Morning Ethics Warm-Up In Vegas, Afternoon Warm-Up In Alexandria, 11/22/2019

Walter Cronkite, Nov. 22, 1963, relaying the shocking news that changed…everything.

Good whatever it is where you are!

1. President Kennedy was assassinated on this date in 1963. He had been President exactly as long as Donald Trump has, and by most measures, President Trump has accomplished more,despite the fact that JFK really did have “the best people.” You might have to go back to George Washington to find a more qualified Cabinet.  By this point in his term, JFK, we now know, had already committed impeachable “high crimes and misdemeanors” notably through his reckless sexual escapades with an Israeli spy and a mob moll, allowing J. Edgar Hoover (speaking of Deep State villains) to blackmail his administration, and perhaps others. Yet the vast majority of the public regards Kennedy as a great President, which shows what a pretty face, an inspiring speaking style, a complicit news media, and getting shot will do for a President’s reputation.

I’d ponder what this nation would be like if Lee Harvey Oswald had missed that beautiful day in Dallas, but that way madness lies, as King Lear like to say.

2.  How many botches can Joe Biden’s campaign take?  The Biden campaign sent out an email about Joe’s performance in the Democratic debate several hours before ithe debate had started. “Did I make you proud?” it began. (I can’t imagine another typical stumble-fest from Biden would make anyone proud, but never mind)

“I’m leaving the fifth Democratic debate now,” It continued. “I hope I made you proud out there and I hope I made it clear to the world why our campaign is so important.”

I wrote about something like this during the 2012 debates, when USA Today published an analysis by a conservative and a liberal pundit over the previous night’s Obama-Romney debate that was obviously written before the debate took place. These things are lies. What should the public take away from learning about them? They should learn that the people involved will deceive them even when they don’t have to.

“You might have just gotten an email from Joe about just getting off of the debate stage,” the rapidly deployed statement from the embarrassed campaign said.  “That’s our bad, team. We know Joe is going to make us proud tonight. We were just so excited for it that we accidentally hit send too soon,” they added.

Huh? If the message was written before the debate but pretended that it was written after the debate, it is a lie regardless of when it is sent. Continue reading

Two Ethics Dunce University Presidents Who Should Be Fired

Hateful!!!!

They are…

Western Connecticut State University  President John Clark, who asked for the community’s help identifying students—if they were students— who distributed what he called “hate filled flyers and inscriptions on our university property.” These were more of the 4Chan-inspired “It’s OK to be white” and “Islam is right about women” trolling devices.

“I wanted to assure you that a full scale police investigation is underway,” Clark wrote, stating that the FBI, state police and municipal police were reviewing surveillance footage iand grilling those  “who may have witnessed any of this despicable and utterly unacceptable behavior.” In full grandstanding and virtue-signalling mode, Clark declared that any WCSU community members identified as responsible for  the flyers  “will be subject to the severest disciplinary actions, including dismissal as well as possible civil and criminal actions.”  He described the flyers’ message as “disgusting,” “hateful,” “virulent,” “sick and outrageous.”

“It’s OK to be white.”

The Horror. Continue reading

From The Anti-Freedom of Speech Files: UConn And The Connecticut Hate Speech Law

The University of Connecticut  chapter of the NAACP is circulating a video that  shows two students walking through a parking lot blithely shouting out “nigger.” It also sent out a tweet stating, “If you have any information about this racist recording at UConn, please email naacpuconn1909@gmail.com We will not tolerate racist behavior on this campus.”

To make a relevant point at the outset, this is not “racist conduct,” but racist speech at most. Racist speech is constitutionally protected (that First Amendment thingy), but you wouldn’t know it from the Connecticut  law the two students have been charged with violating. It decrees:

Any person who, by his advertisement, ridicules or holds up to contempt any person or class of persons, on account of the creed, religion, color, denomination, nationality or race of such person or class of persons, shall be guilty of a class D misdemeanor.

Ridiculing individuals based on gender or sexual orientation is apparently just fine, though: it’s an old law.  The  charge is punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail, a fine of up to $50, or both.

