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

Never Mind The Blackface: Governor Northam Should Resign Because He Is Cowardly, Untrustworthy, Dishonest And Too Weird For Words

And it is unethical for a governor to be cowardly, untrustworthy, dishonest and too weird for words. Virginia’s governor has embarrassed his state, it’s citizens, and everyone who voted for him. He is a source of humiliation for his party. He cannot lead, or do anything but harm while he remains in office.

You host here at Ethics Alarms is still sick and bed-ridden, but I had to crawl to my office for this. Wow. From the moment he appeared in the most unethical campaign ad I had seen from a Virginia candidate for office, appealing directly to anti-Trump derangement and hate by calling the President of the United States a “maniac,” I knew there was something seriously off about Ralph Northam, and, frankly, about anyone who would vote for him. His recent “oh, this is how you go about aborting a baby who has already been born” comments confirmed that assessment, ” but I was not in favor of forcing him out of office because he had appeared in blackface while a medical student 34 years ago. However, Northam’s conduct and statements since initially apologizing for the photo that surfaced this week are not 35 years old. They reveal the current character of the individual changed with overseeing the government of Virginia. That character is intolerable for any leader, and it was not what the Virginians who voted for Northam—I wasn’t fooled, but you can fool some of the people some of the time—believed they were electing.

In today’s Saturday Night Live-ready press conference, Governor Northam, his poor wife by his side, gave a bravura performance in self-character assassination: Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Leftovers, 10/21/18: Gibberish! Lottery Schemes! Comment Spam! Fake Protests!

Good night!

1. Comment moderation ethics. In many online news sites, including those of major newspapers, the comments contain  this spam:

I have received $18429 last month by working online from home. I am a full time college student and just doing this easy home based job in my spare time not more than 3 to 4 hrs a day. This online job is very easy to do and its earnings are awsome than any other office type full time job. Join this home job right now and start making more cash online by just follow instructions on this blog…..

I’m looking at a Boston Herald online article about the World Series, and out of 14 comments, 8 are some version of the text above. First of all, of course, the people who post it are unethical creeps, polluting a discussion forum to pick up some cash. The site operators are just as bad. If you can’t moderate a comments section and keep it readable and on-topic, then don’t have one. Lazy, irresponsible and with no respect for readers—and they wonder why the public doesn’t trust the news media.

2. Here’s a rule of thumb: If a group or individual publicly announces a formal ethics complaint being made against a lawyer or a judge, it an abuse of process and the complaint system. Such ethics complaints should be made privately, since they are investigated and only become public if reason is found to levy sanctions. The announcement of a complaint in a press release or other public forum means that the complainant is trying to impugn an individual without proof, fair gearing or due process.

Judicial Watch has filed a complaint against Christine Blasey Ford’s lawyers,  and released the letter to the bar to the public. There may be some grounds for discipline, though it’s borderline. More unethical, in my view, is Judicial Watch using the ethics complaint process as a political weapon.

3. Signature significance, but of what? Comedian Amy Schumer announced that she won’t appear in any Super Bowl commercials to show her support of Pioneer Pointless NFL Kneeler Colin Kaepernick. What is that? Can you boycott something you haven’t been asked to do? Why is she boycotting the Super Bowl to support a protest against (sort of) racial injustice and police brutality? If people were desperate to have Amy in an ad, what would they have to do? Pass laws letting people resisting arrest to threaten police officers without consequences? Authorize reparations to be paid to anyone with an Elizabeth Warren-like percentage of slave blood? Now, Amy protesting the fact that NFL is making billions by giving young athletes brain disease, that would make some sense.

I think making a pointless and silly announcement like this is signature significance for someone who  will do anything to get publicity and signal their virtue to the social justice warrior faithful. Anyone else would realize how idiotic it is. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, October 10, 2018: Incompetence Special

Good morning, and I mean it this time…!

