Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 6/30/2019: Post Rugby Edition

This just has to be a better day than yesterday.

And I’m not even referring to the Yankees beating the Red Sox 17-13 in the first MLB game ever played in Europe.

Also, much thanks to the many readers who sent their condolences to me and my family. It helped.

1. Keepin’ a-goin’!  Believe it or not,  having to say farewell to our sweet, vocal and witty Jack Russell terrier  was not necessarily the worst part of our Saturday. This makes today another ethics challenge, that being the theme of the intentionally simple-minded poem used by comic actor Henry Gibson on “Laugh-In,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” and later as a country music song in Robert Altman’s “Nashville.”

The ditty was “Keep A-Goin,” and Gibson, unethically, left the impression that he had written it. He hadn’t: the poem was written Frank Lebby Stanton (1857-1927), now forgotten, and Henry (who died  in 2009) bears some of the responsibility for that, though the poem was ripe for stealing since the copyright expired long ago.. The “Nashville” credits claim Gibson was the author of the song. Wrong. Here it is:

Ef you strike a thorn or rose,
    Keep a-goin’!
  Ef it hails, or ef it snows,
    Keep a-goin!
  ‘Taint no use to sit an’ whine,
  When the fish ain’t on yer line;
  Bait yer hook an’ keep a-tryin’—
    Keep a-goin’!

  When the weather kills yer crop,
    Keep a-goin’!
  When you tumble from the top,
    Keep a-goin’!
  S’pose you’re out of every dime,
  Bein’ so ain’t any crime;
  Tell the world you’re feelin’ prime
    Keep a-goin’!

  When it looks like all is up,
    Keep a-goin’!
  Drain the sweetness from the cup,
    Keep a-goin’!
  See the wild birds on the wing,
  Hear the bells that sweetly ring,
  When you feel like sighin’ sing—
    Keep a-goin’!

Since around 4:30 pm yesterday, I have felt like doing absolutely nothing other than grieving and helping the rest of my family deal with the sadness that engulfs us. But, as another poet memorably said, I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.

So do we all.

2.  Today’s Democrats support forced busing. They support forcing a lot of things. As if the far Left isn’t supporting enough terrible ideas that threaten the viability of the nation as well as democracy, the second debate showed a renewed enthusiasm for forced busing. Of course it did! The Declaration’s principles of guaranteed liberty are suddenly anathema to many liberals, as bizarre as that sounds. Judges ordering that Americans had to allow their children to be forced to go to schools far away from their homes in order to achieve racial quotas was constitutionally questionable in the Sixties, and subsequent jurisprudence has made it clear—I thought—that even if an ethical rationale could be defended a half-century ago, the strategy is considered dictatorial now.

Unless one is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President, that is.

The  Supreme Court case  Milliken v. Bradley, 418 U.S. 717 (1974), finally began limiting busing just as the public was becoming progressively more aligned against the process.  The Court  declared that federal courts did not have the authority to order inter-district desegregation unless it could be proven that suburban school districts intentionally mandated segregation policies. The courts could order desegregation where segregation patterns existed, but only within municipalities, not suburban areas. In 2002, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision in Belk v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education which declared that the school system had achieved desegregation status and that busing, was unnecessary, and thus impermissible. Then, in 2007, the Roberts Court ruled  in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 (PICS) that student assignment plans based on race could not be used to maintain racial balance.

The apparent enthusiasm of modern Democrats for a device that was oppressive and ethically questionable at best is less significance for the specific policy it involves than it is for the undemocratic attitudes it exposes.

3. Canada shows us what can happen without a First Amendment…The Quebec government passed a bill this month barring schoolteachers, police officers, judges and other public employees from wearing religious symbols in the workplace. A religious symbol is defined as  “any clothing, symbol, jewelry, ornament, accessory or headgear that is worn in connection with a religious conviction or belief.” The government added an amendment that would allow inspectors to verify that the law was being obeyed.

To pass such an anti-democratic law, Quebec invoked a Canadian constitutional loophole known as the “notwithstanding clause,” which empowers Canadian legislatures in the various provinces to override  basic individual rights if sufficiently “necessary’—you know, like if the next Democratic majority needed to banish “hate speech” or ban guns here. The legislation will not apply to those already working in the public sector as long as they stay in the same position. However, under the bill, a Muslim teacher wearing a head scarf could not be promoted to a higher position like school principal and continue to wear her “religious symbol.” Lawyers who wear head scarves, crosses, skullcaps or turbans will also no longer be able to work as external counsel for the government, or to represent it before the courts or with a third party.

