Ethics On A Rainy Day, 9/10/2020: Customer Service, Rights On Campus, And Kamala Harris Is Still Embarrassing Herself

1. I worry about sounding like Andy Rooney or George Costanza’s father, but I have a lot of problems with these people!

  • One of our medical insurance carriers who is paid automatically from our account sold its customers to another company. It didn’t tell us, didn’t write us, didn’t alert us at all. The new company wrote a letter, which got tossed because we assumed it was junk mail.  Of course, the new company wasn’t getting the automatic payment, so after three months, it cancelled the coverage. I learned about this when a drug that typically cost three bucks for 90 pills  was suddenly 12 times that when I went to the pharmacy to pick it up.
  • A certain bar association that will not be mentioned alerted me to a dues issue and some missing information. The letter said, “Do not hesitate to call [this number].” When I called that number, I got a message that said that the office was temporarily closed “due to Covid 19” —I guess they meant the Wuhan virus—and there was no opportunity to leave a message.
  • Having switched to Comcast from AT&T, I have discovered that when you call Comcast information at 411 and ask for “Comcast customer service,” the computer says that there is no record of that number.

2. Admittedly, pointing out that Kamala Harris is shockingly dim is like shooting fish in a barrel, but her comments about the Jacob Blake shooting are so frighteningly unethical—incompetent, irresponsible.

First, she said  in a CNN interview that based on the video of Jacob Blake’s shooting, the white police officer who shot him should be charged, insisting that it was “very clear” that the charges should be “considered in a very serious way and that there should be accountability and consequence.” (And why does she talk like that?) First, as we have discussed here regarding episodes like Barack Obama impugning George Zimmerman before the facts were known and the various officials pronouncing Officer Chauvin guilty, as well as Wisconsin’s Governor and Lt. Governor doing the same regarding Blake’s shooters, this kind of mouthing off by elected officials robs defendants of the right to a fair trial. When President Nixon said, in 1970, that Charles Manson was “guilty, directly or indirectly, of eight murders without reason,”  Manson’s attorneys immediately demanded a mistrial, saying Nixon had irredeemably tainted the jury pool.  It was just moral luck that the motion failed.

Then Harris decided to visit Blake’s family with Blake himself participating by phone, and gushed, “I mean, they’re an incredible family.And what they’ve endured, and they just do it with such dignity and grace. And you know, they’re carrying the weight of a lot of voices on their shoulders.”

Blake broke into the home of his ex-girlfriend in May, allegedly raped her, stole her car keys and debit card and fled the scene. Wisconsin issued  an open warrant for Blake’s arrest for third-degree sexual assault and a restraining order which Blake violated, thus prompting the fateful police confrontation, where he resisted arrest and placed one officer in a headlock.

Blake’s father, meanwhile, has posted racist and anti-Semitic rants on social media.

What an incredible family! Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: The District of Columbia Facilities, and Commemorative Expressions Working Group

You can’t fix stupid, as they say.

Or ignorant. Or ungrateful. Or obsessed.

In the document below, the product of The District of Columbia Facilities, and Commemorative Expressions Working Group, appointed I really don’t care when by Mayor Muriel Bowser, an arrogant and juvenile  committee recommends the “cancelling” of, among others, in our nation’s Capital, by removing all mention of their names, as well as their statues and memorials,

  • Christopher Columbus
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Francis Scott Key
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • George Mason
  • President Andrew Jackson
  • President Thomas Jefferson
  • President James Monroe
  • President Woodrow Wilson
  • President William Henry Harrison
  • George Mason
  • President John Tyler
  • President Zachary Taylor, and, of course,

George Washington, after whom the city itself is named, and without whom the nation would not exist. Continue reading

My Ethics Conflict: Woodrow Wilson’s Name Should Have Been Removed At Princeton Long Ago, But Erasing It Now Opens The Floodgates, Part II: The Case For Expunging Wilson [Corrected]

Woodrow Wilson’s name should have never been put on

Yet President Wilson ended up being honored by having his name plastered on buildings, schools and bridges (like here in Washington, D.C) more than most Presidents, in part because influential Democratic historians, notably Kennedy family flack Arthur Schlesinger Jr., pushed the false narrative that he was a great idealist and a great leader. This required burying Wilson’s well-documented record as a racist, though the rest of his record wasn’t great either.

In Part I, I gave the official Ethics Alarms argument for not tearing down honors to Wilson now that Black Lives Matters and its allies are in full Soviet/Maoist cultural bulldozing mode. When Wilson is gone, I see little stopping the mob from tearing down Franklin D. Roosevelt memorials next, to name just one example of where this slippery slope leads.

