So Maybe Biden’s Georgia Tantrum Wasn’t Necessarily The Worst Presidential Speech Ever…

President Biden’s angry, shouting, hyperbolic speech condemning anyone and everyone who opposes him was, most objective critics agree, an epic botch: unpresidential, undemocratic, nasty and bad politics as well. “[It] was aggressive, intemperate, not only offensive but meant to offend, ” was Peggy Noonan’s assessment in the Wall Street Journal. “It seemed prepared by people who think there is only the Democratic Party…in America, that’s it, everyone else is an outsider who can be disparaged. It was a mistake on so many levels…. The over-the-top language of the speech made him seem more emotional, less competent. The portentousness—’In our lives and . . . the life of our nation, there are moments so stark that they divide all that came before them from everything that followed. They stop time’—made him appear incapable of understanding how the majority of Americans understand our own nation’s history and the vast array of its challenges. By the end he looked like a man operating apart from the American conversation, not at its center…”

Noonan’s evaluation was just about the consensus, and it sent historians to the archives to find another POTUS speech of similar rotten timber. Professor Andrew Busch at Claremont McKenna College believes he found one: as Harry Truman fought for his political life as the underdog to Republican Presidential nominee Tom Dewey in the 1948 campaign, he stooped to similarly vile demagoguery. “In our time,” Truman told a Chicago audience little more than a week before the polls opened, “we have seen the tragedy of the Italian and German peoples, who lost their freedom to men who made promises of unity and efficiency and sincerity…and it could happen here.” He went on to say, “Republican leaders, of course, give lip service to the principles of democracy. But the Republicans preach one thing and practice another. The actions of the Republican 80th Congress opened the gate to forces that would destroy our democracy…This is not just a battle between two parties. It is a fight for the very soul of the American Government.” Truman also implied that Dewey was a “front man” for fascist interests, just as Mussolini and Hitler had been.

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AARGH! The University of Michigan Firing Its President Made Me Think About Bill Clinton Again!

Mark S. Schlissel, the president of the University of Michigan, was fired  yesterday after an emergency meeting of the Board of Regents His relationship with a subordinate at the university had been revealed by an anonymous whistleblower who was, ironically, named Linda Tripp. Nononono! I’m sorry: damn flashback again.

The Board easily concluded that Schlissel had violated university policy and behaved “in a manner inconsistent with the dignity and reputation of the university.” His employment was terminated effective immediately, canceling a contract that would have continued paying him his base salary of $927,000 for four more years. The letter to Dr. Schlissel informing him that he was being fired said the complaint had arrived on December 8. “There can be no question that you were acutely aware that any inappropriate conduct or communication between you and a subordinate would cause substantial harm to the dignity and reputation of the University of Michigan,” the letter said.

The month long investigation triggered by the anonymous tip revealed dozens of email exchanges using “inappropriate tone and inappropriate language,” and showed that Dr. Schlissel used official business to carry out the relationship. His conduct was “particularly egregious,” the letter said, because he had taken a public position against sexual harassment, handing out pens to feminists like Bella Abzug after signing into law an anti-sexual harassment…no, I’m sorry, that was Bill Clinton.  Schlissel had only used the occasion of a university provost, Martin Philbert, being accused of sexual misconduct in August 2020 to send a letter to the university intoning that “the highest priority” was to make the university “safe for all.”

Dr. Schlissel, who is married and has four grown children. His wife, in response to the firing, immediately declared his demise to be the result of a vast right wing conspiracy. DANG! There go those flashbacks again!

I vowed a while back not to write any more about Bill Clinton. It was, as a few of you remember, the revolting ethical blindness revealed by Clinton’s defenders during Monica Madness and the even more revolting hypocrisy by passionate feminists who refused to condemn the POTUS’s text-book sexual harassment of a lowly intern (Bill supported abortion, you see, so that gave him immunity) that got me into the ethics blogging trap in the first place.

