Ethics Quote Of The Week: John Hinderaker

“It is almost unbelievable how ignorant and ill-educated America’s college students are. They are well below average in every material way. For all my life I have been an advocate for higher education, but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that college is generally a mistake, as young people are mostly misinformed there, rather than educated. There are a few technical fields–medicine, engineering, possibly law–where such education is actually useful. Otherwise, we and our young people would be better off if they eschewed institutions like Colgate in favor of trade and technical schools, or immediate entry into the labor market. They couldn’t possibly do worse than to pursue the typical four-year liberal arts degree.”

—-Attorney-blogger John Hinderaker, in a Powerline post about the  hostile treatment conservative  author Heather McDonald received from Colgate students when she was invited to speak there.

The reason this seems almost unbelievable to Hinderaker, and the reason I chose this as an ethics quote, is that his painful conclusion that nobody wants to admit is true. I don’t want to admit it, and I was becoming convinced of this decades ago, when I  was part of the administration of Georgetown Law Center and discovered that we had Yale graduates who couldn’t write a coherent sentence, and later, when I had Stanford interns who thought Jane Fonda was an aerobics instructor and who looked at me blankly when I mentioned the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and still later, when a smart young woman who had graduated from Hofsta didn’t know who Jackie Robinson was, and when a Skadden Arps attorney with a Cornell degree guessed that the Civil War was fought sometime in the 1930s.

This is why I was not disappointed when my son, scion of a family with three Harvard graduates and a career Harvard employee, announced that he saw no point in going to college. Continue reading

A University Demonizes Diversity Of Thought

The headline in the New York Times last month read, “Indiana University Admits That Professor’s Views Are Vile, And That It Can’t Fire Him.” Nice. First, another party can’t “admit” someone else’s opinions are vile, as if there is a universal standard for “vile.”  Second, the headline assumes that the professor is the villain in this controversy, but then, that’s the Times for you: taking sides instead of reporting the facts.

I apologize for missing this chapter in the ongoing effort to intimidate and persecute anyone whose views do not align neatly with the mandated progressive orthodoxy.  The Times piece in question is dated November 23; not only was that my wedding anniversary, but I was also on an ethics training road trip without a functioning laptop. (I have one now.) I’m pretty sure I would have perceived the need for Ethics Alarms to bring some fairness to the assault on Professor Eric Rasmusen, though, as you will see, he is very capable of defending himself, if he could get a fair hearing (or reading).

The reason he can’t is because the news media has already decided that he should be shunned, as students try to run him out of academia and the marketplace of ideas.

To be clear, Professor Rasmusen is the victim of unethical conduct here, not the perpetrator of it. His “crime,” and it is not supposed to be a crime in the United States or academia, is asserting non-conforming views on his personal blog.  The news media framed the story to undermine Rasmusen by stating as fact that he “used his social media accounts to denigrate women, people of color and gay men.” That is a false and unfair characterization, Rasmusen uses his blog and social media accounts to cover a wide range of topics, often brilliantly, from the perspective of a Christian conservative. Continue reading

Cancellation Culture Gone Nuts: The Kenneth Fisher Saga

“Be afraid…be very afraid.”—Geena Davis in “The Fly”

Kenneth Fisher, the acclaimed billionaire money manager whose investment firm manages more than $112 billion of investors’ money,  spoke at an October 8 conference.  In his remarks, he said getting new clients was akin to “trying to get into a girl’s pants.” The analogy between marketing and seduction is old, common, and not without validity. It can (and should) be expressed in less vulgar ways, to be sure, but no one in the audience could have mistaken Fisher’s meaning.

Yet the New York Times described the remark as a “lewd and sexist joke”—Lewd? Joke?—and like-minded cancellation culture posse members set out to destroy Fisher and his business in retribution for using an analogy of dubious taste. [ I should note that some attendees at the conference–including some who are Fisher’s competitors—reported that there were other “off-color” comments that could not be confirmed by the Times.]