Despite leading our nation through an existential depression and World War II, FDR had his own black marks regarding racism and discrimination, arguably as many as Wilson. In  1916, a document was discovered  showing that  Roosevelt, as Wilson’s Deputy Secretary of the Navy, personally signed an order segregating bathrooms in the Navy Department. As President, FDR wouldn’t allow his black and white White House servants to eat together.  Everyone knows (or should) that he imprisoned about 70,000 American citizens because they were Japanese, and just last year, “The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise and the Holocaust” revealed  archival evidence of FDR’s callous and bigoted treatment of European Jews prior to and during the Holocaust.  Franklin Roosevelt was a racist and an anti-Semite. When we get into retroactively dishonoring Presidents virtually all of them are at risk.

However, there are persuasive arguments that Wilson is a special case. Continue reading

My Ethics Conflict: Woodrow Wilson’s Name Should Have Been Removed At Princeton Long Ago, But Erasing It Now Opens The Floodgates, Part I: The Case For Woodrow

Reviewing, I see that the original Black Lives Matter attack on American values, history and culture first broke out in 2015. Then as now, Democrats rushed to embrace the racist group’s anti-white, anti-police and anti-America agenda, seeking, as usual, to enamor itself with its base. That was also the first time Princeton University was urged by student activists to remove honors to Wilson from the campus, though Wilson was not only a President of the United States (and according to Democrats until recently, one of the greatest) but also a lauded president of Princeton. The 2015 calls for his airbrushing out of Princeton’s history coincided with many similar attempts, some successful, to dishonor past historical figures whose legacies or conformity with modern values had been called into question.

College campuses, not city streets, were ground zero in 2015. Yale and the University of Missouri led the madness. At Mizzou, black students manufactured racial outrage out of ambiguous and off-campus incidents, then engaged in what Ethics Alarms then termed  an “I’m mad at the world and somebody has to pay for it” tantrum (Hmmm! Still sounds pretty good!), demanding all sorts of special accommodations and race-based policies and hirings, and demanding the university president’s resignation. Thomas Wolfe did resign, giving us an early precedent for all the capitulation and cowardice we are seeing today. As we’re seeing today, intimidation, race-bullying and attacks on free expression and language were part of the assault:

  • Amherst students demanded a crack-down on any free speech in the form of criticism of Black Lives Matters or the protest goals.
  • Dartmouth’s Black Lives Matters members roamed through the campus library, verbally assaulting white students attempting to study.
  • Smith College held a sit-in, and barred reporters-–the new breed of campus freedom-fighters just don’t like that pesky First Amendment—unless they promised to cover the protest positively. .
  • Occidental College students occupied a three-story administration building, demanding “a series of actions ranging from racist to just unreasonable to oppressive” in the name of “safety” and “diversity”, of course. Predictably, the leftist faculty which helped make the students this way were fully supportive.Refresh your recollections with the list of student demands here; my favorites: demanding an increase in tenured black professors and black doctors; funding for the student group for black men, which is racist and counter-diverse by definition; and “elimination of military and police rhetoric from all documents and daily discourse.”

Why is this so familiar? Continue reading

Today’s George Floyd Freakout Disgrace: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 The triggering event:

The museum’s powerful chairman of European paintings, Keith Christiansen, who has worked at the Met for 53 years, posted this image on Instagram. It depicts .

Christiansen also wrote,

“Alexandre Lenoir battling the revolutionary zealots bent on destroying the royal tombs in Saint Denis. How many great works of art have been lost to the desire to rid ourselves of a past of which we don’t approve. And how grateful we are to people like Lenoir, who realized that their value — both artistic and historical — extended beyond a defining moment of social and political upheaval and change.”

The statement was entirely appropriate and true.

But as we know, Facts Don’t Matter.

The response:

The post was quickly attacked  in a tweet by the advocacy group of arts workers, Art + Museum Transparency: “Dear @metmuseum, one of your most powerful curators suggested that it’s a shame we’re trying to ‘rid ourselves of a past of which we don’t approve’ by removing monuments — and, worse, making a dog whistle of an equation of #BLM activists with ‘revolutionary zealots.’ This is not OK.”

Responses to the tweet were similarly critical.

The reality:

  • Removing monuments is cultural suicide, and paves the road to historical ignorance.
  • BLM activists are “revolutionary zealots,” and denying it, or trying to punish those with the honesty and integrity to say so, won’t alter that fact.

Here is how Hawk Newsome, the president of Greater New York Black Lives Matter, described the movement in an interview with Martha MacCallum on Fox News, as reported by the NY Post:

“If this country doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it. All right? And I could be speaking figuratively. I could be speaking literally. It’s a matter of interpretation… Let’s be very real…. What is this country rewarding? What behavior is it listening to? Obviously not marching. But when people get aggressive and they escalate their protests, cops get fired, Republican politicians talking about police reform… Wow, it’s interesting that you would [ask what Black Lives Matter hoped to achieve through violence] because this country is built upon violence. What was the American Revolution? What’s our diplomacy across the globe? We go in and we blow up countries and we replace their leaders with leaders who we like. So for any American to accuse us of being violent is extremely hypocritical….. I think you should be applauding me, seeing how you guys are huge supporters of the Second Amendment….. But it seems to be the hypocrisy of America that when black people start talking about arming themselves and defending themselves, [that] talk is ‘violent.’ But when white people grab assault rifles and go to our nation’s, their state capitals, it’s all good… I just want black liberation, and black sovereignty. By any means necessary.”

