Category Archives: Rights

Ethics Hero: Notre Dame Political Science Professor Vincent Phillip Muñoz

Vincent Phillip Muñoz is the Tocqueville Associate Professor of Political Science and Concurrent Associate Professor of Law at The University of Notre Dame. Following the violent protest that prevented his announced lecture at Middlebury College earlier this month, Prof. Muñoz invited Murray to speak at the University of Notre Dame next week. This occasioned some protests and objections from students and faculty at his own college, and he responded with an essay at RealClearPolitics, writing in part…

Charles Murray is speaking at Notre Dame because I and another Political Science professor assigned his book “Coming Apart” in our classes. His visit is one of several outside lectures that are part of this semester’s Constitutional Studies offerings. My class, “Constitutional Government & Public Policy,” addresses some of the most important and divisive issues in American politics: abortion, gay marriage, religious freedom, inequality, freedom of speech, death penalty, race and the meaning of constitutional equality, immigration, euthanasia, and pornography.

 The class is designed to prompt students to think more deeply and thoughtfully about contemporary moral and political issues. I don’t assign a textbook or “neutral” readings that summarize the issues; I require students to read principled thinkers who advocate vigorously for their respective position. I want my conservative students to read smart, persuasive liberal thinkers, and I want my liberal students to read thoughtful conservatives. Educated citizens can give reasons for their beliefs and can defend intellectually the positions they hold. That requires that we understand and articulate the positions with which we disagree.

…“But Murray is controversial and will make students feel uncomfortable,” my faculty colleagues say. Don’t I know that he has been accused of being racist, anti-gay, and a white nationalist? I’m told that bringing him to campus is not fair to Notre Dame’s marginalized students.

I have no desire to inflict unwanted stress or anxiety on any member of the Notre Dame community, especially our minority students. I appreciate the concern for student well being that motivates some of the opposition to Murray’s visit. But I believe what is most harmful to students—and, to speak candidly, most patronizing—is to “protect” our students from hearing arguments and ideas they supposedly cannot handle.To study politics today requires handling controversial, difficult, and divisive topics…

The price of a real education is hearing powerful arguments that make us realize our opinions are based on untested assumptions. Only then, when we realize that we do not know as much as we think we know, can genuine learning occur.

I invited Dr. Murray to Notre Dame months ago…Given what happened at Middlebury, it would be cowardly to disinvite Murray now. Rescinding his invitation would communicate that violence works; that if you want to influence academia, sharpen your elbows, not your mind. It would tell those who engaged in violence—and those who might engage in or threaten violence—that universities will cower if you just appear intimidating. Rescinding Murray’s invitation would teach exactly the wrong lesson…

Notre Dame faculty critical of Murray have implored me to think about the larger context of what his visit means. I am. That is why I will not rescind his invitation. As a professor and program director, my job is to do what we are supposed to do at universities: pursue the truth through reasoned dialogue and discussion. Whether you find Charles Murray’s scholarship persuasive or objectionable, his visit offers an opportunity to learn. That is why I invited him to speak at Notre Dame. After Middlebury, it’s all the more important that he do so.

It is almost an insult to academia to call Prof. Muñoz ‘s statement heroic. It should be obvious. Dissenters from the position he articulates should be instantly recognizable as regrettable outliers, the opponents of academic freedom and freedom of thought, the advocates of censorship and ideological indoctrination. Yet increasingly it is this traditional view of higher education that Muñoz advocates that is under attack. Continue reading

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The Neo-Nazi Music Festival

The Southern Poverty Law Center says this is a photo of music loving neo-Nazis. Terrifying.

White nationalists were planning on having a music festival meet-and-greet at the Joppatowne, Maryland Memorial VFW Post 5838 on St Patrick’s Day.  The 11th annual event (yes, there are Nazi music festivals…) was announced on Stormfront.org, and coordinated by Baltimore area far-right record label Label 56, which distributes  skinhead music, CDs, videos, and other white supremacy merchandise.  More about the record label:

Label 56 is the music outlet for a violent neo-Nazi gang called Maryland State “Skinheads” (MDS). MDS head Jason Tankersley, while more involved with their Mixed Martial Arts arm has some organizational input over Label 56 as well. A link for Label 56 appears on the homepages of several other Northeastern racist skinhead groups, including the Keystone State Skinheads, American Thule Society, and the Vinlanders Social Club. Maryland State Skinheads, Keystone United and Supreme White Alliance members are regular attendees.

