Category Archives: Research and Scholarship

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/14/18: Derangement!

Goooooood morning Vietnam!

(Well, not just Vietnam, of course, but did you know Ethics Alarms has had 643 views from Vietnam in 2018, and three already this morning? I wonder how many of those readers suffer from anti-Trump derangement…)

Prelude: I would prefer not to let this topic dominate a Warm-Up, but the alternative is to keep posting on it separately, and then I would get more of those “why do you keep posting about this when children are being taken out of the arms of their mothers at the border?” messages. I post about it for the same reason I began posting on it two Novembers ago, and for the same reason 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck is one of the fattest tags on the blog: the organized, multi-institution hysteria focused on the elected President is unprecedented, destructive, dangerously divisive and threat to the stability of the nation and our communities. Moreover, it is getting worse, more shrill, and to my eye and ear, more desperate, as President Trump’s successes, much as the new media and “the resistance” denies them, increasingly makes the Angry Left and Hillary Bitter-Enders realize that all their protesting and screaming at the sky and biased news stories and leaks and unethical investigations not only aren’t working, but are, in fact, increasing support for the President and public distrust of his sworn destructors. As proof of further lack of hinges, the Deranged think the rational response to this is to become more shrill and more obnoxious.

Unrelated but still annoying note: On HLN just now, after Lovely Robin Meade reported on a Norwegian study that purports to prove that “we is getting dummer,” with an estimated 7 point drop in average IQ since the 1970s, her sidekick Jennifer Westhoven noted off camera that all 730,000 test subjects were all men, in a tone clearly designed to suggest, “so that explains it.” Then the two women laughed like the witches in “MacBeth.” See the recent post on this phenomenon, and reflect. Then imagine if an on-air personality had said “blacks,” “Norwegians” or even “women” in the same context. I’m not accepting such jokes as amusing or acceptable from people who won’t accept the same kind of jokes from me.

1.  It’s time to break out the surgical masks and gloves, I fear. Ann Althouse found this comment on generic New Your Times Trump-hater Frank Bruni’s column, “How to Lose the Midterms and Re-elect Trump,” which begins

“Dear Robert De Niro, Samantha Bee and other Trump haters: I get that you’re angry. I’m angry, too. But anger isn’t a strategy. Sometimes it’s a trap. When you find yourself spewing four-letter words, you’ve fallen into it. You’ve chosen cheap theatrics over the long game, catharsis over cunning.”

The rant was the most popular of the many responses it received from on-line Times readers:

“What are we supposed to do? Speak calmly while he’s praising neo-Nazis? Wag our finger when he walls us in? Abide his ignorance and hate with good grace? Tsk tsk when he embraces murderers and war criminals while berating honorable Democrats? We’re not going to win over the deplorable nincompoops who voted for this man. Do you honestly think that we will offend their delicate sensibilities? These are the people who witnessed the vilest displays of hate, including his encouragement of skinheads to beat up protesters. They heard him brag about groping unwilling starlets. They watched as he mocked a disabled reporter. And yet they went into voting booths all across America and pulled the lever for this narcissistic, unread, vulgar excuse for a human being. Robert De Niro expressed openly the disgust that I have been feeling in my den, sitting in front of the TV and pretty much yelling the same sorts of things when I encounter the daily outrages that ooze from this pustule of a president. Who’s to say that Democrats aren’t scoring victories because of the palpable feeling of disgust that attends this so-called president’s every utterance? This man body-surfed into the White House on a wave of resentment and hate. Maybe a bigger wave of righteous anger will flush him and his Republican enablers out, and down into the metaphorical swamp from which they came.”

