Category Archives: History

Ethics Film of the Year: “Spotlight”

No spoiler alerts necessary; I’m not going to say much about the film’s plot. Just go see it.

Sure, I was predisposed to like “Spotlight.” It’s about Boston, my home town; Fenway Park even appears in it, Red Sox and all.  I had also followed the unfolding Catholic Church sexual molestation scandal there that the Boston Globe broke in 2002. This was the Globe’s momentous investigative journalism series which showed the extent to which high-ranking Church officials allowed child predator priests to continue harming trusting kids, as the Church paid for confidential settlements to victims and transferred the criminal priests to other parishes, where they could, and did, strike again. “Spotlight” tells the story of how a group of Globe editors and reporters finally exposed a local conspiracy of corruption that spread across institutions and professions, and that pointed to a world-wide scandal that still haunts the Catholic Church today.

It’s a better ethics movie than “All The President’s Men,” to which it will inevitably be compared. Whether it’s a better movie or not is a matter of taste. (I liked it better.) Where the movie really shines, however, is how it raises so many of the ethics issues we routinely cover here, such as…

  • Legal ethics: the duty of lawyers to represent clients, confidentiality, and when, if ever, human ethics require the breaching of professional ethics.
  • Ethics corruptors, and what happens when admired, trusted and powerful people and institutions require their followers to show their loyalty by ignoring, rationalizing or covering up wrongful acts.
  • Journalism ethics: the business of journalism’s conflict with the duty of journalists to find and publicize the truth; how ambition, personal biases and non-professional concerns can warp perspective and performance
  • Ethics and religion, hypocrisy, and the institutional utilitarian choice to protect the whole when it means sacrificing individuals
  • Rationalizations, including the Saint’s Excuse and the King’s Pass, in which prominence and “good deeds” seem to justify double standards.
  • Hindsight bias, Moral luck, and more.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

Ethics Quiz: Ann Rice O’Hanlon’s Fresco


In 1934, under the auspices of the New Deal’s Public Works of Art program, artist Ann Rice O’Hanlon painted a fresco (the largest ever painted by a woman up to that time) in the University of Kentucky’s Memorial Hall. It has become famous and is much admired by art historians, and thousands of Kentucky students have walked past it through the decades. The large, six section artwork depicts many events, industries, traditions and activities that were significant to the state, invented in Kentucky or by Kentuckians, as well as historical events. Among the scenes shown are black slaves picking tobacco and black musicians serenading whites.

Ann Rice O’Hanlon’s masterpiece became the target of choice at Kentucky as the University ‘s black students were seeking to emulate the power plays by their equivalents at the University of Missouri, Yale, Amherst, Harvard Law, Dartmouth and other institutions. The Kentucky students held a meeting with president Eli Capilouto and argued that the fresco was offensive, as it relegated black people to roles as slaves or servants, and did not portray the cruelty of slavery and the later Jim Crow culture that existed in the state.  Capilouto capitulated, agreeing to move the work to “a more appropriate location.” In the meantime, Kentucky will cover up the 45-by-8-foot fresco while adding a sign explaining why the mural is obscured.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is this:

Should a university remove works of art on campus because particular groups of students or individual members of such groups find the artwork upsetting, offensive, or a negative influence on their experience?

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, History, Leadership, Race, U.S. Society

From Princeton, Something To Be Thankful For: The Princeton Open Campus Coalition


If the  plague of students ordering administrators to protect them from the stress of contrary views and unwelcome thoughts on campuses is not to reduce the U.S. academic environment to an apartheid, indoctrinating disgrace, it is obviously going to have to be the rational side of the student populations that staves off disaster. Fortunately, the Princeton Ethics Heroes Allie Burton, Evan Draim, Josh Freeman, Sofia Gallo,  Solveig Gold, Andy Loo, Sebastian Marotta,  Devon Naftzger, Beni Snow, Josh Zuckerman and their colleagues at Princeton Open Campus Coalition are equal to the task.

The students covered their institution in glory by delivering this civil and well-reasoned rebuke to the outrageous demands of the Black Justice League, which occupied Princeton administration building earlier this week. Here is their letter:

Dear President Eisgruber,

We write on behalf of the Princeton Open Campus Coalition to request a meeting with you so that we may present our perspectives on the events of recent weeks. We are concerned mainly with the importance of preserving an intellectual culture in which all members of the Princeton community feel free to engage in civil discussion and to express their convictions without fear of being subjected to intimidation or abuse.

