Category Archives: Research and Scholarship

“Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/20/18: Bad Ideas, False Narratives, Fake News, And Hillary’s Delusion

Happy Friday!

(You too, Reuben..)

1 The persistence and peril of bad ideas. Civilizations and societies fail in part because terrible ideas take root in the public square, become  exploited by cynical and unscrupulous elites and power-seekers, and lead to policy and cultural disasters. The nation’s gradual acceptance of illegal immigration is such an idea: when the pluses and minuses of the Trump Presidency are finally totaled and compared, no one will be able to deny that taking a direct stand against illegal immigration without compromise or weasel words will be one of Donald Trump’s positive legacies.

Nonetheless, the news media continues to indoctrinate the public with the toxic concept that illegal immigration is acceptable, against all logic and experience. In yet another “good illegal immigrant” story—frankly, I’m sick of writing about them—the New York Times gives us this:

Like many of the immigrants detained this way, Mr. de Oliveira, a house painter, had no criminal history. To the Trump administration, the other thing they had in common was more germane: a legal but, until now, unenforced obligation to leave the country that had stuck to them for years, even as they pieced together lives and families in the United States.

In the later years of the Obama administration, the government mostly left people without criminal records alone, focusing instead on immigrants who had only recently arrived or had been convicted of serious crimes.

But the Trump administration emphasizes that everyone living here illegally is fair game for deportation, a policy that has bumped up immigration arrests by more than 40 percent since the beginning of 2017. Those who were ordered out of the country years ago are especially easy marks for an agency with limited resources for enforcement — especially if they walk straight into an immigration office.

Boy, that mean, mean Trump administration, insisting that aliens who steal a place in this country along with its benefits should have to return it even if they don’t break any more laws.  There is literally no logical or legally coherent argument or rationale to support any other position. I have never heard one, read one, or been able to imagine one. Would people support a policy that allowed citizens to keep the loot they stole in a single felony as long as they never broke another law? Perhaps they would, if politicians, big business advocates for cheap labor and unethical journalists kept promoting the idea over years and decades.

2. And then there are media-fed false narratives. On Headline News this morning, Lovely Robin and her cohorts were reviewing Time’s “100 Most Influential People” and picking their favorites. Who cares, at this pathetic stage of Time’s existence, what that rag decides? One of Robin’s colleagues designated Chloe Kim, the 17-year-old medal-winning Olympic snowboarder, as his favorite among the hundred. Does anyone really believe a teenage snowboarder is one of the 10,000 most influential people in the US, much less in the top 100? Is Time’s 100 really a list of  “people most likely to be on “Dancing with the Stars”? Has any medal-winner in a Winter Olympics ever been particularly influential, except maybe in the Ice Capades? Continue reading

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From The “Nation Of Assholes” Files: Now President Trump Has Driven The Sociologists Mad

That fake tweet above? It was created by the Southern Sociological Society as promotion for its conference this week. It is also, amusingly, accurate. Based on the conference, titled “Racial Theory, Analysis, and Politics in Trump America,” you can’t trust sociologists any more. Like so many other professional, including among them historians, lawyer, journalists, educators, ethicists and psychiatrists, this group has decided to abandon professional ethics and standards of objectivity and civility for juvenile virtue-signaling and partisan name-calling.

At first I thought this was an Onion parody. From Campus Reform:

…The conference program features two full-color illustrations that crudely depict the President as a baby, six sketches employing similar themes, and nine satirical presidential tweets (each of which comes with a disclaimer alerting the sociologists that it is “not an actual tweet”). The front cover shows the president as a grotesque and overweight infant, sitting in a soiled diaper on top of an image of hooded Klansmen while playing with missiles and nuclear bombs. His outstretched left arm, replete with a tiny hand, may be an attempt to depict him performing the Nazi salute.

A cross superimposed on a series of concentric circles appears above the word “Trump” in the conference title, suggesting the crosshairs on a rifle site…The back cover depicts a similarly-styled Trump, this time with his diaper sagging down and kneeling in a pool of urine inside his crib. Black and white sketches scattered throughout the program, meanwhile, depict Trump in various other unflattering ways, with one showing him urinating on the floor while holding what appears to be a balloon labeled “WW3,” while another drawing portrays him smashing the EPA and healthcare.

