What Destruction Of Public Art? What Slippery Slope?

I woke up today wondering  whether those who blindly applaud the carnage of the George Floyd Freakout are lying, frightened or ignorant. The late post last night on Commentary Magazine’s manifesto quickly attracted a comment from Rationalization #64 Land, where John Yoo’s Rationalization, “It isn’t what it is,” holds sway. Implicitly denying the editors’ substantive list of the mob’s acts, “Adam” wrote in part,  “Art must be propagandist or be chopped away? (What art? Where? Who? Propagandist? How?)”

The growing movement to “chop away” at the memorials and statues to men, women and events whose interaction with history and culture no longer conform to what most or many Americans consider admirable (or politically correct) has been growing for years, with the clash of protesters in Charlottesville over a Robert E. Lee statue being only the most publicized of incidents around the country. “What art?” If a citizen is so ignorant of current events,  he shouldn’t be registering an opinion until he educates himself.

Almost on cue (protesters have been very accommodating of late in confirming past Ethics Alarms analysis), a George Floyd mob in D.C. pulled down a perplexing piece of public art, the statue of Albert Pike (above), an obscure Confederate diplomat and general who wrote alternate, bellicose, lyrics to “Dixie.” Writing this morning about why the D.C. police stood by and permitted the vandalism, Althouse wrote,

[W]hy isn’t mainstream media delving into the details of why the police are not acting to protect city artworks and to restore order? Where’s the journalism?! My hypothesis is that the media want to help Joe Biden get elected, so they’re presenting a rosy picture of the protests and refraining from any negativity about the Democratic politicians who control the cities where the disorder rages. I’m sure the journalists realize that at some point the majority of Americans will prioritize their interest in law and order, but — I imagine — they hope to hold us back from that tipping point.

The second question I am musing on is when and whether there will be that tipping point, or if, in the alternative, a critical mass of oblivious or dishonest “Adams”  will keep the public somnolent until it’s too late to tip, with disastrous consequences. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/18/2020: The “ARRGGH!” Edition

A weekend?

Frankly, at this point, I can’t tell the difference.

1. ARRGH! Trump Calls For An Insurrection! I must say, having a President who is 12 does create problems. The President’s juvenile “Liberate Michigan!” tweet naturally had the “resistance” in an uproar; the Washington Post even dug up a lawyer from the Obama administration who was willing to write an op-ed seriously arguing that he had advocated the overthrow of the government. Oh, great, I can’t wait for Adam Schiff to try to impeach him for a tweet that had the gravitas of graffiti.

If one concedes that the President should tweet at all—and since he refuses to use any filters whatsoever, I don’t concede that; I doubt that anyone who wants to maintain credibility and trust should tweet—then urging the states to start nudging the economy back into operation is a legitimate objective, and so is opposing outrageous meat-axe over-reach by governors. mayors and police that abuse civil rights—like banning the sale of seeds, or being alone in a car. However, as I am sick of saying, the President’s mode of communication does not include nuance, which makes tweets like yesterday’s irresponsible and incompetent

2. “ARRGH! I’ve been infected!”  When the going gets tough, the tough get scamming. In Arcata, California, a fake on-line ordering webpage named “Order Hero” copied web pages from local restaurants including phone numbers, addresses and actual menu items. Customers accessed the  website through Google, then provided credit card information to order food.  When the victims arrived at the restaurant to pick up their order, they learned no such on-line ordering services existed.
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Easter Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/12/2020: Missing The Easter Bunny

Happy Easter!

That’s my favorite Arthur Sullivan Easter hymn…

Our family always celebrated Easter twice, at least when Greek Easter fell on a different date, which is usually the case.On traditional Easter, until my sister and I were well into high school, my parents hid two dozen colored eggs that we had decorated the day before all over the house for us to hunt for Easter morning. If there had been a pandemic then, my mother would have still hidden the eggs, because she knew even she, with her incredible talent for making BS credible, would not have been able to convince us that the Easter Bunny was “social distancing.”

How my parents loved family celebrations of holidays! I miss them so much, and days like this just makes not having them in our lives harder.

