Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up: On Bans, Taboos, And Dreams

 

Good afternoon!

1. Answer: I’m thinking about it. A kind commenter asks when I am going to put up a full post about Facebook’s censorship of Ethics Alarms, which had harmed the blog’s traffic and, what is worse, made it increasingly difficult to carry the message of ethics over bias and rationalizations to the greater public.  One reason I haven’t made a bigger deal about this is that I am still unsure what’s going on, and why. Another is that this  all came down on me at the same time as this lingering cold/flu thing  that has required more rest and sapped more energy than is convenient, and in the grand triage of life, fighting with Facebook has had to yield to other priorities. I’m considering putting up a supplemental site to share Ethics Alarms essays. I’m thinking about launching an Ethics Alarms Facebook site. As I have said before, suggestions are welcome.

2.Happy Birthday, Tom! This is Thomas Edison’s (1847-1931) birthday, and celebrating it in the wake of the deranged “Green New Deal’s” plan to take us back to the Stone Age while financing the needs of those “unwilling” to work would be prudent. Edison personified the kind of creativity, industry, and risk-taking that America’s core values are designed to foster. He derided the label of scientist, insisting that he was “only” an inventor, meaning that his mission was to develop commercially viable advances in technology that made human lives better, richer, and more productive. Do they teach kids about inventors any more? My father made sure that I watched both “Edison the Man,” Hollywood’s biopic starring Spencer Tracy, and “Young Tom Edison,” starring Mickey Rooney, before I was twelve. I found the films inspirational then, and I find them inspirational now.

3. Another canary dies in the mine. Columbia University, long ago one of the cauldrons of student protest and defiant expression, followed the rest of academia by taking another alarming step toward constraining non-conforming student speech. It has substantially defunded the student band for defying the administration’s ban on “Orgo Night,”a Sixties tradition in which the students disrupted the sanctity of the library to lampoon the school’s oppressively serious culture. By itself, this is trivial. As part of a trend in American colleges, it is not. Many feel, I would say with justification, that the sudden squashing of the band’s irreverence  was sparked because it was “a liability in an age of heightened political sensibilities.” In other words, thoughts and ideas that the Left can’t control threaten the cause of enforced consensus. Continue reading

The Good News: This Hasn’t Happened Here…Yet. Well, Not Exactly…

I detest memes, but like all other rules, there are exceptions. Sometimes, only a meme will do.

Of the many warpings and distortions of a healthy culture we have seen emanating from the ideologically extreme, one of the more insidious is the antagonism towards humor. This episode speaks for itself.

The UNICEF on Campus chapter at the University of London sent five local comedians a request to perform at a club sponsored event. However, the requirements to be hired led all five to turn down the job.

Fisayo Eniolorunda, the club’s event organizer, wrote in an email, “Attached is a short behavioural agreement form that we will ask for you to sign on the day to avoid problems.”

Problems like actually being funny, apparently.

The “behavioral agreement” states,

“This comedy night… aims to provide a safe space for everyone to share and listen to Comedy. This contract has been written to ensure an environment where joy, love, and acceptance are reciprocated by all. By signing this contract, you are agreeing to our no tolerance policy with regards to racism, sexism, classism, ageism, ableism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia or anti-religion or anti-atheism. All topics must be presented in a way that is respectful and kind. It does not mean that these topics can not be discussed. But, it must be done in a respectful and non-abusive way.”

Respectful of whom and not abusive in what way? Oh, never mind. The agreement is a joke itself. What does “love and acceptance” have to do with humor? Does Fisayo Eniolorunda know what “Comedy” is? Of course comedy doesn’t have to be cruel or mean, but then an audience that would lay out such rigid standards can’t be trusted to judge what cruel, mean, respectful, non-abusive, safe—lordy, especially “safe”–or funny is. These are subjective standards being judged by people who are so besotted with ideological mania, virtue-signaling addiction and political correctness that they can’t be trusted. Continue reading

Foundation For Individual Rights In Education (The FIRE) Report: America’s Top Universities Deny Students Fair Hearings

(If you don’t know what this photo has to do with the FIRE report, you haven’t been paying attention…)

The FIRE, the heroic non-partisan non-profit that is dedicated to fighting restrictions on student speech, expression and other civil rights, has issued an important report showing how badly respect for Constitutionally guaranteed rights eroded during the Obama Administration’s embrace of the “war on women” narrative and radical feminist propaganda regarding the “rape culture” at American universities. From the press release:

“Spotlight on Due Process 2017” surveyed 53 of America’s top universities and found that a shocking 85 percent of schools receive a D or F grade for not ensuring due process rights. The schools were judged based on whether they guarantee those accused of campus misconduct 10 core elements of fair procedure, including adequate written notice of the allegations, the presumption of innocence, and the right to cross-examine all witnesses and accusers. FIRE awarded each institutional policy a grade based on how many of those elements it guaranteed.

