Tag Archives: George Will

Ethics Hero: Columnist George Will

George WillI just watched George Will stun the Fox News Sunday panel by arguing against virtually all conservative pundits by insisting that the U.S. should welcome the hoard of children being apprehended at the border as they accept the current Administration’s open invitation to illegal immigrants.

“We ought to say to these children, ‘Welcome to America, you’re going to go to school and get a job and become Americans,’” Will said. “We have 3,141 counties in this country. That would be 20 per county. The idea that we can’t assimilate these eight-year-old criminals with their teddy bears is preposterous.”

I think the policy that Will is advocating is foolish, wrong, and will continue to incentivize illegal immigration.Nonetheless, in giving his contrarian opinion Will demonstrated personal integrity, courage, and showed those who accuse him of being a knee-jerk mouthpiece for Republicans and conservatives that they are wrong. His independence from the right-wing echo chamber also encourages viewers to start thinking for themselves.

I pledge to give a matching Ethics Hero designation to the first liberal pundit who argues that the human weapons in this unethical “think of the children!” assault on our laws and sovereignty should be shipped home, thus demonstrating similar integrity and independence from progressive talking points.

I’m waiting.

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Graphic: Mediaite

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

The Campus Sexual Assault Witch Hunt Ethics Train Wreck, Complicated By The Fact That The Witches Are Real

"Wait...are you raping me, or am I raping you?"

“Wait…are you raping me, or am I raping you?”

There is no question that there are sexual predators on college campuses, or that some colleges let them get away with raps on the knuckles for sexual assault or worse. There is also little question, though various parties and activists deny it, that what constitutes genuine sexual assault and even rape has been so thoroughly politicized and muddled by irresponsible rhetoric, dubious statistics and cynical political maneuvering that addressing the problem of actual campus sexual assault is becoming impossible without harming, indeed destroying, the innocent in some cases.

At Stanford, women are rallying for a more stringent process and harsher punishment after student Leah Francis protested in an e-mail to the campus that she had been “forcibly raped” by a fellow student and he was permitted to graduate. Of course, Stanford didn’t find the she had been raped: her assailant was found guilty of sexual assault. The loose use of “rape” to describe sexual assault for political purposes is one of the reasons universities seem incapable of finding a satisfactory balance in handling such cases. At the risk of getting ahead of the post, I would say this: if it is alleged to be rape, then turn the matter over to the police and the justice system. Schools are not allowed to use internal procedures to investigate and punish murder; it makes no sense to permit them to do so with the serious crime of rape. The fact that the standards of proof and the requirements of due process are less stringent in a campus procedure is what simultaneously leads to inadequate sanctions for the guilty and railroading of the innocent. The solution to this problem has always been available: treat allegations of campus rape like any other kind of rape.

Unfortunately, colleges are often in thrall to the political agendas of feminists and their allies, so “rape” can mean many things, as can “sexual assault.” In the casual, morality-free sexual atmosphere now not merely tolerated but nurtured on college campuses, lines of consent are blurred, and missteps are inevitable. At the same time, the permissive sexual environment is a playground for predators, exploiters and manipulators. How are the genuinely culpable sexual assailants to be distinguished from the clumsy, the confused, the misled, or the drunk and overly aroused? Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, Romance and Relationships

Ethics Hero: Stanford Law Prof. Pamela Karlan, Pulling A McLuhan

One of the funniest moments in Woody Allen’s Academy Award-winning comedy “Annie Hall” is the classic scene in which Woody squelches a pompous know-it-all standing in line behind him at a movie theater. The man is holding forth on film criticism and finally begins pontificating on the theories of Marshall McCluhan, a Sixties media scholar most famous for the quote, “The media is the message.”  Woody acts out everyone’s fantasy who has had to listen to strangers blather on about topics they aren’t qualified to discuss by magically producing the real McCluhan to confront the man. “You know nothing of my work!,” McLuhan tells the shocked pedant.

Today Stanford law professor pulled a McCluhan on none other than George Will, who, she pointed out in a letter to the Washington Post, recently used her law review article to bolster his position by substantially misrepresenting—or misunderstanding–what it actually said:

“Mr. Will’s column distorted my Harvard Law Review article in details both large and small. Yes, the Framers of our Constitution intended to limit the federal government’s power to protect liberty. But they also crafted the new Constitution to empower the government to deal with critical problems. For much of our history, the Supreme Court recognized congressional resourcefulness as a source of our nation’s strength. By looking only to James Madison and 1787, Mr. Will ignored the post-Civil War 14th Amendment, which explicitly authorizes Congress to enforce guarantees of liberty and equality.

“As for my discussion of the court’s Citizens United ruling, I did not attack “spending by outside groups,” as Mr. Will wrote. Rather, I pointed out only that there has been a significant increase in such spending (much of it in forms that leave voters in the dark as to who bankrolled the messages they hear) and that reasonable people can disagree about whether this is good for democracy.

