Category Archives: Ethics Quotes

Ethics Hero: Notre Dame Political Science Professor Vincent Phillip Muñoz

Vincent Phillip Muñoz is the Tocqueville Associate Professor of Political Science and Concurrent Associate Professor of Law at The University of Notre Dame. Following the violent protest that prevented his announced lecture at Middlebury College earlier this month, Prof. Muñoz invited Murray to speak at the University of Notre Dame next week. This occasioned some protests and objections from students and faculty at his own college, and he responded with an essay at RealClearPolitics, writing in part…

Charles Murray is speaking at Notre Dame because I and another Political Science professor assigned his book “Coming Apart” in our classes. His visit is one of several outside lectures that are part of this semester’s Constitutional Studies offerings. My class, “Constitutional Government & Public Policy,” addresses some of the most important and divisive issues in American politics: abortion, gay marriage, religious freedom, inequality, freedom of speech, death penalty, race and the meaning of constitutional equality, immigration, euthanasia, and pornography.

 The class is designed to prompt students to think more deeply and thoughtfully about contemporary moral and political issues. I don’t assign a textbook or “neutral” readings that summarize the issues; I require students to read principled thinkers who advocate vigorously for their respective position. I want my conservative students to read smart, persuasive liberal thinkers, and I want my liberal students to read thoughtful conservatives. Educated citizens can give reasons for their beliefs and can defend intellectually the positions they hold. That requires that we understand and articulate the positions with which we disagree.

…“But Murray is controversial and will make students feel uncomfortable,” my faculty colleagues say. Don’t I know that he has been accused of being racist, anti-gay, and a white nationalist? I’m told that bringing him to campus is not fair to Notre Dame’s marginalized students.

I have no desire to inflict unwanted stress or anxiety on any member of the Notre Dame community, especially our minority students. I appreciate the concern for student well being that motivates some of the opposition to Murray’s visit. But I believe what is most harmful to students—and, to speak candidly, most patronizing—is to “protect” our students from hearing arguments and ideas they supposedly cannot handle.To study politics today requires handling controversial, difficult, and divisive topics…

The price of a real education is hearing powerful arguments that make us realize our opinions are based on untested assumptions. Only then, when we realize that we do not know as much as we think we know, can genuine learning occur.

I invited Dr. Murray to Notre Dame months ago…Given what happened at Middlebury, it would be cowardly to disinvite Murray now. Rescinding his invitation would communicate that violence works; that if you want to influence academia, sharpen your elbows, not your mind. It would tell those who engaged in violence—and those who might engage in or threaten violence—that universities will cower if you just appear intimidating. Rescinding Murray’s invitation would teach exactly the wrong lesson…

Notre Dame faculty critical of Murray have implored me to think about the larger context of what his visit means. I am. That is why I will not rescind his invitation. As a professor and program director, my job is to do what we are supposed to do at universities: pursue the truth through reasoned dialogue and discussion. Whether you find Charles Murray’s scholarship persuasive or objectionable, his visit offers an opportunity to learn. That is why I invited him to speak at Notre Dame. After Middlebury, it’s all the more important that he do so.

It is almost an insult to academia to call Prof. Muñoz ‘s statement heroic. It should be obvious. Dissenters from the position he articulates should be instantly recognizable as regrettable outliers, the opponents of academic freedom and freedom of thought, the advocates of censorship and ideological indoctrination. Yet increasingly it is this traditional view of higher education that Muñoz advocates that is under attack. Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Day: Five Ninth Circuit Judges

“We are all acutely aware of the enormous controversy and chaos that attended the issuance of the Executive Order. People contested the extent of the national security interests at stake, and they debated the value that the Executive Order added to our security against the real suffering of potential emigres. As tempting as it is to use the judicial power to balance those competing interests as we see fit, we cannot let our personal inclinations get ahead of important, overarching principles about who gets to make decisions in our democracy.

For better or worse, every four years we hold a contested presidential election. We have all found ourselves disappointed with the election results in one election cycle or another. But it is the best of American traditions that we also understand and respect the consequences of our elections. Even when we disagree with the judgment of the political branches — and perhaps especially when we disagree — we have to trust that the wisdom of the nation as a whole will prevail in the end.”

—-Five judges of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals  (Judges Jay Bybee,  joined by Judges Alex Kozinski, Consuelo María Callahan, Carlos Bea, and Sandra Segal Ikuta, attacked what Bybee called the “fundamental errors” in the February decision of a three-judge panel upholding the temporary restraining order that blocked President Donald Trump’s first executive order temporarily halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The opinion denounced the panel’s ruling as a “clear misstatement of law,” and stated that the five, constituting a larger number of judges than the three judge panel whose contrary holding was described as a “unanimous” 9th Circuit decision, had an”obligation to correct” it for the record.

“We are judges, not Platonic Guardians. It is our duty to say what the law is, and the meta-source of our law, the U.S. Constitution, commits the power to make foreign policy, including the decisions to permit or forbid entry into the United States, to the President and Congress,” the five judges stated.

