Ethics Hot Topics, 7/13/2021: A Date That Will Live In Ethics Infamy

1. Black Lives Matter…This is truly a date that will live in ethics infamy, or should: on July 13, 2013, the acquittal of George Zimmerman, accused of murdering Trayvon Martin in 2012, prompted Oakland, California resident Alicia Garza to post a message on Facebook containing the phrase “Black lives matter.” Garza said she felt “a deep sense of grief” after Zimmerman was acquitted (as he should have been and had to be based on the evidence.) She said she was further saddened that many people to blamed the victim, Martin, and not the “disease” of racism.

As has marked the soon to emerge Black Lives Matter movement, facts didn’t matter to Garza. Martin was the aggressor, and was the only one of the two parties involved who made race-related comments prior to the confrontation. Zimmerman shot Martin in self-defense, and the prosecution’s own investigator testified to that fact. Never mind: Patrice Cullors, a Los Angeles community organizer and friend of Garza’s, read her post and replied with the first instance of #BlackLivesMatter, which quickly “went viral.” Garza, Cullors and fellow activist Opal Tometi built a network of community organizers and racial justice activists using the clever but misleading name Black Lives Matter, and the phrase and the hashtag were used by grassroots activists and protests all across the country, many of them based on false narratives implying racism where no evidence of it existed, as in the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, George Floyd and others. It is now a powerful and profitable, if intellectually dishonest and divisive, force in American culture and politics. The damage the movement has already done is incalculable; the damage it will do is frighteningly uncertain.

I note that in the description of the movement on the allegedly objective History.com is that it is “simple and clear in its demand for Black dignity.” That’s laughable (but then, historians) since the name is anything but clear, and deliberately so. It stands as a false accusation against American society and non-black citizens that black lives do not matter to the rest of the population except the woke, and thus has spurred the attack on the nation’s legitimacy by purveyors of Critical Race Theory and the “1619 Project.” The seemingly benign slogan deftly avoids contradiction and makes dissent perilous (“What, you don’t think black lives matter, you racist?“) while being used to justify Marxism, censorship, reparations, race-based hiring, promotions and benefits, and other discriminatory activities and policies.

2. In a related July 13 note, this was also the date, in 2015, when Sandra Bland was found hanged in her cell. Bland’s name is also among those used as a BLM rallying cry, and like so many of the others, that is based on a presumption of racism and other facts unproven. On July 10, 2015, Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia pulled over 28-year-old Bland, an African American, for failing to signal a lane change. She refused to cooperate; he was unprofessional. The officer arrested her and took her to a nearby jail. Several days later, she was found dead, and an autopsy concluded she had hanged herself with a plastic bag.

Of course, Bland’s family and friends suspected that the official report of her suicide was a cover-up, because police are racists. But Bland was a police confrontation waiting to happen. She considered herself a Black Lives Matter activist, writing in one social media post, “In the news that we’ve seen as of late, you could stand there, surrender to the cops, and still be killed.” That’s ironic, because if she had just accepted the minor traffic stop without fighting with the officer, she might be alive today. Bland had at least ten previous traffic-related encounters with police in Illinois and Texas; she had been charged five times for driving without insurance, four times for speeding, and once each for driving while intoxicated and drug possession. Her last conviction was for shoplifting, and she owed $7,579 in unpaid fines at the time of her death. Encina was fired, and Bland’s family received the obligatory wrongful death settlement, in this case almost $2 million.

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Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/10/2021: “Help! Every Ethics Story I Find Makes Me Want To Jump Into My Shredder!”

Remember that Ethics Alarms is dependent on its many scouts, tipsters, fans and friends to keep the content varied and enlightening. As it is I can’t keep up, and having to engage in principled boycotts of unethical news sources (CNN, MSNBC, NPR, Fox News, ESPN, ABC and more) has made research more difficult, since even these blighters of the culture occasionally have something useful to report. Positive stories, those that tell me that society may be heading into the light rather than slithering into the darkness, have been in especially short supply lately, or if they have not, I’m not seeing them.

