Ethics Lunch, 3/1/2022: Ethics Comes In Like A…

I know I’ve run this SNL clip on other March Firsts, but a) it always makes me laugh and I need a laugh today, and 2) it always provokes ethics reflections.

For example, I think about how much healthier the nation’s culture was when its primary weekly source of current events satire was devoted to making all Americans laugh rather than pursuing a one-sided ideological agenda, as it does now. Then there is the brilliant John Belushi, who robbed himself of a career of almost unlimited potential and his nation of the many joys that career would have generated by deliberately violating drug laws that would have kept him alive, if he hadn’t been persuaded by a drug-loving culture that insisted that recreational drugs were cool. Now, of course, our laws send completely muddled messages that ensure that more talented Americans meet Belushi’s sad end than fewer.

In the U.S., ethics came in like a lion, and is going out like a blind shrew rat…

1. Unethical Quote the New Month: President Biden. (I should probably highlight this with a full post, but there is too much political news on the ethics horizon today, so I’m trying to lessen the load.) During a Black History Month event as the White House, the President who promised to heal divisions in society and bridge the partisan divide, said,

“We’re protecting our country’s threshold liberty, the sacred right to vote, which I’ve never seen as under such attack.You know, it’s always made it harder for blacks to vote but this is trying to be able to figure out how to keep the black vote, when it occurs, from even counting.”

Trying to prevent the black vote from counting! No misinformation there! Restricting unlimited mail-in ballots, banning vote harvesting, limiting early voting  and drop-boxes, and requiring photo IDs at polls constitutes an “attack” on the sacred right to vote, says the President of the United States.

He’s not only lying, he’s an asshole.

2. Speaking of the President speaking...Will President Biden have the integrity to say, as Gerald Ford said in his SOTU message in 1975, “I must say to you that the state of the Union is not good”? I would gain a large and new measure of respect for him if he did, but don’t expect that, and because I don’t expect that, and am certain that the speech will, instead, be an exercise in spin, denial and blame-shifting, I’m not going to watch it live. I feel sorry for Joe: giving this speech with his approval rating under 40% and the Russian invasion going on, and trying to defend the lunatic strategy of paying Russia for oil after cutting off American drilling while imposing sanctions would be an impossible task for our most articulate and mentally nimble Presidents. It will give me no pleasure to see the President of the United States look weak, desperate, and foolish, and I cannot imagine any scenario in which he will not. Then we will have to endure the propaganda merchants in the media telling us what a superb speech it was.

Sort of relevant is this hyper-partisan, juvenile and unfunny satirical column that USA Today’s editors thought was worthy of publication. [Pointer: Steve-O-in-NJ]

3. Remember, now, it’s Republicans who are racist…Last week, a federal judge ruled that Fairfax County school officials violated the law by changing admissions requirements at the nation’s top public school, Thomas Jefferson High (gotta do something about that name, Democrats!)and thereby deliberately reducing the number of Asian-American students enrolled. A year ago, , a coalition of parents, students, alumni, and community members filed a lawsuit challenging admissions changes at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.  Until last year, admission to “TJ,” as it is called in Arlington, was merit-based and race blind, with a standardized test, grade-point average, completion of certain math classes, and teacher recommendations being the criteria for admission. But “too many” Asian-Americans made the grade, and “not enough” blacks, so  the Fairfax County Public Schools’ board and superintendent adopted an admissions policy aimed at balancing the racial balance by eliminating the admissions test and establishing quotas, while awarding bonus points for various factors…in other words, they rigged the system.  The intended result: dramatically reducing the number of Asian-American students admitted to TJ.

The Pacific Legal Foundation represented the “Coalition for TJ” pro bono, and  Coalition for TJ v. Fairfax County School Board was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, where Judge Hilton granted the Coalition’s motion for summary judgment, writing,

Here, no dispute of material fact exists…as to the ultimate question that the Board acted with discriminatory intent. Under Arlington Heights, disparate impact is the starting point for determining whether the Board acted with discriminatory intent. The Board’s overhaul of TJ admissions has had, and will have, a substantial disparate impact on Asian American applicants to TJ.

