Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/4/2020: Marching To Georgia Edition

Hello, I must be going…

Desperately trying to get this post out before the walls close in. I’m doing a program for an always receptive BigLaw firm in Atlanta, and its a program I know well, and I’m still anxious about it. It doesn’t help that I have some kind of cold, but the show must go on…

1. Super Tuesday musings…

  • Last night, I stumbled on  a Fox News panel discussing the Julie Principle at length regarding Joe Biden’s brain farts and Trump’s Tweets! They didn’t use that term, of course, but it would have helped explicate what they were trying to say, which was that once you’ve decided to accept the flaws of a candidate, more evidence of those flaws won’t change your support.
  • Speaking of… Joe Biden got his sister and his wife mixed up during his victory speech. If there was ever a question of how much the country doesn’t want socialism, the fact that so many Democrats preferred to vote for this sad husk than capitulate to Bernie should answer it.
  • How proud I am of my home state, which told the world that even voters who know  best, and presumably support to some extent, Elizabeth Warren don’t think she should be President. Thus they validated Abe Lincoln’s rule: you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Warren was the 2020 field’s worst demagogue and biggest hypocrite, as well as one of the most shameless liars. As I write this, she hasn’t dropped out yet, perhaps because she doesn’t want to help Sanders, whom she still resents for saying that a women couldn’t be elected President. Well, he was right as far as she is concerned. Good.

Warren was easily my least favorite of the Democratic contenders from an ethics standpoint. After I posted on Facebook about one of her many deceptions, a friend, apparently seriously, commented that I seemed to have a real bias against her. It reminded me of one of Martin Short’s brilliant improvs as idiot celebrity interviewer “Jiminy Glick,” when he cracked up Mel Brooks by asking, “Now what is it that you have against Hitler?”

2. Wait, he did WHAT??? Cedric Sunray, a college recruiter from Oklahoma Christian University,  visited Harding Charter Preparatory High School in Oklahoma City last month and met with 110 juniors and four teachers in the gymnasium to talk about opportunities at the college. He then asked the students to line up from darkest to lightest skin complexion, and then line up from “nappiest” to straightest hair.  As the students lined up, some of the teachers left to report the request to school administrators, who intervened. Sunray was quickly fired.

Sunray later wrote that the exercise was meant to be an “icebreaker” and that he has made the same presentation dozens of times at other institutions. Really? And nobody complained?

The president of Oklahoma Christian University, John deSteiguer, visited the prep school to apologize to students and staff members. Too late, I’d say. Any school that would let someone like Sunray represent it is too inept to be trusted.

3. I would normally devote a free-standing post to this jerk, but since I’m rushed… The first coronavirus patient in New Hampshire, who is an employee of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, defied instructions from public health officials to stay away from other people. Instead, he attended “an invitation-only private event” last week after  being directed to quarantine himself.

What should society do to someone like this? At very least the medical center should fire him, but that’s not enough. I’d have to check the law to know if his name could be made public, and perhaps it shouldn’t be. Should his conduct be a crime? Obviously voluntary self-isolation won’t work, because too many people have busted ethics alarms.

4. This is a really bad sign…In Portland, Oregon, we have more evidence of a breakdown in the rule of law, and an example of jury nullification at its most dangerous.  Five climate change activists were arrested for sabotaging train tracks used by Zenith Energy to transport crude oil. They belong to the group “Extinction Rebellion,” and put a “garden” on top of train tracks in Portland last April to stop Zenith Energy trains from reaching their destinations.  Evidence presented at trial  suggested that the “garden” was put on top of the tracks to cause a derailment.

Five of the six jurors voted not guilty, accepting the  defendant’s lawyer’s “climate necessity defense,” which is a kind of environmental self-defense claim. You can break the law if you’re saving the planet. The hung jury resulted in a mistrial.

5. Sorry, Ronin—you’re wrong. Journalist Ronan Farrow, recently celebrated for his investigative reporting on Harvey Weinstein and his best-seller, “Catch and Kill,”  announced that he was splitting from his publisher, Hachette Book Group, after it announced that one of its divisions was publishing Farrow’s father Woody Allen’s autobiography next month.

Fallow’s adopted sister, Dylan Farrow, has accused the actor/director of molesting her when she was a child. Ronin Farrow called  the publisher’s decision to publish Mr. Allen’s memoir a betrayal. “Your policy of editorial independence among your imprints does not relieve you of your moral and professional obligations as the publisher of ‘Catch and Kill,’ and as the leader of a company being asked to assist in efforts by abusive men to whitewash their crimes,” Farrow wrote in an email to Michael Pietsch, the chief executive of Hachette, whose Little, Brown imprint published “Catch and Kill.” “As you and I worked on ‘Catch and Kill’— in part about the damage Woody Allen did to my family—you were secretly planning to publish a book by the person who committed those acts of sexual abuse. Obviously I can’t in good conscience work with you any more—Imagine [if ]this were your sister.”

I yield to no one in my contempt for Woody Allen as a human being, but he is a major figure in film and cultural history, and his memoirs are of obvious value and interest. Farrow’s publisher’s obligation is to readers and stockholders, not the sensibilities of one author. The last sally in the Farrow’s email flags it as an emotional argument rather than a rational one. If this were Pietsch’s sister, then he’d have an ethical obligation to remove himself from the decision on whether to handle Allen’s book, because of a conflict of interest.

