Ethics Warm-Up, 4/16/2019: The Wide, Wide World Of Ethics

1. Notre Dame fire ethics:  Michael West, whose rare (of late) comments are valued as pearls, offered a proposed poll regarding the proper response to the destruction of the ancient cathedral’s spire. Here it is, with a few tweaks from me:

At the risk of tainting the voting, I have a pretty strong opinion about this. The structure  should be left as it is. Did they repair the Great Sphinx’s nose? Did they cover up the crack in the Liberty Bell? Once a part of an ancient structure or monument us gone, it’s gone. Replacements and restorations are ersatz and deceptive. The fire is part of the cathedral’s history, and what remains should reflect it. There are far better—and more ethical– uses for the many millions it will take to restore the spire.

2. Thanks for all the kind comments in light of Ethics Alarms hitting two major milestones on the same day. In commemoration, the blog will launch a new series, Ethics Alarms Retrospective (EAR), focusing on one or more of the  10,000+ posts I have immodestly placed here, most of which even I have forgotten.

For the first installment of EAR,  I offer “The Unethical Humiliation of Sister Rita X”from August 10, 2010. The topic was Sean Hannity’s practice of allowing clearly deranged progressives to have extended exposure on his radio call-in show, so he could engage in cheap mockery with the implication that they are representative of the Left generally. The comments are especially fascinating, almost all of which were Hannity fans who concocted all manner of distortions and rationalizations to justify what was the equivalent of exploiting the mentally ill for laughs. Comment highlight? This:

Again- I don’t expect you to respond- because you already said you would cut this conversation off.
Again- typical lib.
And I have facts.
What have you got besides a hollow ideology and kool aid?

That’s me, all right: a typical lib! By the way, that (minor) post was shared 4 times on Facebook, where as the last several hundred or so have received none.

3. This one is res ipsa loquitur, no? Many students at the University of the Arts are demanding that famed iconoclast  Camilla Paglia be fired from the faculty because her non-conforming  opinions are putting students “at risk,” and that she should be replaced by a “queer person of color.” These and other demands are outlined in a petition at Change.org, started by student Sheridan Merrick that  has been signed by over 800 people, including at least one faculty member. What is the “thing” that this episode fully reveals without further elaboration or evidence? There are several, actually:

  • Universities are teaching and indoctrinating whole generations of students into censorious, speech-suppressing, close-minded totalitarian certitude, with no appreciation of the value of diverse critical thought or positions that challenge their ideology.
  • The youth-led Left is establishing, as someone recently wrote, the self-refuting position is that dissent from their “truth” is violence, but violence against dissenters is good.
  • Being unable to win debates with facts and logic, the Left increasingly resorts to intimidation and censorship.
  • Bigotry and racism are now extolled by progressives as long as it’s the right kind of bigotry and racism.

4.  This judge won’t be disciplined despite flagrantly unethical conduct. Guess why. Federal Judge Carlton Reeves used his receiving of an award at the University of Virginia to issue an intemperate and nakedly partisan rant against President Donald Trump, with such inflammatory rhetoric as..

“When politicians attack courts as ‘dangerous,’ ‘political,’ and guilty of ‘egregious overreach,’ you can hear the Klan’s lawyers, assailing officers of the court across the South. When leaders chastise people for merely ‘using the courts,’ you can hear the Citizens Council, hammering up the names of black petitioners in Yazoo City.”

Funny, I’ve been hearing politicians, legal commentators and pundits call the courts and judges ‘dangerous,’ ‘political,’ and guilty  ‘egregious overreach,’ for decades, but suddenly the President is the one whose complaints evoke the Klan. Jonathan Turley disapproves, and says the judge’s speech raises “troubling issues about Reeves engaging in political speech in violation of core judicial ethical rules.” This is the professor being a weenie again. No, the speech IS a violation, bright and ugly, of judicial ethics:

CANON 1
A judge shall uphold and promote the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

CANON 3
A judge shall conduct the judge’s personal and extrajudicial activities to minimize the risk of conflict with the obligations of judicial office.

