Category Archives: Education

Ethics Warm-Up, 2/19/19: College Disgrace Edition [Updated!]

Hello, Readers, and Goodby, Columbus (see #5)!

In case you care: yesterday was about the third time in ten years that I have failed to get at least one post up. I was in New Brunswick, NY, after the three and a half-hour trip from Virginia took over five hours instead of three. I had scheduled a 6:15 am wake-up call, and a room service breakfast at 6:30 in order to prepare for my 3 hour seminar and get a post or two up before I had to check out at 8 am. No wake up call. No breakfast. I was awakened at 8:05 am by Clarence Darrow, aka actor Bruce Rauscher. Somehow we made it to the seminar on time, Bruce was great, the lawyers were happy, but by the time the return journey got me home that night any Ethics Alarms post I attempted would have been in Esperanto.

I’m sorry.

1. Revelation! Hearing Darrow’s courtroom arguments in a different interpretation and pace made me realize that part of his methodology was to gradually convince juries that he was smarter than they were, and that they should just do what he said because he proved he had thought the issues through more thoroughly than they had or could. His genius was that he could do this without appearing to be arrogant or conceited. This is how effective leaders lead, and also how they corrupt, persuading normal people to just surrender their judgment.

I am an advocate of capital punishment, but when Darrow made this argument pleading for the lives of thrill-killers Leopold and Loeb….

What is the public’s idea of justice? “Give them the same mercy that they gave to Bobby Franks.”

Is that the law?  Is that justice?  Is this what a court should do?  Is this what a state’s attorney should do?  If the state in which I live is not kinder, more humane, more considerate, more intelligent than the mad act of these two boys, I am sorry that I have lived so long.

…I had to pause and wonder if he had found the fatal weakness in the logic of the death penalty. I have a rebuttal, but I have thought about the issue a long time, and Darrow wasn’t THAT much smarter than me. But if I were a typical juror (or even a judge, as was his audience in this case), I might be tempted to see the case Darrow’s way.

2.  Once again, the totalitarian instincts of progressives and attempted thought-control on campuses...I believe that this escalating phenomenon will eventually lead to an epic cultural conflagration.

Orange Coast College barred its chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom  displaying this banner….

…..at a campus student recruitment fair. The College objected to the banner’s depicting images of two rifles which college officials said were forbidden by a college policy that bars not just firearms but “any facsimile of a firearm, knife, or explosive.”

Obviously, however, such a decision violates the First Amendment. Explains Constitutional law expert Eugene Volokh, “once a university opens up a space where students may display banners, it then may not restrict such displays unless the restriction is viewpoint-neutral and reasonable. It’s hard to see a viewpoint-neutral rationale for banning even sillhouette displays of guns, which no-one would confuse for real guns….even if the rationale is viewpoint-neutral, it’s not reasonable: To be reasonable, a restriction on speech within a government-created forum must be “consistent with the [government’s] legitimate interest in ‘preserv[ing] the property … for the use to which it is lawfully dedicated.'” Nothing about the display of rifle sillhouettes interferes with the government’s legitimate interest in preserving campus property for its normal uses, except insofar as such a display conveys a pro-gun viewpoint to which some people object.”

Of course, the real purpose of the restriction is political indoctrination of students and agenda-driven limitations on advocacy. College administrators who don’t comprehend the Bill of Rights better than this may be qualified to educate trained ferrets, but not human beings less human beings.

The professor also points out that the school’s sports team logo…

…violates the school policy exactly in the manner the banner does, for it includes an illustration of a knife.

Fools and hypocrites—and nascent totalitarians. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Facebook, Government & Politics, History, Leadership

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/10/2019: Icky, Creepy, And Wrong

Good Afternoon!

Working today to train a Clarence Darrow understudy for my Darrow legal ethics seminars that my original Clarence, the estimable Paul Morella, can’t fit into his schedule. I’ll be doing one such seminar in New Jersey this month. You can never have enough Clarence Darrows!

