Unethical Quote Of The Week: Joe Biden.

“The way Trump…the way China will respond is when we gather the rest of the world that in fact [unintelligible] in in fr… in in in in open trade and making sure that we’re in a position that the world, uh, that that we deal with WHO the right way that in fact that’s when things begin to change, that when China’s behavior is going to change.”

—-Joe Biden yesterday, in an interview with NPR.

Why is this unethical? It’s unethical for anyone to run for any public office, especially President, when he or she is subject to outburst of Authentic Frontier Gibberish like that. To do so is irresponsible, unpatriotic, a breach of public duty, and dangerous.

Update: The Rutgers Grammar Letter. What’s Going On Here?

Yesterday, I wrote about  Rebecca Walkowitz, the English Department chair at Rutgers University, sending  an email to the Rutgers community titled “Department actions in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.” In order to “contribute to the eradication of systemic inequities facing black, indigenous, and people of color,” she announced, the English Department will begin “incorporating ‘critical grammar’ into our pedagogy.” “Critical grammar” pedagogy “challenges the familiar dogma that writing instruction should limit emphasis on grammar/sentence-level issues so as to not put students from multilingual, non-standard ‘academic’ English backgrounds at a disadvantage,” her email states. “Instead, it encourages students to develop a critical awareness of the variety of choices available to them w/ regard to micro-level issues in order to empower them and equip them to push against biases based on ‘written’ accents.”

This, I concluded, was one more example of the solution to “systemic racism” being rammed down our metaphorical throats by the World’s Woke consisting of removing any standards that any segment of black America found the lest bit inconvenient or challenging—you know, like competing for jobs, SAT scores and having to obey lawful directives from police officers. I wasn’t the only one, though the report on this initiative came from the College Fix, a conservative site that reports on the leftist nonsense in our institutions of higher learning. There has been literally nothing about this episode in the mainstream news media. The New York Post—but that’s a Murdoch publication, so thus presumptively eeeevildid have a brief editorial note about the matter:

“….Rebecca Walkowitz, vowed to incorporate “ ‘critical grammar’ into our pedagogy,” which will challenge “the familiar dogma that writing instruction should limit emphasis on grammar/sentence-level issues,” so as not to put students with poor “academic” English backgrounds “at a disadvantage.” Another goal: “decolonizing the Writing Center.” How does lowering standards serve justice? Executive dean Peter March and spokeswoman Dory Devlin didn’t respond to request[s] for comment.”

Two esteemed Ethics Alarms readers, however, argued that I, as well as the College Fix and others, got her intent backwards. Heeere’s commenter Here’s Johnny (emphasis mine):

[I]n saying “Critical grammar pedagogy challenges the familiar dogma”, they are doing the right thing. The familiar dogma being challenged is that proper grammar is not important. That dogma came into play to cut some slack to students whose grammar was not perfect, for cultural, or native language, or other reasons. In challenging that dogma, Rutgers is saying that the phrasing of a message must be looked at critically. It may be that slang, or cultural ways of speaking are appropriate, or it may be that standard grammar is necessary. Students must know the difference and use what is right for the message and the audience.

Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Retreat

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) endured only a day of searing criticism before it removed its racist chart on “whiteness” from  its website. The site replaced the graphic, which Ethics Alarms reproduced here and here and never wants to see again, with this statement:

At the National Museum of African American History and Culture, we believe that any productive conversation on race must start with honesty, respect for others, and an openness to ideas and information that provide new perspectives. In that context, we recently unveiled “Talking About Race,” an online portal providing research, studies, and other academic materials from the fields of history, education, psychology, and human development.Our goal in doing so was to contribute to a discussion on this vitally important subject that millions of Americans are grappling with. Since yesterday, certain content in the “Talking About Race” portal has been the subject of questions that we have taken seriously. We have listened to public sentiment and have removed a chart that does not contribute to the productive discussion we had intended. The site’s intent and purpose are to foster and cultivate conversations that are respectful and constructive and provide increased understanding. As an educational institution, we value meaningful dialogue and believe that we are stronger when we can pause, listen, and reflect—even when it challenges us to reconsider our approach. We hope that this portal will be an ever-evolving place that will continue to grow, develop, and ensure that we listen to one another in a spirit of civility and common cause.

Observations: Continue reading

Hollywood Ethics: The Top 15 Movie Clips Used On Ethics Alarms [Updated 12/27/20]

Here are the iconic movie clips that I turn most frequently to when the circumstances demand. The list will grow over time.

1. To illustrate the folly of suspending or violating the rule of law, the Constitution, or due process for “the greater good” as it appears to some to be at the time.