CANON 4
A judge or candidate for judicial office shall not engage in political or campaign activity that is inconsistent with the independence, integrity, or impartiality of the judiciary.

5.  The Omar 9-11 Ethics Train Wreck is really rolling now…

  • President Trump issued either an inflammatory or brilliant tweet—that’s assuming one thinks he should be tweeting at all, which I don’t—

Never forget that Rep. Omar trivialized the terror attacks? Never forget the terror attacks like Rep. Omar apparently has? Never forget who was behind the terror attacks, as Omar appeared to have forgotten (“someone”/”something”)

  • Senator Cory Booker sputtered on “Face the Nation”: “That is so objectionable. That is so offensive. And- and- and this is what I mean about moral vandalism in our country that’s going on from the highest offices stoking hatred, stoking fears, pitting people against each other.”

How much longer can Democrats, who constantly call the President a racist, a fascist and a traitor,  flip-flop as if this hasn’t been a three-year mantra and bemoan the President “stoking hatred, stoking fears, pitting people against each other.” Democrats have shot GOP Congressmen and seeded violence against peaceful citizens wearing MAGA hats, and  using demonizing rhetoric to characterize conservatives, Republicans and supporters of the President, and a tweet saying “We will never forget” is “moral vandalism”?

Once again, it appears one whole side of the political spectrum is betting on public amnesia, inattention and gullibility.

6. And speaking  of betting on public amnesia, inattention and gullibility...Quixotic, and not in a good way, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld says that he’s going to challenge Trump for the GOP nomination, arguing that Trump is “unstable.” Boy, if there is a politician alive who is estopped from calling anyone “unstable” it’s William Weld. He resigned as Governor to pursue a doomed effort to become Bill Clinton’s Ambassador to Mexico (don’t ask me what his thinking was there). He endorsed Barack Obama over John McCain in 2008, then endorsed Mitt Romney over Obama in 2012.  Weld left the Republican Party to run as the Libertarian VP on the ticket headed by the ridiculous Gary Johnson, and before the election said that he would be voting for Hillary Clinton.

Trump should ignore Weld and let them hold primaries without his wasting one second in debates or campaigning against  one of the few people alive whose hair is a stranger color than Trump’s. (No, that’s not an ad hominem attack. Weld’s hair brings to mind Jerry Seinfeld’s routine about bad toupees.  It’s a visual insult, implying that we are too gullible to realize the hair is fake–At least leave the price tag hanging, Jerry suggests.) For a 74-year-old man to have his hair colored like this…

…suggests a lack of trustworthiness as well as vain delusions.

30 thoughts on “Ethics Warm-Up, 4/16/2019: The Wide, Wide World Of Ethics

  1. I voted “restore”on Notre Dame’s spire. I’m vaguely convinced that was it’s second spire, so making a third might be more consistent with it’s history than not.

    I did vote against modern architecture. That would be a direct rejection of the cathedral’s history, in my opinion. It would harken back too much to the fruity, post-revolutionary “temple of reason” days. The modern French atheists are already unruly vandals, they don’t need any additional ideas. Also, modern architecture in a cathedral will never fail to be a poor decision.

    • I don’t think there’s a modern engineering group able to recreate it exactly without modern safety and prevention measures added, BUT I would prefer those changes to be under the hood as much as possible. The cathedral is a testament to the value of workmanship, detail, and building for a future generation even more than a gothic representation of worship standards. Very few modern buildings soar in any way; modern cold utilitarian lacks that visual yearning for the heavens.

      That cathedral is more than a box of stone to worship in, it represents the city, the believers, the history of that era and all the generations since then who valued it through war, peace, and scandal. It’s become more than a pile of carved rocks and roof tile, much as the Gateway Arch, the Washington Monument, and Statue of Liberty are for us. The refurbs done for those structures cost far more than the original cost, but would they have been argued?

