Monthly Archives: December 2017

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/31/2017: The Too Many Year Ending Ethics Issues To Handle In One Day Edition”

JP’s Comment of the Day actually was sent in today, and so, despite the injustice of allowing him to jump in line (for there still are Comments of the Day from the Holiday Challenge of two days ago awaiting their honors), I’ve decided that this one should be published in close proximity to its target, which was #1 in today’s Warm-up, about Frank Bruni’s column,  “Higher Ed’s Low Moment, in the Times today. You should read Bruni’s column first to be fair to fine JP’s work, which is in the form of an open letter.

Here is JP’s epic Comment of the Day on the post,Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/31/2017: The Too Many Year Ending Ethics Issues To Handle In One Day Edition: 

Dear Mr. Bruni,

Thank you for that colorful article you posted in the NYT. As a college graduate from two universities (almost three), I can appreciate what you said regarding higher learning and its importance on the future of Americans (and in general the world). You see, I agree there is a lot that college has to teach us. Higher education should be focused, involve critical thinking, and provide much-needed life skills that are just not acquired at the at the high school level. While these could have been excellent points when defending the role of colleges and universities, you chose to skip right over them altogether. Instead, you chose to write about how people are wrong to not trust the system with not so subtle attacks on Trump, the Republicans, and the recent tax law.

I will give you some credit. You were able to point out some reasons why some of that trust is not there. You wrote, “I also hear more college presidents talking with more concern about their campuses’ images as enclaves of a distinctly illiberal liberalism. Especially ugly episodes this year at Middlebury College and The Evergreen State College fed that impression and, I think, increased many presidents’ resolve to do something about it.”

You also pay due attention to the much-noted lack of political diversity on campuses. However, it is clear from your article you believe these examples to be trivial based on your piece’s lack of focus, language used, and quick transitions.

With that in mind, let me ask you a question, Mr. Bruni:

Have you been hiding under a rock these last 10 years, or are you just so hidden in your elitist tower you can’t see Rome burning around you?

There are many good reasons that the public doesn’t trust college campus anymore. Follow me a little bit as I explore reasons.

The Teachers.

Just this past year alone we have witnessed a number of statements made by the professionals whose job it is to shape the minds of these students. These are the people who direct them, but with statements like the following, it is a wonder we haven’t had more students following the actual advice made by them (perhaps I don’t give these students enough credit on their critical thinking skills).

  • One professor at Montclair State University wished someone would shoot President Trump outright. He was later let go.
  • Another professor at Austin Community College said it was ok with him if Betsy DeVos was sexually assaulted. He later quit.
  • A University of Tampa Professor said Hurricane Harvey was “Instant Karma” for Texas because it was a red state. Nevermind that Houston, the heaviest area affected voted Democrat (moral luck) during the previous election, this professor had to get his two cents in. He was fired as well.
  • A Drexel professor said the shooting in Vegas this past year is what happens when white people don’t get what they want. His last day is officially today.

What is notable here is 70% of the staff tried to get his full reinstatement. This is somewhat bewildering because the professor is no stranger to racist tweets. writing last Christmas that the white genocide during the Haitian Revolution was a good thing. But of course if you here him, this was just a joke.

There are many more; this last is just icing on the cake:  A professor at California State University tweeted that Trump must be hanged. He later tweeted that “Justice = The execution of two Republicans for each deported immigrant.” This isn’t even retribution theology, it is just advocating for murder. He will be teaching again in the spring. Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media

The NFL Is Pretty Close To Evil. Do Their Fans Care? Sponsors? Hello?

I read an ESPN piece a couple of days ago—I lost the link—evaluating the factors that have led to the large (and expensive ) drop in the NFL’s television ratings.. It wasn’t just the gratuitous, half-baked protests during the National Anthem, the author explained. No, it was also injuries, too many mid-week games, too many bad games, viewers “cutting the cord” and leaving cable, and other factors.

Oddly, the fact that it is increasingly clear that the NFL makes its money by maiming and killing young men never made it onto  the list. Maybe that’s right; maybe football fans don’t care that the heroes they cheer today will be drooling, tortured, burdens on their families in their 50s and 60s, if not sooner. Hey, they get good money to have their brains pureed, right?

