Tuesday That Feels Like A Monday Ethics Catch-Up, 10/13/2020.

Antifa arrests

Every one of the antifa rioters arrested in Portland a couple nights ago!

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I have what I believe is an important ethics essay completed in my head—that’s the weird way I write, and nobody knows why—and I just haven’t had the time or the energy to get it done. I’m sorry. Today, actual ethics work intervened. It’s not that there wasn’t time to finish that post (and two others that are almost written), but that the long posts really need my complete attention, and that was impossible today, as it has been increasingly frequently of late.

1. Goodbye Alizia. One of Ethics Alarms more controversial and prolific contributors informed me that she was leaving the comment wars, presumably permanently. I agreed with virtually nothing she wrote, and found her characterization of the approach to ethics here ranging from bizarre to infuriating to hilarious. I also, I must confess, often failed to do more than skim many of her epic screeds, which I found about as forbidding as Finnegan’s Wake. She has been, however, a unique voice here, a sincere and serious one, and virtually always civil. I also admire her resilience, since few participants here have been battered as intensely and personally as she was.

Or accused of being a robot.

Recently there had been suggestions that my failure to ban her from commenting—she is a white supremacist, after all, as well as anti-Semitic—has cost Ethics Alarms readers. Any potential readers who would reject this ethics blog because he or she objects to the opinion of another reader can go piss in their hats, to be blunt. I reject the entire attitude behind such a reaction. There have been commenters who have made me wince when I saw they had weighed in, since I had a pretty good idea what I was in for; indeed Alizia was one of them. But I have to read the comments here—the format includes my actively engaging with those bold enough to speak up. EA recently passed the 12,000 post mark, and I lead all commenters with over 50,000 replies. Nobody, however, has to read any particular commenter, or any of them. Nor am I responsible for the opinions offered here by others. I have Comment Policies, and generally stick to them. Veteran commenters receive a lot of leeway, because they do contribute content to the blog, like it or not. Yes, there is a provision that says a commenter can be banned for “…Exhibiting racism or other bias.” I interpret that narrowly, in part because a theme here has been the effort by progressives to demonize and suppress speech they find inconvenient or upsetting, and to abuse the label of “racist” to do it. I have chosen to err on the side of free expression, especially when it is under assault, and when the party that signals an intent to metaphorically kneel on liberty’s throat seems poised to take power.

But I digress.

Alizia informed me of her decision in a graceful and uncharacteristically brief note. I told her that she would be missed, at least by me.

2. Ah, Portland… Yesterday, after promoting the event on social media as an “Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage,” protesters toppled statues Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, then went on to ruin the entrance to the Oregon Historical Society before moving into other areas of downtown, smashing storefronts and engaging in a full-fledged riot. Police ordered the rioters moving  through the city’s streets to disperse but this being Portland, but did not directly intervene until nearly an hour after the first statue fell.

The organizers had called for “direct action” and demanded that onlooker who happened upon the group were ordered to stop filming or delete photographs. An apartment resident who tried to shoot a video from his terrace had lasers aimed at his eyes and a liquid thrown in his face. There were about 200 in the group dressed in black, some with body armor, shields, and weapons.

These are the people Americans are voting for when they support the Democratic party in 2020. Joe Biden has passively supported them and their violence with his weasel words, and his VP has directly endorsed them.

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A “When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring” Anniversary Retrospective: The Cancellation Of Charlie Rich

charlierichjohndenver

I wasn’t paying attention in 1975 when this episode occurred: it was a big year for me. I graduated from law school, took the bar, moved back to Massachusetts and then back to D.C. Most of all, the Red Sox went to the World Series and I had prime seats to see Carlton Fisk hit his immortal homer in the 12th inning of Game 6, waving the ball fair, but barely. The Country Music Awards (CMAs) were nowhere on my radar. They still aren’t: there isn’t a sock drawer in America I wouldn’t rather color-code that watch that show. But on October 13, 1975, 45 years ago to the day, an ethics drama unfolded with many lessons.

Charlie Rich, the soulful country music singer they called the Silver Fox (Even I had heard “Behind Closed Doors”) had been voted Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association of America one year earlier, and thus was chosen to  announce that year’s winner of the CMA’s greatest honor at the televised 1975 show.  He opened the envelope, appeared to read the name on the slip of paper,  and instead of announcing it, Rich reached into his pocket, took out a cigarette lighter and set the slip on fire.  While the paper burned, he finally announced that the winner was “my friend Mr. John Denver” Denver was only available to accept the awards via satellite linkup, so he made his acceptance speech with no knowledge of Rich’s gesture.

