Comment Of The Day: “High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 11/12/2019: Laser Eyes And Science Trees”

Just to prove that reader commentary doesn’t have to be over 600 words (Technically known as “Alizia-length” on Ethics Alarms) to qualify as a Comment of The Day, here is Michael West’s COTD regarding the Governor of Wisconsin’s decree that the state Christmas tree is a “holiday tree” and his call for the ornaments traditionally submitted by Wisconsin children be “science-themed,” from the post, High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 11/12/2019: Laser Eyes And Science Trees”:

What part of Christmas do they hate? The individual and spontaneous demonstrations of generosity, spawned entirely from personal choice free from central coordination and bestowed as private individuals see fit free from oversight?

or

Christ?

Comment Of The Day #2 On “Evening Ethics Update, 11/7/2019: Dr. King Is Un-honored…” (Item #4)

Jutgory registered  the second Comment of the Day spawned by Kansas City returning one of its historic boulevards to its original name, less than a year after re-naming it for civil rights martyr, Martrin Luther King.  The first COTD on the topic is here.

Looking at the re-naming question from a totally different, and interesting angle, is JutGory’s Comment of The Day on #4, the Kansas City Street Name Battle, in the post, “Evening Ethics Update, 11/7/2019: Dr. King Is Un-honored, Virginian Republicans Are Non-Functional, Fox News Is Pro-Darkness, And Joy Behar Is Still An Idiot”…

I have thought quite a bit about the MLK issue and this post seems as good a reason as any to comment.

First off (a disclaimer): I am not a huge MLK fan. And, what I mean by that is that I find Malcolm X to be a much more compelling figure. It is not that one has to have a favorite civil rights leader. They can both be good, but MLK seems to be the civil rights leader that gained the White People Stamp of Approval. That’s really not MLK’s fault, but I prefer Malcolm X’s harsh realism to MLK’s lofty idealism.

Next, names are important. But re-naming something, as the case in KC, is often more important. My area is embroiled in such a naming controversy of late. For those not in the know, a lake in our area was recently re-named (sort of). The Lake had been named after the Secretary of War when local soldiers were surveying the area for settlement. The Secretary of War also served as a United States Senator, and rose to the level of Vice-President of the United States.

The problem is that he was an all around horrible individual, so horrible that even Andrew Jackson hated him. And, not only that, he both owned slaves and defended slavery. That, of course, was John Calhoun, the namesake for Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis.

Well, in the climate of “cancel culture,” that cannot stand. The City Council, in a virtue signaling “two-fer” and without much of any public input, decided to re-name the lake to “Bde Maka Ska” (your pronunciation may vary), its original name given to it by our Sioux Indian predecessors. Other parties quickly came in to assert their jurisdiction over the name of the lake. It was quickly changed back to Lake Calhoun. But, the chattering masses of the Facebook mob would have none of that; with the cat out of the bag, they are committed to Bde Maka Ska; Wikipedia also seems to have expurgated Lake Calhoun from its pages. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Evening Ethics Update, 11/7/2019: Dr. King Is Un-honored…” (Item #4)

When I read the headline about the reversal of the name-change for the old boulevard in Kansas City, I was secretly hoping it would be because of recent credible revelations that Reverend Martin Luther King had facilitated a rape, and worse. In May, King biographer David Garrow unearthed previously classified FBI documents showing that King was a bad guy in private by any measure, even using a Donald Trump or a Bill Clinton standard. I had written at the time,

“I want to see the ignorant, doctrinaire college students, progressive history censors and pandering politicians face this crisis and either live up to their alleged virtues and censorious standards, or admit that they were dead wrong, as I and many others have been saying all along….

As a civilization, we must recognize and honor the many, many men and women of all races and origins who have made humanity better by their public deeds, intellectual advancements and accomplishments in civic life, war and peace. Few of them, if any, did not have serious flaws or engage during their lives in conduct that today, or even in their own times, would be considered reprehensible. Using these acts, and solely these acts, to assess which historical figures are worthy of being remembered by future generations leads to a societal suicide, embracing a culture without heroes or aspirations.”

I was thus hoping that the statue toppling side of the political spectrum was being forced to sample some of its’ own  medicine, and that King had lost an honor using the same, misguided principle that had the Democrats removing the names of their party’s founders, Jefferson and Jackson, from their annual dinners. Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander, and perhaps when the gander realizes it’s bitter and stupid sauce, it will smarten up.

No such luck. It doesn’t seem as if King lost his street because he was a sexual predator, just because more Kansas City voters than not thought the old name shouldn’t have been changed in the first place

Steve-O-From NJ, however, does seem to be right about double standards where honors are concerned.

Here is his Comment of The Day on #4, the Kansas City Street Name Battle, in the post, “Evening Ethics Update, 11/7/2019: Dr. King Is Un-honored, Virginian Republicans Are Non-Functional, Fox News Is Pro-Darkness, And Joy Behar Is Still An Idiot”…

[Incidentally, has anyone read any hint of acknowledgment from the U.S. media, African-American groups or the NAACP that Garrow’s information raises a question about the propriety of honoring Dr. King? Neither have I….]