It’s Going Down ( or IGD) describes itself  as

a media platform for revolutionary anarchist, anti-fascist, and autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements. We publish original content alongside anonymous submissions and repost articles from other websites which share our perspectives. We do not and have not called for events. Our news network is made up of friends and comrades across so-called North America whose mission is to uplift and build capacity for a wide range of social struggles by providing news and analysis of when it goes down: riots, strikes, sabotage, occupations, expropriations, rebellion, revolt, insurrection. Whether together or alone – we support liberatory revolt.”

(Liberatory?)

It sent out an alert titled “Shut Down Neo-Nazi Music Fest at VFW Hall”:

This event is indicative of the rise of white supremacism and the growing organizational capacity of the far-Right nationally. The Ku Klux Klan, and specifically the East Coast Knights of the True Invisible Empire, have been distributing flyers locally in Ellicott City, Towson, and Bel Air, and as far away as North Carolina. It is important to oppose the increasing Neo-Nazi presence together. Time is of the essence. The Mid-Atlantic General Defense Committee (GDC) is monitoring developments in Maryland and working with at-risk communities to respond as they emerge. The GDC encourages everyone to get involved in taking an active stance now.

The complaints and threats from IGD and other allied groups were successful in getting the VFW to cancel the event. Continue reading

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Ethics Observation On The Trump 2005 Tax Return

Yesterday, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow endlessly hyped the fact that  veteran investigative reporter David Cay Johnston had obtained President Trump’s 2005 federal tax return. When it was revealed, the scoop didn’t justify the hype. Trump  paid 38 million in taxes that year,  24% of his income—not the top rate, but not “nothing,” which was the rumor Democrats were selling during the campaign.

Ethics points:

1. Whoever leaked the return broke the law, and doing so was unethical.  No, it’s not illegal for the news media to take material stolen by others and sanctify it via their First Amendment protections.  It should be though. When they do this, they aide and abet a crime, and Freedom of the Press wasn’t supposed to allow THAT. At very least, journalists should be required to reveal the names of the criminals who steal and release our proprietary documents. The publication of these makes such thefts worse, not better.

2. I don’t see why the President’s tax returns from 12 years ago has any genuine relevance to anything now. The returns were relevant to the decision of whether or not people wanted to vote for him. Now, the tax documents have no purpose, except for the insatiable Trump-bashers to have something new to bash him with. Anything will do.

3. David Cay Johnston was dishing about his “scoop” with GMA’s George Stephanopoulos, and decided to start a new rumor. He speculated that Trump leaked the return himself.  No evidence, not a drop, and yet that’s what this veteran reporter felt was justifiable to say on national TV. Gee, can we call THAT fake news?

4. Then, as he did with Maddow, the reporter went on about all the conflicts of interest that Trump’s financial dealings have created. Again, this is re-litigating the election. At this point, there is no practical way to eliminate Trump’s conflicts and the appearance of impropriety that they create, and he’s not going to bother trying. Johnston, and others, including me, never made a clear case to the public why the President’s unprecedented financial entanglements should have been disqualifying; nor did Hillary, in part because her own financial entanglements were disqualifying. Well, the train left the station, y’all. You had your chance, and botched it. Johnston, like so many of the other bitter-enders who want to turn back time, ultimately get back to, “But…but…but…we never should have elected this guy! Surely there is something we can do to undo it!”

No, there isn’t. Cut it out. Continue reading

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In A Photo Finish Race For Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month, Ohio State Wes Retherford (R) Edges Texas State Rep. Jessica Farrar (D)

Both are embarrassments to their parties, their states, and the voters who elected them, however.

First the winner: Ohio State Representative Wes Retherford, R-Hamilton, who was discovered over the weekend passed out drunk in his car with a loaded firearm at a McDonald’s drive-thru . Wes was arrested by Butler County sheriff’s deputies, and faces charges of operating a vehicle under the influence and improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle, because there is no current criminal law covering unbelievably stupid conduct by an elected official.