As an ethicist, I found the rationalizations being thrown out to get Clinton off the hook copious and nauseating, beginning with “Everybody Does It,” Number One, and including the worst of all. #22, “It’s not the worst thing!” Even though Clinton used Monica Lewinsky as his personal inflatable sex doll in his workplace, during work hours, with the knowledge of other subordinates, Democrats and pundits insisted on dismissing this as “private, personal conduct.”

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And Now For Something Completely Stupid: The Unethical Satire Of Joe Matthews

Joe Mathews is co-president of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy. He has written an op-ed piece arguing that California should “abolish parenthood.” The usually astute people at Legal Insurrection (if someone can explain why  all of those annoying breaks are in the title, please do) apparently think he’s serious; I don’t, but it doesn’t matter. If your satire is so inept that nobody can tell it’s a joke, then it is more hoax than satire, a deliberate lie to make people feel dumb who believe it so you can mock them afterward for being gullible.

This thing by “California Joe,” as he calls himself on-line, is worse than that: in this environment of near-complete progressive derangement, his absurdist piece is like a flaming match tossed into a dry forest. That’s wildly irresponsible.

Joe will doubtlessly defend his satire as “Swiftian,” but there was never any danger that the English would start eating children to solve poverty, over-population and hunger. That’s because Jonathan Swift’s satire was funny, as competent satire is supposed to be, and because the British of his era were not insane. “California should abolish parenthood, in the name of equity” is not funny, and it is not far enough removed from other truly terrible, totalitarian ideas being advanced by Woke World that the author can be confident that his gag won’t find its way into a movement. Remember too, that the state taking children from parents has been a totalitarian strategy in the Third Reich, Soviet Russia, and Red China. Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Republican Virginia House Of Delegates Member Wren Williams

Williams is concerned about what Virginia children are taught in schools, so he introduced House Bill No 781, “relating to public elementary and secondary schools; student citizenship skills; certain instructional policies prohibited, parental rights; disclosures; penalties; other remedies.”

Among the provisions offered by the patriotic Virginian is approval of public schools teaching “the founding documents,” including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, excerpts from the Federalist Papers, the writings of the Founding Fathers and Alexis de Tocqueville’s“Democracy in America” and “the first debate between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.”

You know, the guy standing next to Abe here:

Wait: are you sure you have the right Douglass/ Douglas, Wren? Might it be this Douglas…

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Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Reflections, 1/7/22: Two-Day Jan. 6 Hangover Edition”

I don’t know if it’s necessary to de-bunk the absurd claim by Kamala Harris and others that the January 6, 2021 riot was an existential threat to the nation and on par in historical significance to the bombing of the Twin Towers and the attack on Pearl Harbor, much less the claim by the Huffington Post’s White House correspondent that it was “1000 times worse.” Regarding that astounding assertion, I asked, “How can anyone justify or explain that, except as uncontrolled Trump Derangement or deliberate false narrative building?”

But Steve-O-in-NJ decided to explain in detail just how bats this fake narrative is, and I deem it a worthy Comment of the Day for several reasons. First, there may be some readers here who believe the nonsense. Second, I am habitually shocked at just what garbage even intelligent people will accept as true, so I am inclined not to assume that even this self-evident crap won’t pollute some minds. Third, I’m feeling sick today, and should probably be in bed, so I was hoping for a COTD-worthy piece. Fourth, almost no one is commenting today, even fewer than usual on a Saturday, so maybe Steve’s passion will draw fire where I have failed.

Finally, Steve-O was unfairly attacked over the past few days by a nasty bridge-level troll here unearthed by the “echo chamber” survey, and I allowed the jerk to run amuck far too long before banning him/it and sending his worthless comments to Spam Hell.

So here is Steve-O’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Reflections, 1/7/22: Two-Day Jan. 6 Hangover Edition.Abbondanza!

***

9/11 – the Twin Towers destroyed, the Pentagon badly damaged, 2,977 people killed, including 343 firemen, 72 law enforcement officers, 8 medics, 55 members of the military, 8 children. Victims and first responders alike are still dying of related illnesses. Result: the War on Terror.