1. Can’t do this. I had been recommending the usually reliable website Ars Technica to my friends for updates on the virus so that they wouldn’t be battered hither and yon like skiffs made of paper on the ocean of hype and disinformation. I also relied on it myself. The site promised daily updates at 3 pm every day, along with a useful set of information, also updated as needed. Then, on April 6, the updates just stopped; no explanation, and nothing since. Unethical. If you promise a service for those in need of it, you can’t just stop it without warning or explanation. It doesn’t matter what the reason is. You have created reliance and  dependency. If you can’t be sure that you will carry through on your commitment, then don’t make it.

I headed a small professional theater for 20 years at great personal sacrifice on that principle.

2. Welcome to my world...Since so many were forthcoming in their reactions to my quarrel with one ex-commenter, here’s another one. Unsolicited, I received a book about two weeks ago from an Ethics Alarms follower. It was by L.Ron Hubbard, the science fiction writer and founder of Scientology, and the topic was ethics. I was and am grateful, for all ideas about ethics are interesting to me, and most come in handy eventually. A few days ago, I received a long, handwritten letter from the same source, who told me that he was no longer following the blog. He then excoriated my for insulting him by posting, so soon after receiving the book, this post, which in item #3 I  made some uncomplimentary comments about Ron’s “church” (it’s a cult and probably a criminal enterprise), its current leader, and his whacked-out message to the flock about the pandemic, which he called “planetary bullbait.”

My critic thought it was mean and rude of me to respond to his kind gift by deriding his faith and his friend, the Church’s  Chairman of the Board, David Miscavige.

I immediately wrote back in part, Continue reading

On The Recent Steele Dossier Revelations: An Open Letter To An Un-Named Former Ethics Alarms Commenter, Written In Disappointment And Disgust

Dear You Know Who You Are,

As you remember, well over a year ago you staged a grandstanding, insulting exit from participation on this blog, declaring that I had “drunk the Kool-Aid.”  Your false claim was provoked because I had successfully navigated through  lies, calculated disinformation and lawbreaking—engineered by those within and without the U.S. government—to conclude that a coordinated effort had been and was underway to overthrow the elected President of the United States. At this point, the fact that your accusation was based on your own blindness and bias is not subject to rational denial or debate.

I knew that at the time, of course. I also felt, and feel, that for you to behave that way, in public, here, was a personal as well as a professional betrayal. We had, I thought, a cordial and mutually respectful relationship. We had exchanged details about the high and low points of our lives face to face.  We are in the same field and profession. I trusted you.

I have provided you some slack in my ultimate judgment on your character because I know that, as we say here often, bias makes us stupid, even the best of us. I have seen this particular bias make many people, even some smarter than you, as difficult as it may be for you to conceive of that, both stupid and  destructive, apparently without a glimmer of self-realization. I recognize that it the phenomenon is, at this point, indistinguishable from an illness, one triggered by emotion and group-think. Thus I am, up to a point, sympathetic, just as I am regarding so many of my Facebook friends who figuratively make asses of themselves every single day  because they are addicted to “likes” and peer approval. Some of them are even lawyers, but you know…lawyers. That is a professional group, along with historians, politicians, historians, scholars, psychiatrist, educators and, of course, journalists, that has broken its duty of trust with the public as it joined a dangerous and unconscionable effort to break our democracy. Continue reading

Ethics Comes In Like A Lion Warm-Up, 3/1/2020: Dead Ethics Alarms In New York, London, And Washington, D.C.

That’s my father’s favorite March!

Mine too.

For some reason there has been a breakdown of civility in the comments lately. This has happened from time to time; something in the air or too many social media rants or something; I don’t really care. You all know where the lines are; you cross them intentionally when you cross them. I appreciate the use of a vulgar word or harsh phrase as much as anyone; “asshole” is particularly tempting, because there is no non-vulgar term that quite captures the essence of its meaning. I also prefer to keep moderation light here, and for the most part, the select commenters who have passed my standards and answered the three questions at the bridge correctly usually make me proud, especially when I see what crawls onto other sites’ comment sections.  The would-be Ethics Alarms participants who send in entries like “Your a Trump-loving fuckface LOL!are all stacked up in the spam vault, and you would not believe how many of those I have to read to maintain the high level of participants here. I do not care to read that kind of gutter residue on the blog itself.