Funny, that sure sounds like revolutionary zealotry to me. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Statue-Toppling, The Ethics Incompleteness Principle, And Calvin Griffith, Part Two”

Having just banned a commenter for a useless and obnoxious comment on this same post, it it is a wonderful tonic to be able to post  JutGory’s masterful Comment of the Day critiquing the Minnesota Twin’s statement explaining their removal of Cal Griffith’s statue. It is a fine fisking of the kind of disingenuous babble we  have been getting from organizations of late.

The poll on Cal’s statue so far:

Here is JutGory’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Statue-Toppling, The Ethics Incompleteness Principle, And Calvin Griffith, Part Two”:

Jack: “Taking all of that together, I believe that the Twins are justified in taking down Griffith’s statue, and that it would have been unethical for the team not to.”

Apart from the whole statue-removing thing, here is my problem with this:

Their statement said:

“When we opened Target Field in 2010 in conjunction wit h our 50th season in Minnesota, we were excited and proud to welcome fans to our ‘forever ballpark.’”

Fair enough. Good start. Then:

As such, we wanted to pay permanent tribute to those figures and moments that helped shape the first half-century of Minnesota Twins baseball.

PERMANENT. That is a strong word. But, that is what they intended. Permanent Tribute.

– including a statue of Calvin Griffith, our former owner and the man responsible for moving the franchise here in 1961.

Including the man who moved them to Minnesota. Seems fitting. But for him, they wouldn’t have moved to Minnesota. And, why did he move the franchise? Because of the same racist attitudes that they condemn.

“We cannot remain silent and continue ignoring the racist comments he made in Waseca in 1978.”

I see. So, the permanent tribute was made while ignoring the racist comments you knew about. Continue reading

Monday Ethics Warm-Up, 6/22/2020: Lenin, Oliver, And The Troublesome Name

It would be well to consider the fate of that ultimate Sixties folk-pop group the Mamas and Papas, as we watch today’s idealistic anarchists make fools of themselves. By mid-way through their four-year run (during which they sold 40 million recordings), the group was self-destructing with inter-and extra-group sexual affairs and stage appearances where one or more of the group was too drunk or stoned to perform. The group kept breaking up and re-assembling, and fell apart for good in 1969. Mama Cass died of heart failure at the age of 34, after battling heroin addiction and other substance abuse. John Phillips, the creative leader of the group, also was a heroin addict and had emotional and substance abuse problems that he managed to pass on to his daughter, actress Mackenzie Phillips. In her memoir, “High on Arrival,” she wrote that she had a long-term sexual relationship with her father. Papa John also died of heart failure, when he was 66. Tenor Denny Doherty’s solo career flopped after the group ended. He was an alcoholic, but stayed sober for the final decades of his life. An acting career also failed; he finally got a gig as the “Harbormaster,” hosting a kids TV show that was a flagrant rip-off of “Thomas the Tank Engine,” but starring a talking tugboat. Doherty was 67 when he died from an aneurysm.

Michelle Phillips is the lone survivor of the group. She avoided substance abuse problems and after divorcing Phillips, whom she wed at 18, went on to a moderately successful acting career.

As today, these people who aspired to inspire lacked the wisdom, common sense, self-discipline, character, values or perspective to be trusted with their chosen mission.

1. Speaking of...When asked how it was that a statue of Vladimir Lenin was still standing in Seattle when protesters had toppled those of Ulysses S. Grant and others, the Human Rights Campaign’s Charlotte Clymer said, among her reasons, that “Lenin was not a slave-owner, you Confederate apologist fucks.”

To which National Review writer David Harsanyi responded with the obligatory, “Lenin created tens of millions of slaves.”

In related news, a 2015 video  of an interview with Black Lives Matter founder Patrisse Cullors shows her saying, “We actually do have an ideological frame. Myself and Alicia in particular, we’re trained organizers. We are trained Marxists. We are super versed on ideological theories…”

Several of the tenets seen on the BLM website are redolent of Karl. Do all these companies and pandering celebrities giving lip service to the group, attaching #BlackLivesMatter to their tweets and proclaiming support, know what they are supporting? I think it’s pretty obvious that they don’t. They are signaling their virtue by ostentatiously endorsing the most simple-minded and deceptive interpretation of the slogan, as if there is anyone who believes black lives don’t matter. I bet the vast majority have never visited the BLM website and read its agitprop.