Retherford was easily re-elected in November in the heavily Republican district, even though voters had to know he was a drunk. He had to defeat a challenger in the GOP primary after another candidate gained the party’s endorsement because Retherford had been criticized for “partying.” “Partying” is a euphemism, in this case, for “has a serious drinking problem and is likely to end up  passed out drunk in his car at a McDonald’s drive-thru with a loaded firearm. The Ohio House Speaker even had to order a drinks cart removed from Retherford’s office because it violated House rules. People voted for him anyway. They must be so proud.

Our runner-up is a different brand of fool, but a fool nonetheless: Texas State Rep. Jessica Farrar, a Democrat, offered what she termed a “satirical bill”  that would fine men for masturbating, allow doctors to refuse to prescribe Viagra and require men to undergo a medically unnecessary rectal exam before any elective vasectomy. Farrar says that she knows her bill will never pass, but says she hopes it will start a conversation about abortion restrictions. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Catching Up On “Instersectionality,” And Finally Paying Attention”

These do not exist.

My heart sank when the I saw that the extremely lively debate following yesterday’s post about “intersectionality” had sparked a posting of “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Paula McIntosh, who either was time traveling  from 1947 or who was awakened from a coma in 1988 and set it to paper.  The list was out of date then, and it is 29 years old now: one of my favorite aspects of perpetual victim-mongers is that they always pretend that no progress has been made in ethics and human relations, because progress puts them out of business. 

I had to debunk this thing, but there were other priorities hanging over me. Fortunately, reader Isaac took up the challenge. This is often the case in Ethics Alarms, where the remarkable reader base either assists me in doing my job, or, as in this case, does it for me, often better than I could. Isaac chose humor to do the job here, and looking over the material, that might have been the kindest course.

Here is Isaac’s epic Comment of the Day on the post, “Catching Up On “Instersectionality And Finally Paying Attention.” (I’ll have a few comments at the end.)

I wish to thank Deery for sharing about the “Invisible Knapsack” of 26 White Privileges invented by someone named McIntosh. I had never heard of it and am eager to unpack all of unseen ways that the White-spiracy has gifted me with an implicit advantage over my colored people friends. By knowing what my white privilege affords me, I can now exploit it and achieve my highest potential! Let’s dive in.

—-“1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.”—-

That can’t be right, and I don’t just mean the sentence structure. My neighborhood in Riverside County, California is about 65% Latino and 15% Black. And I can’t afford to move. I like it here. But if I did want to move to Orange County or Malibu or whatever and hang around fellow Whites all day, I can’t afford it. Maybe McIntosh can connect me to the secret White Privilege Office that will hook me up with a McMansion in Irvine.

—-“2. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area, which I can afford and in which I would want to live.”—–

Seriously, McIntosh? I just went over this. If it costs more than a one-bedroom apartment in Perris, I CAN’T afford it. Who is McIntosh and why does she believe that being White gets you real-estate discounts?

—-“3. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.”—-

My neighbors have been pretty cool except for the three or four people who have robbed me or smashed some of my property. Is this the realization of my White privilege or do I still have untapped benefits?

—-“4. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.”—-

I got kicked out of a gift store once as a teenager, but to be fair, I WAS shoplifting at the time.

I’ve only been unfairly followed or harassed while shopping a few times. But I checked with some of my Brown and Black friends, and they ALSO had only been followed or harassed while shopping a few times. That number should be WAY higher for them than for me. What kind of white privilege is this? Why are my benefits not notable?

—-5. “I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.”—-

To check my privilege in this area I turned on the television and looked at a newspaper, and was surprised to find that yes, there were quite a few white people there. Sweet, privilege! But it gets better! I checked Wikipedia and found out that White people make up almost two thirds of the population of America! Wow! How can a group of people that make up 63% of a country’s population also be seen on the television and newspapers constantly? It’s gotta be a conspiracy, baby! A sweet, sweet, white conspiracy.

—-“6. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.”—- Continue reading

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Chicago Justice, Rights, And Pop Culture Malpractice

Dick Wolf, the “Law and Order” creator, is in the process of taking over NBC prime time. He now has four linked dramas dominating the schedule—“Chicago Med,” “Chicago P.D.,” “Chicago Fire,” and the latest, “Chicago Justice.” (Soon to come, at this rate: “Chicago Sanitation,” “Chicago Pizza,” and “Chicago Cubs.”)