I just trashed a full comment by a regular commenter here, something I have not done in over ten years, and I’m not happy about it. Let’s keep that lapse the anomaly that it is.

1. From the “When ethics alarms don’t ring” file. Pop Quiz! If you were on the staff of a fashion show about to begin at what the New York Times calls “New York’s famed Fashion Institute of Technology”—which I have never heard of—and several of the models appeared backstage preparing to go out looking like this…

…what would you do?

The answer is that no matter how high or low you were on the metaphorical totem pole, you would be obligated to throw a fit, phone the brass, tell everyone in sight that they are out of their minds, and do everything short of calling in a bomb threat to halt what you know without a shadow of a doubt will result in a public relations disaster.

Incredibly, not a single person raised the obvious objection except an African-American model-who refused to don the giant lips and monkey ears. After the predictable uproar, two F.I.T. administrators were suspended, and  the school’s president, Dr. Joyce Brown (who is African-American) issued a public statement admitting that the Feb. 7 show, intended to demonstrate the work of recent graduates of the school’s M.F.A. program, “failed to recognize or anticipate the racist references and cultural insensitivities that were obvious to almost everybody else.”

Wait—if they were obvious to almost everybody else, why were they not obvious to anyone involved in the show? Continue reading

To Paraphrase George M. Cohan: “My Wife Thanks You, My Blog Thanks You, And I Thank You.”

To our surprise and delight, we just had delivered to our door, fresh from Conklyn’s Florists, a beautiful  mixed bouquet in a lovely glass vase. The card attached reads,

“Dear Mrs. Marshall, Get well absolutely as soon as possible.

[Other Bill] and the rest of the Ethics Alarms Commentariat

This was so kind and unexpected. None of my 420 Facebook friends (and relatives!) were so moved (then again, most of them hate me.) My wife was stunned, and is very grateful. (She would have applauded, but she only has one functioning arm.)

She says:  “This is very much appreciated. It cheers me up a little, something Jack has failed at completely. It is also a relief to be able to look at the beautiful flowers instead of my black-and blue face. And the vase is especially welcome, as a one armed flower arranger is like a one -armed paper-hanger, and Jack is no help at all.”

The ethics value here is generosity and kindness.

Thanks, Bill, and thanks everyone.

Spurious And Vindictive Litigation Ethics: An Update On The Ethics Alarms Defamation Lawsuit

As I predicted yesterday, upon being informed that the plaintiff’s motion to reconsider the rejection of his appeal of the trail court’s rejection of his defamation suit had also been rejected, the now-banned Ethics Alarms commenter filed a petition for “futhur Appellate review” with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

The argument presented is an extension of his appellate brief, which erroneously relied on Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co., 497 U.S. 1 (1990), a Supreme Court case that is not germane to this one. The plaintiff isn’t a lawyer, though he is inexplicably confident of his legal analysis skills, which is unfortunate for both of us, as well as the poor judges and clerks in Massachusetts who have to waste their time and the State’s money dealing with these flawed motions and appeals.

The reason there was no defamation and could be no defamation is that my opinions of the plaintiff and his motives, harshly expressed as they may have been, were based entirely on what he had written on the blog and an email to me that I quoted, as well as the plaintiff’s own blog, to which I included a link. The core of defamation, be it libel or slander, is alluding falsely to or asserting some undisclosed event or conduct that a reader or a listener has no way of knowing whether it is in fact true or not. That was indeed the situation in Millkovitch, where  a newspaper columnist’s account of a brawl at a high school wrestling match reported that one of the teams’ wrestling coach, Millkovitch, had incited the riot and lied about it. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/13/2019: Protests, Insults, Complaints And Threats

Started this at 3:15 am.

