Mrs. Q’s Corner: Political Mascot

 

by Frances Quaempts-Miller

Towards the end of British author Douglas Murray’s latest book The Madness of Crowds is a call to find significance beyond politics:

 “One of the ways to distance ourselves from the madness of our times is to retain an interest in politics but not to rely on it as a source of meaning.  The call should be for people to simplify their lives and not mislead themselves by devoting their lives to a theory that answers no questions, makes no predictions and is easily falsifiable.  Meaning can be found in all sorts of places.  For most individuals it is found in the love of the people and places around them: in friends, family and loved ones, in culture, place and wonder.  A sense of purpose is found in working out what is meaningful in our lives and then orienting ourselves over time as closely as possible to those centres of meaning. Using ourselves up on identity politics, social justice and intersectionality is a waste of a life.”

 Murray ends his book arguing, “To assume that sex, sexuality, and skin colour mean nothing would be ridiculous.  But to assume that they mean everything will be fatal.”

 In the last year and a half my wife and I have lost six loved ones, including two grandmothers last month, only three weeks apart.  Between us we have lost three grandparents, a cousin, an aunt, and my father. Ours has been a house of grieving that has prompted both of us to re-examine what has brought us a sense of purpose and what we need to focus our energies on in the future.  After spending not just years but decades fighting for equality, it has become clear, with so much death, that such supposed noble efforts have only rendered a more broken heart in a more broken world. 

 At the age of fourteen I went to my first protest to express concern for the United States involvement in El Salvador.  At the time, I didn’t really know what our country was doing wrong but I did know that the exhilaration of marching in the middle of the street, after the police told us through their bullhorns not to, while yelling various slogans repeatedly, was intoxicating.  All my frustration with whatever complications life had thrown my way dissolved instantly.  Suddenly I was a part of something bigger than myself while believing my actions and those of the other protesters were on “the right side of history” (see 1B. The Psychic Historian on the list of Unethical Rationalizations and Misconceptions). For a somewhat shy teenager, I was instantly transformed by that march into a powerful person.  Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 11/10/2019: Be Warned, I’m In One Of Those “The Morons Are Everywhere, So Why Do I Bother?” Moods…

Hi!

Why is there a picture of a Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich here, you may well ask? It is here because it symbolizes how weird American priorities are. That was last week’s ad. This week, being ignorant of Popeye’s recent promotions, I offered to cheer up my wife, who was not feeling well, by driving up King Street (usually about a 10 minute trip) to the local Popeye’s for some dark meat fried chicken, her favorite.  As soon as I got on King, however, I was in gridlock. It took over a half hour to get to the restaurant, and it’s parking lot was in chaos. It turned out that the whole traffic disaster was being caused by the jam in the Popeyes drive-up line, which spilled into the street. I crawled up past Popeye’s and parked by the 7-11 a block away. Then I walked to Popeye’s—I would be damned if spent all that time in traffic without coming home with my wife’s treat—and the restaurant was packed wall-to wall. I was informed by one customer that the end of the line was out the door. “What’s going on?” I asked. “It’s the chicken sandwich!” he said. “All of this is for a fast-food chicken sandwich?” I asked, incredulous. “Yup!” he said, smiling.

“You’re all idiots,” I said, and left.

More than half of American won;t take the time to vote, or bother to investigate the vital issues and events that are shaping their lives, but they’ll waste hours of their lives to spend $4.50 on a Popeye’s chicken sandwich. Then, presumably, take pictures of it with their smartphones and put them up on Instagram.

1. Dog ownership ethics: Anyone who can’t figure this out on their own shouldn’t have a dog. What a surprise! Researchers have shown that screaming at dogs traumatizes them over the long term, and that love and patience lead to better training results. Science Alert reports that a team biologist Ana Catarina Vieira de Castro of the Universidade do Porto in Portugal tested 42 dogs from dog training schools that used reward-based training, and 50 dogs from aversion training schools. The dogs trained  with shouting and leash-jerking were more stressed, indicated by higher levels of cortisol in their saliva.

“Our results show that companion dogs trained using aversive-based methods experienced poorer welfare as compared to companion dogs trained using reward-based methods, at both the short- and the long-term level,” the researchers write in the paper published by biology news service bioRxiv.