After two years of statue-toppling and other attempts to erase history, it should come as no surprise that eventually someone should suggest yanking something down dedicated to some darling of the left. The fact is that no city is REQUIRED to have a street named for King, nor is any citizen REQUIRED to honor him. In fact, as has been pointed out here, MLK was far from a saint in life, particularly with regard to his poor treatment of women. There is enough reason to criticize him to justify questioning why he should be honored at all, particularly in light of the current attacks on other (much more significant and influential) historical figures such as Columbus and Jefferson.

Of course the Left, and the black community in particular, doesn’t see it that way. If you’re lucky, they’ll just give you a non-answer, to the effect of the one is nothing like the other. If not, they’ll accuse you of being a racist, not because you said something affirmatively racist, but because you failed to give what they believe is proper deference to one of their icons. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: ‘Unethical Tweet Of The Month: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)'”

Humble Talent has issued an excellent and provocative post on one of the Great Ethics Controversies: what is fair, ethical and effective criminal justice punishment in a nation with the values of the United States?

I admit that this is an ethical blind spot for me, perhaps because I worked as both a defense attorney and a prosecutor. My natural inclination is toward the Baretta theme song: “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.” Or, for that matter, if you can’t pay the fine. I also believe, as Humble alludes to skeptically  in his final paragraph, that the culture of the United States, emphasizing individual freedom and encouraging self-worth measured by success, does make criminal activity more common, and its history and culture also increase the frequency of  violent crimes. I don’t trust cross cultural comparisons; I think they are all misleading, and often intentionally so. The United States is unique.

Nonetheless, all of the issues brought up in the post are complex and important to examine, carefully, seriously. I have not forgotten this post, though I needed  Humble Talent’s comment to make me track it down,  and I hereby pledge to make criminal justice issues, and especially prison,  a higher priority here.

This is Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Comment Of The Day: ‘Unethical Tweet Of The Month: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)’”

We’ve talked about this issue before, tangentially… And it’s something of a hot topic for me. It’s something that differentiates me from the group, I think, because it’s something I think America could do better, and it seems to be something that other right-leaning commentators are somewhere between apathetic to and actually proud of.

I think, and I could be wrong, but I think that this reaction is more of a rejection of the other side than a legitimate statement of belief. Progressives seem to no longer be content with the steady beat of “normal” progress, instead seeming to be approaching everything from politics to the personal with a militant quasi-religious fervour.

And to a point, who can blame them? If I listened and believed half of what their thought-leaders are telling them, I might be right there beside them. I’m of the opinion that people on the right feel like (and I agree with them, to an extent) they are perpetually under siege; their values, their way of life, their livelihoods, their basic understanding of the rules of the game of life. They’re given no rest, having the steady grind of not only the overt political messaging, but cultural and familial shifts happening around them in real time. And that’s worn away the dermis a little, they’re on their last nerves, and not picking their battles very well, instead opting to fight everything. Because otherwise…. The wholesale rejection of criticisms of the penal system seems… kinda shitty when you think about it. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Unethical Tweet Of The Month: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)”

An old, old, lament: “Laws are for the little people…”

I am constantly impressed at the perceptive and eloquent comments that issue from such a large number of Ethics Alarms readers. It cushions the blow of the traffic fall-off here that came shortly after the 2016 election, as the rapid Trump-Haters and resistance acolytes fled to secure echo chambers. (Facebook banning EA didn’t help.) I’d like both, sure, but I’ll take quality over quantity every time.

Aaron Pascal is long-time participant on Ethics Alarms, and he has issued many provocative comments, usually with a refreshing edge. This, in reaction to the most recent of AOC’s annoying and ethics-dead tweets, is one of his best.

Here is Aaron Pascal’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Unethical Tweet Of The Month: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)”….

“Jail the poor to free the rich” smacks of a combination of two extreme positions on two separate valid social dilemmas interacting.

First, there is the moderately unsettling (to me) privately funded and operated prison system. It’s been suggested that inmates are the product that is sold to bring in money. If people stopped being put in prison, then the corporations running the prison would lose money. Ergo, they get the politicians (especially the nasty, racist Republicans) to criminalize more activity, and push for longer sentences for smaller and smaller offenses. Especially if the crimes you tighten up on end up imprisoning a disproportionate number of racial minorities. Not a viewpoint completely without merit, but if you assume it’s the norm it certainly encourages a topsy turvy view of criminal activity vs the justice system. It also requires picturing the police, the justice system, the prison system, and the government as really bad, selfish people. Which is only a problem for leftists once you get to the government, which once you assign the blame to those horrible Republicans, the cognitive dissonance goes away. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/12/2019…” Item #2, Dan Hudson’s Paternity Leave

“Wait, What??? YOU’RE SKIPPING THE GAME THAT WILL DECIDE THE PENNANT???”