To be honest, I’m going back to bed as soon I  post it…

1. Today’s sample of Trump Derangement: Someone calling himself “Morgan Kilgore” (not hi s real name, however) just submitted a comment in all caps, to this post from May. It reads: TRUMP IS A CROOK AND ROBINSON SAID IT VERY PLAIN SIMPLE, UNLKE THE MUELLER REPORT..YOU TRUMP SUPPORTERS ARE A BUNCH OF FOOLS,LEAD BY A FOOL AND CONMAN.IF TRUMP TOOK A DUMP ON YOUR TURKEY DINNER,YOU WOULD STILL MAKE AN EXCUSE FOR HIM AND IT’S
SAD PEOPLE,VERY SAD. HEY MAYBE YOUR CHILDREN WILL GROWN UP AND HAVE TRUMP. VALUES.

The comment makes no substantive arguments and does not attempt to rebut the post, which is pretty air tight, frankly. I get a lot of these. (“Morgan” will not be joining our discussions.) The comment is also pretty typical of what the average Trump-obsessed Facebook user posts or “likes” on a daily basis.

2.  Freedom of speech watch: Jonathan Turley, who deserves praise for relentlessly flagging and criticizing the alarming increase in anti-speech advocacy from the Left, notes,

“The doublespeak used to justify the denial of free speech is particularly chilling. The students [at Stanford] insisted that allowing people to hear [ conservative pundit Ben Shapiro]  put them at risk: “WE are tired of Stanford Administration’s complicity in putting Black, Brown, Trans, Queer, and Muslim students at risk by allowing SCR to bring Ben Shapiro to campus”…The students declared their commitment not “to allow Shapiro’s talk to go uninterrupted.” In other words, we will not allow other students and faculty listen and have a discourse with Shapiro. What is striking is how these students believe that denying free speech is a noble act — a view fueled by many faculty members who treat speech as violence or a tool of oppression. That makes being a censor sound like being a civil libertarian. You simply declare, as did the Stanford students, that this is a “harmful event” with “harmful people.” Done.

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Sunday Ethics Cooler, 7/21/2019, Because The Last Thing We Need Is A Warm-Up: “Oh, Just Bitching About Stuff” Edition

Hot enough for ya?

1.  THIS should drive my Facebook friends crazy...The latest SurveyMonkey/NBC poll out at the end of last week gives President Trump’s approval rating  at 48%. He reached 49% in a daily YouGov.com poll this month. In short, the concerted effort by Democrats and the news media to tar him as racist (again) as a result of his dumber-than dumb tweet conflating all four Democratic socialist freshmen with Somali immigrant Omar and evoking his alleged “shithole” comments about third-world countries failed (again.)

Yet a) nobody should trust polls, b) “approval/disapproval has a weak correlation at best with voting, and c) there’s a long way to go before November 2020. Still, I am tempted to post the story on Facebook just to evoke the howls of anger and protest I know it will trigger. After all, I have to keep reading, day after day, week after week,  the obsessive posting of the most ridiculous anti-Trump links imaginable. For example, who cares that some Holocaust survivor says that the U.S. today reminds him of “1930s Berlin”? That’s an idiotic, ahistorical, unsupportable opinion whether the opiner is a Holocaust survivor, Hillary Clinton or a man in a rubber room. The statement is no more respectable or worth posting than if he said the U.S. today reminds him of “Avatar,” the Gobi Desert or “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.”

It’s unethical to post things just to drive people crazy, though. So I won’t.

But I’d like to.

But I won’t.

2. Want to see a clinical example of the kind of people who can’t handle Ethics Alarms? Meet Taffy. I allowed Taffy Marchand’s comment on the Dad-drinking-daughter’s-breast- milk post, and now have had to ban or spam several insulting and/or idiotic comments that followed. Here’s what she wrote:

I am a nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit. We deal with breast milk all day long. I was taken aback by your consideration that this is, in any way, incestuous. I think that may have more to do with they fact that breastmilk comes from breasts. Which, perhaps you have sexualized to an extreme. If the father was nursing from his daughter that would be in question. She is merely pumping milk and leaving it in a container for him. We drink milk pumped from other species, so why are we so freaked out about human expressed breast milk? Is it going to cure his cancer? It’s very doubtful but there is clear evidence that breastmilk has a plethora of health benefits. I explain this over and over again to families that mom’s breast milk is the ideal nutrition for her infant, followed by donor breast milk because it is species specific, followed by formula, which is essentially expressed breast milk from another species. Also, I have all the empathy for a family struggling with a cancer diagnosis. I think it lacks compassion and consideration of their circumstance to consider an incestuous label. It certainly won’t cause any harm for him to consume breast milk.