Thanks to recent polls, surveys, and petitions, we have reason to believe that our concerns are shared by a majority of our fellow Princeton undergraduates. Academic discourse consists of reasoned arguments. We simply wish to present our own reasoned arguments and engage you and other senior administrators in dialogue. We will not occupy your office, and, though we respectfully request a minimum of an hour of your time, we will only stay for as long as you wish. We will conduct ourselves in the civil manner that is our hope to maintain and reinforce as the norm at Princeton. Continue reading


Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, History, Leadership, Race, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “Hoping That Future Presidential Candidates Won’t Be Asked About Whether They Would Kill Baby Trump”


Let’s get the day off to a light-hearted beginning, since it is sure to go rapidly downhill.

I love this comment by Ethics Alarms’ favorite squid, Extradimensional Cephalopod. I wish I had written it, and in fact started out to do so during the brief outbreak of Republican Presidential candidates being asked by silly reporters looking for a “gotcha!” whether they would murder Baby Adolf Hitler if they could go back in time. It is an ethics question, after all. My idea was to speculate on the possible results of such a mission using pop culture, science fiction and serious physics theories, but I rapidly discovered that a lot of research would be necessary, and the ethics nexus was deteriorating quickly. Thus I was thrilled to see EC boldly go where my boldness had failed me.

Here is Extradimensional Cephalopod’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Hoping That Future Presidential Candidates Won’t Be Asked About Whether They Would Kill Baby Trump.”

[I do have one question: is “Back to the Future” now the favored label for the category of time travel story where someone changes the future by altering the past? Not “The Terminator” or Star Trek’s “City on the Edge of Forever”? In “Back to the Future II”, we are told that altering the past creates a parallel alternate future, which I assume means that killing Baby Hitler just means that Hitler goes on his merry way, except in the new, improved, no-Hitler parallel universe. Come to think of it, “The Terminator” movies, last I checked (but I dropped out two sequels and a TV spin-off ago), suggested that the future can’t be changed, though those robots in Future Hell seem to think so.  Right?

See, this is why I gave up the first time. Heeeeeeeeere’s Extradimensional Cephalopod! Continue reading


Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, History, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Science & Technology

And The Michele Bachmann Memorial Award For The Most Disqualifying Ignorance Of American History Demonstrated By A Republican Presidential Candidate Goes To….


Ben Carson, of course!

WARNING: the next person who tells me that Ben Carson must be intelligent because he separated conjoined twins is going to get a punch in the mouth, unethical or not.

The award is named for Bachmann because she repeatedly mangled American history on the way to becoming the 2012 Republican Presidential hopeful who most embarrassed her party, her gender, her species, bipeds,  and the American educational system. On the way to losing all respect, credibility and the nomination, Bachmann told her cheering, stupid crowds that the “shot heard round the world” was in New Hampshire, and that John Quincy Adams, a little boy in 1776, was a Founding Father. (Bachmann also confused John Wayne with John Wayne Gacy, the serial child killer, and I’m not forgiving that, either.)

Believe it or not, Carson’s award winning statement is worse. Yesterday,on C-SPAN, he said this in his usual inspiring eyes half closed, lips barely moving, droning delivery, when he was asked which of the Founders most impressed him:

“I’m impressed by a lot of them, but particularly impressed with Thomas Jefferson, who seemed to have very deep insight into the way that people would react. And he tried to craft our Constitution in a way that it would control people’s natural tendencies and control the natural growth of the government.”

No, that’s not a slip of the tongue. He specifically mentions Jefferson, and he was not talking about the Declaration but the Constitution, with which Tom had nothing to do—he didn’t write it,he didn’t sign it, and he wasn’t at the Convention.

Dr. Carson’s ignorant, he’s faking it, and he’s an idiot…just like Bachmann, who graduated from law school, remember.

Carson hasn’t bothered to acquire the basic knowledge of his country necessary to become an American citizen, much less to presume to lead  it.

When I interviewed for a job, I made sure that I knew the basics about the company or organization I was attempting to join, because that demonstrated that I was serious and responsible, and at least had a threshold understanding of what my job might require. Carson would flunk a basic job interview, even without being scored down for his terrible presentation—you can’t look an interviewer in the eyes with your eyes closed.

