Today’s Ethics Warm-Up That I Was Supposed To Put Up Yesterday, 10/20/21: All Is Not Well

Jen Psaki may not be the worst liar among the many Presidential spokespersons I have seen come and go, but she may be the biggest asshole since Ron Ziegler, Nixon’s infamous paid deceiver. Yesterday, asked about the administration’s failure to anticipate and act on the supply chain disruptions despite early warnings, Psaki snarked about “the tragedy of the treadmill that’s delayed.” Friend of Ethics Alarms Joe Concha responded, “This kind of pious posturing by Psaki — who is increasingly acting this way as Biden’s numbers fall — is not helping matters. The supply chain crisis is very real [and] will impact the low/middle class the most. But…Psaki makes it about an issue for the rich.” Indeed, my son, who is an auto mechanic, says that inability to get needed auto parts is killing his business, with direct impact on his income. It is clear now that as with inflation, the border crisis and the missing Americans left behind in Afghanistan, the Democratic strategy is to pretend there is no problem, confident the the news media will do a good job hiding the facts.

1. Speaking of gaslighting…Terry McAuliffe’s new strategy as his poll numbers sink in what was supposed to be a cake-walk to a second term as Virginia Governor is to claim that he was quoted “out of context” when he said “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” In what possible context would that statement, which he made on TV during a September 28 debate with Glenn Younkin, the Republican, mean anything other than that he doesn’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach? McAuliffe’s new ad making the claim that his statement isn’t what it is (Rationalization #64) is like a holding a sign saying “I am a liar.” Yes, we know you are, Terry: that you got elected the first time disgraced the voters of Virginia.

The ex-Clinton henchman is desperate, but obvious obfuscation won’t help except with the admittedly substantial idiot vote. “As parents, Dorothy and I have always been involved in our kids’ education. We know good schools depend on involved parents. That’s why I want you to hear this from me. Glenn Youngkin is taking my words out of context. I’ve always valued the concerns of parents,” McAuliffe says in the new ad. “It’s why as governor we scaled back standardized testing, expanded pre-K, and invested a billion dollars in public schools.” But none of that addresses the issue of parent input into what is taught. So a billion dollars is being invested in having schools teach that whites are oppressing minorities and the United States of America is evil: how does that encourage parent input into the curriculum? As governor, McAuliffe vetoed legislation in 2016 and 2017 which would have notified parents of sexually explicit content in school materials and mandated that teachers offer alternative educational resources to students whose parents objected to such content. That’s the “context” of his infamous statement.

2. Huh. If you pay people not to work, they won’t see any need to work. Who would have thought? The news is full of reports that the economy is threatened by a labor shortage, and economists are not quite sure why. “COnservatives,” sniffs the Times, are sure this is because of over-generous unemployment benefits. What do they know? Nah, that’s not it…then teh same story goes on to note that Americans saved trillions during the pandemic, with lower income Americans being able to stash away enough to forgo work with the help of “the government’s trillion dollar response to the pandemic” including food aid, forbearance on mortgages and student loans, and eviction moratoriums. But not those “unemployment benefits”!

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The Assault On Free Speech And Thought Continues: No, The “OK Culture” Isn’t A Problem, But The Progressive Police Are An Existential Threat To Democracy

One of the ways you can tell that the creeping totalitarianism of progressives seeking to enforce thought and speech conformity on us all “for the greater good” is getting closer is that advocacy for punishing thought has become mainstream. Indeed, it’s respectable. The supporters of punishing Americans not only for conduct but for “wrongthink” (“1984” lexicon might as well be considered common tongue today) are now not even slightly hesitant to reveal their goal: Agree with them, or lose jobs, friends, associations—rights.