“Most people will probably be surprised to learn that students are routinely expelled from college without so much as a hearing,” said Samantha Harris, FIRE’s vice president of policy research. “This report should be a huge red flag to students, parents, legislators, and the general public that an accused student’s academic and professional future often hinges on little more than the whim of college administrators.”

FIRE’s report found that 74 percent of top universities do not even guarantee accused students the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Making matters still more unjust, fewer than half of schools reviewed (47 percent) require that fact-finders — the institution’s version of judge and/or jury — be impartial.

Additionally, 68 percent of institutions fail to consistently provide students a meaningful opportunity to cross-examine their accusers or the witnesses against them — despite the fact that the Supreme Court has called cross-examination the “greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.”

Most universities try students under one set of procedures for sexual misconduct, and an entirely different set of procedures for all other offenses. Of the 49 institutions in the report that maintain separate policies for sexual and non-sexual misconduct, 57 percent grant students fewer procedural protections in sexual misconduct cases — even when those cases allege criminal behavior. Troublingly, 79 percent of top universities receive a D or F for failing to protect the due process rights of students accused of sexual misconduct….

The report later says that not one institution covered by the study received the top grade. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/30/17

Good Morning!

(I’m starting this post just a few minutes before noon, thank to a WiFi outage. I’m sorry.)

1. I finally saw “Passengers,” which most people and critics seemed to hate. I see no obvious inferiority to the over-praised and honored “The Martian” or “Gravity,” especially the latter, which bored me to tears, but never mind: it’s an ethics movie. It is also a moral luck movie, and that drove me crazy. I’ll bet so many viewers (SPOILER ALERT!) saw the film and came out saying, “She had to forgive him, because if he hadn’t awakened her prematurely to keep him company, everyone would have died!”

No, no, no! His (Chris Pratt’s) conduct toward her (that’s Jennifer Lawrence, and anyone who wrongs Jennifer Lawrence deserves the torments of Hell) was just as bad–and it was horriblewhether it turned out well by chance or not. Subsequent discoveries or unpredictable events cannot make an unethical act retroactively ethical.

2. San Francisco’s Medicaid program sends illegal immigrants this letter:

When the anti-Trump deranged argue that the President is “crazy,” my stock answer is going to be that nothing he has said or done is as “crazy” as the position that it is right and just to officially encourage foreign citizens to breach our borders, defy our sovereignty and break our laws….and the people trying to use the 25th Amendment to execute a coup are exactly the people who think the letter above is compassionate and right. (Believing that a coup is in anyone’s interest is also demonstrably nutsy-cuckoo, but that’s another issue.)

3. I am really going to be disappointed if NPR and PBS don’t get zero-ed out of the budget. I may be stuck with biased and incompetent journalism, but I shouldn’t have to pay for it.

In a segment of NPR’s “All Things Considered” this week (Yes, I generally think the show is excellent, but that’s not the point) about the “restorative justice” approach to campus sexual assault, reporter Tovia Smith quoted Columbia University graduate Emma Sulkowiczs, aka “Mattress Girl,” as a “survivor” of rape.

She’s not a survivor; she was a harasser, and Columbia just paid a financial settlement to her victim for permitting her to proclaim him as a rapist when the evidence didn’t back the claim. Columbia doesn’t believe Sulkowiczs was raped, and her accusation has been thoroughly discredited. Why in the world would NPR choose this cruel and discredited woman to profile while discussing actual campus sexual assault, and how could it be ethical journalism to still refer to her as a rape survivor?

Smith’s tweeted response to criticism was as damning as the choice of “Mattress Girl” itself:

“Sulkowicz considers herself a survivor & we ID her as such. We’ve clarified that their school found the student she accused ‘not responsible.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/14/17

Good morning!

