Weekend Ethics Update, 10/4/2020

Weekend Update

1. I’m not going to dignify all of the online cheering of President Trump’s positive test for the Wuhan virus with quotes from celebrities and social media creatures, though I have them. There have been similar reactions to the fact that Kellyanne Conway recently tested positive as well. A reputable poll—assuming that any are reputable polls—found that 40% of Democrats surveyed were “happy” the President was sick. I have never been happy that anyone was sick in all my years on this planet. This is a mean, vicious, ethically warped group of people that are behind Joe Biden in this election, and one more factor pushing me to a tipping point. (No, I’m not there yet.) But I really do wonder how decent people can make common cause with hateful individuals like this.

For what it’s worth, my perspective is that if the President plays this right, the bout with the virus will help him in November.

I agreed with his decision to largely eschew masks in public appearances, just as FDR kept his wheelchair mostly hidden from public  view and like George Washington riding into battle in full uniform, gleaming white wig, ring a tall white charger. That’s part of leadership: looking strong while also being strong. The President got sick while doing his job. Joe Biden has been hiding in the basement, taking half-days and yesterday gave a speech while wearing a mask. He looks weak, and is weak. There has never been anything especially leader-like about Biden, and most of his support is based on blind, irrational hatred of his opponent fanned into dangerous intensity by the news media and the Angry Left. I think Donald Trump may have been the only President elected more out of dislike of the opposition than genuine support of the winning candidate, and I’m not even certain of that. The candidate perceived as the strongest leader almost always wins.

2. Nah, the First Amendment isn’t in any danger from progressives! Don’t be silly! In June, the president of Miami University appointed a task force of faculty, students and staff to develop recommendations on improving the school’s “diversity, equity and inclusion.” Tellingly, no lawyers or civil libertarians make the membership list.

Now the task force has produced its recommendations, and a more confounding mass of Authentic Frontier Gibberish it would be hard to find. ( “As an Ohio public university, Miami may serve the greater community by expanding IGD pedagogy and praxis to alums and the business community”… “Create internal and external diversity marketing plans to promote literacy around intergroup dialogue and allyship across diverse social identities with sensitivity to Miami’s status as a predominantly white institution…”)  Naturally, re-education and indoctrination are among the 43 recommendations: “Make IGD mandatory for all undergraduate students, beginning with first year students, by requiring incoming first-year students to take a 1-credit IGD course (equivalent to the CAWC’s Intro to Voices program) following UNV 101 (or similar discipline-designated courses; e.g., CHM 147). Thereafter, provide other academic and co-curricular IGD opportunities for further development.” Then there’s this:

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It Shouldn’t Require A “Theocracy” to Decide THIS Lawsuit Correctly

The Capitol Hill Baptist Church in the District of Columbia, is suing Mayor Muriel Bowser and the District government for violating its First Amendment right to worship.

Good.

“CHBC desires to gather for a physical, corporate gathering of believers in the District of Columbia on Sunday, September 27, 2020, and on subsequent Sundays, and would do so but for those actions of the Defendants that are the subject of this Complaint,” the lawsuit charges. It seems pretty clear that Bowser is applying one set of rules against religious institutions and another set of piorities entirely when it comes to activities she cares about. In March, Bowser (Is she the most unethical big city mayor in the U.S.? She’s certainly in the running, but it’s a tough field) issued an executive order prohibiting churches from meeting indoors or out because of public health concerns related to the pandemic. D.C.’s  four-stage plan would bar in-person worship gatherings until there is an “effective cure or vaccine” for the Wuhan virus, a rule that can be counted on to wound, perhaps mortally, church communities that have been built up over many decades. Right now gatherings are supposedly limited to 100 people or up to 50 percent of the building’s capacity, whichever is fewer. The 850-member Capitol Hill Baptist Church  has been meeting in a field in Virginia.

The 142-year-old congregation explains in its suit that “a weekly in-person worship gathering of the entire congregation is a religious conviction for which there is no substitute. The Church does not offer virtual worship services, it does not utilize a multi-site model, and it does not offer multiple Sunday morning worship services.”

