From The Signature Significance Files: A Question For “The Ethicist” That Proves The Questioner Is Ethically Obtuse

GoFundMe for car

When I read the headlined question in an April installment of “The Ethicist” advice column in the New York Times Magazine, I would have done a spit-take if I had just taken a sip of something. It was “Is It OK to Use Money Raised for a Child’s Cancer Care on a Car?” What? No it’s not “OK,” you idiot! The questioner has to write to a professor of philosophy like Kwame Anthony Appiah, who is the current version of the Times’ ethics expert, to puzzle out that query? Why not ask a neighbor, a minister, a friend who isn’t in jail, a reasonably socialized junior in high school?

Then I started wondering what percentage of American think that question is a really tough one, and I got depressed.

Here was the whole question:

My grandchild is being treated for leukemia. A friend of the child’s parents set up a GoFundMe page for them. They’re both well loved and have siblings who know a ton of people. So the goal was surpassed in three hours, and donations totaled more than double that amount. They plan to donate anything over and above direct hospital-related expenses to leukemia research organizations.This couple have some needs that aren’t strictly related to the child’s care, like a new car. Am I rationalizing by saying they need to drive the child to the hospital and should use some of this money for a dependable car? Is there a strict line you would not cross? And is it germane that they’re not extravagant and extremely honest?

I don’t need to discuss Appiah’s answer; he got it right. If he hadn’t, he would need to have his column, his teaching position at NYU and his degree in philosophy taken away. My concern is how hopelessly inept our culture must be at installing the most basic ethical principles if someone grows to adulthood unable to figure out in a snap that if one receives charity to pay for a child’s medical expenses, it is unethical, indeed criminal, to use the money to buy a car.

This isn’t hard, or shouldn’t be. Why is it? If the GoFundMe raised more money than is needed for the purpose donors contributed, the ethical response is to send the now un-needed fund back, with a note of thanks. (Appiah, after far more explanation and analysis than should be necessary—but he does have a column to fill—-eventually points this out.) No, you do not give the extra contributions to “leukemia research organizations,” because the donors could have contributed to those on their own, and didn’t give the money after a general appeal for all leukemia sufferers. They gave money for this particular child’s treatment. Doing as the family plans is a classic bait-and-switch. The questioner doesn’t comprehend that, either.

Then the rationalizations for theft start. “This couple have some needs that aren’t strictly related to the child’s care, like a new car.” “Strictly” is such a wonderful weasel word; it greases slippery slopes so well. Again, “The Ethicist” is forced to explain the obvious: the donors weren’t contributing to a needed car, they were giving to support leukemia treatment. If the family wants a new car, let’s see what that GoFundMe will bring in.

Which of the family’s needs couldn’t be sufficiently linked to the child’s welfare to support a rationalization for using the funds? “Am I rationalizing…?” Of course you’re rationalizing; in fact, I think even this ethically illiterate correspondent knows this is rationalizing, and is just hoping that an ethics authority will validate an unethical calculation. The tell is that she feels it necessary to add that they are only seeking a reliable car, not a Lexus. But come on. “Think of the children!”(Rationalization #58) Isn’t this desperately ill child worth, not just a reliable car, but the most reliable car?

As if any further evidence was needed that this reader of “The Ethicist”—and wouldn’t you think that if she did read the column, she might have picked up just a teeny smidgen of ethical thinking over time?—has no clue at all, we get, “[I]s it germane that they’re not extravagant and extremely honest?”

What is that, some kind of cut-rate version of the King’s Pass? Actually, it is: this is a blatant Rationalization #11A, ”I deserve this! or “Just this once!” (The King’s Pass is #11.) The theory is that ordinary, greedy, sneaky people shouldn’t use money intended to save the life of a child to get a new set of wheels, but thrifty, honest, good people deserve a little leeway.

What percentage of the population thinks like this? 25% 50%? 90%?

