From The Ethics Alarms “Blathering Makes You Incoherent So That Those Who Bias Has Made Stupid Think You Are Stupid, Making Them Look Stupid” Files: The Sweden Affair

Here is something apparently nobody noticed from the past two years: Donald Trump doesn’t speak in linear fashion, use words with precision, or think about what he’s saying until it has already left his mouth. Did you not know that? I’ve been complaining about it here for, oh, about five years. (That YouTube video above is Exhibit A) Yet every time he says something garbled and seemingly confused,  journalists and bloggers instantly take what he said literally, and go on a spree. Now, when most politicians say something that makes no sense, as when President Obama’s tongue slipped and he said there were 57 states or Joe Biden, who makes head-scratching comments almost every day, announced at the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner on March 17, 2010, “Barack Obama is the first African-American in the history of the United States of America!” ( Joe forgot that key word, “President”)  it prompts a brief mention, if at all. With politicians whom the news media has decided to take down, however, like Dan Quayle, Sarah Palin, and now the President, there is no such break. Of course these conservative fools meant what they said to express the most senseless thought imaginable.

Now Trump is President, so he is obliged to choose his words especially carefully, and be clear in his meaning. Well, he can’t. He’s communicated in this slovenly, stream-of-consciousness word cloud all his life, and its made him rich, famous, and President. He’s not going to stop. Now, by all means criticize him for this, but not for alleged statements that are bad guesses at what he might be trying to say.

This brings us to The Sweden Affair. Continue reading

“It’s Unethical To Be A Weenie,” Part I: The Lipreading NFL Fans

Preface: The Rise of the Weenies

Tom Brady, mid-

Tom Brady, mid-“Fuck!”

Everywhere we look, it seems, we see the United States culture being threatened by weenies and the rise of Weenyism. In a nation founded on the principles of self-reliance and individual liberty, built and shaped by stunningly brave men and women who hacked civilization out of an uncertain and perilous wilderness, there is a growing mass of citizens—the cancer imagery is intentional—who are committed to giving the government near total control over every conceivable danger, threat, peril, offense, inconvenience or annoyance, real or imagined, as the role of individual Americans devolves into pointing and saying, “There! Fix that! I don’t like that! Arrest them. Fine him.” Increasingly, the primary motivation for public policy is fear, planted by activists and politicians to panic, terrify and mobilize the weenie base, who are ever eager to trade individual freedom for protection against, well, almost everything.

I know I am hyper-sensitive to the weenification problem right now, having spent three weeks reviewing the history of the American West and its portrayal by Hollywood in preparation for my Smithsonian Associates program last week on how the Hollywood Western shaped American culture. Around the same time that the Sixties exploded, the culture’s unified acceptance of traditional American values began to collapse, just as the primacy of the Western as an entertainment genre declined. Now weenyism is in its ascendency. There are those who claim that the name of a distant football team causes psychological trauma to Native Americans who don’t follow football. Blogger Andrew Sullivan (a candidate for Head Weenie) asserts that the United States should have the “courage” to do nothing about ISIS and allow it to run amuck (the ultimate goal of the Weenies: an Orwellian “Weenies Are Heroes” motto). Feminists insist that women are so vulnerable to male sexual predations on campus that due process, fairness, common sense and much of the respect as equals their predecessors fought for must be surrendered, in a new system that begins with the presumption that all men are potential rapists and all women simpering, helpless victims, even when they say “yes.” College students and other are demanding that books, stories, essays and blog posts contain “trigger warnings” to alert weenies that words and topics in the text might give them the vapours. Needless to say—I hope—this not a healthy development for the United States, or  our culture.

The resistance to Weenyism ought not to be a partisan issue. The obligation to help the weak, disadvantaged and powerless become stronger, overcome their handicaps and acquire power is part of the American tradition too. Somewhere, however, this obligation was distorted by the realization that in a system where the government is looking for victims to justify its existence, Weakness Is Power (Orwell again). Weenies—fearful, risk-averse, passive-aggressive citizens who shrink from conflict, confrontation and the messy process of democracy— have realized that they can mobilize power to satisfy their narrow biases and interests, often at the expense of their fellow citizens’ right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Now the culture is tilting away from the uniquely American model that encouraged individuals to fight their own battles and succeed or fail on the merits of their causes and their own determination and skill, to one that rewards the perpetually offended, victimized, and passively unsuccessful.