The church’s covenant, to which all members must agree, pledges that they “will not forsake the assembling of [them]selves together,” as decreed in the Bible.  The church’s website explains,

“Since its founding in 1878, CHBC has met in-person every Sunday except for three weeks during the Spanish Flu in 1918. That changed following Mayor Bowser’s first orders concerning COVID-19 on March 11, 2020. Since that time, the members of CHBC—most of whom live in the District—have been unable to meet in person, as one congregation inside District limits (even outdoors)….CHBC has applied for multiple waivers to the policy. District officials refuse to provide CHBC with a waiver beyond 100 persons as part of a mass gathering…A church is not a building that can be opened and closed. A church is not an event to be watched. A church is a community that gathers regularly and that community should be treated fairly by the District government.”

Fairly? On June 10, the church asked for a waiver so the congregation could meet at currently abandoned RFK Stadium, which is large enough to permit social distancing. The mayor’s office didn’t respond to the request and subsequent appeals until September 15, and then issued a rejection stating that “[w]aivers for places of worship above that expanded capacity (100 attendees) are not being granted at this time.” Continue reading

Censorship, Indoctrination And Intimidation Watch, Part 2

In Part I, I discussed an example of an individual being fired for his expression of an unpopular political opinion on a personal platform. As I mentioned there, this is a recent phenomenon of great concern to Constitutional Law Professor Jonathan Turley. as expressed on his blog and elsewhere, such as his recent testimony in the Senate about the erosion of free speech and academic freedom in  universities . The Ethics Alarms post was originally supposed to highlight examples of this ominous phenomenon highlighted by Turley, and then events overcame both Turley and Ethics Alarms, as another egregious example  arose that Turley hadn’t yet covered.

Since I offered Part I, Turley’s assault on institutions intimidating individuals based on the content of their speech continued. Here, he objected to Dartmouth’s faculty and student body attempting to silence the Dartmouth Review, and independent campus newspaper that has been a voice from the Right on the liberal campus for decades. He wrote in part,

[O]ver 1000 students and faculty members have signed a letter to the Dartmouth Board of Trustees to disassociate the school from the conservative student newspaper, the Dartmouth Review. The letter accuses the newspaper of “hateful ideologies” and “racist” columns, including one cited column objecting to the careless use of the word “racist.” … [T]he reason stated by the organizers to move against the newspaper [was] in part because of a recent controversy involving an alumni who resigned from Fox News…the organizers admit that they decided to move against the newspaper as a way to responding to the controversy surrounding the resignation of a Fox producer with Tucker Carlson. Blake Neff is a 2013 graduate of Dartmouth and Review alumni. He was found to have written a series of bigoted anonymous comments.

…. [T]he idea of the letter to force the Board to prove its antiracism by attacking the newspaper, which had no role in Neff’s misconduct:  “We thought, how can the senior leadership of Dartmouth, President Hanlon and the trustees write this letter to every member of the community, and then continue in silent complicity with a publication that since its inception has consistently been an incubator of racist hate and white supremacy?”

…The failure [to] actively target the newspaper is now viewed as de facto tolerance for racism even after the school issued a letter proclaiming its support for Black Lives Matter.

…As a blog committed to free speech issues, the concern over this controversy is obvious. There are routinely over-heated rhetoric in college newspapers including many reckless statements from faculty and students on the left. We have defended many of those speakers and writers.  However, the first response of many Dartmouth graduates to the Neff story was to seek to attack the leading conservative newspaper on campus in part for its prior association with Neff.

… What is being lost in such moves is the diversity of thought on campus…. they are seeking to pressure the university to marginalize students who want to participate in these debates from a conservative viewpoint.

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Afternoon Ethics Afterthoughts, 8/14/2020: The Great Stupid, And Other Problems

MAD-ness! MAD-ness!

1. This isn’t stupid, it’s just disturbing. Kevin Clinesmith, a top FBI lawyer who fabricated evidence in the federal  warrant used to spy on the  Trump campaign through Carter Page will plead guilty to federal charges brought by U.S. Attorney John Durham.  His plea will  admit to deliberately fabricating evidence in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant application. 

Clinesmith is the first individual to be charged as part of U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation into the efforts  to spy on the Trump campaign and Trump administration. Both Durham and Attorney General William Barr have stated that they had reason to believe the entire investigation of the President, which allegedly began in late July of 2016, was illicit and unjustified.

