Third Of July Ethics Concert, 2020, Part 2: The Less Grand And Not Historic, One Hopes

For historical and quirky reasons, “The Egg” is my favorite song from “1776.” The number takes place on July 3, as the Continental Congress debates Jefferson’s handiwork, and Tom, Ben Franklin and John Adams sit outside, hesitant to witness  the rhetorical carnage they know is coming. I played the role of Adams in several musical reviews, a part I would have loved to have tackled on-stage in a full production, but I am about 7 inches too tall.

Some productions cut this number, which is both bad history and bad theater. (The number to cut is “Cool, Cool, Considerate Men,” a cheap shot at conservatives, and a lousy song.)

1. And I will say, “None of your business, officer!” A new Virginia law, the Community Policing Act that took effect this week, requires police officers to ask individuals pulled over during traffic stops for their race, ethnicity, and gender. I very much doubt that the law will withstand a legal challenge. The change is part of the Governor Ralph “Call me Michael Jackson” Northam regime of enacting every oppressive progressive agenda item he can get away with. This one is aimed at eliminating “bias-based profiling,” and requires officers to record the driver’s race, ethnicity, age, and sex while conducting traffic stops.

Like so many other misguided approaches to fixing “systemic racism,” this one attempts to protect the rights of African-Americans by infringing on the rights of everyone else. If I am pressed to answer the question by an officer, I will answer that I identify as Asian and female. I urge my fellow Virginians to do likewise.

2. Wuhan virus ethics train wreck update: Continue reading

The Court Ruling I’ve Been Waiting For Since 2011

In a June 30 decision, B.L v. Mahanoy Area School District, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals  ruled that a Pennsylvania  high school violated a cheerleader’s First Amendment rights when it kicked the young woman off the squad for a message she had posted on SnapChat. A distruct court judge had ruled last year for the ex-cheerleader, whose  post pictured the teen and her friend holding up their middle fingers accompanied by the eloquent sentiment , “fuck school fuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything.” She was  upset because she had only made the junior varsity cheerleading squad, rather than the varsity team.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania argued the case for the girl, so at least sometimes the organization  still puts its partisan politics aside to do its traditional job of looking out for the First Amendment. The group called the ruling a “landmark decision,” finally barring schools from policing students’ off-campus speech using the claim that it might disrupt school activities.

The Supreme Court decision on campus speech, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, did not apply to off-campus speech. Tinker held that student speech could be regulated by schools only if it would substantially disrupt school operations or interfere with the rights of others. That case involved a school disciplining students when they wore black armbands to class as a protest against the Vietnam War.

The 3rd Circuit majority ruled .“We hold today that Tinker does not apply to off-campus speech—that is, speech that is outside school-owned, -operated or -supervised channels and that is not reasonably interpreted as bearing the school’s imprimatur,”

Because the teen’s speech was outside the school context, Tinker did not apply. The cheerleader’s speech “lies beyond the school’s regulatory authority,” the court said.

The ACLU’s  press release stated that the decision was important “because it recognizes that students who are outside of school enjoy full free speech rights, not the diluted rights they have inside the schoolhouse.”

Bingo.

Finally. Continue reading

“Welcome July, You Can’t Possibly Be A Bad As June” Ethics Warm-Up (Or Can You?)

Let’s try to get this month off to an ethical start….

1. Well, this sure won’t do it…Today’s Spineless Administrator Award goes to… Along with other university leaders, he  pressured Stephen Hsu to resign from his position as vice president of research and innovation after the school’s Graduate Employees Union , which represents teaching and research assistants, examined Hsu’s blog posts and interviews in search of damaging statements that could justify his “cancelling.”  Hsu had, after all, cited with favor a study that found police are no more likely to shoot African-Americans than anyone else. “We found that the race of the officer doesn’t matter when it comes to predicting whether black or white citizens are shot,” concluded the Michigan State-based research.

It is not the only study that reached this conclusion, but as you have no doubt noticed, for now at least,  Facts Don’t Matter.

The graduate union maintains that administrators should not share research that runs counter to public statements by the university, “It is the union’s position that an administrator sharing such views is in opposition to MSU’s statements released supporting the protests and their root cause and aim.”

Hsu stepped down from his vice president role, but will stay on as a physics professor. The union had circulated a petition against Hsu and an open letter signed by more than 500 faculty and staff at Michigan State argued that Hsu supports the idea that intelligence is linked to genetics. A counter-petition in support of Hsu has had more than 1,000 signers, including many fellow professors from across the country, stating in part,

“To remove Hsu for holding controversial views, or for inquiring about controversial topics, or for simply talking to controversial personalities … would also set a dangerous precedent, inconsistent with the fundamental principles of modern enlightened higher education.”

On his personal website, Hsu rejected the claim of “scientific racism,” stating  that  he believes “that basic human rights and human dignity derive from our shared humanity, not from uniformity in ability or genetic makeup.”