In his answer, “The Ethicist” does provide an unintended hint regarding how Americans end up thinking this way. Like most academics, he’s a socialist, so he writes, “It is immoral that anyone here has to borrow large sums of money for essential medical treatment, especially for a child….we need to expand the pinpoints of empathy to … light the way toward a country where health care is treated not as a privilege but as a right.” Bad Ethicist. Bad! That’s a false dichotomy, and he knows it, but he’s spouting progressive cant now. Health care is like many other human needs that we have to work and plan for as individuals, and recognize that the vicissitudes of fate sometimes turn against us. If health care is a right, surely a home, sufficient food, an education—heck, why not a graduate-level education?—a satisfying job, guaranteed income, having as many children as one’s fertility allows, child care and transportation also should be “rights.”

Why shouldn’t it be ethical to use other people’s money to get a reliable “reliable” car?

Unethical Email Of The Month: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Lightfoot email

That obnoxious, bullying, uncivil and unprofessional memo from Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, is signature significance. Competent and effective managers don’t write and send memos like that, not even once. As a subordinate, I would resign after receiving such an email. As a supervisor, I would place a staffer who sent that memo on probation after requiring her to apologize to the recipient.

Chicago is one of the most difficult American cities to govern. Lightfoot is currently facing legal problems as a consequence of her discriminatory announcement that she would only do interviews with “journalists of color.” The email, just another of many pieces of evidence showing Lightfoot’s arrogance and incompetence.

This is what happens when voters elect officials based not on their management experience and revealed leadership skills, but on their gender and skin shade.

[Instapundit’s Ed Driscoll had a funny line about the email: “CHICAGO’S MAYOR MORPHED INTO JACK TORRANCE SO SLOWLY, I HARDLY EVEN NOTICED…”

This Is IT! In Charlottesville, Va.’s Schools, The Apotheosis Of The Great Stupid!

Lake Wobegon

This would be funny, if it were not so ominous. In fact, it already was funny, many years ago when monologist/author Garrison Keillor (now cancelled for alleged sexual harassment: he doesn’t exist any more) introduced the fictional Minnesota community where so many of his shaggy dog stories were set, with “Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average!” [Laughter from the NPR audience.] All but the most dim-witted could get the joke in the last part, for it is impossible for everyone in any group to be above average.

Ah, but that was before The Great Stupid spread over the land like one of the Egyptian plagues in the Bible. Neither irony nor logic flickered in the brains of the Charlottesville, Virginia’s school board, which is patting itself on its mass back for the achievement of identifying 86% of its students as “gifted.” This qualifies those brilliant students for the system’s special, theoretically challenging, gifted classes.

The revelation was made during a Charlottesville school board meeting last week, and the members were thrilled. This was, obviously, impressive progress. Of course, one doesn’t have to be gifted to figure out what’s going on here. As in the memorable past cases of Washington D.C.’s rogue mayor Marion Barry telling the media that D.C.’s crime rate was pretty low as long as you didn’t count all the murders, and rogue President of the United States Bill Clinton explaining that he did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky, because oral sex isn’t sex, Charlottesville is adopting the now epidemic Rationalization #64, Yoo’s Rationalization or “It isn’t what it is.”

We had seen many signs that this was coming, notably in the efforts of New York city’s communist mayor, Bill de Blasio, to change the admission standards of the New York City’s elite specialized high schools because not enough minority students (except for Asian-Americans of course) were getting in. It is also an extension—heh, I almost said “logical extension”!—of the woke fundamentalist article of faith that skin color itself should be considered a qualification on par with, indeed above, such characteristics as skill, knowledge, achievements, experience, character and intelligence—thus resulting in Kamala Harris becoming Vice-President of the United States.

Continue reading

Ethics Villains: The Boston Globe Editorial Board

Globe Logo

The Boston Globe has just published an editorial splashed on its website in the flamboyant style its previous owner, the New York Times, reserved for “important” declarations and propaganda like the “1619 Project.” “The Case For Prosecuting Donald Trump” is the latest installment of the Globe’s ongoing attack on former President Trump, which, of course, began from the moment he was elected. This screed is the current chapter, the sixth, in a project called, clumsily enough, “Future-Proofing the Presidency.” It is, even for the bottom of the barrel level of partisan and biased journalism that is now routine, nauseating. Even the timing of it is unethical—partisan, cynical, and embarrassingly obvious. Donald Trump isn’t President, and the Globe’s claim of fictional urgency regarding an exited POTUS is unprecedented.