[T]he number and proportion of Asian-American students offered admission to TJ fell following the challenged changes…. It is clear that Asian-American students are disproportionately harmed by the Board’s decision to overhaul TJ admissions. Currently and in the future, Asian-American applicants are disproportionately deprived of a level playing field in competing for both allocated and unallocated seats. Placing the Board’s actions in historical context leaves little doubt that its decision to overhaul the TJ admissions process was racially motivated…

But…but…this was good racial discrimination, don’t you see?

4. Also “good discrimination”? Congressman Eric Swalwell [D-Cal] said that the deportation of Russian students should be considered as retaliation against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As far as I can determine, Swalwell has no ethics alarms whatsoever. Rather than allow young Russians to absorb the culture and values of a democratic society (however roiled at the moment), Swalwell thinks it makes sense to “[kick]every Russian student out of the United States,” even though of all possible sanctions, this is petty act is guaranteed to have no impact whatsoever, except on the innocent students.

5. When the only tool you have is a broken record… The1619 Project‘s fake history propagandist, Nikole Hannah-Jones, told her continually misinformed Twitter audience (Twitter makes you stupid, and tweeters like Hannah-Jones are among the reasons),

She added, fatuously,

And honestly, these admissions of shock that this is happening in a European country are ahistorical and also serve to justify the lack of sympathy for other invasions, other occupations and other refugee crisis involving peoples not considered white…What if I told you Europe is not a continent by definition, but a geopolitical fiction to separate it from Asia and so the alarm about a European, or civilized, or First World nation being invaded is a dog whistle to tell us we should care because they are like us.”

That’s right, Nikole Hannah-Jones sees racism in the reporting on the Ukraine crisis. She also

  • Falsely refers to “shock” that a European country is being invaded as if nobody remembers World War II. People are “shocked” because the invasion is so unjustifiable, brutal and dangerous.
  • What “lack of sympathy” for other invasions? Is she referring to a black U.S. President shrugging off Putin’s invasion of the Crimea? No, that couldn’t be racist. Does she mean the failure of the United States to take action when Iraq invaded Kuwait? Wait, that’s not right either.
  • If she told me that, I’d say that she doesn’t know what a continent is by long-standing convention, and that she sees racial discrimination in everything.

Howard University thinks it is responsible to have this woman teaching the trusting minds of college students.

6. And speaking of presuming racism…Last week a jury returned guilty verdicts in the federal trial of the three former Minneapolis police officers who were with Derek Chauvin when George Floyd died under his knee. The officers were charged with violating the civil rights of George Floyd in the arrest that resulted in his death, something none of the men could have anticipated. Tou Thao and Alexander Kueng guilty on each of the two counts against them and found Thomas Lane guilty on the one count against him. The jury also found that the violations contributed to Floyd’s death, which means their sentences will be more severe. As with the trial of Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, this was a verdict driven by a media narrative and fear of a fair trial. The Star Tribune, the Twin Cities’ most prominent newspaper, took a victory lap, with its editors stating in “A clear duty to intervene,” : “Concerns that the verdicts will have a chilling effect on police retention and recruitment are less important than the clear message sent by the jury: If an officer is engaged in excessive force, the law compels others on the scene to intervene.” What is excessive force? In Floyd’s case, Chauvin’s actions were sanctioned police policy, and his death was probably caused at least as much by Floyd’s drugged out state as the officer’s knee. This leaves the issue up to moral luck: if the perp dies, then the force was excessive, and every officer on the scene is doomed. If he doesn’t, then it wasn’t excessive, was it? The editors cited Al Sharpton as authority.

Alpha News reports that “Minneapolis patrol officers down by more than half.”Why anyone worth employing as a police officer would agree to serve in Minnesota is beyond comprehension. [Source: Powerline]

11 thoughts on “Ethics Lunch, 3/1/2022: Ethics Comes In Like A…

  1. Nikole Hannah-Jones is quite something, ¿eh? I suspect the “the lack of sympathy for other invasions” deals mainly with Africa, though I am not sure which invasions she is thinking about because “Africa good, everything else bad”. It can’t be the bloodlettings in Rwanda. Nor can it be the ethnic cleansings between the Tutsis and the Hutus, I don’t think she was/is too concerned about Boko Haram, either. Maybe she thinking of the Bay of Pigs and Kennedy’s foray into Cuba? That might be it. Or, maybe going way back to the Boer Wars, from way back in the day?