20 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/4/2020: Marching To Georgia Edition

  1. #2 – Apparently he already has a new job and plans to continue using this “icebreaker” exercise. I’ve read his long-winded defense, and I’m still no closer to understanding what this exercise is supposed to accomplish and how.

    • I saw his interview on TV. As I expected, it was the kind of edgy, ‘woke’ exercise you might expect. He put them in line from darkest to lightest because dark people are usually at the end of the line and he wanted to flip the narrative. He wanted to start a conversation of color and race and discrimination. As happens a lot these days, he thought that forcing people into such a conversation was appropriate at a college recruiting event. He tried the “I may look white, but I am actually an underprivileged POC” angle while also apologizing for the fact that he has a lot of privilege for ‘looking white’.

      Yeah, it didn’t go over well.

  2. In Portland, Oregon, we have more evidence of a breakdown in the rule of law, and an example of jury nullification at its most dangerous. Five climate change activists were arrested for sabotaging train tracks used by Zenith Energy to transport crude oil. They belong to the group “Extinction Rebellion,” and put a “garden” on top of train tracks in Portland last April to stop Zenith Energy trains from reaching their destinations. Evidence presented at trial suggested that the “garden” was put on top of the tracks to cause a derailment.

    Five of the six jurors voted not guilty, accepting the defendant’s lawyer’s “climate necessity defense,” which is a kind of environmental self-defense claim. You can break the law if you’re saving the planet. The hung jury resulted in a mistrial.

    Wow.

    I never knew of any attempted train derailments in defense of the Pythagorean Theorem.

    I never knew of any attempted train derailments in defense of the Theory of Evolution.

    I never knew of any attempted train derailments in defense of of the Lindemann-Weierstrauss Theorem.

    I never knew of any attempted train derailments in defense of general relativity.

    I never knew of any attempted train derailments in defense of quantum mechanics.

    I never knew of any attempted train derailments in defense of genetics.

    I never knew of any attempted train derailments in defense of Fermat’s Last Theorem.

    The only conclusion I can draw is that climatology is a total fraud.

        • We just expect the left to act violently and ignore the law. We expect the right to obey the rule of law. As a society, we have become used to the left violating the law and not being punished. When the right violates the law, we are used to them being punished. That is why we don’t go after criminals to reduce crime, we go after the law-abiding. We don’t punish a violent career felon on parole caught with a stolen handgun and illegal drugs. We just let him go with no bail and no additional punishment. When he murders a police lieutenant in front of a police station a few days later, we call for guns to be confiscated from law-abiding citizens in completely different states.

    • Those aren’t very good comparisons. The idea behind the concept of climate change is not merely that they think it’s true, but that that they think bad things are going to happen if we don’t stop burning fossil fuels.

      I find the Wait But Why article on Tesla (the electric car company) is still the best reasoning I’ve seen as far as establishing climate change. The most important evidence isn’t the current climate trajectory, but the fact that when all that carbon used to be in the atmosphere, the climate was very different, and we’ve seen that trajectory go the opposite way (global cooling) over the millennia. https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/06/how-tesla-will-change-your-life.html

      My own indictment of these activists’ sense of cause and effect is thus: What, exactly, did they calculate to be the risk that a derailed train carrying oil would spill some of that oil into the surrounding environment? And what exactly did they think they’d gain by taking that risk?

      • Except bad things did happen from the rejection of the Theory of Evolution and Mendelian genetics. Ever heard of Lysenkoism? Crops failed, people starved.

        • I stand corrected, but I’m not sure what your point is. I assume you’re still referring to this quote:

          “I never knew of any attempted train derailments in defense of the Theory of Evolution.”

          Are you saying that because there were no attempted train derailments to defend the theory of evolution even when bad things were happening, but there was an attempted train derailment to defend the hypothesis of anthropogenic climate change because people think bad things are happening, therefore anthropogenic climate change is disproven? I don’t think derailing trains is a good way to protest any scientific paradigm. It just creates a distraction from the real questions. I believe the appropriate ethical principle here is “don’t shoot the message.”

          I was trying to make a point about why these saboteurs/ecoterrorists were doing what they were doing, even if it was a stupid thing to attempt, but I think we’re just getting into ad hominem territory here. Even if idiots believe hypothesis A is correct, that does not make it false. The reasoning presented was sloppy enough that I felt compelled to call it out. If pressed, I can come up with an analogous train of reasoning as a reductio ad absurdum.

  3. Can anyone explain to me how Tulsi Gabbard, someone I wouldn’t have freaked out to find in the Oval Office among the Democrat candidates seeking the White Hosue, never got any real traction?

    My guess is she was torpedoed by the same type of people at the DNC and its leftists who hate Trump. In short, she wasn’t their toady. But I could just as easily be wrong.

  4. #4. Aren’t jurors violating their oath to return a verdict “according to the law and evidence” when they blatantly disregard both the law and the evidence? I would hope a change of venue might be in the cards for a re-trial.

  5. 5. I think Ronan is simply using a common Sail Alinsky (?) tactic that’s in vogue these days now known as “deplatforming:” If you don’t agree with someone, deny them a forum to present their ideas. It’s not only considered ethical, it’s a moral imperative! Dumb.

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