Jarred Karal and Ryan Mucaj, the two idiots involved, face  possible expulsion from UConn for violating the school’s code of conduct. That’s a separate issue. A school has a right to make reasonable demands on student comportment, and civility, but what is “reasonable” is an ethical gray area. If the students thought they were alone, for example, I am not sure that a state school should be able to punish them. These morons were just shouting the offensive word into the air. Can they be punished for saying “nigger” in their dorm rooms, when they are alone? If the campus NAACP’s circulation of the video is what is disrupting the campus, why isn’t that a punishable offense? The NAACP circulating the video upset and offended more students than the parking lot shouts. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/20/19: Ancient Icelanders And Others Behaving Badly

Good Morning!

1. Confession: I called a stranger an asshole on Facebook yesterday. I had patiently explained to a Facebook Borg-infected friend that no, the Justice Department report on Hillary’s email fiasco had not proven for all time that she hadn’t “done anything wrong,” quite the contrary. The report revealed that she was directly responsible for over 600 security breaches (after saying otherwise for more than a year). That means that she was reckless, incompetent, irresponsible and dishonest, and, since the applicable statute doesn’t require intent, could have been prosecuted. The report did find that there was no evidence that Clinton deliberately set out to endanger national security, which was never the issue.

Some clod following the thread wrote that you “could sure tell who follows Fox News talking points.” Well, I’m sick of that lazy deflection, and anyone who uses it, especially on me, is an asshole, and needs to be told.  maybe ist not too late to get treatment. It’s even more of an asshole thing to say than the reflex “But ….Trump!” retort.

2. Yes, this is unethical. Yes, it is newsworthy. No, it is receiving almost no national coverage outside of conservative news sources. Rep. Katie Hill, Vice Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, has been engaged in a three-way sexual relationship involving a  staffer and her husband. This would not matter to me, and should not matter to you, except that the woman involved is Hill’s subordinate. The workplace is not a dating bar or personal harem, not in the private sector, not in Congress. In addition, close personal relationships create conflicts of interest for the supervisor in any office. I would mention the inherent imbalance of power that makes it impossible for an employee to consent to a superior’s advances in such a situation, but of course Lee knows that, being an ardent #MeToo and Time’s Up! supporter.

The hypocrisy in the Democratic Party on this issue is wide, deep, and nauseating, except, I guess, to Democrats. Last week, discussing this issue with lawyers following my ethics seminar, a usually smart, fair, male attorney actually opined that Joe Biden’s serial non-consensual groping wasn’t really a problem because “he didn’t mean it to be sexual assault.” The lawyer really said this, though “I didn’t mean anything by it” has been the reflex excuse of every sexual harasser from Bill O’Reilly to Louis C.K.

3. Stipulated: President Trump’s harsh rhetoric in the aborted White House meeting with Democrats was one more stupid self-inflicted wound. Given the barrage of ad hominem attacks by the party that she leads, and the disrespect for the office that Pelosi herself has orchestrated (that mocking clap at the State of the Union speech alone was unforgivable), Trump was certainly provoked, but the President is not supposed to slide into the gutter just because his adversaries live there. It’s swell to be a “fighter”—Trump is probably correct that Mitt Romney would have been elected President in 2012 if he had a some Trump in him—but that doesn’t mean that gratuitous incivility and nastiness is a competent or responsible political strategy.

However, this image, part of a cartoon by Andy Marlette for the Pensacola News Journal earlier this year… Continue reading

End Of Week Ethics Alarms, 10/11/2019: The Liberty Under Attack Edition

Wait…

I’m looking forward to the weekend  even though I’ll be working throughout.

I’m obviously an idiot.

1. My Ethics Alarms doesn’t even “ping!” on this one.  KTVU, the Bay Area’s Fox affiliate, summarized the St. Louis Cardinals’ devastating win over the Braves in Game 5 of the National League Division Series with a chyron reading, “Braves Scalped.” The Horror! Exclaimed the always sensitive Yahoo! Sports, “That’s straight out of the yikes factory. Particularly given the conversation that’s surrounded the Braves recently. A Cardinals pitcher of Native American descent objected to the Braves’ infamous tomahawk chop and the team responded Wednesday by toning down its use of the chop. There’s not any good time to roll out a “scalped” headline, but this was a particularly bad one.” The headline to the story says the headline is “racist.”

