Saturday Afternoon Ethics Smorgasbord, 7/7/2018

God ettermiddag!

Yeah, I know smorgasbord is Swedish and god ettermiddag is Norwegian. I just woke up feeling Scandinavian today. I even had a Danish for breakfast…

1. Trump Tweets. Our President’s petty and juvenile tweets insulting Maxine Waters’ IQ and Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Native American fantasy are so obviously self-destructive, necessary and irresponsible. Why why why? These outbursts are literally like the President of the United States going on the roof of the White House and screaming, “You’re all poopy heads!”

Who needs to be told that Waters is an idiot? Res ipsa loquitur applies, and anyone who thinks she is the voice of wisdom and moderation is beyond helping.  Trolling Warren by offering her a million dollars to get a DNA test is even more idiotic. Her fake claims of Cherokee heritage already have frozen her political ambitions, and she knows it.  If the Senator is not eager to take the test for free (Does anyone smarter than Maxine Waters believe she hasn’t taken such a test?), why would she do it for money? And Warren doesn’t need a million dollars: like most socialists in power, she’s rich already. It’s this kind of thing that drove George Will, William Kristol and Jeff Flake nuts.

2. Proof that the New York Times has also lost it. Here’s an inflammatory quote from yesterday’s editorial from the New York Times editorial board, in a screed urging Democrats to use any means necessary to block the President from appointing whomever he wants for the Supreme Court—you know, like the Constitution says he can:

“This is all the more reason for Democrats and progressives to take a page from “The Godfather” and go to the mattresses on this issue.”

Nice. This is a direct call to violence and literal warfare. I assume the Times editors have seen “The Godfather.” Don Corleone’s Family went “to the mattresses” when it started a gang war.

I hope Americans realize the values it will be voting for when they decide to put the New York Times’ editors’ chosen party back in power. Hint: it’s not democracy.

Since November 2016, Democrats and their allies have been courting revolution because they didn’t like the way the election turned out. No matter how loathsome the Republican Party has shown itself to be, it has never done that.

3. Europe is in a crisis because of open borders. Hey, Let’s abolish ICE!  I continue to believe that the Left’s advocacy of open borders is the most inexplicably batty position any political group  has taken in my lifetime except for unilateral nuclear disarmament. Imagine: even as the European Union is unraveling because of the social and financial stresses placed on its member nations by unrestrained migration from Islamic states, U.S. pro-illegal immigration activists are intensifying their rhetoric. To evoke the final words in “The Bridge Over The River Kwai”: Madness! Madness!

Over at the maddening New York Times, Max Fisher sneers his way through an op-ed that somehow finds fault with those who woke up to what was wrong with the dream of banishing discrete nations having control over their cultures and populations, and on his blog, Steve Sailor does a deft job demonstrating how incompetent and irresponsible Fisher’s reasoning is. I am grateful, because I was ready to write an equivalent piece myself. Now I can watch the Red Sox game.

4. It’s not settled just because those in control say it is. In an important ruling for free speech and academic freedom, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled last week that Marquette University was wrong to fire Professor John McAdams for comments he made on his personal blog way back in 2014. This one was greatly assisted by The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which now does the pro-free speech work that the ACLU refuses to do when it might annoy its Democratic base contributors. FIRE  filed a “friend of the court” brief last year urging the court to hear McAdams’ case.

The professor’s crime was criticizing online a graduate teaching instructor who had refused to allow a student to debate gay rights because, she said “everybody” agreed that same sex marriage was a right. (Translation: everybody that mattered to the instructor agreed.)  Though the prof’s pointed attack was  on his personal blog, Marquette Warrior, Marquette suspended him indefinitely without pay, de facto firing him.

McAdams had written in part,

[The instructor] of course, was just using a tactic typical among liberals now. Opinions with which they disagree are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed “offensive” and need to be shut up.  As Charles Krauthammer explained:

The proper word for that attitude is totalitarian. It declares certain controversies over and visits serious consequences — from social ostracism to vocational defenestration — upon those who refuse to be silenced. The newest closing of the leftist mind is on gay marriage. Just as the science of global warming is settled, so, it seems, are the moral and philosophical merits of gay marriage. To oppose it is nothing but bigotry, akin to racism. Opponents are to be similarly marginalized and shunned, destroyed personally and professionally.

