Comment Of The Day: “Another Early Morning Seminar, Another Ethics Alarms Open Forum!”

As they often do, this morning’s Open Forum has brought forth a Comment Of The Day (and perhaps more than one; it is still rolling, and I haven’t read all entries yet.)  This one, by frequent Comment Of The Day auteur Chris Marschner, was written in rebuttal to an ethics  professor’s newspaper column arguing that “individualism” is  an illness. This is one more form of the general anti-American argument that socialists, communists, and, increasingly, progressives  have advanced against the core culture of this nation, which was founded on individual rights and the power of individual responsibility, accountability, power and aspiration.

I’m glad Chris saw this thing before I did, and did such an excellent, and measured job rebutting it. It might have killed me. The thought of a community college, where students often do not have the critical thinking skills or intellectual breadth of experience to be able to resist this kind of indoctrination, having a professor like the author tinkering with their brains and beliefs is the stuff of horror movies.

Here is Chris’s Comment of the Day  from today’s Open Forum:

“Several days ago an adjunct professor of Philosophy and Ethics at Hagerstown Community College penned an Op-Ed in the Morning Herald newspaper here in Hagerstown, MD., decrying Individualism as a disease of the mind which leads to racism and  mass shootings. I am sharing my rebuttal with the group.

On August 9th, under the headline “Enemies of a Nation,” Don Stevenson penned an Op-Ed telling readers that individualism is a “severing, often arrogant, disease that applauds the free-wheeling person or entity and claims the self-directing power of a sole personality or mind-set with little respect for diversity.” This is pure fiction. There is no reference to individualism as a mental disorder in the DSM-5 manual. Do not equate individualism with sociopathy and psychopathy, both of which, in my opinion, are nurtured through the self-aggrandizing processes of social media. The need for likes and followers is suggestive of a need for love and fame. The perennial lack of likes and followers reinforces a person’s dissociative mindset. This gives rise to aberrations of violence among a minute number of mentally ill people who lack the ability to process information normally.

A discussion of the effects of social media and the increasing incidence of suicide will be left for another day.

Mr. Stevenson’s piece was an ill-informed hit piece suggesting that the El Paso shooter’s motives were based  on nativist hatred of immigrants. It was obvious to me that Mr. Stevenson did not read the manifesto and relied solely on news accounts, for if he had read the text he would have quickly realized the shooter was claiming to focus on the common good for Americans. Mexicans just happened to be the target. The shooter clearly and unequivocally stated that his goal was to reduce the population because, he said, we are destroying the environment with too many people. He explained that he was unable to bring himself to kill those he considered his own countryman. He argued that Americans won’t change their lifestyle, and can’t afford to let others get used to this lifestyle. He claimed automation was going to create massive unemployment and, while universal health care and universal income would help, civil unrest would inevitably occur.  He railed against powerful corporations manipulating policy.

Readers should ask why the parts of the manifesto that did not fit the anti-Trump narrative but instead reflected the exact opposite were not as widely disseminated as the shooter’s beliefs about cultural replacement. Why have we hears almost nothing about the leftist motivations of the Dayton and Gilroy shooters? Nothing is more unethical than to have a teacher of ethics not research the subject matter beforehand, or worse, twist the facts to suit a desired narrative. Continue reading

Why Does Colby College Think That It’s Ethical To Keep A “Bias Incident Log”?

Might be time for a new motto, Colby. On the other hand...

Might be time for a new motto, Colby. On the other hand…

Wait…you say that more than a hundred campuses have this or the equivalent?

Oh-oh.

I am scheduled to teach a legal ethics class in the avoidance of bias in the practice of law next year, and I’m already worried. Past engagements of mine on this topic have been popular with attendees, but not always appreciated by my clients. The bar associations that make such training mandatory usually want to get someone to drone on about how lawyers should love Big Politically Correct Brother and search their souls for any germ of an attitude that would make Chris Matthews say they are racist, or the President of NARAL say they are sexist, or a Black Lives Matter activist call them privileged.  In other words, these are often devised as political indoctrination courses, using “bias” as code for “non-conforming thoughts according to progressive orthodoxy.”