1. It is a matter of constant fascination to me how all of President Trump’s personal lawyers appear to be flaming jerks, whatever their legal skills may be. Here’s an example from this week: Marc Kasowitz, President Trump’s personal attorney on the Russia conspiracy theory investigation, was contacted by a stranger, a retired public relations professional, who had read ProPublica’s unflattering story on Kasowitz. He sent the lawyer an email with the subject line: “Resign Now.’’

Kasowitz used the 30 minutes between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. to bombard the man with threats and epithets, writing such dignified  messages as,

“I’m on you now.  You are fucking with me now Let’s see who you are Watch your back , bitch/”

“Call me.  Don’t be afraid, you piece of shit.  Stand up.  If you don’t call, you’re just afraid.” 

“I already know where you live, I’m on you.  You might as well call me. You will see me. I promise.  Bro.”

Nice.

This isn’t a legal ethics violation, though it almost certainly would be if Kasowitz were addressing an opposing counsel in such a manner. It’s just generally unethical as outrageous, inexcusable, gratuitous incivility, reflecting poorly on him, his profession and his client. A client who was minimally concerned about ethics would fire him.

2. Speaking of a minimal concern for ethics, Trump’s defense of his son’s dumb but legal meeting with the Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary included the statement that “most people would have taken that meeting.” Once again, we have evidence that Donald Trump literally doesn’t know what ethics is. Oh, his rationalizations are the same ones the average ethically-retarded citizen uses—this is why he is President. They are still rationalizations. Yes, Mr. President, and most people would accept extra money from an ATM and not tell the bank about it. And most people lie to get out of trouble. And most people do all sorts of unethical things, which doesn’t make them ethical, responsible or appropriate.

He is the President, though, and this is how we will inevitably become a nation of assholes. 

3.  And speaking of assholes, there is Nancy Pelosi. Because a female journalist was blocked from access to the House of Representative by a Sergeant of Arms who properly pointed out that she was wearing a sleeveless dress, always forbidden according to Congress’s dress code, we were suddenly subjected to the false narrative that those mean, sexist Republicans were abusing women again, as well as being typically antediluvian in their ideas about propriety. (Men can’t go sleeveless either, but never mind.) Paul Ryan was the target here, as the Speaker is officially charged with enforcing such rules. The narrative was not really about the dress code, but just part of the over-all “Get Republicans” news media strategy to make the party as unpopular as possible. Yesterday Paul Ryan plausibly said that he wasn’t aware of the rule in question, and was happy to amend it. Then Nancy Pelosi piled on, tweeting, “Glad to see [Speaker Ryan] is updating the dress code for the House Floor. These unwritten rules are in desperate need of updates.”

Pelosi was Speaker for four years, her tenure ending just six years ago. The same rule Ryan is being attacked for was in place during her entire tenure. Why didn’t she fix it herself, dedicated feminist that she is? Her tweet is such obvious hypocrisy that it calls attention to the double standards employed by Democrats, the news media and women. Pelosi could have cheered the change without appearing to duck her own responsibility for their continuation. Instead, she acted as if she was an innocent bystander.

Nancy Pelosi is a major reason the Democratic Party has become a party of assholes. Who but an asshole would tolerate a national leader like this as the face of his or her party in Congress? Are Democrats proud of this woman? Do they endorse her tactics and rhetoric? We have to assume so, don’t we? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/8/17

[I have been pondering doing this for some time now. Literally every day there are issues and stories that arise that are either too minor for a full post, or crowded out by other issues. Often I never get to them. Also my various issue scouts (especially Fred) have been burying me with excellent candidates for discussion and analysis, and I never get to most of them, frustrating all of us. So I am going to see if I can begin every day with a set of short notes about these topics, reserving the right to expand some of them into full posts later.]