From “A Man For All Seasons”:

 

2. To comment on a strikingly incompetent argument, theory or proposal:

From “Murder by Death”:

 

3. When I feel I should resist the impulse to attack an ethics miscreant with special vigor, but decide to go ahead anyway…

From “McClintock!”

 

4.  To explain the conduct of some individuals or organizations that cannot be justified by facts, principles of logic, or any other valid motivation:

From “Blazing Saddles”:

 

5.  To illustrate the impulse to respond to injustice and the abuse of power by resorting to symbolic acts of pure defiance, even when they are likely to fail…

From “Animal House”:

 

6. When a individual abandons integrity or other ethical values for a non-ethical consideration…

From “A Man For All Seasons”:

 

7. When an individual feigns indignation and disapproval of conduct that he or she has either participated in or enabled:

From : “Casablanca”:

 

8. Used to signal that a politician, journalist or scholar has intentionally or negligently used such impenetrable rhetoric as to be completely incomprehensible.

From “Blazing Saddles”:

 

9. When an incident or argument makes no sense whatsoever, or that drives me to the edge of insanity:

From: “The Bridge Over The River Kwai” :

 

10. When a politician, a pundit or someone else  uses a term or word incorrectly to support an unethical action or argument:

From “The Princess Bride” :

 

11. Warning that a likely event or revelation will contribute to an Ethics Train Wreck already in progress or about to get rolling:

From “Jurassic Park”:

12. Commenting on a particularly incompetent, irresponsible, or otherwise unethical decision with disastrous consequences:

From: “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”:

 

13. To make the point that deciding who are the “good guys” is often hopelessly subjective.

From “The Professionals”:

14. To suggest, often in jest, that things are rapidly spinning out of control.

From “Poltergeist”:

15. When the news media or politicians shrug off, ignore, bury or minimize the importance of a develpment they find inconvenient to their agendas or interests.

From “The Naked Gun”:

“Authentic Frontier Gibberish” Ethics

On Ethics Alarms, the term “Authentic Frontier Gibberish” is used to describe “intentionally (or sometimes just incompetently) incoherent double-talk used by politicians, advocates, lawyers, doctors, celebrities, scientists, academics ,con artists and wrong-doers to deceive, obfuscate, confuse, bore, or otherwise avoid transparency, admitting fault, accepting accountability or admitting uncomfortable truths. The term comes from “Blazing Saddles,” in this memorable scene.

It sometimes arises from incompetent communication skills, which are unethical for anyone in the public eye to employ. Sometimes it is more sinister than that, and occurs when someone chooses to create a vague word cloud that obscures the speaker’s or writer’s real purpose…and sometimes the fact that they are frauds. Sometimes AFG is designed to convey a feeling while avoiding sufficient substance to really explain what he or she means.

Sometimes, it feels like gaslighting.

A New York Times article was ostensibly about “Dealing with Bias in Artificial Intelligence.” This was, obviously, click-bait for me, as the topic is a developing field of ethics. The introduction stated in part, “[S]ocial bias can be reflected and amplified by artificial intelligence in dangerous ways, whether it be in deciding who gets a bank loan or who gets surveilled. The New York Times spoke with three prominent women in A.I. to hear how they approach bias in this powerful technology.” The statements of the first two women—I see no reason why only female experts on the topic were deemed qualified to comment—were useful and provocative.

Last, however, was Timnit Gebru “a research scientist at Google on the ethical A.I. team and a co-founder of Black in AI, which promotes people of color in the field, [who] talked about the foundational origins of bias and the larger challenge of changing the scientific culture.”

Here’s what she said (Imagine, the Times said this was “edited and condensed”! ). The bolding is mine.. Continue reading

Friday Night Ethics Lights, 10/25/2019: Signs Of The Coming Apocalypse?

Good Evening!

1. More evidence of ethics rot and educational malpractice at Harvard. The Harvard Crimson covered an “Abolish ICE” protest on its campus last month. The fact that the supposedly most prestigious college in the nation would have something as idiotic as an anti-ICE protest attended by more than a few unfortunates with closed head injuries is troubling enough, but behold:   student activists attacked  the daily student-run paper  for “cultural insensitivity” and of “blatantly endangering undocumented students on campus.” because it contacted the immigration enforcement agency for comment after the protest had ended.

The Horror.

Now hundreds of America’s alleged best and brightest have signed a petition demanding that the newspaper operate as if ICE didn’t exist.

 Crimson editors Angela N. Fu and Kristine E. Guillaume defended its practices  in the paper this week, protesting that asking for comment is a standard journalism device, arguing in part, “We seek to follow a commonly accepted set of journalistic standards, similar to those followed by professional news organizations big and small. Foremost among those standards is the belief that every party named in a story has a right to comment or contest criticism leveled against them.”

