And Harvard’s Ethics Death Spiral Continues: The Lampoon’s Ann Frank “Gag”

Talk about ethics alarms malfunctioning.

Fortunately, I had already disavowed my Harvard degree before this surfaced, so I am only mortified rather than trying to figure out how to flush myself down the toilet.

Above is an allegedly  humorous gag from Harvard’s student-run humor magazine, which once gave us Robert Benchley, Al Franken, and “Animal House.”  [Full disclosure: I was rejected by the Lampoon when I competed to join the staff as a student. ] The magazine has often championed sophomoric humor as well as bad taste, but there are limits to everything. I’d say using the image and memory of a brave and iconic Jewish girl who died in a Nazi concentration camp for a cheap, spectacularly unfunny photoshop gag is over the line, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t just about anyone with an atom of common sense and decency?

Fortunately, some Harvard students erupted in anger over the photo of Frank’s head grafted on the body of a pumped-up busty bikini girl and the “ Add this to the list of  reasons the Holocaust  sucked” punch line. So did the New England branch of the Anti-Defamation League,  which condemned  the cartoon as a “vulgar, offensive & sexualized” meme that “denigrates [Ann Frank’s] memory & millions of Holocaust victims….Trivializing genocide plays into the hands of #antisemites & Holocaust deniers.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/14/19: Tlaib And Kavanaugh.

Good morning,

I hope…

1 Social Q’s ethics. I’m whomping the advice columnist in the Ethics Alarms poll regarding whether complimenting someone on weight loss can be reasonably taken as offensive by the object of praise. Looking at the same column, I have decided that Mr. Gallanes was just having a bad day. Another inquirer complained that he sleeps with her bedroom window open, and is often awakened in the morning when the next door neighbor takes his dog out for a 5 am walk, a ritual, she says, that is always preceded by his “disgusting” coughing. The advice columnist suggested that she ask him to do his disgusting coughing inside. Yeah, THAT will go over well. If you insist on leaving your window open, you have no standing to protest sounds that would not be heard if you kept it closed. Given the choice between waking one’s spouse with the morning hacking that most men of a certain age can identify with, and getting all the morning phlegm up while walking the dog, the latter is the wiser and more ethical choice.

2. Supreme Court ethics and pro-abortion fear-mongering.

a.) Somehow it was reported as news akin to squaring the circle that Justice Kavanaugh joined with the four typically liberal justices in a 5-4 ruling yesterday that left Thomas, Gorsuch, Roberts and Alito licking their wounds. This is non-news. It was a dishonest partisan smear on Kavanaugh to suggest that he would be a mindless puppet in lock-step with conservatives on every issue. Justices consider cases in good faith, and the fact that their judicial philosophies make some decisions predictable doesn’t mean, as non-lawyer, non-judge, political hacks seem to think, that they will not judge a case on its merits rather than which “side” favors a particular result.

b) Kavanaugh did join the conservative justices in a ruling that overturned a 1979 case in which the Court had allowed a citizen of one state to sue another state. This decision, being a reversal of an older case, immediately prompted the publication of fear-mongering op-ed pieces warning that the evil Court conservatives, having re-read and enjoyed “The Handmaiden’s Tale,” were slyly laying the ground for a Roe v. Wade reversal with a case that had nothing whatsoever to do with abortion. Don’t you see? Stare decisus is the SCOTUS tradition that older cases will generally not be overturned by later Courts, lest Constitutional law be seen as unstable and too fluid to rely on. Garbage. Stare decisus has never been an absolute bar to reversing a wrongly decided case, so no new affirmation of that fact is necessary. In addition, the case overturned yesterday was a relatively obscure case that seldom comes into play, exactly the kind of case in which a reversal is minimally disruptive. Roe, on the other hand, has become a foundation of supporting law and social policy. That doesn’t mean it can’t be overturned, but it does mean that the protection of stare decisus is strong. Continue reading

More Ethics Notes On The New York Times Anti-Semitic Cartoon

  • The main lesson of this episode (which was discussed here in the fourth item) is that the New York Times culture is so ideologically and politically biased and one-sided that even an obvious breach of taste, decency and ethics like this cartoon can slip by the deadened ethics alarms.

The American Jewish Committee said in response to The Times’s editors’ note after pulling the drawing,. “What does this say about your processes or your decision makers? How are you fixing it?”