Thanks to a news and social media campaign since he made that “joke,” the past two weeks have seen public pensions and institutional investors pull nearly $2 billion from Fisher Investments, which has 3,500 employees.  They also deserve to lose their jobs, presumably, because their boss is insufficiently sensitive in a #MeToo world. Other public pensions have placed  Fisher’s firm on a watch list for potential action.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/8/2019: Hating Hate By Hating The Hateful Haters

Good morning.

Are you nuts? I’m not. Yet.

1. You want deranged? This is deranged. MSNBC put analyst Frank Figliuzzi on the air to explain the Nazi symbolism at the White House.  Figliuzzi is a former FBI assistant—think about that as you read this—and he has been given media credibility of late because he had  predicted that white supremacist violence was potentially imminent due to President Trump’s rhetoric. Of course, I predicted months ago that the relentless divisive rhetoric from “the resistance” would get someone killed soon, and nobody’s calling me to blather on TV…and I’m not insane, like this guy.

Figliuzzi alerted MSNBC World about the sinister numerical connection between neo-Naziism and the Trump administration’s decision to fly flags at half-mast until August 8 in honor of the victims of the Dayton and El Paso shootings.

“If we don’t understand how they think, we’ll never understand how to counter them,” he said. “The President said that we will fly our flags at half mast, until August 8. That’s 8/8. Now, I’m not going to imply that he did this deliberately, but I am using it as an example of the ignorance of the adversary that’s being demonstrated by the White House. The numbers 88 are very significant in neo-Nazi and white supremacy movement. Why? Because the letter ‘H’ is the eighth letter of the alphabet, and to them the numbers 8-8 together stand for ‘Heil Hitler.’ So we’re going to be raising the flag back up at dusk on 8/8. No one is thinking about this.”

Once again, this calls for Sidney Wang...

The reason that nobody is thinking about this, you idiot, is that it is deranged. How crazy can “the resistance” get and not start a stampede to the President, in reflex revulsion to the lies, the disrespect, the paranoia, the smears and the hysteria? The Times this week was musing about why Trump’s approval ratings are rising even as the mainstream media has been proclaiming that he’s a Nazi racist and responsible for every shooting in America.

To ask the question is to answer it.

(I just realized my piano is a Nazi…) Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, Memorial Day, 5/28/18: Things That Don’t Mix

1. Let’s start with some non-traditional casting hypocrisy.

  • Example A: In “The Gentleman Caller,” an Off-Broadway drama by Phillip Dawkins, an imagined romantic interlude between famously gay Fifties playwrights Tennessee Williams and William Inge has been cast with a Hispanic, and Hispanic-looking, actor as the very un-Hispanic Williams, and an Asian-American actor as the quite Caucasian Inge. This is self-indulgent grandstanding by the director that doesn’t serve the play—that’s the director’s duty, to serve the play—and the playwright was a fool to allow it. If the drama was just about two gay playwrights, it wouldn’t matter who was cast to portray them, or what the actors looked like. The identity of the writers is important to this  drama, however. You don’t cast a short, bald man as Abraham Lincoln, and you don’t cast a fat, flat-chested woman as Marilyn Monroe unless you are actively trying to sabotage the play. The New York Times critic didn’t have the integrity to point out the reverse-whitewashing casting-–mustn’t criticize fellow social justice warriors, you know!—but the stunt is both incompetent and discriminatory.

If a director cast an Irish-American and an Italian-American as James Baldwin and Richard Wright in a similar play, he would be excoriated, and rightly so.

  • Example B. Jim Parsons, best known as aging nerd Sheldon in “Big Bang Theory” and now starring on Broadway in the ensemble revival of “The Boys in the Band,” told the New York Times in an interview that the producer insisted that everyone in the cast be gay. Nice. Gay actors have been insisting forever that their sexuality was no bar to their playing straight characters—this is true, if they are any good as actors—but apparently reverse discrimination is fine.  It’s not fine. It’s bigotry.

When my late, lamented theater company revived that play almost 20 years ago, the director, John Moran, himself gay, insisted that the sexual orientation of the actors who auditioned would play no part in his casting decisions, and it did not. I think most of the all-male cast was not gay, but all of them were (and are) excellent.