Naturally, critics of the measure are using it to impugn the U.S., because that’s what smug Canadian politicians and pundits do.  Catherine McKenzie, the lead lawyer for a group seeking to overturn the legislation. “This bill is based on the same forces of populism we are seeing in the United States …the fear of the other.”

Oh no you don’t, you America-bashing hack.  This country’s traditional civil libertarians are doing the opposite of what Quebec’s new law intends, trying to hold back the oppressive wave of anti-religious bigotry that was seeded by the last administration. Quebec’s discriminatory law would be impossible in the U.S., nor would anything but a small minority of citizens (and extremist atheists) support it, while this measure is apparently supported by a majority  of Quebecers. We have an Amendment that guarantees the Freedom of Religion, and there is no cynical “notwithstanding clause.”

4. Oh, how neat! A keyless car! And the old way of starting the ignition was inadequate how? The Marshalls finally have new car, our first with the same year as the one it was acquired in since our late, lamented, loved Oldsmobile Aurora, which I totaled on Route 395. This Nissan Altima has a keyless ignition, which I have dealt with in various rental cars, but never with my own.

From the New York Times:

Ms. Penney, 81, and Mr. Livingston, 88, were found dead at their home in Sarasota, Fla., poisoned by carbon monoxide, according to preliminary tests by the local medical examiner. Susan Livingston said that after the car — which had a keyless ignition — pulled into the garage attached to their house, the engine had continued to run.

The deaths highlight a hazard that regulatory and legislative efforts have yet to remedy: Without the motion of turning a physical key, some car owners, especially older ones, forget to turn off a vehicle. Based on news reports, lawsuits, police and fire records, and research by advocacy groups, at least 36 people have been killed in the United States in such incidents since 2006, including seven in the past six months. Dozens of others have been injured, some left with brain damage.

By my calculations, that’s a lot of people who have been killed or injured because auto manufacturers violated the “If it ain’t broke , don’t fix it” principle, and didn’t perform a basic cost-benefit analysis to determine if the benefits of being able to turn your car on without taking the key out of your pocket outweighed that confusion of drivers not being clear on when the car was turned off.


27 thoughts on “Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 6/30/2019: Post Rugby Edition

  1. Judges ordering that Americans had to allow their children to be forced to go to schools far away from their homes in order to achieve racial quotas was constitutionally questionable in the Sixties, and subsequent jurisprudence has made it clear—I thought—that even if an ethical rationale could be defended a half-century ago, the strategy is considered dictatorial now.

    Wait a minute.

    During the era of segregation, were not students prohibited from attending certain schools because it would exceed racial quotas (the quota being 0%)?

    How was busing supposed to be better?

    How did the desegregation campaign morph from merely allowing children to attend particular public schools regardless of race, to achieving the “right” racial balances in particular public schools.

  2. Regarding 3: people and governments at all times always tend to seek greater power and control over other people or the governed. The great thing about the American system is that there are explicit limits placed on government power. And, even with those explicit restrictions, attempts at government overreach are common and, sometimes, successful.

    Regarding 4: my keyless ignition won’t start without the key in the car and the brake depressed. If the car is on and the key is outside the car, the horn will honk if all doors are closed. That is the warning you get if you forget to turn off the engine.

    Even that is not fool-proof enough for the ingeniously foolish. If you forget the key in the car and forget to turn off the car, there will be no warning and it will continue to run. Likewise, if you take the key with you and forget to close the door when you exit, there will be no warning and the car will continue to run.

    (I do not know if there is an auto shut-off if the key gets too far from the car.


  3. 1-My deepest sympathies to you & yours Jack.

    My Good 13 year/7 month/16 day old Golden Girl (Hannah “Hurley” Loduha-Schlecht) collapsed back in January during our afternoon walk (burst blood vessel from complications of hemangiosarcoma) and died on our way to the Vet ER.

    As usual her timing was superb; 25 minutes earlier and I’d have had to leave her by herself out on the snowy golf course while I went to get my vehicle where she’d have died alone, 25 minutes later and we’d have arrived at the ER, where she would have died anyway but with an accompanying 4 figure vet bill.

    As it played out, I kept my hand on her the whole time so she’d know I was there, but felt her slip away ~ 5 minutes from our destination.

