Category Archives: Comment of the Day

Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: ‘Ethics Quote Of The Week: Ken White of Popehat’”

This is the second Comment of the Day within a week from Ethics Alarms prodigal son Curmie, a college prof, who makes the case that college education is being excessively maligned. You should probably re-read the post he’s responding , another Comment of the Day, to appreciate his argument.

Here is Curmie’s Comment of the Day on the post, Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quote Of The Week: Ken White of Popehat”:

This is a cogent analysis up to a point, but I must say I’m more than a little sick and tired of having people tell me what goes on in my classroom. I teach at a non-flagship state university. And the description of what happens in college classrooms simply does not match my experience of them.

(Side note to Ryan: I really do like a lot of what you’ve said here. I apologize if the succeeding sounds like a personal attack. It is not intended in that spirit. Just one too many sweeping generalizations about my profession, and the last straw happened to be yours.)

Ryan cites Thomas Aquinas. I prefer the great late-20th century philosophers known as Monty Python: “I’m not dead yet.”

I do expect students to know some objective facts: if you can’t tell me the basic tenets of neoclassical theory or who David Garrick was, you’re not going to fare well in my theatre history class. If Ryan wants to say that in this sense I insist on regurgitation, he has my permission to do so.

But to get an A on the research paper, you’d better be able to interpolate from incomplete data, and to articulate a point of view based on the facts as they are available to us. That means finding out what the facts are, but also finding context: okay, so it cost a penny to see a play at the Globe Theatre. But that’s a meaningless statistic if you don’t know what that Elizabethan spectator could have bought for a penny if he didn’t spend it on standing room in an outdoor theatre. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Professions

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quote Of The Week: Ken White of Popehat”

This excellent comment requires no introduction, just reading. 

Here is Ryan Harkins’ Comment Of The Day on the post, “Ethics Quote Of The Week: Ken White Of Popehat”:

One thing I have noticed on those rare occasions when I truly listen to someone whose viewpoint is diametrically opposed to my own is that I discover there are indeed legitimate points being made and legitimate concerns that need to be heard. That doesn’t mean that I experience a paradigm shift. I will still believe that opposing viewpoint is incorrect, but at the same time I discover that my understanding of that opposing view was actually wrong.

There’s a great deal of satisfaction in being right, and I confess that at times I am more concerned with being right than with listening to someone whom I think is wrong. But there may be much more to the desire to be right than mere ego. Our brains are wired to find the simplest and easiest course. We learn actions that can then be performed by rote, without even thinking about them. That is why we find ourselves, upon walking into the kitchen, opening the refrigerator door and staring at food for five minutes before we recall we really entered the kitchen to find a flashlight. Our brains have developed a pattern that says: “enter kitchen, open fridge”. Having the right answer is a great thing, for our brain can discard all else and hold onto that right answer. It is easier. Simpler. Life now makes sense and we can proceed with cataloguing the more important details in life (the current Kardashian scandal or the names of all the Pokemon and their evolutions).

Being challenged in our right answers is uncomfortable. It can be especially distressing when someone presents us with a set of facts that, at least on the surface, contradict our right answers. We have two choices when confronted with such a challenge: we can either try to hone our own arguments, or we can retreat and try to insulate ourselves from further confrontation. We’ve seen quite a bit of the latter. We develop little adages about how it is impolite to discuss religion and politics — the two most important areas of life, and the two areas most likely to spark an argument. We surround ourselves with like-minded people, listen to the news that most appeals to our viewpoints, and never venture outside the echo-box. Certainly all these tactics are easier than constantly assimilating new arguments, researching new theories and developments, stringing together logical narratives, and perhaps even adjusting our own viewpoints when our conclusions lead us to recognize errors in our previous judgments.

