Late Afternoon Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/10/2022. I Know It Makes No Sense, But Here We Are

Many readers have sent me excellent tips for posts of late, and the fact that I have not responded or sued them yet should not be interpreted as a lack of appreciation, interest or gratitude. I’ve been hit, as has happened more often of late, by the twin terrors of burgeoning ethics issues all over, and all manner of disasters getting in the way of the blog. I apologize. This too shall pass.

Today a friend who played a prominent role in the last of two productions I directed of Saul Levitt’s excellent ethics drama, “The Andersonville Trial” sent me this article from today’s Washington Post. For those who read it, my position is that Capt. Wirz, the defendant at the center of the post-Civil War war crimes trial that was the sole legal precedent for the Nuremberg Trials, was indeed a sacrificial offering to the public’s outrage over the photographically preserved horrors at that Confederate prison camp. The conditions at Andersonville were not Wirz’s fault or within his control to ameliorate; if anyone was to blame, it was Lincoln and Grant, who knew what would happen to captured Northern soldiers once prisoner exchanges were stopped.

1. “This is the tragedy of Obsessive Race and Group Identity Obsession (ORGIO) Won’t you help with a tax deductible gift to help the millions of suffering people like Jennifer?NPR tells the vital stories of various people who have differing views about what color and shade of “thumbs up” emojis they and others should use in their social media posts. Like these…

Among its earth-shattering revelations is this:

Zara Rahman, a researcher and writer…argues that the skin tone emojis make white people confront their race as people of color often have to do….she [was confused] when someone who is white uses a brown emoji, so she asked some friends about it. “One friend who is white told me that it was because he felt that white people were over-represented in the space that he was using the emoji, so he wanted to kind of try and even the playing field,” Rahman said. “For me, it does signal a kind of a lack of awareness of your white privilege in many ways.”

For me, it signals that 1) the constant emphasis on race and color as the defining factor in all matters great and small is making people anxious and irrational, and 2) the public broadcasting is an unethical  waste of taxpayer money.

2. It doesn’t surprise me that the President didn’t explain this (you know how Joe is!), but the news media should have. The increase of 467,000 jobs indicated by the January jobs report trumpeted by Biden includes 768,000 new government employees on all levels hired between December 2021 and January 2022. Thus the jobs report showed a reduction in private employment of some 300,000 jobs. [Source: Washington Examiner]3. How long will it take for most of the public to wake up and realize Stacey Abrams is an untrustworthy, manipulative fraud? When Stacey Abrams, now running for the Georgia governorship that she claims was “stolen” from her, was photographed unmasked in a room full of masked school children, her reaction was to have her campaign claim that the ensuing criticism was motivated by racism. That’s Abrams through and through, and, for the most part the political party she comes from. Jim Treacher neatly described why the all-purpose “Racism!” response wasn’t good enough:

Here’s an obese 48-year-old woman sitting maskless while surrounded by masked children. Abrams is at much higher risk of COVID than those kids are, yet the rules don’t seem to apply to her. She wants to condemn these tykes to a future full of masked faces, even while her ego won’t allow her to cover her own.

Then more photos surfaced after the first one was pulled from Twitter, proving that Abrams’ initial explanation was a lie. So Abrams went on CNN to reverse course, saying, “Protocols matter. Protecting our kids is the most important thing, and anything that can be perceived as undermining that is a mistake, and I apologize.” Treacher:

In a little over 48 hours, Abrams went from “It’s racist to notice my blunders, you racists” to “Protocols matter and I apologize.” I have no problem with a politician apologizing for making a mistake, even if it’s only because she’s backed into a corner and can’t fight her way out. But it would’ve been nice to hear this before she called me a racist for criticizing her… the point isn’t that Abrams should wear a mask. The point is that she wants everybody else to wear masks, whether they do any good or not. She simply does not believe those rules apply to her.

Remember, Abrams was considered Joe Biden’s other best option for VP before he settled on Kamala Harris. This is what happens when the pool for choosing important positions are artificially restricted by “diversity and inclusion” quotas.