    We were inseparable best friends; a team, as many observed, She was never so visibly forlorn as when I was miffed, nor so instantaneously ecstatic when that mood passed.

    No day will pass when I don’t think about what a great, goofy, forgiving, friendly, fun-loving Girl she was; I still can’t talk, think, or write about it without breaking down.

      • “Pain reminds you that the joy you felt was real”.

        (“Bladerunner 2049”)

        I found that distractions really helped after Lucky died, especially being places where he never was and I didn’t have to see him in my mind’s eye.

        • “ ‘Pain reminds you that the joy you felt was real’.”

          ‘Bout sums it up; the price for all that unquestioning, nonjudgmental, unconditional love and companionship comes due all at once.

  4. #4 – While I tend to agree (my personal vehicle starts with a normal key), the old method is far from perfected either. Look up the GM ignition switch recall.

    For a better example of changes for no good reason, look up the death of Anton Yelchin (played Chekhov in the latest Star Trek movies). A confusing shifter that may not be obvious if it’s in park or not may have led to his death.

    • The ignition switch recall was using a $0.50 piece instead of a $1.00 piece in a machine that costs upwards of 20,000 times the theoretical savings that would have been realized were the $0.50 part not utter crap. It was a 100% foreseeable and preventable engineering failure. Car ignitions have been perfected over the course of 100 years, and a manufacture deliberately choosing to install crap where the ignition belongs does not change the fundamental reliability of the technology.

  5. #2. The democrats are most beholden to public employee unions. Otherwise, they’d be supporting school choice instead.
    Think about the difference between the two: one says you can send your kid wherever you choose. The other says lower middle class families must send their kids to the worst schools so they’ll vote for better schools.

  6. #4. Recently had a keyless entry rental and it absolutely reinforces my vow to never have them. They’re not universalyet.
    As for the actual key – much of the difficulty mechanically relates to position. In the ’90’s the government added steering lock regulations as anti-theft. Once smart keys were intoduced, the rule went away. The manufacturers could have moved the switch back to the dash and simplified it but they have not.
    Even without the key the off-acc-on simplicity could stay, but simply as a switch.
    The stupidity of the whole thing, as implemented makes it worse. I left the engine on one time. I was holding the key (keyless?) remote in my hand trying to lock the car. The key just beeped at me and refused to lock. I had to go back and push the button inside.
    Let’s think about that scenario – no fob inside the car, lock button being pressed. That’s pretty clear I was no longer intending to go. Just turn off and lock.
    And in another example, I know an employee of BC ferries. They have closed decks on their ferries so a car left running is a carbon monoxide and fire risk. It’s now commonplace to have to page passengers to return to the car deck to turn the car left back on. It’s not that it never happened, it was just very rare before keyless entry.

  7. Jack I’m so sorry for your loss! I lost my aunt Tuesday. This is my 3rd death in 13 months. So I’ll share what a friend said to me the other day:
    Grieving is exhausting.

    Get some rest. The other Mrs. Q sends her condolences too.

    • Thank you so much, Mrs. Q. Every time this happens, I feel guilty that my emotional response is sharper when a beloved animal dies than a human. I’m not sure why it is this way for me; I know it is for others; I also know the, “Oh, for heaven’s sake, it’s a dog!” types, and have some in my family.

      It Is exhausting. Good advice.

      • Jack, your statement about having a sharper emotional response for a pet is quite familiar to me.

        I believe that response is because we know, pets – family or not – are universally innocent. That response is typical for people exhibiting high levels of empathy that is not tempered by undesireable human behaviors.

        Even though I only know you and Rugby through this blog I had to fight back the tears as I read that your friend and companion had to leave you until you meet again in spirit.

        They are not just animals or property. They are all that to which we aspire. They represent all things good and noble. They are our children. Those who believe otherwise never had that relationship.

  8. #4, such things are always a topic of interest on my favorite car forum.

    There are innumerable factors to consider, including government regulation, the improvements car makers would have made without regulations, etc.

    There is certainly a place for regulation, but as someone who’s worked government related for 15 years now, people truly have No Idea how much regulation adds to cost.

    Relative to cost benefit, this seems to follow “if we save only one life” rationale.

    Lets face it, even those of us not old and infirm have made stupid mistakes with cars, mechanical shut off or not – and let’s not forget the debate about when one is just too old to drive.

    In a nation of tens of millions of drivers, even numbers in the low hundreds of fatalities would be infinitesimally small, and then consider the number of starts and stops everyday, or even a year (since stats are annual).