1. Stacy Lockett, a teacher at Anthony Aguirre Junior High, has been fired after she gave out facetious awards to students such as “Most likely to become a terrorist” and “Most likely to blend in with white people.” Good, I think. These are too sensitive issues to expect middle-schoolers to laugh at, and the ‘awards”  show terrible judgment. Still, I am thinking back to comments made in class by some of my favorite 7th and 8th grade teachers, some targeting me. I thought they were funny, and the teachers knew I would think so. All of them would have been fired today, according to the Lockett Standard (Pointer from Fred)

2. By not disciplining Reza Aslan, the host of its “Believer” program who called President Trump a “piece of shit,” “an embarrassment to humankind” and a “man-baby” CNN has made it clear that it has abandoned any vestiges of professionalism or regard for journalism ethics. Well, perhaps “even more clear” is more accurate. CNN allowed Carol Costello to gleefully mock Bristol Palin for getting emotional over being battered; it has allowed Don Lemon to get smashed on the air two New Year’s Eves in a row, and shrugged off Anderson Cooper speculating about the President taking “a dump on his desk,” to give just three examples. Its excuse for Aslan was especially weird, claiming in a statement that he was a host but not an employee. Aslan apologized, but it was a dishonest apology, claiming that the tweets were impulsive and “not like me,” but in another tweet on May 9, he wrote,

“Oh the joy when this lying conniving scumbag narcissistic sociopath piece of shit fake president finally gets what’s coming to him.”

It’s sad to see what CNN has become since Trump’s election. I am embarrassed for the network. but more than that, I am in sorrow for the public. It is not being served by this kind of amateurish, biased and unprofessional journalism.

3. I finally decided that this law suit was too stupid to write about: a ridiculous woman named Holly O’Reilly has found some lawyers—not just any lawyers, either, but the First Amendment Institute at Columbia University—-willing to file a lawsuit claiming that President Trump cannot block her on his Twitter account because doing so is a First Amendment violation of her rights of free speech. The institute’s executive director, Jameel Jaffer, said in a statement that Mr. Trump did not have a right to exclude his critics from engaging with his posts. Does anyone think this is anything but nonsense? Anyone but the New York Times, that is, which wrote, ” The request raises novel legal issues stemming from Mr. Trump’s use of his Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, to make statements about public policy,” and the Washington Post, which published the woman’s silly  op-ed .

When did “novel” come to mean “absurd”? The President blocking a Twitter user on the social media platform isn’t “government action” any more than not taking her phone calls or not reading her letters. She can still say anything she wants on Twitter. Next she’ll sue because she isn’t allowed to ask question at White House press briefings. Columbia University should be embarrassed, but when the anti-Trump  hate virus melts your brain, embarrassment is often the first casualty. Continue reading

When “Oh, Grow Up!”, “That’s Ridiculous” and “You Need Help” Are Appropriate Responses

Oops...I forgot the trigger warning...

Oops…I forgot the trigger warning…

Columbia University’s descent into madness continues.

Columbia University’s student newspaper recently featured four members of the school’s student Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board demanding that professors consider their students’ delicate sensibilites when teaching intense, violent or otherwise provocative material. This will give you a flavor of what the students advocate:

“Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” is a fixture of Lit Hum, but like so many texts in the Western canon, it contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom. These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background…Students need to feel safe in the classroom, and that requires a learning environment that recognizes the multiplicity of their identities. The MAAB has been meeting with administration and faculty in the Center for the Core Curriculum to determine how to create such a space. The Board has recommended three measures: First, we proposed that the center issue a letter to faculty about potential trigger warnings and suggestions for how to support triggered students. Next, we noted that there should be a mechanism for students to communicate their concerns to professors anonymously, as well as a mediation mechanism for students who have identity-based disagreements with professors. Finally, the center should create a training program for all professors, including faculty and graduate instructors, which will enable them to constructively facilitate conversations that embrace all identities, share best practices, and think critically about how the Core Curriculum is framed for their students.”

I take a lot of criticism on the blog for not expressing false respect when someone espouses a position that is cultural cyanide, or, in some cases, just plain stupid. This argument by the Columbia students would qualify. Some affirmatively bad ideas should not be pampered, mollycoddled or treated as if they deserve sustained attention and debate. It just encourages them. Long ago I feared that the multi-culturalism and diversity movements would run amuck, and indeed they have. Being literate,respectful and tolerant, as well as open-minded, toward other cultures is healthy and essentially American. Nevertheless, nations, societies and communities require a consistent culture, as well as the cultural values that a dominant culture contains. Ethics, among other critical features of a healthy society, is impossible without this, and chaos is inevitable. Continue reading