Tag Archives: justice

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

Ten Ethics Observations On The Resignation Of University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe


…for nothing, as far as I can see, except being in the wrong job when an “I’m mad at the world and somebody has to pay for it” tantrum by some of the black students got out of control.


1. I have searched and searched for a substantive reason for the upheaval. There is apparently nothing there. The university, the education of students and two men’s career’s (the University’s Chancellor has also been forced to resign) have all been disrupted, and for no good reason, except that some students decided it was a good time to grandstand. This makes the entire episode unjust by definition.

How ironic it is supposed to be about “justice.”

2. The main driver of events was graduate student Jonathan Butler, who started a hunger strike to force Wolfe to resign”for justice.” Given a chance to explain his position by the Washington Post, he had nothing definitive or constructive to offer, just vague dissatisfaction:

“I’m saying, even if you can’t really understand systemic oppression and systemic racism, is the fact we can’t be at a university where we have values like “Respect, Responsibility, Discovery and Excellence” and we don’t have any of those things being enacted on campus, especially in terms of respect. I’m on a campus where people feel free to call people the n-word, where people feel free as recently as last week, to used [their] own feces to smear a swastika in a residential hall. Everything that glitters is not gold. We really need to dig deep and be real with ourselves about the world we live in and understand that we’re not perfect but understand that just because we’re not perfect doesn’t mean we don’t start to understand and address the issues around us.”

Right. Some kids in a car that may not have been students and another individual on campus who has not been identified used  racial epithets. Some mentally deficient person, also unidentified, drew a swastika on campus using human excrement. (This type of incident tends to be a hoax  as often as not.) What exactly is the president of a university supposed to do about such things ? Wolfe mandated “sensitivity courses” for everyone on campus, which is already too much. I would refuse to attend. I would not respect anyone who did attend.

Heck, I might start a hunger strike.

It works. Continue reading


Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Leadership, Race

“Justice for the Nicholas Brothers”…Again

Sometimes it all seems worth it.

Yesterday, late at night, I received an e-mail from a music teacher at a Catholic elementary school in Connecticut. He had introduced his young students to great musicians of the past, such as Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, and arouse their admiration and excitement when he showed them videos of The Nicholas Brothers. Recently he came upon my post on Fayard and Harold from 2012, and felt compelled to write me agreeing with my lament that such miraculous performers could be so forgotten today because of their marginalization by the film industry and society. He wrote…

“We have most definitely talked of racism but I now want to read the class your article and get the feedback. Your article is succinct and eloquent.  Your article assessment is sadly true. My goal is not necessarily to revive the Nicholas Brothers:  it is to kindle in each of the kids in the class the spirit of excellence that each of us has and to let nothing stop us from reaching the top.”
To be honest, I had forgotten about my post about remembering the Nicholas Brothers. I checked: the post has only been read by about a thousand visitors since I wrote it; if my objective is to keep the legacy of these amazing dancers alive, it’s probably time for a re-post.

At the Sun Valley Lodge, there is a television station devoted to playing the 1941 film “Sun Valley Serenade” on a loop. It is a genuinely awful movie, starring John Payne of “Miracle on 34th Street” fame, Norwegian ice skater Sonia Henie, and Milton Berle, although it does show the famous ski resort in the days when guests used to be towed around the slopes on their skis by horses. Last time I was in Sun Valley to give a presentation, I watched about half the film in disconnected bites, since I never can sleep on such trips. This time I finally saw the whole thing. At about 3 AM, as Glenn Miller was leading his band in the longest version of “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” in history, Fayard and Harold Nicholas suddenly flipped onto the screen, and “Sun Valley Serenade” briefly went from fatuous to immortal.

If your reflex response to that last sentence was “WHO??,” you are part of the reason for this post, and also in the vast and deprived majority of Americans. As I circulated among my future audience of lawyers and their spouses yesterday morning, happily informing them that the terrible movie playing around the clock in their rooms included the dance team called “the unforgettable Nicholas Brothers” in more than one tribute, I learned that none of them had any idea what I was talking about, and many of these individuals were old enough to have been able to see Fayard and Harold in a theater. The Nicholas Brothers were, you see, the greatest tap-dancers who ever lived, and the most amazing dance team that ever will be. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Education, Race, U.S. Society

The Gangolf Jobb Affair: When The Only Tool You Have Is A Hammer…You Can End Up Looking Pretty Silly

"HA! Just what I need to stop illegal immigration!"

“HA! Just what I need to stop illegal immigration!”

Meet Gangolf Jobb, a German scientist, and the inventor of Treefinder.  Treefinder is often used in  scientific papers to build “phylogenetic trees,” which are  diagrams that showing the most likely evolutionary relationship of various species, from sequence data. He is angry at nations that, in his view, are endangering capitalism and the world by allowing too many migrants and immigrants to cross their boarders. So to punish such countries, including the U.S., he is  revoking the license to Treefinder of scientists in Germany, Austria, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Denmark, and the United States.