I’ve read a little bit recently on St. Thomas Aquinas, and in reading I gained a peek into life in the universities of the thirteenth century. Students did not come to a university to attend lectures. They essentially apprenticed themselves to a master, who then did not teach so much as dialogue. They demanded that their students ask questions and find answers themselves. I read an account of how universities would host open debates, and the masters would throw their students into the ring to answer the challenges and objections people would raise. Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Religion and Philosophy

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Observations On The ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ Trump As Julius Caesar Production”

It was a pleasure to see eloquent and thoughtful teacher/blogger Curmie back commenting after a hiatus, and his timing could not have been better, as the controversy over the nightly assassination of a Julius Caesar who appears to be President Trump’s twin has become even more relevant since an anti-Trump zealots started picking off Republican Congressmen with his rifle.

Curmie is a theater professional with keen perspective on artistic freedom and a proven facility with ethical analysis. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Observations On The “Shakespeare in the Park” Trump As “Julius Caesar” Production:

Not surprisingly, I suppose, I’ve been thinking a lot about this story lately—enough to post about it twice on my own blog. Not having seen the production, I can’t say for certain that it does or doesn’t do X or Y. But I wonder if what we’re dealing with here is a variation on the theme of the Second Niggardly Principle.

[Ethics Alarms note: “When an individual or group can accomplish its legitimate objectives without engaging in speech or conduct that will offend individuals whose basis for the supposed offense is emotional, mistaken or ignorant, but is not malicious and is based on well-established impulses of human nature, it is unethical to intentionally engage in such speech or conduct.”]

A couple of points first. Drama, especially in the West, has always been political. I would argue (although I suspect the majority of my fellow theatre historians would disagree) that the Dionysian Festival, generally regarded as the birthplace of formal theatre (although there was almost certainly theatrical activity of some kind before that) was created less to honor Dionysus—a rather obscure demi-god worshipped primarily in Asia Minor—than to consolidate the political power of the tyrant Peisistratus.

Whether or not this is the case, it is unquestionably true that the Dionysia was used as a site for political speeches (e.g., Pericles’ funeral oration), and that the plays themselves commented on contemporary events (e.g., the Oresteia on the reforms of Ephialtes three years earlier, or Oedipus Tyrannos on the plague). Old Comedy—the plays that would have been contemporaneous with the work of the great Athenian tragedians—was explicitly political, often vulgar, and uniformly iconoclastic. These comic critiques of the powerful were seen by the state as an important part of the cultural life, much as the Feast of Fools became a staple of the medieval calendar. Similarly, Americans knew we were going to be all right after 9/11 when David Letterman started telling Bush jokes again. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Literature, Rights

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/17/2017

1. If you haven’t yet read them, Steve-O-in NJ’s Comment of the Day on Chris’s brilliant Comment of the Day regarding ideological and partisan hate—plus Chris Bentley’s Comment of the Day on the same post, are all especially worth reading, not that all Comments of the Day by Ethics Alarms readers are not. I apologize for an unusually long intro to Steve’s post, but I had been holding on to a lot of related material from the day past on the topic, and it was either use them there or be redundant later. This meant putting Steve-O’s COTD after the jump, which is why I’m giving an extra plug to it now.

2. There were two significant criminal trial verdicts yesterday: the guilty verdict in the trial of  Michelle Carter, a Massachusetts woman charged with murder for using text messages to persuade her teenaged boyfriend to kill himself, and the acquittal of the Minnesota police officers who shot and killed black motorist Philandro Castile during a traffic stop. I’ll cover the Carter case later.

There were the obligatory riots after the verdict acquitting Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who fatally shot Castile in his car after he told the officer that he was carrying a legally registered firearm and then reached for his wallet to show the officer his license. This is just the latest cattle-car in the Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck, the familiar pattern of a badly-trained cop, a dubious police stop, poor judgment by a victim, and a needless death. I would compare it to the Tamir Rice shooting in Cleveland, where the officers involved weren’t even indicted.