1. On the matter of corporations caving to social media mobs..here’s something completely stupid. Earlier this winter, Delta Air Lines distributed cocktail napkins with message, “Be a little old school,” in small print on the napkin, advertising Diet Coke. “Write down your number & give it to your plane crush. You never know …” There was a space on the napkin where a passenger could write down his or her name and another space for their number. The larger print said, “because you’re on a plane full of interesting people and hey,” again, “… you never know.”

The harmless stunt was condemned by some flyers on social media as “creepy,” and that was enough to spark a dual company grovel.  “We rotate Coke products regularly as part of our brand partnership, but missed the mark with this one. We are sorry for that and began removing the napkins from our aircraft in January,” Delta told USA Today in a statement. Coca-Cola added: “We sincerely apologize to anyone we may have offended. We worked with our partners at Delta to begin removing the napkins last month and are replacing them with other designs.”

I think it’s creepy that I often find myself sitting next to someone on a plane who is so close I can count his or her moles, and that neither of us will say a word to each other  for hours. I can’t fault Delta and Coke for trying to break the ice and encourage a more social atmosphere on planes, especially since the air travel experience has become increasingly grim and uncomfortable. I know more than one couple who owe their long marriage to a number scrawled on an airplane napkin. (Full disclosure: I once wrote a message to an attractive young  flight attendant who was especially effervescent. She smiled, and I never heard a word from her.)

All attempts at human contact with strangers aren’t harassment.

2. Ew. Did the National Enquirer try to blackmail Jeff Bezos? It sure sounds like it. Bezos says that the tabloid threatened to publish “dick pics” from his social media output if he didn’t get his paper, the Washington Post, to back off from its accusation that the Enquirer’s coverage of the nasty Bezos divorce was based on political animus rather than good ol’ old-fashioned tabloid sleeziness. You can read the Bezos blog post here.

The theory seems to be that the Enquirer is doing the bidding of President Trump, Saudi Arabia, or someone or something equally nefarious. And yes, the head of the Enquirer’s publishing outfit really is named “Pecker,” and it has nothing to do with the Bezos junk shot. Bezos is apparently releasing the Weiner-like photos someone hacked from his account to foil the extortion attempt. Let’s see: a) Nothing could lower my opinion of the National Enquirer. b) Ethics Alarms subscribes to the Naked VIP Principle, which is that if you are a public figure and send pictures of Mr. Wiggly to ANYONE over the internet, you deserve no sympathy for anything unpleasant that happens to you as a result.

I don’t care if “everybody does it’ (and if everybody really is taking crotch selfies and mailing them to friends and strangers, I don’t belong on this planet any more), if you do this, I don’t want to have anything to do with you.

3. This is useful for things like the Green New Deal. From the National Review, Williamson’s First Law. “Everything is simple if you don’t know a fucking thing about it.”

Perfect.

4.Now THIS is rejecting the presumption of innocence. Again: the position here is that Justin Fiarfax cannot do his job while under suspicion of serial rape allegations from named accusers willing to testify under oath, and should voluntarily step down. Duke, however, is asking him to leave a board using the false principle of guilty until proven innocent and “believe all accusers” standards.

“I am writing to let you know that Justin Fairfax will be asked to step down from the Sanford School Board of Visitors pending the resolution of the serious and deeply distressing allegations that have been made against him,” Dean Judith Kelley wrote in an email  to Sanford staff and students. “Sexual assault is abhorrent and unfortunately can occur right around us. I urge everyone to take survivors of sexual assault seriously, and to help build an environment that is safe and supportive for everyone,” she added.

Wrong. His presence does not make anyone “unsafe” because an unproven accusation has been made. Nor is it not taking sexual assault seriously to refuse to use a mere accusation to strip an accused man of his positions and honors. The board membership is mostly honorific. Duke is taking sides where it should be neutral. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Education, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/9/2019: “Your Host Is Finally Feeling Better’ Edition.

Good day!