4. Who made THAT rule? Christian pastor Brian Sauvé is enmeshed in a social media controversy after sending a tweet that read: “Dear Ladies, There is no reason whatsoever for you to post pictures of yourself in low cut shirts, bikinis, bra and underwear, or anything similar—ever. Not to show your weight loss journey. Not to show your newborn baby. Not to document your birth story. -“Your Brothers.”  After he was attacked by feminists and others for misogyny, the minister who works at Refuge Church in Ogden, Utah didn’t back down and grovel apologies, but responded,

“Quite a few men and women who would likely identify as liberal feminists have recently taken quite the interest in my Twitter account. Welcome! I’m glad you’re here…Many of you likely use and promote the #MeToo movement — yet hundreds of you are sending me unsolicited sexual images and videos. Is that ok now? I thought your sexual ethic was all about consent? This seems like naked (pun intended) hypocrisy on your part…If a man were to send you unsolicited nude pictures or sexually explicit videos of himself, you would (rightly!) judge him as a sexually abusive pervert. But you can do it to me? How does the ethical math work out on that? Maybe your sexual ethics aren’t so ethical after all.”

Ugh. He moved the goalposts! His initial tweets about posting provocative photos were imaginary rules without reasons or explanations. If women or anyone else want to post photos of themselves in any state of dress whatsoever, they can. Depending on the photos, the number of them, and the implied message they send, such postings may be unwise, risky, foolish, or evidence of unhealthy narcissism. Or they might give others pleasure while bolstering the sender’s self-esteem. For the preacher to declare that women should “never” post photos others might find sexually arousing is presumptuous and obnoxious.

He never defended them, because, I suspect, he knows they are an emotional position that can’t be rationally defended. Instead, he focused on the easy position that women sending him sexually provocative photos without his consent is unethical. That’s correct.

But it’s not what the dispute is about. [Pointer: Steve-O-in-NJ]

5. In case there was any doubt that what the McCarthy-esque Jan. 6 Commission’s goal is—that would be intimidating and punishing Trump supporters using guilt by association and an abuse of the investigative power, here’s the account of what the Commission is putting a lawyer and his employers through because Donald Trump was his client.


13 thoughts on “Late Afternoon Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/10/2022. I Know It Makes No Sense, But Here We Are

  1. One thing you might consider if you have excessive leads: dump links at the end of the week as an intro to the Friday Open Forum.


  2. 5. In case there was any doubt that what the McCarthy-esque Jan. 6 Commission’s goal is—that would be intimidating and punishing Trump supporters using guilt by association and an abuse of the investigative power, here’s the account of what the Commission is putting a lawyer and his employers through because Donald Trump was his client.

    In your opinion, what is your objection to what the Commission is doing regarding John C. Eastman?

    • Based on the info provided Eastman should have known that his emails were subject to review. People too often get complacent about how to protect privileged communications because the use of third-party email servers to communicate has become so ubiquitous that property rights get forgotten.

      • I should add, I still do not understand why this commission exists in violation of the rules of the House which requires a certain number of minority members to participate. Could this simply be a new and different form of insurrection?

      • I once got into a fairly nasty spat with a boss who was also a good friend who insisted that I use the company’s email system rather than my personal account during work hours. I flat out refused, for exactly this reason.

  3. Regarding Captain Wirz:

    I wrote then:

    “You are correct that not holding people accountable for negligence or ineptitude perpetuates cultural rot. Also, I certainly won’t disagree that holding the most immediate person accountable for a systemic failure may teach a greater lesson to the outside world and to the organization in question.

    But in systemic failures OR failures that included the ineptitude of negligence of others, piling all those errors on the head of one to punish may have it’s benefits. It allows a leader to generally maintain the composition of the organization, no need for massive shakes up. But with that comes the moral luck bestowed on everyone else who is equally culpable, those people continue to rot the organization, even more so, their behavior, going unpunished, is emboldened.

    In the short run, it appeases those who are demanding action. Nevertheless it is a dishonest appeasement by telling them the cause of the problem has been solved, when only part of the problem has been possibly been solved.

    What it boils down to is a leader has taken the easy road out by unfairly piling all the blame on a single individual, who although may be a major source of the problem or only the most visible source related to the problem, isn’t the whole problem.

    Sure, there are benefits to holding just one or two accountable for the actions of many or a systemic failure, do they outweigh the wrongs of unfairly assigning blame? do they outweigh the wrongs of allowing unpunished individuals to perpetuate cycles of rot within the organization?