Is this worse than the Globe’s stunt in 2016, when it published a fake front page showing what a future Trump Presidency would yield? Oh, I don’t know. I do know that a newspaper that would publish that would be capable of issuing an editorial this bad…and so it has!

The past week has exposed the irresponsible policy calculations of the Biden administration, notably with inflation arising as anyone could have predicted it would with a government that tosses away trillions like money is confetti. The President’s corrupt son has again come under examination, reminding us how the news media, including the Globe, deliberately embargoed information regarding his slimy activities that legitimately raised questions about “The Big Guy.” The illegal immigrant rush to the border, a surge that Democrats and Joe Biden invited, is a disaster. Kamala Harris, assigned the job of managing it, was anointed as a President in Waiting, and has demonstrated (again) how frighteningly unqualified she ,

The party the Globe works for has revealed itself as harboring anti-Semites within its leadership. The previous Democratic President has begun attacking white America and evoking the racist views of his “spiritual advisor” Rev. Wright, though candidate Barack Obama condemned such divisive views in order to get elected in 2008. Yet another false narrative the news media used to undermine President Trump’s re-election prospects was exposed as a lie this week, and the Democratic Party’s plans to enact a radical agenda without anything resembling a popular mandate by eliminating the Senate filibuster have crashed. Another IRS scandal under a Democratic President is emerging—and with all of this happening, and more, the Boston Globe’s priority is examining the Presidency of Donald Trump?

The editorial is deliberate misdirection, and desperately so. Its translation, as a whole, comes to this: “Never mind what’s going on now: wasn’t that last President horrible? Don’t you think we should get him?”

I haven’t read the previous editorials in the series, but as a lawyer, the headline was clickbait. What is the case for prosecuting Trump? The Globe’s editorial board doesn’t make it; they don’t even make a good faith effort. Unbelievably, the Globe’s indictment consists of three “crimes”:

Continue reading

Dead Ethics Alarms Tales: The Cotton-Picking Assignment

How brain-dead and ethically inert does a teacher have to be to give two black students an assignment to pick cotton? The mind boggles, but this really happened, and at the cringingly politically correctly-named Sacajawea Middle School in Spokane Washington no less.

ABC News tells us that Emzayia and Zyeshauwne Feazell reported to their mother that their social studies teacher handed out cotton and told them and other students to “pick it” in a race to see who could do so it the fastest. The assignment was supposed to be a reminder that blacks were once enslaved and forced to pick cotton on Southern plantations, because nobody else is reminding black children of that fact daily and perhaps hourly.

A furious Brandi Feazell told the network regarding the incident,

“For you to pass out cotton and to my children [and tell them] that essentially, they’re going to pick the cotton clean and it’s a race of who can get it clean first, that was extremely bothersome to me and my children. Under no circumstance … do they need to be taught what it’s like to be a slave or what it’s like to be Black.”

Nor is that a valid topic for study, except in a race-obsessed culture where making certain that blacks are resentful and…wait. Right. I wasn’t thinking…

Continue reading

It’s Time For Jack’s “Believe It Or Not!” Vox Actually Published This Essay Three Days Ago!

believe-it-or-not 2

The article by German Lopez in Vox published on June 4 is more than just head exploding. It is clinical evidence of brain dysfunction or such deep cynicism and disrespect for readers that the author and editors should be under surveillance. I’m exaggerating only slightly.

Vox is an openly Leftist website founded by Ezra Klein, who pretended to be an ethical journalist at the Washington Post until his outrageous partisan bias became too obvious to deny. Since then it has become the kind of news and commentary source, like MSNBC, only taken seriously by those who want to hear a slanted, spun, openly partisan view of reality that jibes with their unalterable world view. Yet this thing is unbelievable even by that standard.