Duh. Routinely shouting at dogs is animal cruelty. Our sensitive English Mastiff Patience would hide under the sink in one of our bathrooms any time anyone in the house raised his or her voice to anyone. If my wife and I argued, we had to coax Patience out by hugging each other as she watched.

2. Is the 2020 election a mass “Bias makes you stupid” experiment? Two  terrible  (and unelectable) potential candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg and even worse, Obama “wingman” Eric Holder, are reportedly exploring joining the still-crowded field. Why? They recognize that none of the current candidates look like they can attract broad-based support from Democrats, much less the rest of the electorate. A short way of describing this phenomenon is to say that if either Bloomberg or Holder are an improvement over the current crop of socialists, totalitarians and septuagenarians vying to run against President Trump, the Democrats are in big trouble.

A week ago, a New Times/Siena poll showed President Trump highly competitive in the six closest states carried by the President in ’16. The New York Times’ Nate Cohn wrote about it, and didn’t sugar coat the message: even with a 24-7 news cycle bashing the President on all fronts, and even with the impeachment push giving Democrats the opportunity to soak the public’s brain with denigrating quotes, President Trump still looks like a formidable opponent.

Well, of course he is, and it should be obvious to all why. Yet Ann Althouse, who flagged the article, posted the two highest  comments to the revelation from Times readers:

This is the most depressing article I’ve read in a while. The idea of a second Trump term is literally terrifying. Who are these people that like him? How can it be? Fox News, owned by a soulless Australian, is destroying this once great country.

Second highest:

I simply cannot fathom this. How is this even possible? Also I live in Michigan and my sense is that Trump is deeply unpopular here. Are these polls using the same techniques that were used to predict a 97% chance of victory for Hillary? Perhaps the polls are wrong? I sincerely hope so because the alternative is unthinkable.

Wow! How cocooned does one have to be in Leftist echo chambers, false narratives, fake news. conventional wisdom, “resistance” talking points and Big Lies to write things like this for public consumption? If reality is that far from permeating the biases of such people—-after three years of a mass effort to effectively disenfranchise citizens who rebelled against the media-progressive bullying of the Obama years and the blatant dishonesty and corruption of the Clinton candidacy—-they must be permanently damaged. Continue reading

Thoughts Upon Reading The Comments To The Recent “Conscience Clause” Post

The comments on the recent post regarding the so-called conscience rule being voided in court generated the comments the topic always does. What follows is a relatively short, general post to frame the issues as clearly as possible.  Admittedly, when a post is titled “When Law and Ethics Converge,” perhaps I shouldn’t have to explicate with a post focusing on the difference between law and ethics. I strongly believe that conscience clauses undermine the law, and are unethical, as you will see.

Law and Ethics are not the buddies people think they are, or wish they were. If you look around Ethics Alarms, you see why. Ethics, as the  process by which we decide and learn what is good and right conduct, evolves with time and experience. A predictable cut of a society’s ethics are always going to be a matter of intense debate. Ethics are self-enforcing, for the most part and by nature, because being ethical should make us feel good.  Once an authority or power starts demanding conduct and enforcing  conformity, we are mostly out of the realm of ethics and into morality, where conduct is dictated by a central overseer that, if it is to have genuine authority, must be voluntarily accepted by those subject to its power.

Society cannot function on ethics alone. Without laws, chaos and anarchy result. Because chaos and anarchy are bad for everyone, no individual who has accepted the social compact may decide which laws he or she will follow and which he or she will defy—at least, not without paying a price, which is society’s punishment. In ethical terms, this is a utilitarian calculation: we accept laws that individually we may find repugnant, because allowing citizens to pick and choose which laws they will obey as a matter of “conscience” doesn’t work and has never worked. Ethics pays attention to history.

Thus it is ethical to obey the law, and unethical not to,  even if good arguments can be made that particular laws are themselves unethical. This is where civil disobedience comes in: if a citizen chooses to violate a law on a the basis of that citizen’s conscience or principle, the citizen also has to accept the legal consequences of doing so as an obligation of citizenship. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 11/5/2019: A Whistleblower’s Biases, A Technology’s Risks, And A Thinking Actor’s Values

Hi!

