Tag Archives: “Dear colleague” letter

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/4/2018: 500 Days Edition

Good Morning!

1.  In one respect, it is his fault. The most infuriating defenses of the Samantha Bee cunt-fest may be the rationalizations who pronounce her blameless (and thus Turner/TBS) because President Trump made her do it. (Well, maybe the second most infuriating: CNN fake-ethics commentator Brian Stelter actually referred to the episode in a tweet as the “feckless” controversy. You see, Brian, when your field is journalism ethics, you can’t play deceit games like that, because…oh, why do I bother?). To be fair, however, while Bee and the other potty mouthed resistance members and DNC leaders should be held responsible for their own ugly conduct, electing Donald Trump did give a cultural green light to incivility and assholery.

Since nobody else gives me credit and public recognition when I’m right before most of the chattering class (Ethicists Don’t Matter), I have to do it myself. Here is what I wrote in part on September 10, 2015:

We have elected Presidents without experience, who were narcissists, sociopaths or psychopaths, who were not too bright, who were unjustifiably cocky, who spouted policy nonsense, who had only style without substance, who acted tough, who were the product of marketing rather than talent. Some of them turned out to be pretty good; some of them surprised everyone and changed their ways. None of them wrecked the nation. I am confident that even at this difficult time in our nation’s history, reeling from the serial incompetence of  the Bush and Obama administrations, the United States could survive a Trump Presidency as a nation.

We could not, however, survive it as a culture.

Placing a man with Trump’s personality and his rejection of the basic features of civilized conduct and discourse to an extent that only the obscenely rich or the resolutely misanthropic can get away with would ensure that American culture would deteriorate into a gross, rude, selfish, assault muck in which no rational human being would want to live…

Even if Trump was a policy whiz, a political magician and a foreign policy master who balanced the budget and restored American’s primacy in the world, it would not be worth what would be lost: dignity, fairness, civility, caring, respect.

Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Week: Andrew Sullivan

“When elite universities shift their entire worldview away from liberal education as we have long known it toward the imperatives of an identity-based “social justice” movement, the broader culture is in danger of drifting away from liberal democracy as well. If elites believe that the core truth of our society is a system of interlocking and oppressive power structures based around immutable characteristics like race or sex or sexual orientation, then sooner rather than later, this will be reflected in our culture at large.”

      —-Andrew Sullivan, in a New York Magazine essay titled “We All Live On Campus Now”.

Once again, blogger-turned-essayist Andrew Sullivan arrives at an accurate assessment of an ethics problem in society without being able to avoid his own biases in trying to assess where the problem came from, which would be extremely easy if he were capable of objectivity. I recommend the whole piece, though Sullivan is an infuriating truth-teller and iconoclast trapped inside an angry gay man who can’t muster  the integrity to directly criticize his sexual politics allies.  Incredibly, Sullivan substantially blames Donald Trump for the phenomenon he assails here, which is ahistorical in the extreme, bordering on delusion:

“Polarization has made this worse — because on the left, moderation now seems like a surrender to white nationalism, and because on the right, white identity politics has overwhelmed moderate conservatism. And Trump plays a critical role. His crude, bigoted version of identity politics seems to require an equal and opposite reaction. And I completely understand this impulse. Living in this period is to experience a daily, even hourly, psychological hazing from the bigot-in-chief. And when this white straight man revels in his torment of those unlike him — and does so with utter impunity among his supporters — there’s a huge temptation to respond in kind.”

Good God, Andrew, show some backbone. Trump, as can be documented and proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, was the “response in kind” to the identity-based social justice movement that was weaponized and reached the point of madness under the leadership of Barack Obama. Why should anyone listen to you when you equivocate like this and make false excuses for what was spinning out of control before anyone thought Donald Trump had as good a chance of becoming President as Martin O’Malley? The University of Missouri meltdown that triggered an across-the-nation epidemic of identify politics warfare occurred in 2015. You know that, and you still write this fiction? What’s the matter with you? Continue reading

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When Doing The Ethical Thing Is Ugly But Necessary: AG Sessions’ Retracts One Of Those Obama “Dear Colleague Letters”

By the way, “when doing the ethical thing is ugly but necessary” both refers to Sessions’ action and my writing this post…