Pearl Harbor – 188 military aircraft destroyed on the ground or shot down, five battleships sunk or disabled, three others damaged, 8 other vessels damaged. 2,403 people killed, including 2,008 sailors (1,177 of those on the USS Arizona), 218 soldiers and airmen, 109 marines, and 9 Honolulu firemen who came in to help. Result: American entrance into WW2.

Fort Sumter, April 1861 – no one was killed, but the result was the opening of the Civil War, 600,000, Americans all, killed, and a wound opened which apparently still hasn’t healed, although a lot of us thought it had.

Assault on Washington, August 1814 – unknown number killed, the destruction of much of the public buildings, including the gutting of the White House and severe damage to the Capitol.

Assault on Hampden, ME, September 1814 – only one killed and a few others wounded, two American towns burned to the ground by UK Captain Robert Barrie, who said that he’d have been within his rights to massacre the inhabitants.

Manhattan Draft Riots, July, 1863 – 120 killed, riots crushed.

Bonus Army, July, 1932 – 2, possibly more killed, demonstration dispersed.

Occupy Movement, 2011 – 32 killed, achieved nothing.

Kent State – 4 killed.

George Floyd Riots – 58 people dead (I think), billions in property damage.

Compare this to one rioter shot dead by a police officer and no major damage done last year.

Now we can also talk about occupations – the 2011 attempted takeover of the Wisconsin State Capitol in opposition to a budget repair bill that Governor Scott Walker pushed, which was crushed with no concessions, the Occupy movement, which accomplished nothing except maybe getting a lot of millennials to move out of their parents’ basements (hopefully mom and dad immediately changed the locks), and oh yes, the assaults on both the Senate and the Supreme Court during the Kavanaugh hearings. Funny…each of those times the media sided with the protestors, not the authorities. After all, those times it was all oppression of their good buddies in the Democratic Party and the professional protest community getting stepped on. This time it was a bunch of brainless, fat, toothless (ever notice how conservatives are always supposed to have bad teeth?) yahoos attacking the Capitol and putting their pals in the Squad in danger. It never once struck them as ironic that this time they were strongly against the same behavior their pink pussy hat wearing friends had committed not even four years earlier. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, Remember January 6 Edition…

Well, we all know by now why this date is important: On January 6, 1838, Samuel Morse’s telegraph system was demonstrated for the first time at the Speedwell Iron Works in Morristown, New Jersey. Morse’s invention revolutionized long-distance communication, and also was a catalyst for other important inventions. In ethics history, January 6, 1994 marked the nadir of bad sportsmanship in U.S. sports.

Skater Tonya Harding conspired with her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, to eliminate rival skater Nancy Kerrigan from the competition for the U.S. ice skating championship. Through contacts, Gillooly persuaded  Shane Stant to injure Kerrigan for a fee. Stant stalked to Massachusetts and Detroit, where he hit the skater in the leg with a club and fled. Kerrigan was unable to skate, so Harding won the championship and a place at on the 1994 Olympics women’s skating team. Then the plot fell apart, and the FBI got the whole story from Stant. Gillooly was charged with conspiracy to assault Kerrigan, and made a deal in which he implicated Harding. She claimed she had learned of Gillooly’s role in the attack after the U.S. championships but did not inform authorities. It took a lawsuit to stop the United States Olympic Committee from removing Harding from the team, but Tonya choked and finished 8th, and Kerrigan won a silver medal. Eventually Harding pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hinder the prosecution of Kerrigan’s attackers, but her role in initiating the plot was never proved. Gillooly, a real prince of a guy, cashed in by selling graphic photos of the couple having sex to tabloids. There’s more seedy stuff to this story, but that’s enough.

Yecchh.

1. I see the Pope has nothing better to do than to attack dog and cat owners as being “selfish” for preferring to have pets to bestow their love on than children. Having children is indeed a generous act, provided it is done intentionally and responsibly by people with the sense, resources and values to discharge that immense challenge ethically. I know quite a few childless pet owners who seem to have concluded that a dog or cat was all they could handle, and in mots of these cases, I’d say they made the right call. I also know some families with kids that I wouldn’t trust to care for a kitten. Or a guppy.