A smoking gun in this regard is an op-ed page (the Times doesn’t call them op-eds any more for some reason: I don’t care) dominating essay by regular Lindsay Crouse—not to be confused with the now-retired actress of the same name—titled “‘Cancel Culture’ Isn’t the Problem. ‘OK Culture’ Is.” Using the firing of NFL coach Jon Gruden as her launching pad, Crouse argues that America is too tolerant of jerks and others who say or think things people like her—you know, good people—-object to, disagree with or find offensive.

“Here’s how it works,” the aspiring censor writes. “Do you have a sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic or fat-shaming thought? Are you smart enough to know you shouldn’t say it in public but want to say it anyway? Are you a powerful and successful person? If so, just make your mean remark or crass joke to a select group who hold similar views or at least wouldn’t dare challenge yours. Don’t worry. It’s OK!”

The writer apparently thinks this statement is so self-evidently ridiculous that she doesn’t feel it necessary to explain why expressing ideas, thoughts and beliefs that she regards as per se unacceptable to those who don’t feel as she does must be prevented and punished. “A common aspect of OK Culture is the tendency to look the other way when someone is professionally excellent but personally awful,” she adds later. Wait a minute: if the individual is really professionally excellent, then he or she isn’t “awful” in the workplace. Not being able to interact professionally with colleagues and subordinates is not professional excellence. So Crouse is referring to personal, private opinions, beliefs, tastes and speech habits that have no relationship to the workplace at all—in short, opinions, beliefs and speech habits that are none of the employing organization’s damn business, none of the government’s damn business, none of public accommodations’ damn business, and especially none of Lindsay Crouse’s damn business.

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Star Chamber At Yale Law School

Yale-Law-School2

One of the most brazen and enduring Big Lies emanating from the mainstream news media, its pundits and, of course, the progressive/Democratic collective it works for, is that Republicans, conservatives and Donald Trump are existential threats to democracy, all while the various components of the Left, especially the institutions it has co-opted like the news media, Big Tech, the professions and education, are openly attacking the basic tenets of personal liberty. Yale Law School has been caught in a particularly odious example of this (not Harvard, for a change). So far, only conservative media sources and blogs have covered the story, but it is really bad. I doubt the the MSM will be able to bury it much longer.

As first reported in The Washington Free Beacon, Trent Colbert is a second-year student at Yale Law School and a member of both the Native American Law Student Association (NALSA) and the Federalist Society. He sent an email on September 15 inviting NALSA members to a social event, writing, “This Friday at 7:30, we will be christening our very own (soon to be) world-renowned NALSA Trap House . . . by throwing a Constitution Day Bash in collaboration with FedSoc. [That is, the Federalist Society] Planned attractions include Popeye’s chicken, basic-bitch-American-themed snacks (like apple pie, etc.),” and a cocktail station.”

Almost immediately the invitation had been shared to an online forum for all second-year law students, several of whom complained that the term “trap house” indicated a blackface party. It doesn’t. The term can mean many things, like inner city crack dens, but “trap house” is most often generic slang for a place where teens or students can get beer. Oh, never mind! Facts don’t matter! “I guess celebrating whiteness wasn’t enough,” the president of the Black Law Students Association wrote in the forum. “Y’all had to upgrade to cosplay/black face.” She then objected to the event’s affiliation with the Federalist Society, which she said “has historically supported anti-Black rhetoric.” (And that is absolutely false.)

Colbert was quickly summoned to the law school’s Office of Student Affairs, which received nine discrimination and harassment complaints about his message from students. Wisely, the Trent secretly recorded the proceedings at that and subsequent meetings,. This is legal in Connecticut, a so-called “single party” state. It is unethical for a lawyer to do this in Connecticut, but Colbert isn’t a lawyer yet.

