Category Archives: Professions

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, October 11, 2018: Ethics Flotsam and Jetsam

Hello, I must be going…

Ugh! Big seminar to teach at a downtown D.C. law firm and no time to linger! Some quick ethics notes…

1. The Nike pander. Can a TV commercial be pandering to one side of the political spectrum and dubious ethical conduct more? In the new Adidas ad, Colin Kaepernick, grandstanding boob, is treated like a cultural hero. So is one of the most abrasive of the Parkland shooting anti-gun kids, and Serena Williams. It made me wonder what was the matter with the other pseudo-celebrities who quickly crossed my vision: I assume that they are ethics corrupters too. Like Nike…

2. So much for Plan E. Plan E is the 25th Amendment impeachment plot (the whole list of Democratic and “resistance” plans to undo the election is here.) President Trump gave Fox and Friends another of his hyper-energized monologues today, over 45 minutes-worth. He still sounds like Trump, but anyone listening to that who wants to claim the man is disabled will have a lot of explaining to do. I dare Nancy Pelosi to free-style for 45 minutes without crashing and burning.

3. Maybe this will be Plan O: After the President’s rant, Fox and Friends’  co-host Ainsley Earhardt asked the President to wish her father a happy birthday over the air, which he graciously did. I’m not sure what was horrible about that, but I’m sure someone will claim that it is a dangerous breach of some “norm” or other.

4. Now, impeaching Fox talking heads is another story. The K-pop group NCT 127 appeared on Fox’s Good Day L.A. yesterday.  Following their performance, band member Mark Lee told  co-host Megan Colarossi—guess what color her hair is? Come on, guess!— that he is from Vancouver. She responded with, “Very cool, your English is awesome. I love it.”

Asked one Twitter wag…“I mean he’s from Canada, what is he supposed to speak, moose?”

Why should the public trust the news media when so many of them regularly expose themselves as idiots? Continue reading

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Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/7/18, Part I: Signature Significance Meets The Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck

Good Morning!

That hymn always makes me feel better. I’m not sure whether that’s because Sir Arthur Sullivan wrote the music, or because it makes me think of “Mrs. Miniver”…anyway, there’s lots to cover today, so this is a two-part warm-up…

1. Is this signature significance, or was Jordan Peterson just having a bad day? The cultishly popular Canadian clinical psychologist  and the author of “12 Rules For Life: An Antidote To Chaos” raised eyebrows across the land when he tweeted that if Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed, the ethical thing for him to do was to step down. His comment came in response to a jaw-droppingly foolish thread of tweets by brothers Eric and  Professor Bret Weinstein. In the thread, Prof Weinstein said any outcome of the Judge Kavanaugh confirmation was “unacceptable,” arguing that Kavanaugh had a “limited point of view,”  was “the kind of adult that entitled punks grow into” and would undermine the Supreme Court’s legitimacy.

I’d love to see the research demonstrating that assertion about the kind of adults punks grow into. One such “punk” grew into James Garfield. Another grew into Barack Obama.

But I digress. After Kavanaugh’s suggestion of how to resolve Bret Weinstein’s problem, the other Weinstein tweeted, “This position is held in varying forms by nearly everyone thoughtful with whom I’m speaking.” Have you ever seen a better illustration of the left-wing bubble? Nearly everyone this guy knows thinks that it makes sense for Kavanaugh to resign! Who are these deluded, confused people?

But I digress again. The issue is Peterson, who is allegedly  brilliant. His suggestion stunned his admirers, producing responses like

I find this bafflingly incomprehensible. Appease disproven accusers?

and

Ugh, no. Giving in to the screaming hysterics and bullying tactics won’t suddenly, magically restore sanguinity to America and sanctity to the Court.

and

Why? He should just give up and quit because of false allegations? I am really disappointed in you Mr. Peterson. Don’t you teach that Men should not be cowards?

My reaction to Peterson’s theory is best illustrated by this film clip…

Later, Peterson issued a slightly less stupid refinement, tweeting that he wasn’t sure if Judge Kavanaugh quitting now was the “right move”, but it would allow a “less divisive” figure to gain the nomination:

“I’m not certain that is the right move. It’s very complex. But he would have his name cleared, and a figure who might be less divisive might be put forward.”

Huh? How would the new Justice resigning after false allegations “clear his name”? As for the naive “less divisive” theory, here was a great comment on the Althouse thread regarding Peterson’s gaffe:

Today they’d howl over Garland. There is no less divisive candidate. That was the point of BK, he was a certified moderate conservative mainstream judge. The only way a candidate could satisfy the Left is if he strangled Trump with Thomas’s intestines. Twice.