The conference schedule indicates that there will be 32 workshops, papers, lectures, discussions, and other sessions that explicitly deal with Trump, including a discussion about “Approaching Resistance to TrumpAmerica” and a session on “How to Talk About Current Events in the Classroom in the Age of Trump without Getting Fired.”

Some sessions, such as “Organizing a Campus-Wide Social Justice Event,” appear to advise professors on how to use their positions to influence campus politics. Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Andrew Sullivan

Once again, Ethics Alarms is honoring Andrew Sullivan for unusual courage in the field of punditry. In this case, the honor is less for what he has written than the fact that he wrote it at all.

His general topic is genetic research, taking off from a recent op-ed appeared in the New York Times by Professor David Reich, a  Harvard geneticist, which broached the virtually taboo topic genetic variations between subpopulations of humans, that is to say, races. On the way through Sullivan’s essay, called “Denying Genetics Isn’t Shutting Down Racism, It’s Fueling It,” Sullivan makes many perceptive observations, like…

“This argument should not be so controversial — every species is subject to these variations — and yet it is. For many on the academic and journalistic left, genetics are deemed largely irrelevant when it comes to humans. Our large brains and the societies we have constructed with them, many argue, swamp almost all genetic influences.

Humans, in this view, are the only species on Earth largely unaffected by recent (or ancient) evolution, the only species where, for example, the natural division of labor between male and female has no salience at all, the only species, in fact, where natural variations are almost entirely social constructions, subject to reinvention. We are, in this worldview, alone on the planet, born as blank slates, to be written on solely by culture. All differences between men and women are a function of this social effect; as are all differences between the races. If, in the aggregate, any differences in outcome between groups emerge, it is entirely because of oppression, patriarchy, white supremacy, etc. And it is a matter of great urgency that we use whatever power we have to combat these inequalities.”

Agreed, and stipulated: the progressive position on this aspect of science is, as in so many other areas, a deliberate refusal to deal with reality in order that ideological goals may proceed.

More from Sullivan later in his piece… Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/2/2018: The Unreliable Authorities Edition

Good morning!

1.  Another baseball ethics dispute! This is an exciting time of changes in the traditional wisdom of how to play Major League Baseball, all sparked by that new ethics bugaboo, Big Data. Now that so many aspects of the game can be measured and analyzed, tradition and assumptions rarely challenged are now under fire. One massive shift is, ironically, in the matter of shifts, radical defensive alignments in which players are not fielding their normal positions, but rather are places where computer spray charts for each batter suggest that the likelihood of fielding a ball is highest.  This can mean anything from one lonely fielder on the left side of the infield, or four outfielders.

Shifts are not new, but they used to be used on a handful of super-sluggers with dead-pull propensities, notably Ted Williams, who famously refused to bunt for easy hits to the unoccupied side of the field, and instead usually tried to hit through or over the shift. It has been estimated that the Williams Shift, combined with the player’s infamous stubbornness, cost him many points off of his lifetime batting average, especially since Williams defeating the shift by bunting might have discouraged its use.

But he was Ted Williams, the second greatest hitter of all time.  The question of whether lesser batters should bunt against shifts, for now many teams shift against everyone, has an easy answer: Of course they should.

In yesterday’s Twins-Orioles game, Twins starter Jose Berrios had  a one-hit shutout in the ninth inning. leading with one out and no runners on base. O’s rookie catcher Chance Sisco came to the plate—he has my favorite baseball name this season–and the Twins put on a shift like the one Ted Williams despised:

So, knowing he wasn’t Ted Williams and also knowing that in baseball even seven run leads aren’t a sure thing, Chance dropped down a bunt to the left side for a single. Berrios then walked two batter Davis and Manny Machado to load the bases, but finished his shutout by getting the next two outs without further disruptions.

After the game, the Twins players questioned the ethics of Sisco’s hit. Berrios said, “I just know it’s not good for baseball [to bunt] in that situation. That’s it.” Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario said, “Nobody liked that. No, no, no. That’s not a good play.” Second baseman Brian Dozier added, “Obviously, we’re not a fan of it. He’s a young kid. I could’ve said something at second base but they have tremendous veteran leadership over there. I’m sure they’ll address that. It’s all about learning. You learn up here.”