1. My only Red Sox-related note: One reason I know that the news media can’t be trusted is that when I have first hand knowledge of a topic or event reported in the paper, I often find the reporting lazily, inexplicably, factually wrong. Here’s a trivial but illustrative example: this amazing play (It’s at 1:04 on the video) ended last night’s decisive Boston 4-3 victory over the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series:

Here’s how the Times described it:

“Kimbrel then got Gleyber Torres to hit a dribbler to third. Eduardo Nunez, a former Yankee, gathered it and threw slightly wide of first base, but another former Yankee, Steve Pearce, stretched to glove it an instant before Torres touched the bag.”

What? “Slightly wide”? A millimeter wider and the ball would have been in the dugout! If journalists can’t get little things right, why should be trust them to convey the important stuff?

2. Institutional incompetence  The historical airbrushing continues. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Washington and Lee University has decided to make changes to the names of some campus buildings after concerns from students and faculty.

On Tuesday, the Board of Trustees announced that it will rename Robinson Hall as Chavis Hall, in honor of John Chavis, the first African-American to receive a college education in the United States. He graduated from Washington Academy, the predecessor of W&L, in 1799. Also, Lee-Jackson House will be renamed Simpson Hall in honor of Pamela Hemenway Simpson, who served as an associate dean of the college and helped move to a co-ed environment in the 1980s.

The board also announced that effective immediately, it will replace portraits of Robert E. Lee and George Washington in military uniforms inside Lee Chapel with portraits of the two men in civilian clothing.

An educational institution that thinks it is appropriate to airbrush its own history can’t be trusted to teach anyone. Robinson Hall is named after the man who established the college, John Robinson. Yup, he was a slaveholder, but he established the school, and deserves prominent recognition for that. The decision to strip Washington and Lee of their uniforms is particularly ominous, hinting of several obnoxious biases. Soldiers are taboo now? Or is this a strike against “toxic masculinity”?  If the idea is to pretend that Robert E. Lee  is only notable for his post-military career as president of the university, that’s absurd and dishonest: if Lee had never worn the Confederate uniform, he would never have led the school, and nobody would know who he was today. Washington’s military brilliance  supersedes  his civilian achievements in significance and historical impact, for without General Washington there would be no United States of America.

My position is that it is negligent for parents to entrust their children’s minds to stupid people and incompetent schools. Washington and Lee and its administrators now qualify for that category.

Continue reading

“Authentic Frontier Gibberish” Of The Year: Stevie Wonder

“This thing I just feel that all these various diseases that we have and all these things that are happening in the world in part is because there are those who don’t believe in global warming, don’t believe that what we do affects the world. what we eat affects the world. and affects us.And I just hope that people will grow up and grow out of the foolishness and know that we all by how we think how we do how we treat others we will never unlock the key until we truly let go the hatred the bigotry the evilness the selfishness when we do that then we can unlock some of those things that keep us in this place.”

—Pop legend Stevie Wonder, explaining why Aretha Franklin died, or something, on “CBS This Morning”

Why is this unethical? It’s irresponsible for celebrities with the education of prunes and the critical thinking facility of  baby ocelots to make their fans and anyone else afflicted with the delusion that being famous equates  to being wise dumber than they already are. Shut up and sing, Stevie. Aretha died of pancreatic cancer, and if you can prove that this deadly disease is linked to global warming, let’s see your research data.

It is also unethical for any TV news host who listens to a guest utter incoherent nonsense like this not to respond, “What the hell are you babbling about?” or words to that effect. Opinions are fine, and, withing limits, can be endured without rebuttal. Non-factual crap, like global warming causing cancer—actually, Stevie literally said that people not believing in global warming causes cancer, like not believing in fairies kills Tinkerbell.—has to be fixed, on the air, immediately. If you have dolts like Wonder on camera, you better be prepared to clean up the messes they leave.

Sad to say, Gabby Johnson made more sense than Stevie Wonder.

Review: Ethics Alarms Concepts And Special Terms

Recently updating the Ethics Alarms list of concepts and frequently used terms reminded me that I had been meaning to post them for review and assistance to those relatively new here. Of course, the link has always been right there at the top of the home page, but I have this sneaking suspicion that it isn’t visited very often.  Here, then, is the up-to-date list.