Why in the world would a motorist tell a cop in that situation—Castile had been officially stopped for a broken tail light, but in reality because he was black, and the officers thought he resembled a suspect in a crime who was also black—that he had a gun? This could be interpreted as a threat, and obviously Yanez saw it as one. The verdict looks wrong at a gut level, but it is easy to see how the jurors were thinking: they placed themselves in the officer’s position. They would have been in fear of their lives, so they couldn’t find a way to pronounce Yanez a murderer for doing what they could see themselves doing under similar circumstances. This was a legitimate case for reasonable doubt under the law. Police officers, however, are supposed to be less likely to panic than a typical juror. Castile is dead because of incompetent police work, but the criminal laws don’t allow different standards to be applied  for different occupations, not should they. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Comment of the Day, Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Social Media

Yet Another Comment Of The Day On “Comment of the Day: ‘Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/14/17’”

Steve-O-in NJ continues the very topical discussion of hate and partyism in our society. This story from yesterday is on point: increasingly Americans regard those supporting different parties as unfit for friendship, marriage, and other forms of association. I have been writing about this trend for almost two decades; it has accelerated greatly due to social media, the increasing bias and incompetence of the news media, divisive political leaders and bad luck. Democracy cannot thrive or even survive in an atmosphere of such distrust. This should be obvious, and as I have observed elsewhere on Ethics Alarms, those who are feeding the hate and distrust appear to bee doing so deliberately for some imagined political gain. This is madness.

More stories surface every day showing members of the political class embracing the madness. Like this one, about a Democratic strategist who has started promoting the hastags #HuntRepublicans and #HuntRepublicanCongressmen. on Twitter. “We are in a war with selfish, foolish & narcissistic rich people,” wrote James Devine on Twitter. “Why is it a shock when things turn violent? #HuntRepublicanCongressmen.” A Democrat who has has run for office, consulted for numerous New Jersey candidates, and worked for New Jersey lawmakers, Devine said in an interview, “If you want to invite a class war, then you have to expect people to fight back at some point.”

Wait….Bernie Sanders is a Republican? All those people cluttering up Wall Street vilifying the “1%” were conservatives? Republican Congressmen called citizens who wouldn’t fall into line “deplorables’? 

This is the latest rationalization I have been seeing on Facebook: Donald Trump has made Democrats act like spoiled street gang members. How? Why, by having the audacity and bad manners to win the election, of course. Here was Peggy Noonan correctly diagnosing the phenomenon:

Here I want to note the words spoken by Kathy Griffin, the holder of the severed head. In a tearful news conference she said of the president, “He broke me.” She was roundly mocked for this. Oh, the big bad president’s supporters were mean to you after you held up his bloody effigy. But she was exactly right. He did break her. He robbed her of her sense of restraint and limits, of her judgment. He broke her, but not in the way she thinks, and he is breaking more than her.

We have been seeing a generation of media figures cratering under the historical pressure of Donald Trump. He really is powerful.

They’re losing their heads. Now would be a good time to regain them.

They have been making the whole political scene lower, grubbier. They are showing the young what otherwise estimable adults do under pressure, which is lose their equilibrium, their knowledge of themselves as public figures, as therefore examples—tone setters. They’re paid a lot of money and have famous faces and get the best seat, and the big thing they’re supposed to do in return is not be a slob. Not make it worse.

By indulging their and their audience’s rage, they spread the rage. They celebrate themselves as brave for this. They stood up to the man, they spoke truth to power. But what courage, really, does that take? Their audiences love it. Their base loves it, their demo loves it, their bosses love it. Their numbers go up. They get a better contract. This isn’t brave.

Today, on Facebook, my wife intervened in a liberal echo chamber exchange among women saying they were going to boycott a local department store because it sold Ivanka Trump’s merchandise.  She pointed out that this was unfair and made now sense, and kept batting away various rationalizations offered by the women, who were lawyers. Finally one wrote, “Ok, I admit it. I just hate Donald Trump.” That was the best and only argument she had.

This is both admitting bigotry and being so comfortable with it that you accept it.