      The vote of over 70% for restoration, dominated as I expected it to, This site argues for traditional and hopefully politically neutral standards: ethics, the Bill of Rights, integrity, improving today for our children, accountability, the wisdom of past, and goodwill to all men. Some of the loudest arguments come when we come up against the ‘new men’ working to destroy tolerance, balance, and anyone who doesn’t toe this invisible and moving progressive line. I personally abhor Kylo Ren’s line, “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.” These people are unwilling to admit that the past, the Code, or the Bill of Rights are not useless artifacts today, only suitable to be ruined. The past cannot be killed, but people, real and fictional, can willfully and stupidly try. The past just is. It does not change if you are ignorant. The only way to reduce repetition is not to erase it, but learn what to avoid. Naive people can make the worst mistakes.

    • I did vote against modern architecture. That would be a direct rejection of the cathedral’s history, in my opinion.

      That’s what a lot of people said in London in 1666. Then again, a lot of people said that in Coventry in 1940. Modern isn’t what it used to be.

      Also, modern architecture in a cathedral will never fail to be a poor decision.

      Compare and contrast Liverpool’s Anglican and Catholic cathedrals. The latter did go up quicker because of its modern architecture – it’s not called “Paddy’s wigwam” for nothing – but, then again, it also started falling apart quicker, too.

  2. My argument for restoring Notre Dame is that besides being a historical building it is also a house of worship and currently (at least until the fire) used for your regularly scheduled Catholic activities. (Disclaimer: I happened to be in Paris back in ’97 and had the chance to attend Jacques Cousteau’s services at Notre Dame) If your local parish burns it will be restored so it can continue to be used, so I see it no different for even an older building. The fire is part of its history, but so are the weekly ceremonies attended by the faithful, and given that this is its primary purpose (and not being a museum, or tourist attraction) it is the owner/administrator’s duty to ensure those activities can continue.

    • And, my understanding is that it has burned before and been repaired before. The wood roof might have been from a 19th century restoration.

      -Jut

    • besides being a historical building it is also a house of worship and currently (at least until the fire) used for your regularly scheduled Catholic activities

      Exactly. It is the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Paris and very much a working church.

  3. !. Notre Dame

    I agree. Leave it as it is.

    2. EAR

    For a second, I thought you were going to make me read the Export Administration Regulations. Again.

    3. Res Ipsa Loquitur

    I can’t help but be amused at the irony. I love Camille Paglia, but her lifelong support of the Democratic party has come back to bite her.

    As to higher education, they have become a scam, a pretense for social indoctrination of the young with the goal of producing lifelong Leftists. Their collective status as nonprofits should be revoked, and they should be subjected to FEC rules.

    4. Judge ethics

    So what you’re telling me is that the cannons of judicial ethics only apply to Republican-leaning judges? That sounds right to me. Bret Kavanaugh, your office on line 1…

    5. Omar 9-11 ethics train wreck

    At this point, Trump’s tweets bring more value than damage to the country. Somebody must call this stuff out who will be heard. Since the media have decided to pick a side and play entirely for the Left, that leaves very few on the right in a position to actually say something that will be heard.

    How much longer can Democrats, who constantly call the President a racist, a fascist and a traitor, flip-flop as if this hasn’t been a three-year mantra and bemoan the President “stoking hatred, stoking fears, pitting people against each other.”

    Forever. Or until the energy death of the Universe, which will presumably come before forever gets here.

    6. Bill Weld

    I checked my dictionary for the definition of the word, “milquetoast,” and lo, I found a picture of William Weld.

  4. You made the comment that there are far more ethical uses for the money it will take to replace the roof and spire.

    The economist in me says that statement cannot be proven. Choices on spending ones money is a personal one. Imagine if someone said buying internet service is less ethical than feeding the homeless, or everyone in the neighborhood should help pay the costs of someone’s breast cancer treatments so the burden is equally shared.

    How the cathedral should be treated should only be decided by those footing the bill.

  5. #4 Unethical, but not surprising, given the cover provided by a certain Supreme Court justice’s openly partisan comments and public behavior.

