Obamacare’s Epitaph: “Live By The Rationalization, Die By The Rationalization”

obamacare-gravestoneRemember in 2010, when the Democrats ensured that the Affordable Care Act would clear its final hurdle to passage this way?

Democrats will finish their health reform efforts within the next two months by using a majority-vote maneuver in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. Reid said that congressional Democrats would likely opt for a procedural tactic in the Senate allowing the upper chamber to make final changes to its healthcare bill with only a simple majority of senators, instead of the 60 it takes to normally end a filibuster.The move would allow Democrats to essentially go it alone on health reform, especially after losing their fillibuster-proof majority in the Senate after Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) special election victory in Massachusetts.

Republicans have protested the maneuver as a hyperpartisan tactic to ram through a health bill, and have said that plans to use the reconciliation process make moot a bipartisan summit at the White House this week, where both GOP and Democratic leaders are supposed to present their ideas on healthcare.

At the time, Republicans, as is their wont, over-stated their objections to the maneuver, calling it unconstitutional and a breach of rules. No, it wasn’t quite that, nor was it as unusual as the GOP claimed. It was within Senate rules, but still the first time it was ever used to amend a bill that had already passed the Senate via cloture, and under such contentious circumstances.  Reconciliation was legal, all right, but since the Affordable Care Act was so revolutionary and controversial, its passage needed to be seen as democratic, and it wasn’t. Democrats ignored the Golden Rule, and extended the acceptable use of reconciliation by using a number of rationalizations, as well as “the ends justify the means.”

Let’s see: “Everybody Does It” wouldn’t work, because the problem with using reconciliation was that everybody didn’t do it, at least not very often.  So Democrats opted for 13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”23. Woody’s Excuse: “The heart wants what the heart wants”#24. Juror 3’s Stand (“It’s My Right!”)25. The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice!”28. The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times.”31. The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now” 40. The Desperation Dodge or “I’ll do anything!”59. The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do”…and perhaps a few other rationalizations on the list. Continue reading

The 69th Rationalization: The Patsy’s Rebuke, or “It’s Not My Fault That You’re Stupid!”

Ethics Alarms Rationalization 36 B, The Patsy’s Rebuke, or “It’s not my fault that you’re stupid!”closes a yawning loophole in the Victim Blindness rationalization set on the Ethics Alarms list.

Rationalization #36, Victim Blindness,  holds that a purveyor of unethical conduct should be exonerated if his victim “asked for” mistreatment or should have taken affirmative steps to avoid it, and #36 A, The Extortionist’s Absolution, holds that when there were sufficient warnings that a victim was at risk, that victim can’t complain about results he could have and should have avoided.  The newly minted rationalization, the 69th  on the list overall,  covers the related but distinct situation where deception, fraud or misrepresentation would be “obvious” to a perceptive, intelligent, educated individual, so nobody but the victim of that deception is blameworthy.

This was brought to my attention by a reader who raised the situation where statistics that may be technically accurate are used by activists to confuse, deceive, or mislead people who are either not sufficiently well-trained in math and statistics, or not adept at critical thinking. In this, The Patsy’s Rebuke has a kinship with #29 (a), The Gruber Variation, or “They are too stupid to know what’s good for them.’

Politicians, policy advocates, scientists, academics, lawyers and doctors, among others, all are prone to using 36 B to justify their adoption of deceit and obfuscation to accomplish their ends. Lawyers use jargon to sound authoritative and obscure meaning from laymen. Policy advocates quote statistics to “prove” what the numbers really don’t prove, counting on the inability of the trusting, inattentive, ignorant and gullible to see the flaws as insulation against rebuttal. By the lights of  The Patsy’s Rebuke, for example, making the false assertion that Hillary Clinton is the most experienced Presidential candidate ever can be rationalized by arguing, “Hey, that’s my opinion. I personally think being First Lady counts more than any other experience, and was counting it double. It’s not my fault that you are ignorant of Presidential history and too dumb to know how to google the experience of other candidates. I’m not trying to deceive anyone; I assume my readers are educated and informed.”

That’s a lie, of course. Advocates use statistics, falsity, jargon and ambiguity with the assumption, sadly justified, that most listeners and readers are both overly trusting and lacking in the training and acumen to know when they are being manipulated. If anyone is misled—and the intent is to mislead them— it’s their own fault for being stupid, lazy and ignorant.

It is not, however. Politicians, policy advocates, scientists, academics, lawyers and the rest have an ethical obligation to recognize the abilities of their likely audience (including those who will relay or interpret it, like the news media), and make their meaning as clear, direct and unambiguous as possible.

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Pointer: Zoltar Speaks!

Bernie Sanders Fails An Integrity Test…and Worse

Sanders protest

At the conclusion of yesterday’s post in reaction to the violent protests in Chicago that shut down a planned Donald Trump rally, I wrote, as my final observation…

8. Ethics test: Let’s see if Bernie Sanders, without prompting,  has the integrity to condemn the conduct of his fervent fans.

My guess?

No.

Well.

Bernie Sanders has escaped much scrutiny of his character thus far, in a crowd of frighteningly flawed competitors. He’s not as corrupt or dishonest as Clinton, nor as ruthless as Cruz, nor as weak as Rubio, nor lacking any redeeming qualities of character at all,  like Donald Trump. Here, however, Berrnie betrays the moral rot of the leftist revolutionary, willing to excuse violence to overturn the established order for “the greater good.” We saw this during the last Democratic debate, in which he refused to condemn the Castro regime in Cuba nor repudiate his past praise of Fidel’s accomplishments.  Hillary Clinton, given an under-hand soft-ball pitch to hit out of the park, swung from then heels and launched it into the stands:

“You know, if the values are that you oppress people, you disappear, you imprison people, even kill people, for expressing their opinions … that is not the kind of revolution of values that I ever want to see anywhere.”

Bingo. But Bernie Sanders, like the Communist totalitarians he admires for their health care and distribution of wealth, is willing to put up with some violence to achieve his revolution, and he proved it here. Abetted in some respects by the biased news media that were thrilled to blame an example of violence squelching political speech on the victim rather than the true offenders—because they don’t like the victim, you see, and if journalists and pundits don’t like someone, they discard the basic standards of decency and fairness that they will rush to demand for their political favorites—Sanders released a telling defense of the actions of his supporters, even though his supporters had admitted their deliberate mounting of a near riot to silence Trump: Continue reading

Rationalization # 35: Victim Blindness, or “They/He/She/ You should have seen it coming.”

"Yup, should have seen THIS coming..."

“Yup, should have seen THIS coming…”

Mark Draughn, who blogs at Windypundit, proposed this latest addition to the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations list,  after I forgot to add it to the list in December 2012, when it was first proposed by reader Dwayne Zechman. It is an excellent one, and both Dwayne and Mark deserve the credit for it.

Asserting the rationalization of Victim Blindness attempts to shift responsibility for wrongdoing to the victims of it, who, the theory goes, should have known that their actions would inspire the conduct that caused them harm, and thus they should have either avoided doing what sparked the unethical response, or by not doing so waived their right to object to it. This is closely related to a sub-category of #7, The Tit-For-Tat Excuse, which holds that one party’s unethical conduct justifies similar unethical conduct in return. The sub-category is “They asked for it.” Victim Blindness is similar, but it applies even greater responsibility to victims: whether they asked for it or not, they should have known their actions would be met with this unethical response, and their ignorance,  carelessness or stupidity constitutes a waiver of ethics. Continue reading