If this is true, then my headline is  incomplete. The NFL and its fans are pretty close to evil.

A recent scandal showed us just how cynical the league’s claims that it was addressing its concussion and CTE problems.

Tom Savage, the Houston Texans quarterback, took a violent  hit from Elvis Dumervil of the 49ers ia a December 10 game. Savage rolled onto his back and lifted up his hands, which could be seen trembling, as if he were being electrocuted, a textbook indication of a likely concussion. He went to the sidelines but re-entered the game for the next series. He then left the game again and has not played since.

Some protocols on concussions the NFL has! Remember, this occurred after the news about CTE, the crippling brain disease  afflicting 99% of football players p whose brains have been examined, has gotten progressively more frightening.  The NFL initially denied the problem, stonewalled, and now is apparently faking concern.

The NFL announced it will not discipline the Texans for their negligent handing of  Savage’s head injury. That’s odd, don’t you think, if this is something the league cares about? If a team will send a player back out onto the field after he shows those symptoms, what other players with less visible signs of concussions have been sent back out to get disabled? My guess is countless players, and in every game.

Hey, they get good money to have their brains pureed, right? Continue reading

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More Comment Of The Day Weekend… Comment Of The Day (4): “An Ethics Alarms Holiday Challenge! Identify The Rationalizations, Logical Fallacies, Falsehoods And Outright Errors In This Essay…”

Luke G ends this  Comment of the Day writing,   “Hm, that was longer than I expected, but what’s a good analogy if you can’t follow it through to the end?”

He’s right: it’s an excellent analogy for the value of freedom of speech, and one I don’t recall having encountered before.

Here is his COTD on the post, An Ethics Alarms Holiday Challenge! Identify The Rationalizations, Logical Fallacies, Falsehoods And Outright Errors In This Essay Advocating Limits On Speech…?

This argument is a clash between two viewpoints. For those of us who value free speech, the structure and procedure are immutable, and the outcomes proceed from there. We see free speech, along with the various other liberties guaranteed in the US, as an intrinsic part of a free and open society. The freedoms themselves have intrinsic value, and the national culture that rests on them is a SIGN that they are good, rather than the REASON they are good. Rich soil is healthy and good, whether it’s growing anything or not- we don’t say good soil is useful because of the beans it grows, we look at the beans as proof that we chose our soil well. The fact that rich soil also allows weeds to spring up is an unfortunate side effect.

For those like the author of the article, their outcome is immutable, and the procedure to get there is malleable depending on their goal. Their worldview defines what outcomes are good or bad- structures that produce bad outcomes are bad structures, and those that produce good outcomes are good structures. These people see cultural cause and effect not like a field but like a factory, where there’s no such thing as a good machine that makes some good and some bad parts… if it produces any bad parts it’s a bad machine that should be upgraded or eliminated at the first opportunity so only the desired product is created. Universal free speech may have been the best machine available, but now there is the perceived power to fix it so only the desirable speech is free and the defective speech is suppressed, so it’s only logical to do so. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/31/2017: The Too Many Year Ending Ethics Issues To Handle In One Day Edition

Happy New Year!

1 Arrgh! In an op-ed called “Higher Ed’s Low Moment, Farnk Bruni bemoans the fact that colleges “found themselves on the defensive.” Citing the Pew Center’s findings that I discussed here, he writes of declining opinions about the value of college,

“That’s not so surprising, given Americans’ intensifying resentment of anything that smacks of elitism and given Republicans’ attacks on science and intellectuals. As Ron Daniels, the president of Johns Hopkins University, recently told me, “Even if we were completely unblemished in the way in which we pursued our mission, it would be hard to imagine that in Trump’s America, we wouldn’t be targets for scorn.”

