Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/11/2020: Still Crazy After All These Posts

1. Atticus, Aaron and Alexander. Today, July 11, was a crucial date in history for two great Americans, now in danger of being canceled by the ignorant woke. One cancellee was a real man, Founder Alexander Hamilton; the other is fictional, Atticus Finch. Both have been pronounced wanting in character of late because they did not manage to discern in their eras the full extent of the necessary racial equities Americans have largely come to understand today, with the benefit of decades more of debate and experience than Finch, and with a 250 years advantage over Hamilton.

In Finch’s case, this is his “birthday”:  on July 11, 1960,  34-year-old novelist  Harper Lee published her first, and except for a rejected “sequel” to  “Mockingbird” published later under ethically dubious circumstances, her only, novel.  Fortunately for Atticus, the version of the Depression Era small town Alabama lawyer that most Americans know is the film’s, where he is played by Gregory Peck as a pure idealist without any of the alleged flaws—like saying that it is wrong to assume that racists can’t still be good people—that the novel’s Atticus is condemned for today. (The multiple Atticus problem is discussed here.)

While Atticus Finch was “born” on this date, Alexander Hamilton died, perhaps by bravely but naively exhibiting ethical character while at the mercy of a man whose ethics were elusive at best, Aaron Burr, who fatally shot the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury in a duel this day in 1804.

The adversaries met at 7 a.m. at the dueling grounds near Weehawken, New Jersey on the same spot where Hamilton’s son had died defending his father’s honor in 1801. (The concept of karma was apparently unknown in 1804.)  According to Hamilton’s “second,” Hamilton deliberately fired his weapon into the air rather than at Burr (Burr’s second claimed that Hamilton fired at Burr and missed) , whereupon Burr, who had the second shot,  killed  Hamilton by sending a bullet through his stomach into his spine. Hamilton died the next day.

If you think politics are crazy now, consider: Hamilton’s death was the direct result of his publicly attacking and demeaning Burr for years (“I feel it is a religious duty to oppose his career,” he once wrote). Hamilton also was instrumental in blocking Burr from becoming President in the ridiculous election of 1800, when a quirk in the election rules threatened to allow the sociopathic Vice-Presidential candidate  to defeat his running mate, Thomas Jefferson. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Year: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

“People will do what they do.”

—-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi  yesterday, following being  asked at a press conference about her reaction to the statue of Christopher Columbus being torn down and dumped in the Bay by the usual gang of vandals and anarchists who are symbolically tearing down the United States and Western civilization, as well as its values.

I am serious about this being the Unethical Quote of the Year. I can’t imagine a worse one, once Pelosi’s status as the third ranking official in the United States Government and the leader of the Democratic Party is taken into consideration. This would be a morally, legally and ethically bankrupt statement if it came from a sociopathic teenager. Coming from a leader who people follow and trust, it is infinitely worse. Such an attitude strikes at the soul of civilized society. “They just do what they do” is a line from  “Jurassic Park,” as the paleontologist, Dr. Grant (Sam Neill) explains to the children that dinosaurs aren’t good or bad, they are just animals that “do what they do.”

But they were animals. Continue reading

Facts Don’t Matter: Academic Research Undergoes The Ultimate Integrity Meltdown

Heather MacDonald, whose Congressional testimony Ethics Alarms noted here, writes in the Wall Street Journal,

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is a peer-reviewed journal that claims to publish “only the highest quality scientific research.” Now, the authors of a 2019 PNAS article are disowning their research simply because I cited it.

Psychologists Joseph Cesario of Michigan State and David Johnson of the University of Maryland analyzed 917 fatal police shootings of civilians from 2015 to test whether the race of the officer or the civilian predicted fatal police shootings. Neither did. Once “race specific rates of violent crime” are taken into account, the authors found, there are no disparities among those fatally shot by the police. These findings accord with decades of research showing that civilian behavior is the greatest influence on police behavior.

In September 2019, I cited the article’s finding in congressional testimony. I also referred to it in a City Journal article, in which I noted that two Princeton political scientists, Dean Knox and Jonathan Mummolo, had challenged the study design. Messrs. Cesario and Johnson stood by their findings. Even under the study design proposed by Messrs. Knox and Mummolo, they wrote, there is again “no significant evidence of anti-black disparity in the likelihood of being fatally shot by the police.”

