Category Archives: Professions

More Cultural Bulldozing: Political Correctness Gets H.P. Lovecraft, Woodrow Wilson Of The Geeks

The bust says it all...

The bust says it all…

Really bad and dangerous ideas take hold and thrive because, like a particularly deadly virus, they pop up in so many places at once, especially dark corners and exotic locals. The current progressive contagion of airbrushing history, toppling icons and cultural bulldozing–one of several  habits of successful totalitarians being embraced by the left these days—is such an idea. As usual, defenders of this thought-inhibiting and unjust practice behave as if it is the epitome of common sense and virtue, when in truth it is the  opposite.

To the credit of the followers of the World Fantasy Award (for literature in the fantasy an horror field), the administrators’ decision to cave to political correctness and retire an H. P. Lovecraft bust (designed by black humor cartoonist Gahan Wilson) as its symbol—H.P. was like, Woodrow Wilson, a white, Western culture supremacist —was not met with universal approval. Nonetheless the Award’s head honchos did it.

They did it to mollify the social justice zealots in the organization’s midst, who insisted on sending the message that currently non-conforming ideas and beliefs should be punished decades or even centuries later by pretending that legitimate and important contributions to art, politics, science and civilization didn’t exist, if the man or woman involved stepped across a political correctness line that didn’t exist when it was stepped over. All it takes to justify eradicating any honor, recognition or symbol of cultural gratitude is for a major historical figure in any field to have been shown to have engaged in, thought about (or consorted with those who engaged in or thought about) practices that the current culture, with assistance of many years of debate and experience that the toppled never had, now finds misguided, objectionable, offensive or wrong.

The proper punishment for this retroactive crime, these spiritual brethren of Stalin believe, is banishment, rejection and shame in the very field where the individual’s positive accomplishments reside. This is necessary to keep future generations from being influenced by ideas that might trigger discomfort among true believers of the official creed.

Thus, reason doctrinaire Princeton kids who have figured out The Great Truths at their tender age, Woodrow Wilson’s major contributions of strengthening and burnishing the name of the college, leading the United States for two terms, including through a world war, and devising the concept of the United Nations, no longer warrant respect and memorial, because he was, like so many other Southerners of his time, an unapologetic white supremacist. Of course, so was Abraham Lincoln and much of the nation, but that cuts no ice with the practitioners of merciless presentism. It isn’t just the views of the long dead that are being punished, you see. It’s a warning to non-conforming thinkers alive yet. Watch out! it says. Your thoughts, inspirations and ideas are impure and wrong, and you are still vulnerable to real punishment, not just the post-mortem fate of being defiled and forgotten. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Literature, Popular Culture, Professions, Race

Unethical Judge Of The Month, But Not For What You May Think

ShatteredGavelShortly after the the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, Utah began placing foster children with same-sex couples. An 8-month-old girl was placed in August with Rebecca A. Peirce, 34, and April M. Hoagland, 38, who are married and live near  Salt Lake City with Peirce’s two biological children.

The couple hoped to eventually adopt the child, but during what was supposed to be a routine hearing on the foster parent arrangement the juvenile court judge, Scott Johansen, issued an order that the baby be taken from them and given to a heterosexual couple so that she could be raised in a home with heterosexual parents. As his justification, Judge Johansen said that research he had seen indicated that children  do better in heterosexual homes. The order cited the court’s “belief that research has shown that children are more emotionally and mentally stable when raised by a mother and father in the same home.” There have indeed been studies that support that position, but they have been sharply criticized by social scientists. Continue reading


Filed under Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

Desperately Seeking A Justification For The Unjustifiable Mizzou Meltdown, And Failing


Yesterday, the Washington Post’s Janelle Moss, an African American issues columnist, presented an aggressive, dishonest and insulting justification for the destructive black student protests at the University of Missouri. In an earlier essay, I described them as an “I’m mad at the world and somebody has to pay for it” tantrum. I’m sticking by that description, despite the ennobling spin being put on it by apologists, many of whom are trying to blunt the damage being done to civil rights advocacy by the events of the last several days.

[N]owhere in this still-young week has there been a better example of the tension between the conservative and liberal views of race and the politics around it than behind the podium where University of Missouri President Timothy M. Wolfe stood and resigned Monday,” she wrote.  This is setting up Wolfe’s speech as a straw man. He was forced to resign, and ordered to do it without making matters worse. He was also protecting himself, and, I believe, was a weak and inept leader. How nice to be able to take a hastily written statement by such a dubious representative of any group and declare it the exemplar of “conservative views on race.”