President Stanley defended his decision to pressure Hsu to resign in a statement on June 19:

“I believe this is what is best for our university to continue our progress forward. The exchange of ideas is essential to higher education, and I fully support our faculty and their academic freedom to address the most difficult and controversial issues.”But when senior administrators at MSU choose to speak out on any issue, they are viewed as speaking for the university as a whole. Their statements should not leave any room for doubt about their, or our, commitment to the success of faculty, staff and students.

Continue reading

SCOTUS Approves State Tuition Aid For Students To Attend Religious Schools

People gather outside the Supreme Court building as the court hears oral arguments in the Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue case in Washington, U.S., January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger.

This opinion just came down, and I haven’t had an opportunity to read it, and probably won’t until tomorrow.  In Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the justices held that the application of the Montana Constitution’s “no-aid” provision to a state program providing tuition assistance to parents who send their children to private schools discriminated against religious schools and the families whose children attend or hope to attend them, in violation of the free exercise clause.  This was a straight conservatives vs. liberals majority, and Chief Justice Roberts, much maligned of late, wrote the majority opinion. The Washington Post  reports,

Chief Justice John G. Roberts …said the Montana Supreme Court was wrong to strike down the program because of a provision in the state constitution that forbids public funds from going to religious institutions. The U.S. Constitution’s protection of religious freedom prevails, he said.

“A state need not subsidize private education,” Roberts wrote. “But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.

Again, I haven’t read the legal arguments, but the ethical justification for the opinion is clear. If public schools could be trusted not to indoctrinate students with political view and social positions that their parents might oppose, the urgency of the state providing affordable alternatives would be far less. However, alert and involved parents realize, or should, that by sending students to public schools, they are too often subjecting them to partisan and ideological brain-washing, and we are seeing the results in the streets as I write this. There need to be alternatives other than home-schooling. The ethics principles here are fairness, respect, and autonomy. Continue reading

The SCOTUS Decision In June Medical Services v. Russo

This post just leapt over several others because the case was just announced.

The Louisiana Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, enacted in 2014, requires physicians performing abortions in Louisiana to have the right to admit patients to a hospital within thirty miles of the place where the abortion is performed. The law is virtually identical (as today’s opinion points out) to a Texas law that the Court held in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was unconstitutional four years ago by a vote of 5-3. In a vote that will have conservative bloggers’ heads exploding  like fireworks, Chief Justice John Roberts, who had been among the dissenters in the Texas case, joined the four liberals in ruling that the Louisiana law is also unconstitutional, while saying that he still believes that the Texas case was wrongly decided.

The decision is here. SCOTUS Blog’s coverage is here.

I won’t comment on the dissents—-there are several—because I haven’t read them yet.  (But I would bet my head that Justices Alito and Thomas essentially recycled their previous objections to Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. ) However, I wrote at length about the Texas case in 2016, and upon reviewing it, I see nothing substantially different from what I would conclude about today’s decision. in both cases, it seems clear that the state was using a pretextual safety measure to restrict abortions as much as possible.  Then I wrote, Continue reading

Ethics Dunce AND Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Hancock, Maryland Mayor Ralph Salvagno [Corrected]

This would be unethical if a child did it. For a town’s mayor to do it would be head explosion-worthy, except that the behavior of municipal leaders during the George Floyd Freakout has been so constantly outrageous that it has raised the bar for “Kabooms.”

I guess that’s a silver lining.

Ralph Salvagno, the mayor of Hancock, Maryland, (population 1500 or so) painted over two images of the Confederate battle flag in a privately-owned mural on a wall outside the Town Tavern.

“I think I did the right thing,”said Salvagno.

He’s wrong, and he’s also an idiot.

Though the mural was in bad shape even before Salvagno’s vandalism, its message is no more and no less than that there was an American Civil War. See those triangles pointing in on the two flags in the drawing? They mean that the North and the South were fighting each other. The flags of the opposing sides symbolize the Union and the Confederacy. The artwork (and there are hundreds of similar, if better, such paintings) tells onlookers that there was an American Civil War, and, you know, there was. In addition to preserving the United States of America, that horrible conflict also ended slavery, and began the long road of recovery for American blacks and the nation. Americans need to know about that war, and understand it.

The Hancock mural may be cheesy, but all reminders of our history are useful. Lately there have been episodes where foolish officials have behaved as if the mere mention of one of the most important events in American history is “offensive.” Last week, the University of Oregon and Oregon State University announced that they will no longer refer to games between their athletic teams in their long-standing rivalry as the “Civil War,” because, UO director of athletics Rob Mullens said in a meaningless statement, “We must all recognize the power of words and the symbolism associated with the Civil War.”

Salvagno’s reasoning for destroying the property was rock-dumb but familiar. The mayor said he is concerned about the message conveyed by the flag, and that the images could have sparked anger if the George Floyd mobs came  to the small town. Continue reading

End Of Week Ethics Clean-Up!

I blame Woodrow Wilson.

I like to start the week with a clean slate, especially now, when the George Floyd Freakout finds new ways to shatter previous standards of public decorum, civic decency, and respect for nation and community. However, despite over 3,000 words in three posts today, I still had to leave several stories on the bench that I wanted to explore.

