KABOOM! (This Is What President Trump Will be Running Against, Make No Mistake…)

The above excerpt  is from “Is Everyone Really Equal? An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education” by Özlem Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo. Apparently it has won awards, though I suspect not for what I would give it an award for. Here’s the description:

This is the new edition of the award-winning guide to social justice education. Based on the authors’ extensive experience in a range of settings in the United States and Canada, the book addresses the most common stumbling blocks to understanding social justice. This comprehensive resource includes new features such as a chapter on intersectionality and classism; discussion of contemporary activism (Black Lives Matter, Occupy, and Idle No More); material on White Settler societies and colonialism; pedagogical supports related to “common social patterns” and “vocabulary to practice using”; and extensive updates throughout. Accessible to students from high school through graduate school, Is Everyone Really Equal? is a detailed and engaging textbook and professional development resource presenting the key concepts in social justice education. The text includes many user-friendly features, examples, and vignettes to not just define but illustrate the concepts. Book Features: Definition Boxes that define key terms. Stop Boxes to remind readers of previously explained ideas. Perspective Check Boxes to draw attention to alternative standpoints. Discussion Questions and Extension Activities for using the book in a class, workshop, or study group. A Glossary of terms and guide to language use.

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Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 1/12/2020: Broken Ethics Alarms, An Ethics Conflict, And “Who Are You Going To Believe, Me Or Your Own Eyes?”

Well, Hel-LO!

“Seinfeld” fans remember Jerry’s Uncle Leo, whose trademark was an over-enthusiastic, “Hel-LO!” The recurring character was played by the late Len Lesser, an obscure Hollywood bit player until the “Seinfeld” gig made him a familiar face. Well, I was watching “Bells Are Ringing, the 1960 film version of the hit Broadway musical known for the standards “Just in Time” and “The Party’s Over” (one of my Mom’s favorite songs), on TCM. The film is a reminder of just how luminous Judy Holliday was; she had won the Tony for playing the musical’s starring role on Broadway, and attention should be paid. Tragically, his was her last movie—during filming she was fighting the cancer that eventually killed her —-and I don’t know if there has ever been a female musical comedy star of greater range and presence. Anyway, there’s a number in the film where Judy tells Dean Martin that New York’s grim mass of humanity during rush hours will thaw if strangers only say “hello” to each other. Dean is skeptical, but he tries it on a dour-looking man waiting in the mob, whose face instantly breaks into a brilliant smile at the greeting. “Hel-LO!” the man responds to a surprised Dino, and soon everyone is happily saying hello to each other. You guessed it: the dour-looking man was played by “Uncle Leo” himself, Len Lesser. His catch phrase in “Seinfeld” was a deliberate reference to that bit, one of the very few memorable moments in the elderly actor’s career.

This is really a long introduction to a different point: I get a lot of ethics ideas from watching old movies. For example, I watched 1967’s “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, one of schlockmeister Roger Corman’s few films with an A-list cast and a big budget. The film’s solemn narrator is uncredited, but he is obviously meant to make the casual audience member think it’s Orson Welles. It wasn’t Welles, however: it was master vocal artist Paul Frees, who had a great, and often used, Welles impression. I assume he was uncredited so no one would realize that the narrator wasn’t the weighty Welles, but the voice of Boris Badinov from “Rocky and Bullwinkle.”

I don’t know how Corman got away with this.

1. Ah, the accurate, trustworthy news media. Reuters reports, “A South African military plane crash-landed on Thursday at the Goma airport in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a U.N. spokesman said….two sources at the airport, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there did not appear to be major damage to the plane.”

Here’s the plane:

2. Apparently the Democratic Party’s strategy regarding the economy is to just flagrantly lie about it. “The U.S. economy is working just fine for people like me. But it is badly broken for the vast majority of Americans,” Mike Bloomberg said this week. That counter-factual statement echoes Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders…pretty much the Democratic field, and it is demonstrably false.

The Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank’s monthly Wage Growth Tracker shows that Americans in the lower wage brackets are making more money, and at a better rate than they have for a very long time. Here’s a graph: Continue reading

Last Sunday Of The Decade Ethics Alarms, 12/29/2019: Herman Kahn Rolling Over In His Grave Edition

Good morning!

In my one, fortuitous one-on-one conversation with futurist Herman Kahn, then regarded as the most brilliant man in America, he observed that society periodically for forgets everything it has learned over the years, and then chaos reigns temporarily until bad ideas and horrific mistakes re-teach the lessons that once were accepted as obvious. He was talking about the Sixties, but it is clear that this is another one of those periods. Kahn also noted that some of the forgotten lessons are re-learned too late to save society from permanent harm. The Sixties gave us socially acceptable promiscuous sex and the resulting normalization of children born out of wedlock, the re-assignment of of abortion as ethical (somehow) rather than criminal, and societal sanctions of recreational drug use.

