Lazy Sunday Afternoon Ethics Picnic, 5/1/2022: A Very Merry Un-Birthday Edition

There’s vintage Disney—back before it decided it had a stake in having young children instructed in sexual matters by teachers, and when innocence was considered worth protecting. Yes, I recognize the irony in saying that about an “Alice in Wonderland” clip, given that Lewis Carroll was unhealthily obsessed with little girls, often asking their parents for permission to photograph them nude…and got it! (Alice was his favorite model.)

That’s the very strange and great Jerry Colonna voicing the March Hare, and Ed Wynn, of course, as the Mad Hatter.

Today is my “un-birthday.” My 94-year-old aunt, the last surviving member of her generation in my extended family called me up this morning to wish me a happy birthday. Since my real birthday is December 1, I was faced with an instant ethical conflict: was the right course to tell the truth, risking embarrassing her, or to play Birthday Boy, lying but being kind in the process? I opted for honesty, both using the Golden Rule—I wouldn’t want to be patronized—and deciding that my aunt, still sharp and always with a sense of humor, could, like Tom Cruise, handle the truth. She could; she laughed, wondered how she has the wrong date on her calendar, and we talked for an hour. SHE mentioned “un-birthdays,” causing me to recall the song.

1. Ethics lesson: Integrity should trump Loyalty. Elon Musk, responding to to the absurd ad hominem attacks from progressives calling him a fascist, a white supremacist and, worst of all, a conservative, provided this handy dandy sketch via, of course, Twitter, explaining that his beliefs have remained relatively stable, while his critics’ perspective has shifted:

2. And we trust these people with educating or rising generations…The University of Southern California former dean of the University of Southern California asked the law firm Jones Day to investigate allegations that its education school directed administrators to omit information from its U.S. News & World Report rankings submission to boost the school’s placement.  at least as far back as 2013, According to the just-release investigation results,   former dean Karen Symms Gallagher made sure that the Rossier School of Education only included information on its Ph.D. program, which has a lower acceptance rate than its Ed.D. programs,  despite explicit instructions in the questionnaire to include both Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs. Gallagher stepped down in 2020 after 20 years as dean. She’s now a professor at Rossier.

The probe turned up what Jones Day referred to as “irregularities” in how the education school calculated and reported research expenditures, and it identified other possible misreporting of faculty metrics, online program enrollment, graduates’ job-placement rates and more.  USC had pulled the  school from consideration in the U.S. News & World Report graduate-school rankings prior to the report.

Will she be sacked as a professor? What’s your guess? Continue reading

Evening Clean-Up On The Ethics Aisle, 4/7/2022: “Yecchh!”

April 7 is a really bad ethics date. In 1994, the worst episode of genocide since World War II was triggered in Rawanda, resulting in the massacre of between 500,000 to 1 million civilian Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Rwandan forces even managed to avoid significant international intervention after the murder of ten Belgian peacekeeping officers: the Tutsis, a minority population that made up about 10% of Rwanda’s population, were never deemed important enough to be rescued by the international community. (Yes, the United Nations has been fearful, negligent, and in this case, racist, for a long time now.) The U.N. did eventually admit that a mere 5,000 soldier peace keeping force could have stopped the slaughter at the start.

That was big of the U.N.

Let’s send them more money.

The genocide’s seeds were planted the early 1990s when President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, began using anti-Tutsi rhetoric to consolidate his power . What followed were several massacres, killing hundreds of Tutsis. The government and army assembled the “Interahamwe” (meaning “those who attack together”) and armed Hutus with guns and machetes for the explicit purpose of wiping the Tutsis out. On April 6, 1994, President Habyarimana was killed when his plane was shot down. In response, Hutu extremists in the military began murdering Tutsis within hours. Belgian peacekeepers were killed the next day, and the U.N’s reaction was…

It bravely pulled its forces from Rwanda. Thousands of innocent people were hacked to death with machetes by their neighbors, but the international community, and notably the United States, took no action to stop the genocide. An estimated 75 % of the Tutsis living in Rwanda had been murdered. Bill Clinton later called America’s failure to intervene “the biggest regret” of his administration.

At least it beat out Monica.