Speaking of seeing, maybe one reason I am in a rotten mood is that my wife decided that the perfect way to begin the week was by watching the 2008 Canadian film “Blindness,” a smug, would-be ethics film in which much of the world is suddenly rendered sightless by a mysterious pandemic. The movie’s villain is a blind man with a gun, who declares himself “king;” Julianne Moore plays an ophthalmologist’s wife who pretends to be blind so she can stay with her sightless husband as the stricken are rounded up by the government; and the plot has developments like this (from the Wikipedia plot summary):

“A man with a handgun appoints himself “king” of his ward, and takes control of the food deliveries, first demanding the other wards’ valuables, and then for the women to have sex with their men. In an effort to obtain necessities, several women reluctantly submit to being raped. One of the women is killed by her assailant, and the doctor’s wife retaliates, killing the “king” with a pair of scissors. In the ensuing chaos, the building catches fire, with many inmates dying. The survivors who escape the building discover that the guards have abandoned their posts, and they venture out into the city. Society has collapsed, with the city’s population reduced to an aimless, zombie-like struggle to survive.”

Amusingly and predictably, the movie was attacked by organizations representing the blind.

It made me wish I was blind while I was watching it.

1. Wow…the New York Times really is sticking with the debunked “1619 Project” narrative! Nick Rojas writes this in a Times news story:

The Three-Fifths Compromise, an agreement reached during the negotiations in 1787 to create the United States Constitution, found that, for the purposes of representation and taxation, only three-fifths of a state’s enslaved people would be counted toward its total population. It is regarded as one of the most racist deals among the states during the country’s founding.

The Three-Fifths Compromise was not racist, and it is only notorious to the historically ignorant and those who have deliberately misrepresented the facts to advance Critical Race Theory. Giving full representation to slaves in the Southern states would have vastly increased the slave states’ power, and made it more difficult to keep slavery from spreading. Historians are mostly in agreement that the compromise was ultimately in the long-term interests of black Americans and began the process leading to emancipation.

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Saturday Morning Ethics: Christmas Countdown Edition

The story of that Christmas classic, Bing’s last holiday hit and also the last popular Christmas song that references its religious origins, is here.

I almost called this post the Clinton Impeachment Anniversary Edition, but decided to be more upbeat. It was on this date that William Jefferson Clinton became the second U.S. President to be impeached. Like the first, the unfortunate Andrew Johnson, Clinton was acquitted in the Senate. Also like Johnson, Clinton was impeached for genuine reasons consistent with the Constitution’s requirements. The next impeachment—did you notice how Democrats never mentioned it during the 2020 campaign?—-was very different: the Democratic House just decided it wanted to impeach President Trump and contrived an excuse to do it after three years of searching.

As veteran readers here know, it was the near complete absence of ethical analysis from the news media during Monica Madness and the mountain of rationalizations and obfuscations employed by Clinton’s defenders that prompted me to launch The Ethics Scoreboard, which in due course led to Ethics Alarms.

1. A bar exam ethics train wreck in California. The ABA Journal reports that more than 3,000 law school grads who sat for the State Bar of California’s remote October exam had their proctoring videos flagged for review, and dozens report receiving violation notices from the agency’s office of admissions. The issues flagged appear to be largely technology-based, and many claim they had no indication of a problem until they received violation notices. The flagging will create serious problems for those involved. A Chapter 6 Notice, as it is called, allows an applicant to respond in writing before any finding is made. If there is a determination that a test-taker violated procedures, bar actions could include warnings, a score of zero for the flagged sessions or the entire exam and negative marks on character and fitness evaluations, endangering the applicant’s prospects of receiving a license.

An individual can challenge the office’s determination and request an administrative hearing, and an unfavorable outcome can be appealed with the Committee of Bar Examiners and the California Supreme Court. However, those applicants’ October bar exam scores will be in limbo while hearings and appeals are resolved, and they will not be able to take the February 2021 exam when determinations of previous scores are pending.

The violations cited include examinees’ eyes being intermittently out of view of their webcams, audio not working; and test-takers not being present behind their computers during the exam. In other words, this is another disaster created by pandemic hysteria and technology unsuited to the challenge of providing an adequate alternative to in-person activity.

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Daybreak Ethics Warm-Up,12/4/2020: An Ancient Judge, A Non-Binary Actor, An Idiotic Team, An Icky Teacher, And An Absurd Columnist Walk Into An Ethics Bar…

1. Political, not logical, honest or competent…Actress Ellen Page, 33, best known for her performance as the pregnant teen in “Juno,” announced this week that she was “non-binary” trans. “My pronouns are he/they and my name is Elliot. I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life,” she wrote. Immediately, Netflix began changing Ellen Page’s name to Elliot in the credits all Netflix movies and series she had participated in. Now, for example, the IMDb page for the Netflix original series “The Umbrella Academy” says Elliot Page was in the cast. This is being called an “update.” It isn’t an update. It’s a lie, and airbrushing history.