I can’t and won’t teach that, because it’s as wrong as it is boring. Bias includes all ideas wedged in our minds that overcome reason and prevent just, even-handed, logical and fair decision-making. Bias makes us stupid, and for lawyers, the kind of bias I’m talking about undermines justice. Ironically, what most proponents of anti-bias courses want to do is instill biases that they and their partisan allies approve of. Once that is done, the Orwellian process is complete. “Bias” then means “not accepting our biases, which aren’t biases because we believe them, and we are good.”  The rationalization involved is 14. Self-validating Virtue.

The news and ethics issues are reaching one of those crisis points for me where everything seems to be connected to everything else, and I am torn whether to write one huge, conceptual post (the ones most readers skip) or a series of single episode posts. Facebook, a topic on its own, is revealing most of my friends whom I would identify as Democrats or progressives as in the grip of a crippling cognitive bias-based malady. Why did they think it was just wonderful for so many elected officials to deliberately ignore the core Constitutional principle of due process? Why did they reflexively attack the British vote to leave the European Union as “racist” or “xenophobic” rather than recognize it as a principled reassertion of their nation’s autonomy and democratic principles? How did freedom of speech, freedom of thought, true civil rights, and democracy itself become so alien to so many supposedly intelligent and self-proclaimed liberal adults?

Don’t worry, I’m coming back to Colby. It really does come down to bad and anti-American education poisoning the culture. In an excellent though disturbing essay on the Ethics And Public Policy website, Stanley Kurtz persuasively argues that U.S. education itself has turned against liberty, resulting in an increasing majority of citizens who do not believe or accept the virtues of core American ideals.

The incident that brought my attention to the Colby Bias Incident Log, which, at Colby and elsewhere, sends a Bias Response Team into investigation mode, was one in which a student was reported for allegedly using the idiom “on the other hand.”

No, this is not a hoax. It is not a joke. And what the fact that I am writing this suggests is far from funny. It is tragic. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: Dick Cheney

Hello, I'll be your torturer today. Now, if you are innocent, please understand, on balance this works.

Hello, my name is Skug, and I’ll be your torturer today. Now, if you are innocent, please understand, on balance this works.

“I’m more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that, in fact, were innocent.”

—Former V.P. Dick Cheney, giving his reactions on “Meet the Press” regarding the Senate’s critique of the Bush Administration and the CIA’s interrogation methods.

I try to be fair to Dick Cheney, whose character has been distorted beyond all recognition by his partisan foes. Sunday, however, he was apparently attempting to validate all the most terrible things anyone has said about him, as well as providing future students of ethics real life examples of ethical fallacies.

The one quoted above is the pip: so much for the jurisprudential principle that It is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer.”   Chuck Todd reminded Cheney that 25% of those detained were apparently innocent. The Cheney variation: “It is OK if some innocent persons are unjustly punished as long as the bad guys get what they deserve.”

It is hard to pick the most unethical assertion, however; there are so many horrible statements to choose from. Such as: Continue reading

A&E Does A Cracker Barrel

spine poster

The fecklessness and lack of core principles exhibited by our corporations is often breathtaking.

A&E has now, like Cracker Barrel, stuck its pusillanimous finger in the air and  decided that their “strong sense of integrity and deep commitment” to principle means that they do what whatever interest group has the most profit potential for them down the line wants them to do. Thus Phil Robertson is back on “Duck Dynasty,” and his “indefinite suspension” has been disclaimed by his employers. You can read A&E’s nauseating statement here…I considered posting it, but I don’t have the heart.

Everything I wrote previously about Cracker Barrel’s reversal on this same incident applies to A&E, but let me add this.

An organization with no core principles distinct from the profit motive is capable of anything, including outright evil. It is not worthy of trust. I would not and could not work for such an organization, and this episode makes me wonder if the entire concept of corporate ethics is a lie.

__________________________

Pointer: ablativmeatshld

Facts: Hollywood Reporter

 

Comment of the Day: Ethics Bob Asks: “Did Torture Lead Us To Bin Laden”? My Answer: “So What If It Did? It Was Still Wrong.”

How did we end up discussing torture on Christmas Eve?