The audience was horrified, and many country music fans—and obviously John Denver fans— were furious. Charlie Rich was blacklisted from the CMA awards show for the rest of his career. His popularity crashed: from that moment until the end of his career in 1992, Rich had only one more #1 hit in those years, though a couple of songs reached #3 on the country charts. By any standard, his career after flaming John Denver was greatly diminished. Denver, universally regarded as a nice guy, was seen as the victim of a jerk. (The “my friend” seemed like a particularly nasty touch.)

What was going on here? The assumption was that Rich was taking a stand for country traditionalists against pop music turf invaders like Denver and Olivia Newton-John, who had won the Most Promising Female Vocalist award in 1973.  To this day, some even see his uncivil attack on Denver as courageous. The Saving Country Music blog opined in 2013:

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Comment Of The Day: “Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias! But Why Is Fox Almost The Only News Source Reporting This Story?”

This is kind of an anti-ethical ethics comment by Steve-O-in NJ, but a useful one. Taking off from the juvenile “mean girls” criticism the First Lady gets from the news media regarding whatever she does, says or wears (while anything worn by the previous First Lady, no matter how hideous, was inevitably praised as a fashion coup), Steve lists other examples of “middle school values,” which are all things kids do, say and think before their ethics alarms are operational.  I’ve numbered them for reference purposes. There are sixteen in all. Most of them, though not all, are rendered moot by even a rudimentary understanding of the Golden Rule. Ethics barely peaks is head out in #13. Barely.

Here is Steve-O-in NJ‘s Comment Of The Day on the post, “Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias! But Why Is Fox Almost The Only News Source Reporting This Story?”:

They also busted shoes, no pun intended about her wearing sneakers when accompanying the President to the areas affected by the hurricane in 2017.

It’s a middle school value, that something that is cool when it is done by something one you like, is unforgivable when it is done by someone you don’t like.

Other values: Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Apparitions, 8/16/2020: Triceratops? What Triceratops? What IS A Triceratops?

1. From the Ethics Alarms cultural literacy files. I remember this re- tweet by acclaimed novelist Joyce Carol Oates from 2015; I can’t believe I didn’t post on it then. (Pointer to Ann Althouse for reminding me of it today):

Now,  I would like to believe that Oates was joking (I’m not sure about Tilley), but she is not known for madcap humor. Apparently “Jurassic Park,” Steven Spielberg  and popular culture are beneath her, and she was so focused on literature in school that dinosaurs completely missed her attention. I regard this as being estranged from one’s culture, and I regard that as irresponsible.

2. Question: If Twitter is taking down tweets involving hate speech, why is unequivocal hate like this permitted? Robert Trump, the President’s younger brother, died yesterday. The President wrote,

“It is with heavy heart I share that my wonderful brother, Robert, peacefully passed away tonight. He was not just my brother, he was my best friend. He will be greatly missed, but we will meet again. His memory will live on in my heart forever. Robert, I love you. Rest in peace.”

Yet the hateful, vicious “resistance” couldn’t rise to a moment of bipartisan decency. The hashtag #wrongtrump, is the second highest trending on Twitter, with more than 80,000  tweets last I checked. Among the the ghouls were journalist David Leavitt., ” who tweeted, “What did he promise the devil for the Grim Reaper to take the #wrongtrump ???” (5.7 thousand people “loved” the sentiment), and Bishop Talbert Swan, president of the Springfield, Massachusetts, branch of the NAACP (and a pastor, which will perhaps help illuminate my attitudes toward organized religion), who wrote “Dear Grim Reaper, You took the #wrongtrump.” That one got 10,000 hearts.

These are mean, bad people with dead ethics alarms. Continue reading

From The “When Ethics Alarm Don’t Ring” File, Presidents Of Evangelical Christian Universities Division.

Yes, that really is Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. smiling, with his pants unzipped, as he poses with an arm around a scantily dressed young woman who is not his wife. And get this: Falwell posted the photo to social media himself. He really did. No, seriously.

I’m getting frightened, because this episode suggest that The Great Stupid is extending beyond the boundaries of the George Floyd Freakout and the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck, and infecting people that have nothing to do with either. This means, if true, that The Great Stupid can strike any of us without warning. One minute you are arguing about the perils of the National Debt heading into the Red Zone, and suddenly Rep. Ocasio-Cortez starts making sense to you, and you’re sticking shrimp up your nose.