    I don’t know. I would think not. I would think an effective and dynamic leader would be bold enough to explain to the action-seekers precisely the breakdown leading to failure, be just enough to hold each source of error to their appropriate level of accountability, explain to the action seekers that devastating punishment would only annihilate any cohesion that did exist.

    I know we have enough sources to point to to say ‘well they do it effectively’, but isn’t that just the “Everyone Does It” rationalization? Isn’t that just a rationalization for leadership using ends justifies the means? (An means so temporary and unfair that it can’t even guarantee the end?)

    Scapegoating boils down to a leader getting himself off the hook of actually having to buckle down on cultural issues, or issuing more detailed punishments, or even worse, keeps the leader from having to admit that the leader is at fault.

    Military examples of scapegoating may seem to justify scapegoating. But there is a great deal of utilitarianism society allows the military so it can effectively execute it’s mission–that is, the imposition of the national will on foreign entities. Of course we have wide leeway for certain ethical decisions, even the most basic decision of the military: “Is the objective of this particular mission worth the X quantity of personnel we project will be lost achieving it? Yes” is purely utilitarian.

    When the military internally polices it’s problems there is occasional scapegoating, but that is tolerable. To perpetually ransack entire chains-of-command or formations because a cluster of soldiers, or cluster of subordinate or subordinate leaders made grossly neglectful decisions would leave the military leaderless and non-functional. Even on that point, I submit that the military does it’s best to ensure that as many people in error are held accountable as possible without the witch-hunt becoming a detriment to the mission.

    Because of the leeway we allow the military, I don’t think it is appropriate to parallel the military to civilian sports leagues, let alone pretty much anything in civilian life. They don’t deal in life/death or the lethal pursuance of national foreign policy.

    As for the Henry Wirz scenario. That isn’t an example of a military internally scapegoating it’s own out of a practical need. Additionally, the short of it: I don’t think a grave injustice was done to him. He personally murdered several of the POWs, the only injustice there was that others were NOT held accountable.

    But, the Wirz case can’t be viewed as a standalone example. It has to be considered in the greater scope of the Civil War (which I think makes it completely unparalleled to the firing of a hitting coach for all of its complexity). Lincoln sought to reconcile the secessionist states to the Union, fairly holding the entire chain of command accountable for the atrocities committed at Andersonville wouldn’t have done much for that, seeing as how it was a short chain of command:

    Wirz reported to General John Henry Winder, who died in February of 1865 (and was also listed as culpable in Wirz’s charge list).

    Winder reported to General Samuel Cooper, but even then, that link was established late in the war after the grossly ad-hoc prison camp organization appealed incessantly to Samuel Cooper (the CSA Inspector General) and finally in the last year of the war the insurrectionist president Jefferson Davis actually detailed Samuel Cooper to be responsible for the prisons (too late for anything to occur).

    Cooper himself reported directly to Jefferson Davis. There are reports that the Andrew Johnson wanted to seek to hold Jefferson Davis accountable for the atrocities at Andersonville, but that Wirz refused to implicate him directly. Although the evidence would have supported holding Davis accountable for at least allowing the conditions to exist, there was no direct link worth pursuing in light of the more complex campaign for reconciliation.

    Without anyone else in the chain of command to ALSO hold accountable, sure that is unfair. Wirz did plenty wrong himself to warrant his punishment.

    I think you’ll find scapegoating more often than not occurs not as an appropriate reaction to recently discovered problems. It generally occurs after systemic (but known) wrongs have been allowed to perpetuate or multiple combined wrongs have occurred but were ignored until finally they either come out public or they lead to a catastrophic failure of some sort. The scapegoating allows leaders and individuals to avoid accountability (wrong) by pinning it all on one individual.

    I don’t see how you can stomach a utilitarian justification of that. It boils down to “Everyone Else does it” and “Ends justifies the means” in order to allow the majority of the sources of problems to go unchecked while punishing one source of the problem.”

    Just finished the short story arc of Gaius Baltar’s trial in Battlestar Galactica.