My June 3 Journal op-ed quoted the PNAS article’s conclusion verbatim. It set off a firestorm at Michigan State. The university’s Graduate Employees Union pressured the MSU press office to apologize for the “harm it caused” by mentioning my article in a newsletter. The union targeted physicist Steve Hsu, who had approved funding for Mr. Cesario’s research. MSU sacked Mr. Hsu from his administrative position. PNAS editorialized that Messrs. Cesario and Johnson had “poorly framed” their article—the one that got through the journal’s three levels of editorial and peer review.

Mr. Cesario told this page that Mr. Hsu’s dismissal could narrow the “kinds of topics people can talk about, or what kinds of conclusions people can come to.” Now he and Mr. Johnson have themselves jeopardized the possibility of politically neutral scholarship. On Monday they retracted their paper. They say they stand behind its conclusion and statistical approach but complain about its “misuse,” specifically mentioning my op-eds.

The authors don’t say how I misused their work.

In a move redolent of Soviet-style retroactive censorship, Michigan State University deleted its press release promoting the study, which had said in part, Continue reading

The “I’d Say ‘Thank God It’s Friday,’ But In A Home Office During A Pandemic Friday’s Just A Name” Ethics Grab Bag, 7/10/2020

1. Re: Privilege and bit more on the Harper’s letter fiasco. At the Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein flags this tweet by New York Times reporter Farnaz Fassihi:

A few thoughts:

  • Why do I subscribe to a paper that would employ someone like this? I forget.
  • She’s a bigot. I just wrote a bit on the “privileged smear” on another thread:

I have to say again that I do not comprehend the “privilege” line of thought at all. In the hands of most who wield it, I find the tactic the equivalent of Butch Cassidy kicking huge Harvey Logan in the balls to start their knife fight….

Continue reading

Jennifer Williams’ Three Questions

Harpers’ “anti-cancel culture” letter, discussed here was instructive, but not in the manner that its sponsors intended. It excluded most conservatives (except Stockholm Syndrome types like David Brooks) and all of those who had been damaged by progressive cancel-mobs, making the exercise suspect as Left-wing grandstanding. Worse, an alarming number of progressives who didn’t sign the letter expressed disappointment that others did, because they fervently believe that expressing opinions that vary from woke cant should be punished, and that (though they won’t come right out and say it) free expression is undesirable. Hate speech, you know—makes people feel “unsafe” to have to associate with the unenlightened.

For some reason the criticism centered on Vox, the website begun by Washington Post reporter Ezra Klein when pretending to be anything but a partisan shill became  too much for him. Vox is as biased leftward as Breitbart is biased in the other direction, which is why I seldom use, and never trust, either. Several Vox employees publicly objected to the fact that their colleague Matt Yglesias signed the letter, apparently forgetting that Yglesias, “by any means necessary” fan that he is, once admitted.

In response to the uproar, senior foreign editor Jennifer Williams tweeted,

What a fascinating set of ethics questions!

Let’s examine them, shall we?

Question #2, the one Williams answers, is apparently not as obvious as she seems to think it is. Tufts University history lecturer Kerri Greenidge demanded  to have her name  removed from the list of signers, claiming that her name  was used without her knowledge or consent. “I do not endorse this @ Harpers letter,” Prof. Greenidge tweeted. “I am in contact with Harper’s about a retraction.” The Tufts historian’s sisters, novelist and New York Times opinion writer Kaitlyn Greenidge and playwright Kirsten Greenidge also asserted  that Kerri was included among the signatories without her consent or knowledge.

Prof. Greenidge was lying—to the public, and to her family. Harper’s quickly produced an email exchange from late June in which Greenidge agreed to sign. “Yes, I will add my signature. It reads well,” Greenidge wrote from her Tufts email address. “Let me know what more you need from me.”