When Al Hedison starred as “The Fly” in the original horror movie, that’s who he was. Later, Al changed his name to David Hedison for some reason, and that was the actor we watched in “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,” Irwin Allen’s wonderfully cheesy Sixties TV sci-fi series, and as one of the many Felix Leiters in the James Bond films. They didn’t change his credit on “The Fly.” Nor do you see the name Jack Palance in the credits as the evil gunslinger in “Shane” In that film, the actor we now know as Jack was going by “Walter.” And that’s who he was…then.

Identities are not retroactive. Actress Linda Day had a substantial career in television before she met and married actor Christopher George in 1970. Thereafter, she performed under the name of Linda Day George, but no one changed her credits on the shows she had previously performed in as Linda Day, because Christoper George was barely a twinkle in her eye then. This isn’t hard. Netflix is rushing to retroactively alter history not because doing so is accurate or true, but to demonstrate that the company is “woke,” and thus supporting Page as well as trans people everywhere. It’s virtue-signaling, and a particularly dumb and misleading version of it.

Oh, I should mention that Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner was not Caitlyn Jenner when he won his Gold medals in male events. Olympic records were not changed to claim a falsehood and an impossibility.

2. “Was that wrong? Should I not have done that?” The New York Daily News reports that a Staten Island high school teacher, so far unnamed, was seen naked and masturbating during a Zoom conference this week.

Apparently he tried to invoke Rationalization #3, The Unethical Role Model: “He/She would have done the same thing,” pointing out that “Jeffrey Toobin did it!” (Kidding!)

As with Toobin, I don’t understand the thought process, if you could call it that, that could produce such conduct. I also don’t understand the various statements in the aftermath of the Staten Island incident as described in the story. It wasn’t clear if the teacher intentionally exposed himself or if the video call involved students, the Daily News noted. So what? The conduct is nuts and requires firing for cause either way. I suppose intentionally behaving like this on Zoom is a crime, or more likely, evidence of mental illness.

I also enjoyed the Captain Obvious aspect of the statement by the school:

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Social Q’s Ethics: The Good, The Bad, And The Stupid

I mentioned earlier that I had stopped checking New York Times  Sunday advice column “Social Q’s” because its author, Phillip Gallanes, had apparently received the memo from Times brass so his advice and choice of queries were now primarily “woke” propaganda. However, reading material in our bathroom was recently in short supply, forcing me to peruse two recent Gallanes columns in which there was one interesting ethics issue raised, and two others that were a perfect examples of where Gallanes’ biases make him an untrustworthy advice columnist.

1. The photograph: The interesting issue regarded a daughter whose parents had recently died, and who was shocked that a valuable photograph was not directed her way in the distribution of the estate. It was, she said, second only to the parents’ home in value, and had appreciated in value greatly in the decades since it was given. Didn’t she have a right to get the photo, since she had given it in the first place? Wasn’t it unethical for the parents to treat it like the rest of their estate?

Gallanes properly pointed out that there was no basis for her assumptions in law or ethics. There are no strings attached to transfers of property unless they are made explicit at the time of the gift. What a cumbersome societal norm that would be: an estate is obligated to figure out the original source of every object of value and make sure they return to the original giver! What Gallanes didn’t say, and I would have, is “Who are you kidding? You want the valuable item, and have concocted a phony justification for claiming it.”

2. The vote. Another Social Q’s questioner wrote,

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Weekend Ethics Update, 10/4/2020

Weekend Update

1. I’m not going to dignify all of the online cheering of President Trump’s positive test for the Wuhan virus with quotes from celebrities and social media creatures, though I have them. There have been similar reactions to the fact that Kellyanne Conway recently tested positive as well. A reputable poll—assuming that any are reputable polls—found that 40% of Democrats surveyed were “happy” the President was sick. I have never been happy that anyone was sick in all my years on this planet. This is a mean, vicious, ethically warped group of people that are behind Joe Biden in this election, and one more factor pushing me to a tipping point. (No, I’m not there yet.) But I really do wonder how decent people can make common cause with hateful individuals like this.

For what it’s worth, my perspective is that if the President plays this right, the bout with the virus will help him in November.

I agreed with his decision to largely eschew masks in public appearances, just as FDR kept his wheelchair mostly hidden from public  view and like George Washington riding into battle in full uniform, gleaming white wig, ring a tall white charger. That’s part of leadership: looking strong while also being strong. The President got sick while doing his job. Joe Biden has been hiding in the basement, taking half-days and yesterday gave a speech while wearing a mask. He looks weak, and is weak. There has never been anything especially leader-like about Biden, and most of his support is based on blind, irrational hatred of his opponent fanned into dangerous intensity by the news media and the Angry Left. I think Donald Trump may have been the only President elected more out of dislike of the opposition than genuine support of the winning candidate, and I’m not even certain of that. The candidate perceived as the strongest leader almost always wins.