 In March 2016 , President Obama’s Justice Department sent another one of the administrations patented (well, not really) “Dear Colleague letters” like the one that was used to bully colleges and universities into punishing male students for alleged sexual assault in the absence of sufficient evidence. This one was sent to state and local courts, urging them <cough>to review their procedures regarding fines and other punishments issued to the indigent  to ensure that they were consistent with “due process, equal protection and sound public policy.” The Justice Department’s 2016 release linked the letter to its description of a $2.5 million grant program to help agencies develop strategies that reduce unnecessary confinement of those who can’t pay fines and fees.” The letter said in part,

“Typically, courts do not sentence defendants to incarceration in these cases; monetary fines are the norm. Yet the harm caused by unlawful practices in these jurisdictions can be profound. Individuals may confront escalating debt; face repeated, unnecessary incarceration for nonpayment despite posing no danger to the community; lose their jobs; and become trapped in cycles of poverty that can be nearly impossible to escape.”

The letter also outlined “basic constitutional principles” regarding fee and fine enforcement. They included: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/23/2017: Special “Love Him, Hate Him Or Tolerate Him, Ya Gotta Admit President Trump Isn’t Boring” Edition

I don’t know about you, but I was getting mighty sick of those “morning” shots…

GOOD MORNING!

1 Peggy Noonan, the former Reagan speechwriter who writes powerfully and is not afraid to take unpopular positions, has been as critical of Trump as any rational pundit. She writes in her latest column, that the news media has misrepresented Trump’s U.N. speech, which, she says further,  was what the U.N. “needed to hear clearly and unequivocally.” She adds,

A great line—because it spoke a great truth—was this: “The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.” Mr. Trump then paused and looked at the audience. It struck some as a “please clap” moment. It struck me as a stare-down: I’m saying something a lot of you need to hear. You’re not going to like it, and I’m going to watch you not like it.

… Mr. Trump is on a roll, a sustained one the past few weeks, and this is new. All levels of government performed well in the hurricanes. Mr. Trump showed competence, focus and warmth. His bipartisan outreach, however it ends, went over well with core supporters and others. He had a strong speech at the U.N., in fact a successful U.N. week, beginning to end. His poll numbers are inching toward 40%.

Noonan meets the ethical standard that the mainstream news media, critical pundits and “the resistance” have relentlessly breached: give the President credit when it’s due, and subdue bias to engage in objective analysis for the public;s enlightenment.

2. Ann Althouse, also noting that the President’s poll numbers have been creeping up (a. Not that much b. Who trusts polls? c. So what?), polled her readers regarding why they thought this was happening. Her options were mostly the right ones, though Peggy’s “bi-partisan outreach” was conspicuously missing…

“Hurricanes”—these sorts of natural disasters are usually opportunities for Presidents to play President, and that seldom is anything but enhancing to a POTUS’s image. Ronald Reagan’s speech after the Challenger disaster was a perfect example. Trump gets less credit than he deserves because the news media works hard to represent anything he does in a negative light.

“Kim Jong Un”—Since so many progressives believe that we should keep allowing North Korea to extort the West by endlessly appeasing it, it is hard to see Trump’s hard-line stance moving the needle.

“U.N. Speech”—unless American read it, which few have, I assume the (false) mainstream narrative that it was a disaster prevails.

“Normalization happened”—THAT’s certainly wrong. If it means that General Kelly has made a big and positive difference, then OK. The Wite House is certainly more normal than it was, but far from normal.

“Russia collusion story fading”: “The resistance” is still certain that Trump bartered to win the election and will be impeached for it. Facts, evidence and reality are irrelevant to them.

“Successful policies have been implemented”—In fact this is true, but again, the only ones who know it are pro-Trump partisans,  the small number of citizens who dig through the static and fog of mainstream media Trump Hate, and those who don’t think any retreat from the inexorable progression to open borders, socialism and Big Brother is a tragedy.

“Nothing’s gone horribly wrong (yet)”: The Trump Deranged think that everything has already gone horribly wrong, and that we’re all going to die. Here is a typical Facebook post from a good friend this week:

Trump IS deranged. And we’re all going to pay for it. Am I surpised that a hermetic totalitarian proto-monarchy has created a Kim Jong Un? No, it’s completely predictable and logical. That the US of A has elected someone who is NO better whatsoever than Kim, and in some ways quite worse, is the unforgivable aspect of this whole equation.

“Bad things like The Wall and repealing Obamacare seem to have been merely campaign bluster”Nah. Lots of other things were bluster; these were just impossible.

