Tag Archives: civility

The Sudden Fall Of Milo Yiannopoulos: An Ethics Cautionary Tale

milo-y

Wow.

Frank Sinatra would have recognized this tale…

That’s life (that’s life) that’s what people say
You’re riding high in April
Shot down in May

But will Milo Yiannopoulos, the deliberately offensive Breitbart editor,  alt-right cheer-leader, misogynist and professional  troll be able to emulate Ol’ Blue Eyes and be back on top, back on top in June?

Uh, no.

Good.

In case you missed it, Milo had this very month soared higher than any vile, bigoted, uncivil loudmouth without any talent other than being vile, bigoted, and uncivil—are those really talents?—had soared before. Thanks to the fact that his threatened presence as an invited campus speaker had exposed the deep, anti-speech, totalitarian strain in U.S. higher education, and that the currently super-charged Leftist hypocrites who were already playing Brown shirts in response to the Presidential election smoothly transitioned to rioting at Berkeley because of the alleged threat posed by this silly, self-important jerk, Milo had become a genuine celebrity, thus ruining the name of Milo, maybe forever, which had previously evoked…

milo-oshea

…late Irish character actor Milo O’Shea

milo-m

…”Catch 22″ con man Milo Minderbinder (Jon Voight played him in the film), and…

milo-and-otis

…nauseating Japanese puppy and kitten-pal flick “Milo and Otis” (that’s Milo on the right).

But I digress.

Milo’s infamy  had snagged a book deal that would guarantee him millions. He scored a high profile interview on HBO with fellow troll, misogynist and jerk-in-arms Bill Maher, who is as much of an asshole as Milo but never gets shouted down when he appears on college campuses because he aims his vile words at conservative values, icons and figures, and most conservatives believe in free speech. Best of all, CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, debased itself by inviting him to speak, on the theory that the enemy of their enemies is their friend, or something like that.

Milo had hit the celebrity jackpot! Rich! Famous! Influential!

…Shunned. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, language, Popular Culture, Race, U.S. Society

Ugh. Well, I Guess That Answers The Question About Whether Being President Would Make Trump More Civil…

pocahontas-saves-smith-1870

Apparently during a meeting with Democratic Senators, President Trump repeatedly referred to Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas,” the mocking nickname (which didn’t originate with him) often used by her detractors to refer to Warren’s unsubstantiated claims of Native American heritage. Warren once exploited what she later asserted was oral family lore to benefit from a university’s affirmative action hiring policy.

No, she was not at the meeting. From George Washington’s 11o rules of civility:

Rule 89: Speak not evil of the absent, for it is unjust.

Ugh. To say that Presidents Trump’s mockery was uncivil and unpresidential is insufficient. Using playground name-calling to denigrate any elected official is boorish, juvenile and really, really stupid as well. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Leadership

The President’s Ethics Grades So Far

six-pillars

Is it fair to grade President Trump on his ethics after less than a month? Of course. If he wanted to pay attention to this area, the President would certainly seek an objective progress report. There has been enough activity in three weeks to give some preliminary grades. Ethics Alarms began this adventure with low expectations; after all, I have never read or heard a single statement from the President, ever, that suggests that he thinks about or cares about ethics at all. His behavior and opinions appear to be entirely governed by rationalizations, emotions, and impulse. However, we do have hope, and three weeks of a presidency is not sufficient to extinguish it. There is plenty of time for President Trump to address his ethical shortcomings

Let’s use the Josephson Institute for Ethics’ Six Pillars of Character for this exercise. All graded categories should be regarded as incomplete, and the offered grades as provisional only. Remember, these are ethics grades only.

I. TRUSTWORTHINESS, including Honesty in communication, Candor, Truthtelling, Reliability, Sincerity, Honesty in Conduct, Integrity, Loyalty

The President and his agents, like Spicer and Conway, have been especially loose with facts and assertions, some of which can be excused a bit as carelessness, but the sheer volume of misinformation is daunting. I suppose one could argue that Trump is reliably unpredictably, but that’s not what the value of reliability is all about. The President’s astounding verbal sloppiness makes it impossible to gauge sincerity (is he really out to ban Muslims, or just determined to keep out Muslim terrorists?) I score Trump relatively high on integrity, as shown by his Inaugural speech. Whatever he thinks he means, he really means it. (The contrast is Hillary Clinton.) Trump is loyal. Loyalty is a troublesome value that can be abused as often as not: he was loyal to appoint Ben Carson to the cabinet, but it’s still an unethical act, since Carson is unqualified beyond belief. But loyalty also covers conflicts of interest, and the appearance of impropriety. The President’s conflict of interest problems have not been seriously addressed, and won’t be.

