Thank Goodness It’s The Friday End Of The Work Week Ethics Warm-up, 6/10/2022!

Three notable markers in ethics lore occurred on June 10. In 1752, Ben Franklin did something creative, inventive, bold and really, really stupid, flying a kite during a thunder storm to collect lightning in a jar. He pulled it off, too, because he was lucky, as usual. Ben just as easily could have been electrocuted, meaning that he would not have been around to add his considerable wisdom, negotiating skills and talents to the founding of our nation, which might not exist today if old Ben was a-moldering in the grave when they needed him in Philadelphia. A things turned out, Ben’s kite-flying experiment added to his fame, but it just as easily could have been an epic disaster for the world.

And that, my friends, is moral luck.

Another ethics landmark occurred on this date in 1692 in Salem Village the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Bridget Bishop, the first victim of the Salem witch trials, was hanged and 18 more innocent colonists were executed (none were burned) before the epic example of how fear, ignorance and political ruthlessness can turn good people into monsters. In 1976, a scientist published a paper arguing that the young girls’ weird behavior that triggered the witch trials may not have been caused, as “The Crucible” has it, by teenage rebellion, but by a hallucinogenic fungus that sometimes infects the type of grain the Salem colonists used for bread. The theory has substantial support in the scientific community if not so much among historians.

The witch trials are particularly relevant today, because of the Jan. 6 hearings…

Finally, on this date in 1935, Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Smith, two recovering alcoholics, founded Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA, a 12-step rehabilitation and support group program that has helped millions of people worldwide (including many very close to me) battle a terrible and widespread disease that destroys lives, families, and businesses.

1. “A Nation of Assholes,” redux. As regular readers here know, I posted A Nation Of Assholes: The Ultimate, Undeniable And Crucial Reason Donald Trump Must Never Be President nearly seven years ago, and all has transpired as I predicted. Well, not exactly as I predicted: I assumed that the rising generations would have their language and civility corrupted by having an unrepentant vulgarian and boor in the White House, but I did not predict the adults who were his adversaries quickly adopting equally unethical habits, and in some cases, worse ones. I was reminded again of this phenomenon—which as far as I can tell, only Ethics Alarms flagged—yesterday when a controversy emerged over Boston Celtics fans chanting “Fuck you Draymond” at Warriors court thug Draymond Green during yesterday’s NBA Finals game at the Boston Garden. As a born-and bred Bostonian, I can testify that not all that long ago such sporting event crowd conduct would have been unimaginable in the birthplace of Benjamin Franklin. The critics of yesterday’s disgrace concentrated on a “Think of the children!” tactic, which misses the ethics point. Chanting “fuck” is disrespectful of everyone.

In related news, I was watching the Boston Red Sox-LA Angels game last night, and a “Let’s go, Brandon”-style bit of unethical reporting occurred. On the Angels broadcast, the play-by-play announcer was almost drowned out by Red Sox fans (who often outnumber home fans in Boston road games) chanting, very clearly, “Let’s go Red Sox!” while Boston was at bat. The Angels announcer said, “As you can hear, Angels fans are excited, and chanting “Let’s go Angels!”

2. Lia Thomas isn’t just a cheat, she is also apparently an idiot. Former University of Pennsylvania “female” swimmer Lia Thomas finally sat down for a televised interview on ESPN. Wow. There is literally nothing remotely female about her, and the fact that Penn let her compete against biological women is even more outrageous than I thought. More importantly, however, her responses were either proof of an ethics void or brain rot.

For example, the incompletely “transitioned” whatever she is said, “The biggest misconception, I think, is the reason I transitioned. People will say, ‘Oh, she just transitioned so she would have an advantage, so she could win.’ I transitioned to be happy, to be true to myself.”

It doesn’t matter why you transitioned, you fool. What is important is what you did with the advantages conferred by your competing as an alleged equal with biological women who didn’t have the advantages of going through puberty as a male. Imagine Barry Bonds saying, “The biggest misconception, I think, is the reason I took enough illegal and banned steroids to transform me into a home-run-hitting mutant. People say, ‘Oh, he did it to break all those records and to make a gazillion dollars. No! I transitioned to be happy, to be true to myself.”