1. So now we know…The mysterious “whistleblower” is almost certainly Eric Ciaramella,  a CIA analyst, former National Security Council staffer,  and  a career intelligence officer.who has served in both the Obama and Trump administrations. It would have been nice and reassuring if he were not so strongly tied to the Dark Side, meaning the Democrats and various “resistance” figures, but he is. That doesn’t mean he had an agenda, but somehow all of the leakers and rebels who have been instrumental in keeping the Left’s coup fires burning have aspects of their backgrounds that justify skepticism.

From the generally useful and fair article about in Heavy:

Ciaramella has worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for several years and was assigned to the White House during the end of the Obama administration. He worked closely with Biden in his role as an expert on Ukraine. Ciaramella also has ties to Sean Misko, a former NSC co-worker who now works for Representative Adam Schiff and the Intelligence Committee. According to The New York Times, the whistleblower first went to a CIA lawyer and then to an unnamed Schiff aide before filing the whistleblower complaint. The aide told the whistleblower to follow the formal process, but conveyed some of the information he learned from him to Schiff, without revealing his name, The Times reported.

“Like other whistle-blowers have done before and since under Republican and Democratic-controlled committees, the whistle-blower contacted the committee for guidance on how to report possible wrongdoing within the jurisdiction of the intelligence community,” said Patrick Boland, a spokesman for Schiff, told The Times.

The whistleblower’s ties to Democrats, including Biden, Schiff, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of Intelligence James Clapper and former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, have created controversy, with Trump and Republicans using his past work with them in an attempt to discredit him.

I did say generally fair. The fact that this guy who created the path to the latest impeachment excuse just happens to be a Democrat with connections to a veritable nest of anti-Trump zealots does and should discredit his objectivity to some extent. An “attempt” shouldn’t be necessary.

2.  Geewhatasurprise…. From the MIT Technology Review:

A study published today in JAMA Pediatrics warns that kids’ literacy and language skills suffer with screen use, and MRI scans of their brains appear to back up the findings…. Forty-seven 3- to 5-year-olds took a test to measure their cognitive abilities, and their parents were asked to answer a detailed survey about screen time habits. …The scans revealed that kids who spent more time in front of screens had what the authors call lower “white matter integrity.” White matter can be roughly thought of as the brain’s internal communications network—its long nerve fibers are sheathed in fatty insulation that allows electrical signals to move from one area of the brain to another without interruption. The integrity of that structure—how well organized the nerve fibers are, and how well developed the myelin sheath is—is associated with cognitive function, and it develops as kids learn language. …Lead author John Hutton of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital told MIT Technology Review there’s a clear link between higher screen use and lower white matter integrity in the children his team studied. That structural change appears to be reflected in the results of the cognitive test the kids took as well, which showed high screen time associated with lower levels of language and literacy skills. “The effect size is substantial, as these findings also rigorously controlled for multiple comparisons across the brain,” Hutton says.

One easy and ethical remedy would be for parents to make sure their kids don’t see them constantly staring at their phone.

3.  A terrific, ethical, extemporaneous speech from Richard Dreyfus. No, Richard Dreyfus is not, and has never been, a typical Hollywood knee-jerk leftist. Glenn Beck’s conservative website “The Blaze” was “astonished” when actor/educator Richard Dreyfus recently told Fox News host Tucker Carlson,

“You were talking about the speakers on university campuses. And I am totally, incontrovertibly on your side about this. I think any intrusion into freedom of speech is an intrusion into freedom of speech. And when one of the presidents of one of the colleges said, ‘this is a school, not a battlefield,’ I said, no, it is a battlefield of ideas and we must have dissonant, dissenting opinions on campuses and I think it’s political correctness taken to a nightmarish point of view

I have withdrawn from partisan politics. I am a constitutionalist who believes that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights must be central and the parties must be peripheral. What’s most important for me is what you just mentioned haphazardly, we are over 30. Civics has not been taught in the American public school system since 1970. And that means everyone in Congress never studied the constitution and the bill of rights as you and I might have. And that is a critical flaw because it’s why we were admired and respected for so long, it gives us our national identity, it tells the world who we are and why we are who we are, and without a frame that gives us values that stand behind the bill of rights, we’re just floating in the air and our sectors of society are not connected.