When do you “learn” not to try to win the game and get on base? For Sisco, a rookie, sending the message that shifting against him is a bad risk also is a wise career move. There is a long-standing, and stupid, unwritten rule in baseball that it is “bush league” to try to break up a no-hitter with a bunt, but extending that dubious logic to a mere shutout breaks the Stupid Meter.

2. Coffee is good for you, but be worried when you drink it. Continuing its rapid devolution into Bizarro World, just as increasing scientific evidence suggest that coffee is good for you, California is demanding that it carry a tobacco-like warning label. Last week a judge ruled that Starbucks and  other coffee companies in California must carry a cancer warning label because of a chemical produced while beans roast has been shown to cause cancer in high doses. California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act  requires companies with more than 10 employees to warn their customers about the presence of carcinogenic and toxic chemicals in their products, even in tiny amounts. Acrylamide, a chemical compound that is produced naturally during the roasting of coffee beans, is on the state’s list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. The judge ruled that the coffee company had the burden of proof  to show that acrylamide posed no significant health risk to coffee drinkers, even though there is no evidence that coffee does pose a risk. Continue reading

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An Ethics Alarms Challenge: Defend Criticism Of The Brooklyn Museum’s Hiring Of Two White Curators Of Its African Art Collections Without Endorsing Racism

The Ethics Alarms verdict is that such a defense is impossible. Asks the Huffington Post in its “Black Voices” section, “People Want To Know Why Brooklyn Museum’s New African Art Curator Is White.” Why are they asking this? The answer is obvious and backed by the curriculum vitae of the two (not one) scholars hired, Drew Sawyer and Kristen Windmuller-Luna. They are eminently qualified for their new jobs, and the color of job applicants is not, and never should be considered “a credential.”

From the museum’s release:

Windmuller-Luna will rethink the Brooklyn Museum’s extensive collection of African art, which is comprised of more than 6,000 objects, and organize a freshly conceived temporary installation showcasing the depth of the collection. Her focus will be to create a dialogue between the African art collection and other works within the museum’s holdings while also helping to develop educational programming.

As a curator and historian of African arts and architecture, with a specialization in the early modern period and Christian Ethiopia, her work counters myths about African civilizations and artistic production by focusing on cultural specificity, artistic diversity and global historical context. Windmuller-Luna received her Ph.D. and M.A. in Art and Archaeology from Princeton University and her B.A. in the History of Art from Yale University.

Drew Sawyer will reimagine the role of photography collection within the museum and explore ways to integrate it with other collection galleries and exhibitions.

Sawyer is currently Head of Exhibitions and the William J. and Sarah Ross Soter Associate Curator of Photography at the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio. He is also a co-organizer of the upcoming historical survey Art after Stonewall, 1969 to 1989 which will tour during the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in 2019. Sawyer holds a Ph.D. in Art History and Archaeology from Columbia University, specializing in North American art and visual culture of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

“Kristen’s vision for a new permanent collection installation that transforms how viewers relate to the arts of Africa is tremendously exciting for us as we near the 100th anniversary of the Brooklyn Museum’s pioneering exhibition of African art in 1923, ”said Deputy Director and Chief Curator Jennifer Chi. “Drew’s deep expertise in social and experimental documentary practices during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries will significantly augment our strong collection and will contribute to our history of championing contemporary artists who continue in this vein.”

Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Harassing McGruff: Oh-Oh…Am I Going Crazy?”

I’m going to post the whole ad at issue again, because it is an essential reference point for context:

My almost entirely serious post about the GEICO ad showing McGruff the Crime Dog being subjected to office harassment based on his appearance and species/race prompted more and more diverse commentary than I expected, and one slam-dunk Comment of the Day, by Zanshin, who has a record of deconstructing oddball Ethics Alarms posts.