Oh! That’s all right then.

Then Lia informed us that “Trans women competing in women’s sports does not threaten women’s sports as a whole. Trans women are a very small minority of all athletes.” You know. Like robbing a single bank doesn’t threaten the world monetary system.

Lia has graduated and is going to law school. Good luck with reasoning ability like that.

3. An unethical poll by an unethical organization is unethically cherry-picked by unethical conservative pundits. Great. The professional hate group known as the Southern Poverty Law Center contrived a poll to show how evil conservatives are. The results headlined: “SPLC Poll Finds Substantial Support for ‘Great Replacement’ Theory and Other Hard-Right Ideas.” I wouldn’t trust an SPLC poll if it found that most people thought the Earth revolved around the Sun. This one seems determined to make Americans hate and fear each other, and to increase the fury and frustration of the kind of people who shoot up subways, churches and schools. But conservative writer Matt Margolis (and others) dug deep, and found a single poll result in SPLC’s hit job that impugned progressives rather than evil conservatives: “Nearly half of male Democrats under the age of 50 (44 %) say it’s acceptable to assassinate a politician “who is harming the country or our democracy,” the highest percentage of any age/gender/party demographic.”

Well, Matt, do you agree with all the other findings in the poll, or just that one?

4. See? Chris Wallace has his moments of integrity! On CNN, Fox News exile Chris Wallace bucked the CNN/mainstream media narrative by labeling the Jan. 6 hearings the partisan hype jobs they are. He said in part,

“First of all I think the committee has fallen prey to terrible hype, terrible overselling. You’ve got Jamie Raskin, one of the members of the committee saying this is going to blow the roof off the house. You’ve got Adam Kinzinger saying it’s going to change history. Secondly, they have gotten the former president of ABC News Jim Goldston to produce this made-for-TV event. I think that’s a bad look both for the committee and mainstream media to seem that they’re hand-in-glove with each other.”

Because, you know, they are.

5. Paul Caron at TaxProf Blog has more information on the Georgetown Law Center’s abuse of free speech and its mistreatment of Illya Shapiro. Check it out here. Worth noting:

  • Shapiro, who quit his GULC poistion after he was reinstated (as said he should), has taken a position with the Manhattan Institute.
  • Eugene Volokh writes, “It doesn’t matter whether you care about Ilya Shapiro’s career. The important thing here, I think, is just how much speech is now in peril, going forward, for Georgetown professors generally (especially ones who lack tenure, but even the tenured ones).”
  • Prof. Turley:

Unfortunately, most schools want to avoid litigation (and the controversy) over terminating dissenting faculty. The preference is to make life on faculties so hostile or intolerable that faculty will simply resign. …The support enjoyed by faculty on the far left is in sharp contrast to the treatment given faculty with moderate, conservative or libertarian views. Anyone who raises such dissenting views is immediately set upon by a mob demanding their investigation or termination. This includes blocking academics from speaking on campuses like a recent Classics professor due to their political views. Conservatives and libertarians understand that they have no cushion or protection in any controversy, even if it involves a single, later deleted tweet. … Like many schools, Georgetown cannot continue the pretense of protecting free speech and academic freedom when it is actively creating a hostile workplace for those with conservative, libertarian or dissenting views…

  • Illya Shapiro himself:

[I]t took a little time to go through the report that I got from the university administrators and to see and understand that I was being put in an untenable situation and that the next time I said or did something that offended someone, or someone claimed offense or felt discomfort, then that would constitute a hostile educational environment and I’d be disciplined. I’m not prepared to live and work under that kind of sword of Damocles, and I’m certainly not prepared to walk on eggshells to try to avoid any sort of inadvertent offense.


11 thoughts on “Thank Goodness It’s The Friday End Of The Work Week Ethics Warm-up, 6/10/2022!

  1. I haven’t seen any serious arguments that Lia Thomas transitioned solely to be able to win. I believe that she is transitioning because of gender dysphoria. It’s dishonest to try to move the needle of the debate by making everything about her motivations rather than the actual, physical advantage she has over natural female athletes. She has to know this. I’ve been through law school recently, and I can tell you, the reasoning ability of most of my fellow students isn’t there. They are good at playing the law game of matching rules to facts, but in real world scenarios, they don’t draw good conclusions.