The Times can’t fix it.

  • One Times columnist, the politically schizophrenic Bret Stephens, wrote that “in another age, might have been published in the pages of Der Stürmer,” the infamous anti-Semitic tabloid published during Germany’s Nazi regime. “The problem with the cartoon isn’t that its publication was a willful act of anti-Semitism. It wasn’t.” Stephens continued.

“The problem is that its publication was an astonishing act of ignorance of anti-Semitism …. at a publication that is otherwise hyper-alert to nearly every conceivable expression of prejudice, from mansplaining to racial microaggressions to transphobia.” Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Greek Easter Ethics Warm-Up: Authority, Causation, Credibility And Dead Ethics Alarms” [#4]

Long-time commenter E2 scores her first Comment of the Day with some perspective on why Western civilization, and the United States particularly, owes Israel a permanent debt.

I have no problem with critics having honest, reasonable differences with Israel’s policies and the U.S.’s support of them, as long as such critics have a sufficient knowledge of the history of the Jewish people, their existential plight in the Thirties through World War II, the initial contrived ignorance of the U.S. government and President Roosevelt of that plight, and how the State of Israel came into existence. (Two new biographies of playwright and screenwriter Ben Hecht, who played a large but largely forgotten role in that remarkable event, were just published this month. There is a reason one of the ships that brought Jewish ex-patriots to Israel was named, “The Ben Hecht.”)

As E2 points out, the public ignorance of all of this is staggering, and it fertilizes the dirt from which anti-Semitism grows, of late, in abundance. One of the many jaw-dropping statements of stupidity or dishonesty—it’s often so hard to tell which with him— that Joe Biden uttered after his announcement of his candidacy was that America needed to return to being loyal to its allies. Biden was the #2 official in an administration that displayed the most outright hostility to Israel of any since the nation’s founding, our ally that most needs our support and that common decency demands should always be able to count on it.

Here is E2’s Comment of the Day on the item #4 in the post, “Greek Easter Ethics Warm-Up: Authority, Causation, Credibility And Dead Ethics Alarms.”

Does no one know any history at all? That, for example, the English Jews funded the Crusades, and when the King of England couldn’t pay back his debt, he simply exiled all Jews from the country to Europe? Hence, an early forced diaspora of Jews.

Do others really believe that anti-Semitism was grown by Hitler and ended in the Holocaust? Do so many not  know that FDR’s anti-Semitic State Department refused political asylum for desperate Jews from Hitler’s Germany…or the story of the ship “St. Louis” – full of fleeing Jews, that went from port to port in the US and were never allowed entry? Continue reading

Greek Easter Ethics Warm-Up: Authority, Causation, Credibility And Dead Ethics Alarms

Christos Anesti!

…as my Greek-American mother used to greet us every Greek Easter morn. You were supposed to respond in kind, but my father’s Greek pronunciation was always so  hilarious that I don’t recall that he ever did.

1. Anthony Napolitano and the appeal to authority. Fox analyst “Judge” Napolitano (you’re not supposed to call yourself “judge” after you stop being a judge, but never mind) is suddenly being hailed as a definitive legal authority because he has “broken ranks” (as the liberal websites put it) to argue that President Trump obstructed justice based on the Mueller report. Virtually nothing Napolitano said or opined on prior to this was ever treated by these same sudden fans as anything but the meanderings of a crank, but “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” as someone once said in Sanskrit.

I would never appeal to Napolitano’s authority, though he is far from a crank. He was indeed a lower court judge in New Jersey, he has taught at a law school, and he has written many books. He is not a conservative or a Republican but a libertarian. Like Ron Paul and his son Senator Rand, Napolitano’s ideology is such that he arrives at positions that make it impossible for me to trust his reasoning processes. Notably, he doesn’t think Abraham Lincoln should have fought the Civil War or abolished slavery, saying that it would have been better to allow slavery to peter out peacefully without government intervention. I wonder how the slaves would have felt about that?

He also believes that human life should have full legal rights at conception, and that abortion ought to be outlawed completely. Well, both of those positions—he has others equally extreme—mean to me that as smart as he may be, I don’t know what kind of extremist bats are flying around in the man’s belfry, so while I believe his arguments  on obstruction should be judged on their objective merits, that fact that he’s the one making them do not and should not enhance their persuasiveness.