During a general audience at the Vatican, Pope Francis said,

“Today … we see a form of selfishness. We see that some people do not want to have a child. Sometimes they have one, and that’s it, but they have dogs and cats that take the place of children. This may make people laugh but it is a reality…a denial of fatherhood and motherhood and diminishes us, takes away our humanity… civilization grows old without humanity because we lose the richness of fatherhood and motherhood, and it is the country that suffers…Having a child is always a risk, but there is more risk in not having a child.”

If there is one thing a Pope, a bishop or a Catholic priest isn’t qualified to talk about, it is having children. Pius XII had a pet goldfinch though, and Pope Leo XIII kept a herd of gazelles, among other animals.

2. Regarding that other Jan.6 event…as part of its Capitol riot spin today, the Times enlisted Linda Qiu, a former “fact-checker” for PolitiFact, the infamously left-biased fact-checking service of the Tampa Bay Times, to debunk “falsehoods” regarding the attack. She performed as expected. Trump said on Fox News that there were “no guns” carried by the mob. There have been three gun charges brought against rioters, Qiu says. She also says that “over 75 defendants have been charged with entering a restricted area with a dangerous or deadly weapon,” meaning clubs, sticks and bear spray, none of which relates to Trump’s gun claim. She also calls a “falsehood” the statement that there were no fatalities during the riot except for Ashlii Babbitt, the unarmed rioter who was shot by a Capitol police officers. Seven fatalities were “tied” to the assault, she says. What does “tied” mean?  Other than Babbitt, two protesters died of heart attacks, one of an accidental overdose, Officer Sicknick died of multiple strokes a day after the attack (and was falsely reported by the times as dying from injuries sustained in the riot, a falsehood repeated multiple times by President Biden). Two other officers killed themselves in the days after the riot, which does not establish causation or a provable “tie,” and two other officers died by suicide six months later.

I’d say “no fatalities” other than the unarmed rioter is accurate. Continue reading

Ugh. The Great Stupid Snags “The Ethicist”

Not only is Kwame Anthony Appiah the most trustworthy and competent of all those who have authored the New York Times Magazine’s “The Ethicist” advice column, he’s also the only one who could be called a true ethicist, as he teaches philosophy at N.Y.U. Thus it is with great disappointment and sadness that I must report that “The Ethicist” has fallen victim to the dreaded Woke Virus, which, has, in the Times’ own lexicon, been “raging” through the paper for quite some time, poisoning its judgment, and as bias does, making its employees stupid.

Given Appiah’s assignment, which is to hand out ethical advice regarding various dilemmas and conflicts posed by correspondents, I would have thought that both he and the Times would have insisted that he practice social distancing and wear a Hazmat suit when visiting the office—maybe even eschew reading the paper. I guess not.

In this week’s column, a reader presented her problem thusly:

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Mid-Day Ethics Break, 12/29/21: Alexa Goes Rogue

I think I’m going to feature “Jingle Bells” here every day until New Years. Here’s a version by that infamous slavery fan, Nat King Cole:

December 29 is one of the bad ethics dates: the U.S. Cavalry massacred 146 Sioux men, women and children at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota on this date in 1890. Seven Hundred and twenty years earlier, four knights murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket as he knelt in prayer in Canterbury Cathedral in England. According to legend, King Henry II of England never directly ordered the assassination, but expressed his desire to see someone ‘”rid” him of the “troublesome priest” to no one in particular, in an infamous outburst that was interpreted by the knights as an expression of royal will. In ethics, that episode is often used to demonstrate how leaders do not have to expressly order misconduct by subordinates to be responsible for it.