One of my favorite Clarence Darrow quotes is, “I’m for the underdog. He needs friends a damn sight more than the other fellow. The best fun in life is to fight for the underdog…If the underdog got on top he would probably be just as rotten as the upper dog, but in the meantime I am for him.”

Things that don’t mix: Anti-discrimination rhetoric and discrimination

2. Another “good illegal immigrant” story. Guatemalan woman Gomez Gonzalez was shot to death in a border incident as she tried to enter the U.S. illegally. The episode is under investigation, and the facts are murky: the border patrol claims that she was in a crowd of people trying to cross the border illegally that became threatening and violent.  Here is how CNN begins its account of the controversy:

“Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez traveled 1,500 miles to the United States, hoping to find a job and a better future. Shortly after she set foot in Texas, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed her.”

No bias there! It is absolutely irrelevant to the legal and ethical issues here why Gonzalez was entering the country illegally. She did not deserve to be shot under any circumstances, and she was no more justified in violating our immigration laws whether her objective was to find a “better future” or to open a meth lab. The news media insists on sentimentalizing what is a black and white issue of sovereignty, law-breaking and enforcement, with the intent of confusing the public and demonizing opponents of illegal immigration.

Things that don’t mix: Lawbreaking and status as a virtuous martyr

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/17/2018: Blacklisting, Boycotts, And A Fox News Ethics Breach

Good Morning, all.

1 The blacklisting of R. Lee Ermey. Ermey, the ex-Marine turned actor who gained fame playing a Marine drill sergeant in “Full Metal Jacket,” died this week. I had thought he might already be dead, since I hadn’t seen him show up in movies or TV shows for quite a while. No, it appears that he was blackballed by Hollywood after he criticized President Obama in 2010, while he was being hired with some regularity. Speaking at a Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots rally, he said it was difficult to raise money for the charity because “the economy sucks” and went on to blame the Obama Administration, saying,

“We should all rise up, and we should stop this administration from what they’re doing because they’re destroying this country. They’re driving us into bankruptcy so that they can impose socialism on us, and that’s exactly what they’re doing, and I’m sick and damn tired of it and I know you are too.”

Ermey’s agent and the sudden reduction in his offers persuaded the tough Marine to beg for forgiveness with an abject apology for daring to critique Obama so harshly. Never mind:  His contract as a GEICO character was terminated, and the company removed Ermey’s commercial from their official YouTube channel. He later told interviewers that he had been blacklisted by Hollywood, and that he never had major film offer after he criticized Obama.

Observations:

a) I wonder when fair, decent, ethical Americans who believe in freedom of thought and expression will become sufficiently alarmed about progressives and Democrats using blacklists and boycotts  to enforce ideological conformity. This increasingly totalitarian end of the political spectrum needs to be informed that its ethics alarms are seriously malfunctioning.

b) Actors identified with products and companies cannot complain when they lose those jobs after making divisive political comments. If Ermey wanted to do commercials for anyone other than the NRA, his comments about Obama were just plain stupid.

c) As an actor in films, however, Ermey played villains and parodies of military characters.  His political views in those contexts should have been irrelevant, and certainly wouldn’t harm receipts for movies he was in. If he really was blacklisted, it was an act of punishment for refusing to accept the Hollywood community’s lockstep worship of a weak and divisive President.

d) In contrast, recall this public rant from actor Robert DeNiro in January regarding the current President of the United States:

“This fucking idiot is the President. It’s The Emperor’s New Clothes – the guy is a fucking fool. The publication of the Pentagon Papers was a proud moment for American journalism. The Times and the Post challenged the government over critical First Amendment issues. And the press prevailed. Our government today, with the propping-up of our baby-in-chief – the jerkoff-in-chief I call him – has put the press under siege, trying to discredit it through outrageous attacks and lies.’

I don’t think Bobby has lost any roles over this. To be fair, if there is a place where The King’s Pass, aka “The Star Syndrome,” rules supreme, it’s Hollywood. A major star like DeNiro obviously has more leeway than a narrow-range character actor like Ermey, and Ermey had to know that. Still, the double standard is striking. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: “Fixing” “Elf Ears”

ears

6-year-old Gage Berger was being bullied by his first grade classmates because he had protruding ears, and was often derided as “Elf  Ears.” His Salt Lake City parents decided to address the problem here and now, before, they say, his self-esteem (I almost wrote elf-esteem…) was  permanently damaged, so they had his ears de-elfed to look like everyone else’s.

