Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/20/19: Ancient Icelanders And Others Behaving Badly

Good Morning!

1. Confession: I called a stranger an asshole on Facebook yesterday. I had patiently explained to a Facebook Borg-infected friend that no, the Justice Department report on Hillary’s email fiasco had not proven for all time that she hadn’t “done anything wrong,” quite the contrary. The report revealed that she was directly responsible for over 600 security breaches (after saying otherwise for more than a year). That means that she was reckless, incompetent, irresponsible and dishonest, and, since the applicable statute doesn’t require intent, could have been prosecuted. The report did find that there was no evidence that Clinton deliberately set out to endanger national security, which was never the issue.

Some clod following the thread wrote that you “could sure tell who follows Fox News talking points.” Well, I’m sick of that lazy deflection, and anyone who uses it, especially on me, is an asshole, and needs to be told.  maybe ist not too late to get treatment. It’s even more of an asshole thing to say than the reflex “But ….Trump!” retort.

2. Yes, this is unethical. Yes, it is newsworthy. No, it is receiving almost no national coverage outside of conservative news sources. Rep. Katie Hill, Vice Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, has been engaged in a three-way sexual relationship involving a  staffer and her husband. This would not matter to me, and should not matter to you, except that the woman involved is Hill’s subordinate. The workplace is not a dating bar or personal harem, not in the private sector, not in Congress. In addition, close personal relationships create conflicts of interest for the supervisor in any office. I would mention the inherent imbalance of power that makes it impossible for an employee to consent to a superior’s advances in such a situation, but of course Lee knows that, being an ardent #MeToo and Time’s Up! supporter.

The hypocrisy in the Democratic Party on this issue is wide, deep, and nauseating, except, I guess, to Democrats. Last week, discussing this issue with lawyers following my ethics seminar, a usually smart, fair, male attorney actually opined that Joe Biden’s serial non-consensual groping wasn’t really a problem because “he didn’t mean it to be sexual assault.” The lawyer really said this, though “I didn’t mean anything by it” has been the reflex excuse of every sexual harasser from Bill O’Reilly to Louis C.K.

3. Stipulated: President Trump’s harsh rhetoric in the aborted White House meeting with Democrats was one more stupid self-inflicted wound. Given the barrage of ad hominem attacks by the party that she leads, and the disrespect for the office that Pelosi herself has orchestrated (that mocking clap at the State of the Union speech alone was unforgivable), Trump was certainly provoked, but the President is not supposed to slide into the gutter just because his adversaries live there. It’s swell to be a “fighter”—Trump is probably correct that Mitt Romney would have been elected President in 2012 if he had a some Trump in him—but that doesn’t mean that gratuitous incivility and nastiness is a competent or responsible political strategy.

However, this image, part of a cartoon by Andy Marlette for the Pensacola News Journal earlier this year…

….was recently tweeted approvingly by Barbra Streisand, who I’m sure will tell us later how President Trump represents hate and divisiveness. It crosses exactly the same line that Kathy Griffin’s beheaded Trump photo did. This is the King’s Pass: Griffin is a C-level celebrity troll, but Babs is an feminist, Democrat icon. She can get away with being a hate-monger.

4. This story is so stupid that I initially assumed I had read it incorrectly. No, it really happened.

Marlon Anderson, a black security guard at West High School in Madison, Wisconsin, told a student who was berating him using the slur “nigger,” “Stop calling me a nigger, I’m not a nigger — Stop calling me that!”

 He was then fired,because the Madison School District has  a “zero-tolerance” policy regarding employees using racial slurs.

Morons. Censorious morons. Unconstitutional morons. The state cannot ban a word. This is a pure freedom of speech issue, and if the American Civil Liberties Unions wasn’t more dedicated to woke politics and political correctness than its alleged mission, it would be defending Anderson.

Ethics Alarms policy is to spell out the word “nigger” when the word is important to an ethics story. Why? Because I presume that readers here aren’t six-years-old. Because I am embarrassed for any publication that uses the baby-talk device “N-Word.”  Because we don’t ban words in the United States. Because when I’m talking to adults, I say “penis” and not “pee-pee.”

The school district can legally and fairly make it a firing offense for an employee to denigrate another individual using a racial slur or words of equivalent effect.  There was no denigration here, however. No-tolerance rules are almost always unfair and ripe for abuse, but this one is one of the worst in an already terrible group. Now I have to  enter here the obligatory Monty Python scene:

[Pointer: Steve Witherspoon]

5. Ancient Iceland ethics. The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft in Holmavik exhibits  the only known intact pair of necropants, or nábrók. According to  Icelandic lore, an aspiring necropants wearer had to get permission from a living man to use his skin after his death. Then, once the donor had died, the corpse’s lower torso, including legs, would be carefully skinned intact, with no holes or gaps, so the dead man’s skin could be worn like Yoga pants. (Serial killer Ed Gein had similar taste in attire, as did “Buffalo Bill” in “The Silence of the Lambs.”) As soon as a user stepped into the “pants”, the skin of the corpse became attached to the living skin.