1. I promise: my last “I told you so” of the year. I’m sorry, but I occasionally have to yield to the urge to myself on the back for Ethics Alarms being ahead of the pack, as it often is. “West Side Story” is officially a bomb, despite progressive film reviewers calling it brilliant and the Oscars lining up to give it awards. What a surprise—Hispanic audiences didn’t want to watch self-conscious woke pandering in self-consciously sensitive new screenplay by Tony Kushner, English-speaking audiences didn’t want to sit through long, un-subtitled Spanish language dialogue Spielberg put in because, he said, he wanted to treat the two languages as “equal”—which they are not, in this country, and nobody needed to see a new version of a musical that wasn’t especially popular even back when normal people liked musicals. The New Yorker has an excellent review that covers most of the problem. Two years ago, I wrote,

There is going to be a new film version of “West Side Story,” apparently to have one that doesn’t involve casting Russian-Americans (Natalie Wood) and Greek-Americans (George Chakiris) as Puerto Ricans. Of course, it’s OK for a white character to undergo a gender and nationality change because shut-up. This is, I believe, a doomed project, much as the remakes of “Ben-Hur” and “The Ten Commandments” were doomed. Remaking a film that won ten Oscars is a fool’s errand. So is making any movie musical in an era when the genre is seen as silly and nerdy by a large proportion of the movie-going audience, especially one that requires watching ballet-dancing street gangs without giggling. Steven Spielberg, who accepted this challenge, must have lost his mind. Ah, but apparently wokeness, not art or profit, is the main goal.

Not for the first time, people could have saved a lot of money and embarrassment if they just read Ethics Alarms….

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Of Course Bishop Tutu Deserves Statues…Then Use The Same Standard To Get Our Toppled Statues Back Up

Wow. Here I was expecting to be reading nasty post-mortems on the despicable Harry Reid before his corpse was cold, and instead a wave of negative punditry appeared about, of all people, revered Desmond Tutu, whose body is only slightly cooler. The controversy? Nobody doubts that he played a major role in ridding South Africa of apartheid. In 1984, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (whatever that’s worth). However, as the Times of Israel sees it, “underneath the godlike humble appearance was an insidious anti-Semite and anti-Israel vein that throbbed and surfaced in writings, public speaking, and conversation.”

In the U.S., the opposition to honoring Tutu was joined by lawyer and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who told Fox News that by the standards the U.S. was now holding its metallic and rock honorees to, Tutu is unworthy. He said on the air,

The world is mourning Bishop Tutu, who just died the other day. Can I remind the world that although he did some good things, a lot of good things on apartheid, the man was a rampant anti-Semite and bigot?…When we’re tearing down statues of Jefferson and Lincoln and Washington, let’s not build statues to a deeply, deeply flawed man like Bishop Tutu. Let’s make sure that history remembers both the goods he did and the awful, awful bads that he did as well….He didn’t talk about the Israel lobby, he talked about the Jewish lobby. He minimized the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust. He said that getting killed in gas chambers was an easy death compared to apartheid. He said that Jews claimed a monopoly on the Holocaust. He demanded that Jews forgive the Nazis for killing them…[Tutu] encouraged others to have similar views and because he was so influential, he became the most influential anti-Semite of our time…The bottom line is that at a time when people are reckoning with the careers, of people with mixed legacies, whether it be Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and others, we have to include in a reckoning of Tutu his evil, bigotry against Jews, which has existed for many, many, many years.

I don’t care to dispute the fairness or accuracy of the case that Tutu was an anti-Semite. His worshipers are already doing that; I note that Wikipedia, which, like every other information source today, just can’t play it straight, shaded its article about Tutu this week to note his support for the Palestinians while adding that he professed a “simultaneous belief in Israel’s right to exist.” (The two positions are impossible to hold “simultaneously.”) It doesn’t matter; for the purposes of the ethical analysis, I will accept that Tutu was as much of an anti-Semite as Dershowitz says. Continue reading

Council Rock Elementary School, “Jingle Bells,”And When Something Trivial Demands A Strong Response (Part Two)

Part I described the cowardly and pandering rationale for a New York elementary school to banish “Jingle Bells” from its curriculum, and why the cultural and political issue underlying the move is more important than the song itself.

Here is the response of the Brighton Central School District Superintendent, Kevin McGowan, in response to media inquiries about the decision. In the interests of efficiency, I will interweave my commentary with his statement, in bold.

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