Forget it, Angela and Kristine. You’re supposed to be partisan activists, like the mainstream media.

Ethics experts from the Student Press Law Center and the Society of Professional Journalists supported the Crimson, citing the  SPJ’s Code of Ethics. That’s nice, although I would call the gesture “lip service.”

2. SkyNet is listening. Because of loopholes in their security software, hackers can use  Amazon Alexa and Google Home virtual assistants to eavesdrop on user conversations without their knowledge, and even trick users into handing over sensitive information.

Gee-what-a-surprise….

For once, the American Bar Association got comparatively ahead of looming legal ethics risks created by developing technology by issuing a resolution in August urging bar associations and the legal profession to develop guidelines addressing the risks posed by attorney use of artificial intelligence. It’s a long document, undoubtedly missing many issues on the horizon, and regarding those personal assistants, it lacks an essential sentence: “Don’t let those things get within ten miles of your legal work.” Continue reading

Authentic Frontier Gibberish Of The Year: The National Council Of Teachers Of Mathematics

From the website:

What…the HELL…is that supposed to mean? What does it have to do with mathematics? Aside from the part that is basic to all teaching, like paying attention to one’s students,  how does this help students learn math? “Racist and sorting-based mechanisms” are what, grades? Rewarding and recognizing correct answers and techniques over mistakes and confusion? I know mathematicians aren’t known for their facility with language, but was some consultant paid to write this drivel?

Tell me if I’m mistaken, but this reads like a political cult initiation pledge, not legitimate guidance for math teachers. And indeed, that appears to be what it is. The College Fix reports, Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/10/2019: The All-Star Game, The National Anthem, Quotas, And Secretary Acosta

Good morning!

1. All-Star Game ethics reflections (with a dash of women’s soccer):

  • Competence. Can someone tell me how many different keys MAX wandered into while trying to sing the National Anthem at the MLB All-Star game last night? He was flat, he was sharp, he fluctuated mid-phrase.  My rule is that I don’t care to hear a singer’s self-indulgent riffs at the end of the anthem if he couldn’t sing the real notes accurately earlier. That was awful. I know: it’s a tough song to sing on pitch without accompaniment, but these people are supposed to be professionals, and that was an amateurish, sloppy job.Incredibly, MAX has performed the Star-Spangles Banner at other sporting events.

Somebody tell him.

A saving grace: at least he remembered all the words (more or less) and didn’t kneel.

  • [ Speaking of kneeling: Women’s soccer team captain Megan Rapinoe “explained” her disrespecting the National Anthem (in defiance of her own team’s rules) while representing the nation abroad, telling Anderson Cooper last night (of course Anderson had neither the wit nor integrity to challenge her nonsense,

“I think that protest is not comfortable ever. It’s going to force people to look inward and question everything they thought that they knew….taking care of others, standing up for yourself and other people if they don’t have the ability to do so, is very uniquely American…I don’t think anybody can deny the horrors of racism and Jim Crow and mass incarceration and what’s happening on the southern border and gay rights and women’s rights.”

This is a sub-breed of Authentic Frontier Gibberish, the increasingly common species called the Self-Righteous Virtue-Signaling Authentic Frontier Gibberish, or “Kaepernick-speak,” SRVSAFG for short.. If an athlete hates the country because of its past mistakes more than he or she is proud of the country because of what it stands for, aspires to, and has accomplished, then it is hypocritical to play for a national team. “What’s happening” on the Southern border is an under-funded law enforcement and security agency doing the best it can to handle a flood of deliberate law-breakers who have chosen to endanger their own children. “What’s happening” in gay rights is that they are stronger now than they were during the first term of the previous administration. “What’s happening” in women’s rights is a healthy national debate over whether those rights should include an upon-ended right to end the life of  another human being—none of which has anything to do with soccer.

But I digress–we were talking about an American sport, baseball…

  • Integrity. Fox’s baseball broadcasting is marginally better than ESPN’s but only because Fox doesn’t include a sociopathic steroid cheat like Alex Rodriguez on its broadcast team. However, the devise of having live interviews with the players on the field during the game is offensive and insulting. MLB is foolish to allow it.

2.  Oh for God’s sake...In her review of “Dog Man: The Musical,” New York Times reviewer Laurie Graeber writes, “[M]y only quibble is the same one I have with the novel: All the really interesting characters are male.” Okay, it’s only a quibble, but it’s an offensive and biased quibble, and since her editor–if the Times still uses editors; I see no sign of them of late—didn’t have the sense to slap her down, it’s up to the rest of us. What does she want, EEOC quotas in every story now? Yes, that’s exactly what she wants, and the idea is creatively stultifying. This quibble leads to other similar quibbles, and the next thing you know, a production of “Twelve Angry Men” or “That Championship Season” or “The Fantastiks” will be labelled racist, sexist, homophobic or “ablist” because it does’t perfectly balance its casting with an equal number of men, women, blacks, Asians, Hispanic, gay, transgender, non-binary, “differently-abled” characters. If there aren’t enough characters to get them all in, then eliminate the white males.