Althouse’s readers are almost unanimous in pronouncing this as the Trump Derangement equivalent of your neighbor vomiting black blood into the street. The comment is an impressive compendium of resistance talking points, distortions, and hysteria, culminating in endorsing a vulgar jerk shouting “fuck” at a non-political award show. What are you supposed to do? Oh, by all means, shouting “fuck” and “cunt” are the best options. How about being a responsible citizen, engaging in civil civic discourse based on substance rather than emotion, and respecting your fellow citizens when they have different opinions than you do? Despite the fact that Althouse is a centrist, her commenters overwhelmingly see the folly of the Trump Derangement strategy. One writes, Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 6/5/18: Cakes And Fakes

Good morning…

1. Dummies or Liars? In a comment about yesterday’s 7-2 SCOTUS ruling favoring the Christian cake shop in another baker vs. gay couple controversy, Still Spartan wrote, ” I also don’t want to spend the next few months explaining the ruling to non-lawyer liberals who already are beginning to tear their hair out because they don’t understand the opinion.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly what she will have to do, and the rest of us, as there is already a deliberate effort underway to misrepresent the decision and deceive members of the public too lazy to read Supreme Court opinions, or too under-educated to understand them. (It really isn’t that hard.) This is fear-mongering, and also an effort to undermine the Supreme Court, which can be expected to be blocking a number of left-driven totalitarian measures in the not-too-distant future.

For example, on “The Late Show,” where a disturbingly high percentage of millennials get their news commentary, the smug, insufferable Stephen Colbert described the ruling this way:

“It’s a bad day for gay rights in America. And also for cake rights because this morning, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake to celebrate the marriage of a same-sex couple. That is tough news. But to lighten the blow the Supreme Court did send the gay couple a lovely cake” which was a cake in the shape of the middle finger.

Hilarious! And a complete misrepresentation of the opinion. The question is, did Colbert and his writers really not understand the ruling? What are the odds that any of them read it? If they didn’t know what the ruling was, isn’t it irresponsible to pass along false information? Or did they know that the opinion in no way undermined the rights of gays to be served in public accommodations like everyone else, but found, and correctly so, that the process was rigged against the baker because of open hostility to religious freedom? If so, the “joke” was deliberate misrepresentation.

The fact that the lie would have been in service of a joke is not a justification. Spreading falsity in public is harmful, and it does not matter who does it, or why.

2. From the “Stop making me defend the New York Yankees!” files:  This is an integrity vs. cash test for Major League Baseball. ESPN announced that it was picking up the Yankees’ one 1 o’clock Sunday, July 8 game with the Blue Jays in Toronto for its 8 p.m. Sunday night Game of the Week. This decision, however, was announced after the Yankees and Orioles players agreed to make up last week’s rained out game as part of a doubleheader on July 9.  As now scheduled, the Yankees will have to play three games in a 24 hour period. The Yankees would probably not leave the ballpark in Toronto until midnight, then have to go through customs, getting into Baltimore at 4 or 5 a.m., into their hotel rooms around 7, and be due at Camden Yards in a few hours.

This is potentially dangerous to the players (baseball is hard to play while asleep), and also undermines the team: the Yankees are expected to be in a neck-and-neck race with the Boston Red Sox for primacy in the American League East, and a single game could be crucial. If the Yankees are forced to play Sunday night on July 8, the Yankee management and players are threatening to retaliate against ESPN by refusing all interviews with ESPN broadcasters. Of course, killing those in-game interviews will only improve the broadcast.

Then the Yankees will claim that the Red Sox were colluding with ESPN, and there will have to be an investigation… Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: Operation Paperclip

That’s Wernher in the nice suit…

In the previous post, I discussed the position holding that scientists should be shunned, and even blocked from grants and research opportunities, based on their character flaws, statements, and workplace misconduct.

Operation Paperclip was a secret program of the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency that occurred between 1956 and 1959.  The operation  brought more than 1,600 Nazi German scientists, engineers, and technicians, most notably Wernher von Braun and his V-2 rocket researchers, plus their family members (bringing the total to over 6,000 Germans)  to the U.S. for government employment in the effort to gain a military and scientific advantage over the Soviet Union in the post-war world. The Soviet Union took their own selection of German scientists.