OK, why? I want one good reason. If a team is going to call itself something other than “The Baseball Players,” which would be strikingly unoriginal, you have to admit, then metaphors and colorful language relating to that teams’ nickname are automatically appropriate. “Orioles’/Cardinals’/Bluejays’ Wings Clipped!”…”Red Sox/Whie Sox unravel!”…”Tigers/Cubs/ Declawed!”…”Nats Swatted!”…”Giants Dwarfed!”…  “Pirates Walk The Plank!”…”Diamondbacks Rattled!”…”Mariners Sink!” But “Braves (or Indians) Scalped!” is an outrage? The team lost 13-1! The Braves were down 10-0 after the first half-inning; it was an epic slaughter. I could u8nderstand the discomfort if Native Americans never scalped their adversaries, but they did. This isn’t some kind of historical slander. Let’s see…here’s some of a rather scholarly article on the subject of scalping…

…the languages of the eastern Indians contained many words to describe the scalp, the act of scalping, and the victim of scalping. A Catholic priest among the Hurons in 1623 learned that an onontsira was a war trophy consisting of “the skin of the head with its hair.” The five languages of the Iroquois were especially rich in words to describe the act …To the Mohawks and Oneidas, the scalp was onnonra ; the act of taking it, kannonrackwan . Their western brothers at Onondaga spoke of hononksera , a variation of the Huron word. And although they were recorded after initial contact with the Europeans, the vocabularies of the other Iroquois nations and of the Delaware, Algonquin, Malecite, Micmac, and Montagnais all contained words for scalp, scalping, and the scalped that are closely related to the native words for hair, head, skull, and skin. That these words were obviously not borrowed from European languages lends further support to the notion that they were native to America and deeply rooted in Indian life….paintings and drawings reinforce that image. The single most important picture in this regard is Theodore de Bry’s engraving of Le Moyne’s drawing of “How Outina’s Men Treated the Enemy Dead.” Based on Le Moyne’s observations in 1564-65, the 1591 engraving was the first pictorial representation of Indian scalping, one faithful to Le Moyne’s verbal description and to subsequent accounts from other regions of eastern America. The details—sharp reeds to extract the scalp, drying the green skin over a fire, displaying the trophies on long poles, and later celebrating the victory with established rituals by the sorcerer—lend authenticity to De Bry’s rendering and support to the argument for the Indian invention of scalping….[I]n the end, the American stereotype of scalping must stand as historical fact, whether we are comfortable with it or not.”

In summary, the word was obviously not meant literally to refer to a baseball game. Nor was the use of it was in no way libelous to real Native Americans. Yahoo’s pearl-clutching, and that of social media political correctness cops, is more offensive by far than the Fox chryon.

2.  As if you didn’t have to jump through too many hoops to fly already…In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act, which made the addition of a star to state IDs  and drivers licenses necessary to have access to nuclear power plants and federal facilities. Then some genius decided that access to airplanes should be added to the list. Continue reading

The Attacks On Free Speech From The Left Are More Dangerous Than Any Speech Progressives Want Banned

Another day, another progressive effort to erode pubic support and understanding for the First Amendment. This is at the root of America’s current ethics conflict: a perverse and puckish God has made one of the most unethical and least reflective of public figures  the crucial bulwark against a massed and relentless assault against core national values.

The New York Times, taking a hand-off from its ideological twin the New Yorker, has published an attack on free speech from New Yorker writer Andrew Marantz. Even though he is a professional writer, he has managed to complete an elite education (Brown, NYU School of Journalism) without managing to grasp the essence of freedom of speech, and why it is the structural load-bearing beam that allows our democracy to exist.

Marantz simply doesn’t get it, or he does get it, but would love to see less liberty and more enforced line-toeing by those lesser intellects and deplorables who cannot accept the inherent rightness of the progressive view of the universe. He writes, for example,

Using “free speech” as a cop-out is just as intellectually dishonest and just as morally bankrupt. For one thing, the First Amendment doesn’t apply to private companies. Even the most creative reader of the Constitution will not find a provision guaranteeing Richard Spencer a Twitter account. But even if you see social media platforms as something more akin to a public utility, not all speech is protected under the First Amendment anyway. Libel, incitement of violence and child pornography are all forms of speech. Yet we censor all of them, and no one calls it the death knell of the Enlightenment.

