Blogging Ethics: Althouse Snaps!

I’d say, all things considered, Ann Althouse runs my favorite blog. The former University of Wisconsin law prof who insists that she is “fiercely” non-partisan has a much broader range of topics on her eponymous site, many of them quirky, but she shadows ethics and legal ethics related stories that are Ethics Alarms fodder, and her commenters have become very similar in perspective to the commenters here. Her reactions to the Trump years and the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck were usually very similar to mine, so obviously she is fair, objective, and perceptive. I keep sending links her way even though she resolutely refused to give Ethics Alarms a link before she eliminated links entirely, and it appears her weird obsession with drawing cartoon rats has finally abated.

But this morning, the blogger announced that she was unhappy with her readers’ comments, which she lightly moderates, and ran a poll to get feedback as she apparently considers eliminating them altogether. I don’t know what Ann dings, but the comments I see only includes a few that Ethics Alarms wouldn’t post. The vast majority of readers polled voted for either her current moderation standards to remains as they are, or for her to moderate everything but block very little. (I voted with 14% for “Comments must go through moderation, and Althouse selects the most readable for publication.” None of the choices mirrored my approach, which is to moderate initial comments strictly and give leeway to veteran commenters while suspending or banning those who violate the Comment Policies.

Althouse is apparently upset with commenter criticism. In response to the comments on her poll, she responded in a series of comments (Althouse, unlike me, seldom enters the commenting ranks on her own posts):

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“How Is Rewarding Unethical Behavior Ethical?”

Every now and then a comment on Ethics Alarms that I have not answered personally sticks in my brain like a musical earworm, literally keeping me awake at night. This was one of those times. That proclivity is one reason I have made over 50,000 comments on my own blog among the 300,000 here in the decade Ethics Alarms has been in existence. The vast majority of bloggers don’t do that; most don’t comment at all. I do it because, in addition to the biological need for sleep, I designed this forum to be a colloquy and an ongoing ethics seminar as much as a platform for my own analysis.

This time, the comment that stuck in my brain like “Thank-You Girl,” the Beatles’ all-time earworm, began,

“How is rewarding unethical behavior ethical?”

The comment came as a response to yesterday’s post explaining why it would be best for all concerned  if President Trump would stop claiming that the election was “stolen” or “rigged” (though it was both) and concede with graciousness and honor now that the chances of his prevailing in the Electoral College are vanishingly small.

I could answer that question in two sentences, or with a book. I will try mightily to come much closer to the former than the latter.

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Mid-Day Ethics Madness, 8/19/2020: Susan B., Fauxahontas, Utah…And “Gordie”

When I was looking through the 2012 posts yesterday, ultimately stumbling upon the long discourse about Barack Obama’s disastrous Presidency, I was struck by how, even in an election year, so many non-political ethics issues were discussed here. This is something that was already driving me crazy about 2020. Thanks to the pandemic, there is virtually no popular culture news. Legal ethics news is drastically reduced, as are reports from other sectors of society and culture. In this warped environment, politics spreads like kudzu, or killer bees, or snakeheads—you can choose your favorite invasive species or opportunistic organism analogy. I’m trying, I swear, but my over-all impression looking back on 2012 is that writing, and I presume reading, an ethics commentary blog was a lot more fun.

I’m sorry.

1. Today’s rejected Ethics Alarms comment comes from “Gordie,” was opining on the post on Ellen De Generis’s late hit accuser. He wrote,

Ellen was an a$$ to this boy and shes paying for it now. All you lip huggers need to wake TFU and rejoice when you hear truth no matter how unsavory or unpalatable you find it. Be a bully, get bullied. Dont you all see that Karma train pullin up? And with enough hands to slap every butt as it goes on by toot toot

Observations:

  • Welcome to my world. This is why so few new voices are added to the commentariat here.
  • Does anyone know what a “lip-hugger” is?
  • Tells in the comment that let us know the writer can’t tell an ethics from fuzzy slipper: mentioning “karma,” and the statement, “Be a bully, get bullied.”

2. Here is some non-political legal ethics news, and it’s important, if technical.

Before this week, only the District of Columbia, where I am licensed, allows non-lawyers to be partners in law firms. The majority position in the profession is that non-lawyers inevitably have a different alignment of values from the legally trained, and thus are not likely to be as sensitive to duties to clients, like confidentiality, and conflicts of interest. Pure “investors” are also banned from buying a share of law firm profits, because they are deemed likely to be governed by financial needs and motives rather than the best interests of clients.

When the D.C. bar decided to break the mold decades ago, everyone assumed that other jurisdictions would follow its lead, and soon doctors, engineers, scholars and accountants, among others, would be joining firms and allowing them to add new services. (Europe and Australia already allow  such “multidisciplinary firms.”) It didn’t happen.

Now, however, the dominoes might be starting to fall.  From the ABA Journal: Continue reading

Addendum: “Now THIS Is “Condign Justice”: The Democrats’ Hypocrisy And Bill Clinton’s Massage”

The Clinton spin machine is already trying to minimize the significance of the photo of Bill Clinton being massaged by one of Jeffrey Epstein’s sex slaves, which surfaced just as Clinton was about to speak at the  virtual Democratic National Convention. That spin machine is damn good—after all, it was taught by the best. The narrative, however, is the equivalent of throwing dust in the eyes of observers while they are being blasted by a fog machine.