The Ethics Incompleteness Principle states that…

…when a system or rule doesn’t seem to work well when applied to an unexpected or unusual situation, the wise response is to abandon the system or rule—in that one anomalous case only— and use basic ethics principles and analysis to find the best solution. Then return to the system and rules as they were, without altering them to make the treatment of the anomalous situation “consistent.” No system or rule is going to work equally well with every possible scenario, which is why committing to a single ethical system is folly, and why it is important to keep basic ethical values in mind in case a pre-determined formula for determining what is right breaks down.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Week: Continue reading

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The Controversial Birthday Toast: If Artists Have An Obligation To Avoid Harming Their Art By Being Jerks (Or Worse) In Public, Does The Same Principle Apply To Scientists?

The title refers to this post, which preceded the surprising development of iconic movie mensch Morgan Freeman being exposed as a workplace harasser (alleged, that is) and suddenly seeing his image degraded to Dirty Old Man, and his movies devalued as “Ew!”  Now even his voice-over work is in peril.

A famous scientist is a different kettle of fish, however.

At a genomics meeting at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York,  the attendees gathered to listen to the keynote speech in an auditorium, where a large painted portrait of  scientist James Watson–who lives in Cold Spring Harbor— hung. It was also Watson’s 90th birthday. Eric Lander, the director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, lifted a glass of champagne in hand to toast the famous co-discoverer of the DNA molecule.  Watson has “inspired all of us to push the frontiers of science to benefit humankind,” he said in part.

You would think, would you not, that simply recognizing a giant of science and a crucial and transformative figure in these scientists’ field would be able to escape political correctness and social media controversy, wouldn’t you? Nah, why would you think that, silly? This is 21st century America.

Watson, to catch you up quickly, began tarnishing his reputation years ago with a series of gaffes. Notably, he opined that there was no way to avoid the conclusion that African-Americans weren’t as intelligent, on average, as whites. The furious public backlash sent him into retirement. But he still couldn’t avoid inserting his foot in his mouth: speaking before he was to receive an  Honorary Doctorate from University College Cork (in Ireland) in 2010, Watson told journalists that cancer research was being unnecessarily held back by an obsession with ethics.

So the man has some theories in common with Josef Mengele and David Duke. He also has made some jaw-droppingly sexist comments in his dotage….some that even Morgan Freeman might blanch at.

After the meeting, Caltech’s Lior Pachter  led a furious repudiation of Eric Lander’s toast with a series of tweets documenting various sexist and racist comments by Watson. He later told industry reporters, “That people are willing to celebrate this individual in public was a moment of truth for me of what things actually look like in our community and what might be then happening in nonpublic venues behind closed doors when hiring and other important decisions are being made.”

Lander, since scientists have no more backbone than actors, politicians, comedians and bakery owners, immediately capitulated and grovelled for forgiveness. In an email addressed to the Broad Institute community, Lander wrote that  his brief  comment about Watson being ‘flawed”  to introduce the toast “did not go nearly far enough.”

“I reject his views as despicable,” he wrote. “They have no place in science, which must welcome everyone.”

An article about the foofaraw in the The Scientist amply demonstrates why scientists are no more adept at drawing ethics lines than junior high school students. In the various accounts and arguments, Watson’s legitimately offensive statements are conflated without distinction with more ambiguous ones. For example, he once said, “Should you be allowed to make an anti-Semitic remark? Yes, because some anti-Semitism is justified. Just like some anti-Irish feeling is justified. If you can’t be criticized, that’s very dangerous. You lose the concept of a free society.” What is that? Is he talking about criticism of Israel’s policies, or is he supporting the First Amendment? As I reviewed the debate over Watson along with his own statements, one conclusion was unavoidable. A lot of scientists, including Watson, don’t communicate very clearly. Is that a surprise? They didn’t major in Literature and English for a reason. They are about as skilled at clear, unambiguous expression as I am at quantum physics. Continue reading

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Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/2/2018: Goodby, Shut Up, My Condolences, WHAT??, And Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You!

Feelin’ groovy!