Incredible. (Or, as my late, schizophrenic cousin Trefon would say, “Umba!“, as in “Umbelieveable!” I always found that funny, and I would love to see his slang word enter the popular lexicon. Trefon was a great kid who had a short, empty life, and ended it by jumping off an overpass into an oncoming truck. It would be nice if he left some enduring contribution to the culture, even if it was a silly one.) No, the reason so many Americans no longer think college is a wonderful thing is that they can see and hear. Students aren’t being educated. Graduates have minimal knowledge of history, literature, government and culture. They can’t write, and they can’t argue. Their professors get on social media and issue things that would destroy trust in any institution that employed them.

The campuses are increasingly hostile to free speech, free thought, democracy, capitalism and the United States of America. None of these factors penetrate Bruni’s biases and conventional wisdom. He keeps repeating the mantra that caused me to resign from an education board many years ago: ” a college degree is one of the surest harbingers of higher earnings and better economic security.” That’s how college has been regarded as a reflex for a century now, and the policies that followed that starting point–a degree,  means jobs and money—have created the sick system in which students who are not qualified to attend college are accepted anyway, and tuition has soared to obscene level., all while the actual content of the curriculum and teaching have become an afterthought. It’s the diploma that matters!

No, it’s the education. Bruni says, ” [T]he continued competitiveness of the American economy depends on the skills of our work force, the intellectual nimbleness of our citizens, the boldness of our scientific research and the genius of our inventions. Our colleges and universities are central to that.”  If getting as many people diplomas as possible is the mission, however, seeking “intellectual nimbleness” is obviously an afterthought.

This emperor has no clothes, and hasn’t had for a long time. The disturbing development isn’t that so many conservatives have finally realized that the golden ideal of an American college education no longer comports with reality. It is that so many opinion makers and policy makers hold on to that ideal when it is so evidently false. If college degrees don’t prove that  graduates have core knowledge, writing and critical thinking skills, then they are  just high-priced tickets to be incompetent.

And they don’t. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day Weekend Continues! Comment Of The Day : “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/30/2017: Is Robert Mueller Biased? …Is President Trump A Robot?

A single line in this morning’s  Warm-Up sparked this fascinating exposition by Ash. Here was the context:

Jay Malsky, an actor who has appeared in drag as Hillary Clinton. Melsky, while watching  the Hall of Presidents attraction at Disney World, began shouting at the audio-animatronic Donald Trump. (The Huffington Post said he “mercilessly” heckled the robot, showing  derangement of its own. Robots don’t need mercy, and you can’t “heckle” one either.)

Here is Ash’s Comment of the Day, primarily a quote but a perfectly chosen one, on the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/30/2017: Is Robert Mueller Biased? Are The Patriots Cheating Again? Is Larry Tribe Deranged? Is President Trump A Robot?: 

“Robots don’t need mercy, and you can’t “heckle” one either.”

You should date this and file it, because I guarantee you, the way you treat Siri and Alexa and Cortana and Ok Google is *already* being described as problematic.

“Sexual harassment: there are no limits…According to Dr Sweeney, research indicates virtual assistants like Siri and Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa find themselves fending off endless sexual solicitations and abuse from users. But because humans don’t (yet) attach agency or intelligence to their devices, they’re remarkably uninhibited about abusing them. Both academic research and anecdotal observation on man/machine interfaces suggest raised voices and vulgar comments are more common than not. It’s estimated that about 10% to 50% of interactions are abusive, according to Dr. Sheryl Brahnam in a TechEmergence interview late last year. Continue reading

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It’s A Comment Of The Day Weekend! First Up…Comment Of The Day (3): “An Ethics Alarms Holiday Challenge! Identify The Rationalizations, Logical Fallacies, Falsehoods And Outright Errors In This Essay…” AND, In Related News, Another Bakery Gets Slammed In Oregon

I’m not exaggerating: I have at least four Comments of the Day stacked up on the Ethics alarms runway after this one, and there are usually COTDs arriving on Saturdays. I can’t promise to get all of them up today, especially since I’m hacking away at the 2017 Ethics Alarms Awards, and this is a long working weekend at ProEthics. Still, I will get a lot of them to you, and it’s a provocative group, as you will soon see.

But first, a prelude and some context.