Expect the news media, in collaboration with Democrats, to bury, spin, deny and otherwise attempt to mitigate the sinister implications of this development, and those to follow. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Stockton University (NJ), And Anyone Else Who Thinks A Photograph Of The President Of The United States Constitutes “Taunting”

“OH NO! TAKE IT AWAY! IT’S EVIL!!! EVIL!!!

I am about to conclude that schools and universities keep attempting to unconstitutionally smother students’ freedom of speech and expression because they think eventually the culture will just give in and let them enforce viewpoint conformity.

In the alternative, the people who run these institutions are just dumb as a box of nutcrackers.

Let’s take Stockton College in New Jersey, for example.

Doctoral student Robert  Dailyda used a photo of the President of the United States as his Zoom background during a July 1 virtual class. Some students complained, and he administration wrote in an incident report that the photo caused students “to feel offended, disrespected, and taunted.” Such students should have been told, in no uncertain terms, “Donald Trump is President of the United States, and the elected leader of the government of the nation in which you live. If his picture makes you feel offended, disrespected, and taunted, feel free to visit the campus mental health facilities. In the alternative, grow the hell up.”

Instead, ten days later and being Summa Cum Ethics Dunces, Stockton’s administrators called the student in “on the carpet”  to justify his political views, claiming that students were offended by the Zoom background of the Evil POTUS, Dailyda’s comments in the subsequent GroupMe chat in which he was attacked by other students in the class, and his subsequent Facebook post defending his rights to express his opinion. The university claimed that students also found that post “offensive, threatening, and concerning.”

The “offensive, threatening, and concerning” post read, Continue reading

More Speech Suppression And Intimidation On The Campus: The Juniata Affair

The “Concerned Juniatian” was a student named Colin Daly. This was the very end of a much longer screed (You can read the whole, very long letter here) that the Juniatia College student sent to his campus community anonymously. Juniata is a small Pennsylvania liberal arts college affiliated with the Church of the Brethren, a Christian denomination. It is also apparently devoid of respect for such values as free speech, individuality, and dissent.

Daly, a senior, wrote the email without including his name but accidentally “left identifying information on the system he used to distribute his post to all of Juniata’s email accounts,” according to PennLive.

Before it identified Daly as the author, the college’s President James Troha wrote in a statement that the email contained “slurs, hateful language, and intimations of violence directed at members of our community on the basis of their identity.” There is no threat of any kind in the letter, and the “slurs” are words referred to as slurs, not used as slurs. Here’s the section of the letter I assume Troha is referring to:

I’d like to see Daly sue Troha for libel; I think he’d have a strong case.

The next day, after it was determined that Daly was the author, the college released a new statement. claiming that “law enforcement agencies are continuing their own investigations of the matter,” and suggesting that the letter’s author student may have broken state and federal laws.

That’s some education students at Juniata are getting. Continue reading

Censorship “For The Greater Good” Loses A Round In Massachusetts

Good.

In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts (that’s like the state Supreme Court in a normal state) held that free speech rights were wrongly infringed upon by a lower court’s non-disparagement order forbidding the husband or wife from posting about their divorce on Facebook and other social media sites until their child turned 14. The child at issue was a toddler when the ruling was handed down.

It is disturbing to me that judges lack sufficiently Americanized ethics alarms to squelch the temptation to issue rulings like the one overturned.  Sure, kids are harmed by their parents saying terrible things about each other, but there is nothing special about such communications on social  media. Parents harm their kids by screaming at each other in the kitchen. That’s life.

“We conclude that the nondisparagement orders at issue here operate as an impermissible prior restraint on speech,” the Supreme Judicial Court ruled. Though the  judge “put careful thought into his orders in an effort to protect a child caught in the middle of a legal dispute who was unable to advocate for himself… there was no showing of an exceptional circumstance that would justify the imposition of a prior restraint, the nondisparagement orders issued here are unconstitutional.”

 Two Norfolk Probate and Family Court judges issued the original bans when the ugly divorce between Ronnie Shak and his former wife, Masha  Shak, who shared one son born in 2017, spread to social media.
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The Knight-Gallup Freedom Of Speech Survey

A survey just released by the Knight Foundation and Gallup shows that More than 75% of the college students surveyed want “safe spaces” on  campuses that are free of “threatening actions, ideas, or conversations.” However, a majority of the same students support President Trump’s threat to withhold taxpayer dollars from universities that restrict speech.