1.  The Republicans keep robocalling, and the Democrats...keep emailing. I have protested both. However, right now I am really ticked at the Democrats, whose endless lists I have dutifully asked to be deleted from, then been told that my cyber-door would not be darkened by them again, only to have Tom Perez, Nancy Pelosi and Keith Ellison, plus  show up in by in-box the next day. Do they think this direct violation of my privacy along with their own assurances doesn’t reflect on their fitness to govern? If so, they are wrong.

2. Great news! Now you can identify as British for no good reason whatsoever. I love this story: Thomas J Mace-Archer-Mills Esq. and his insight into the British monarchy a regular feature TV  during that royal wedding I missed because of a sock drawer crisis. His website lists  many media appearances, and one article described him as “the most interviewed man” on the subject of the Wonderful Nuptials.

It has now been revealed that Thomas J Mace-Archer-Mills Esq. is really  Tommy Muscatello, a 38-year-old Italian-American who grew up in upstate New York. But he says he  identifies more as  British than American, so there is that.

Now imagine how well anonymous sources are vetted by crack journalists. [Pointer: Curmy)

3. About that “fever”…An esteemed commenter here proclaimed his exit because of Ethics Alarms’ characterization of the so-called (actually “cleverly-called” is appropriate) “Spygate” scandal (here and here), saying that he would be gone until “the fever” had passed as if questioning the integrity of the Justice Department’s Trump investigation/ “resistance” assistance is obviously a partisan delusion. I almost made that post a Comment of the Day, except that I concluded that denial shouldn’t be mocked. It is, after all, the first of the seven stages of grief, and apparently one which Democrats and progressives are stuck in, while others have progressed at least as far as anger (Stage #3), culminating in episodes like a female comic calling the President’s daughter a “cunt” on television to reactions like this.

Anger, however, only makes one seem overcome with emotion. Denial makes us look blind and gullible. I do not understand the Left suddenly trusting the FBI (Hoover? Felt?) and the Justice Department as if they have always been paragons of virtue. This is pure denial, or, if you prefer, ignorance. If anything, there should be a presumption of politicization in the Justice Department, particularly the Obama version and particularly in light of the post-election conduct of its holdovers like McCabe, Comey and Yates. The FBI, meanwhile, is permanently scarred by Comey’s self-celebration tour, his book, his botching of the Clinton investigation, his dubious testimony before Congress, and his probably illegal leaks of classified information specifically to cause problems for President Trump.

A beloved relative, also in denial, actually tried to tell me last week that the astoundingly suspiciously-timed tarmac meeting between Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton shouldn’t have raised any alarms. She’s a lawyer. She’s brilliant. She’s sincere. She’s also in denial, Stage 5. That was such a perfect example of the appearance of impropriety that a photo of it should be on Wikipedia under “appearance of impropriety.”) When the leaders of the FBI do things like that in the middle of a Presidential campaign, how can someone of good faith and full cranium argue that it’s irrational to question the act of the same people placing a mole in the Republican candidate’s campaign?   This is the pot calling the Corningware black.

Those in denial have their perceptions warped by their own fever, one that causes them to assume, absent any evidence whatsoever, that President Trump must have been working to steal the election. (They also assume he is guilty of other impeachable crimes, they just don’t know which ones.) Hillary lost, you see, and the polls said it was impossible, so he must have cheated. It can’t be that Trump won because he was running against an epically terrible candidate smugly presenting herself as the “third term” of a spectacularly inept and divisive President. It just can’t. Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass)

“In 2016, nearly three million more people voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump – but Trump took the presidency. That’s not exactly the sign of a healthy democracy. Democracy hangs on the idea that whoever gets the most votes wins.”

—-Senator Elizabeth Warren, dumbing down democracy to a partisan audience at the Center for American Progress ‘Ideas Conference’ 

No U.S. election proved the foresight of the Founders and their Electoral College innovation more clearly than the 2016 edition. A single state, California, culturally estranged from the majority of the nation in dramatic, perplexing, even bizarre ways, voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton by more than 4 million votes. This single, virtually one-party state, under a pure popular vote system, would have overcome the will of the rest of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, which narrowly favored Republican Donald Trump by more than a million votes. This was exactly the kind of scenario the Electoral College was devised to avoid—indeed, devised in order to have a country at all. The smaller states, then as now culturally distinct from the more populous states and fearing a permanent fate of being dictated to by their larger cousins, insisted on such devices as the U.S. Senate, where all states had equal power, and the Electoral College, which prevented an,overwhelming mob of single-minded voters in one region dominating the choice of a national leader in perpetuity.