1. More evidence that a lot of Americans have trouble with this “democracy” thing. Former Democratic Representative John Dingell ofMichigan died this week at 92. He became  the longest-serving member of Congress in history before he finally agreed not seek re-election in his 80s, but that’s not the real head-exploder in his obituary. It was this…

“Dingell first arrived to Congress in 1955, taking over the seat held by his father John Dingell, Sr., who had died earlier that year, and the younger Dingell continued to serve in the House for more than 59 years. He announced in 2014 that he would not seek re-election and instead his wife, Debbie Dingell, ran for his seat and is now serving her third term.”

A little googling will reveal that Daddy Dingell served in Congress from 1933 until Junior took over. That means that voters in the district have sent only members of the Dingell family to Washington for 86 years. Debbie Dingell, the alliterative named widow of the departed, had no apparent experience in legislation before she was elected to hold the Perpetual Dingell Seat.

This is laziness, civic inattention, vestigial aristocracy and passive democracy at work, or rather, in a semi-coma. There is no excuse for electing leaders based on family connections and name recognition, except that Americans have been doing it for a couple of centuries. I know you can’t fix stupid, but the parties are exploiting stupid, and that goes to the heart of democracy’s greatest weakness: government by the people means a lot of really lazy, ignorant, biased and irresponsible people are going to involved in government.

2. Of course. The New York Times today defends the ongoing efforts by Congressional Democrats to make it impossible for the elected President to govern by burying the administration in specious and intrusive investigations. “Harassment? Nope. Oversight.” is the disingenuous headline of the paper’s Saturday editorial. Oversight is an important Congressional function, but investigations based on the logic “Gee, this guy seems sleazy to me and we don’t trust billionaires, so let’s keep digging into his personal and business affairs until we find some dirt” or “So far our impeachment bills have gone nowhere, but if we keep investigating, I bet we can find some real offenses” are not oversight. Oversight must be handled in good faith, and there is no good faith among Democrats, who made their intentions clear the second Trump humiliated Hillary Clinton. Their stated objective is to get him removed from office by any means possible, and if that fails, at least to reduce his public support to the point where he cannot govern. Harassment in the workplace is defined by creating a hostile work environment that makes it impossible for the target to do his or her job. Could this describe what kind of work environment the “resistance” and the news media (the Times, in defending Congressional Democrats, is also defending itself) have created for President Trump any more precisely? Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics

Unethical Quote Of The Week: College of William And Mary

“That behavior has no place in civil society – not 35 years ago, not today. It stands in stark opposition to William & Mary’s core values of equity and inclusion, which sustain our mission of learning, teaching, and research.”

—William and Mary  president Katherine Rowe, explaining the justification behind the school’s disinvitation of Virginia Governor  Ralph Northam to peak at the school following the revelation that he wore blackface in 1984, when he was a medical student.

This is the quality of thought, logic and fairness being displayed at the highest levels of our education institutions? Bad behavior in 2019 has no place in 2019’s society, and bad behavior in 1984  had no place in 1984 civil society. It may have no place in 2019’s civil society, but since it didn’t occur in that society, that doesn’t matter. What matters in civil society now is what those in that society now  they behave now, and how we can trust them to to behave in the future.

There is no reason to believe, now, today, based on his relevant, recent conduct, that Governor Northam is going to engage in the conduct in question now, or that his conduct in 1984 suggests that he is likely to engage in that conduct in the future. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Education, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, History

Super Bowl Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/3/219…To Remind You That You Can’t Be Serious About Ethics And Support The NFL. Sorry.

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME

...ethics?

Started this post in the morning; now, after another wipeout sick day, I’m trying to get it up before midnight. I’m sorry.

1. As a refresher...here’s last year’s Super Bowl guilt trip. I’d write a fresh one, but believe it or not, I’m still sick and in bed. Key quote:

It’s your choice. If you do choose to cheer on the Pats and the Eagles [this year, the Rams], though, don’t pretend that you don’t know that what you’re really cheering, enabling, and ensuring will keep ruining lives.

Incidentally, NFL TV ratings are way up this year. DEE-FENCE!

