Cold Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/10/18: You’ve Got Ethics To Keep You Warm!

Brrrrr!

Maybe this will help...

1. Starting with the important stuff: Baseball’s badly-named Today’s Game Era Committee announced that long-time right-fielder/designated hitter Harold Baines and towering closer Lee Smith had been voted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Smith, who retired as the all-time saves leader and is now third behind two Hall of Famers, was a defensible pick, but not Baines. The Committee’s job is to look back on players who were rejected in the regular Hall of Fame voting process and see if some of them fell through the cracks who were Hall caliber. There are only 16 members of the committee, and an ex-player needs 12 votes to enter Cooperstown. The sixteen members included at least four with strong ties to Baines, and they  presumably argued eight more members into letting him squeak by.  Bias made them stupid. Those four, which included Baines’ former manager and the owner of the Chicago White Sox, which retired his number, should have had to recuse themselves because of conflicts of interest.

Baines led the league in an offensive category, once, when he had the best slugging percentage in the American League. He never finished high in the Most Valuable Player voting. Most of the players who compare most closely to him are not in the Hall. The big thing Baines had going for his candidacy as a very good but not great player was that everybody liked him. He’s sort of the opposite of Curt Schilling, who is clearly Hall-worthy but whom most sportswriters hate—too religious, too conservative, too mouthy.

Now the argument for admitting other good but not great players will be, “But he was better than Harold Baines!” This is how conflicts of interest undermine the integrity of institutions.

2. When Naked Teachers have no excuses.  The Naked Teacher Principle holds that when a teacher allows a nude photo of herself or himself to circulate on the web where it can be seen by students, that teacher cannot complain when and if it leads to their dismissal.  A teacher really can’t complain if she sends the photo to a student intentionally, which is what Ramsey Bearse, 28, a former Miss Kentucky now teaching at Andrew Jackson Middle School in Cross Lanes, West Virginia, did with a 15-year-old former student , according to the sheriff’s office. She faces four felony counts of distributing or displaying obscene matter to a minor.

3. Pondering whether to include an open Ethics Alarms forum as a regular feature. Many of the blogs I frequent for story ideas do this late at night. Ethics Alarms has done it once when I was forced to be away from a keyboard for most of the day, and I was impressed with the results. Those forums on the other blogs often devolve into silliness, bad jokes, memes and worse, and I would insist that an “open forum” on Ethics Alarms be restricted to raising and discussing ethics and ethical topics. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/26/2018: Our Amazing, Evolving, Contentious Culture

Good Morning!

1. Outrageous Self-Promotion Dept.: Just in case you live in the vicinity of Washington, D.C., AND are interested in the cultural impact of the works of Gilbert and Sullivan in the U.S., AND would like to see me (and three long-time friends and colleagues who will periodically join me in performing some selections from the brilliant satirical operettas) discuss this rich and wide-ranging topic (Politics! Satire! Movie scores! Broadway musicals!) over a three-hour session that will fly like the wind, all it will take is a mere 50 dollars (just 35, if you are a Smithsonian Associates member) and your attendance. I’d love to see you. The program is Gilbert and Sullivan in the 21st Century, this Saturday, June 30, at 9:30 a.m. Here are the details.

2. Speaking of culture…If you want to feel better about the state of U.S. culture, I recommend watch a Beach Party movie. I just saw the first one all the way to the end for the first time—to realize that it was easily the best of its line (there were six—SIX!!!—more) is mind-boggling all by itself—and found it immediately uplifting. The 1963 William Asher-directed relic looks like it’s from some particularly demented parallel universe, depicting a weird place where 30-year-olds pretend to be  loitering teenagers who do nothing all day but gyrate to frenetic versions of the Twist, listen to awful surf music that makes the Jan and Dean sound like Brahms in comparison, do some surfing themselves (but just the males), and interact with B-list comics like Morey Amsterdam and Harvey Lembeck. The songs and their hackneyed lyrics make you yearn for the nuanced hip-hop musings of Kanye West; the comedy makes “Big Bang Theory” seem like Oscar Wilde, and to speculate on what kind of populace would actually enjoy such badly-conceived and sloppily-executed crap is to risk madness. If this was America in 1963, a) Good riddance, b) How did we survive? and c) No wonder the Soviet Union thought they were going to win!