    • I don’t think she wants to revisit the Boer Wars. Those entailed the British Empire attacking the white supremacist regime in South Africa, and putting said white supremacists (and their families) in concentrations camps, where a large percentage of them died. That war is the genesis for the term ‘concentration camp’ in fact.

      Perhaps she wants to go to the Spanish American War a couple years earlier where the evil white American regime attacked the gallant white European Spaniards who were oppressing brown folks in Cuba and the Philippines. Oh wait..

  2. 4) The community of nations has staggered into a series of sanctions – some seemingly useful – others merely symbolic – most survivable by a nation that is already impoverished and has lived through this before. This has led quite a few private entities to enact their own sanctions. I can’t disagree with them but I’m afraid this casual piling on may not fit our value system in the end. Ground level Russians will soon find it hard to eat with some of the ham fisted responses that some financial institutions have taken. I’ve seen independent hacking elements dump *ALL* the personal information of deployed Russian soldiers.

    Sounds great right?

    Except that there will be true anti-Russian fanatics out there that will rapidly find ways to endanger families of soldiers in ways that none of these soldiers will even know about until they go home – so certainly this independent action looks good – but it won’t affect soldiers on the battlefield in war modifying ways. It might just make average Russians hate the world and rally to their leader.

    I saw widely touted footage of a fueling ship that services any boat asking assistance leave a Russian commercial vessel stranded, who knows where.

    Does this help change Russia’s war aims or does it just make average Russians (such as these sailors who were likely at sea when the war started anyway) who can’t affect their leadership *really really* pissed at the world?

    I’m a fan of fighting your enemies *fiercely* but maintain the attitude and manner of war in which after the dust settles, you can be *fierce* friends with the vanquished.

    • That’s why part of ethics (the constructive virtue that handles the fundamental liability of conflict) is nuanced response and deescalation where possible. It’s not just about respecting innocents, although I’d consider that reason enough. Even where there are no innocents, the smart thing to do is to leave the enemy a path to retreat, or at least a reason to think that things will get worse for them the further they push.

      If nothing else, there’s no point in lashing out if it’s not somehow connected to some sort of negotiation or incentive, a standing offer or implication that you’ll stop if the other person stops.

      • If you back a rat into a corner, you shouldn’t be surprised if it leaps for your throat. Russia is not a rat, it’s a tiger or a wolf, and if you back it into a corner, you’d better make damn sure you’re ready and able to take it down before it reaches your throat before it makes the leap. Those who were so cautious of Kim Jong Un because they were afraid of what he might do are suddenly not as cautious here. Why? Just because a tyrant is white and European doesn’t make him any less dangerous than a brown Islamic fundamentalist or a yellow Far East madman. But I’d be willing to bet that that issue “colors” the leftist eagerness here and reluctance otherwise, because the unspoken idea that a white bad guy is bad but a bad guy who isn’t white must have reasons had probably leached into their thinking so much they don’t even notice it.

  3. Help! I’m struggling to square the imposition of sanctions on Russia over Ukraine with my understanding of the ‘rule of laws’ (or is it ethics?). And I’m in serious danger of losing friends. The law surely is supposed to be blind as to whether I’m rich or poor, gentile or jewish, male or female, black or white, nice or nasty, motorbike gang member or President of the local Rotary, Russian or not. I know in practice life doesn’t always work like that, but it is a neat idea and I like it.

    So how can I be expected to discriminate against Russians, whether or not I believe they might be Putin supporters? (How would I know?) If they are clients I have a duty to act for them. If I have contracted with them, I need to keep my word.

    And what is this process of ‘freezing’ assets? How is it different from ‘stealing’?

    Somewhat predictably my friends are berating me with dreadful accounts of suffering in Ukraine; women and children cruelly targeted with missiles. When I ask them what relevance that might have to my dealings with Russian clients of course I just reveal myself as uncaring.