Nice work, Boomers…

1. Speaking of abortion...can there be a more empty, fatuous justification of it than what Senator Cory Booker tried last week? ”Abortion rights shouldn’t matter to men because women are our mothers, sisters, daughters, friends,” Booker tweeted. “They should matter to men — to everyone — because women are people.”

How profound. Nobody has ever disputed that women are people, and Booker’s non-logic—the statement compels the response, “And SO…????”—is an appeal to emotion without substance. It also makes its own rebuttal screamingly obvious to anyone but a pro-abortion zealot: “Abortion should be repugnant to men and women…and Presidential candidates…because unborn babies are living human beings.” Continue reading

Day Before The Night Before Christmas Ethics Package, 12/23/2019, Now UPDATED With The Meme I Stupidly Didn’t Post Despite Polling On It (Sorry!)

Merry Christmas!

TWICE yesterday store employees returned my “Merry Christmas!” with  a “Happy Holidays!” that was delivered in a tone that to my ear was intended to convey, “No, THIS is what you should say.” Both times, I was tempted to call them on it, but did not. Maybe I was being hypersensitive, maybe that wasn’t their intent…but of course it was. The next clerk or cashier who does that to me might get a “No, Merry Christmas. Do you have a problem with that?” back.  I’m that close…

1. ARGHH! “Baseball” censorship! Here’s another nauseating example of the capitulation to the word-banners. The MLB TV channel, which, like its satellite radio counterpart, is challenged to come up with programming this time of year. (The radio version held a quiz last week in which we were challenged to identify expressions of despair and horror as either coming from Cleveland Indians fan tweets about the trading of ace pitcher Corey Kluber, or from reviews of “Cats.”) Yesterday the channel was showing Ken Burns’ terrific documentary “Baseball.” In the segment on Ty Cobb, we were told about in infamous incident in which Cobb jumped into the stands to beat up an abusive fan, who, it turned out, had no hands. When the crowd shouted this fact at the infuriated player, he reportedly replied that he’d throttle anyone who called him “that” even if he had no legs. What was “that”? Why, it was that Cobb was a “half-BEEEEEEEEP!” Yes, a loud, high-pitched beep was injected into the narration instead of the word itself, which was in Burns’ original work (I own a copy.) Morons. If the word is  discernible from the context, then the beep equals the word, so just use the word. If it isn’t clearly indicated—and while I was pretty sure, knowing the story, but uncertain enough that I had to check—then it is incompetent to leave viewers wondering. Half-crazy? Half-wit? Half-lizard? Half-breed? No, Cobb was called “half nigger,” and the exact word is essential to understand the incident but also a key component of Cobb’s character. Did Burns approve the marring of his soundtrack? I doubt it.

This has got to stop.

2. Great: colleges are now free to bribe students to renege on their promises. In a proposed agreement announced this month in response to Justice Department antitrust accusations, the National Association for College Admission Counseling said it would allow its member college and university counselors to recruit students even after they have committed to another school and would permit members to encourage students to transfer after they have already enrolled. From the Times:

Now, colleges will be free to offer perks, like special scholarships or priority in course selection, to early-decision applicants, students who are less likely to need tuition assistance and use the process to secure a spot at their first-choice schools. …Institutions will also be able to continue recruiting students beyond a widely applied May 1 deadline that is typically imposed for students who have applied through a regular decision process and are considering offers based, at least in part, on financial aid packages.

The promises to commit to a school that gave you an early admission were never legally binding, just ethically binding. And they still are. Any college whose applicant reneges on such an agreement after being seduced by another college should send a letter telling him or her, “Thank you for voluntarily withdrawing your acceptance. Our school wants only students of good character, who are trustworthy, honest, and value integrity. Now that we know that you do not honor commitments, we realize that we erred in accepting you. We’re sure you will fit right in at the school you chose, however, and wish you the best in your years there.” Continue reading

Sunday Before Christmas Ethics Ornaments, 12/22/19: Googling Ethics, “Cats,” Goldman Sachs, De Niro, Trump Derangement

Here’s hoping that the the next three days rescue the Spirit of Christmas…

…because the last few weeks have been a downer, man.

1. Googling ethicf:  Phillip Galanes, at Social Q’s was consulted by a woman who had bad vibes about her girlfriend’s new love, so she googled him, and found out, as she suspected, that he had some serious red flags in his past. She told her friend, who had discovered the bad news herself, but who was hurt and angry that the inquirer did a background check on her boyfriend. “Was I wrong?” she asked. In his answer, Gallanes implies that she was, although “everybody does it.” I’d’like a nice, succinct, substantive explanation of by what ethical theory it can ever be wrong to access publicly available information about anyone. This isn’t an issue of privacy, because the information isn’t private. There was nothing wrong with the inquirer’s motives, because she was concerned about her friend.