“Oh, just a promise that you won’t cave like a wet cardboard box and start blaming us if some of your progressive pals and family members complain, I guess,” is what Harper’s should have responded. Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms Corrupt And Cowardly Colleges Files: Marquette And Penn State

I’m sorry. I really am. These stories get worse and worse, far beyond anything I could have imagined just  a few years ago. I am so relieved that my son decided long ago that for him, college would be a waste of money and time. This has spared me the chore of explaining to him that it would be a waste of his values and mind as well.

First, let’s look at the latest chapter in the Marquette debacle involving Samantha Pfefferle, the incoming freshman who became an object of revulsion and terror because she dared to post a harmless, infantile video proclaiming her support for President Trump. The first part of the story dawned on Ethics Alarms this morning, here. Now we know that Mike Lovell, the president of Marquette, sent an email to Marquette’s Board of Trustees about the incident. The email was a dishonest, dastardly misrepresentation that would fully justify his firing for cause if the trustees had the curiosity and integrity to investigate the facts. Here I’m going to send you to John Hinderaker’s blog, Powerline, to read his expert vivisection of Lovell’s slimy machinations. I’m leaving it to him for two reasons. First, Hinderaker is a a skilled legal mind, and he does a superb job. Second, his blog is specifically mentioned, and denigrated, in in the president’s email.

The last time Marquette was mentioned critically here was in 2015, through the attentions of MIA Ethics Alarms commenter Rick Jones, aka “Curmie.” Rick, who used to give out his annual “Curmie Awards” for outrageous conduct in academia, nominated Marquette for firing a tenured professor who wrote a blog post that criticized a graduate student teaching assistant for telling a student that his opinion opposing gay marriage was homophobic and would not be permitted in her class.

Curmie was right and Marquette was wrong: a court later reinstated the professor and held the university liable for breaching his  “contract’s guarantee of academic freedom.”  The latest episode show that the school’s progressive intolerance for non-conforming view has metastasized since Curmie’s nomination.

John Hinderaker  titled his latest post “Marquette Weasels.” If that conduct was weaselly, what do we call this, from Penn State? Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Agony, 7/9/2020: I See Awful People…

Hi!

I am feeling stressed because there are a lot of Ethics Alarms projects  and commitments that are languishing: I’m trying to work out the logistics of a Zoom symposium for commenters; I have to compile the many submissions for the corporate and organizational grovels to the George Floyd mobs so we can vote on the best and worst; I am finishing the Ethics Alarms glossary of fake news categories, and I still owe Michael  West his prize from an Ethics Alarms contest he won a couple of years ago—and that’s still not all of them. The best I can say is: please be patient, because I’m not.

1. Is this a good sign, or something else? I turned on Sirius-XM’s “Comedy Greats” channel while driving to pick up some prescription and heard a segment of a Nick DiPaulo routine that was unbelievably politically incorrect, or, as many would say today, racist, misogynist and anti-trans. The audience was in hysterics; several of the jokes were so extreme—but funny!—that I nearly lost control of the car. I had to check: no, he hasn’t been assassinated yet. Neverthless, I felt like I had fallen into a parallel universe. DiPaulo makes Dave Chappelle seem like Art Buchwald.

2. How about “Lady Asshole”? Several readers sent me links to this story, telling us that the Grammy-winning vocal group  formerly known as Lady Antebellum, having decided to ditch the second half of their name to grandstand and show that they support tearing down statues, are now suing Anita White, a blues singer who has called herself “Lady A” for decades, because she wouldn’t sell  the rights to that name to them for a price the group found reasonable.

I can’t imagine anyone being sympathetic with the group, especially a jury. Nobody made them change their name, and choosing “Lady A” without doing sufficient research was negligent. The group is using wealth and fame as a cudgel, with three rich white jerks trying to bully a local (and black) artist into bending to the their will. I hope someone has started a GoFundMe page to help Anita with her legal fees.

3. Find my 2011 post on Donald Trump running for President, substitute Kanye West’s name for his, and you’ll have the Ethics Alarms position on Mr. Kardashian’s candidacy. I know a lot of celebrities and too many members of the public don’t comprehend this, having the civic literacy of gerbils, but our democracy is not a game. Running for President as an exercise in ego-massage and branding is wildly irresponsible, and threatens to distort voting and results. West is not a serious candidate, but he’ll attract attention and the support of those who vote purely on the basis of group biases.  But the news media will give him more attention than he deserves, which is none, and he could easily take votes away from Democrats.