Bingo!

Which brings me back to the original question: is it fair to recalibrate one’s opinion of Peterson based on one really dumb opinion, on the theory that someone as smart as he’s alleged to be would never make such a ridiculous suggestion? That’s signature significance. Or is the ethical reaction to give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume that he was just foggy for a while, or put it off on the fact that Canadians just don’t get U.S. Politics? Continue reading

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Look! An Ethics Dunce Mob: 2,400+ Law Professors

My mind may be mush, but I can get 2400 colleagues to agree with me anyway!”

In the New York Times: The Senate Should Not Confirm Kavanaugh

One of the most disillusioning aspects of the epic 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck, the worst and most damaging of them all, has been the serial disgrace of one profession after another as they abused their public trust, ethics codes, core values, and expertise. Psychiatrists, physicians, lawyers, journalists, academics, educators, judges, elected officials, pundits, journalists, law enforcement officials and more: so many have sided with partisan mobs when the nature and mission of what makes them valuable society demand that the professionals  remain neutral and objective. Law professors have been particularly fond of disgracing themselves since President Trump’s election, and almost all of them are Democrats,  so seeing over 2400 of them sign a statement that can stand as a warning to all against taking pronouncements from this particular group of  legal academics seriously is hardly a shock.  It’s still discouraging.

What is unethical, as well as dumb, about this stunt, for stunt it is? Let us count the ways.

1. It is grandstanding and virtue signaling designed to mislead the public, and seed further division, if that’s possible. Every one of these professors can have their own individual opinion about the Kavanaugh nomination, but it is no better, or more influential, nor should it be, than yours or mine. They seek to increase their influence by amassing thousands of personal and biased opinions into a single loud one masquerading as a professional opinion, which it is not.

2. The number 2400 is inherently misleading. This isn’t close to a majority of the law professors in the country. It’s not close to a majority of the Democrats and progressives in the profession. Most of the public, however, doesn’t have continuing relationships at law schools, haven’t worked for them, haven’t graduated from one, or taught at one, like, say, me. The petition is designed to deceive. There are more than 20,000 law professors in US Law schools. Now we know at least 10% appear to be unfit to teach law.

3. The letter is completely irrelevant. Nobody in the Senate cares what a group of liberal law professors want. No Senator is going to read this opinion and say, “Oh, no! I guess I better vote against Kavanaugh: a boatload of professors I’ve never heard of think I should!” Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Week, Cross-Filed to “The Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck,” “Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias,” AND “Bias Makes You Stupid”: ABC Correspondent Terry Moran

“Overturning Roe vs. Wade by an all-male majority, two of whom have had credible accusations of sexual misconduct lodged against them, would not be a legitimate action.”

—–ABC correspondent Terry Moran, on an ABC news broadcast, as he discussed what would happen to the nation’s highest court if the Senate confirms Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh,

It doesn’t get much worse than this. The statement is irresponsible, unfair, ignorant, partisan, incompetent, inflammatory and untrue. It involves multiple distortions of law and fact. It is an opinion presented as fact by an individual lacking the credentials or authority to issue such an opinion. It also encourages defiance of lawful authority.

Moran is a journalist, trained as a journalist and as nothing but a journalist. His current role at ABC is as a foreign correspondent. He is no lawyer, and apparently has no idea what a conflict of interest is. For him to use his air time to make such a pronouncement, sure to be sucked up by the eager, empty brain cells of social media junkies everywhere, is an abuse of his position and influence. That is, however, what he and his colleagues increasingly call “journalism” in 2018. It isn’t journalism, not the ethical kind. It is propaganda, and worse.

For the sake of brevity, since these are major misrepresentations that could each be the subject of scholarly essays, allow me to just bullet point them:

  • More fake news, Future and Psychic News Division. Why is Moran talking about Roe v. Wade being overturned? There is no case before the Supreme Court that would do that. There is no pending case in the system that would lead to that. None of the sitting justices or Kavanaugh have argued that Roe should be overturned, and the conservative justices have all declared their fealty to the concept of stare decisus, in which established SCOTUS decisions are regarded as settled law except in extraordinary circumstances.

For a broadcast journalist to discuss a remote hypothetical—and it is remote by definition, since none of the conditions necessary for it to occur appear to exits—is brazen fear-mongering and misleading the public.