Moss’s introduction was smoking gun proof that this was an example of an advocate picking out evidence to support what she already was committed to supporting, and atrocious evidence at that.

“The Fix is aware that some Americans are inclined to reject, outright, the idea that some words — those that we choose to express our ideas, what we say at critical moments and that which we do not mention — have deeper, often multi-layered meaning, ” she writes.  I don’t know what she thinks she is saying. “Many Americans” reject the idea that words have meaning? “Multi-layered” meanings? Who? Who believes that? What she is trying to do is to justify her next “proof,” which is junk science.

She consulted two minority social scientists, who have clear biases of their own (but coincidentally aligned with hers)  to psychoanalyze what Wolfe said in resigning, and allowing her to use their self-serving diagnosis (one has a book out about “dog-whistle” racism; the other makes his living writing and teaching about how racist the U.S. is) of a short and quickly composed speech to read not just Wolfe’s thoughts but to attribute them to all “conservatives.” The result is, or should be embarrassing. Continue reading


Filed under Education, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Professions, Race, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

One Ethics Observation On The Fox Business-WSJ Republican Candidates’ Debate.

debate GOP

That was  professional,  unbiased, fair debate moderation.

Maria Bartiromo, Gerard Baker and Neil Cavuto made it look easy.

This should be a template for all future debates in either party, and between the eventual nominees.

And bravo to Neil Cavuto for his mild, pointed and well-deserved shot at his predecessors at CNBC in closing For once, a debate was about the candidates and not the moderators.

May it always be thus.


Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Professions

Ben Carson’s Stories


The prevailing political foofaraw right now involves Ben Carson’s account, in his 1990 autobiography, regarding a phantom “offer” to attend West Point. Before some analysis, a word or two..

Ben Carson has no business running for President. His supporters are irresponsible and deluded. I was just on WGAN (Maine) on Arthur King’s show, and Carson was discussed. A Carson supporting caller took issue with my statement that he was flat out unqualified for office whatever had been said to him about West Point, and protested that he was a brilliant surgeon, and successfully managed his surgical team. We ran out of time, and I didn’t get to say, “So what?” Is Ned Yost a potential President because he successfully managed a baseball team to a World Series victory? Yost’s training and experience have as much correlation to political leadership as Carson’s, and arguably more. Carson has no qualifications for high office. He is easily the least qualified candidate in either field, with no management experience, no political talents, weak speaking skills, negligible presence, irrelevant education and training, and terrible political instincts. You could throw a rutabaga  into a crowd and have a good chance of hitting someone who would be a more promising President.

Wrote J. Christian Adams succinctly about the current controversy,

“[T]he incident reveals a recurring and perhaps unrecoverable trait of candidate Carson.  He just doesn’t seem to know what he is talking about, whether it be Cuba, the Voting Rights Act, or how West Point works.”

Yes, and that too.

So if this typical example of the news media blowing a relatively minor incident out of proportion because a Republican poses a threat to Democratic domination should result in Carson’s demise, good. Something has to. It is wrong, another example the double standard we are all used to; and the news media should be called on it hard. Still, if it ends the embarrassing distraction that is Ben Carson, I’m not weeping. The ends don’t justify unethical means, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy the ends anyway.

Let us pretend that Carson is a competent, qualified and deserving candidate for President, just to try to strip the bias away. How significant and serious are Carson’s various misrepresentations?

These all arise from what Carson wrote about his youth and early years in 1990, 25 years ago, when running for President wasn’t a twinkle in his eye. He…heck, we can’t pretend, because a competent candidate would be smart and experienced enough to say,

“You know, I didn’t expect anyone to read the book, I wrote most of it off the top of my head, my memory was faulty, I didn’t check the facts and I should have. The West Point story is typical. To me, it sounded like I was being told that I could get into West Point if I wanted to, and that I wouldn’t have to pay tuition, which to me meant a scholarship. I wasn’t trying to fool anybody then or now. I’m sorry. I’ve learned a lot in 25 years. I know most of our personal memories are distorted over time, and cannot be relied upon; mistakes like these turn up to varying degrees in all personal accounts. Bill Clinton says he remembered lots of church burning in Arkansas when he was growing up. Hillary Clinton said she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary, who didn’t become famous for climbing Mount Everest until six years after was born. The difference between my memory flawa and theirs was that mine can’t be attributed to political dissembling. Next question.”