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Doug Glanville’s Internal Debate And The Student’s Slavery Petition

40 acres and a mule

I highly recommend this essay by Doug Glanville, an African-American sportscaster and blogger who has frequently distinguished himself with perceptive commentary on matters relating to race and sports. In a long, Mobius strip of a personal reverie—you get the impression that Glanvilles wasn’t certain what he thought until he read what he was writing, he reflected on how he would have, and should have reacted if he was in the broadcast booth when Jim Kaat made his ill-considered “40 acres” comment, which Ethics Alarms discussed here. Glanville weaves his way through several options and impulses:

  • “Faced with this reference during a baseball game, I found myself stuck on pause, wondering how we touched on reparations for slavery during the [American League Division Series] while discussing the value of a Latin player. At least, I hoped, it was done so unknowingly. For almost a week, I have grappled with whether I should say anything at all — whether the lessons from it are worth pursuing on a public scale, or if it’s just better to move on. I answered my internal debate by deciding I should at least try.”
  • “So what if I were covering that game, with Showalter and Kaat, as the field reporter or a second analyst? What would I have done? What would I have said? It is an obligation sharply felt by the only Black voice in any room, let alone during a baseball game, where you are expecting to just talk baseball.”
  • “I could have responded indirectly. I could have hit the talkback button and taken my issue to the producers off-line, in order to go through the proper channels. From experience, I know that calling a game is hard. You have to talk for over three hours, and your brain is crammed with information. Data, analytics, interviews, inside information, you name it. And every so often, it just simply comes out wrong, or you react with your mouth before your mind. You don’t have time to dissect the nuance of what someone has said without the risk of making the same kind of generalizing mistake…”
  • “I could have responded directly. I could have interjected on live television to express my consternation — even knowing how that might be taken…. how do you address it while upset, without coming off a certain way?”
  • “I could have stayed silent. I could have internalized it. There is an etiquette to broadcasting. You have to think long and hard about whether you are going to contradict someone or call them out, on Twitter or live during a game. It doesn’t have to be because of insensitive content — it could be about a mistake on a call or simply getting a player’s name wrong. The default is that you don’t do it. And if you do, you do it with care, smoothly, out of respect for your colleague.”
  • In the end, Glanville settles on the Golden Rule: “We all need to be better and more aware, more educated about history so we don’t make bad analogies. Yet we also have to see how understanding is an evolutionary process and grant people the bandwidth to grow, including ourselves. I certainly would want to be extended the same courtesy.”

That’s good, as far as it goes. In the process of getting there, Glanville still managed to blow Kaat’s comment out of proportion, writing at one point,

“In this instance and in so many others, the intent behind the statement becomes beside the point. Kaat apologized for his “poor choice of words” four innings later, but by then, it felt too late — you don’t have to be malicious to negatively impact someone….The pressure is often on Black people to bury their feelings and carry on…We can brush off slavery or we can recognize the vestiges of it and how it still plays a role in our systems. Just last week, a petition to bring back slavery circulated through a school in Kansas City, so I am not talking about 1865.”

Hold it, Doug. When someone is claiming offense, intent is always relevant. This is the great “gotcha!” game in the age of cancel culture: someone makes an innocent misstep, an a social justice mob sets out to destroy them, or at least force them to pathetically confess their sins and beg for forgiveness. Those who are so easily “negatively impacted” that an obviously botched spontaneous comment referencing “40 acres and a mule” while discussing ‘ the value of a Latin player,” want to be “negatively impacted” or at least to be able to claim to be, because it gives them power. Commentators like Glanville enable such political correctness bullies and agents of the cancel culture.

But I want to look at Glanville’s reference to “a petition to bring back slavery” circulating “through a school in Kansas City.” I had missed that episode, and with good reason: it wasn’t newsworthy, it was exploited by exactly the kind of “gotcha!” purveyors I just described, and Glanville’s facts were wrong. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/18/21: “Thank Heaven For Alaska!” Edition

On October 18, 1867, the U.S. became the owners of Alaska after purchasing the huge territory from Russia for $7.2 million.The Alaska purchase consisted of 586,412 square miles, about twice the size of Texas, and cost about 2 cents an acre. Nonetheless, the deal was ridiculed at the time as “Seward’s Folly,” named after President Andrew Johnson’s Secretary of State who championed the purchase. In a spectacular triumph of moral luck, the U.S. taking Alaska from Russia may have saved the world. Had Russia, then the Soviet Union, had a foothold in North America where missiles could be stationed, the Cold War becoming World War Three may not have been avoidable. (Then there’s all that gold and oil and stuff.)