An Oregon appellate court this week upheld a ruling against the owners of the since-closed Sweetcakes by Melissa,  Aaron and Melissa Klein, forcing them to pay emotional-distress damages of $135,000 to Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, a lesbian couple for whom they refused to design and sell a wedding cake almost five years ago. The Klein’s argued that state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian violated state and federal laws and their rights as artists to free speech, their rights to religious freedom and their rights as defendants to  due process.

The Oregon court ruled that the Kleins’ argument that their cakes entail an artistic expression is “entitled to be taken seriously,” but it’s not enough for the couple to assert their cakes are pieces of art:

“Although we accept that the Kleins imbue each wedding cake with their own aesthetic choices, they have made no showing that other people will necessarily experience any wedding cake that the Kleins create predominantly as ‘expression’ rather than as food.”

This mess commenced  when Rachel Bowman-Cryer went to the suburban Portland bakery with her mother in January of 2013. When Aaron Klein was told that the wedding did not involve a male partner,  he said that the bakery did not make cakes for same-sex weddings. They left, but soon the mother returned to argue with Klein as Rachel sat in the car, weeping. her mother went in to speak with Klein. The mother told Klein she had once thought like him, but having two gay children forced her to see the error of her ways.  Klein retorted with Leviticus: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”

The complaint and action by Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries followed. You can read the opinion here.

Ugh.

This case is even worse than the one currently before the Supreme Court, discussed here. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/30/2017: Is Robert Mueller Biased? Are The Patriots Cheating Again? Is Larry Tribe Deranged? Is President Trump A Robot?

Good Morning!

(Nothing better than waking up to a light dusting of snow!)

1 When you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…Alan Dershowitz, a Democrat and legal expert who has prominently avoided the ravages of anti-Trump mania that have crippled so many of his distinguished colleagues, tried to clarify several issues in the Mueller investigation on Fox News.

On Special Prosecutor Mueller personally and professionally: “I don’t think he’s partisan, I don’t think he cares whether the Democrats or the Republicans benefit from this.I think he’s a zealous prosecutor and if he were going after Hillary Clinton, he’d be going after her with as much zeal.”

On his investigative team: “Now that’s not true for some of the people on his staff. He should never have allowed these people to serve on this investigative staff, if they had the points of view that they’ve had towards Hillary Clinton and towards Donald Trump. That was a mistake…when you’re going after a president or a presidential candidate, you have to be ‘Caesar’s wife,’ you have to be above reproach, and he didn’t do a good enough job in vetting the people that he brought on to the prosecution and the investigative team, and that hurts his credibility.”

Correct, and obviously correct. So why is the White House and Fox News being criticized daily for questioning the legitimacy, fairness, objectivity, and independence of the investigation? It doesn’t matter if Mueller is personally fair and objective if he appoints biased and conflicted lawyers to do the work. That still means the investigation is compromised and untrustworthy. It also means that Mueller undermined the investigation exactly the way he could not afford to if he wanted its results to be accepted.

There is nothing inappropriate about those being investigated pointing out bias, incompetence and conflicts of interest by the investigators. Criticism of a legitimate complaint, backed up by facts, indicates that those critics  don’t care about bias, incompetence and conflicts of interest, if they lead to the result they crave.

2. Suspicion! Why would the NFL’s New England Patriots sign a washed-up, 39-year-old Pittsburgh Steelers veteran, James Harrison, with only one game left in the regular season, at a cost of about $60,000 for that game and for any play-off games the Patriots participate in? Harrison has barely played all season, is no longer a top performer, and was a discordant and disruptive presence in the locker room. Many sportswriters and fans believe that he is being paid by New England to be a turncoat, and to reveal  Steelers’ secrets that might provide an edge if the Patriots, as many expect, have to defeat Pittsburgh on the way to another Super Bowl. The Patriots have been caught cheating more than once. Would this be cheating?

I assume not, unless Harrison had an enforceable non disclosure clause that prohibited him from revealing Steelers plays and strategies even after he was no longer on the team. Indeed, it would be unethical for Harrison not to help his new team in any way possible. When New England signed him, they signed his body, mind and accumulated experience. Continue reading

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