Yesterday was Episode #2 of “Chicago Justice.” The story in involved a “ripped from the headlines” riff on the Brock Turner case, where a woman was raped while unconscious and the rapist received a ridiculously lenient sentence. In Wolf’s alternate universe, however, the judge was murdered, and the rape victim and her ex-husband were suspects. There was another wrinkle too: one of the prosecutors had a close relationship with the dead judge, and was with him right before he was killed. She was going to have to be a witness, and her colleague and supervisor, prosecuting the case, asked her if she had been sleeping with the victim. Such a relationship would have been an ethical violation for the judge, and at least a pre-unethical condition for the prosecutor, requiring her to relocate to a Steven Bochco drama, where lawyers have sex with judges all the time.

The female prosecutor indignantly refused to answer the question. After the case was resolved—I won’t spoil it, but the name “Perry Mason” comes to mind—the two prosecutors made up over a drink. She said that she would have never slept  with “Ray” (the dead judge–when he was alive, that is), but that she remembered reading “in some old document” that we all had “unalienable rights,” she believed one of them was “the right to be respected by your fellow man.”

There is no “right to be respected.” The Declaration of Independence, the “old document” she referenced, lists three rights only, though they are broad ones: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. None of those encompass a right to be respected. The speaker, Anna Valdez (played by Monica Barbaro, a Latina dead ringer for Jill Hennessey, who played the equivalent “Law and Order” role for many years), is a lawyer, and should understand what a right is. It is a legally enforceable guarantee of an entitlement to have something, seek or obtain it,  or to act in a certain ways. As a lawyer, she must understand that this is different from what is right, just or honorable. Her statement, coming from the mouth of a character with presumed expertise and authority, misleads much of the public, which is constantly getting confused over  the difference between Jefferson’s use of “rights” and what is right. So do journalists and, sadly, too many elected officials. Continue reading

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“The Good Immigrant” III, or Fake News? The Incredible Sobbing 13-Year Old

A 13-Year-Old Girl Sobbed While Recording Her Immigrant Father Get Arrested By ICE Agent  is the headline at Buzzfeed. Wait, teenage girls weeping is news now? Was she the only teen sobbing this week? How is this news, by any standard?

Of course, it’s headline worthy if the objective is to provoke an emotional reaction rather than to inform the public objectively. In fact, nothing about the story is newsworthy, except as pr0-illegal immigration, anti-law enforcement, anti-President Trump propaganda and hate-mongering. Illegal immigrant and scofflaw Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez had dropped his daughter off at a Los Angeles school, and six blocks from the school his car was surrounded by immigration enforcement agents who took him into custody, just as law enforcement takes law-breakers into custody every hour of every day of the week.  Gonzalez had a 2014 deportation order against him issued by an immigration judge, and violated it every day he spent in the U.S., masquerading as a law-abiding citizen, since then.  He also had a 2009 DUI conviction. This wasn’t even a close call.

I’m pretty sure the children of gang members, drug dealers, muggers and serial killers also sob when daddy is taken away, and while I feel sorry for the children,  it doesn’t make me want to let their fathers go free, it doesn’t mean we should change the laws, and it isn’t news. 

ICE said Avelica-Gonzalez is scheduled to be deported to Mexico, where he was supposed to have returned three years ago. This isn’t cruel, this isn’t unfair, this shouldn’t be a surprise.

Brenda Avelica, a different daughter from the one heard sobbing on the viral video of her father’s arrest—YES! It really happened! The girl SOBBED! Film at 11!— said that her father has been in the US for 20 years and has four children, two of them adults.

So?

“It’s really hard what we’re going through,” Avelica told reporters. “I never thought we’d actually go through something like this. It’s terrible to feel and see your family being broken apart.”

Let me fix that for her. It’s terrible to finally have the law catch up to you when you are guilty as hell. The James brothers said that, I think. Maybe it was Bonny and Clyde. Or Bernie Maddoff. ICE agents are not the bad guys here. The elected officials, activists, and journalists who want us to think that, however, are. Very bad. Continue reading

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