2. Today’s blackface news...This is not a parody; academics really are this ridiculous: in New York Times op-ed too dumb to link to, headlined ‘Mary Poppins, and a Nanny’s Shameful Flirting With Blackface,’ Professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner argues that the scene in the original 1964 film in which Mary cavorts with the chimney sweeps and ends up with her face blackened by soot is racially offensive, because it emulates blackface. Points:

  • This utterly deranged PC nonsense was actually seemed worthy of publication.
  • This tells us the risks parents of today take by entrusting the minds of their children to irresponsible institutions and educators who have devolved into advocates for racial paranoia.
  • Linfield College, in Oregon, employs this lunatic, meaning that its administrators think that someone who watches a fantasy dance number performed by chimney sweeps and sees a racist message can be trusted to teach its students.
  • Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, who collaborated on the 2004 stage adaptation of Mary Poppins that returns to the West End later this year, explained for the benefit of the Times, the crazy professor, and anyone so gullibve as to take either of them seriously, that Mary’s acceptance of the soot on her face is meant to be a gesture of support for the sweeps. “All she wants to do is join the sweeps and show them she isn’t standing apart – that she wants to belong to that group. It’s a touching scene and it displays a warm friendliness towards the sweeps,” he said. Funny, I was able to figure that out when I saw the film the first time, and I was 14-years old.

Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Race, Sports

Open Forum, Sick Host Edition

The chair is empty.

I’m going to hand the blog over to you right now, since I am temporarily incapable of going two minutes without sneezing, coughing, gagging or sleeping. Maybe I’ll be able to catch up on posting some Comments of the Day as well, since that takes about a tenth as much time as a full post. Or maybe I’ll just crawl off into the snow and let nature take its course.

Yes, I’m feeling sorry for myself. Make me proud, ethics lovers…

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Bioethics, Business & Commercial, Character, Education, Environment, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Oh, No! Ebonics Again!

A court reporter in Philadelphia heard a witness say, “He don’t be in that neighborhood,” but transcribed it as, “We going to be in this neighborhood.” Yes, that’s the opposite the opposite of what the speaker meant, and  a soon-to-be published study finds that Philadelphia court reporters often make errors transcribing sentences that are spoken in what the New York Times and some linguists call “African-American English.” I call it bad English, and once again the claim is being made that it’s everyone else’s fault when people can’t talk.

Here’s a jaw-dropping statement from the Times article: “Decades of research has shown that the way some black people talk could play a role in their ability to secure things like employment or housing. The new study, scheduled for publication in June in the linguistic journal Language, provides insight on how using black dialect could also impact African-Americans in courtrooms.” Ya think? I confess when I hear anyone, black or white, express themselves with a sentence like “He don’t be in that neighborhood,” I tend to think that

  • Such an individual is not well-educated
  • Such an individual is not well-read
  • Such an individual is unlikely to think very clearly
  • Such individuals may not be very bright, not necessarily because he or she speaks in such a manner, but that because they lack the common sense to know that doing so will not leave a positive impression.

In short, it is not my fault if someone else can’t speak clearly, and claiming that a grammatical and syntactical dogs breakfast like “He don’t be in that neighborhood” is acceptable because a lot of people talk that way is a rationalization. More Bizarro World reasoning from scholars,

“People who speak African-American English are stigmatized for so doing,” said Taylor Jones, a doctoral student in linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the study’s authors. Mr. Jones added that there was nothing improper or broken about the dialect that some African-Americans inherited over generations, but negative stereotypes have influenced the way people hear or perceive it.

“If you’re taught that these people speak incorrectly, then it’s very easy to say, ‘Well, they don’t make any sense; what they’re saying is wrong,’” Mr. Jones said.

Those who argue that “He don’t be in that neighborhood” isn’t incorrect are essentially pointing us toward a cultural Babel where anyone can make up and adopt whatever dialect they choose, and insist that everyone else acceptand decypher it. That’s no way to run a business, a nation, or society. Clarity in language is essential, and must not be shrugged off as one more matter of personal choice. We have to communicate, after all. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, language, Law & Law Enforcement, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society