Over the past week, even the mainstream media has accepted the likelihood that its government, and particularly its health authorities led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, lied to the public repeatedly, hid evidence and covered up facts and documents throughout the pandemic, prime among those fact the likely origins of the Wuhan virus (you’ll never guess where it came from!) This was a betrayal of trust of epic and historic proportions. So what does Vox identify as America’s “biggest pandemic failure”?

We’re not more like China! Or Iran! We don’t automatically bow to government restrictions on our liberties. We don’t trust the experts to run our lives! Some excerpts:

Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Prof. Jonathan Turley

Charliebrown-1-

Oh, fine. Now Professor Jonathan Turley, whom Ethics Alarms often relies on for sound, unbiased reasoning and constitutional expertise, is perpetuating an apparently unkillable progressive false narrative. And there is no excuse for it. Not for Turley, not for anyone.

I was going to reference his commentary regarding the idiotic and ignorant claim being pushed by deplorables—like Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, a real embarrassment to the legal profession—that Trump could be “reinstated” as President once it is proven that the 2020 election was stolen and he really won. As shouldn’t even need to be explained, not by Turley, not by a community college volunteer civics teacher with a losed head injury, that cannot happen. Never. Even if it could be shown that Trump won, which is also so close to impossible that it’s not worth discussing, there is still no way to undo a Presidential election. Then, right in the middle of Turley’s explanation, I read this:

“In Florida, later tallies indicated that Al Gore likely won that state. It did not matter. George Bush was already sworn in as president.”

Et tu, Turley? That’s something Trump might write, but he’s not a professor or a lawyer. It’s something Powell might write, but she’s an idiot. Hey, I know blogging takes a lot of time, and checking the accuracy of what you write when you just want to get a post up is a pain, but people trust you, damn it. You have an obligation not to be careless. You have an even greater obligation not to perpetuate Left-wing lies and propaganda.

I trust Turley to such an extent that I began to doubt my own knowledge and research. Wait, could that be true? How did I get that wrong for all these years? It took me 42 seconds to confirm that Turley repeated an easily-checked partisan falsehood, probably because so many of his leftist colleagues at the George Washington law school believe it. From that infamous conservative lie machine, PBS:

Media Recount: Bush Won the 2000 Election

Continue reading

San Francisco’s Hard Lesson In Unethical Ethics

It shouldn’t be a difficult concept to grasp, but history tells us it is: idealism unmoored to human nature and reality lead to disaster with depressing consistency. Thus “ethical” plans and motives that rely on fantastic and contrived versions of how the world might works under ideal circumstances are in truth not ethical at all. They are incompetent. They are irresponsible.

And thus we have the current fiasco in San Francisco, where the progressive voters left their hearts while their brains AWOL. The Martian leader of the invasion in “Plan Nine From Outer Space” has it right. Meet Chesa Boudin, the City on the Bay’s visionary District Attorney, elected in 2019.

Boudin had, it is far to say, no qualifications for the job of the head prosecutor of a major U.S. city with a growing crime problem. He had never prosecuted a case. But then he didn’t think most cases should be prosecuted. He dreamed of something kinder, gentler, that didn’t require anything so crass and mean as “punishment.” His experience with America’s judicial system showed him that there had to be a better way, as Robert Redford’s clueless idealist in “The Candidate” kept saying. He is “the son of jailed Sixties radicals,” and his kind and caring parents are the inspiration for his campaign against what civilizations have known for eons, but America’s progressives have chosen to forget: bad people abound, and if society doesn’t stop them, they will stop society.

In my value system, and one I am proud to say has been consistent on this issue all my life, Chesa Boudin’s parents, his role models, were bad people. They were members of the Weather Underground, a domestic terrorist organization that bombed banks and government buildings, including the US Capitol. They wanted to bring “The Man” down, man. The Weathermen were too mild for Mom and Dad, so they formed the May 19th Communist Organization, more violent and anti-American still. In 1981, the Boudins took part in the armed robbery of a bank truck. A security guard and two policemen were killed, and Chesa’s parents were convicted of felony murder. At the trial, they explained that the stolen $1.5 million was needed to fund the creation of a black nation-state in the American south. Good plan!

Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Yahoo! Sportswriter Shalise Manza Young

Naomi-Osaka interview

The withdrawal of female tennis star Naomi Osaka from the French Open because she wasn’t allowed to ignore rules all the other players were forced to play by has inspired a revealing amount of criticism…of the concept that stars should have to abide by the same rules and laws as everybody else. Since this is a massive ethics blind spot that defies persuasive advocacy, I’ve been somewhat surprised that so many commentators and athletes have been willing to put such an unethical position in print.

I shouldn’t have been, I guess. Osaka (predictably) played the victim, suddenly revealed that she suffered from depression (the old reliable “I’m not bad, I’m sick!” ploy satirized in “Officer Krupke”), and she had the triple benefit of being Asian, Black and female, the “Get Out Of Accountability Free” hat trick (that’s hockey, but you get the point) in the Age of The Great Stupid.

I was originally going to dedicate this post to the fatuous commentary of New York Times columnist Kurt Streeter, to whom all sports is about race, on l’affaire Osaka. “Using social media posts, first last Wednesday then on Monday, Osaka called out one of the most traditional practices in major sports: the obligatory news conference, vital to reporters seeking insight for their stories, but long regarded by many elite athletes as a plank walk. After monumental wins and difficult losses, Osaka has giggled and reflected through news conferences and also dissolved into tears. In Paris, she said she wanted nothing to do with the gatherings because they had exacted a steep emotional toll,” he wrote. “She sent a message with significant weight: The days of the Grand Slam tournaments and the huge media machine behind them holding all of the clout are done. In a predominantly white, ritual-bound sport, a smoothstroking young woman of Black and Asian descent, her confidence still evolving on and off the court, holds the power. Get used to it.”

Get used to what? Star athletes (and politicians, and other celebrities) thinking that if they are successful enough and popular enough, they get to break rules and get away with it? We’re used to that. But the point is that she doesn’t have the power. Tennis authorities fining her and threatening to kick her out of upcoming tournaments proved it. So she threw a tantrum, quit, took her ball and went home, and that’s admirable to Streeter, or anyone else? Well, but, you see, “it is impossible to know the depth of Osaka’s internal anguish” as “the rare champion of color in a tennis world dominated by fans, officials and a press corps that is overwhelmingly white.” Oh, gag me with a spoon. I’d be willing to suffer a lot of internal anguish in an enterprise I could make over 50 million dollars in a year, as Osaka has. Who wouldn’t?

Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Naomi Osaka Affair [Corrected]

Osaka2

On Ethics Alarms yesterday, the controversy involving the current top female pro tennis star, Japan’s Naomi Osaka, was relegated to the morning warm-up rather than a stand-alone post. If you were not following EA yesterday, here’s a quick summary:

Citing her annoyance with repetitious questions from the news media that undermined her confidence, the 23-year old announced that she would violate the 2021 official Grand Slam rulebook, which requires players to participate in post-match news conferences. Violations result in fines of up to $20,000, but since Osaka made over 55 million dollars last year alone, more than all but the most elite U.S. professional athletes, this fine would be like a late fee at the library to normal people. I wrote in part,

This is literally an example of a star announcing that rules are for lesser mortals. Verdict: Ethics Dunce. The reason Osaka makes so much money is that athletes are paid heroes and entertainers, and submitting to the idiocy of reporters is part of their job. Fines obviously aren’t enough: a tennis player who refuses to fulfill her obligations to the sport should be banned from competing until she does.

Yesterday, after winning her first round match at the French Open, Osaka was fined (but only $15,000), and tennis officials proved that they read Ethics Alarms (I jest) and told Osaka that continuing her boycott of the media would result in her being suspended from the current tournament and others. Good. The organization had no other choice, unless it wanted to directly endorse the King’s Pass (Rationalization #11). If Osaka was allowed to snub the media with minimal consequences (for her), then no other player would feel obligated to cooperate either. Rennae Stubbs, a former player who is now a coach and ESPN analyst, stated the obvious while most of the players and former players were expressing sympathy for Osaka: “You cannot allow a player to have an unfair advantage by not doing post-match press. It’s time consuming, so if one player is not doing that and others are, that is not equal.”

Continue reading