What’s really important is that the assumptions of the left and the right are all skewed wrong. We have to find areas of agreement and areas that we share. And we do share the notion that education accomplishes certain things. One, it turns students into citizens. And, two, it teaches students how to run the country before it’s their turn to run the country. And, three, it teaches the values of this nation.

People come from all over the world or are born into this nation without the values that we have here. That’s why they came here, to get them. And what are they? You can put them in opportunity, rise by merit, mobility, and freedom. That’s what we sell. And if you don’t want that, you’ve chosen the wrong place. And you don’t get a pass by being born here, you have to learn it. Even the Ten Commandments are not known at birth. You must learn them. And we must learn our values and if we don’t, we are fatally, fatally wounding ourselves. We will not have any way to really combat the ideas behind ISIS because we won’t know our own. And we have to.

Exactly.

Fox News should give Dreyfus a show.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/4/2019: Ethics Alarms Threats, Lawsuits, Censors And Foes

Good morning!

I’m hoping that I can get back on a more regular schedule soon, and I want to express me thanks for everyone’s patience with the unexplained gaps in commentary and the “warm-ups” that have been turning up ad odd hours of the night.

1. Ethics Alarms defamation suit update! The banned Ethics Alarms commenter whose feelings I hurt received notice that his appeal of the trial judge’s rejection of his absurd defamation claims was rejected, as was his motion to file a non-conforning brief, and his motion for sanctions against me as a Massachusetts lawyer.  Within minutes he had filed a motion for reconsideration. This, of course, requires me to file a response. It is vengeance by pro se abuse, of course, and wildly unethical, but I assumed this was what I was in for.

2. More “Welcome to my world!” notes. A Democratic  candidate for Congress in Michigan whom I referenced as an aside in this post in June about one of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s dumb tweets invaded my in-box last night to ask that I take down the post, saying in part,

I am sending this email to you to formally request that you remove my name from this website. As you are aware AOC has received a number of death threats.  I am a candidate running for Congress in Michigan and I recently had someone shoot a bullet through the window of our headquarters.  We are in the process of getting security however your decision to place my name on a website with someone who is constantly in danger [is] extremely dangerous to my safety and the safety of others. I have contacted the police & I am also in the process of contacting the FBI.  I will be certain to point out your website.

To which I said, in essence, “Bring it on.” I don’t respond well to threats, especially stupid ones. This party really does have a problem with free speech, doesn’t it?

3. Here’s why I don’t belong to the American Bar Association…President Trump’s Ninth Circuit judicial nominee Lawrence VanDyke was called arrogant, lazy, ideological and an anti-LGBTQ bigot in the American Bar Association’s official evaluation of his qualifications for the post. This was based on accusations against the nominee from unnamed associates, sniping at him from the shadows of anonymity.

“Absolutely outrageous and couldn’t be further from the truth,” protested Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt. VanDyke served as state solicitor general under Laxalt, Others interviewed by the ABA for the reports said that their positive recommendations were greeted with perfunctory indifference by ABA personnel. Joseph Tartakovsky, Nevada deputy solicitor general for three years under VanDyke, said his ABA phone interview lasted  seven minutes at most, during which “it was clear to me that she was going through the motions.” Tartakovsky said he was “surprised and dismayed” when he read the ABA’s critical letter, as he  gave VanDyke a strong recommendation, saying he was an “exceptional lawyer” and “born to be a judge.”

I don’t know anything about VanDyke, who could be a legal genius or a judicial hack. I do know the American Bar Association has long been dominated by Democrats and progressives, and is among the many professional associations that has disgraced itself and its members by tacitly allying itself with the “resistance.” The ABA has been incapable of objective assessments of the qualifications of judicial nominees for decades, and should not be trusted with the assignment.

4. Facebook ethics, or what passes for them. Facebook honcho Mark Zuckerberg upset his troops when he announced that his social media platform would not fact-check political ads and censor them for being “false.” Facebook had been using the biased and untrustworthy PolitiFact and Snopes as fact-checkers, so obviously his was the right decision. His minions, however, have been vocal in dissent, even recruiting Hollywood Hard-Lefty Aaron Sorkin to write an “Open Letter” of protest.