There are many things wrong with this solution. Most of all, it is unjust. I think I might be able to come up with something less related to immigration and refugee policy than phylogenetic trees, but it would be a challenge. What is the point, not to mention the logic—and this guy is a scientist!—of punishing an elite group of scientists for what their native politicians are doing? The victims of Jobb’s indignation have no special power in this matter, don’t involve themselves in it, and don’t advance it by misuse of his software. This is warped accountability and responsibility; it is like kicking your dog because you are mad at the neighbors. Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Law & Law Enforcement, Science & Technology

“No Justice, No Peace”


Over the weekend, the “No Justice, No Peace” demonstration in Washington D.C. joined “Black Lives Matter” as  more media-sanctioned, racist, and divisive advocacy designed to relieve the black community of accountability and to further entrench within it a victim’s mentality, as well as to vilify the United States. Many news outlets tried to downplay or hide the title of the event—an unambiguous threat of violence—by calling this the 20th anniversary of the “Million Man March.” Nice try, hacks. There is no way a demonstration threatening violence over vague, self-serving and unjust definitions of justice warrants this kind of coverage, dominated by ostensibly inspiring stories arising out of the alleged predecessor of this race-based extortion.. That gathering, which began with an exaggeration (no million men marched, not even close), was linked to “atonement and reconciliation” and supposedly had widespread positive influence on black males, none of which is detectable in the subsequent statistics regarding black crime, unmarried parenthood, spousal abuse, drug use and deadbeat dads. The 2015 march, at least, was more honest, reflecting the current destructive state of racial politics. Do what we want, or you’ll be sorry. Nice. What a proud day for Barack Obama’s America.

I cannot respect people or movements that threaten violence based on platitudes and deception. Neither should anyone else. Continue reading


Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, U.S. Society

“Worlds Are Colliding!” If You’d Like To Meet The Ethicist And Blogger, Come See “Twelve Angry Men” And Meet The Director


I’ve now received sufficient inquiries from readers to justify the risk of colliding my worlds as a professional stage director, an ethicist and a blogger.

The final production of my quixotic theater company in Arlington, Virginia, “Twelve Angry Men” by Reginald Rose, is playing through August 8. After that, the American Century Theater closes its metaphorical curtains (we perform in a black box theater, in the round for this show) forevermore after 2o rewarding, daring, frustrating years. I know a lot of Ethics Alarms readers live in the Washington D.C, area, and I would love to meet you face to face for a change, which, if you come to a performance, is easy (though you have to let me know when—I don’t see every one.)

You can get information and make reservations here; there are some representative reviews of the show here and here.  Some background on the theater’s closing is here. I’ve written about some ethics issues in the movie (which is the script I directed for the stage) here, here and here.

For many reasons, this is as good a version of the story as you are ever likely to see, and in all honesty and modesty, that includes the classic movie. The script is better live on stage than on film (it is about all the jurors and the jury as a unit, not just Henry Fonda), it cannot be done justice on a proscenium stage; the cast is superb, and the director is a lawyer, an ethicist and a successful stage director who has studied the script for 30 years and directed it three times before to work the kinks out.

If you come, I’ll seat you myself.

Hope you can make it.

Update: You can hear a podcast, hosted by me, about the production here.


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Law & Law Enforcement

Unethical Quote Of The Week: The Huffington Post, Which Is Having A Really Unethical Week

KKK assestance

“The photo has gone viral this weekend as netizens praise the officer’s extraordinary show of professionalism and grace under such trying circumstances.”

The Huffington Post, commenting on the photo above, showing black police officer Leroy Smith giving a feeble white supremacist assistance during the Ku Klux Klan rally held at the South Carolina Statehouse over the weekend.

Does the Huffington Post have any idea what professionalism is? Ethical conduct? Increasingly, I have my doubts, and this is just the latest example.

We already know the average “netizen” doesn’t know ethics from shinola, but the Huffington Post is a news and culture commentary site. One would think a basic comprehension of such concepts as duty, fairness, justice, responsibility and ethics would be essential. Well, let me rephrase that: they are obviously essential. One would think the Huffington Post would know that without them, its analysis of pretty much anything is worthless.

Look, you ethics dolts: Smith was doing his job, that’s all. The fact that he personally may have objected to the beliefs and words of the protesters is completely irrelevant to his professional obligations. He must treat all professionals the same. To do otherwise would un-professional, un-ethical, and wrong. Dominique Mosbergen is  apparently  of the opinion that the normal, professional thing to do is to refuse to help people whom you don’t like, agree with, or whose views offend you. Wait—isn’t this what the jerks who refuse to sell cakes to gay couples do? Somehow I don’t think Dominique agrees with those anti-gay marriage zealots or that she feels to just treat such customers as human beings would constitute an “extraordinary show of professionalism and grace.” Why does she think a black cop helping a distressed racist like he would a similarly needy  NAACP member because they are both citizens and as a public servant he is duty-bound to treat them both exactly the same is an “extraordinary show of professionalism and grace,” then?

It is because she is incompetent and ignorant. It is because she doesn’t comprehend what professionalism is. It is because to her, “White Racist Lives Don’t Matter,” so she is just bowled over when an African American acts without employing her biases.

Leroy Smith behaved like any professional would, and should. Nothing more, nothing less. Most cops do their jobs, and do them professionally. There is nothing newsworthy or extraordinary  about the photo, except to people who believe that the primary motivating factor for most people is hate.


Pointer: Fred


Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Race, The Internet, Workplace