Currently, the President’s revised order is held up by an even more widely criticized temporary restraining order issued by  U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson. As well as following many of the same lines of activist judicial reasoning the five judges criticized in their dissent, Judge Watson’s opinion heavily relies  on the campaign rhetoric of President Trump and statements by  chief aide Stephen Miller in TV interviews. This means, as several critical legal experts including Alan Dershowitz  have pointed out, that the exact same order, if issued by Barack Obama, would not have been blocked, and would have been found Constitutional.

Now that’s a double standard!

In criticizing their colleagues, the five judges said that the panel “brushed aside” the clearly controlling case law of Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 U.S. 753 (1972) and ignored entirely the rulings in Kerry v. Din, 135 S. Ct. 2128 (2015) and Fiallo v. Bell, 430 U.S. 787 (1977).  The Supreme Court in Mandel recognized that First Amendment rights were implicated by an executive action but decided…

“when the executive has exercised its authority to exclude aliens on the basis of a facially legitimate and bona fide reason, the courts will neither look behind the exercise of that discretion, nor test it by balancing its justification against the First Amendment 11 interests of those who seek personal communication with the applicant.”

Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Day: Charlotte Hogg, Ex-Bank of England COO

“However, I recognise that being sorry is not enough. We, as public servants, should not merely meet but exceed the standards we expect of others. Failure to do so risks undermining the public’s trust in us, something we cannot let happen. Furthermore, my integrity has, I believe, never been questioned throughout my career. I cannot allow that to change now. I am therefore resigning from my position. I will, of course, work with you through any transition.”

—-The Bank of England’s chief operating officer and incoming Deputy Governor for Markets and Banking, Charlotte Hogg, in her letter of resignation over criticism regarding a possible conflict of interest and her failure to report it.

Charlotte Hogg, a senior Bank of England official who had been named a deputy governor, resigned this week after a Parliament committee found that she had failed to disclose a potential conflict of interest: her brother held a senior position at Barclay’s during her time at the central bank. Hogg insisted that she never breached her duties or passed along any confidential information to her brother, but she had helped draft an industry ethics code of conduct policy required a disclosure of such conflicts. This creates doubts about her integrity, judgment competence, as well as the appearance of impropriety.

The Parliamentary committee recently issued a report finding that Ms. Hogg’s professional competence “short of the very high standards” required to be deputy governor, adding that her failure to disclose her brother’s role was a “serious error of judgment.”

This is one of my favorite kinds of conflicts, because it may be only appearances at stake. What if, as is often the case (sadly), Hogg and her brother are estranged? What if she doesn’t speak to him? What if they hate each other? Never mind: the public, not knowing this,  will suspect that she might use her position to favor him or his bank, so disclosure is crucial to maintaining public trust. Not disclosing, in contrast, raises suspicions. Why didn’t she let everyone know about her brother? What was she hiding? Continue reading

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Unethical Quote (And Tweet) Of The Month: Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA.)

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“It’s outrageous the administration is saying anyone who might have committed a crime qualifies for deportations.”

—-Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), on Twitter, in response to the recent Trump Administration immigration order.

I know it’s Twitter,  but Senator Harris had 41 unused characters left, so we have to assume that she means this. And if she means this, she is unqualified to be an elected official representing the American public. In fact, she’s a fool.

It is not and cannot be “outrageous” to say that any illegal immigrant, criminal or not, qualifies for deportation. To maintain otherwise is to say that the United States cannot enforce its immigration laws, and not only that, it is “outrageous” to enforce the laws. Is that the position of the Democratic Party? Clarification is essential here. Is it? If so, by what set of values and principles do Democrats make this argument? Does the “it’s outrageous to enforce the law” principle apply to other laws? Presumably it does, or the party has no integrity or legitimate governing philosophy at all.

Why is enforcing the immigration laws against—The Horror!–only the portion of the law-breakers who have no right to be here who have additionally become involved with the violation of other criminal laws so “outrageous”? Does the Senator have some rationale for that contention, or is she just grandstanding? That is, lying.

Or does she accept the reasoning of Jorge Ramos, the openly partisan, pro-illegal immigration Univision anchor, who said at a the network’s annual entertainment awards show (Aside: Why would anyone watch an awards show today, as they have devolved into political rant sessions from one narrow perspective, largely by smugly ignorant hyperpartisans who deserve a nationwide platform no than the average ranting activist holding a placard?), as he erased any distinction between legal and illegal immigration, Continue reading

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An Ethics Quote Of The Day From The Washington Examiner and A Jumbo From The Editor Of The Washington Post

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“[T]he mainstream media has dropped its standards since President Trump was sworn in. Rather then adjusting adeptly to Trump’s easy relationship with the truth and his tendency to abuse members of media, by dialing up their standards, a significant number of journalists have tripped over themselves recently to repeat every bit of gossip and half-cocked rumor involving Trump and his administration….Now this isn’t to say that all coverage of this new administration has been slipshod. Rather, it’s to say that there has been a disturbing and unusually large number of stories that have turned out either to be overhyped, inconclusive, half-true or flat-out incorrect. There have also been a number of reports whose sourcing is so thin, that to believe them would be to take a major leap of faith.The one thing that these reports have in common is that they fail to provide readers with a clear and indisputably accurate picture of what is really going on at White House. The press’s most important role is to shine a light on those in power. Bad reporting only muddies the waters, and it gives powerful people more room to do as they please. After all, whom are you going to believe: the guy at the top or the newsroom with a recent track record of botched reporting? We didn’t get to the point where people find the press less credible than the Trump administration by some freak accident.”