Here is the current “it depends what the meaning of ‘is’ is” deceit from Clinton’s lackeys, which was kindly provided by a commenter:

  • The woman who was giving him the massage in the photo was 22 years old at the time, not underage.
  • She really was a trained massage therapist.
  • The photo was taken in a public place — an airport — during a trip to Africa for a humanitarian mission, not to Jeffrey Epstein’s pedophile island.
  • Clinton was in the company of several celebrities “who have never been accused of wrongdoing” who believed they were taking part in a genuine charitable event.
  • According to the masseuse, Clinton was charming and sweet and did nothing inappropriate during the trip.

I wrote the following in response, which Zanshin, another veteran commenter, proprly suggests should be buried in the comments, which, sadly, a lot of readers ignore. I’ve edited it slightly: Continue reading

Hispanic, Latino, Latinx…A Correction of Disinformation Perpetrated On Ethics Alarms!

I’m sure it wasn’t intentional,  but on October 25, in a thread in response to this post, the estimable and usually reliable commenter Still Spartan stated as fact, in no uncertain terms,

My point is simply that speech about race has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. When is the last time you’ve heard the word Oriental? Heck, we don’t even say Hispanic anymore. But we did 20 years ago….Most people now use the term Latina or Latino, and even that is being replaced with Latinx. 

Your host responded,

If [ “most people”], do,then they are mistaken. Latino is a subset of Hispanic (meaning those from Spanish-speaking nations or regions) , which is why most political organizations use Hispanic in their title. Actually, the various groups don’t particularly like being lumped together at all. Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Puerto Rican-Americans and others resent the generalizations. Just because one’s “crowd” does something doesn’t make it correct or virtuous, but it’s true that a shocking number of people reason that way.

I don’t mean to pick on Still Spartan, but as there is so much angst these days about misinformation being spread on social media and the web, I certainly don’t want Ethics Alarms to be part of the problem. And, I confess that it annoys me when someone curtly declares here something to be true here that I am fairly certain is not.

SS also suggested in the comment above that “Latinx” was replacing :Hispanic.” I was dubious about this too. By happenstance, a recent poll on the topic, the results of which you see in the graphic, was introduced thusly on Medium:

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Poll: The Racist Comment

Ethics Alarms received another one of its periodic racist comments today. As with most of them, it was generated by this post, about the racist site Chimpmania.

Unlike most of the comments I get of this ilk, this one is reasonably well-written: the writer probably has most of his teeth and would beat the kid who plays the banjo in “Deliverance” handily in Scrabble.

I routinely spam these kinds of comments, even the articulate ones. For a while I would allow the first one in, with a warning, but for more than a year I’ve just refused to publish them. Is that both ethical and wise, though? I am liking all forms of viewpoint censorship less and less of late, especially since Ethics Alarms is a victim of it. If there are substantial numbers of people who think like this bigot, shouldn’t the rest of us know about it, and learn what we can about their reasoning and motivation?

The contrary view is that this comment and the others like it are res ipsa loquitur, inarguable examples of uncivilized discourse that society reasonable and legitimately refuses to tolerate for its own safety The problem with this construct is that there are no clear standards to block the slide on the slippery slope. If it is legitimate to put racism, anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and misogyny in the category of the properly censored, why not, according to another censor’s sensibilities, climate change skepticism or support for President Trump?

I’m interested in how you respond to this poll:

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/15/2019: Fevered Ethics Musings, and More” [Item #2]

Cultural literacy pop quiz: who’s the quote from?

This Comment of the Day by Benjamin, a relatively recent recruit to the discussions here, typifies the thoughtfulness and seriousness that distinguishes the commentariat at Ethics Alarms. Ann Althouse, a blogger (whose work  Facebook doesn’t block) with a much larger readership whose topics often mirror mine, just announced that she is considering changing “the commenting experience”:

I’ll regard the comments submitted to moderation as private messages to me, and I’ll only publish comments I think readers would generally enjoy reading — comments that are interesting, original, well-written, and responsive to the post.

I consider most of the comments here interesting, original, well-written, and responsive to the posts. The kind of comment that Benjamin registered is rare on Althouse, or any blog, really, though not rare here. (The exceptions would be PopeHat, whose progenitor has, at least for now, apparently abandoned for greener pastures, and the original Volokh Conspiracy, before it moved to the Washington Post, and then Reason). Why is that? One reason is the subject matter; another is that commenters who can’t express themselves, issue uninformed opinions or who just aren’t too bright don’t do well on Ethics Alarms. Another reason is that, as I have probably complained about too much, the mass exodus here of the Trump Deranged and knee-jerk progressives has eliminated most of the “You’re an idiot!” “No, you’re an idiot!” exchanges that pollute most blogs, as well as comment sections everywhere.