In a post sparked by the the current National League Championship Series (boy, I hope I don’t have to add that the sport is baseball) I had written in part,

“The ethical thing would have been [for Washington Nationals relief pitcher Daniel Hudson, the team’s closer] to pass on the opportunity to take the game off. The Nationals major weakness is a terrible bullpen, and Hudson is one of the few reliable  relief pitchers on the team. As it happened, the Nats won a close game, but that’s just moral luck. They might have lost because of his absence. That loss might have cost the team its chance to go to the World Series. Millions of dollars would be lost to the franchise that pays Hudson seven figures to improve its fortunes. The careers, lives and family fortunes of his team mates would be affected; the jobs and income of hundreds of merchants and others who rely on the success or failure of the team would have been put at risk. How could anyone argue that the emotional support Hudson would lend his wife during childbirth outweighs all of that, or constitutes a superior ethical obligation?”

Who? Why reader Tim Hayes, that’s who, who not only argued thusly, but did so at a Comment of the Day level, and then responded to my subsequent challenges with equally excellent responses. This gave him the Ethics Alarms equivalent of a three home-run game, and I’m going honor him with the whole sequence.

Here is Ethics Alarms slugger Tim Hayes‘s three-dinger Comment of the Day, on Item #2 in “Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/12/2019…” :

Counter-argument on the Hudson situation – For the Nationals to have placed themselves in a position where a single player taking advantage of a promised benefit at his job (the paternity leave) created a realistic chance of them losing the game (due to their lack of hiring sufficient healthy talent into their bullpen) is inherently unethical as an organization, because it creates a situation where all the groups you mentioned can be placed in dire straits by what happens to a single performer. Attaching the consequences for the team’s unethical staffing decision to Hudson’s personal behavior is unfair; The team did not choose to get him to negotiate away the benefit he invoked (which, for the appropriate compensation, they presumably could have), and was therefore at least aware of the possibility that something outside their control could sideline Hudson. That it was his wife giving birth, and not Hudson being hit by a self-driving car, which resulted in their not having access to him, was merely a result of luck (pregnancy and births being both notoriously difficult to plan, and the Nationals presence in the playoffs being, from the admittedly little I understand of baseball, something which was unexpected to say the least). Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Open Forum, And An Idea….,” B-17 Crash Thread

The first Comment of the Day to arise from the recent Open Forum is on a topic that never occurred to me before: one more indicia of how well readers here respond to the challenge of keeping the blog vital when I am called away. Here’s a summary from the AP:

“…a deadly crash in Connecticut this week of [a] B-17 has cast a pall over the band of brothers — and sisters — who enjoy riding in vintage planes and raised questions of whether machinery over 70 years old should be flying passengers.

The propeller-driven 1945 bomber went down at the Hartford airport on Wednesday, killing seven of the 13 people aboard, after the pilot reported engine trouble on takeoff. The cause of the fiery wreck is under investigation.

Arthur Alan Wolk, a lawyer who specializes in crash litigation in Philadelphia, said Friday that the accident shows the risks associated with flying old planes: They break. He said the rules for operating vintage aircraft are stringent, but he questioned whether compliance and training are adequate.

“The engines are old with no new parts being manufactured for decades,” he wrote in a blog post. “Even in service these aircraft needed the resources of a government to keep them flying. The aircraft and engines were never intended to last this long so intense maintenance and inspections are vital to continued safety.”

Frequent commenter Other Bill raised the issue, writing in part,

Ten or fifteen Christmases ago, I took my son and son-in-law on a one hour flight in a B-17 out of Falcon Field in Mes, Arizona. It was mind-boggling in so many ways. Incredibly crude and rickety. I can’t imagine flying in it at altitude for twelve hours, never mind enemy fighters and flak. Was it responsible to put my son and son in law at such risk in a plane built in a hurry to last for twenty five missions sixty or seventy years, an entire lifetime, after its construction? Should all warbirds be grounded and placed on static display? Seeing them fly brings tears to my eyes, but is the risk worth it?

His musings sparked this Comment of the Day from Steve O in NJ:

Hmmmm. I guess you have to measure the number of warbirds flying versus the number of accidents and the number of fatal accidents. Don’t forget, the FAA has some very stringent rules in place as to what standards an aircraft, especially an antique, needs to meet before it is allowed to fly. Flying is by nature risky, even with modern equipment.

Over the years 27 of the 261 pilots who have passed through the Blue Angels have been killed in crashes or other accidents, roughly 10%. So every man (no female demo pilots on that team yet, although the USAF Thunderbirds have had at least 2) who suits up with that team has a 1 in 10 chance of dying, statistically. Does that mean we should ground them? Italy’s Frecce Tricolori (Tricolor Arrows) demo team had a disastrous crash in 1988 that killed 3 pilots and 67 spectators. They’re still flying (saw them myself last year) and no one talks about disbanding them.

Warbird flying is more so, because of the fact you are dealing with very old aircraft and crude equipment by today’s standards. However, those who fly them accept the risk. The same goes for show flying, particularly with these aircraft so small you are almost wearing them rather than piloting them. I have to add that in 2016 the American Airpower Museum’s P-47 “Jacky’s Revenge” suffered engine failure during a promotional flight over the Hudson, crashed, and sank, drowning the pilot. The remaining AAM pilots and aircraft continue to soldier on, however. Continue reading