Ethics Quote Of The Month: Actor Peter Fonda (1940-2019)

“I believe that one is only truly free when learning, and one can only learn when one is free.”

—-Actor Peter Fonda, Henry’s son, Jane’s brother, and Bridget’s father, who died yesterday.

Memorable ethics quotes come from unexpected places sometimes, and this is a striking example. It’s also important, wise and true. I have never heard or read of anyone putting that thought quite that way.

Fonda’s observation focuses nicely on the roots of today’s existential cultural peril. A vast segment of the population has grown to adulthood with insufficient or defective knowledge, making them easy prey for power-seekers, demagogues and charlatans peddling theories and nostrums that a basic comprehension of history would instantly undermine. Instead of being imbued by their teachers and parents with intellectual curiosity, a healthy and intrinsically American suspicion of authority, and a reluctance to follow mobs of any kind, they lack the intellectual defenses to fend off ideological cant, the most dangerous of which holds that society will only be made virtuous by the unthinking acceptance of approved doctrine. That requires locking in dogma early, and creating a public that is inoculated against learning by being cut off from non-conforming information. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Primal Scream, 8/13/19: Democratic Senators Tell SCOTUS, “Nice Little Court You Have Here. Be A Shame If Anything Were To HAPPEN To It…”

1. Lance, Lance, Lance...Is this the most obnoxious and desperate virtue-signalling tweet of all time?

“I can’t drop many people on a bike these days but I just blew the fuckin’ doors off Mike Pence on a Nantucket bike path. Day. Made.”

Because Lance thinks everyone hates the Vice President, he boasts about beating a 60 year-old politician as if he’s rendered some symbolic humiliation. You’re the one who should be humiliated, Lance. You. I’m no fan of Mike Pence, but he’s not a sociopathic  fraud, cheat and villain like you are.

The fact that this tweet got 108,000 “likes” shows how much damage an ethics corrupter can do.

2.  A perfect example of ignoring a real problem to avoid having to admit it exists and then deal with it...while making the problem worse in the process.U.S. Commission on Civil Rights member Gail Heriot, a lawyer and frequent protester about how her overwhelmingly Democratic colleagues on the committee  engage in “woke” insanity, attacks a new government report in her op-ed in the Washington Times. Herriott attached her dissent to the report, a routine she has become accustomed to. She writes,

Shoddy work is not uncommon for government commissions. But with its awkwardly-titled new report — “Beyond Suspensions: Examining School Discipline Policies and Connections to the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Students of Color with Disabilities” — the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights goes beyond shoddy. Its unsupported claims threaten teachers’ ability to keep control of their classrooms. No one disputes that African-American, Native American and Pacific Islander students get disciplined at school at higher rates than white students. Similarly, white students are disciplined at higher rates than Asian-American students, and boys are disciplined more often than girls. Not surprisingly, students with behavioral disabilities get in more trouble than those without. Sometimes the differences are substantial. Suspension rates, for example, have been about three times higher for African-Americans than for whites in recent years.The commission purports to find, however, that “students of color as a whole, as well as by individual racial group, do not commit more disciplinable offenses than their white peers.” According to the commission, they are simply punished more. Readers are left to imagine our schools are not just occasionally unfair, but rather astonishingly unfair on matters of discipline.

The report provides no evidence to support its sweeping assertion and, sadly, there is abundant evidence to the contrary. For example, the National Center for Education Statistics surveys high school students biennially. Since 1993, it has asked students whether they have been in a fight on school property over the past 12 months. The results have been consistent. In 2015, 12.6 percent of African-American students reported being in such a fight, while only 5.6 percent of white students did….Because minority students disproportionately go to school with other minority students, when teachers fail to keep order out of fear that they will be accused of racism, it is these minority students — stuck in disorderly classrooms — who suffer most.

What accounts for the differing misbehavior rates? The best anybody can say is, “We don’t know entirely.” But differing poverty rates, differing fatherless household rates, differing parental education, differing achievement in school, and histories of policy failures and injustices likely each play a part. Whatever the genesis of these disparities, they need to be dealt with realistically. We don’t live in a make-believe world.