2. Nah, the First Amendment isn’t in any danger from progressives! Don’t be silly! In June, the president of Miami University appointed a task force of faculty, students and staff to develop recommendations on improving the school’s “diversity, equity and inclusion.” Tellingly, no lawyers or civil libertarians make the membership list.

Now the task force has produced its recommendations, and a more confounding mass of Authentic Frontier Gibberish it would be hard to find. ( “As an Ohio public university, Miami may serve the greater community by expanding IGD pedagogy and praxis to alums and the business community”… “Create internal and external diversity marketing plans to promote literacy around intergroup dialogue and allyship across diverse social identities with sensitivity to Miami’s status as a predominantly white institution…”)  Naturally, re-education and indoctrination are among the 43 recommendations: “Make IGD mandatory for all undergraduate students, beginning with first year students, by requiring incoming first-year students to take a 1-credit IGD course (equivalent to the CAWC’s Intro to Voices program) following UNV 101 (or similar discipline-designated courses; e.g., CHM 147). Thereafter, provide other academic and co-curricular IGD opportunities for further development.” Then there’s this:

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Ethics Quote Of The Week: Paul Mirengoff

“Conservative America is disgusted with the NBA, and therefore is tuning it out. We’re disgusted ….with the embrace of the radical BLM movement by the league and its players….My problem was what was allowed, indeed encouraged, during the games. I will not watch any sports event during which the preaching of politics or ideology occurs. I guess I’m not alone.”

—Conservative lawyer and blogger Paul Mirengoff on the Powerline blog, discussing the huge fall-off in TV ratings for the current NBA play-offs.

Mirengoff is wrong to attribute this reaction only to conservatives, however. I have spoken with many sports fans who would not fit that description who are equally disgusted with the professional sports leagues. All of the leagues made a foolish assumption that by embracing the views of many progressive activists, they would at least hold on to the allegiance of  fans who agreed with those positions. ESPN and many sportswriters have made the same mistake., and it’s a stupid one. If I go out to dinner and the service staff bombard me with their political views during the evening, it doesn’t matter if I agree with what they say: I didn’t come to the restaurant to listen to political diatribes.

If you’re wondering about the ellipses, I left out a reference to the NBA’s addiction to China’s money, leading the league to ignore the despicable human rights record and political oppression in that country. That is a conservative complaint, and a valid one, but I doubt it affects NBA play-off ratings one tick.

I haven’t finished my letter to the Boston Red Sox, but I write it as I completely ignore the baseball play-offs as I will through the World Series. I want to make sure the team realizes that if its ugly promotion of Black Lives Matter could alienate me, it is in big trouble in the community. The players need to understand that as well, but it was up to management to tell employees to do what they were paid for, and not use their celebrity to make incompetent and divisive political statements. Continue reading

The Breonna Taylor Non-Indictments [Updated]

We’ll see just how much Facts Don’t Matter in the Breonna Taylor fiasco aftermath. I heard shameless race-huckster Ben Crump speaking on TV, and when he started blathering on about 1619, I changed the channel to a re-run of “The Andy Griffith Show.” As a friend says, memorably but grossly, “There is some shit I won’t eat.” The sentiment is apt here.

The Kentucky grand jury did not indict current and former police officers for the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, though her name has been prominently linked to that of George Floyd and others during the promotion of protests and rioting in the George Floyd Freakout. As with Floyd, there was no evidence of racism in the death of Taylor, other than the fact that the three cops involved are white and she was black. That’s enough for the presumption or racism to stick, as we have learned in other cases, thus “justifying” Crump’s pronouncements.

Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, was sleeping in her apartment on March 13 when police officers Jonathan Mattingly, Myles Cosgrove  and Brett Hankison, operating with a no-knock warrant that was mistakenly processed, burst in. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, thinking that the apartment was being invaded, shot at them, and they returned fire. Taylor was accidentally killed by a bullet from Cosgrove’s gun in the crossfire, and five other bullets struck her as well.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron held a  press conference after the grand jury’s decision was announced, explaining that because Walker fired first, Cosgrove and Mattingly were “justified in their use of force after having been fired upon.” The result was pre-ordained from the beginning unless prosecutors violated all ethical standards and pushed the jurors to indict the officers for Taylor’s death anyway as a sop to Black Lives Matters and an attempt to stem the violence likely to follow if the officers weren’t sacrificed to the mob.