But I voted for this one, also supported by my friend’s crazy post: “Trump haters are tiresome.” “Tiresome” is professorial nice-speak for “So vile, un-American and unhinged that if they want one thing, sane and fair and rational citizens will increasingly prefer the opposite.”  The category includes “tiresome” public figures like the Late night “comedy” show hosts, Bill Maher, Samantha Bee, Hollywood, MSNBC, Maxine Waters, the New York Times, CNN, Black Lives Matter, Tom Perez, Elizabeth Warren, and, of course, Hillary Clinton. It’s pure cognitive dissonance.

Naturally that choice is also leading in votes, followed by hurricanes, North Korea, and the UN speech.

3. As always, when the President is feeling cocky, he lets loose with dumb tweets and inflammatory comments just to remind us that he’s not going to change. This morning he reacted to San Francisco Warriors super-star Steph Curry saying that he “didn’t want to go” to the White House when the President hosts the traditional visit from championship sports teams, tweeting,

“Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”

Stipulated: this is petty, and beneath the President’s office, like 99% of his tweets. It shows thin skin and vindictiveness, and is punching down in the sense that any attack on a citizen from the White House is punching down.

And yet, and yet…I have to say I smiled when I read it. It is damaging for athletes and cultural role models to be disrespectful to the President, the Office, and the country. Curry was gratuitously rude, and deserves a rebuke…just not from the President of the United States.

(I still hope Trump retracts the invitation to the whole team.)

The other outburst, also involving sports, is indefensible.

At a Huntsville, Alabama rally for Republican Senator Luther Strange, who is running in a special GOP primary election to remain in the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump went off script and said,

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” Trump said. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country…But do you know what’s hurting the game more than that? When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem. The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway.”

Ugh. Owners have a right to discipline players for bringing politics onto the field. When a President tells them to, that  edges too close to government action, chilling speech, and a First Amendment violation.

On the other hand, one does not have to be a conspiracy theorist to detect an uncoordinated but pervasive effort in the news media, academia, the tech sector, show business and Hollywood, and now sports, to flood the culture with so much progressive propaganda and anti-Trump bile that government becomes impossible. The effort has to be countered, but the President is not the proper one to counter it. Still, the integrity and functioning of our democracy is at stake.

4. In Ann’s “Successful policies have been implemented” category, except I would call it “essential polices,” was the expected withdrawal of the Obama Education Department’s infamous “Dear Colleague” letter that prompted universities to dispense with due process and fair standards when finding male students guilty of sexual assault and rape. Blogger Amy Alkon, another rational Trump critic, nonetheless enthusiastically and definitively slapped down an awful, ethics-devoid Times op-ed that, as the Left is wont to do these days, argued that the innocent until proven guilty standards and equal justice should be re-calibrated for the greater good, which is to say, for the benefit of favored groups. Alkon writes of the feminist authors,

[T]hey clearly aren’t looking for justice for all, but just justice for some: typically, the woman. They continue:

The preponderance of evidence standard is also survivor-centered. When judging whether someone has been raped, it’s almost impossible to assert that a sex act constituted violence “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Our justice system in this country involves erring on the side of freeing a possibly guilty person in hopes of seeing that innocent people are not imprisoned. The fact that it is sometimes hard to judge a “he said”/”she said” case does not change that.

On the other side, and in Althouse’s  “Trump haters are tiresome” ( “tiresome”= frequently biased, ignorant, dishonest, undemocratic, unfair, vicious and hypocritical, as well as dumb as bricks) category, we have this tweet from snarky female comic Chelsea Handler:

“Thank you @betsydevos for making it easier for rapists going to college to get away with raping innocent women. What a role model…”

Anyone who thinks that is clever or true needs to—quickly— read the Constitution, perhaps with a literate translator, maybe a U.S. history book or two, and get at least a rudimentary understanding of the principles underlying the United States and its values.

_____________________________

Graphic: heartist

 

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The “Unacceptable Word” Fiasco: OK, Now I Really Want To Know How Many Progressives Seriously Endorse Stuff Like This?

I just received an email from the Democratic National Committee urging me to protest Betsy DeVos’s (completely valid and overdue) withdrawal of the “Dear Colleague Letter” by which the Obama Department of Education pressured universities into dispensing with due process when a male student is accused of sexual assault. “Tell Trump and DeVos not to undo President Obama’s policies to combat sexual assault on campus!” it bleats. The e-mail blast (if I ever find out who put me on this list, there will be blood), quotes DeVos, as if this advances their case, as saying, “If everything is harassment, then nothing is harassment.”