  • More fake news, Future and Psychic News Division, Part II.  Then Moran forsees what individual Justices will decide in this imaginary case that hasn’t been argued, or briefed. In this he reduces the Supreme Court, which analyzes difficult questions of law, to a group of agenda-driven knee-jerk hacks, which they are not.

Journalists like Moran are the agenda-driven knee-jerk hacks, and at least in his case, are unable to imagine anyone else treating important controversies objectively

  • Gender stereotyping. There is no justification for assuming that a male justice would automatically vote to overturn Roe, and the assumption is historically ignorant. After all, an all-male SCOTUS majority established Roe.

Moran also assumes that no woman on the Court would vote with the male members even if the particular facts and law related to the imaginary, hypothetical future case that may never exist required an honest, objective female Justice to do so. This is  simple-minded, biased thinking that reduces both genders to their lowest common denominators.

  • The misleading word, “credible.” “Credible” means “capable of being believed” by itself. I could state here that I am five foot three inches tall and once worked as Latin tutor to make extra money in school. Those are both credible claims: there’s nothing that makes them unbelievable. They are also untrue. Being credible is not the test for whether any statement of evidence should be believed, and in any dispute, such statements must be considered in the context of other evidence. Brett Kavanaugh’s denial is also credible, except to those who have a vested interest in disbelieving it.

In this nation, and in any just society, we do not make judgments about people based on “credible accusations.” The accusations must be corroborated and substantiated to some extent. Dr. Ford named witnesses, and none of them have confirmed her story. That does not make her accusation incredible, but no conclusions can be drawn from it either.

  • There’s no conflict of interest. I don’t know what tortured definition of conflict of interest Moran thinks he knows, but whatever it is, it doesn’t exist in law or ethics. I’m assuming that a conflict is what he thinks would undermine the legitimacy of his imaginary, future hypothetical SCOTUS decision. If mere gender created a conflict, then neither women nor men could consider abortion cases. Blacks couldn’t rule on civil rights cases. Motherhood, fatherhood, whether a judge had an abortion or chose not to have one, these at most create biases, not conflicts, which occur when a judge’s current tangible, real life, current interests will be affected by a decision he or she is obligated to make. Judges are pledged to ignore their biases, not to never have them. All human beings have biases; judges are professionally trained and obligated to do a better job than the rest of us recognizing them and overcoming them.

Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: The ‘Racist, Sexist’ Cartoon”

Occasionally I request a comment from a regular reader who has special expertise; for example, I have asked “Curmie,” a drama teacher, director and superb blogger when he has the time, to weigh in on theater and casting ethics controversies. (And I just remembered that the last time he commented, he submitted a Comment of the Day that I neglected to post! Arghhh! I’m sorry, Curmie…it will be up today.) This time, the surprisingly lively debate over the allegedly racist Serena Williams cartoon prompted me to send out a Bat Signal for the reactions of King Kool, aka Jeff H., who is a long-time reader and a cartoonist himself. (His submission for “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” periodically appears in the Ethics Alarms header.) He answered the call, and did so superbly.

There have been some new developments. The cartoonist, Mark Knight, has suspended his Twitter account because of all the hate coming his way.  Knight said he was amazed at the reaction to his drawing. “I drew this cartoon Sunday night after seeing the US Open final, and seeing the world’s best tennis player have a tantrum and thought that was interesting,” he said. “The cartoon about Serena is about her poor behavior on the day, not about race.”

Popular Australian Broadcaster Neil Mitchell, among others, defended Knight, saying, “This shows an awful misunderstanding of Mark Knight and this country. I looked at that cartoon and it didn’t even cross my mind it was about race. It was a sports bully, a petulant child throwing a tantrum about losing…I drew her as an African-American woman. She’s powerfully built. She wears these outrageous costumes when she plays tennis. She’s interesting to draw. I drew her as she is, as an African-American woman.”

As I have explained elsewhere on the Ethics Quiz thread, the reason I made the issue a quiz rather than an ethics  position post is that Knight’s  cartoon struck me as racially provocative.

I believe it is racially insensitive, but I am not certain that in the field of opinion cartooning racial sensitivities should be ignored. If a white, male player who behaved like Williams—it is astounding that so many pundits are defending her—a mocking, tough cartoon, showing ugly conduct  by portraying its perpetrator as symbolically ugly would be appropriate. I do  not think it is fair or healthy for special immunity to be granted to a similarly misbehaving player, especially a repeat offender like Williams, because of her race and gender. This why my vote in the poll accompanying the quiz was the somewhat tongue-in-cheek, “Whatever it was, she deserved it.” 