I, legal experts, and anyone paying attention  doubted that the grand jury would or could return murder indictments on this set of facts. The 12 jurors did return three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree against Officer Hankison for shooting his gun into the apartment next to Taylor’s, but that is unlikely to calm the fury of those who want to riot on general principles, if you can call “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!” a principle. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/22/2020: Death, Ethics, And Rationalizations

I just learned that my sweet, kind cousin Kathy has died as the result of several recently discovered brain tumors. I hadn’t seen her for decades, so in my mind she’s still 35, vibrant  and beautiful. I have to come to terms with the fact that we had no relationship at this point, but her loss still stings. She lived alone after her marriage with a real creep fell apart; never had children. Like all of the Coulourises (my mother’s side), family was so important to her. I could have picked up the phone.

1. I suppose today’s anniversary of Lincoln signing the  Emancipation Proclamationin 1862 has to be noted, but it was a strategic act, not an especially ethical one. After all, it exempted slaves in the border states, which allowed slavery  but had not joined the Confederacy. After the Union’s sort-of  victory at the Battle of Antietam earlier in the month,  Lincoln announced that enslaved people in areas still in rebellion within 100 days would be free. Then, on January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation, which declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebel states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”  Note that it freed no slaves that he had the power to free, but the maneuver successfully made the Civil War about human rights. Anti-slavery nations like Great Britain and France, which the Confederacy desperately wanted as allies,  couldn’t back the Confederacy after Lincoln made the war explicitly a statement against slavery.

2. Does Mitt Romney have any core principles at all?  If he does, I don’t know what they are. It has always been clear—I hope— that he is a pure pragmatist, doing whatever he thinks will work at any given time. Non-ideologues often make effective leaders: FDR was one. Lincoln too. Romney would hate this, but Donald Trump is like Romney in that regard. (So are Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.). Over in the Facebook hive, the Deranged are gnashing their teeth over Romney’s announcement that he’ll vote for a qualified nominee for SCOTUS. I guess they thought that he would be like John McCain, and be governed by spite. Sure, Romney voted for impeachment because it was meaningless except to give the President a poke in the eye. He is still a Senator from Utah, however. he’s not going to torpedo an effort to solidify a conservative majority on SCOTUS.

If he were a Senator representing Massachusetts, it would be a different tale.

3. Black Lives Matter quietly deleted the “what we believe” page on its website. You know, that was where the group said its mission is to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure,” to “dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work ‘double shifts’ so that they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work,” as well as “foster a queer-affirming network” by “freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual.” Maybe they were afraid all of those corporations, sports teams and politicians proclaiming their support might finally decide to read about what they were endorsing. Continue reading

Constitution? What Constitution? A “White Lives Don’t Matter” Program In San Francisco

This is just one more Exhibit in the case to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt  that the current “movement” exploiting the death of George Floyd is not concerned with seeking equality of opportunity or eliminating “systemic racism.” Instead, it seeks to install a system that favors races it cares about over others. You have to admit, the evidence is damning.  If this were a trial, I’d request a directed verdict.

From the S.F. Gate:

Mayor London Breed Announces Launch of Pilot Program to Provide Basic Income to Black and Pacific Islander Women During Pregnancy …

Mayor London N. Breed, in partnership with Expecting Justice, today announced the launch of the Abundant Birth Project, a pilot program that provides targeted basic income to women during pregnancy and after giving birth. The pilot will provide an unconditional monthly income supplement of $1,000 to approximately 150 Black and Pacific Islander women in San Francisco for the duration of their pregnancy and for the first six months of their baby’s life, with a goal of eventually providing a supplement for up to two years post-pregnancy. Expecting Justice, a collective impact initiative led by Dr. Zea Malawa at the San Francisco Department of Public Health and supported by the Hellman Foundation and the UCSF California Preterm Birth Initiative, will study the resulting health impacts of the pilot program, which is the first of its kind in the United States….

The program is racially discriminatory on its face, and Breed, Dr. Zea Malawa, the San Francisco Department of Public Health,  the Hellman Foundation and the UCSF  are either civically ignorant, racists, dumb, hoping to get away with something they know is illegal, or some combination of two or more of these.  So are other funders mentioned in the mayor’s press release:Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Genentech, the Kellogg Foundation, San Francisco Health Plan, Tipping Point, Economic Security Project, Walter and Elise Haas, San Francisco Foundation, and the Friedman Family Foundation.

The program cannot withstand the inevitable legal challenge. Eugene Volokh, a Constitutional law specialist, explains, Continue reading