As Joe Biden so sagely pointed out for us, Democrats care about their official truths, not facts. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Another Early Morning Seminar, Another Ethics Alarms Open Forum!”

As they often do, this morning’s Open Forum has brought forth a Comment Of The Day (and perhaps more than one; it is still rolling, and I haven’t read all entries yet.)  This one, by frequent Comment Of The Day auteur Chris Marschner, was written in rebuttal to an ethics  professor’s newspaper column arguing that “individualism” is  an illness. This is one more form of the general anti-American argument that socialists, communists, and, increasingly, progressives  have advanced against the core culture of this nation, which was founded on individual rights and the power of individual responsibility, accountability, power and aspiration.

I’m glad Chris saw this thing before I did, and did such an excellent, and measured job rebutting it. It might have killed me. The thought of a community college, where students often do not have the critical thinking skills or intellectual breadth of experience to be able to resist this kind of indoctrination, having a professor like the author tinkering with their brains and beliefs is the stuff of horror movies.

Here is Chris’s Comment of the Day  from today’s Open Forum:

“Several days ago an adjunct professor of Philosophy and Ethics at Hagerstown Community College penned an Op-Ed in the Morning Herald newspaper here in Hagerstown, MD., decrying Individualism as a disease of the mind which leads to racism and  mass shootings. I am sharing my rebuttal with the group.

On August 9th, under the headline “Enemies of a Nation,” Don Stevenson penned an Op-Ed telling readers that individualism is a “severing, often arrogant, disease that applauds the free-wheeling person or entity and claims the self-directing power of a sole personality or mind-set with little respect for diversity.” This is pure fiction. There is no reference to individualism as a mental disorder in the DSM-5 manual. Do not equate individualism with sociopathy and psychopathy, both of which, in my opinion, are nurtured through the self-aggrandizing processes of social media. The need for likes and followers is suggestive of a need for love and fame. The perennial lack of likes and followers reinforces a person’s dissociative mindset. This gives rise to aberrations of violence among a minute number of mentally ill people who lack the ability to process information normally.

A discussion of the effects of social media and the increasing incidence of suicide will be left for another day.

Mr. Stevenson’s piece was an ill-informed hit piece suggesting that the El Paso shooter’s motives were based  on nativist hatred of immigrants. It was obvious to me that Mr. Stevenson did not read the manifesto and relied solely on news accounts, for if he had read the text he would have quickly realized the shooter was claiming to focus on the common good for Americans. Mexicans just happened to be the target. The shooter clearly and unequivocally stated that his goal was to reduce the population because, he said, we are destroying the environment with too many people. He explained that he was unable to bring himself to kill those he considered his own countryman. He argued that Americans won’t change their lifestyle, and can’t afford to let others get used to this lifestyle. He claimed automation was going to create massive unemployment and, while universal health care and universal income would help, civil unrest would inevitably occur.  He railed against powerful corporations manipulating policy.

Readers should ask why the parts of the manifesto that did not fit the anti-Trump narrative but instead reflected the exact opposite were not as widely disseminated as the shooter’s beliefs about cultural replacement. Why have we hears almost nothing about the leftist motivations of the Dayton and Gilroy shooters? Nothing is more unethical than to have a teacher of ethics not research the subject matter beforehand, or worse, twist the facts to suit a desired narrative. Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/29/19: A Meme, A Sub-Heading, And A Risky Tradition

Let’s pray for a more ethical culture…

1. Unethical meme of the last couple hours or so...Esteemed Ethics Alarms commenter Curmie (Where have you gone Curmie? Ethics Alarms turns its lonely eyes to you… Oo-oo-oo…) posted this on Facebook, I assume in a tongue in cheek mood, since I know that he has a brain:

Sadly, it was greeted with cheers from the Facebook Borg as if the message was profound. This is a good illustration, however, of the intellectual rigor of the open borders crowd, which, please note, includes almost all of the Democratic Presidential hopefuls. How can you argue seriously with people this silly and shallow?

2. And an unethical sub-heading! Socialist propaganda turns up where you least expect it, which I guess is the idea. It’s insidious, and works on young brains like that bug Ricardo Montalban put in Chekhov’s ear in “The Wrath of Kahn.”