2. Trump Tweets segue...in a tweet, the President claimed that Napolitano asked him to appoint the “Judge” to the Supreme Court, and that his much-publicized obstruction claim is Napolitano’s revenge for the President refusing. Continue reading

Is The Democratic Party the Party of Anti-Semitism, Infanticide, And Socialism?

Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House, told NBC’s “Meet The Press” last week that Democrats have become the party of “Anti-Semitism,, infanticide, socialism.” This wasn’t quite as inflammatory as when Samuel Burchard, speaking at a GOP pro-James G. Blaine campaign event during the 1884 race against Democratic candidate Grover Cleveland, denounced the Democrats as the party of “rum, Romanism, and rebellion,” but you wouldn’t know it from the howls coming from progressives, because, as we all know, the truth hurts. Well, that’s not quite fair: Cheney was engaging in hyperbole and being intentionally inflammatory, but she wasn’t entirely wrong.

Let’s look at the “infanticide” accusation. Obviously Democrats don’t favor killing babies as a general proposition, but Virginia’s  Democratic governor and renowned Michael Jackson impressionist described exactly how he would make an abortion-survivor “comfortable” before making the newborn dead. (Many states have laws that allowed condemned men to go free if they survived an attempted execution. Seems fair…)

Democrats in the Senate—all but a handfull—blocked a GOP bill requiring doctors to use all means available to save the life of a child born alive after an attempted abortion. They must, it said, “exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child” as they would for “any other child born alive at the same gestational age.”

Senator Ben Sasse, the Nebraska Republican who authored the bill, had called it an “infanticide ban.” Rationalizing like mad, Democrats said that the bill was aimed at discouraging doctors from performing legal abortions—in other words, they were pandering to the pro-abortion extremists—and that it was unnecessary because a similar law already exists, the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002.—you know, because the Democrats have always opposed redundant legislation. Continue reading

Lunch Time Ethics Warm-Up, 3/8/2019: An Ethics Hogie! Dogs and Death, As Democrats Openly Embrace The Dark Side…

Yum Yum!

(I’m Atlanta bound on business and pleasure, but I’ll have significant downtime. With some luck and if my laptop doesn’t explode, it should seem like I never left.)

1. Not unethical, just stupid. I would have warned everyone in advance that I was going to be experimenting with the layout, but I didn’t know it myself. There was a surprise upgrade offer from WordPress that was too good to pass up, but I assumed (Felix Unger: “When you assume, you make an ass of u and me!” that the blog wouldn’t change until I changed it. Nope: the second I clicked on the payment button, the design blew up and was unreadable. Again, my apologies. And also again, this may not be the final design. I’ll be experimenting while I’m in Georgia.

2. But would they let Will Smith play Bill Jenkins? Bill Jenkins died last month, and naturally the news media paid little attention. He was an African-American scientist who was working as a statistician at the United States Public Health Service in the Sixties when learned of the horrific Tuskegee study, one of the worst ethical breaches in the history of U.S. medicine. The federal government deceived hundreds of black men in Macon County, Alabama into thinking that their cases of syphilis  wer being treated when they were not. The researchers were investigating what unchecked syphilis would do to the human body. The black men were being used as human guinea pigs, without their informed consent.

Appalled by the study’s unethical and cruel design, Jenkins spoke to his supervisor, who told him, “Don’t worry about it.” The supervisor was, in fact, monitoring the study. Jenkins defied him and wrote an article about the study that he shared with doctors and journalists. Nobody appeared to care. The study, which began in 1932 , continued through 1972, when another health service scientist exposed it and got it shut down.

Jenkins was haunted by the research and his inability to end it. He went back to school to train as an epidemiologist. The Times reveals the rest of the story:

“He would go on to devote himself to trying to reduce disease and illness among African Americans and other people of color, in part by recruiting more such people into the public health professions.

He was one of the first researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recognize how dramatically AIDS was affecting black men. He helped organize the first conference on AIDS in underserved neighborhoods and became the C.D.C.’s director of AIDS prevention for minorities.

And for 10 years he oversaw the government’s Participants Health Benefits Program, which provides free lifetime medical care to the men of the Tuskegee study and their eligible family members.”

3. Dog show ethics. (This is late, and I apologize to everyone, dogs included.) Lesson: even dogs have conflicts of interest. Continue reading