He hasn’t been trustworthy, so his grade here is..

F

II. RESPECT, including Civility, Courtesy, Decency, Dignity, Tolerance, Acceptance, Autonomy Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Leadership

Women’s March Ethics: Now THAT’S Ad Hominem!

ashley-judd

Ashley Judd, indulging her inner Trump.

I often have to correct commenters on Ethics Alarms who accuse me of engaging in the argument fallacy of ad hominem after I pronounced them jerks, fools, or idiots based on their comments. (I shouldn’t do that, but sometimes I can’t help myself, and if it stops me from going crazy from all the stuff I have to  read every day to decide what gets published, we all benefit. well, I do, at least.) No, I explain, with more or less patience, that’s not ad hominem. It would be ad hominem if I wrote, “Your argument can be safely ignored because you are an idiot.” Then I would be using an author’s presumed character, intelligence or acumen to discredit his or her opinion. That’s unfair and illogical. An argument derives its value and persuasiveness from its contents, not its messenger. It would also be an ad hominem attack if I responded to a comment with a stream of vile insults.

If, however, I read a comment, determine it to be based on bad facts, bias, poor reasoning and faulty logic, I may justly conclude that only a dolt would express such an opinion in public, and say so, as in, “You are a dolt.” That is a diagnosis—an insulting one, to be sure, but still just a diagnosis.

Now, thanks to actress Ashley Judd’s performance today at the Washington, D.C. version of “The Women’s March,” I can use her as an illustration of what an ad hominem attack is, and why it should be avoided.

Judd read a poem by an angry 19-year-old, that contained the lines..

“I am a nasty women.’I’m not as nasty as a man who looks like he bathes in Cheeto dust…I’m not as nasty as your own daughter being your favorite sex symbol, your wet dreams infused with your own genes…”

Stay classy, Ashley.

You see, mocking someone’s appearance—it is a cardinal sin if it is a woman’s appearance that is being mocked, of course, adding hypocrisy to the mix—is pure, unadulterated ad hominem. It is also gratuitous meanness that has no communication value other than to say, “I hate you.” “I hate you” is not an argument. In fact, “I hate you” is a statement of bias. I can’t trust the assessment of an individual regarding what another individual says or believes if the critical individual hates him.

Additionally, the denigration is pure tit for tat, Rationalization 7.  That’s Donald Trump’s favorite rationalization. Stooping to Trump’s favorite method of debate, name-calling, isn’t persuasive or helpful. I’m sure it feels good, though. I guess that’s enough for Ashley and all the protesting women who clapped and cheered.

Morons.

See, now that isn’t ad hominem, because by behaving like this, Judd undermines the whole protest. And that’s just plain stupid. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Rights

Revised Ethics Alarms Comments Policies

battle-marvel

Ethics Alarms has now been active for seven full years, and there have been more than 160,000 comments on the 7000+ posts here. It is time—past time, really— to revise the Comment Policies based on what I have learned, and based on what the blog has become and what I want it to accomplish.

This site exists to encourage an ongoing, rigorous and engaging inquiry about ethics, from the perspective of events large and small, in the United States and the world. Ethics evolves as societal standards and norms evolve. We accomplish that evolution, usually in enlightened directions, through advocacy, disagreement and debate, using logic, values, principles, systems and facts. The comment section has evolved as moderated colloquy among intelligent, articulate and open-minded readers, and me, as the author/ ethicist/host and moderator. I have learned a great deal from the site’s readers, and hope to continue to do so.

Ethics Alarms offers the following 20 guidelines and rules to advance this mission:

1. Before you comment for the first time, check the terms and concepts page if you can. It will avoid misunderstandings

2. I prefer full names attached to comments.. If you want to use a screen name, I have to know who you are. You can e-mail me your name at jamproethics@verizon.net, and it will not be divulged. You must enter an e-mail address, and it must be real. If you use a fake e-mail address, your comment will be deleted. No comment signed “anonymous” will be posted. Ever. (Well, hardly ever) If you use a URL as your screen name, I will treat the comment as spam no matter how trenchant your observations are.

3. I have to approve every first time commenter, and as with bar associations and Harvard College, the standards used to screen applicants are tougher than the standards applied once you pass. If your initial foray here is gratuitously disrespectful, nasty, snotty, disparaging,  obnoxious, or just plain stupid, your comment won’t make it out of  moderation. Similarly, non-substantive comments expressing approval or disapproval without more are worthless, and I’ll reject them.  Initiating your relationship on Ethics Alarms with snark, sarcasm, nastiness or ridicule is a bad strategy–as I noted above, you have to earn the privilege of talking to me like that. You may not get a second chance.