I’d call this the Ick Factor at work. It seems unethical because the fact that anyone can check our lives out online is creepy. The research itself, however, is ethically neutral. The ethics comes in with how the information is used.

2. I guess I have to mention “Cats”…since it is getting the most spectacular negative and cruel reviews since “Showgirls,” and maybe before that. “Exorcist II, The Heretic” perhaps. Oddly, the usually hyper-critcal New York Times is not one of the worst defilers, but here was what the reviewer really found objectionable :

“It’s too bad that no one seems to have thought through the semiotics of Victoria’s chalky white cat face, given that Hayward is of mixed race and that the heavy is Idris Elba’s predatory Macavity. Elba seems to be having a fine time, but come on!”

Ah! The old “mixed-race actress in whiteface being menaced by a black actor playing a cat” racist imagery!

I can’t wait for them to write down these rules. Continue reading

Friday Ethics Sigh, 12/20/2019: Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Rowling, And An Idiot.

Tomorrow the dreaded tree lights hanging begins….

I’m not a big Sinatra fan, but I’ve always thought it a shame that the two Christmas songs he “owns” are both mediocre: “The Christmas Waltz” and “Mistletoe and Holly (which he co-wrote.) Frank sang the whole canon, of course, and well, but still, Judy Garland owns “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” Nat King Cole owns “The Christmas Song” (even though Mel Torme wrote it), Bing has “White Christmas” (and others,), Gene Autry has “Rudolph…” and “Here Comes Santa Claus” even after Bruce Springstein stole “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” away from him, but Ol’ Blue Eyes is second or third best to lesser singers on the really great songs, leaving him with those two wan ditties to call his own. It’s unfair.

1. The social media mobs are after J.K Rowling. Her offense? British Researcher Maya Forstater was fired last year by a London think tank for her “gender critical” views, including the position that “it is impossible to change sex.” Forstater filed a lawsuit earlier this year alleging discrimination, but an employment tribunal in London ruled against her this week, holding that her views were “not a philosophical belief protected” by British law but were instead “incompatible with human dignity and fundamental rights of others. It is also a slight of hand to suggest that the claimant merely does not hold the belief that trans women are women. She positively believes that they are men and will say so whenever she wishes.” The court  added that Forsater held beliefs that are “not worthy of respect in a democratic society.”

No, they don’t believe in freedom of speech or thought in the UK. Remind people of this when they make one of those fatuous “the U.S. is the only developed country in the world that doesn’t do X” arguments. We are special.

Harry Potter’s mom criticized that ruling and said she supported  Forstater: “Dress however you please,”  Rowling  tweeted  to her more than 14 million followers (this makes me want to hurl myself into a shredder, as I desperately try to recover the lost Ethic Alarms followers since 2016). “Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya.”

Oh, sex, gender, whatever. I know that to trans individuals the distinctions are a matter of honor, identity and self-esteem, and as far as I’m concerned, if an XY individual has changed everything but her chromosomes and wants to be regarded as, treated as and referred to as a woman, I will accommodate her in the interests of comity, kindness, and the Golden Rule. However, if someone as a matter of linguistic or biological rigor (or pedantry) wants to insist that such an individual is still technically female, that’s a legitimate, if unpopular, position.  This is a dispute about manners and definitions, not facts.

The researcher should not have been fired, and Rowling’s tweet was not “transphobic.” Continue reading

A University Demonizes Diversity Of Thought

The headline in the New York Times last month read, “Indiana University Admits That Professor’s Views Are Vile, And That It Can’t Fire Him.” Nice. First, another party can’t “admit” someone else’s opinions are vile, as if there is a universal standard for “vile.”  Second, the headline assumes that the professor is the villain in this controversy, but then, that’s the Times for you: taking sides instead of reporting the facts.

I apologize for missing this chapter in the ongoing effort to intimidate and persecute anyone whose views do not align neatly with the mandated progressive orthodoxy.  The Times piece in question is dated November 23; not only was that my wedding anniversary, but I was also on an ethics training road trip without a functioning laptop. (I have one now.) I’m pretty sure I would have perceived the need for Ethics Alarms to bring some fairness to the assault on Professor Eric Rasmusen, though, as you will see, he is very capable of defending himself, if he could get a fair hearing (or reading).

The reason he can’t is because the news media has already decided that he should be shunned, as students try to run him out of academia and the marketplace of ideas.

To be clear, Professor Rasmusen is the victim of unethical conduct here, not the perpetrator of it. His “crime,” and it is not supposed to be a crime in the United States or academia, is asserting non-conforming views on his personal blog.  The news media framed the story to undermine Rasmusen by stating as fact that he “used his social media accounts to denigrate women, people of color and gay men.” That is a false and unfair characterization, Rasmusen uses his blog and social media accounts to cover a wide range of topics, often brilliantly, from the perspective of a Christian conservative. Continue reading