  6. 3. Boy, I wish Camille Paglia would leave her current school and work at the college from which I graduated. But the faculty there probably wouldn’t let her on campus. Actually, I’d like to see her hired as dean of the faculty and have her run off all the obnoxious, knee jerk, lazy lefties.

    I’m not sure “iconoclast” is a fair term. It’s too much like Commies calling someone who isn’t enamored of Communism a “reactionary.” Defining someone by what they disagree with isn’t terribly helpful. “Iconoclast” strikes me as having too much of a suggestion of “game player,” someone who takes the opposite position just for the heck of it (an aspect of debate team in high school which always made me wary of that enterprise). Iconoclast implies some amount of malice or disingenuity. I think her positions are both sound and heartfelt. She’s also a tremendous wordsmith.

    4. I see the judge is a JOC (Judge of Color). Why am I not surprised.

  7. 1. Ethical to leave Notre Dame a roofless ruin open to the elements? I guess it was unethical to rebuild most of Europe after WWII? Almost all of Europe is a rebuilt Disneyland for American tourists. Why should Notre Dame be any different? These Gothic cathedrals are living accretions. There’s nothing wrong with rebuilding and repairing the damage. If they want to recreate the 18th Century spire, have at it. If they want to leave it off, that’s fine as well. Hire Frank Gehry to do something ghastly in aluminum, not a good idea. (By the way, I consider Gehry nothing more than an architectural iconoclast. In his case, I think the term is apt.)

    • The option was to clean and repair what’s left (not leave to ruin), as opposed to reconstructing exactly what was lost.

      Presumably, exact reconstruction is not an option. The roof trusses, for instance, should be steel this time around to avoid future fires. Same with a new spire, which would almost certainly be paid for by donors.

  8. 2. I love it. I have made numerous attempts to read your old post. I keep getting side tracked. I did read the article and comments for your first EAR. You would think those people have never heard of the golden rule. Ethics is about what you CAN legally do, it’s about what you SHOULD do.

  9. I’m not a very sentimental person, so I get frustrated with historic preservation – particularly in the American West.

    “This is a heritage site! This barn has been here for 43 years! It must be preserved for the entirety of the earth’s future existence!”

    When you put that up against a site like Notre Dame, you get a proper perspective of what’s important to you vs what’s important to culture and society writ large.

    • Well, not always. A neighbor’s house was possibly the oldest house in town. The city was incorporated about 20 years after the old brick farmhouse had been built (farmhouse build ~1860). There were no other buildings (to my knowledge) from that era left standing. It was still a partially working farm, with both the farmhouse and barn still present and in use when the school district bought it. They claimed they were going to keep the farmhouse as an administrative building, but bulldozed it and the farmhouse without hearings, warnings, or notice. It was bulldozed on a Sunday between 11 AM and noon so no one would notice or have time to protest.

  10. RE: the cathedral,
    it’s a local issue, and whatever the people there want to do with it is just fine. I think saying that there are more ethical things to do with the money is a flawed argument because there’s always *something* better to do with money(and there will be endless argument about what the *right* thing to do with 700 million USD is), but that’s not going to stop me from getting Dominoes because I want to tonight, nor should it stop the french people from rebuilding the cathedral that is theirs, if they want to.

    Also, IIRC, the Liberty bell was repaired a couple of times, kept cracking didn’t it? I suppose if the cathedral keeps burning down it’s an apt analogy, but otherwise no. It was still very much in use, yes?

  11. Yes please to the EAR, especially if comment sections are included!

    Also, will it go back to the Ethics Scoreboard days? I still remember the story about the public high school student who was punished for a minor rule infraction after she drove a busload of kindergarteners to safety.

