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

A Really Late Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/15/2020, In Which I Have A Revealing Exchange With A Woke Sports Journalist

How the day got hopelessly loused up:

  • At 8:30 am, I took my car to the dealer for a 5000 mile servicing. I had asked if I could get a loaner, and was told I could. But I’d have my car back in an hour, I was told, so I passed.
  • Then I found all the doors at the place locked until 9 am. I decided to walk several blocks to get a fast breakfast, but Popeye’s doesn’t have breakfast, and MacDonald’s doesn’t allow you to use the tables. This was a huge McDonald’s: 20 people could eat there and not be closer than ten feet. But Virginia, in the throes of Blue Madness, is catering to hysterics. I ate my sausage biscuit and hash browns and drank my coffee sitting on a curb, like a vagrant.
  • When I returned, I could get into the showroom to sit, but my glasses kept fogging up with the %$#@%!! mask, so I kept going in and out.  My car wasn’t ready at 9:30. It wasn’t ready at 10, or 10:30. They had me, as Beldar Conehead memorably said, “by the base of my snarglies.”
  • I also couldn’t complain, because they had assigned the servicing to my son, who works there.
  • I got home at 11:46 am, the morning effectively shot to hell.

1. The fascinating memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower will be dedicated this week:

Ike was one of my father’s heroes, and the first President I can remember. On a popular Boston kids’ show called “The Big Brother Show,” the host, Bob Emory, would call upon us to get a glass of milk and toast a photo of President Eisenhower as “Hail to the Chief” played. Because, you know, you were supposed to respect the Office of the President.  The New York Times couldn’t even write about a memorial to a Fifties era POTUS without making veiled insults to President Trump:

He was a leader who sought to work across lines toward a common purpose, driven by duty and pragmatism rather than ideology and divisiveness. He steered his Republican Party away from isolationism toward a bipartisan internationalism that prevailed until recent years. He sent troops into the South not to crack down on demonstrations for racial justice but to enforce the desegregation of schools. He ended the Korean War and balanced the budget, presiding over nearly eight years of peace and prosperity. And he pushed through an infrastructure bill that built the interstate highway system.

He also presided over a remarkably homogeneous society, was opposed by a Democratic Party with many selfless statesmen that was barely distinguishable from the GOP (Ike could have been the nominee of either party), and he still was covered by a news media that mostly held to traditional journalism standards.

Ike would have been called a racist and a fascist in 2020. Continue reading

Shocked—-Shocked!—That There Would Be Violent Protests Over An Unambiguously Justified Police Shooting

Okay, I confess. I’m not shocked.

I’m not even surprised.

It has been obvious for years that a critical mass of protesters/demonstrators/rioters who have repeatedly  inflicted their outrage on communities across the country are not doing so because of any reasonable and responsible desire to obtain police reform or address legitimate racial injustice issues. Responsible protests are based on facts, and the majority of the Black Lives Matter-triggered protests, inevitably endorsed by the Democratic Party, have neither waited for the facts to be determined nor cared what they were once they were determined. The objective is to create division, intensify racial hate, intimidate the community to promote concessions and capitulation, to gain power for extreme left and other activist groups, and to do harm.

Last month,rumors that Chicago police had killed an unarmed 15-year-old boy was all that was necessary to cause the mobs to hit the streets, although, according to ABC News, police had justifiably shot an armed adult male who allegedly opened fire on them. But Facts Don’t Matter: 13 police officers injured and neighborhood were trashed.  Also in August, false reports that law enforcement had killed an unarmed man resulted more rioting and looting. Just 90 minutes after the incident, they released a video and statement showing that an armed murder suspect committed suicide when police approached him. Never mind! Any death of a “person of color” with police in the midst of trying to do their dangerous and difficult jobs is provocation enough for violence, slogans, and chaos.

It was considerate of the unusual suspects—Look! Another Casablanca reference! —to eliminate all doubt by rioting over the shooting of madman who rushed a polite officer with a huge knife:

Would you have shot that guy? Oh, why didn’t the brutal police officer wing him? Hey, he didn’t even have a gun! That’s not fair!

That incident was sufficient provocation to sent 100 “peaceful protesters” into the streets of Lancaster, Pennsylvania last night. They vandalized the police station, broke windows, threw bricks, damaged private businesses and looted. They damaged a post office, because post offices are always shooting people of color. “Death to cops” was spray-painted on one building, See? The victim was only attempting to carry out the will of the woke. He was a martyr!

The objective of these protests/demonstrations/riots is to make it impossible for police to function, to intimidate them so that they allow dangerous people to break laws and evade arrest with impunity, and to surrender society to chaos.

The man who charged the officer with a knife was alreday facing trial for stabbing four people in 2019; he wasn’t kidding. Naturally, his family, including his sister who called the police, told the news media that he was a pussycat. This was all the fault of “the system.” “He had an episode. He was just incoherent and acting out,”  she said. “I called to find out what the procedure was to get him some help.”

You know, acting out!

By trying to stab people! Continue reading