Here they are:

ITEM: “18 shot in 24 hours as spike in gun violence in NYC continues”

What a coinky-dink! As soon as  Bill De Blasio, one of those Democratic mayors that Philip Bump says did nothing to make his city more violent, disbanded the NYPD’s  anti-crime unit, the city  had an explosion of shootings. Police said a total of 70 people were shot this week, compared to 26 the same week last year.

This is what more communities have to look forward to as a result of city officials across the country putting their virtue-signaling embrace of white guilt and Black Lives Matter ahead of the welfare of citizens.

ITEM: “New Jersey politicians charged in massive mail-in ballot voter fraud scheme, face years in prison”

Of course,  corruption in New Jersey politics is hardly news, but this story is ironic as Democrats are claiming that Republican opposition to mail-in voting is motivated by a desire to suppress election participation rather than a legitimate concern about the ease of voter fraud.

“New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal charged Paterson City Councilman Michael Jackson, Councilman-elect Alex Mendez, and two other men after the U.S. Postal Inspection Service alerted the state attorney general’s office that it had found hundreds of ballots from a special election last month stuffed in a single Paterson City mailbox,” InsiderNJ reported. According to WNBC-TV, more than 3,000 ballots were set aside over voting fraud concerns in the Paterson City Council election — 16,747 were received, but only 13,557 were accepted — meaning a whopping 19%, or nearly 1-in-5, were rejected. More than 800 of the rejected ballots were invalidated because they were found tethered together in mailboxes. This was especially significant because the margins in two of the contests were razor thin.

I had a devil of time finding out the party affiliation of the politicians charged in multiple news sources. That usually means that it’s a Democratic scandal. It was.

ITEM:Denver “proactively” removes Kit Carson statue from downtown monument ahead of protests” Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Reflections, 6/28/2020: For The Defense….

Greetings from the Ethics Alarms bunker…

1. I’m current reflecting on a personal and professional ethics conflict. A colleague and long-time professional competitor—I would never call him a friend—has been ousted from his leadership position in the very successful organization he founded as a result of unproven allegations of sexual harassment and assault. It was a “believe all victims” situation, as well as what feels like a successful coordinated effort to “get” someone who had accumulated a lot of enemies, resentment and envy in a notoriously nasty industry once his power was waning.

On one hand, I feel like I should reach out to him and offer my guidance and support (as an ethicist and sexual harassment trainer, not a lawyer, and gratis, of course). On the other, I am pretty certain that he is guilty of at least some of what has been alleged, based on confidential accounts I have recently heard from reliable sources. Ethically, however, his ousting (it appears that he was given the option of “retiring”) lacked due process and fairness, and the organization was guided by public relations motives rather than legal or ethical ones.

Whose side should I be on?

2. Stop making me defend Facebook! As if there wasn’t enough to worry about, the aggressive pandering mode of corporations right now is being exploited by would-be censors of political speech. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced updated election policies and stricter “hate speech” rules in response to employee protests and pressure from activists, whose transparent objective is to silence or constrict any political views antithetical progressive positions and goals. In a message last week, Zuckerberg  outlined plans to police disinformation relating to voting and elections, to flag certain content that risked triggering violence (I wonder what  that standard is like today?) and concluded,

Continue reading

From The Washington Post: A Fake News Classic!

And, of course, a “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!” masterpiece.

For shame.

Here is the headline:

Trump keeps claiming the most dangerous cities in America are run by  Democrats. They aren’t.

To be fair, the writer of the piece, apparently insane Post reporter Philip Bump, focuses on the President’s statement that the top twenty most dangerous cities are run by Democrats. Gotcha! Bump triumphantly produces this stunning graph to prove that, once again, Trump has lied, the bastard:

Ah HA! See??? Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: The Archdiocese of Detroit

Terry Gonda has been a loyal member and supporter of the Catholic church for decades, serving as musical director of her parish for over twenty years. She is gay, but never hid the fact from her family, friends, church or pastors. She was also married, to another woman, naturally. This wasn’t a secret.

However, somehow the word got to the Detroit Archdiocese, where it was deemed that her same-sex marriage made her morally unfit to keep her job. On June 12  she received an email reading,  “The Archdiocese is choosing to activate its morality clause to terminate your employment.”

The blow came  just three days before the Supreme Court ruled that employers couldn’t fire workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Whether the ruling will apply to religious organizations is the subject of other cases before the Court, which heard oral arguments last month in Our Lady of Guadalupe School vs Morrissey-Berru, a case about whether teachers at private, religious schools are subject to the exception in the Civil Rights Act.

Gonda says that her Catholic mentors and employers always modeled Pope Francis’s compassionate and tolerant attitude toward homosexuality. She was never shunned for being gay, nor after her 2011 marriage to  Kirsti Reeve, 51. (That’s Kristi on the left, Terry on the right.) Terry told an interviewer that she is certain the Church believes “they’re doing the right thing — they’re trying to protect the church.” Continue reading