so embarrassing to the un-snapped members of the President’s opposition that it is disturbing that they are not yet  wearing bags over their heads and thinking about witness protection.

The anti-Trump forces could justifiably be ashamed to be associated with all the academics who have thoroughly beclowned themselves, like Harvard’s deluded Larry Lessig, and the long-snapped government ethics specialist Richard Painter, who is back to peddling a false theory of how the 25th Amendment works in order to bootstrap an impossible plan to remove Trump. Then there is the risible  $10,000,000 ad campaign by frustrated billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer, calling for Trump’s impeachment without being able to articulate a single basis that would pass logical, legal or Constitutional muster. Maxine Waters is going full demagogue (you never go full demagogue) in her own obstinately ignorant proclamations that an elected President can and should be removed because the Congressional Black Caucus disapproves of his tweets, while the official leadership of her party—which, incredibly, just added disgraced cheat Donna Brazile to its ranks, signalling it vales and priorities— opposes the most uncivil and boorish of Chief Executives by routinely seasoning their own diatribes with words like “shit” and “fuck.” Meanwhile, the defeated Democratic standard bearer in 2016, Hillary Clinton, is on a tone-deaf “blame everybody” tour while multiple scandals surrounding her own campaign revive and emerge, as she establishes herself as the least graceful, whiniest, worst loser in American Presidential annals by approximately ten laps.

All of this and more is certainly bag-worthy, but compared to developments this week, they are badges of honor. Behold: Continue reading

“Albuquerque Fire Chief Evaluating Training After Dispatcher Hung Up on Caller”? Why Yes, I Think That Would Be Prudent!

"No...now, see, Mr, Sanchez, this is NOT how we would like you to react with a 911 caller. Let's try it again..."

“No…now, see, Mr, Sanchez, this is NOT how we would like you to react with a 911 caller. Let’s try it again…”

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: watch out for touchy 911 dispatchers.

Seventeen-year-old Esperanza Quintero called 911 after her friend Jaydon Chavez-Silver was shot last month. She tried to stop Chavez-Silver’s bleeding and gave him CPR.

“I am keeping him alive!” Quintero is heard saying on the 911 call, which was answered by dispatcher Matthew Sanchez, a ten-year veteran of the Albuquerque Fire Department.

Sanchez asked, “Is he not breathing?”

The teen responded, “Barely!”

On the recording, she can be heard frantically encouraging Chavez-Silver to keep breathing.

“One more breath! One more breath!” Quintero told here wounded friend. “There you go Jaydon. One more breath! There you go Jaydon. Good job! Just stay with me, OK? OK?”

Sanchez then asked again, “Is he breathing?”

Quintero responded, “He is barely breathing, how many times do I have to fucking tell you?”

Apparently this outburst deeply, deeply offended Sanchez, who felt that the use of the vulgarity justified him leaving the panicked teen to deal with her dying friend by herself. “OK, you know what ma’am? You can deal with it yourself. I am not going to deal with this, OK?” the dispatcher said, and he disconnected Quintero as she pleaded for help.

So there.

As you know, I’m a big fan of civility, and we really should discipline ourselves and our children to avoid profanity and  vulgarity in dealings with others, in the workplace or anywhere else. Mutual respect is a cornerstone of ethical conduct generally, and civility is how we recognize the inherent respect we owe every fellow citizen. Having one’s friend dying in front of you is a stressful situation, however, and I think the collective effects for fear, panic, desperation and stress creates sufficient adverse influences on a teen that a lapse of decorum should be excused or at least tolerated, don’t you? Particularly when the listener  is allegedly an adult and trained rescue personnel?

Jaydon died. A rescue squad was dispatched before the hang-up, which only means that what Sanchez did could have been worse.

Albuquerque Fire Chief David Downey  called the actions of dispatcher Matthew Sanchez on June 26 “unforgivable” and said Sanchez, who had the sense to resign, at least, should not have hung up on the caller. Downey  says he is examining the training procedures.

Good analysis. We can all stop worrying now, at least those of us in Albuquerque.

And we should be grateful, should we not, for Mr. Sanchez providing a superb lesson to all of our young people about the important of avoiding potty mouth?