Graeber’s “quibble” is based on tribalism and bigotry, and she should not be allowed to get away with it without a fight.

3. Apparently Labor Secretary Acosta is resigning today. GOOD. Ethics Alarms covered the reasons this is necessary and now long-past due in a November 2018 post about the revelations involving Jeffrey Epstein’s unconscionable plea deal. I wrote then..

I do not see how Acosta can remain as Secretary of Labor following these revelations, incomplete as they are. I don’t see how we can trust his judgment, and even if, somehow, he could justify the deal with Epstein on legal, technical or pragmatic grounds, I doubt that the general public would be reassured. He should resign.

Yet it took eight more months and a new set of charges against Epstein for President Trump, or Acosta to accept the obvious and to do the right thing. There’s no excuse for this.

Unethical Quote Of The Month: Williams College Students Protesting Campus Free Speech Guarantees

“[The proposed campus speech policy] prioritizes the protection of ideas over the protection of people and fails to recognize that behind every idea is a person with a particular subjectivity. Our beliefs, and the consequences of our actions, are choices we make. Any claim to the ‘protection of ideas’ that is not founded in the insurance of people’s safety poses a real threat — one which targets most pointedly marginalized people. An ideology of free speech absolutism that prioritizes ideas over people, giving ‘deeply offensive’ language a platform at this institution, will inevitably imperil marginalized students.”

—The Coalition Against Racist Education Now, a Williams College student activist group, in their rebuttal to a faculty petition calling for adoption of the “Chicago Principles, “based on the campus speech policies of the University of Chicago, which hold that “all members of the university community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.”

I don’t think I should have to belabor this, since it is self-evidently wrong and dangerous, though strangely typical of much of the Left in 2019, but here are just a few points:

  • This is Authentic Frontier Gibberish (AFG)
  • I thought Williams was supposed to be an elite liberal arts institution. Why can’t its students express themselves more coherently than that? (“Insurance”?)
  • Sloppy expression typically indicates sloppy thinking and poor reasoning skills. An argument this weakly stated suggest a position based on cant and political ideology rather than analysis and critical thought.
  • It is impossible to argue or reason with people who think and debate this way. Moreover, their Catch-22 approach precludes argument: if you disagree with them, then you are using “deeply offensive language.” You are also, presumably, showing that you are a racist.
  • Attempting to control the ability to debate, argue and dissent indicates a position with advocates who can’t legitimately defend it.
  • The United States does not have “free speech absolutism,” and never has.  If one is going to argue against the freedom of speech, a minimal requirement is that one should know what it is.

 

Aaaand THEY’RE OFF! The Week’s Ethics Race Begins, 4/1/2019: No, Ethics Is Nothing To Fool About…

Good morning!

(and I’m not fooling…)

1. Why is this result considered good news? McLaughlin & Associates, a research firm, conducted a poll online March 18-25 asking the question, “Would you favor or oppose an executive order ensuring that free speech would be protected on all college campuses?” With 1,000 likely 2020 voters thus polled, the results showed 73% in favor of protecting free speech on campus, 18 % opposing, and the typical 9% of slugs who said they were “unsure.” McLaughlin and Associates found “no statistically significant difference by education level, with college graduates favoring the executive order 72 percent to 21 percent and non-college graduates favoring 74 percent to 16 percent.” Similarly, men and women both favored  the executive order at a rate of 73%, and there was no significant difference by party affiliation either.

The fact that less than 75% of American citizens whole-heartedly support freedom of speech in higher education is no less than horrifying, and shows how badly the ahte speech and thought-control termites have gotten into our foundation.

2. Speaking of those inherently untrustworthy polls a Washington Post-Schar School poll found that nearly two-thirds of registered Democrats reject special counsel Robert Mueller’s finding of no collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian meddling in the 2016 election. It’s a “Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind’s made up!” classic, and also demonstrates how believing the mainstream news media agitprop because their biases fit neatly with yours—except you’re not paid to be objective and indep…oh, never mind. Why do I bother?—eats your brain. What in the world to these alleged (poll assertions are always alleged at best) skeptics base their beliefs on, other than the fact that, like Rachel Maddow, they so,so,so want our President to be an impeachable traitor? Mueller spent three years shaking down people and crushing them with his  prosecutorial boot to get evidence of Trump collusion that would stand up in court, and failed. And those Democrats know better? Continue reading