That, needless to say, is as dumb as it is irresponsible. Continue reading

Statue-Toppling, The Ethics Incompleteness Principle, And Calvin Griffith, Part Two

Where Cal Griffith’s statue once stood…

Here is what Calvin Griffith said in the 1978 remarks that led the Minnesota Twins to remove his statue in from of the team’s stadium, Target Field.

Griffith was invited to speak to the Lions Club in Waseca, a small city in southern Minnesota. Taking questions from the audience after his planned speech, someone asked Griffith  why he brought the Twins to Minnesota from Washington, D.C., in 1961. Griffith lowered his voice, asked if there were any blacks around, and  looked around the room. Apparently confirming that his audience was all white,  Griffith said,

“I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. Black people don’t go to ball games, but they’ll fill up a ‘rassling ring and put up such a chant it’ll scare you to death. It’s unbelievable. We came here because you’ve got good, hardworking, white people here.”

It’s hard to get more racist than that, at least short of a Klan rally. I’ll poll this at the end of the post, but I believe that this is a case where the Ethics Incompleteness Principle applies, and the usually valid ethical objections to pulling down the statues of problematic, controversial or subsequently disgraced historical figures have to yield to other considerations, which are these: Continue reading

Statue-Toppling, The Ethics Incompleteness Principle, And Calvin Griffith, Part One.

The Ethics Incompleteness Principle, a core concept on Ethics Alarms, holds that even the most convincing ethics rules, moral codes, laws and principles have exceptions. The inspiration for this observation was the work of Czech-born mathematician Kurt Gödel, whose two Incompleteness Theorems, which relate to mathematical proofs, are his most famous contribution to civilization and science. A linguist as well as a scientist,  Gödel unintentionally delivered an essential blow against the ethics absolutism of Kant and rigid morality when he proved that human language is not sufficiently precise to define rules that will work as designed in every instance. The logical extension of Gödel’s theorems, which he applied only to mathematics and, by extension, physics, tells us that there will always be anomalies on the periphery of every normative system, no matter how sound or well articulated it is. If one responds to an anomaly by trying to amend the rule or system to accommodate it, the integrity of the rule or system is disturbed, and perhaps ruined. Yet if one stubbornly applies the rule or system without amendment to the anomaly anyway, one may reach an absurd conclusion or an unjust result. [ Here is an online discussion of the application of Gödel to ethics, which appeared years after the Ethics Incompleteness Theorem was posited on Ethics Alarms.]

The Ethics Incompleteness Principle suggests 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.”

Much as we would like it to be otherwise, for life would be so much simpler if it were so, no system or rule is going to work equally well with every possible scenario. This is why 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.

When a reader and frequent commenter sent me this announcement from the Minnesota Twins a few days ago, my reflex reaction was as you would expect: Continue reading

What Destruction Of Public Art? What Slippery Slope?

I woke up today wondering  whether those who blindly applaud the carnage of the George Floyd Freakout are lying, frightened or ignorant. The late post last night on Commentary Magazine’s manifesto quickly attracted a comment from Rationalization #64 Land, where John Yoo’s Rationalization, “It isn’t what it is,” holds sway. Implicitly denying the editors’ substantive list of the mob’s acts, “Adam” wrote in part,  “Art must be propagandist or be chopped away? (What art? Where? Who? Propagandist? How?)”

The growing movement to “chop away” at the memorials and statues to men, women and events whose interaction with history and culture no longer conform to what most or many Americans consider admirable (or politically correct) has been growing for years, with the clash of protesters in Charlottesville over a Robert E. Lee statue being only the most publicized of incidents around the country. “What art?” If a citizen is so ignorant of current events,  he shouldn’t be registering an opinion until he educates himself.

Almost on cue (protesters have been very accommodating of late in confirming past Ethics Alarms analysis), a George Floyd mob in D.C. pulled down a perplexing piece of public art, the statue of Albert Pike (above), an obscure Confederate diplomat and general who wrote alternate, bellicose, lyrics to “Dixie.” Writing this morning about why the D.C. police stood by and permitted the vandalism, Althouse wrote,

[W]hy isn’t mainstream media delving into the details of why the police are not acting to protect city artworks and to restore order? Where’s the journalism?! My hypothesis is that the media want to help Joe Biden get elected, so they’re presenting a rosy picture of the protests and refraining from any negativity about the Democratic politicians who control the cities where the disorder rages. I’m sure the journalists realize that at some point the majority of Americans will prioritize their interest in law and order, but — I imagine — they hope to hold us back from that tipping point.

The second question I am musing on is when and whether there will be that tipping point, or if, in the alternative, a critical mass of oblivious or dishonest “Adams”  will keep the public somnolent until it’s too late to tip, with disastrous consequences. Continue reading