Though 97% of college students believe that free speech is “an essential pillar of American democracy”, a  majority of students support policies to restrict of speech on campus. 78% of students support “safe spaces” where threatening ideas and conversations would be barred. 80%  favor the establishment of a “free-speech zone” where pre-approved protests and the distribution of literature are permitted. Continue reading

“1,825 Words You Can Never Say On Facebook”

This is ominous: it’s the second time this month that I’ve had good reason to quote George. Did the Democrats already take over?

In 1972, the late George Carlin debuted his famous routine called “ “The Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” The words were: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits, all of which you can hear on television today. (Who says life doesn’t keep getting better? ) But George would be fine: I have it on good authority that in Stand-Up Heaven, where Henny Youngman has St. Peter’s job, George is knocking celestial audiences dead (metaphorically, of course,) with his new monologue, “1,825 Words You Can Never Say On Facebook.”

It’s hilarious, if a little long.

The Foundation For Individual Rights In Education has released a report based on its investigation of how public universities—that’s the government, remember—engage in surreptitious censorship of student expression.  Censorship of student expression is illegal, but The FIRE exists because so many universities find that concept too complex to grasp.

Implicated in the results: Facebook, which provides  the tools for censorship, including its automated content filters. These allow state institutions to automatically “hide” users’ comments if they contain words included on Facebook’s undisclosed list of offensive words, or a government entity’s customized list of prohibited words. The filters allow  public universities to quietly remove critical Facebook posts, restricting open campus and public discourse.

The  FIRE surveyed over 200 public universities and colleges across 47 states and the District of Columbia. It found that fully half of the surveyed institutions  use Facebook’s “strong” profanity filter, while nearly a third use the “medium” filter. That means  about 77% of surveyed institutions use an undiclosed  blacklist of prohibited words. Nearly a third of the universities surveyed (59, or 30.3%) created a custom blacklist, collectively censoring 1,825  words and phrases in order to, among other unconstitutional objectives, “block animal rights activists’ criticism of food vendors,” suppress “debate over the fate of  a campus Confederate monument,” and stifle debate over controversial faculty, politicians, and sports teams.

Public universities can and do manipulate Facebook comments to distort the  public discourse. Wright State University, FIRE tells us, deleted comments supporting a faculty strike from its Facebook page,  confining debate over the action to a rigged community forum that appeared supportive of the university’s administration while being critical of striking faculty.

Yup, that’s how fascism works!

 Facebook doesn’t alert a user when their post has been removed, or tell the public that comments have been censored, so this system is perfect for mind and opinion molding. FIRE says,

These automated methods of censorship are not only contrary to a commitment to freedom of expression, but also provide government actors with tools that—in light of recent federal court rulings concerning President Trump’s Twitter feed—violate the government actors’ legal obligations under the First Amendment.

Below are the words that Facebook helps universities control speech and thought by censoring. Some will be relieved to know that “retard” is on it. Then again, so is “poor”…

Everything About This Story Is Discouraging: The Carrollton Video [Corrected]

Chapter I: In Georgia, two Carrollton High School  seniors made a truly cretinous video. Filmed in a bathroom, the male and female students students pretend to be doing a   cooking show as they pour cups of water into the sink.

Showing their faces in the mirror, she announces, “Hey, today we’re making…”as the  camera aims at the sink where there’s a piece of notebook paper with “niggers” written on it. The male student intones the word. The male student lifts cups of water and pours each one into the sink, over the paper. Under each cup is a piece of paper with the name of an “ingredient” written on it, which the young woman reads.

“First we have ‘black,'” she says. He then pours the cup of water into the sink over the paper with the slur. “Next we have, ‘Don’t have a dad!'” Other ingredients include “eating watermelon and fried chicken” and “rob people.”

“Specifically whites,” guy adds as he refills the “robs people” cup over and over using the sink tap.  One cup labeled “make good choices” is empty. The couple  feign surprise over the cup having nothing in it.

Once their opus was complete, the couple was so proud that they posted it online.

Why this is discouraging: In what alternate universe would anyone from the age of seven up think something like that would be acceptable to publicize? What kind of polluted culture is being fostered in Carollton? What are they teaching in the schools?

Even passing on that, how could anyone be so stupid as to think posting an overly racist video wouldn’t have serious consequences? Again, who is teaching critical thinking in that community? What have the parents been doing for 17 years, getting stoned? Continue reading