The good news is that since Kanye has approximately the attention span of a mayfly, it’s a good bet that this impulse will be fleeting, just as Trump’s was in 2011. Continue reading

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers: “Cult Programming In Seattle,” And the Duty To Confront

This—the George Floyd Freakout, the indoctrination in schools and colleges, the submissive endorsement of the irredeemably dishonest, racist and Marxist Black Lives Matter and its fellow travelers, the Red Scare-reminiscent punishing and shunning of dissenters, the political and partisan enforcement of laws as journalists remain silently complicit—you know, this, has  begun to make me think I’m in another remake of “Invasion of the Body-Snatchers.” What never made any sense in any of the versions (the original, with Keven McCarthy and directed by Don Siegel of “Dirty Harry” fame was the best) is that aliens could take over the minds and bodies of millions of Americans across the country without anyone figuring it out, and without the news media warning the world with front page headlines and “how to stop the pod people” features. It  also seemed absurd that only McCarthy and his friends (or in the much grosser but less creepy re-make, Donald Sutherland and his friends) were the only humans who appeared to have the will and the gumption to try to resist the invasion.

I also have found myself pondering the end of “Three Days of the Condor,” when Robert Redford tells a horrified CIA official that he has passed on evidence of the agency’s lawless and murderous ways to the New York Times. Who or what can be trusted today to blow the whistles when it is the increasingly totalitarian Left moving to take over minds and destroy democracy? Continue reading

Oh, So NOW You Support Free Expression! [CORRECTED]

In Harpers, a grab-bag of pundits, artists, has-beens and assorted progressives/liberals were persuaded to sign an open letter protesting the “cancel culture” and bemoaning its suffocating effect on free expression and debate.

Tangent: Lots of people wrote that they didn’t recognize most of the names. I know 28 of them, and several, like Ron Sullivan, Emily Yoffe, and Dahlia Lithwick, have been subjects of posts here. Not only that, one signer is a college classmate (Nadine Strossen) and another, Diedre McCloskey, was a next door neighbor when I lived with my parents in Arlington, Mass.)

“Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement,” the epistle says in part.

Apparently allowing prominent conservatives to sign the letter was considered “divisive,” or the organizers could only get the leftists to join in if the righties were excluded. This restriction of expression in a letter about censorship undercuts the message, don’t you think? To make sure no dedicated conservatives agitated to sign, the letter cleverly included this poison pill:

The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty.

Ann Althouse yesterday properly and vigorously flagged this as the disingenuous BS it is, writing, Continue reading

Tuesday Ethics Tidbits, 7/7/2020: Goodbye To “Social Q’s,” Faithless Electors And A Weenie Judge

1. I’m cancelling Philip Gallanes. The advice columnist in the Times’ Sunday Styles section has provided some interesting topic for discussion here, but there have to be some consequences for irresponsibly spreading propaganda and falsehoods, even if they are sanctioned by his employers. In response to a “Social Q’s” query from someone who was annoyed that a neighbor had posted a “Defund the Police” sign and asked if it would be ethical to eschew calling the cops if she saw her neighbor’s house vandalized (Answer: Of course not.), Gallanes had to give readers the whole set of George Floyd Freakouts talking points:

“Many of the reports I’ve read about defunding the police focus on limiting the deployment of armed police officers to situations where they may be necessary and helpful — such as violent crimes. Many activists point to the large share of state and local budgets dedicated to police services when many calls to police (about persistent homelessness or family conflicts, for instance) would be better handled by social workers. Why not redirect some police funds to affordable housing and mental health services, they ask?”

Then why not say what you mean, I ask? Defund means defund. I resent this dodge.

“Still others would like to dismantle the current model of policing, as Minneapolis has pledged to do, and reimagine community safety given the frequency with which officers kill unarmed Black men and women.

And how’s that working out so far for Minneapolis, Phil? The frequency in which officers kill unarmed Black men and women is called “infrequently,” and the frequency is decreasing. Continue reading