    There are finite sale prices within given income brackets, and car prices have to fit within those.

    Mandating more costs subject to government compliance (i.e. not just parts cost, engineering cost subject not just to science and reliability, but government reporting ) means manufacturers will earn less profit (good, the greedy bastards! NOT), our choices will be limited, and costs increased.
    I never thought I’d see the day when Ford would build only one car, the Mustang, but there it is.

    Technology is not bad, things change, and we all adapt. When the costs of adapting poorly are potentially fatal, it’s incumbent upon us to be aware that we take extra care.

    That start stop button is not operating a nuclear reactor. Bottom line, terrible things happen, sometimes at our own hand, but unless we’ve all been bamboozled by an unethical group of manufacturers, lets please avoid yet another regulation for this or that.

  9. Was 3 bait? It seems like bait.

    “To pass such an anti-democratic law, Quebec invoked a Canadian constitutional loophole known as the “notwithstanding clause,” which empowers Canadian legislatures in the various provinces to override basic individual rights if sufficiently “necessary’”

    This is not true. The notwithstanding clause was set out in section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1981, and was repealed and made dead law in 1987. For 9 of 10 provinces and 3 of 3 territories, there is no notwithstanding clause. The reason that Quebec is exempt from the repeal is that they were never brought into Canadian confederation, and so they have to separately ratify changes to the Canadian constitution, and they chose not to ratify the law repealing section 33.

    The reason that Quebec isn’t part of the Canadian Confederation is interesting; Following the Canadian Declaration of Independence in 1867, Canada had to bring the newly independent provinces into the Confederation of Canada one by one, and bringing a new province into confederation included a process that amended the Canadian Constitution, and has some extreme requirements. For instance, all of the provinces had to pass measures to consider making the changes to the constitution, and then the amendment has to pass with 70% of the provinces representing at least 50% of the population to pass. Manitoba, as an example, entered confederation in 1870. And every time a new province entered confederation it became subsequently harder to pass the amendments.

    Quebec at the time, probably drawing from their heavy francophone culture having different values than the rest of Canada, chose not to enter confederation at the time, but was still allowed to be a part of Canada, there is so much going on in the background it isn’t even funny, the short version is: If there’s a law in nine provinces, Quebec is different. This was statue quo until 1987 when Quebec asked to be brought into confederation and Brian Mulroney made a go of it.

    People were actually really positive the first time around, the Provinces were lines up to pass their motions, people were having healthy debates on the topic, it seemed like it was going to be rubber stamped into existence…

    And then: Identity Politics.

    Elijah Harper, of Manitoba, was an MP of Native descent. He felt that native peoples were not being adequately consulted on this process, and in the political process more generally, so he along with a contingent of NDP MPs torpedo’d the Manitoba measure. The province was unable to get the measure passed within the ratification window, and the Meech Lake Accord died on the vine.

    This was a disaster. Where before people were talking in conciliatory terms, joining of peoples and cultures, all of a sudden the tone changed; Outside of Quebec, it was seen as Quebecers asking for something, when in reality, conformation with the Canadian Constitution en masse would have been a great sacrifice of Quebec’s autonomy, and Quebec saw the failure of Meech lake as a rejection of them by the rest of Canada. The next time confederation was broached was the Charlottetown Accord, in 1991… But by then the damage had been done; Where before people were willing to do the right thing because it was the right thing to do, all of a sudden every province had their own pet peeve they wanted addressed in exchange for their support: Manitoba and Saskatchewan were interested in Native rights, BC wanted more money for healthcare, Ontario was concerned about the environment… Charlottetown burned faster and harder than Meech Lake.

    This was taken about as well as one might expect: Three decades later Quebec has had two very narrow separation referendums and a National separatist party has held sway in the province more often than not, sometimes holding the balance of power in Minority government situations.

    Canada as a country almost failed, several times within our lifetime, because petty, self-interested people were unwilling to do the right thing without getting paid.

    And that’s how archaic bullshit like the notwithstanding clause exists thirty years after it has been repealed.

      • Argh. Don’t. After I wrote this I thought it would be neat to brush up on the topic, and realised that the law still stands, it’s just much harder to invoke outside of Quebec after the 1987 amendment. So hard, in fact, that it had not been used outside of Quebec until last year, when Premier Ford used it to reduce the number of Provincial Legislature seats in Ontario.

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