In this Sunday’s “Social Q’s” column, a weekly trove of ethics insight and blunders, a teacher complains about moving to a region where teacher salaries are much lower than what he is used to.  The culture shock was required in order to accommodate his wife’s career opportunity to achieve her “dream job.” He says that he is obsessing about earning so much less, and even though he says he did not get into teaching for the money, and that his wife has the primary income in the family, he’s wondering if he will still be motivated to do his job at the drastically reduced salary.

Columnist Phillip Gallane’s answer is far too kind. What I would have said is that if your motivation to do the job you have contracted to do in your chosen profession is based on your compensation,  you are in the wrong field, and you are letting non-ethical considerations dominate ethical ones to te detriment of those who have to trust you.

There’s nothing quite like making a sacrifice for a loved one and then being bitter about it afterwards. Gallanes does point out that since the teacher’s salary clearly isn’t crucial, he shouldn’t “stress about it” and should take satisfaction from allowing his wife to get her “dream job.”

The sub-heading for this segment in column: “It’s almost as if Capitalism is…broken?” Continue reading

More Cultural Literacy: The “Hard” Citizenship Questions.

In one of the many ways the news media tries to influence public attitudes (which is not its job), the New York Times is constantly including propaganda of various subtlety to bolster the case of illegal immigrants, or as the Times dishonestly calls them, “migrants,” “undocumented immigrants,” or just “immigrants,” the most deceitful label of all. One sally consisted of arguing how unfair it was that those applying for citizenship had to answer questions that current citizens would struggle with.

A recent example was a quiz, culled from the 100 questions that examiners pick from at random when an aspiring citizen is completing the application process. “With your American citizenship on the line, could you answer the following question?” the piece began. “Take a moment. Because, according to a 2011 study, this is the hardest of the 100 possible questions asked on the United States citizenship test.”

That question was “How many Constitutional Amendments are there?” (The answer is 27.) Yeah, that’s pretty difficult. It also isn’t especially meaningful to a citizen; I’m not big on specific dates and numbers: if you know enough to look them up, then you know enough. In other words, a citizen should know that there’s a right to legal representation, a speedy trial, to vote, to assemble, to worship as one pleases, and that a President can be removed from office if he’s physically unable to perform his duties without checking, but whether the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment is the 8th or 9th Amendment is essentially a trivial detail.

Not if you’re an immigrant trying to gain the privilege of American citizenship, however. There is nothing at all unfair about requiring new citizens to demonstrate the commitment and dedication necessary to learn about their new nation. Most lawyers couldn’t pass the bar exam now without studying again; it’s the same principle. It would be better if Americans didn’t take their nation and its history for granted, but that’s human nature, and they know that their citizen cannot be taken from them for mere ignorance, even if they don’t know where that guarantee is in the Constitution.

The Times:

One survey found that 64 percent of American citizens would fail the test…Immigrants taking the exam as part of their citizenship application tend to fare much better. The combined pass rate for the civics exam and an English evaluation performed in the same interview is 91 percent, U.S.C.I.S. reported in December.

Good. One of the privileges of citizenship is to become lazy and ignorant, but we don’t want you here if you start out that way.

Here are the rest of the hardest ten. (I got them all right, as I should have. They are not truly hard, or shouldn’t be.) Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “’Three Strikes And You’re Incompetent’ : The Wernher Von Braun Fiasco, And What It Tells Us About Journalism”

This is going to start out as a history-heavy day at Ethics Alarms, and Zoe Brain’s terrific Comment of the Day regarding Wernher von Braun, the abuse of science, and the moral compromises of war  gets it off to a smashing start.

Quick: how much do you know about Japanese Unit 731? Here’s a sample (and here’s some more background) :

Unit 731 was set up in 1938 in Japanese-occupied China with the aim of developing biological weapons. It also operated a secret research and experimental school in Shinjuku, central Tokyo. Its head was Lieutenant Shiro Ishii.The unit was supported by Japanese universities and medical schools which supplied doctors and research staff. The picture now emerging about its activities is horrifying.According to reports never officially admitted by the Japanese authorities, the unit used thousands of Chinese and other Asian civilians and wartime prisoners as human guinea pigs to breed and develop killer diseases.