No blacks are to be seen; indeed no skin color of any shade but glistening white is visible anywhere—didn’t these people even tan? Here’s a typically clueless exchange to ponder:  Annette Funicello: “The professor got his robe from the chief of the Tokyo Fire Department!” Random 30-year-old teenage beach bum: “Great! I’ll call him if my rickshaw catches fire!”  [laughter]. In the hilarious motorcycle gang, where all of the actors appear to be at least 45, the male members’ leather jackets say “Rats” on the back, and their female cohorts’ jackets say “Mice.” None of the”girls” have any function in the film, and no higher purpose, than to moon after the guys and gyrate in their faces.  Accepted conduct is for every male youth to gawk, pant, and emit some sound the equivalent of a wolf whistle every time a shapely female passes. The romantic lead (of sorts), teen idol Frankie Avalon, trying to make virginal, had-to-get Annette jealous, grabs a generic Scandinavian waitress and just starts kissing her. It’s like a magnet. Just kisses her He doesn’t  even wait. When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Then he tells her he loves her so she’ll make out with him until Annette loosens up. This is the hero, remember.

They should show this film in every junior high school American History class. I’m very serious about this.

3. An abject lesson in how the news media uses language to manipulate public perception: Virtually every news report about the Trump administration’s actions at the Mexican border described them, and are still describing them, in headlines as “family separation.” The cumulative effect of this is to make casual, not fully-engaged readers and listeners think that family separation is the objective of the policy. The objective of the policy is to enforce current immigration laws while obeying other legal requirements, such as the one that forbids children from remaining with federally  detained parents.  This is, under the Ethics Alarms definition, fake news: deliberately deceitful reporting that conveys a false impression. The equivalent would be characterizing the imprisonment of African American men convicted of felonies as “the Trump policy of making black families into single-parent households.” Continue reading

Good-Bye To The Hasty Pudding Show

The Hasty Pudding Theatricals is an ancient  Harvard theater troupe that was always a drag show, staging productions since 1844 in which men played all the women’s roles. It has announced that, for the very first time, it would include women in the cast.  “The Hasty Pudding Theatricals is proud to announce that going forward, casting will be open to performers of all genders,” the group’s producers, Hannah Needle and Annie McCreery, said in an email.

This is an institution fatally impaling itself on the obelisk of political correctness.

I wondered when this would happen. I assumed it was inevitable once Harvard’s social justice warrior President Drew Faust announced in spring 2016 said that students who participated in single-gender clubs would not be allowed to hold on-campus leadership positions, captain sports teams, nor be eligible to receive  endorsements for prestigious fellowships. Last year,Harvard considered banning the clubs outright, which would have included the Hasty Pudding Club which originated the show, but decided  in 2017 to continue its policy of sanctions while leaving the threat hanging, like the sword of Damocles.

The Hasty Pudding show was an anachronism even when I was student. Student drag shows were common in the days before co-ed schools, and Harvard’s was the last one standing, which is what made it worth seeing and famous, the same random process that immortalized Fenway Park and George Burns. The show had a budget the size of a professional touring show, and did tour, performing for Harvard alumni clubs across the country, in addition to a month’s long run at the group’s Harvard Square theater. It hired a professional director, much of the orchestra, and the students who participated essentially gave up half a year of their education to participate. Harvard used to make its students who were interested in performing careers get their experience in extra-curricular theater groups like “the Pudding,” as it is called: there was no theater major. Thus stars-to-be like Jack Lemmon and Fred Gwynne got their start on the road to fame in Pudding shows.

The whole point is, however, that it’s a drag show. Many of the laughs come from the running joke that the women in the story are played by men, usually the biggest, tallest, hairiest ones available. The show is far more of a spoof on men than women. I have never known a woman who was offended at drag comedy. I have known many men and women who didn’t find it funny—my father hated Milton Berle especially because of his penchant for dressing in drag. I’m not a fan either, although John Cleese’s female impressions are irresistible.