4. Regular commenters have special privileges. They can engage in tough rhetoric bordering on insult, as well as brief comments that would not pass muster with a first-timer. But always remember that you are a guest here. Guests are obligated to prove their trustworthiness and good will before they are extended special privileges, and even those privileges have their limits.

5. Political rants are not welcome.  In addition, efforts to muddle genuine objective ethical analysis by pressing ideological talking points and bombarding me with links are not appreciated, and won’t be tolerated for long, if at all..

6. Keep comments as civil as possible. Ethics Alarms does, at its discretion, permit vulgarity and profanity for style and emphasis. I will show limited tolerance for rude and abusive comments and commenters, depending on the combatants. At my sole discretion, I may extend special dispensation for regular, substantive commenters here who have accumulated good will and trust, even when they cross lines that I would not permit to be crossed by a less-credentialed visitor [See below]. While a verdict of “you are an idiot,” may occasionally be justified, I may ding comments that include gross personal attacks, subject to the exceptions noted above, unless it has an extremely impressive substantive argument accompanying it. In the heat of debate, Ethics Alarms will tolerate the  occasional insult  If commenters become overly nasty and personal in their exchanges with each other or habitually so, I will intervene.

7. Ethics Alarms discourages text jargon and abbreviations. “LOL”,  in particular, is guaranteed to annoy me. Also disfavored are popular slang words designed to denigrate a belief, an individual or political groups, like “Repugs,” or juvenile name-calling like “The New York Slimes” or “The Washington Compost.”

8. I’m very likely to respond to your comments. Don’t try hit-and-run tactics here, and don’t think you can get away with an unsupported, badly-reasoned or purely emotional argument and not get called on it. On the other hand, if I don’t respond, don’t take it personally.

9. Re Links: Relevant links are appreciated. Irrelevant links will cause a comment to be deleted as spam.( Remember that if you include more than one link, your comment gets automatically stalled in moderation.)Links to your related blog posts must be supported by a substantive comment on the topic as well: this isn’t your bulletin board. Similarly, the URL of your blog is not going to make it into the comment, and if you persist in trying to slip it through, I will start marking the comments as spam. I am happy to plug, including a link to  your blog, if you write me first and explain why it is relevant and useful to Ethics Alarms readers, and I concur. Your comment, however, is not a vehicle for spreading your blog information around the web…not here, anyway.

10. Typos: I regret that WordPress has yet to install a good editing function for comments. Please proof yours. I will endeavor to fix obvious typos, and if you e-mail me a request to delete or otherwise repair a mis-typed section of a legitimate comment, I will try to reply. I will respect style choices like eccentric punctuation, capitalization, syntax or spelling, but comments that are careless and difficult to read or understand risk being rejected.

11. Me: I reserve the right to sharply express my annoyance with comments that I regard as careless, poorly argued, based on partisan hackery, stupid, unethical  or ignorant. I am prone to be testy at comments that fall into any of the following categories:

1) Those that say I should be writing about “more important things.” I do. But I don’t have to write every post about the earth-shattering, and trivial incidents can still teach important lessons.

2) Comments that include “lighten up,” “calm down,” “get a life,” or anything similar. Please don’t presume to gauge my emotional state or dictate it.

3) Comments that accuse me of ignoring topics or not making arguments when in fact other posts on the site covered those topics and did make those arguments. I don’t require that you read everything, but do not make allegations when a simple key word search on the site would disprove them.

4) Putting words in my mouth, or ascribing  opinions to me that I have not stated. I hate that.

5) Being snotty about typos. I make mistakes, and appreciate being told about them. Nicely.

6) Mockery without substance.

7) Racist, misogynist and otherwise bigoted rants.

12. On occasion my annoyance may cause my reply to seem excessively severe. In such cases, please point this out, and I may well apologize. I may not, too. If a comment is especially ignorant or dumb, I have been known to bluntly describe it as such. I will continue to do so. This is part of my effort to elevate the discussion through negative reinforcement. This is not a site where you can just dash off a barely considered shot and get away with it. Continue reading

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Filed under The Internet

More From The “When Ethics Alarms Are Devoured By Hysteria And Partisan Hate” Files: KABOOM!

Thank you and Merry Christmas, Carl Palladino.

Thank you and Merry Christmas, Carl Palladino.

How somebody in the public eye can utter opinions like this for publication is absolutely beyond comprehension.  Hence the inside of my head is now outside my head. The red on the walls and ceiling looks kind of Christmassy, I must say.