Here is Steve-O-in NJ’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Comment of the Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/14/17”: Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Social Media, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “Comment of the Day: ‘Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/14/17′” [UPDATED]

As excellent comments often do, Chris’s Comment of the Day prompted an excellent comment in return. This one (actually two that followed on to each other) went well beyond the subject matter in the original post by eventually delving into the soft bigotry of low expectations,  Black Lives Matters inner city cultural pathologies, and more.

UPDATE: When I first posted this, I inexplicably included the second part, the follow-up, omitted the main section, which came before. Mu apologies to Chris and Ethics Alarms readers; It’s correct now.

This is Chris Bentley’s Comment of the Day on fellow Chris’s Comment of the Day on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/14/17”

…That “when we liberals hate someone, it’s because they deserve it.” sentence does bring up some interesting (if not lengthy) thoughts.Most right minded liberals would likely admit that they do hate, at times, republicans and/or conservative ideology. And I’d bet that they’d (like Chris joked) would do so, by justifying that “Right Hate” is bigoted and unjustified, while “Left Hate” is in response to Right Hate, and thus, while ugly, is still justified. This seems to be a prevailing narrative; The Right is hateful for no good reason, the Left is hateful because of the Right. So, no matter how much you can condemn hate, the Left’s hate always seems not quite as bad as the Right’s; more noble, if you will.

And I think this is what frustrates me the most, this narrative. Because rather than the Left seeing the Right as having (at least some) shared goals (security, prosperity, equal opportunity), with radically different paths to achieve those goals, the Left paints the Right’s “hate” as unjustified, ignorant, and without redeeming qualities of any kind.*

At the heart of this frustration is the ignorance most, on the right and definitely on the left, demonstrate towards liberal policies/movements/ideology that are, IMO, every bit as racist/sexist/discriminatory as those on the left claim the right are.

One example: I woke up this morning, and read an article about a mother in Baltimore, who on a particular day, had several times called police to complain about neighborhood thugs trying to steal her kid’s bike, and then, trying to rough up her son; they lived in a very, very bad part of the city. Once the police left the second time, the thugs shot her dead, in front of her kids. It was absolutely heartbreaking to read. And sadly, my first thought, after completing the article, was: “I am certain I will never read about this woman’s murder on a left-run website…ever.” (Followed by: “I am certain BLM will never hold a protest in this woman’s honor”…but that’s an issue for another day) Continue reading

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Comment of the Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/14/17”

Some of Ethics Alarms’ most adept and provocative commenters have not authored official Comments of the Day. This is mostly due to the randomness of the selection process, as well as the fact that masters of the long-form have an inherent advantage over those who are more succinct.

I failed to get the Best of Ethics 2016 posted this year, but one of its items is always Commenter of the Year. That honor was going to go to Chris, who not only has been one of the most prolific commenters here since he first dropped by, but also one of the most resilient, forming the bedrock foundation of the Ethics Alarms liberal contingent, which still needs some recruits to balance the teams. Chris’s recognition in the Comment of the Day category does not accurately reflect his value here.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Morning Ethics Round-Up: 6/14/17, taking off from one of my numbered observations therein. I’ll be back briefly at the end.

Jack: “2. It is astounding to me that so many Democrats deny that there is a liberal (progressive, really) climate of hate.”

This is because when most liberals use the term “hate,” we are referring to prejudice, bigotry, and other forms of unjustified hatred. The term has become closely associated with people who favor oppression: “Hate groups.” “Hate crimes.” “Hate speech.”

But of course, when we liberals hate someone, it’s because they deserve it.

I am going to be completely honest: I hate the current president. I think he’s a terrible person. I think he is doing damage to our country. And, of course, I think he is hateful of others for illegitimate reasons: xenophobia, misogyny, religious hatred…these are all forms of hatred that we universally condemn. But how to go about fighting this type of hatred without succumbing to hatred ourselves?

Hatred is a natural human emotion. We all hate someone. Your Christian grandmother who says “I love all sinners” probably hates one of the other Christian grandmothers at church who says the exact same thing, because that other woman is a judgmental gossip. Hating someone isn’t unethical…but how we process that hatred can be. Continue reading

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