I was also not a fan of the Pudding show itself, despite being very active in campus theater and having many friends who performed. I only saw one of the productions, “Bottoms Up!”, my freshman year. It was slick, well-performed, the costumes were terrific, and the original, student-written songs were excellent—I still have the cast album–but one hasty Pudding theatrical was plenty. The climax of every show was a spectacular kickline, which was perfectly executed by big, hairy guys dressed like the Rockettes. Again, not my cup of tea: I appreciated it rather than loved it. Continue reading

Harvard’s Female Students: ‘Wait, That Ban OnThe Freedom Of Association Off Campus Wasn’t Just For Men? Outrageous!’

Back in 2016, Harvard University President Drew Faust sent an email to undergraduate students and the Harvard community,  announcing that beginning with the 2017 entering class, undergraduate members of unrecognized single-gender social organizations (called “fraternities and sororities” at normal colleges)  would  be banned from holding athletic team captaincies and leadership positions in all recognized student groups. They would also be ineligible for College endorsement for top fellowships like the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships. I wrote in part,

Let us be clear what Harvard is trying to do here. It is seeking to punish students for their associations and activities unrelated to the school itself, and using its power within the limits of the campus to indoctrinate ideological values and require conduct that is unrelated to education. This is a rejection of the principle of freedom of association, one of those enumerated rights protected by the Ninth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, and a cornerstone of American principles. If the college can, in effect, create a blacklist withholding institutional honors from those who choose to belong to an all male or all female club completely distinct from the university, what clearly delineated line prevents the same institution from declaring that membership in the Republican Party, Occupy Wall Street, Americans For Trump or the NAACP are similarly undermining its values?

There is no such line.

But the policy went forward. Then, last July, a Harvard University task force advised banning students from joining any “fraternities, sororities, and similar organizations” as part of a process to phase out the social groups entirely by 2022. The recommendation was not adopted. Now, three sororities (remember, these are off-campus organizations not officially affiliated with Harvard) announced that they will still  recruit freshman women next semester.

“This is the spirit in which Alpha Phi, Delta Gamma, and Kappa Alpha Theta were established during the early 1870s,” the sororities said in their joint statement, titled, “We Believe Women Should Make Their Own Choices.”

Ah! The magic word “choice”!

Your move, President Faust! Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/16/2017

 Isn’t it a lovely morning?

1. This isn’t the first post of the day: I woke up around 4 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep (“As My Guitar Gently Weeps” was playing over and over in my head, don’t ask me why, and images from the Red Sox 16 inning loss to the Yankees was giving me the night terrors), so I went to the office and wrote this post. Charlie Green, critic and friend, properly pointed out that my comment in passing that incorrectly alluded to rumors about Joseph P. Kennedy being a bootlegger was exactly what my  post was criticizing David Brooks for doing in his attack on the entire Trump family, going back generations, a truly ugly op-ed.

What I was sorely tempted to say was that I’m just an ethics blogger, trying to focus attention on ethics standards in a daily blog from which I receive no income and intangible professional benefits if any. I mange to get 2000-4000 words published every 24 hours, working in short bursts while I try to earn a living, run a business, do research and be as good a father and husband as I can be. I have no editors, no researchers (except generous volunteers) and my blog is not a “paper of record” for journalists, seen by millions and paid for by subscribers. Is it really fair to hold Ethics Alarms to the same standards as David Brooks and the New York Times?

Make no mistake: my own standards are that no typo, no misstated fact, no misleading argument, are acceptable on an ethics blog, or any blog, or anything published on the web. Charles was right: using an unproven accusation of long-standing (Until Charles flagged it, I thought the bootlegging charge was a matter of public record) undermines my case against Brooks. Nonetheless, Brooks has absolutely no excuse. This is all he does, he has all week to produce a column or two, and he has a staff.

I’ve also corrected my error within hours of making it. What are the chances that Brooks and the Times will ever admit that they intentionally impugned the character of Fred Trump using rumors and innuendo as part of their ongoing effort to demonize the President of the United States?

My guess: Zero.