“Finally, for someone who prides himself on his linguistic precision, Mr. Will’s attack is particularly tone-deaf. “Disdain” means “scorn” or “contempt.” Nothing in my article expresses scorn or contempt for the court or for judicial review. I — like many other Americans, including some of their colleagues and many of their predecessors — simply disagree strongly with the approach some justices have taken and the conclusions they have reached in some recent cases.”

Take that, George! Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Heroes, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Research and Scholarship

The Ethics Attic: Notes From Around The Web

messy attic

[I'm still feeling lousy, so in an effort to conserve some energy while keeping the torch high, I'm presenting a few links that the ethics-minded might enjoy visiting. Normally I would write about some of these, so consider yourselves lucky.]

  • Historian Paul Finkleman delivers that harshest verdict yet on the hypocrisy of Thomas Jefferson regarding civil rights and slavery. You should then read David G. Post’s splendid contra essay here. (The last two sentences in Finkleman’s op-ed are pretty much indefensible.)
  • A fascinating reflection, inspired by the movie “Lincoln,” on Utilitarianism and “the ends justifies the means.”
  • In fact, the program is a benign one, but considering the issue raised in my last post, it is hard to imagine more perfect symbolism for the American public trading self-sufficiency for government protection than the trade described here.
  • If you missed the recent George Will column, a frightening one, about the assaults of free speech and thought around the campuses of American universities, you have another chance to read it, here.
  • I only recently learned that 3-D copiers are a reality, and Dr. Chris MacDonald, on his always excellent Business Ethics Blog, has some insight on their ethical implications here.
  • Once again this year, I have an essay in The 2013 Hardball Times Baseball Annual, and publisher Dave Studenmund references my analysis of the Stephen Strasburg affair here.
  • Finally, thanks to Mary Wright on the HR Gazette for posting the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale.

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Science & Technology

Bad Crime, Unethical Punishment, Ominous Sign

Here’s a pop quiz for you.

The topic: crime and punishment

“Off with his head!” Uh, Queen? Isn’t that just a tiny bit severe?

An attractive woman falls asleep on an airplane, and the stranger sitting next to her, a card-carrying, pig-man creepazoid, takes that opportunity to “feel her up.” He is caught in the act, and arrested when the plane lands. What should be the maximum penalty imposed for such a violation of the poor woman’s privacy, dignity, and person?

If you said “life in prison,” go to the head of the class. The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over  sexual abuse cases that occur on American airplane flights, and sets the penalties. A New Jersey man is currently awaiting trial after allegedly engaging in such in-flight molestation. How can such an extreme sentence be justified or even contemplated? What is this, “Midnight Express”? Rumania under the wise rule of Vlad the Impaler? Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Ethics Article of the Week: George Will On His Son’s Birthday

Happy birthday, Jon.

Conservative columnist George Will has only occasionally mentioned his Down Syndrome-inflicted son Jon in his columns, but when he has, it has provided an extra dimension to Jon’s father, who usually comes across in print and on TV as cynical, dour, and archly intellectual. Today is Jon’s birthday, so Will devotes the full column to him, his challenges, and, when all is said and done, ethics.

It’s a beautifully written piece, as Will’s columns often are, and a tender one. More importantly, however, it is an essay that should provoke thought, beginning with the fact that the only reason Will wrote this column is that he and his wife chose, 40 years ago, to do what 90% of all parents informed that their gestating child has Down Syndrome refuse to do: allow the child to be born.

The column is here

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Graphics: Richmond Times-Dispatch

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Filed under Bioethics, Character, Family, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Love, U.S. Society

Distracted Driving, Pot, and “The Great Debate”

As balm for Christiane Amanpour’s bruises from being kicked off her ABC Sunday show back to CNN, the network honchos let her try a different format this weekend (since nobody was watching anyway.) Styled “the Great Debate,” it pitted conservatives Paul Ryan, the GOP House intellectual, and columnist George Will against soon-to-be-retired Democratic Congressman Barney Frank and Clinton’s former Labor Secretary and perpetual Munchkin Robert Reich for the full hour, exchanging familiar talking points on the usual suspect national issues. The debate wasn’t so great, for several reasons, prime among them being the natural motor-mouth tendencies of Reich and Frank, who, I would guess, took up approximately twice the air time as the conservative pair. The teams were similarly unbalanced in cheer, with Reich as perky as his Lollipop Guild training would suggest, and Frank full of his trademark wisecracks, while Will was dour as ever (when faced with liberal cant, the columnist always looks like my high school Latin teacher did when I was botching the day’s translation) and Ryan radiated the charisma of a certified public accountant.

The most interesting exchange was when George Will derided proposed federal regulations against “distracted driving” as the latest installment of the nanny state encroachment on personal rights, saying that individual freedom should trump the government’s concern for public safety except in the most extreme circumstances. One of the good uses of absolutist reasoning is that it raises a very high bar before breaching a valid principle can even be considered, since it has to be considered as an exception if it is to be contemplated at all. Barring unsafe conduct that increases the likelihood of automobile accidents, however, is not the place for absolutism, but for utilitarianism—rational balancing. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society