CONCEPTS

Non-Ethical Considerations: Defined above, non-ethical considerations are important because they are often the powerful impediments to ethical conduct, and the cause of many conflicts of interest. Non-ethical considerations are many and diverse, and include:

  • The need and desire for shelter, health, wealth, fame, security, self-esteem, reputation, power, professional advancement, comfort, love, sex, praise, credit, appreciation, affection, or satisfaction
  • The desire for the health, comfort, safety, welfare and happiness for one’s family, loved ones, friends, colleagues, an co-workers
  • The pursuit of vengeance or retribution
  • Hunger, lust, pain, ambition, prejudice, bias, hatred, laziness, fatigue, disgust, anger, fear
  • …and many more

Ethical Dilemma: This is an ethical problem in which the ethical choice involves ignoring a powerful non-ethical consideration. Do the right thing, but lose your job, a friend, a lover, or an opportunity for advancement. A non-ethical consideration can be powerful and important enough to justify choosing it over the strict ethical action.

Ethical Conflict: When two ethical principles demand opposite results in the same situation, this is an ethical conflict. Solving ethical conflicts may require establishing a hierarchy or priority of ethical principles, or examining the situation through another ethical system.

Ethical Gray Area: Gray areas are situations and problems that don’t fit neatly into any existing mode of ethical analysis. In some cases, there may even be a dispute regarding whether ethics is involved.

Reciprocity: The ethical system embodied by The Golden Rule, and given slightly different form in other religions and philosophies. It is a straight-forward way of judging conduct affecting others by putting oneself in the position of those affected. Reciprocity should always be available in any ethical analysis, but it is frequently too simple to be helpful in complex ethical situations with multiple competing interests.

Absolutism: Absolutist systems do not permit any exception to certain ethical principles. The champion of all absolutists, philosopher Immanuel Kant, declared that the ethical act was one that the actor was willing to have stand as a universal principle.

One principle of absolutism is that human beings can never be harmed for any objective, no matter how otherwise worthwhile. Absolutism has the advantage of making tough ethical calls seem easy, and the disadvantage of making debate impossible. One sees absolutism reflected today in the controversies over war, torture, abortion, cloning, and capital punishment.

Utilitarianism: Utilitarianism accepts the existence of ethical conflicts and the legitimacy of some ethical dilemmas, and proposes ethical analysis based on the question, “Which act will result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people?’ It entails the balancing of greater and lesser goods, and is useful for unraveling complex ethical problems. Its drawback, or trap, is that utilitarianism can slide into “The ends justify the means” without some application of absolutist and reciprocity principles.

Consequentialism: In formal ethics, utilitarian schools of philosophy are sometimes lumped together as “consequentialism,” in that the ethical decision-making is based on seeking the best result. Here we just uses the above term, utilitarianism.  Consequentialsm, in contrast, is the flawed belief that the rightness or wrongness, or even wisdom, of chosen conduct is measures by its actual results rather than its intended results. If “if all worked out for the best,” in other words, the conduct that created the desirable result most have been ethical, whatever its intent or however the conduct was determined to be necessary or desirable. This is a fallacy.

Cognitive Dissonance:
Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon first identified by Leon Festinger. It occurs when there is a discrepancy between what a person believes, knows and values, and persuasive information that calls these into question. The discrepancy causes psychological discomfort, and the mind adjusts to reduce the discrepancy. In ethics, cognitive dissonance is important in its ability to alter values, such as when an admired celebrity embraces behavior that his or her admirers deplore. Their dissonance will often result in changing their attitudes toward the behavior. Dissonance also leads to rationalizations of unethical conduct, as when the appeal and potential benefits of a large amount of money makes unethical actions to acquire it seem less objectionable than if they were applied to smaller amounts.

Moral Luck: The common situation where an unethical act is only discovered, noticed, or deemed worthy of condemnation due to unpredictable occurrences that come as a result of the act or that affect its consequences. Moral luck is the difference, for example, between two mildly intoxicated drivers, one of whom arrives home without incident, while the other has an unwary child dash in front of his automobile, leading to a fatal accident that he couldn’t have avoided if completely sober. Yet the unlucky driver will be a pariah in the community, while the more fortunate driver goes on with his life.

SPECIAL TERMS USED ON ETHICS ALARMS

Continue reading