Of course, only certain groups have the privilege of shutting up debate. Things thought to be “offensive” to gays, blacks, women and so on must be stifled. Further, it’s not considered necessary to actually find out what the group really thinks. “Women” are supposed to feel warred upon when somebody opposes abortion, but in the real world men and women are equally likely to oppose abortion…But in the politically correct world of academia, one is supposed to assume that all victim groups think the same way as leftist professors….Groups not favored by leftist professors, of course, can be freely attacked, and their views (or supposed views) ridiculed. Christians and Muslims are not allowed to be “offended” by pro-gay comments.

The Court wrote,

“The undisputed facts show that the University breached its contract with Dr. McAdams when it suspended him for engaging in activity protected by the contract’s guarantee of academic freedom. Therefore, we reverse the circuit court and remand this cause with instructions to enter judgment in favor of Dr. McAdams, conduct further proceedings to determine damages (which shall include back pay), and order the University to immediately reinstate Dr. McAdams with unimpaired rank, tenure, compensation, and benefits.”

As readers here know, or should, I strongly believe that the court decisions holding that LGTB citizens should have all the same rights and protections as anyone else are legally and ethically correct. But I will defend to the death the right of any citizen to argue otherwise…especially in a classroom.

5. That weird sexual harassment thing…Over at “Law and Liberty”, Susan Lucas does an excellent job pointing out the nuances and peculiarities of sexual harassment law. She writes:

Let’s talk about three sexual harassment cases.

A female coach and physical education teacher sued the school district because another employee, also female, made crude remarks about her breasts, touched her without permission, and said, “I will think of you next time I am f—ing.”

A female employee receives sexually explicit text messages from the man responsible for training her. While the trainer doesn’t have hire/fire authority over her, he certainly can influence her career. His wife eventually finds out and sends the female employee a profane message. The employee complains to her supervisor and is fired for violating a work rule.

A boss tells his employee to “date,” and send “nudie” pictures to, a potential client in order to help convince this client to move his business. The boss offers the employee a big bonus in exchange for this, but doesn’t end up giving her one.

…In each of these examples, the courts found that the bad behavior didn’t amount to actionable sexual harassment. In the first case, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that it wasn’t sexual harassment because the harasser was someone who habitually offended others. The judges determined that she didn’t harass “because of sex” but because she was a jerk. The law doesn’t prohibit jerk-like behavior.

In the second, the employee admitted that she wasn’t offended by the explicit text messages. Because the law requires the victim to be offended, it wasn’t sexual harassment.

In the third, the boss didn’t have power to grant a discretionary bonus, so the courts concluded that there was no actual quid pro quo element to what happened.

Now, of course, as most of the United States has at-will employment, the three employers in these cases would have been free to fire the offender, whether or not what the person did legally qualified as sexual harassment. In the state of Montana (where employment is not at-will), or in instances where there is a contract (such as in a unionized workplace), it could become stickier.

This is why focusing on only the law in sexual harassment trainings—which appears to be the approach of just about everyone but a certain Northern Virginia ethicist—is self-defeating. All of these examples may not be technical sexual harassment, but they are all horribly unethical and abusive.

21 thoughts on “Saturday Afternoon Ethics Smorgasbord, 7/7/2018

  1. Ok, Jack — you have me “lmao” right off the bat. What an enjoyable post.

    First, my older daugher just spent a whole [great] semester in Denmark, and I visited her, and I drive a Volvo, and have I been to Stockholm and Gothenberg [not to Norske], and I had a dear old late Swedish “uncle,” but damned if I know the difference between the 3 Scandinavian languages. You are droll. This cheers me up. [Time for some Sibelius … yes, a Finn … but he understood the Northland, and his neighbors.]

    Second, your second paragraph [your first on the POTUS], is just so correct, and so funny, so apt. Precisely so, which is what makes it brilliant. It’s like a New Yorker cartoon put briefly into prose.

    Third, I agree about the New York Times, but: 1) they do publish Bret Stephens and David Brooks — and these two have not drunk the kool-aid [or imbibed the “purple punch”]; and 2) the NYT has unparalleled arts and travel [and nuptial] sections. So I give this paper a big BYE. [And I read the WSJ for balance.] And take it with A LOT of salt.