A Buffalo weekly called Artvoice asked several prominent local figures what they wanted for 2017, asking several questions.

Carl Paladino, a local developer Republican member of the Erie County school board who was Donald Trump’s campaign’s co-chair in New York answered the first two questions this way:

1. What would you most like to happen in 2017?

Paladino: “Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford. He dies before his trial and is buried in a cow pasture next to Valerie Jarret, who died weeks prior, after being convicted of sedition and treason, when a Jihady cell mate mistook her for being a nice person and decapitated her.”

2. What would you like to see go away in 2017?

Paladino: “Michelle Obama. I’d like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”

What is this? A breakdown? The equivalent of civic suicide? As I would assume the most mentally handicapped of socially-inept morons would expect, these vile comments, which Paladino knew would be published, immediately caused him to be condemned far and wide. Donald Trump’s transition team  called his remarks “absolutely reprehensible.”  Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz called on Paladino to resign immediately. Assemblyman Sean Ryan D-Buffalo said Paladino’s comments were “outrageous, dangerous and disturbing.” New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo described the remarks as “racist, ugly and reprehensible.”  Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown called the comments “terrible.”

By late yesterday, over a thousand people had signed an online petition calling for Paladino’s removal from the school board. Paladino’s response to the uproar?

“Yeah, I’m not politically correct,” he said. “They asked what I want, and I told them.” Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Kaboom!, Race, U.S. Society

A “Peace On Earth, Good Will Toward Men” Ethics Quiz: The Bitter Propane Dealer

A Skowhegan, Maine Trump voter.

A Skowhegan, Maine Trump voter.

The quiz itself has little to do with the fact that Michael Turner is the kind of bad American, bad neighbor, bad community member and  jerk who makes Ebenezer Scrooge seem like a mensch, but ponder on his conduct anyway.  If you are one of the residents in Skowhegan, Maine   and you call Turner LP Gas in Skowhegan, Maine to buy propane to heat your home, you get this message from the owner:

“If you voted for Donald Trump for president, I will no longer be delivering your gas. Please find someone else.”

No, it’s not a hate crime, it’s just hate. It gets cold in Maine, and Skowhegan, like the rest of the state, has a lot of poor people among it’s 8500 or so residents. It also has many who are elderly and poor, for whom having to find another propane supplier may be not just inconvenient, but life-threatening. This is why we have public accommodation laws: To protect us, especially the vulnerable among us, from bigots and bullies like Michael Turner.

He is no different in his lack of decency and the void of ethical values in his soul than the racists who refused to allow black citizens to frequent their establishments before the Civil Rights Act, bridal shop owners who won’t sell wedding dresses to same-sex couples, and the innkeepers who turned away a pregnant woman and her husband long ago, on a night we celebrate soon.

Ethics Alarms has discussed this ugly phenomenon many times. The Bush administration tried to validate it by approving the so called “workers’ right of conscience, ” that permitted a wide variety of health care workers to refuse to administer treatments they found morally repugnant. President Obama, to his credit, restricted that wide-open door to division and bigotry, then allowed the rest of his years in office to exacerbate societal schisms to the point that we have large numbers of a political party trying to overturn a legal election while calling  Americans who dared to vote differently than they did racists, sexists and fascists.

A recent Ethics Alarms post titled, “Americans: End This Slippery Slope Now, Before It’s Too Late,” about a Washington, D.C. restaurant that publicly apologized for letting an alt-right group to eat there, asked,

Are all groups, families and individuals now going to be required to declare their political and ideological positions before being allowed to order a lasagna? What is an acceptable group? If there is a protest over a Black Lives Matter dinner,  will Maggiano’s apologize? If Mike Pence and his family eats there and the “Hamilton” cast protests, does that mean they will refuse to serve cannoli members of the Trump administration? Despite the fact that the protests came from progressives, the attack on the restaurant is totalitarian in substance.  What is being commanded is conformity of thought.

Ah, but the persecutors are the good guys, don’t you understand? They know they are right, so they can rationalize hurting anyone who isn’t like them. Michael Turner is this breed of citizen. I must admit, when I warned that electing Donald Trump would turn the U.S. into a nation of assholes, I didn’t anticipate that it would be assholes like Michael Turner.

There’s no quiz on this topic, for it is settled ethics that his practice of punishing neighbors for their political views stinks. No, the quiz involves the conduct of Turner’s customers:

Today’s Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is this…

If Turner required customers to state that they voted against Donald Trump in order to buy propane from him, would it be unethical for Trump voters to lie?

Continue reading

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