The Education Secretary was exactly right, and a story today from Reason shows why.

Joshua Zale, a student at Moraine Valley Community College, was asked by his drama instructor to play a pimp asking for money from another student, playing the role of a prostitute in an improvisation exercise. Improvisation means that the actors work without a script. In the process of the improv, Zale used an “unacceptable word” according to the instructor, who was apparently improvising the role of a fool. The teacher immediately reprimanded Zale, who later insisted on a private meeting to learn why he had been attackedfor using a word he felt was consistent with  the role he had been assigned.  Assistant Dean Lisa Kelsay subsequently accused  Zale of violating Title IX—the weapon of choice in the “Dear Colleague Letter”—and school conduct policies by sexually harassing his acting partner “as a woman.”

No one has yet divulged what this “unacceptable” word was. I have taught improvisation. I am a pretty creative guy, with a fairly extensive vocabulary. I cannot imagine any word, from Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis to supercalifragilisticexpialidocious to Bill Maher’s favorite, cunt, to “penis breath,” uttered by a child in the opening minutes of “E.T.”, that would be “inappropriate” in an improv, especially in a scene involving a sex worker and a pimp.

As you know, ethics stories often remind me of TV shows and movies. This one (see the video clip above)  reminds me of a famous “MASH” episode, “The General Flipped At Dawn,” in which Harry Morgan, later to play lovable, crusty old Col. Potter, played an insane general. Reviewing the MASH squad, he asks Radar, “Where are you from, son?” Radar answers, “Iowa, sir..” only to have the General scream, “NO TALKING IN RANKS!!!!”

Maybe the improv instructor, Craig Rosen, flipped too. That would be an excuse, at least. But how do you explain the Assistant Dean? Continue reading

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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

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/5/17

Good morning!

1. I’ll have more later on the leaked transcripts of the President’s private conversations with the presidents of Mexico and Australia. Whoever did it was betraying his or her superior and the nation, and  needs to be identified and prosecuted. This is malicious sabotage, and nothing less, designed to make it more difficult for this President to function. Those attempting to justify it and rationalize it disqualify themselves as objective critics of the President and also as responsible citizens. The conduct cannot be justified, and no one should attempt to justify it.

The Washington Post publishing the transcripts is a hostile act. True, in today’s Wikileaks world they would have been put online somewhere, but absent some scandalous disclosure in one or both of them, this wasn’t news. The news is that embedded foes of ourelected government are willing to harm the nation in order to undermine the President.

Eventually, the question turned yesterday to why the contents of the transcripts did not prompt any further headlines or allegations of scandal. The answer is that the hoped-for smoking gun proof of the President’s incompetence did not surface in either conversation, so they were no longer of any interest. Ann Althouse, to her credit, waded through the entire exchange with  Peña Nieto, and you can read her analysis. The liberal blogger’s conclusion:

“But what can his antagonists grab onto? They can’t very well oppose crushing the drug gangs or better trade deals. So it’s no wonder they went big with Oh! He insulted New Hampshire! And that’s it for the transcripts. Don’t encourage people to actually read them. They might think Trump did just fine.”

Can’t have that.

2.  Rep. Maxine Waters responded to the leaked discussions by saying that she hoped such leaks continued. She is calling for and endorsing illegal and unethical conduct that is damaging to the United States, as a sitting member of Congress. I wonder if she could say anything, including calling for Trump’s assassination, that would attarct rebuke from her party? I doubt it. I remember the howls of horror from Democrats during the 2016 campaign when candidate Trump said,

“I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press”

There is no ethical difference between calling for Russia to hack a U.S. citizen’s e-mails and calling for government employees to break the law to reveal secret government communications. If there is a difference, it was that Trump was joking, and Waters is not.

3.  With tattoos more popular and visible than ever, the Federalist is suggesting that there is something wrong with getting them—that is, wrong other than the fact that many people think they are unsightly; that the more people have them, the less effective the things are as statements of rebellion and individuality; that they trigger biases in many people (like me), including employers (Did you know that the Armed Services will to accept a volunteer with more than 25% of his or her body covered by tattoos, on the theory that this is res ipsa loquitur for someone with dubious judgment?); and that they are excessive expenditures for a permanent ink-blotch that the odds say you will regret sooner or later. Continue reading

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