  12. 1. The building should be restored. It is an iconic building with few of similar stature throughout the world. Other famous structures, damaged by war or fire, have been fully restored, and visitors are impressed now as they were in the past. Ersatz, yes, partially, because it would be, a substitute for the original, but not necessarily inferior, as ersatz implies. Deceptive – well, only to the poorly informed. It would be no trick at all to place a display at the entrances with before and after images, tributes to those who fought the fire, recognition of those who contributed to the restoration, and a history of the building. Other restorations have been done in this manner, one that I’ve visited being St. John’s Anglican Church of Canada in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Having seen the results of that restoration, and having seen Notre Dame many years ago, I cannot imagine leaving either structure as a burned out shell.
    With regard to the ethics of the many millions for the cost of restoration, it appears that (mostly, at least) the money will flow voluntarily from some who are very wealthy to many who are skilled workers and laborers. Although there certainly are other uses the money could be put to, paying people for honest labor certainly seems ethical to me.

    • It would be no trick at all to place a display at the entrances with before and after images…

      The proposed (and soundly defeated) idea of a smart glass wall surrounding the Alamo as part of converting it to a World Heritage site. One would be able to touch the glass and see images form, showing labels pointing to features of the site, for example, or open a multimedia presentation combining the view of the site with views of how it used to look.

      San Antonio citizens felt this denigrated the site, and stopped the effort. Wonder if Paris natives would do the same?

  13. I voted rebuild it. The structural damage done to the basilica of St. Francis of Assisi by an earthquake in 1997 was repaired with work completed in 2012. It’s not the first time damage has been done to great architecture either from natural or man made causes. Leaving it as is leaves a scar on the history and heart of Paris.

    The use of the money can be argued from many different viewpoints for eons. The Cathedral of Notre Dame is owned (as are all French churches) by the nation. I’m certain that it will not be only state money used for restoration. How donors choose to donate their money is ultimately up to them. Better used for restoration than some Christo and Jeanne-Claude inspired “art”.

  14. As an aside – think of all the metaphors that are now off limits when the college football program in South Bend inevitably tanks and needs rebuilding. Any bets on the first football opponent school that makes jokes or Ra-Ra cheers connecting the school to the cathedral’s fire?

  15. Notre-Dame’s wooden roof (largely original to the building) and spire (a 19th century replica) were destroyed. The masonry vault under the roof collapsed in two places. Otherwise, the structure is in tact, and arguably its most important features were saved. The vault can be repaired and reinforced. The roof and spire needn’t be reproduced as exact replicas of the medieval originals, but could be made with modern materials and methods, and given an external appearance that matches the rest of the building. Had the entire vault caved in, had the walls or the towers collapsed, I might agree with leaving it as a ruin, but as it stands, it seems eminently repairable. And if it is repairable, if the whole structure isn’t badly compromised, why not?

  16. Universities are teaching and indoctrinating whole generations of students into censorious, speech-suppressing, close-minded totalitarian certitude, with no appreciation of the value of diverse critical thought or positions that challenge their ideology.
    The youth-led Left is establishing, as someone recently wrote, the self-refuting position is that dissent from their “truth” is violence, but violence against dissenters is good.
    Being unable to win debates with facts and logic, the Left increasingly resorts to intimidation and censorship.
    Bigotry and racism are now extolled by progressives as long as it’s the right kind of bigotry and racism.

    I am old enough to remember when it was the religious right that was demanding censorship in films, TV, and universities.

  17. For a 74-year-old man to have his hair colored like this…

    …suggests a lack of trustworthiness as well as vain delusions.

    Didn’t I hear something like that about Reagan?

    • 1) Reagan’s hair color was questioned because of his age: the color was fine, indeed a match to his hair color when he was on screen.
      2) His brother claimed that a family trait was late greying, citing other Reagans who were dark haired in their 80s.
      3) I must say, I always found this hard to believe. Still, Reagan was in freakishly good shape for a man his age.
      4.) My father’s hair remained dark until late in his 70s.
      5) My sister had a doll once with Weld’s color hair.

      • Just to show that this is very genetics dependant, my late father went grey around age 30. I cannot remember a time when he was not grey, and pictures look strange to me.

        I have a mix of my mother’s hair and dad’s: I started going grey at the temples around 30, but still have much of my original color.

        Just an interesting topic, I think.

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