Many of the prisoners, who were murdered in the name of research, were used in hideous vivisection and other medical experiments, including barbaric trials to determine the effect of frostbite on the human body.

To ease the conscience of those involved, the prisoners were referred to not as people or patients but as “Maruta”, or wooden logs. Before Japan’s surrender, the site of the experiments was completely destroyed, so that no evidence is left.

Then, the remaining 400 prisoners were shot and employees of the unit had to swear secrecy.

Special thanks is due to Zoe Brain for raising the topic of these horrific  Japanese war crimes, which have received so little publicity compared to their Nazi equivalents.

Here is her COTD on the post, “Three Strikes And You’re Incompetent” : The Wernher Von Braun Fiasco, And What It Tells Us About Journalism”:

I am a sometime Rocket Scientist. I am also a sometime senior engineer on military projects – in this context, “Defence Industry” is an unhelpful euphemism to sanitise a regretably necessary evil.

Von Braun is an object lesson. Although a member of the Nazi party, he joined to further his passion of developing rocketry. His later membership of the SS was coerced, though any man of principle would have resisted rather harder than he did.

His boss, Dornberger, who arguably had more influence on the US space program than Von Braun, was a nasty piece of work. He wasn’t just an amoral mercenary with overly flexible ethics, he was quite approving of working slave labourers to death.

I am in no danger of becoming a Dornberger. A Von Braun? Well, apart from the lack of talent on my part, yes, I could see myself becoming like him if I was careless. Just by getting too wrapped up in a technically sweet solution to an intractable problem, by telling myself I was advancing Science for all Humanity, and a hundred other justifications and excuses for selling my soul, one compromise at a time.

Maybe I already have done. Some work I did 25 years ago is now in the hands of a regime I do not trust. Had they been in power then, I would not have worked on that project, just as I refused to work on some others. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-up, 7/18/2019: Heading Toward An Ameriac Where “America” Is Banned, Where It’s Illegal To Call An Illegal Illegal, Where Judge’s Say “Good Work!” To Felons, And Where Illiterate Celebrities Are “Influencers”

Aiiii!

Everything is seemingly spinning out of control!

1. For example, this stupid controversy, and surprisingly, it involves the Kardashian family. Kylie Jenner, Kim’s half-sister, is, as you may know, a “social media influencer,” which means companies pay her millions to use Instagram to promote their brands or products to the mouth-breathing idiots who follow this fatuous and useless celebrity.

Kylie recently issued a post featuring this photo of herself nude in a huge straw hat…

 

which rankled another “influencer,” Amanda Ensing—how can someone get paid to influence people when I’ve never heard of them?— who accused Jenner of stealing her pose.  Ensling has more than one million followers on both YouTube and Instagram, where she posts her outfits, makeup looks, travel experiences, and hairstyles, and  had previously appeared on Instagram like this…

She implied that Jenner had engaged inInstagram pose plagiarism, or something. (There’s no such thing.) The ever-articulate half-Kardashian lashed back, in words reminiscent of Dryden or Wilde in high form,

“from the words of Kim K ur not on my mood board but i did get my inspo off Pinterest”

This exchange justified breathless accounts in People, The Daily Beast, Cosmo, E!, Us, and dozens of other websites, as well as celebrity cable shows, spreading the false impression that what these semi-literate narcissists  say or do matters, thus increasing their ability to make our young trivial and even dumber that our schools make them.

Apparently Pierre Auguste Renoir isn’t active on social media, or he might have complained to both “influencers.”

2. From Minnesota, a very different kind of stupid: In an epic example of woke virtue-signaling because Nationalism Bad,  the city council for St. Louis Park in Minnesota decided to end the practice of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at its meetings—you know,  to be more “inclusive,” which means to pander to members who don’t care that much for the United Sates of America.  Then they were shocked to discover that a very vocal majority of constituents found the move offensive, so the city council members did a complete 180,  said, “Never mind!” and reversed themselves unanimously,though complaining bitterly and implying that Deplorables made them do it. Integrity! Principle over expediency! Continue reading