I guess Brown has no mandatory course in government theory.  The Constitution is the enabling document of the U.S. mission statement—you know, the one that begins by announcing that there are inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That such a governing document that could only limit government restrictions on free speech also stood for a cultural, societal and ethical norm that freedom of speech was central to the Declaration’s summary of human rights would normally be clear to anyone who bothered to study the two documents as well as research the relationship between law, morality and ethics. It’s true that Richard Spencer can’t be assured of a Twitter account, but a society that denies him one is chopping at that load-bearing beam. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/2/19: While Basking In The Glow Of Another Life Lesson From Baseball

Go Nats!

The Washington Nationals had never won an elimination game in the National league post-season. They were 0-6 in such games going into last might’s do-or-die single Wild Card play-off at home against the Miracle Milwaukee Brewers. Following the script many Nats fans dreaded, the team’s Hall of Fame-bound ace, Max Scherzer, quickly gave up three runs while the Brew Crew’s storied bullpen kept the offense at bay save a solo homer from National shortstop Trey Turner. Heading into the bottom of the eighth, the Nationals had to face closer Josh Hader (he of the Hader Gotcha), who gives up hits less often than some pitchers give up runs.

Then, as they say, fate took a hand. With one out, uninspiring Nats pinch-hitter Michael Taylor reached first illicitly. A 3-2 pitch from Hader hit the knob of Taylor’s bat and immediately ricocheted onto his hand. It should have been called a foul, but the umpires ruled it a hit-by-pitch, sending Taylor to first base. Hader struck out the next Nats batter, then aging Nats slugger Ryan Zimmerman was called upon as another pinch-hitter. He barely connected with a pitch out of the strike zone, breaking his bat, but his weak “dying quail” bloop dropped in just over the head of the Milwaukee second baseman for a cheap and fortunate single. (On TV, Zimmerman could be seen smiling and shrugging sheepishly.) That meant the tying runs were on base for the Nats best hitter, MVP candidate Anthony Rendon. Hader gave him what is known as an intentional unintentional base on balls in order to face 20-year-old Juan Soto, a left-handed batter. Lefty Hader allowed left-handed batters to hit .143 this season. But young Soto lined a pitch into right center, and Brewers right fielder Trent Grisham, one of the heroes of the late-season Brewers play-off drive, did a Bill Buckner. The single got past him (he was charging the ball in what would have been a futile effort to throw out the tying run at the plate) , and all three runners scored. Incredibly, the Nats now led 4-3. After the Brewers went down in the top of the 9th without scoring, they, and not Milwaukee, moved on to the next round of the play-offs.

Lesson: In baseball, as in life, it is as important to be lucky as to be good. Chaos lurks in every second, and the illusion of control is just that, an illusion. A bad call, a fluke hit, and a horribly-timed fielding botch that the same outfielder avoids 99 times out of a hundred, and so much changed for two cities, two fan bases, and the 2019 post-season, affecting jobs, careers, reputations and commerce.

This is why we should never give up, never despair, and never get cocky. It is also why we should strive to live as ethically as possible. We can’t control whether we win or lose, but we can control how.

1. Again we must ask: when did the Democratic Party decide to abandon freedom of speech?  Yesterday, we learned that Joe Biden’s campaign wants the news media to censor adversary commentary from Rudy Giuliani, while claiming that no one who isn’t a public official is qualified to opine on TV regarding public policy.  Now Senator Kamala Harris, who also aspires to be President, says President Trump should be banned from using Twitter because he  uses the platform in an “irresponsible” way. Harris, in an interview with CNN host Anderson Cooper, also called for “other mechanisms” to make sure Trump’s words “do not in fact harm anyone”—you know, like harming her party’s election prospects by exposing its Big Lies and open coup attempts.

I wonder if the public sees how ominous the repeated Democratic calls for censorship are. Maybe the President will tweet about that.

Of course, the President’s use of Twitter is often irresponsible, but also a necessary end-around media propaganda aimed at unseating him and undermining democracy. It is remarkable that Harris, a Senator and a lawyer, somehow missed  that the First Amendment proclaims the importance of free speech to our society. It doesn’t only endorse the right to engage in responsible speech. I think, for example, that advocating censoring the speech of the President of the United States is irresponsible, but I’ll defend Harris’s right to do it—and my right to conclude that because she does it, she is an ignorant, dangerous fool. Continue reading