What in the world was Falwell thinking? This would be crazy for the President of Berkeley, and his university is one of the most conservative institutions in the nation,  prohibits students from having sexual relations outside of marriage,  listening to music with lewd lyrics, or watching films with sexual content, and nudity. Students are also required to dress modestly. Great role model, there, Jerry! Continue reading

From The Dead Ethics Alarms Files: Wait, WHAT? Why Was This Court Decision Even Necessary?

Uri Rafaeli owed $8.41 in unpaid property taxes. That’s eight dollars and change. The amount gradually increased to $285.81 from added interest, penalties and fees. Oakland County in Michigan  confiscated and sold his property for $24,500, thenkept all proceeds above the past due amount.  Meanwhile, Andre Ohanessian owed about $6,000 in unpaid taxes, interest, penalties and fees to the same Oakland County, and the county sold his property for $82,000. It kept all proceeds of that sale too.

Seems fair to me!

Kidding. Actually, that seems so wrong that I don’t understand how any public officials could do such a thing, or argue that it was defensible rather than obvious theft. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled last week that the takings clause in the state constitution prevents counties from selling homes for unpaid tax debts and keeping all surplus proceeds.

Because, you know, it’s wrong. Continue reading

A Brief Note To Commenters…

I am so proud of you all, and Ethics Alarms,  today. The quality of discussion on multiple posts and threads is outstanding, as varied, eloquent and and thoughtful as I have ever seen it. I offer my sincere thanks and appreciation to all participants.

And since I’m here, I might as well note that July 16 is Ethics Ambivalence Day, or perhaps Watch Out For Moral Luck Day. Which of these events that occured on July 16th can be confidently and uncontroversially  designated in retrospect as “good”?

  • In 1790, Congress declared Washington, D.C. the new capital.

The new Congress chose a swampy, humid, muddy and mosquito-infested site on the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia to be the nation’s permanent capital. Brilliant!

  • In 1918, the Romanov family was executed.

This ended a 300-year imperial dynasty,  and sent Russia down the road of Communism.  But they got rid of those damn Czars!

  • In 1935,  the world’s first parking meter was installed.

The world’s first parking meter, known as Park-O-Meter No. 1, was installed on the southeast corner of what was then First Street and Robinson Avenue in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, eventually helping municipalities to balance their budgets nation wide.

  • In 1951, “Catcher in the Rye” was published.

J.D. Salinger’s only full-length novel, about a confused and nihilistic teenager would be taught in high schools for half a century. Why, I will never know.

  • In 1995, Amazon opened for business.

No comment.

  • In 1945, at 5:29:45 a.m., the Manhattan Project resulted in the first atom bomb successfully exploding in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Bad Day Ethics

Here I am, getting the first Ethics Alarms post up after 2:00 am, and feeling guilty. There are about ten important ethics issues and stories to be covered, and I feel I am obligated to get them covered.

But it’s going to be more difficult than usual. We just learned that two members of our household have tested positive for the Wuhan virus. I am sick with some other damn thing, basic flu symptoms plus traveling, intermittent pain in the muscles of my back and legs (no fever, no dry cough, really no Wuhan symptoms at all other than being tired). I also have a sudden backlog of paying consultant work, which takes me twice as long as it should when I’m drugged and run-down, and I am really drugged and run down.

My father and the various cultural and historical models that formed my own values, caused me to place soldiering through these kinds of  obstacles high among my life’s priorities. My dad went though his post-military life walking, hiking, playing with his children and other activities with a roughly reconstructed foot—the result of a W.W. II hand grenade’s carnage—that looked like some kind of demonic potato. He never complained or used it as an excuse to beg out of what he considered his duties; I remember saying to my mother, “It’s amazing that Dad does everything he does with a foot that looks like that. I would think it would hurt him.” She said, “Are you kidding? His foot hurts him terribly all the time.” My father’s attitude was that tough times, seemingly overwhelming challenges  and misfortunes were inevitable and were such intrinsic aspects of life that to overreact to them or allow yourself to be paralyzed in their wake was foolish.  One of his favorite quotes was Joan Howard Maurer’s tale,

“One day as I sat musing, sad and lonely without a friend, a voice came to me from out of the gloom saying, ‘Cheer up. Things could be worse.’ So I cheered up and sure enough—things got worse.”

 

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Does An Ethics Alarm Make A Sound If It Rings Where Nobody Can Hear It? The Mystery Of Joe Biden’s VP Search

It is increasingly clear that poor Joe Biden just isn’t processing reality well. As he does everything he can to duck Tara Reade’s allegations, for example, he chose to be interviewed on MSNBC by Al Sharpton. As conservative talk-show host Larry Elder tweeted, “Only in America can a man who achieved fame by knowingly promoting Tawana Brawley’s false accusation of rape, become a Democratic “kingmaker,” get a TV show–and interview a Democrat who claims he’s a victim of a false accusation of rape.”