I’ve always found it fascinating the one of our most reviled and denigrated Presidents deserves the credit for securing Alaska, though he seldom is rewarded any. Johnson was a failure any way you examine his Presidency, but his best decision may have saved us all.

1. Passing a comprehensive infrastructure repair bill is critical, and not doing so is irresponsible, as this story out of Michigan should make clear (not that it hasn’t been clear for decades). State officials have told Benton Harbor residents not to drink, cook or brush their teeth with tap water because dangerous levels of lead are leeching into the water supply from deteriorating lead pipes. “The problems in Benton Harbor and Flint are extreme examples of a broader, national failure of water infrastructure that experts say requires massive and immediate investment to solve,” the reports state. “Across the country, in cities like Chicago, Pittsburgh and Clarksburg, W.Va., Americans are drinking dangerous quantities of brain-damaging lead as agencies struggle to modernize water treatment plants and launch efforts to replace the lead service lines that connect buildings to the water system. Health officials say there is no safe level of lead exposure.”

“We’ve basically just been living off our great-grandparents’ and grandparents’ investments in our water infrastructure and not been dealing with these festering problems,” says Erik D. Olson of the Natural Resources Defense Council, adding that the lead problem is part of “this ticking time bomb we have underground of lead pipes, of water mains that are bursting.”

Yes, and we’ve known this for at least 50 years. Nevertheless, the essential infrastructure repairs have been stalled because President Biden wants to hold them hostage to pass controversial and pricey social programs that have nothing to do with infrastructure. The failure to fulfill this basic responsibility of government is a bi-partisan botch and an inexcusable one stretching back to Lyndon Johnson at least. However, that does not excuse Democrats today for using the threat of infrastructure collapse to advance a their more controversial agenda delusions.

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“Insurrection” Hysteria Appears To Be The Democrats’ Sole Strategy For Holding Power, And The Media Is Enabling It. Of Course, This is Unethical….And Ominous [Corrected]

Insurrection committee

Glenn Greenwald’s latest newsletter from substack was nicely timed today. I was genuinely puzzled to see the front page of the Sunday Times left on my lawn this morning dominated by a 50 square inch photo, a scare headline and an article about the January 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol. The episode occurred 9 months ago. This was neither news or history. What’s going on here? [Notice of Correction: the original version had the date and time passed wrong. Stupid mistake.]

Then Greenwald’s piece arrived. “When a population is placed in a state of sufficiently grave fear and anger regarding a perceived threat, concerns about the constitutionality, legality and morality of measures adopted in the name of punishing the enemy typically disappear,” he wrote. “The first priority, indeed the sole priority, is to crush the threat. Questions about the legality of actions ostensibly undertaken against the guilty parties are brushed aside as trivial annoyances at best, or, worse, castigated as efforts to sympathize with and protect those responsible for the danger. When a population is subsumed with pulsating fear and rage, there is little patience for seemingly abstract quibbles about legality or ethics. The craving for punishment, for vengeance, for protection, is visceral and thus easily drowns out cerebral or rational impediments to satiating those primal impulses.”