1. They are still trying to excuse Will Smith and blame Chris Rock! Surprised? There were two additions to the canon today. The New York Times featured an absurd piece called “The Slap, Hair and Black Women.” A sample: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/8/21: Welcome To Christmas Tree Hell

[Nat King Cole’s rendition of this song always makes me smile: his German is so dreadful. But what a voice! It’s like hot cocoa with a marshmallow melting in it.]

Well, the 8-foot Concolor fir tree goes up today, meaning about four hours of prickles and dead light strands lie ahead. Can’t wait!

I have a Christmas ethics dilemma on which advice would be appreciated. As I think I mentioned, Spuds, who is a canine battering ram, was romping at night in the field behind our house with a group of dog pals when one of the owners, a next door neighbor of thirty years, zigged when she should have zagged and Spuds ran right into her. Her leg was broken in two places, and now her 71-year-old husband is facing caring for her for at least several months, also taking care of their two large Belgian Shepherds, as well as a disabled family member who lives a few houses down the street. Lots of the dog-owners have dropped off holiday food for the couple, and we want to send a nice Harry and David package. How do we frame the gift in a way that sends the implied message we want to convey (“We’re thinking of you, and hope you can enjoy the Christmas in spite of everything”) and not “Please don’t sue us!” ? (I am not at all concerned on that score, for reasons social and legal.) Should Spuds sign the card, along with us?

I’ll be damned before I ask “The Ethicist,” or worse still, “Social Qs”…

1. Look! A competent list for a change! The Independent issued a list of “The Magnificent 20: the Top 2O Westerns of All Time.” I’ve lectured and written about this most ethics-minded and American of film genres, and I was pleasantly surprised that almost all of the Westerns I regard as essential made the list. Graeme Ross, the author, knows his stuff. That doesn’t mean I agree with all of it. I am not a Sergio Leone fan, and consider all of the spaghetti westerns as anti-Westerns at heart, so those are two slots I’d fill differently. As usual “The Searchers” is too high (it’s #1), and “Unforgiven” made the list, a film that I thought was over-rated from the second it came out (Sorry Clint.)

Still, only one of the Westerns included is affirmatively dreadful (Brando’s misbegotten “One-Eyed Jacks”) and an unforgivable choice. On my list (which is longer), “Lonesome Dove” is #1 (“Shane” is #2) but it’s not technically a movie, I guess. I also would include “Silverado” in the top 20. “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” is an essential inclusion on such a list; I don’t know how it was missed. Still, a responsible, respectful and fair effort—and John Wayne has more movies on the list than anyone else, even without “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” Good.

Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Romps, 10/2/21: Slap-downs, Stolen Art, Strokes, Silliness, Stupid Pet Owner Tricks, And More! [Corrected]

What do you think, hoax or not? Conservative blogs are all treating the video above as classic woke-boob self-own, but I am dubious. How did the video get posted, unless the fanatic vegetarian has a self-deprecating sense of humor, and what are the odds of that? If the video is real, it once again raises the ethics issue of dietary fanatics imposing their obsessions on helpless pets, or worse, infants.

1. The stroke of ethics! On this day in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke, launching an epic government ethics breach by his wife Edith and his doctor. They kept the public and government officials in the dark about the President’s true condition: Edith signed official documents, and the doctor was brought into some deliberations. Wilson slowly recovered to some extent, though how capable he was of discharging the duties of his office for the rest of his term, until March of 1921, is a matter of considerable debate and speculation. Despite this debacle, with the nation being led by an invalid figurehead with his inexperienced wife making key decisions, it took the assassination of Jack Kennedy, not long after the previous President, Eisenhower, suffered serious cardiac events during his Presidency decades later to trigger the passage of the 25th Amendment, which lays out the procedure for relieving a disabled POTUS. [Notice of Correction: the original version of this post had the dates wrong. Thanks to valkygrrl for the note!] The 25th, in turn, then spurred an ethics foul of its own, as “the resistance,” Democrats and their allies in the media tried to warp the clear intent of the amendment to justify removing Donald Trump from office, on the grounds that he was “unfit.”