  • The post didn’t say that it was incestuous. The quote: “What do we properly call a father consuming his daughter’s breast milk? Is that too close to incest for comfort? Does it matter if it’s close, as long as it isn’t quite?” As is much on the blog, and as the title suggested, the point was to think about ethical distinctions. “Close” to unethical conduct isn’t unethical, is it? Or is it?
  • Breasts are considered sexual equipment and sexually provocative in this culture, and indeed most cultures. Accusing me of “sexualizing them to an extreme” is a cheap shot, and unethical debate tactics.
  • “We drink milk pumped from other species, so why are we so freaked out about human expressed breast milk?” Well, heck, Taffy, why not just use mom and any teenage daughters in the house as cow substitutes, and save dairy expenses?
  • “It’s very doubtful but there is clear evidence that…” Signature significance for someone who isn’t thinking before they type. I’m not going to take insults from someone capable of writing that…
  • Empathy is irrelevant to the issue raised by the post. It is also the Universal Get Out Of Ethics Problems Free card.
  • “I think it lacks compassion and consideration of their circumstance to consider an incestuous label.” No, Taffy, it is never wrong to consider anything. NOT considering uncomfortable possibilities is the path to ignorance and ideological cant. Of course, when your mind is made up and you regard anyone suggesting a different perspective as a pervert, I can see how might miss this.

3. Well, there’s one more museum I can’t trust. The National Museum of African-American History and Culture by the Mall in D.C.  will be showing and old documentary on Angela Davis titled, “Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners.” After the screening Davis will be interviews and answer questions. From Smithsonian’s press release press release:

“We all recognize that Prof. Davis is a figure for the ages, as fascinating to us now as she was at the height of her incarceration and trial” (in 1972)…[hers ]“is a quintessential American story of activism,” and that “because of her activism in support of social justice, she was criminalized and named on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list.”

Why, of all places, is the Smithsonian engaging in fake history? From The Bulwark (and many other sources that corroborates this):

[Angela Davis] was tried for purchasing guns for a courtroom raid carried out by her lover George Jackson’s brother, Jonathan, whose use of these guns in a shootout (while attempting to flee) killed one of the four people he had taken hostage, a man named Judge Harold Haley. The purchase of these guns was easily traced to Davis who, rather than surrendering, fled to avoid being captured. She was eventually found at a motel on 8th Avenue in New York City, where she was taken into custody, having been charged by superior court judge Peter Smith with “aggravated kidnapping and first-degree murder.”

Rather than working for civil rights in the manner of Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, or A. Philip Randolph, Davis was a leader of the American Communist Party, and a member of the violent and armed Marxist group, the Black Panther Party. After her arrest, the international Communist movement declared her a martyr and Moscow orchestrated an international group of gullible Europeans who proclaimed her innocence and demanded her freedom. In Communist East Germany, school children were told to write postcards to her expressing their support and solidarity.

At her trial, the jury surprisingly found her innocent even though 20 witnesses had testified against her. Careful investigation later revealed how compromised the jury was. One of the jurors, Mary Timothy, would go on to have an affair with Communist Party member (and head of the official Committee to Free Angela) Bettina Aptheker. Immediately after Davis was acquitted, another jury member faced the reporters and TV networks and gave them the clenched-fist salute regularly used by revolutionaries. That juror, Ralph Delange, explained “I did it because I wanted to show I felt an identity with the oppressed people in the crowd . . . and to express my sympathy with their struggle.”

Great…just what we need: Communist indoctrination at the Smithsonian.