I have never been able to understand how anyone could accept the obvious exaggeration of the extent, intent, and import of the riot. I really can’t: it amazes me. This was 300, more or less, irresponsible, mostly middle-aged fools, behaving like the Chicago peaceniks at the 1968 Democratic National Convention but with less coherence. Their riot paled in all respects to the Black Lives Matter rioting across the U.S.: less damage was done, far, far fewer people were injured, and the only individual killed was a rioter. Although the post-George Floyd riots shut down businesses and government functions for weeks, the process of certifying the 2020 election results, allegedly the action that the Capitol protesters wanted to halt, weren’t even delayed a day. The claim that these unhappy Trump loyalist idiots were trying to take over the government with bear spray and funny hats was and is nonsense, and transparently so. Yet Greenwald writes,

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The Saturday Evening Ethics Post, 10/16/2021: The Complaints Edition

Halloween post

Is there some woke reason I have missed that explains why virtually all Halloween lawn decorations in my Northern Virginia neighborhood consist of gravestones, skulls, skeletons and spiders? Or are people suddenly suffering from an appalling lack of imagination? No witches, no black cats, no devils, no vampires, no wolfmen. I made the rounds today with Spuds, and saw no ghosts at all, except in front of one house with a large American flag flying. Obviously, the “ghost” is really a reference to the Klan, and anyone who flies Old Glory is likely to be a racist. Or am I just imagining it all?

1. Customer service ethics: I am going to war with CVS. It was August 28 when I first complained to CVS about my appalling treatment at the local store. At the time when I wrote the post, I was awaiting a promised call (24-48 hours) from a “group leader” regarding my incident report. The call never came. I called two days later to register a second complaint about the failure of CVS to follow through as promised on my first complaint. This time, I got profuse apologies, a new incident number for future reference, and a second assurance that I would be receiving a call, also in 24 to 48 hours. That call also never came.

In mid-September, I called the complaint line a third time, to add my third complaint to the previous two, this one about being jerked around and lied to in the last call. I was told that there was a video of my encounter, that it would be reviewed, and that a named executive would contact me “in a week to 10 days.”

Guess what happened. Oh, come on, guess.

There was no contact. Thus it was that yesterday, on October 15, that I called CVS Customer Relations to register complaint #4. I recounted the incident and the previous calls, as well as their apparently lack of sincerity. “It seems clear to me that the CVS policy is to delay, obfuscate, and draw out the process, assuming that dissatisfied and abused customers will give up and drop their complaints. I’m sure that works with most people, but it won’t work with me. I am prepared to pursue this until I see a fair and appropriate response, ” I said. This agent, like the others, assured me that CVS wasn’t like that, but that since she wasn’t a member of “the leadership group,” she wasn’t sure what she could do to ensure action. “Let me transfer you to someone higher up who can help,” she said. Then she transferred me. “Hello?” a loud voice said when the call was picked up. “Yes, hi,” I said. “Is this CVS?” “CVS? Fuck no!” the charming woman shouted, and hung up.

So I made my fifth call to submit my 5th complaint. That nice agent said she would transfer me to her manager. “It’s hard with everyone working at home,” she added. The manager never answered the phone. After profuse apologies, the agent suggested that I call back next week.

2. On the plus side, more people will read my article there than ever see what I write here...A website with millions of views (it claims) stole a copyrighted article I wrote for my now-defunct theater company, published it almost word for word, and included no attribution or credit while representing the piece as original. How many wars is it wise to fight simultaneously?

I better ask George W. Bush.

3. Trump Derangement as a campaign strategy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before. In Virginia, where Clinton bag man Terry McAuliffe is trying to get elected governor again and running scared. Democrats are featuring a TV ad that says nothing about Terry and virtually nothing about his GOP opponent, Glenn Youngkin, except that Donald Trump endorsed him and Youngkin said he was honored. This isn’t even ad hominem negative campaigning. It’s an implied ad hominem attack against someone who isn’t running but who has stated that he supports a candidate, with the implication that politely accepting an endorsement is proof of fealty, or alliance, or affection, or something. As with the successful 2020 strategy of running an obviously unfit Presidential candidate with an obviously unqualified running mate on the assumption that sufficient numbers of voters will decide on who they want as their leaders based solely on raw, blinding hatred of the alternative, Virginia Democrats are similarly courting hate to compensate for their blatantly unethical candidate for governor, who slipped up and admitted that he doesn’t want parents sticking their noses into the progressive indoctrination of their children.