That response has gleaned 13% of the votes, with over 72% voting for the position that it’s just a cartoon. Against the 85% that are inclined to support Knight (all old white men who are constitutionally unable to recognize sexism and racism, according to one unbiased, unbigoted commenter), 14% agree that the cartoons is “racist.”

To its credit, Knight’s paper, the Herald Sun, took the remarkable step of devoting its entire front page to Knight’s defense, which you see above.

Here is Jeff H.’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quiz: The “Racist, Sexist” Cartoon:

One of the reasons I didn’t pursue doing political cartoons is because… no matter how much I practiced at it, I am absolutely awful at caricature. I tried drawing John Kerry dozens of times, and could never get it down. (Not that it ended up mattering.)

The image of Serena Williams has been called ‘something out of 1910,’ which I think it an exaggeration. However, the large lips, even the ponytail pointed straight up… to me, it does invoke some insensitive imagery of old caricatures and similar things. Maybe even the pose itself, her being completely in the air, maybe that is bothering some people for possibly comparing her motion to that of primitive man, or even that particular animal that racist jerks compare persons of color to. But that might be a stretch.

Again, that’s just my interpretation. I am not ascribing blame or intention. All I’m saying is… if the cartoon looked indubitably like Serena Williams, people would have a lot less to complain about, even if you could focus on part of it and say it parallels older racist art.

If it were me drawing this cartoon, I would have had Serena facing away from the ‘camera’ if I couldn’t make it look like her. The whiny facial expression isn’t important visually. We see her stomping the racket to pieces and the pacifier. The intention is clear. And thus, now that face is all we’re talking about. Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: The “Racist, Sexist” Cartoon

Australian sports cartoonist Mark Knight drew the cartoon above criticizing Serena Williams’ tantrum and otherwise unacceptable behavior as she lost the women’s title at the U.S. Open to young Naomi Osaka.

The cartoon was immediately attacked as sexist and racist. Is any criticism of Williams’ conduct racist, since she couched it as justified as a protest against alleged gender discrimination by umpire Carlos Ramos? Is any caricature of an African American celebrity subject to accusations of racism? Here is another tennis cartoon by Knight mocking a white, male player:

The Washington Post claimed that the Williams cartoon employed “facial features reflecting the dehumanizing Jim Crow caricatures so common in the 19th and 20th centuries.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day ….

Is Knight’s Serena Williams cartoon racist or sexist?

This is a good one for a poll:

 

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The Hitler Joke, Our Rights, And Our Nation

Prologue

When I was a junior in high school, I played Ko-Ko in  the Gilbert and Sullivan Club’s production of “The Mikado.” The head of the music department directed, a Jewish teacher named Mr. Einsig. He had the staging notes for all of the Gilbert and Sullivan works from the director who had gained great acclaim from his work with the Boston Light Opera Company, and I must admit, I cribbed many of that director’s ideas myself, through Mr. Einsig.One effective  staging concept was for the encores to “The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring.” Each one was performed as a different ethnic parody, with Ko-Ko singing translated lyrics. It began with Japanese, of course, then French, a Brooklyn dialect, and the biggest hoot of them all, German. I performed it, in my kimono, with an over-the-top Hitler imitation, complete with mustache, ending with an emphatic “Heil” gesture.

It brought down the house. Ten years later, at Georgetown University Law Center, I played Ko-Ko again, did the same Hitler parody again, and brought down the house again. Nobody complained. My late father, crippled for life in the fight against Hitler, detected nothing wrong with the routine. He also loved “Hogan’s Heroes,” with the show’s reluctant, inept, heiling Nazis, and the other Heil-filled spoofs of Hitler by Chaplin, Mel Brooks, and even the Three Stooges.

Now here is what happened to a private school teacher: read the whole, awful thing here. The short version: he was gesturing while explaining something in class, and noticed that his arm was raised Nazi-style, and said, “Heil Hitler,” jokingly. There was no question whether he was serious or not: everyone knew he was joking, and why he was joking. He even stopped and explained to the class that Once Upon A Time, in less enlightened eras, it was considered amusing to mock Hitler and the Nazis.

Ben Frisch, the teacher, a practicing Quaker  whose father was Jewish and who had two great-grandmothers  killed at Auschwitz, was fired by the private school anyway. The school principal who fired him explained his reason to the New York Times magazine  by saying, “One of our pledges is to make all of our students feel safe. And that is something that I take very, very seriously.”

Says the Times reporter in part in reaction to this: Continue reading

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