Would it be unfair to require as a prerequisite of running for the leadership of a nation to be able to answer 5th grade-level questions about that nation’s history? You know…who was the first President? Which side won the Civil War? Who delivered the Gettysburg Address?

Which founding document did Thomas Jefferson write????

I don’t think that would be unfair at all.

Here Doctor, you arrogant disgrace, watch this (it’s videoed from a TV screen—tough), since you obviously never read a history book:





Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History

Airbrushing History, Again: If Woodrow Wilson Is At Risk, Can George Washington Be Far behind?


While Paris was bleeding, the predicted anti-white black student power play spread from its origins at Yale and the University of Missouri to 23 other campuses (so far). None of the new outbreaks of victim-mongering, black-dictated apartheid  and outrageous demands had any more justification than the Mizzou Meltdown, but they all entered the competition. Some highlights:

  • Amherst students demanded a crack-down on any free speech in the form of criticism of Black Lives Matters or the protest goals.
  • Dartmouth’s Black Lives Matters members roamed through the campus library, verbally assaulting white students attempting to study.
  • Smith College held a sit-in, and barred reporters-–the new breed of campus freedom-fighters just don’t like that pesky First Amendment—unless they promised to cover the protest positively. There’s one more school that doesn’t teach basic American rights and values….
  • Occidental College is in the middle of a me-too imitation of the Mizzou stunt, with students occupying a three-story administration building all this week, demanding that a series of actions ranging from racist to just unreasonable to oppressive, in the name of “safety” and “diversity”, of course. They are also insisting that President Jonathan Veitch resign. Predictably, the leftist faculty which helped make the students this way are fully supportive. Read the demands here; my favorites: demanding an increase in tenured black professors and black doctors (a racist demand: there is no mention of ability; color is enough); funding for the student group for black men, which is racist and counter-diverse by definition; and “elimination of military and police rhetoric from all documents and daily discourse.”

Freedom of speech is so passe.

  • The crazy is getting stronger: The University of Vermont-–from the lands where Bernie Sanders roams— hosted a three-day retreat for students who “self-identify as white,” called  “Examining White Privilege: A Retreat for Undergraduate Students Who Self-Identify as White.”  The goal was to give students “the opportunity” to “conceptualize and articulate whiteness from a personal and systemic lens”  and “recognize and understand white privilege from an individual experience.” This, I submit, has absolutely nothing to do with education, and everything to do with self-obsession and narcissism.

Ah, but my favorite is Princeton, which finding itself third among its fellow Ivies (as usual), this time in concocting an embarrassing and offensive student protest, decided to go for broke.This week, members of the Black Justice League walked out of class and occupied the building that houses the Princeton administration’s offices. They demanded that the school reject “the racist legacy of Woodrow Wilson,” formerly president of Princeton before becoming a President of the United States and Democratic Party icon, by removing his name from anything bearing it. They also demanded “cultural competency training” for Princeton professors and assistants (that is, forced re-education and ideological brainwashing, academia style) teaching at Princeton, courses on the “history of marginalized people,” that is, approved leftist narratives, and  the setting aside of public spaceto be  restricted to the use and enjoyment of black students only, which is properly called self-segregation and racist exclusion.

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Filed under Citizenship, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Race, Rights, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunces: University Of Minnesota Student Government

Let's agree to forget the whole thing. Might hurt someone's feelings.

Let’s agree to forget the whole thing. Might hurt someone’s feelings.

As the Political Correctness Amuck/Microaggression/ Racial Trust Breakdown/Free Speech Rejection Higher Education Breakdown continues to spread (I’ve GOT to come up with a snappier name), we are beginning to see the full, ugly results of paying exorbitant fees to have our children indoctrinated by arrogant, leftist, un-American pedants.

The latest symptom: the Minnesota Student Association, which is  the undergraduate student government at the University of Minnesota, rejected a resolution for a moment of recognition on future anniversaries of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The reason, according to the principle student advocate against the resolution, was that remembering the date 9/11  “is often used as reasoning for Islamophobia that takes both physical and verbal forms. The passing of this resolution might make a space that is unsafe for students on campus even more unsafe. Islamophobia and racism … are alive and well.”

Great. First it was punishing speech and thought. Now we need to censor history to make students feel “safe.” Continue reading


Filed under Character, Citizenship, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, History, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society, War and the Military