This is no way to run a democracy.

Friday Ethics Creature Features, 10/15/21: Florida’s Felons, Embarrassed Dogs, Huckster Huckabee

creaturefeatureslogo

On October 15, 1946, Hermann Göring cheated the hangman, as they say, killing himself in his cell by swallowing a cyanide tablet he had hidden from his guards. Göring was Hitler’s designated successor, as well as commander in chief of the Luftwaffe, and president of the Reichstag. As the man directly responsible for purging of German Jews from the economy following the Kristallnacht pogrom of 1938 and initiating the “Aryanization” policy that confiscated Jewish property and businesses, he certainly was as deserving as any of the death sentence he received after being tried at Nuremberg for “crimes against humanity.” (He was also a very strange man, as this astounding tale about his relationship with his brother, who rescued Jews from the death camps, makes clear.)

I understand the ritual significance of the state killing a condemned prisoner, but I have never regarded “cheating the hangman” to be anything to lose much sleep about. Such people were determined to be unworthy of life in a civilized society, and they decided to carry out the sentence themselves. Thanks! The ethics of life-without-parole prisoners and the outrageously guilty (like Jeffrey Epstein) similarly shuffling off their mortal coils without permission is a tougher one, and some day I might ponder it sufficiently to write a coherent post. All I can say now is that when I hear of such an incident, or even when some particularly horrible murderer is killed by a fellow prisoner (as in the cases of Dickie Loeb and Jeffrey Dahmer), I’m not outraged, offended, or troubled by his fate.

1 A quickie ethics quiz was posed today on the Friday Open Forum, and I can’t resist commenting here. Esteemed commenter Willem Reese sparked a lively set of responses when he asked, “It’s clever, but is it ethical to do this with your dog?” regarding this photo:

Skeleton dog

My verdict? No, it’s not unethical, assuming the dog wasn’t in pain and wasn’t made uncomfortable. Dogs are not concerned with dignity in human terms, so “embarrassing” it is not a legitimate complaint. Nor is it signature significance for an unethical dog owner, because dog owners do these kind of things who love their animal companions beyond all imagining. However, I view doing such a makeover to a dog as a possible indication, rebuttable of course, that the human responsible does not have sufficient regard for living things. Dogs are not props, and an owner who makes a dog look like that is treating it as a prop. I feel the same way about parents who dress up babies, because this…

Baby costume

…too easily metastasizes into this...

Ralphie bunny

and worse, THIS:

Jonbenet

But I digress. My answer to Willem’s question would be one that I often put in my legal ethics seminar multiple choice answers: “It may not be unethical, but I wouldn’t do it.”

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2021: To Boldly Go…

Shatner in space

1. William Shatner didn’t die. It doesn’t matter. People really don’t get moral luck, do they? Of course, only a tiny percentage of the public reads Ethics Alarms. 90-year-old William Shatner flew into space yesterday aboard a ship built by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin company. The former “James T. Kirk” and three fellow passengers boldly went to an altitude of 66.5 miles over the West Texas desert in the fully automated capsule, then safely parachuted back to Earth. The flight lasted just over 10 minutes. I had previously and correctly pointed out that Bezos had violated basic Kantian ethics, the Categorical Imperative, by exploiting Shatner and placing the old egomaniac at risk in order to promote Blue Origin. “But Shatner consented!” Bezos apologists kept telling me. So if someone consents to being used as a means to an end, that makes using a human being as a means to an end ethical?

Well, sometimes—Kant was an absolutist, and there are no absolutes. However, Shatner’s exploitation doesn’t qualify as an exception. What if the stress of the flight had killed him? Then many would be questioning Bezos’s motives, but the ethical problem is the same whether Shatner survived or not. That the flight didn’t end up looking like an elaborate grand suicide for an iconic actor who knew his time had almost run out anyway was pure moral luck.

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