It is unethical to be a weenie, and equally unethical to allow Weenieism to overcome what has been an American cultural strength.

Part I: The Lipreading NFL Fans

Several TV viewers who watched the NFL’s  New England Patriots-Green Bay Packers made official complaints to the Federal Communications Commission because they could see Patriots quarterback Tom Brady saying “fuck” repeatedly on the sidelines in frustration over his own play.  They couldn’t hear it, mind you: they were just able to read his lips. This was so horrible that they felt that the Federal government needed to investigate and take remedial action.

One complaint was from an Indianapolis parent who wrote that their “6 year old children know how to read lips.” Another was from a Pennsylvania grandparent who complained to the FCC,  “My 8 year old grandson was watching the game with me and even commented that he should not have said that.”

The Horror. Law professor Jonathan Turley opined on his blog,  “I do not believe that this was a good thing for a NFL QB to be doing.” Well, sure: he should be picking his nose of grabbing his crotch, either, but this isn’t scripted, and its a football game.  The whistle has to be blown for Federal retribution for mouthed obscenities to nobody in particular, as these sensitive parents and grandparents happily allow their delicate charges to cheer men in the process of maiming themselves and risking that their children will be changing their fathers’ diapers in the disturbingly near future?

The really frightening thing is that our regulatory morass encourages such attempts at censorship. Continue reading

Election Ethics Catch 22: The Necessary And Destructive Lie

Unrecorded Custer quote that he probably said: "Don't worry, men! I believe we will win!"

Unrecorded Custer quote that he probably said: “Don’t worry, men! I believe we will win!”

In the last 48 hours, both Joe Biden and Democratic Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz told interviewer on national television, and thus the American public, that the Democrats would hold the Senate in tomorrow’s elections. Literally nobody believes this. News reports abound that Democratic pollsters and consultants don’t believe this. Polls show that Democrats are in for an epic clobbering that will give Republicans control of both Houses of Congress. Is there a chance this won’t come to pass? Sure there is: that why we cast real votes. But there is a big difference between “I hope our party holds the Senate” or “I think if everyone gets out and votes, we can hold the Senate,” and “We will hold the Senate.” The latter means “I honestly believe we will hold the Senate.” In context, it is either a statement of ignorance and delusion, or a lie.

Now with the track record of Biden and Schultz, one can never be certain that they aren’t delusional, but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are lying. (They have track records in that area as well.) They are lying because they don’t really believe what they are saying, but feel they have no choice. This is the Underdog’s Dilemma. If anyone is going to care about a contest, neither competitor can concede or admit that it’s a hopeless mismatch. This is especially true for the leaders of  a team facing near certain defeat, and perhaps more true even in politics than in sports. Even when defeat seems inevitable, a candidate or his or her party’s leaders can’t admit it. Why would anyone bother to come out and vote when the object of the vote admits it’s a waste of time? The integrity of the system demands that the myth that anything can happen is kept alive until the final vote is counted. Sometimes, as we all know, the impossible upset happens. Truman defeats Dewey. Eric Cantor, a Republican heavyweight whose polls show him waltzing to re-election, gets beaten in the primary by some guy nobody ever heard of. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: Vice-President Biden (No, Not THAT Unethical Quote!)

 “I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security. I flat guarantee you.”

—-Vice President Joe Biden, in reply to a supporter at a campaign stop in southern Virgina who told him,  “I’m glad you all are not talking about doing anything with Social Security.”

I know this feels like “Pick on Poor Joe Biden Week” at Ethics Alarms, but everyone has a lot of catching up to do in that regard.

The Washington Post picked up on the above quote by Biden, which it made the subject of an editorial and pronounced “depressing.” It is more than depressing, but then, the Post has to protect Democrats even when they prove themselves irresponsible or dishonest, as Biden does with this “guarantee.” As the Post quite accurately points out, Social Security is going broke, its trustees have called for immediate reforms, and the longer the government waits to do what is needed, the harder it is going to be to do it. Biden, however, and presumably his superior, President Obama, apparently believes that either refusing to take the steps that are essential to prevent a Social Security meltdown or lying to the public about the fact that they will have to take them is preferable to the alternative: responsible fiscal policy and governance and leveling with the public. Critics can scream about the broken system, economists can repeat the math, op-ed writers can warn against constantly “kicking the can down the road” until, like Greece and other profligate and incompetent societies, there is no more road, but if our leaders refuse to show political courage and do their duty, the U.S. has a guarantee, all right—a guarantee of future fiscal catastrophe. That’s okey-dokey with politicians like Biden however. He doesn’t need Social Security, and besides, he’ll be happily drooling in Madam Kluck’s Home for the Bewildered by then. Based on his recent conduct, maybe sooner than he thinks. Continue reading