2. The big story this morning appears to be O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing. Will he be paroled and released after serving just nine years of the three-decade sentence he received for his participation in a burglary? Assuming that it is true that O.J., now 70 and unlikely to stab any more ex-wives and innocent bystanders to death, has been a model prisoner, yes, that would be the ethical result. O.J. got away with a double murder—he will not be asked at the hearing, “Once you’re out, can we assume that you’ll renew your relentless hunt for the real killer?”—but he wasn’t put in prison for that crime. Officially, he’s innocent. His fellow burglars were all put on probation, while the judge threw the book at the former football star, presumably to exact a measure of societal revenge for Nicole and Ron. The sentence was unethical. I don’t feel sorry for O.J. at all; I’m glad he had to serve hard time, just as I would have been happy if he had been squashed by a meteor. Justice, however, demands that he go free.

The bastard. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day (1): “Comment Of The Day: ‘Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Old Town Sport And Health in Alexandria,VA. Why? Because White Nationalists Have A Right To Work Out Too’”

 

Suddenly there is a bumper crop of Comments of the Day on Ethics Alarms; two more are slated for re-publication today, both in response to Spartan’s provocative opinion that she would leave a gym that allowed white supremacist Richard Spencer work out there, even if he restrained his urge to heil. 

First up is Mrs Q, a relatively recent addition to the ethics colloquy here, and one who has distinguished her self quickly for non-nonsense posts of clarity and purpose. Her reference in this post to the “socialist shithole” of Portland was especially timely: yesterday we learned that the city’s social justice warriors had driven a local burrito business to close for the offense of “cultural appropriation.”

Here is Mrs. Q’s Comment of the Day on the post, Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Old Town Sport And Health in Alexandria,VA. Why? Because White Nationalists Have A Right To Work Out Too”:

…In my mind I don’t see myself as a quadruple minority. Yes my skin color is brown, I’m a lady married to a lady, work from home due to disability…but I don’t think of myself in terms of “special classes.” I’m probably more like a country conservative old school hippy stuck in a socialist shithole (Portland OR). However how do you think many of the young white liberals here tend to treat me? Well some dismiss me because I don’t agree with their stances. I’m called a traitor or “uncle Tom” by those who speak “anti-racism” because I don’t see myself as a victim & have no problem with people thinking so-called racist thoughts.

Continue reading

The Pitzer College “POC Only” Roommate Wanted Ad [UPDATED]

"Now THAT's not racism. Why do you honkies have so much trouble understanding this?"

“Now THAT’s not racism. Why do you murderous honkies have so much trouble understanding this?”

A roommate-wanted notice posted on Facebook by a Pitzer College student has turned into yet another racial controversy. The student, along with two Pomona College students,  were seeking a fourth to join them in an off-campus house. The notice included “POC only” –person of color only—and this got them immediately called out as racists by some other students.

The ad is not racist. The text reflects a bias, as in “preference,” but that isn’t necessarily racism. Everyone has freedom of association in this country, or should. Human beings are more comfortable with those whom they perceive as being more like them. There is nothing wrong with that, but even if there is, it is human nature. There is nothing to be done about it, and there shouldn’t be anything done about it other than to help each other understand that tribalism is divisive and  a pre-programmed bias that we should fight, because getting past it makes us better neighbors, members of society and human beings.

Still, I don’t want to live with someone who doesn’t want to live with me, but who is going to accept me into a living situation based on a feeling of obligation. A house seeking someone else to share the rent isn’t a public accommodation, and there is no ethical principle demanding that the roommates can’t or shouldn’t specify the kind of individual they think would best complete the group. What if the other three are all white, and are seeking someone different from them to make the house more diverse? Is it equally offensive if the ad sought an athlete, or someone overweight (who wouldn’t make the three hefty roomies feel unattractive), or a good student, or an actor, or someone with a good sense of humor? Why? Such requirements are not a per se indication of anything but personal preferences, and personal preferences aren’t racism.

Is the “POC only” addendum unethical? Technically, it fails Kant’s “what if everybody does it?” test,  for if everybody did it, white students would have nowhere to live. There you have an example of where Kant’s Rule of Universality is worth musing about but often isn’t applicable. Some conduct is ethical despite Kant because the idea that it would become universal is too ridiculous. I want to live with a baseball fan. I don’t want to live with someone who is going to be listening to punk rock. If three roommates can look for a female fourth, or a gay fourth, or a Spanish-speaking fourth—and they can without nicking any ethics principles at all—then they can insist on racial or ethnic qualifications too.