Well a man can do that; whether it’s smart is something else.

This is definitely not smart: Biden named former Democratic Connecticut Senator Chis Dodd to help steer his selection committee for Biden’s Vice-President, even though Dodd is notorious as the late Ted Kennedy’s drinking and carousing partner, and especially remembered for his cheerful admission that the two over-aged frat boys once collaborated on what Ted called a “waitress sandwiches.”To make Dodd’s assignment even more tone-deaf, Biden is generally assumed to be looking for a female running mate. So to choose the best qualified (not that qualifications are a big deal if you are making twin X-chromosomes the top criteria for selection) person to get Joe to the metaphorical finish line, Joe thinks the right choice is a former Senator who is acknowledged to have been a serial offender in the kinds of woman-abusing conduct that Biden claims he condemns despite being accused of it himself.

Huh. Interesting.

Dodd was…is?…also a  close friend of Harvey Weinstein for about 40 years. That doesn’t seem so surprising when one considers the origin of the “waitress sandwich” quip. From RealClearPolitics:

“The ugly turn of phrase comes courtesy of a profile of Kennedy in Gentlemen’s Quarterly and from the decidedly ungentlemanly behavior by Dodd when he and the Lion of the Senate were on the prowl at a D.C. French restaurant…. It was 1985… The waitress in question declined to comment for the GQ story but said that the account of what happened, which first appeared in the pages of Penthouse, was accurate. Dodd was there with Kennedy and their dates, both blonde and young. It was after midnight. The accompanying women left to use the restroom. The waitress was summoned, and that’s when she was allegedly thrown first onto the table by Kennedy — shattering glass and scattering cutlery – and then onto the lap of Dodd. Kennedy…jumped “on top and begins rubbing his genital area against hers, supporting his weight on the arms of the chair”…An eyewitness, Betty Loh, confirmed the incident….The waitress screamed as it happened. Dishwashers rushed to the room. The Senators allegedly laughed at the scene they caused, then haggled over who would pay the night’s bill…

Of course, that conduct would have caused problems for both Senators if reported in 1985, but the news media, then as now, usually made sure that liberal icons were shielded from accountability in such things, and Kennedy was used to generously paying off his victims. It is still indicative of the kinds of attitudes toward women that men of power from that era, including Kennedy, Dodd, Biden and yes, Donald Trump, subscribed to. How can one explain  Biden, especially with the accusation of Tara Reade hanging over him,  now choosing Dodd to be his trusted agent in the matter of selecting a female V.P., when he has so many other options who do not have a history of sexual assault themselves?

Here are some possible answers, one or more of which could be the case: Continue reading

You Know, Harvard, When You Have To be Embarrassed And Shamed Into Doing What Should Have Been Your Automatic Response Anyway If You Had Any Decency, It’s Too Late To Save Face.

The cat, as they say, is out of the bag. Harvard is arrogant, ethically inert, and avaricious. But we knew that.

Yesterday I noted that Harvard had accepted nearly $9 million from the pandemic relief package. “With a 40 billion dollar dollar endowment, Harvard is better off financially than the U.S. government,” I wrote. “There is no excuse for the school accepting the money. It is getting widely criticized for taking it, and ought to be.”

Harvard’s disingenuous rationalization was unconvincing:

“By federal formula laid out in the CARES Act, Harvard was allocated $8.6 million, with 50% of those funds to be reserved for grants to students. Harvard is actually allocating 100% of the funds to financial assistance for students to meet their urgent needs in the face of this pandemic. Harvard will allocate the funds based on student financial need. This financial assistance will be on top of the significant support the University has already provided to students — including assistance with travel, providing direct aid for living expenses to those with need, and supporting students’ transition to online education.”

My conclusion: “The only issue is that Harvard has plenty of money to do all of this without any hand-outs from the government, and many other institutions need the money more, which is an easy calculation because no institution needs money less than Harvard does.”

Others, including President Trump, chided The Greatest University In The World for its indefensible greed. The school pushed back earlier today with a word-parsing justification that made no sense. It has 40 billion dollars sitting in investments. That’s the end of the debate.

The double talk didn’t work, and by this afternoon, with the backlash growing and the episode becoming a public relations nightmare, the Crimson had capitulated. Trump and the other critics were right. Harvard was wrong. The University announced that it would not apply for or accept  emergency relief, joining Stanford and Princeton. Continue reading