    Thank you!

  2. Damn, Jack. Here I go adding to my medical vocabulary, over the years, a Little List of Legal Latin, and you go and spoil my hard work (it was easy to memorize at age 12; not so much now) by reducing the elegant amicus curiae to a mere “friend of the court.” That’s almost as bad as giving up the wonderfully sonorous (and occasional erotic) tones of the King James version for the Bible’s newest translation . … in emoji.

    Addendum: You did give me an opening. I was pondering what all the #metoo-ers and women seeking out harassment “down the cellar, up the chimney and all around the town” would do with jus primae noctis.

  3. I continue to believe that the Left’s advocacy of open borders is the most inexplicably batty position any political group has taken in my lifetime except for unilateral nuclear disarmament.

    One common argument I have read on Facebook concerning illegal immigration into the U.S. is that no one has any credibility to oppose illegal immigration since the U.S. was stolen from indigenous people.

    The Europeans in Europe are the indigenous. What argument supports illegal immigration into Europe?

  4. #3 “Now I can watch the Red Sox game.”

    Hmmm. Martinez has a shot at the triple crown. Hasn’t been done by a Red Sox player since Yastrzemski. I wasn’t sure it would happen again in my lifetime before Cabrera did it in 2012.

  5. Your previous article entitled: “The Pautler Case: my favorite legal ethics dilemma ever.”

    Jack, not on yesterday’s subject, but thought I would send this. It was 20 years ago on July 8 1998, that I was faced with the need to make the decision to tell triple axe murder Cody Neal that I was a public defender in order to get him in custody. Just re-read you article and appreciated it as did when I first read it.
    Keep up the good work. You are a great voice of reason.

    Mark Pautler

    • You’re very kind to send this, Mark, and the encouragement means a great deal to me. Your dilemma and your resolution of it was key to my formulation of the “Ethics Incompleteness Principle,” and my understanding of the crucial role of courage and independent analysis in real world ethics.

      Thanks. This made my day.

      • Very cool ! This is one of the reasons I make a point of checking in here almost every day; you never know who will be dropping by.

  6. Sadly, I’m not certain his tweets are self-destructive. They are for reasonable voters, of course, (assuming the democrats manage to put someone up who’s actually competent). However, they may continue to be useful for firing up Trump’s base. I’m afraid America has become so entrenched in this left-right tribalism that many conservatives don’t even see Trump’s tweets as a problem because he’s attacking the people they think he should be attacking.

    For America’s sake, and for my son’s sake, I hope I’m wrong.

    • 1. If I were Warren, I’d offer to take the DNA test as long as Trump agreed to take an IQ test first.

      2. Remember when everyone lost their minds over Sarah Palin having a map with little targets on it? Remember how they used it as proof that the GOP’s violent rhetoric was causing mass shootings? Pepperidge Farm remembers.

      3. The latest Antifa embarrassment seems to be that a group of Antifa saw ICE agents arresting innocent dreamers, and decided to protest and harass them in their typical noodle-armed fashion. Except the ICE agents were actually busting child traffickers. Those Nazi thugs.

      • 1. My version is that she’ll take the test if Trump will produce his tax returns. The problem is that she knows that her DNA test shows she’s been lying, and she doesn’t know what in his tax returns. Trump might just call her bluff.

        2. Extra credit for the old Pepperidge Farm slogan.

        3. Dreamers aren’t innocent, however. They have a duty to address their illegal status, and have been responsible for living as fake citizens ever since they turned 18. The “innocent Dreamers” myth is a pet peeve.

      • Trump might just surprise and embarrass a lot of lefties if they got him to take and publish an IQ test.

        You don’t do the things he has done, all his life, without better than average IQ.

          • I sort of thought (and hoped) that they separated true intelligence from cunning and a good memory… but that ain’t how the tests work, is it?

            Some of the dumbest people I have ever met scored very high on testing, while some low scorers were smart and quick on the uptake. Go figure.

  7. The people who have gotten on the wagon for “abolish ICE” because it’s the trendy thing to say, don’t realize ICE is merely the department established to pursue a certain set of laws. They don’t realize that those laws would still have to be enforced by some element of the executive branch. I’m not sure they’ve thought this through.

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