2. When does pundit hysteria cross the line into irresponsible and incompetent journalism? Whatever the line is, Rolling Stone writer Jeff Goodell charged over it with this unhinged screed. When I read something like this, I always wonder how many readers are persuaded by it, and how many are astute enough to conclude, “This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about!” Here is how the article begins: “West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin just cooked the planet. I don’t mean that in a metaphorical sense. I mean that literally. Unless Manchin changes his negotiating position dramatically in the near future, he will be remembered as the man who, when the moment of decision came, chose to condemn virtually every living creature on Earth to a hellish future of suffering, hardship, and death.” Even by the low, low standards of climate change apocolyptia, this is inexcusable. No U.S. bill can have substantial impact on the world’s climate by itself, and all but a few of the most extreme and politicized climatologists don’t claim that even the worst case scenarios would “condemn virtually every living creature on Earth to a hellish future of suffering, hardship, and death.” How can anyone trust a writer who spews out stuff like this? How can readers of Rolling Stone take a publication seriously that green-lights it? Is Twitter pulling down the tweets that link to the article? No, of course not. It’s not “misinformation,” because it’s a good lie, aimed at the Greater Good, I guess.

Continue reading

Monday Mid-Day Ethics Considerations: Megan Rapinoe, Harvard, Pelosi And Double Standards

Thinker

1. I have some ethics observations on this thing that was sent out to white parents in the Highland Park area of Texas by a Black Lives Matter-affiliated group:

Sacrifice memo

Here they are:

  • As long as white individuals hesitate to push back on BLM’s outrageous assertions and demands, the group will continue to grow more audacious and arrogant
  • The logic of this demand can only make sense to someone who has no concept of right, wrong, and fairness. “We want you to handicap your own children in order to clear the way for our children, who can’t compete and who shouldn’t have to work especially hard to overcome obstacles that you and your children are not responsible for placing in their path.”
  • The screed is an excellent example of how the concept of equal opportunity has been warped into “equity,” meaning not just equality of results, which life never guarantees, but punitive measures to ensure advantages of  favored groups over those that are disfavored, aka whites and males.
  • The extension of the argument in the letter would require athletes fortunate to have advantages of strength, speed, and skill to pledge not to compete against those not so “privileged” as to be born with these advantages, and job applicants of superior talent, intelligence and character to refuse to place themselves in a position where they would be chosen for a job over less fortunate job-seekers.

Continue reading

In Americans For Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, Supreme Court Conservatives Again Defend The First Amendment As Its Left Approves Of Chilling Speech And Association

08-18-17 Free Speech

How did we get to the point where “liberals” want to chip away at the freedoms of speech and association while conservatives defend it? It’s weird: I’m old enough to remember when those mean old conservatives were always trying to silence dissent, not to mention vulgarity and violent TV shows and movies.

But in the final day of the Supreme Court’s term, the 6-3 conservative majority ruled that California—from which all terrible ideas now seem to flow— may not require charities soliciting contributions in the state to report the identities of their major donors. The law was opposed by very unconservative voices like those of ACLU to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and one would think that the alleged liberals on the court would immediately recognize how the law could and would chill free speech. Or don’t they pay attention to the incidents where CEOs have been run out of their jobs for contributing money to anti-gay marriage organizations, to name just one example? It would seem not. This is also weird, for the cancel culture has made simply stating an opinion that contradicts the Woke Borg perilous to one’s career, personal relationships and safety. Is it overly conspiracy-minded to suggest that progressives want it that way, particularly with their success at making wiggly-spined Americans who would make Patrick Henry retch grovel for forgiveness.

Chief Justice Roberts neatly summarized the importance of free association, writing,

Continue reading

Remembering The First Ethics Hero Emeritus, Sir Edmund Hillary, 1919-2008

Hillary_statue

This post was supposed to go up yesterday, May 29, but as has happened too often in recent months, the vicissitudes of existence got in the way of Ethics Alarms. May 29 is the anniversary of the epic moment when, at 11:30 a.m. on May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa of Nepal, become the first explorers to reach the summit of Mount Everest. At 29,035 feet above sea level, the peak of Everest is the highest point on earth. Hillary and his Sherpa guide were part of a British expedition, and the two completed their successful assault after spending a perilous night on the mountain at 27,900 feet.