Now he’s bullying other funny-looking kids.

Kidding.

I hope.

But seriously, folks, the story has aroused a controversy over societal and medical ethics. Did the parents choose plastic surgery too early and for the wrong reasons? Is that how we want society to be, where bullies and critics can pressure individuals to conform to a narrow standard of acceptible appearance? Doesn’t this give them power? Does it not encourage bullying? Is a first-grader old enough to meaningfully weigh these issues? Isn’t this a choice he should make, when he’s old enough to make it?

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for today is…

Was it ethical to clip Gary’s ears?

Continue reading

Vindictive Gay Activists, Destroying Diversity In Order To Save It

"Of course you have the right to support whatever candidate you choose...as long as you can handle THE CONSEQUENCES, you traitors!"

“Of course you have the right to support whatever candidate you choose…as long as you can handle THE CONSEQUENCES, you disgusting traitors!”

Ah, another month, another example of vengeful gay activists setting out to destroy anyone who dares to disagree with them. Last month it was the gay fashion designers who dared to express a non-conforming view about same sex adoptions. The April victims are gay men who have the audacity to be conservative Republicans.

The nasty and undemocratic boycott tactics of gay activists are going to deeply wound free speech and  societal comity unless they are stopped. I am trying to think of a peaceful, fair, ethical way to stop them.  As usual, the first step is declaring how wrong they are.

The latest victims are Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass, two gay New York City real estate developers who own nearly three-quarters of the real estate in Fire Island Pines and LGBT-oriented hotel, The OUT NYC. They committed the crime, in the eyes of the intolerant and rigid LGBY community, of hosting a fundraiser for arch conservative and Tea Party darling Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Maybe they did it because they don’t like Obamacare. Maybe they did it because they admire Cruz’s guts and dedication to Constitutional principles (other than equal justice under the law, but never mind). Maybe they did it because this is a free country and they have a right to support any damn candidate they choose, even a <gasp!> Republican.

But because Cruz is a gay marriage opponent as well as hostile to gay rights generally, the LGBT community has marked Reisner and Mati Weiderpass for destruction as traitors. After all, gays should have equal rights, just not the equal rights to support whatever candidate they choose to like every straight American. How ironic! The vindictive, coercive boycotts have already started, with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS  the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus both cancelling their annual even at a Weiderpass and Reisner property. Continue reading

Boycotting Dolce And Gabbana: Gays Becoming What They Once Hated Most

After centuries of oppression, Gays have finally achieved the right to openly be who they are as long as they don't piss of Elton John.

After centuries of oppression, Gays have finally achieved the right to openly be who they are as long as they don’t piss of Elton John.

Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce are Italian fashion design superstars, meaning that I pay no attention to them whatsoever, and don’t understand the priorities of anyone who does. Nonetheless, they have a rich and famous international clientele.. The two men were once romantic partners, but no longer; how they are just business and artistic partners, and continue to thrive.

Their thriving, however, has suffered from a self-inflicted setback. In an interview with the Italian magazine Panorama, the pair declared their lack of support for same-sex families with children created by in vitro fertilization.  “I am not convinced by those I call children of chemicals, synthetic children,” Dolce told the magazine. “Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog.” Gabbana added, “The family is not a fad. In it there is a supernatural sense of belonging.”

The Horror: a non-conforming opinion from prominent gay fashion icons! Can’t have that! Lapsed pop superstar Elton John, who has two sons through in vitro fertilization with his husband, David Furnish, took the remarks as a personal attack and proclaimed a boycott of the Gabbana & Dolce label. “How dare you refer to my beautiful children as ‘synthetic,’ ” Mr. John wrote on social media. “Shame on you for wagging your judgmental little fingers at I.V.F. Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce & Gabbana ever again.” Thus was born the hashtag #BoycottDolceGabbana.”
Continue reading