Ethics Heroes: Doug Wilder and Artur Davis


Like everyone else, Doug Wilder knows what ““they’re going to put y’all back in chains” meant. Unlike most Democrats, he has the integrity to admit it.

Democratic flacks and media mouthpieces for the Obama campaign have thoroughly disgraced themselves and insulted the intelligence of the American public by twisting words and logic to argue that Joe Biden’s “put y’all back in chains” rhetoric was something other than the divisive race-baiting it was. Eventually, in such episodes of lock-step partisan dissembling, there are a noble and courageous few who refuse to go along, and black leaders Artur Davis, a co-chair of President Obama’s 2008 campaign, and Doug Wilder, the first African-American governor (of Virginia, where Biden made his comments) have stepped to the fore. Continue reading

Joe Biden’s Ethics Catch-22

OK, we get it: he’s an idiot. But why is he Vice-President?

Speaking to a large crowd in Virginia estimated to be about 40% African-American, Vice-President Joe Biden proclaimed that “Romney wants to, he said in the first 100 days, he’s gonna let the big banks again write their own rules — unchain Wall Street. They’re going to put y’all back in chains.”

Telling an audience of blacks that the other Presidential candidate and his party plans to put them back in chains is unequivocally dirty campaigning, race-baiting, divisive, and uncivil, the precise kind of campaigning that Barack Obama swore that he would deliver us from in 2008. Now the Obama campaign, as well as his Administration, has embraced divisiveness as a primary strategy, and outrageous scaremongering with a racial bite is also consistent with the current principle-free attack mode by the Democrats, which has included accusing Mitt Romney of being a felon, a tax-evader and a murderer.

Yet the media line on the Biden speech is that “Republicans” have screamed foul. A Vice-President of the United States, running for re-election with an African-American President, telling black Americans that the opposition plans to put them back in chains? Why are just Republicans screaming foul? Why isn’t every decent Democrat, progressive, reporter, pundit and member of the public screaming foul? Is this really what they all consider appropriate, honest, respectful and civil campaigning for the highest offices in the land, by one of the occupants of those offices? Continue reading

Solyndra, the White House, and the Most Dangerous Conflict of Interest of All

It isn’t a Republican or a Democratic Party problem, and it isn’t unique to the Obama Administration. It is a structural problem in American government, a conflict of interest that pits the best interests of the American people against the political interests of the party in power. The only solution to the problem, since it is here to stay, is leaders who acknowledge the conflict, are dedicated to doing the right thing anyway, and have the courage to demand that their staffs do likewise.

The Soyndra scandal shows that Barack Obama is not such a leader. That does not make him unique, but it is a serious ethical flaw nonetheless. Continue reading

Bin Laden Aftermath Ethics: Deadly Expediency and Incompetence at the Top

Psst! Joe! SHUT UP! You're killing people!

Secretary of Defense William Gates told a group of Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina that the Navy SEALs who took out Osama bin Laden were concerned about their safety and that of their families. And why wouldn’t they be? After all, the aftermath of Osama bin Laden’s death  exposed President Obama’s inner circle, not for the first time, as inept and reckless in the responsibilities and priorities of leadership.

Mere days after the successful raid on bin Laden’s compound, Vice President Biden spontaneously announced the name of one of the men in charge of the SEALs team at a fundraiser in Washington, saying, Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: White House Economic Adviser Austan Goolsbee

“The vice president was talking about the summer of recovery in reference to the Recovery Act, that you would see the creation of a series of infrastructure and other projects ramping up over the summer. And you did see that.”

White House Economic Advisor Austan Goolsby, when asked on “Fox New Sunday” about Vice President Biden’s proclamation in June that this would be “the summer of recovery”—a predication that has fallen embarrassingly flat, and that sounded rash and even silly at the time.

Of course, nobody but nobody really believes that Biden wasn’t talking about jobs when called this the “summer of recovery.” Continue reading