There are other benefits of the device as well. The Electoral College tends to handicap single issue candidates and radical ones. It requires that contenders for national leadership appeal to all regions, or at least not to just a powerful few. Narrow issue, increasingly extreme parties as Warren’s Democrats have become are definitely penalized by the Founders’ system, which is why contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination are already taking aim at it. What the Electoral College should be doing is to force Democrats to become more inclusive, less divisive, and rational. Instead, they are already working to de-legitimatize the results of the next election, should it not go their way. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/16/ 2018: The Fake Moussaka Edition

Gooood morning Pyongyang!

…and everyone else too, of course.

1. ” Winning.” How many in “the resistance” and the news media are rooting, secretly or openly, for the North Korean talks to fail? Based on the tone of some premature gloating on social media and news reports after North Korea threatened to pull out of talks, I think “many” is the fair answer. Other recent headlines and news stories also point in this direction, like “Improving Economy A Problem For Democrats.” (No, an improving economy is not a problem for any Americans, unless they care about their own power more than their country.)

This is especially revolting ( and hypocritical) from the same people who 1)  falsely attributed Rush Limbaugh’s indefensible statement in 2008 that he wanted Obama to fail to the entire Republican Party (I condemned Limbaugh’s statement at the time) and 2) used it to feed the narrative that conservatives who opposed that Presidents left-ward policies were doing so out of personal and racial antipathy.

A President’s success–as in “being proved correct” or “getting lucky,” it doesn’t matter which— makes it more likely that policies you don’t like will be continued? Suck it up and cheer like the good citizen you are. His accomplishments make it less likely that your favorite politician will get elected? Cry me a river: your duty is to care about your nation and fellow citizens first. That you are on record that—okay, still think that—this Presdent has crap for brains and you wouldn’t shake his hand without gloves makes you look less wise and prescient than you would have if he fell flat on his face? Cue the world’s smallest violin, have some integrity, and grow the hell up.

2. Ken Burns ethics, and FDR. In this post earlier this year, I scored documentary whiz Ken Burns for the hagiography of Franklin Roosevelt that marred his otherwise superb “The Roosevelts.”  “The smoking gun for me,” I wrote, “is that despite ten and half hours, Burns somehow never found time to highlight FDR’s internment of American citizens solely because they were of Japanese ancestry. The civil rights outrage is only alluded to in passing, as part of a list from a biographer preceding the nostrum, ‘All great leaders make mistakes.’” That critique stands, but it is slightly unfair, I subsequently discovered. Burns covered the internment of Japanese Americans extensively in an earlier, also excellent, PBS series, 2007′ s “The War.”  Even that section, however, avoided laying proper accountability for the debacle at President Roosevelt’s feet.  I watched the documentary over the past two days, and the deceit is really extraordinary.  The narration keeps referring to Executive Order 9066, without specifically saying whose order it was, like the thing appeared on its own. Here, Ken, let me fix this for you:

President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the imprisonment of tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry and resident aliens from Japan in concentration camps (“internment” is a euphemism and a cover word, like “pro-choice”) with towers and guards with loaded rifles. Though some German-Americans and Italian-Americans were imprisoned as well, far fewer were taken. The risk they posed was not considered as great, because they were white.’

Executive Order 9066 wasn’t rescinded, incredibly, until February 19, 1976, by President Ford. The Supreme Court decision upholding the order, Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944),has never been overturned. In that case’s 6–3 decision approving the abrogation of American citizen rights with fear as the justification, six of FDR’s eight appointees—you know, the liberals—  sided with Roosevelt, and against the Bill of Rights. Continue reading

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