I obviously have some experience with Facebook’s objectivity in deciding what information should be published or not, since Ethics Alarms has been banned from the site without any explanation. These people can’t distinguish “facts’ from opinions they don’t like, especially when the opinions contradict the agendas of the Axis of Unethical Conduct (Democrats, “the resistance,” and the mainstream media). Sorkin claims that he fears for children believing that “Kamala Harris ran dog fights out of the basement of a pizza place while Elizabeth Warren destroyed evidence that climate change is a hoax and the deep state sold meth to Rashida Tlaib and Colin Kaepernick.” but the sooner kids learn how to sniff out garbage, the more competent adults they will be. Who is Sorkin kidding? He knows it isn’t the crazy stuff he wants Facebook to smother: he doesn’t want ads that argue that Democrats have been trying to overthrow a President without winning an election, because when you are conducting a disinformation campaign you don’t want any opposition.

 

A Jury Gets An Unarmed Black Victim Cop Shooting Right, But The Reasons Why Are Significant

From the AP: “A white former Dallas police officer who said she fatally shot her unarmed, black neighbor after mistaking his apartment for her own was found guilty of murder on Tuesday. A jury reached the verdict in Amber Guyger’s high-profile trial for the killing of Botham Jean after six days of witness testimony but just a handful of hours of deliberation. Cheers erupted in the courthouse as the verdict was announced, and someone yelled “Thank you, Jesus!”

I am surprised at the murder verdict; I expected a manslaughter conviction, and thought that prosecutors may have over-charged.

Nonetheless, a guilty verdict was necessary. It must be remembered, however, that few of the factors typically present in cases where cops have been acquitted for shooting unarmed black citizens existed here. The victim, Botham Jean, did nothing to justify his shooting, indeed nothing to justify having a confrontation with police at all. He didn’t resist a lawful arrest or threaten the officer. Amber Guyger was absolutely and completely responsible for his death in every way. She may have thought her life was in danger, but she was ridiculously wrong, and even if Jean had threatened her, he had every right to do so. She was, to him, a home invader.

In such circumstances as these, none of the usual sympathy that juries have for police officers and their dangerous duties while protecting the public applies. Guyger wasn’t trying to protect the public; she wasn’t even on duty. A jury would naturally sympathize with the victim; if a confused cop could barge into his home and start shooting, it could happen to any juror. Did race play a part in the verdict? I hope not. Whatever the verdict was, there was no evidence to suggest that Jean was killed because of his race.

It will be interesting to see what sentence the jury recommends. I feel sorry for Guyger: she was badly trained, she may have been exhausted from an over-long shift, and there is no reason she wanted to kill Jean, or anyone. Yet with power comes responsibility, and with responsibility comes accountability.

I just re-read my post from a year ago about this case. You might want to read it again too. I’ve re-posted the whole essay below.

I could easily put this story in the Ethics Alarms Zugzwang file, because I see no analysis or result that won’t make the situation worse.

A white off-duty police officer named Amber R. Guyger  entered the apartment of  Botham Shem Jean, a 26 year old accountant, and fired her service weapon twice at him, killing the St. Lucia immigrant. She claims that she mistakenly entered the wrong apartment after returning home from her 14-hour shift and believed  Jean, who is black, was an intruder.

Indeed, her apartment was directly below his. She had inexplicably parked her car on the 4th floor, where Jean’s residence was, rather than the 3rd floor, where hers was. So far, there is no indication that the shooter and the victim knew each other. Guyger had a clean record. Other facts are in dispute. The officer told investigators the apartment door was  ajar and then fully opened when she inserted her computerized chip key. That seems possible but unlikely.  Lawyers for  Jean’s family say the door was closed. How could they possibly know that?  Guyger said in court documents that when she opened the door,  she saw shadows of someone she thought was a burglar, and shouted commands before shooting. Lawyers for Jean’s family have elicited testimony from neighbors that they heard someone banging on the door and shouting, “Let me in!” and “Open up!” before the gunshots.  Why would the officer do that if she didn’t know Jean, or if she thought it was her own apartment? They also said they then heard Jean, say, “Oh my God, why did you do that?”