Hillary’s tribute is included in the The Ethics Alarms Heroes’ Hall Of Honor, but for several years had been unavailable, unbeknownst to me, because I hadn’t connected some dots. The essay about him was a link to my 2008 post on the predecessor of Ethics Alarms, The Ethics Scoreboard, which was offline. I had forgotten that (and if anyone tried to access the article and failed, they never let me know), so the first Ethics Hero to be awarded that Ethics Hero Emeritus title was also the only such hero dishonored by my carelessness.

I apologize, Sir Edmund.

The Ethics Scoreboard is back online (and worth a visit), but I am finally putting the 2008 piece here, on Ethics Alarms, where it should have been long ago.

Ethics Hero Emeritus: Sir Edmund Hillary 1919-2008

Continue reading

The Speed Museum’s Breonna Taylor Exhibit: When Art Museums Become Propaganda Agents, It’s Time To Stop Supporting Art Museums

Taylor exhibit

The propaganda, of course, is being nurtured by false narratives elsewhere. NPR, for example, begins its story on the Speed Museum (in Louisville) exhibit “Promise, Witness and Remembrance” this way: “It’s been nearly 13 months since Louisville Metro Police officers shot and killed Taylor in her home.” No, it’s been 13 months since Breonna Taylor was accidentally shot in a gunfire exchange initiated by her boyfriend, after a botched raid on her home triggered by Taylor’s illicit drug activities. The news media and BLM narrative has deceived the public into believing that that an ordinary, innocent medical worker was shot by police because she was black and they were white. This, in turn, has justified false and inflammatory demagoguery by the go-to lawyer for such exploitable cases, Ben Crump, and others, like Al Sharpton.

It is beyond question that Taylor did not deserve to die, and that the Louisville police were at fault, much as George Floyd did not deserve to die. But as with Floyd, the victim of this tragedy should not be sanctified and mythologized, nor should the facts of her death distorted to promote a political agenda. For a non-profit art museum to use its funds and influence for that purpose is beyond unethical: it is an abuse of charitable and public funds, as well as its tax status.

Here is the New York Times gushing over the exhibit:

Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: NYT Columnist David Brooks, Weaving A Web Of Conflicts

Weave-logo

I figured out a long time ago that David Brooks, one of the alleged conservative voices among the New York Times’ swollen gang of knee-jerk Angry Leftists, was a hypocrite and fraud with barely a hint of genuine integrity. Now comes the proof.

In 2019, Brooks introduced Times readers to his vision of “Weavers,” a movement to fight social isolation by “building community and weaving the social fabric” across the nation. In a Times column called “A Nation of Weavers,” Brooks wrote that he had launched Weave at the Aspen Institute, a prominent think tank based in Washington, DC. Brooks went on to author several columns to praise and promote Weave. He also had other columns mentioning, positively, Facebook, its founder Mark Zuckerberg, andFacebook’s products and activities.

Facebook, unreported by Brooks or his paper, had contributed $250,000 to the Aspen Institute to help launch Weave in 2018.

Now, thanks to Buzzfeed, we learn that Brooks has been drawing a second salary for his work on Weave, meaning that he is being paid at least in part through the largess of Facebook. He has not mentioned any of this in his columns. Thus, when David Brooks promoted the good work of Weave, he is using his Times column to do work that he is being paid for by someone else, and secretly advancing the interests of Facebook and the Aspen Institute, not because the columnist objectively has concluded that they warrant it, but because he benefits financially when they benefit.

Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Ada First United Methodist Church

ADA church

This is the sort of thing we should expect from tax-exempt religious organizations.

In Ada, Oklahoma, First United Methodist Church partnered with RIP Medical Debt to purchase and forgive $3.8 million in medical debt owed by Oklahoma residents. The debt was owed by 1,327 residents in Coal, Garvin, Hughes, Pontotoc, and Seminole counties. Organizers targeted households that were at least 200% below the federal poverty level, insolvent, or going through serious financial hardship.

Krystina Phillips, who coordinated the mission for Ada FUMC, said,

“Medical debt doesn’t discriminate—anyone can get sick or be involved in a serious accident. I hope our church and others in the community can revisit this mission in the future, particularly when it provides such tangible benefits to our neighbors.”