To activate the magic trousers, the wearer had to have a piece of paper with a special magic symbol…

…and steal a coin from a poor widow, and deposit it in the pants’ crotch. Slowly but surely the necropants would fill up with more coins while bringing their owner good fortune. Ideally, the  nábrók would be passed on to a younger generation before the wearer died, meaning another post-mortem skinning.

Was this process unethical? Sure it was! Stealing from a poor widow was wrong. The rest is just ick. Here are the pants:

Who says you can’t learn useful things on Ethics Alarms?

24 thoughts on “Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/20/19: Ancient Icelanders And Others Behaving Badly

  1. Regarding #4: Cher, of all people, has apparently offered to pay Mr. Anderson’s legal bills if he chooses to sue the school district for this absurd firing. Cher, an ethics hero? We’re through the looking-glass here, people.

  2. I want to look up more information about “necropants”, but am worried what shopping ‘suggestions’ might be generated by the search….

  3. 3. Do we know for a fact what was and wasn’t said by whom at that meeting? I also think Trump deserves some praise for even hosting a meeting with an openly and relentlessly hostile congressional majority and minority leader. The sainted Obama didn’t even meet with his own party’s congressional leadership despite consistent criticism for not doing so. He was too busy issuing executive orders.

  4. 4. I wonder if Beto’s team can produce a T-Shirt saying, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your Freedom of Speech”?

    Think of the variant t-shirts the Democrats could produce, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your…[insert Freedom of Worship, Due Process, take your pick]

  5. Re #1: Would telling them they’re an asshole really help? I have a hard time picturing anyone being called a name like that going, “Woah, I guess I must be one, I better change my ways!”

      • There was a time when I parked my car over the line in a parking lot at the apartment where I used to live, and I came back to find a note saying, “Hey asshole, watch where you park!” or something to that effect. My knee-jerk reaction was offense at the insult, and to leave my own note somewhere daring the insulter to come tell it to my face. I nixed that idea, because I realized that yeah, I had parked badly, and the easiest solution was to not park badly. But it would’ve been easier, for me, to come to that conclusion if the note was more polite. At best, the insult had no effect on my future behavior, but the influence it had on my emotions could’ve affected my behavior for the worse.

  6. I’ve seen the pants! The museum is in an incredibly rural town in northern Iceland and is clearly a labor of love, the necropants were noteworthy because they’re one of the few forms of Icelandic sorcery that didn’t require consent or a specific request of the sorcerer.

    They also pose an interesting ethics question post-creation. The pants bring wealth, but if you die in them you’re automatically damned. You can only remove them by peeling a single leg off for a willing person to step into, at which point you can step out of the second kWh and they can step in. Would it be ethical to expose someone to the risk of sudden death and damnation to save your own soul? And does it change the calculus that the other person was required to take the risk knowingly (unlike the legendary Bottle Imp)?

  7. #4 We really do have some wackos running the show in the progressive stronghold of Madison Wisconsin and it becomes painfully obvious when you look at the policies coming from the Mayors office and the Madison School board. It’s getting hard to expect anything intelligent coming from a school board with elected officials that have the audacity to utter things like “Explain to me how arresting people makes the world a better place, how prisons and detention centers are keeping Americans safe?” or a Mayors office that when asked for more police officers to deal with the increased crime in Madison the anti-police virtue signalling Mayor decides instead to spend money on someone to literally be a spy for the Mayor in the police department that only answers to the Mayor and completely disregards public safety.

    Madison Wisconsin is a progressive bubble surrounded by reality.

    • “Explain to me how arresting people makes the world a better place, how prisons and detention centers are keeping Americans safe?”

      Well, if we are to believe that “common sense”, “sensible” gun legislation reduces gun violence, that implies arresting violators.

      • “Well, if we are to believe that “common sense”, “sensible” gun legislation reduces gun violence, that implies arresting violators.”

        You’re clearly not understanding progressives and social justice warriors. 😉

        They don’t want people punished for things like robbery, burglary, assault, car theft, drugs, you know the things I’m talking about, those terrible unjust laws that have consequences that are used to create a “oppressive social order”. When it’s youth committing these crimes they call it “developmentally normal adolescent behaviors”; yup you got that right, robbery, burglary, assault, car theft, drugs are all just “developmentally normal adolescent behaviors”. People should be able to do whatever they want without consequences. Their anti-prison rhetoric boils down to they don’t like the consequences so they rationalize with nonsense like this; subjecting people to incarcerations is violence, incarceration does tremendous damage to people whether they have committed a crime or not, incarceration does not promote positive outcomes – these things they call oppressive social order or authoritarianism. On the other hand, these same people think that things like their anti-constitutional “common sense” and “sensible” gun legislation aren’t “oppressive social order” they think it’s indisputable pure logic and anyone that violates their common sense directives deserves to be incarcerated because if they have firearms then they are clearly unstable murderer wannabes and if people speak out against their directives then those people should be incarcerated for their speech.

        Yes, that’s exactly how some of these wackos think, I’ve heard it and read it myself on more than one occasion.

        Assimilate or else…

        To a progressive any authority that they disagree with is evil authoritarianism but their chosen path towards totalitarianism is completely acceptable to them. In my opinion; progressives are brainwashed or they’re too stupid to understand their double standards and hypocrisy, or they’re both.

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