Boy, that sounds like an awfully convenient exclamation to be remembering now, don’t you think? But who knows? Maybe it proves the two knew each other. (Why didn’t Jean say, “Who are you?”) Maybe it is another “Hands Up! Don’t shoot!” lie for cop-haters and race-baiters  to adopt as a rallying cry.

Surprise! Jean’s family is being represented by Benjamin Crump, the same lawyer who represented the relatives of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and managed to manipulate media accounts and public opinion into the narrative that those shootings were motivated by racial hate. If nothing else, Crump is diligent and zealous in creating an atmosphere that maximizes the opportunity for civil damages whether they are warranted or not.

Crump is referring to Jean’s death as an assassination. Of course it is! After all, Guyger’s a white cop, and they live to oppress, brutalize and kill unarmed black men for no reason whatsoever, except to protect white power in a racist nation. Dallas’s black citizens and white activists do not believe the officer’s story, because they presume racism. (Similar impulse: progressives and feminist believe Brett Kavanugh’s accuser, because they want to,)  Protesters chanted and disrupted a City Council meeting last week. There have been escalating  threats against the police. Officers say they believe Officer Guyger’s version of events, as weird and inexplicable as they are. The same bias is at work: they want to believe her.

Things don’t work when they are hemmed in by biases and agendas like this. Let’s say that an investigation yields no clarification. An innocent man was shot in his own home by a police officer who lived beneath him for no discernible reason, and the cop’s only explanation is that she was tired, confused, and made a mistake. What is the ethical course at that point?

There are a few easy calls. The police department has civil liability, and it is high time to put the same kind of limitations on police shifts that airline pilots must abide by. The accident, if it was an accident, may have been caused by unethical working conditions. It would also be sensible for apartment and condo complexes to be required to make all floors recognizably distinct. I have tried to enter the wrong hotel room, apartment, condo unit and dorm room at various times, in addition to walking into ladies rooms and the occasional closet. Luckily, I don’t carry a gun. However, my own experiences make me at least willing to consider that this might have been nothing but a terrible, tragic accident.

Obviously, Officer Guyger’s career is over no matter what the truth is, and should be. Thus I agree with the argument that she should be suspended without pay or simply fired. Off-duty cops are required to carry guns, and once a cop makes this kind of “mistake,” she can’t be trusted. I wouldn’t want her wandering around my neighborhood.

Beyond that, however, what is Dallas supposed to do? The race hucksters want to protest and exacerbate racial divisions. Guyger will be painted as a cold-blooded racist killer, and typical of all police. Any result that doesn’t have her sentenced to prison for a long time will be condemned as proof that the white fix is in. The city has a duty to prevent riots and deaths, but not to squelch protests, no matter how cynical and unfair. Should it indict and try Guyger for murder rather than manslaughter, knowing that over-charging could result in an acquittal?  This was Baltimore’s approach in the Freddie Gray case, and now police passivity has made the city a runner-up to Chicago as U.S. Murder Central. What if the investigation suggests that this was indeed an accident, and no more? Is it fair to try Guyger at all, then? Will jury members concede that she has lost her occupation and her reputation, and that imprisoning her is cruel—that she has suffered enough? Or will Guyger really stand trial not as an individual, but as a symbol of all cops who shot unarmed black men and escaped accountability?

Not only do I see no satisfactory ethical outcome, I can’t even decide what an ethical outcome would be.

I do know this, however. Bias not only makes us stupid, it makes fairness, justice and law enforcement impossible.

 

A Bias Detection Test

What is the obvious (and in my estimation) amazing bias and prejudice the video above embodies? Here’s another one: same problem.

I hope it jumps out at most of you as much as it does to me. This product’s most obvious market, both in terms of those who most need it and those most willing to look ridiculous wearing it, is seniors. My parents, both of them, would have loved to have one of these on their regular excursions. Yet the promotional video not only doesn’t show any users over the age of 35, it seemingly doesn’t know such creatures exist.

My mother used to complain bitterly once she reluctantly reached her Golden Years that younger people acted as if she were invisible.  I wonder if this video is one more example of the fracturing of American culture and consciousness into hostile groups that choose to regard non-group members as “the other,” not worthy of consideration or acknowledgment.

After all, one would think that at least the profit motive would be enough to prompt us to include the elderly in our world view. In this case, at least, apparently not.