Sorry about that.

timebombHere is a stimulating comment by Zoebrain in the “Zero Dark Thirty” torture thread. I’m especially fond of it, because as theoretical and probably impossible as her resolution would be in practice, it neatly addresses the central problem conflict in the “torture is an absolute wrong but you might have to use it to save the world” scenarios, like the familiar “ticking bomb” hypothetical.  In her analysis. one violates the absolute rule, but accepts a proportional penalty for doing so.

I advocate a similar approach in legal ethics in situations where a lawyer decides as a matter of personal conscience that he or she must violate core legal ethics values, like keeping the confidences of a client, in furtherance of a higher objective not recognized be the Rules of Professional Conduct, such as keeping a serial killer from going free.

Here is Zoebrain’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Bob Asks: “Did Torture Lead Us To Bin Laden”? My Answer: “So What If It Did? It Was Still Wrong.” Continue reading

Ethics Bob Asks: “Did Torture Lead Us To Bin Laden”? My Answer: “So What If It Did? It Was Still Wrong.”

It's all for the best.

It’s all for the best.

The last time my friend “Ethics Bob” Stone blogged about ethics, it was way back in August, and he was writing about some guy named “Romney.” Now he’s back on the job, thank goodness, with a comeback post titled “Zero Dark Thirty: Did torture lead us to Osama bin Laden?”. And he’s ticking me off.

“Zero Dark Thirty” is Hollywood’s treatment of the search, apprehension and execution of Osama Bin Laden. The film suggest that methods of torture were employed by the CIA to uncover crucial intelligence that led to the terrorist mastermind’s demise. Torture opponents, including some U.S. Senators, are alarmed by this, and disputing the film’s account. (Imagine that: a movie that misrepresents history!) Meanwhile, conservatives, neocons, Bush administration bitter-enders, talk radio hosts and admirers of Dr. Fu Manchu and James Bond villains are citing the film as confirmation that they were right all along: torture is a wonderful thing.

I am puzzled that Bob got in the middle of this debate as an ethicist. “It worked!” and “It came out all right in the end!” are not valid ethical arguments or justifications. The first is an embrace of a pure “the ends justify the means” rationale, a favorite tool of Auric Goldfinger and Dr. No. The other is consequentialism. When ethicists and principled opponents of torture allow the issue to be adjudicated on this basis, they are surrendering their principles at the outset. “Torture doesn’t work” is a pragmatic argument, not an ethical one. If the societal consensus regarding torture is going to be determined by how much we can benefit by returning to the rack and wheel, then ethical considerations have already been jettisoned. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “The Darkness of the Right, Pissing Away American Values”

Is that you, Rod?

This is a treat. I was hoping that my post about the most ethically-challenged of the Right’s uber-patriots cheering corpse desecration would flush out a full-throated cheerleader, and here he is!

In his indignant reply to Bill ( a Marine himself), first time commenter Haddit (who, I gather, has “haddit” with all this ethics talk) gives a bravura performance of exactly what ethics-free thinking will get you in this and other war-related issues. It turns people into clones of the ridiculous general (played by the late, great Rod Steiger) in Tim Burton’s “Mars Attacks,” whose nuanced response to every dilemma is “Kill! Kill! KILL!” ( I know, I know…in the movie it turns out that the general was right after all. It is a satire.)

Here is Rod’s, er, Haddit’s Comment of the Day (to Bill) on my post about the infamous pissing Marines, The Darkness of the Right, Pissing Away American Values. You’re welcome for the editing, Haddit. I’ll have some final comments after the featured rant:

“Are you kidding me? They should be punished?????? We train these guys and gals to be heart-breakers and life-takers, but “oh no don’t piss on the enemy”? I say we put all the bodies of our enemies in a giant blender and dump their remains on the cities where they lived and let’s see how long they screw with us. Desecrating bodies……….What does a bullet or a bomb do, man? War is being insane, doing insane things. Sane folks don’t KILL other folks. So, we teach em to be insane but with rules? THERE ARE NO STINKING RULES. KILL, KILL, KILL come the cries of our military men and women while in training. “WHAT MAKES THE GRASS GROW”???? “We don’t go to war to die for our country, we make the other poor bastard die for his country.” Continue reading