    Baltar is a universally loathsome character who worms his way into positions of authority and trust but lacks the courage and confidence to act on principle. Driven primarily by an over exercised and miraculously unsatisfied sex drive only equaled by his drive to land positions justifying a grand vision of himself held exclusively by himself. Somehow (the show only clumsily demonstrates) he lands as Vice President and at one juncture in the show wins the Presidency, leads humanity to settle on a promising planet. Then the cylons blitzkrieg a complacent population and occupy the settlement in a day. Baltar, in a bid to avoid further bloodshed, submits to Cylon rule in exchange for being a puppet leader. Eventually a resistance forms and Baltar becomes a rubber stamp dictator trying to crush the resistance on behalf of the Cylons. Notionally he thinks that the Resistance causes more harm to humanity (at this point fewer than 50,000 humans are alive) than submission to the Cylons. Both sides end up engaging in bloody and unethical reprisals. Eventually the humans break loose of captivity and continue on in pursuit of finding Earth. The survivors decide Baltar needs to go on trial as a traitor.

    The court room drama is worthy of significant ethical analysis because, even in my lack of lawyerly knowledge, it struck me that the writers were especially clueless about courtroom and trial ethics. BUT, it does end with pretty decent monologue with some ethics considerations (not all correct, but worthy of thought anyway):

    “Did the defendant make mistakes? Sure. He did. Serious mistakes. But did he actually commit any crimes? Did he commit treason? No. I mean, it was an impossible situation. When the Cylons arrived, what could he possibly do? What could anyone have done?

    Ask yourself, what would you have done?

    What would you have done? If he had refused to surrender, the Cylons would have probably nuked the planet right then and there. So did he appear to cooperate with the Cylons? Sure. So did hundreds of others. What’s the difference between him and them? The President issued a blanket pardon. They were all forgiven, no questions asked. Colonel Tigh. Colonel Tigh used suicide bombers, killed dozens of people. Forgiven. Lieutenant Agathon and Chief Tyrol. They murdered an officer on the Pegasus. Forgiven. The Admiral. The Admiral instigated a military coup d’état against the President. Forgiven. And me? Well, where do I begin? I shot down a civilian passenger ship, the Olympic Carrier. Over a thousand people on board. Forgiven. I raised my weapon to a superior officer, committed an act of mutiny. Forgiven. And then on the very day when Baltar surrendered to those Cylons, I as commander of Pegasus jumped away. I left everybody on that planet, alone, undefended, for months. I even tried to persuade the Admiral never to return, to abandon you all there for good. If I’d had my way nobody would have made it off that planet. I’m the coward. I’m the traitor. I’m forgiven. I’d say we are very forgiving of mistakes. We make our own laws now; our own justice. And we’ve been pretty creative in finding ways to let people off the hook for everything from theft to murder. And we’ve had to be, because… because we’re not a civilization anymore. We are a gang, and we are on the run, and we have to fight to survive. We have to break rules. We have to bend laws. We have to improvise. But not this time, no. Not this time. Not for Gaius Baltar. No, you… you have to die, because, well, because we don’t like you very much. Because you’re arrogant. Because you’re weak. Because you’re a coward, and we, the mob, want to throw you out of the airlock, because you didn’t stand up to the Cylons and get yourself killed in the process. That’s justice now. You should have been killed back on New Caprica, but since you had the temerity to live, we’re going to execute you now. That’s justice. This case… this case is built on emotion, on anger, bitterness, vengeance. But most of all, it is built on shame. It’s about the shame of what we did to ourselves back on that planet. It’s about the guilt of those of us who ran away. Who ran away. And we’re trying to dump all that guilt and all that shame on one man and then flush him out the airlock, and hope that just gets rid of it all. So that we could live with ourselves. But that won’t work. That won’t work. That’s not justice; not to me. Not to me.”

    He has some points and he has some rationalizations. But food for thought.

    Which, it’s a catch 22. If an evil empire demands someone be a puppet leader – surely anyone knows going into that puppet leadership that they are willingly accepting that they are a type of traitor even if they think the role staves off greater disaster.

        • This 1970 TV production is very good (my versions were better), with a fascinating cast of actors more associated with TV series than stage or film. Richard Basehart, fresh off of “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” played Wirz. Cameron Mitchell was Gen. Lew Wallace, William Shatner was the Army prosecutor Chipman, and Jack Cassidy was a standout as Wirz’s lawyer.

  4. Re 2: I’m not certain how the Examiner got to that number. They don’t provide links to the reports they utilized, as far as I can tell, and the report from BLS showed growth in several sectors and no significant change in the rest. If someone who understands the BLS report better could help, that would be appreciated.

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