Three points:

1. I was not aware that McGruff had starred in anti-bullying videos, and I doubt that any but a tiny fraction of the intended audience for the GEICO commercial is either,

2. Kudos to Zanshin for seeing a connection to The Jehovah Paradox, which I did not. It is not often that I am told that I don’t understand my own inventions, but he makes an excellent argument. I also need to add TJP to the Ethics Alarms list of concepts and special terms, which I had neglected to do.

3. I just saw the ad again, and it still feels to me like GEICO is making light of workplace racism, bullying and harassment, and

Here is Zanshin’s Comment of the Day on the post, Harassing McGruff: Oh-Oh…Am I Going Crazy?:

Jack asked, […] am I just seeing an ethics breach that isn’t there?

My answer, You saw only the unethical part in this commercial because you didn’t have the context to ‘see’ the ethical part in it.

tl/dr

1. McGruff is subjected to cruel bullying and office harassment.

2. Is that an ethics breach? No, not if one understands “The Jehovah Paradox”.

3. In the commercial McGruff doesn’t break character.

4. (At the minimal) the commercial doesn’t go against the teachings of McGruff.

5. The commercial makers should have done a better job in making the teachings of McGruff more explicit.
(But maybe couldn’t given intellectual property/licensing issues?)

Let me explain. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/26/18: “Baseball Season Begins This Week So Nothing Can Upset Me” Edition

Good morning!

1 A Comment Of The Day. I apologize to Aleksei for not devoting a full post to his excellent commentary, but the posts have been more than a little Parkland Shooting Freak-Out—yes, that is what it is—heavy of late, so I’m highlighting his comment here. I’m also going to torment my temporarily reason-deficient—for that’s what they are—Facebook friends by quoting it.

So I went to the Boston “March for our lives” as an educational thing, because I’ve never been to one of these, and I wanted to talk to people about why they were marching. I am on the pro-gun side. The signs they had definitely were variations on what Jack has provided here. The sign with the kid in the subway car, that’s actually the Boston Red Line.

This march was definitely an emotional thing, because of the 10+/- people I spoke with, nobody was very knowledgeable on guns, gun laws, background checks, what is an assault rifle, the failings of government  in the Texas church shooting, the Parkland shooting, etc. On average, older people were more willing to have a longer conversation. On average, younger people were more irritated with me, once I told them what side of the issue I am on. I was polite and respectful, so there was never a brawl or anything.

I talked with the college girls with one of the more egregious signs ( “2nd amendment = white supremacy”) and they gave me the whole systemic racism shtick. They also had NRA = terrorism. They said the NRA buys politicians. I gave a counter example, that Planned Parenthood donates a lot of money too, where I was cut off immediately and told, that’s different, they’re not murderers, and it’s nowhere near what the NRA gives. [ Ethics Alarms note: This is not accurate.] Another woman I talked with, late 20’s maybe, told me how could I look into the eyes of children that are scared for their lives and not do something. I told her that it saddens me that kids are scared, but it saddens me more that the police failed, the school failed, and the FBI failed in Parkland. She didn’t rebut me and I wished her a good day.

I also was surprised when some young people asked me, if I don’t agree with the march, what am I doing here? I told them that this is a free country, I can be here if I want and that I can speak with other fellow Americans, even if we don’t agree on everything. On a positive note, people told me they appreciated my desire to hear the other side and learn more. It was an interesting experience, but like Jack said earlier, it was a “scream at the sky” fest. Also, the chants were boring. “Hey, Hey, NRA, how many kids have you killed today”, “What do we want? Gun Control! When do we want it? Now!”, “No more guns! No more guns!”, and so on and so forth. I want to say there were more women, there were families with children, which also had signs, people from kindergarten age to old age pensioners.

Observations:

  • Bravo for Aleksei, and anyone else who had the patience to do this. My aversion to protests,demonstrations and rock festivals. along with the brian-numb, herd-like vibe the emit. goes back to my teens.  I just couldn’t do what he did.
  • Can’t somebody write some new protest chants? Do the chanters know that recycling Vietnam peace chants just reinforces the belief that this is all generic generational bitching, and more reflex that thoughtful? If I hear “Hey, Hey” in a demonstration, it only  makes me giggle. A friend in college would react to these chants by raising his arm in a protest fist gesture and shouting “Right arm!”
  • Here is another eye-witness report.

Continue reading

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