—-The Washington Examiner, in a story today called “Mainstream media errors in the Trump era: Your catalogue of the media’s bias-fueled failure-fest.”

What the Examiner calls its database of biased and incompetent reporting since January 2o can be found here.

It’s a fair list, and I will quote the exactly accurate point above when I get another comment that says, “Why do you think the mainstream media reporting is more important than Trump’s outrageous conduct?”  and “How can you say the news media is untrustworthy when the Times, Post and Wall Street Journal do excellent investigative reporting?”

President Trump is trying to do his job, as he promised he would, as well as he can. To have any chance of doing it successfully, he will require more than the usual amount of patience, support, and responsible criticism from the nation. He may well fail, but no respectable and patriotic American or organization, news or otherwise, should be trying to make him fail. ( I refer you to this post, For The Last Time: This Is Why The Post-Election Attacks On Trump And His Election Are Unethical)

(Yes, in case I haven’t made this clear before: The so-called “resistance” is undemocratic, unethical, and thoroughly despicable.)

Journalists, in contrast, are not doing their jobs, and indeed are doing the opposite of their job, which is properly and ethically to convey facts, not to distort them for their own political purposes. At this point in the post-election left-wing freak-out, the news media doesn’t even see its own obvious bias, just as  fish aren’t aware that they are in water. Continue reading

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TV Critic Neil Genzlinger’s Absurd Quote, Samantha Bee, And The 9th Circuit’s Travel Halt Decision]

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First, a quote…

“There is a lot of bravado in this series about how comics are society’s truth-tellers. As Keegan-Michael Key puts it: “The comic has become the person who pulls back the curtain to show the world that: ‘Do you see that this is happening? We didn’t make this up.’”Of course, we’ve just been through a period in which comedians of all sorts joked about one possible outcome of the American presidential election as if it could never actually come to be, and it came to be anyway. Now, the comics holding that curtain may be realizing that, sometimes, the world isn’t listening or doesn’t care.”

—New York Times TV reviewer Neil Genzlinger, in his conclusion to the review of CNN’s documentary on the history of television comedy.

Ugh.

The reason, Neil, that the world “isn’t listening or doesn’t care” is that with very, very rare exceptions, the political pronouncements of comedians are simple-minded, ignorant, juvenile or worse. Unfortunately, comics are increasingly laboring under the delusion that their junior college degrees, narrow life experiences and success at making drunks cackle imbues them with some genuine authority to pass judgments on complex policy issues. This is manifestly untrue. The clowns are on TV because they are, or were, allegedly funny, not because they have anything more sophisticated to offer regarding foreign policy or tax reform than the average guy on a barstool.

I have now seen an ad for Samantha Bee’s comedy show “Full Frontal” approximately a million times, or so it seems. If she is really this  ignorant, her show should be banned by the NEA. All of her featured riff is about how horrible the President is—well, at least that’s original—and it ends with her statement, complete with “any idiot should know this” facial mugging, that “lawyers call” Trump’s temporary immigration halt from seven nations “unconstitutional.”  Continue reading

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Super Bowl Sunday Ethics Quote Of The Day: Professor David DeSteno

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“It’s not about the true facts, or about how honest you believe a group is, or what the group’s past behavior is. It doesn’t matter what sport it is, or what team it is, or even if it’s sports at all. Just being a part of a group, any group, is enough to excuse moral transgressions because in some way, you’re benefiting from it. Your moral compass shifts.”

—-David DeSteno, Northeastern University Professor of psychology, explaining why Boston fans believe the New England Patriots, their coach, Bill Belichik, and their star quarterback, Tom Brady, are as pure as the driven snow, while the rest of the country sees them as detestable

The professor’s point will be familiar to any Ethics Alarms readers who have perused the various pots here regarding cognitive dissonance, or even those familiar with the mantra, “Bias makes you stupid.”  However, he has done some interesting research on the phenomenon described in the Times Sports article this morning.

In a psychological experiment, researchers separated people into two groups and offered some of them an option: Complete a fun, 10-minute task, or take on a difficult, 45-minute one. Placed in a room alone, they were told to choose which task they would have to do, or let a coin flip decide. Either way, the person entering the room next would be left with the other task.

Afterward, those people were asked to rate how fairly they had acted, and 90 percent said they had been fair. Except that they were lying. In fact, they had picked the easy task for themselves, without even flipping the coin, wrongly believing that no one was watching…

DeSteno and his former student Piercarlo Valdesolo conducted studies that showed that even strangers placed into groups quickly start favoring the people in their group, as they would favor themselves, even if that group was created randomly, and only minutes earlier. Morality, as it turns out, can change by the second, and for no good reason.

Professor DeSteno told the Times that this isn’t a conscious decision, but an innate survival reaction…. Continue reading

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