If he had said that, then his other statements that didn’t check out could be explained the same way, and reasonably so. Instead, Carson and his defenders are denying, accusing, double-talking and parsing words like the Clintons. This is foolish because

I) Carson’s not as practiced at it as the Clintons,

2) …The truth is always better, and,

3) Unlike when the Clintons lie, most of the news media are looking for justifications to destroy him as it did Herman Cain. Reporters do not want to not be fair or reasonable with Carson, and certainly not complicit in deception as regularly is for Hillary. Continue reading


Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Professions

My Bi-Annual Typo Apology


I just decided to go over recent posts to catch typos until I hit one of them that had none. That took six typo-riddled posts, so now I’m taking a break and beating my head against the wall.

Typos here have been more quickly addressed this year than before, because kind and sharp-eyed reader SamePenn has been checking for them with his proof-reading super-power and quickly alerting me. Unfortunately, I’m about 20 posts behind in fixing the typos he flagged. That’s all my fault: this is the ProEthics crunch time, I’m traveling or speaking a lot, there are a lot of important ethics issues to cover, both of my computers are having issues, and most of all, I am handicapped by a lifetime inability to type or spell. When I’m juggling too many things at once, it gets worse

Believe me, I know: this is publishing, the issues are important, and typos are unprofessional, undermining the credibility and persuasiveness of everything I write. One reason I enjoy Prof. Jonathan Turley’s blog is that he has almost as many typos as I do.  It makes me feel a little better.

I apologize to all of you. It will continue to be a struggle, but I promise that I  am not unaware of the problem, or minimizing its importance.


Filed under Journalism & Media, Professions

The Unlikely Ethics Dunce, And Why Nobody Pays Attention To Ethicists And I Don’t Blame Them

Wait, how can the nation's most famous ethicist be an Ethics Dunce? It's not easy...

Wait, how can the nation’s most famous ethicist be an Ethics Dunce? It’s not easy…

Ethicists have managed to make ethics nearly invisible in our cultural debates, and nearly useless as a decision-making tool, when it ought to be the most useful tool of all. They accomplished this over centuries of work, making the discipline of ethics abstruse, elitist, abstract, and worse of all, boring. Nobody should be bored with ethics, hence my statement, “Ethics isn’t boring, ethicists are.” Once ethics was pigeon-holed in the realm of philosophy, however (it belongs with “crucial life skills” and “critical thinking”) and philosophy became associated with scholarship, advanced degrees and academia, the jig was up.

The problem is that academic ethicists teach and write about abstract ethics, and life is not abstract. Their quest is for one formula to determine right from wrong, and life and human beings are more complicated than any one formula can encompass. When I started this blog, I got a lot of grad students writing me who demanded to know whether I was a Utilitarian,  Kantian Deontologist, a follower of Natural Law Ethics,  a Virtue Ethicist or a devotee of Stakeholder theory. My answer was “all of the above and none of them.” All of these and more are useful tools of analysis, but none work all the time, and the amount of words loaded into jargon to explain and debate the nuances of any of them render them all useless except for  writing scholarly papers.

The ethics that the public learns, as a result, are what pop culture and society teach them, and most of that isn’t ethics at all. For example, in the cable series “The Affair,” a well-educated older man was advising a young woman, the mistress in the affair, about how to think about the illicit relationship that broke up he lover’s marriage. Wise and thoughtful, he described his own adulterous affair, and then said, “What you did wasn’t wrong. You didn’t kill anybody. You didn’t break any laws.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.”  There is no ethics in that statement. Itis just employs two popular and facile rationalizations (#4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical,” and #22, the worst of all, #22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”) with another lurking but unspoken one, the Cheater’s Special, #23. Woody’s Excuse: “The heart wants what the heart wants,’ underlying the whole scene.

That’s ethics, I would guess, to about 90% of the population. Scary. This is, however, where ethicists have taken us. They could be so important to the culture, if they would get their heads out of their asinine models and explain ethical principles that are relevant to real lives in a manner that doesn’t make normal people become hostile to the subject.

This brings us to Peter Singer, Princeton’s acclaimed professor of bioethics who has been called the most influential ethicist alive. It is admittedly faint praise, but probably correct. Continue reading


Filed under Bioethics, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Health and Medicine, Professions