    • Andrew said:

      And what is this process of ‘freezing’ assets? How is it different from ‘stealing’?

      Technically, they are not confiscated, so that’s a pretty big difference. The funds will presumably be unfrozen when the miscreant stops doing bad things.

      In practice, it is more like extortion than stealing, but that forces one to ask: Are we saying extortion is okay and stealing not okay?

      Honestly, this is always a risk when doing business with foreign governments — their power to wage economic war on you by using their power to freeze, or outright confiscate, financial instruments residing abroad. It is a risk that governments know they must assume. It’s different when it comes to common citizens.

      But that forces me to ask — if Russian businessmen who have committed no known crimes can now have their assets seized by the US government for merely being a rich Russian, what limiting principles exist on such action?

      Finally, I can’t imagine why you should discriminate against Russians unless you know they are somehow acting illegally. Unless you are Eric Swalwell, of course — then you can support deporting Russian students on valid student visas just because they are Russian, because it’s cool for Democrats to do that …

    • Yes, it is stealing. War is murder, and sanctions are extortion. The justification (Rationalization?) for freezing assets is “the ends justify the means,” and the analogy is warfare, in which ethics rules are mostly (or completely) suspended “for the greater good.” Sanctions and measure like freezing assets are partial warfare, halving the baby, one foot in and one foot out, and so on. The only valid ethical argument for them is that they can achieve the best results of warfare without the worst consequences.

    • I’m growing concerned with the tone of many of the announcements of the privately-held sanctions. Disney, Warner, and Netflix have announced no new movies. BP, Exxon, and Shell are cutting ties.
      Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and Reddit have locked down communications options. Sports organizations, up to and including the Olympics have said “nope!” Even Putin’s own Black Belt honor has been reversed.

      I’m all for Ukraine. Russia should back down and pay dearly for it’s ill-considered actions. However, with the current state of the business world, I fear that more and more corporations are going to figure out that slapping their own brand of punishments on a foreign government will win them easy internet points. There’s blood in the water, and the sharks have barely finished from the last feast (I’m thinking of the reactions to the trucking nonsense in Canada.) It will become popular to punish Russia. In today’s climate, that equals unpopular NOT to punish Russia. Justice will take a back seat to the witch hunt, as it frequently does.

      Furthermore, these privately and publicly held corporations are issuing demands and punishing the established government of one of the world’s superpowers – albeit one of the aging lions of the pack. They face little to no reprisal, nothing Russia can do about it. In my eyes, the next step is these same companies asking for a seat at the table. Who needs NATO when you have Youtube? Nice to see non-militaristic strategies being considered and adopted, but concerning that this much power is being held in the hands of non-elected, non-answerable to the public agencies. Who needs Biden when you’ve got Bezos? It’s concerning to me.

      Also as a last thought, I can’t help but wonder, now that cancel culture has entered the scale of global politics, and used as an (effective!) weapon of war, if people will stop pretending that it doesn’t exist. Or that it’s harmless when waged against random targets. If it has the power to silence the President of the United States, and oust a tyrant from his empire; surely the law clerk in Ohio and the dentist in Detroit and the officer in Minneapolis have no chance in hell against its power. Worse, it’s a weapon which CAN be waged against random citizens – woe betide the person who comes into those crosshairs!

  4. Jack said:

    He’s not only lying, he’s an asshole.

    I think you’ve identified one of the few things Joe Biden really excels at.

    Congressman Eric Swalwell [D-Cal] said that the deportation of Russian students should be considered as retaliation against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As far as I can determine, Swalwell has no ethics alarms whatsoever.

    So let’s consider:

    * Uncontrolled migration of people from South America, even from countries down there that are not friendly, into the USA is good;

    * Deportation of Japanese Americans during WW II was bad;

    * Throwing out Russian students, who have legally entered the USA on student visas is good because the country (who we are not at war with, by the way) they came from is doing some bad things to another country we like better, but who is not our ally;

    Is there some unifying principle here that I am missing?

    Oh, wait — yes, I think I’ve identified it now. Swalwell is a douchebag with virtually no redeeming qualities whatsoever. That’s a “principle” for you.

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