  2. I listened to an interview (without watching the video) that Thomas gave to CBS, I think. It was clearly a man’s voice. If you simply look at pictures of Thomas without reading what you are ‘supposed’ to be seeing – your brain instantly classifies Thomas as male.
    That would be the brain that’s evolved over thousands of years to quickly categorize other humans. It has to be retrained to know that ‘it isn’t what it is.’

  3. The bit about there being so few transgender athletes is, of course, irrelevant (and therefore misleading).
    But the part about her motivation for transitioning came in response to a direct question, “What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you, specifically?” How else should she have answered that, if not truthfully?

    • Fair point. But the context has to be included in the answer. Why did you transition to female, and decide to start competing in woman’s sports in the process? It’s ducking the issue. If she weren’t slaughtering female swimmers in the polls, nobody would care “why.”

    • Curmie
      Thomas has already stated she was not happy competing as a male and now she is happy. I would suggest that previous comments clearly indicate that who Thomas swims against is a material fact in determining happiness.

  4. 2. If a Twitter post I encountered is genuine, Lia Thomas said in an interview with some media outlet called “UNILAD” that, “You can’t go halfway and be like, ‘I support trans people but only to a certain point.'” So yes, she is an idiot.

    I was pleased to find that all the top comments called out the false dichotomy. They emphasized that yes, they do support trans people in general, but not in the context of using an unfair advantage in sports. Seeing nuanced thinking rise to the top gives me hope.

  5. 4. Nice to see that Mr Wallace has some integrity, or at least is open to a random act of truth-telling. Mr Trump may not be the most adept and artful politician to come along, but I think he meant what he said and tried to follow through with it, keeping his campaign promises in the forefront of his mind.

    This circus in the “Peoples’ House” seems to me to be as farcical as our legislative branch can get: it sure looks, smells, and tastes like a public lynching of Mr Trump. If you’ll allow, it appears to be a third impeachment, though again he’s out of office already, and there’s no trial in the Senate but, rather, whatever the Democrats can pull together in the media, to try to convict him with no opportunity for him to mount any sort of defense (because, in their opinion, there can be no defense for the 1/6 riot at the Capitol during the certification of Electoral College votes). If that’s not unconstitutional, an abrogation of fairness (isn’t that considered “equity” in the law?), and a monstrous ethical viiolation, I can’t imagine how one would characterize it.

    I don’t know what a formal violation of ethics looks like but, regardless of your opinion of Mr Trump, it seems to me that this is the very definition of a Star Chamber or other equally horrific institutions in Western History.

    This may be a case where we could wish Tinkerbell would replace the whole lot with ethical lawmakers. But, then, they’re politicians and I’m not certain that “ethical political” isn’t an oxymoron.


  6. Given the lack of integrity exhibited by a number of law schools, it is most likely that Lia Thomas will do well in law school. They probably already have him identified as valedictorian.

  7. I’ve heard the ergot theory, and it is an obvious cop out. Even if it played a role, the accusers and accused so closely hewed to the social strata of 17th Century Salem that it would be comical if not tragic. All the accused were poor, religiously non-conforming, or black. All the accusers we’re from “upstanding”, church-going families.

    The article then attributes a dry growing season as correlating to the end of the trials. This ignores more obvious and relevant correlation, that when the governor’s wife was accused of witchcraft, he shut the whole thing down!

    The governor dissolved the special court convened in Salem, and barred “spectral evidence”. Once “spectral” evidence (aka, bullshit) was omitted, and ordinary rules of evidence had to be followed, the ordinary courts that inherited the cases in progress had no choice but to acquit those at trial. The governor then pardoned those who were still held but not yet tried.

    At most, ergot poisoning could have caused a few instances of ill-timed illness that added a veneer of plausibility to our nation’s most notorious incident of groupthink and confirmation bias. But the power imbalances involved are simply too striking.

    The majority persecuted an arbitrary minority, as has had concurred countless times through history. A fungus does not negate their culpability in any way.

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