Here is Benjamin’s Comment of the Day on Item #2 in the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/15/2019: Fevered Ethics Musings, and More:

My efforts at suppressing the sin of schadenfreude are becoming futile. The things festering behind fiercely-reinforced masks are starting to spill putrid materials out of the eye and nose holes nearly everywhere and all at once. I believe I’m addicted to two “drugs”: watching good men hoisting the black flag and destroying evil with relish in the name of a good end, e.g. Liam Neeson’s Taken is dangerous for me to watch – I start getting ideas – so I’ve placed an embargo for myself on such plotlines; and watching evil destroy itself. I don’t think I’ll need to embargo the latter, though. There’s nothing more instructive of the fact that difficult-but-correct choices ought to always be chosen over immediately convenient wrong ones than watching the effects of a century or so of those wrong choices. Continue reading

Is The U.S. Ethically Obligated To Grant Asylum To All Oppressed Women?

In a recent irresponsible statement in reference to the government shut-down over President Trump’s wall, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that he didn’t want a border wall to be the symbol of America, that he wanted the Statue of Liberty to be that symbol. In this context, it is impossible to interpret Schumer’s words as anything but a weaselly, wink-wink, coded endorsement of open borders. When the statue was dedicated on October 28, 1886, the U.S. had few limitations on immigration. Non-citizens could vote in most states. The population was about 50 million, or about 1/7 of what it is today. The famous poem by Emma Lazarus,  “The New Colossus,”  is not part of the statue, nor is it official U.S. policy. Today it resides in the Statue of Liberty Museum. In short, it was a different country, with different problems and priorities.

Now comes the terribly sad story of two young Saudi sisters who apparently committed suicide by drowning themselves in the Hudson River rather than return to their country, where women are second class citizens. Should such a story have any relevance at all to U.S. immigration and asylum policy? Should how much a non-citizen wants to live here be a factor in what the U.S. decides is the best criteria for allowing an immigrant to arrive and stay? If the two sisters could be granted asylum because they were women in a culture hostile to women, why not all Saudi women? Why not all Muslim women who are “yearning to be free”? Continue reading

Monday Ethics Musings, 11/26/18: Surprise! I’m Not Going To Discuss The Border Mess Here.

Good Morning!

Well, the combination of the holidays and my extended illness, plus some lost days due to travel and speaking engagements, just resulted in the worst 9 days of traffic in recent Ethics Alarms history. As Robert E. Lee said after Pickett’s Charge, “It’s all my fault,” and I want to express my gratitude and appreciation to the readers and loyalists here who continued to visit, read and comment despite my failure to keep up on content.

1. I WAS going to cover the “caravan’s” travails...but when I started it was clear that the topic would be too long for the Warm-Up. Reflecting my disgust as the dishonest and hysterical punditry on the matter, low-lighted by the “They’re gassing women and children!” narrative, I was also going to title the post, “Morning Ethics Throw-Up.”

2. Yesterday’s post about Bill “Bojangles” Robinson has garnered an unusual response so far: far more links to social media than comments. This essay is a good example of why I miss the self-exiled progressives here. I really would love to read an argument of why Fred Astaire’s homage to his friend and teacher is nonetheless racist, because it’s “blackface.” I don’t expect good or persuasive arguments, mind you, because I doubt there are any. But we all benefit from the process of debate when both sides are intelligent and arguing in good faith. Even the most doctrinaire ideologue’s per-programmed talking points can be valuable, if only to help us understand how the hive-mind is buzzing.

An aside: I wonder how many Americans under 50 know what The Kingston Trio was, or have any idea how influential they were on music and the culture in the Fifties and Sixties?

3. Yeah, I guess this is bias. Still...A Nassau County (New York) judge, Thomas Rademaker, had ordered the jailing of a dead-beat dad, Michael Berg, in November 2016 and said he could win his release by paying nearly $518,000 to satisfy his obligations. Rademaker also told Berg that he “symbolizes everything that’s wrong with the world today.” He called Berg “selfish,” “self-interested,” “lazy,” “arrogant,” and said Berg was the last guy he would “want to be in a foxhole with” because he would “fold like a cheap suit.”

The appeals court decided that the judge’s comments had crossed the line and constituted sufficient evidence of bias to mandate a new judge to be appointed to consider whether Berg had willfully failed to pay child support. Berg had not moved for a recusal, which meant the bias issue was not preserved for appellate review. The court said it was nonetheless considering the issue of bias “in the interest of justice.”

I’d love to see how Berg argues that he unintentionally neglected to pay a half-million in child support. Continue reading

An Urgent Message From Your Host

I appreciate that there are strong personalities with strong opinions in the colloquy here, and I like it that way. I also appreciate those of you with an acid pen. I do not want to censor Ethics Alarms. Established participants here get great leeway with language, because they have credit in the bank, and have earned the privilege of an occasional lapse. I also realize that harsh language has its uses.

However, direct attacks, including threats, against other commenters isn’t acceptable. It makes my blog look ugly, for one thing, and discourages new readers. It also, obviously, undermines the mission.

I do not want to micro-moderate Ethics Alarms, and I believe that all of the regular participants here are worthy of the trust I place in them.

Don’t disappoint me.