Is it better ethics to be accepting of all equally? Sure it is. But not exhibiting exemplary ethics isn’t unethical. Again, it’s just human.

There is more to the story however. When some students commented on Facebook that the notice was racist, the replies from the students posting it and others expanded the controversy.

The Claremont Independent, a student paper that covers all five of the Claremont colleges (as well as two graduate schools), of which Pitzer is a member, published some of the comments, and they show the anti-white animus and double standards now roiling race relations in the U.S. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces : Michigan State University Student Feminists

MSU womens_study_lounge

Higher education progressives, students, professors and administrators alike, are seriously confused about ethics, and some basic principles like fairness, respect, equity, and competence, not to mention common sense. How did they come to such a state?

For various reasons, none of them reasonable, Michigan State University had maintained that gender segregation was appropriate in the student Union, and  a study lounge there was designated for women only. Perhaps we can forgive the school’s initial judgment in this case, since the Union’s Women’s Lounge, located on the main floor of the MSU Union, debuted in 1925, just five years after women gained the right to vote.Men vastly outnumbered women then, and were looked upon as oddities, or perhaps temptation.

It is 2016, however, and women are demanding equality where it may already exist, and declaring gender discrimination where it may not, so the continued existence of the male excluding lounge was more than a bit anachronistic. After all, Harvard College just declared war on any male student who dared to belong to off-campus all-male clubs, since even freedom of association away from school is deeply offensive to the progressive values of Ivy League educators.

Then a University of Michigan-Flint professor named Mark Perry, filed a complaint to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights towards MSU alleging that the lounge violated federal anti-discrimination law, which it obviously does. Continue reading

Dear Harvard: Fire President Drew Faust And Dean Rakesh Khurana

If these idiots are off-campus, 1) GOOD and 2) it's none of the college's business.

If these idiots do this off-campus, 1) GOOD and 2) it’s none of the college’s business.

In an e-mail to undergraduate students and the Harvard community, University President Drew Faust announced that beginning with next year’s entering class, undergraduate members of unrecognized single-gender social organizations will be banned from holding athletic team captaincies and leadership positions in all recognized student groups. They will also be ineligible for College endorsement for top fellowships like the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships.

The unrecognized single-gender social organizations are what is left of the old fraternities and sororities. When the Greek system was banned many decades ago (and Harvard was an all-male college), the frats reorganized as exclusive college clubs located in houses around Harvard Square in Cambridge. After Harvard merged with all-female neighbor Radcliffe College in the Seventies, sorority-like clubs emulated their male counterparts. In 1984, Harvard issued an ultimatum to the clubs to go co-ed, and the clubs responded by disaffiliating with the University.

Wrote Faust in part:

“Although the fraternities, sororities, and final clubs are not formally recognized by the College, they play an unmistakable and growing role in student life, in many cases enacting forms of privilege and exclusion at odds with our deepest values. The College cannot ignore these organizations if it is to advance our shared commitment to broadening opportunity and making Harvard a campus for all of its students….Captains of intercollegiate sports teams and leaders of organizations funded, sponsored, or recognized by Harvard College in a very real sense represent the College.They benefit from its resources. They operate under its name. Especially as it seeks to break down structural barriers to an effectively inclusive campus, the College is right to ensure that the areas in which it provides resources and endorsement advance and reinforce its values of non-discrimination.”

Faust was following the recommendation of Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana’s recommendations, who wrote in his report on the results of a “study”,

“[T]he discriminatory membership policies of these organizations have led to the perpetuation of spaces that are rife with power imbalances. The most entrenched of these spaces send an unambiguous message that they are the exclusive preserves of men. In their recruitment practices and through their extensive resources and access to networks of power, these organizations propagate exclusionary values that undermine those of the larger Harvard College community…Ultimately, all of these unrecognized single-gender social organizations are at odds with Harvard College’s educational philosophy and its commitment to a diverse living and learning experience.”

Let us be clear what Harvard is trying to do here. It is seeking to punish students for their associations and activities unrelated to the school itself, and using its power within the limits of the campus to indoctrinate ideological values and require conduct that is unrelated to education. This is a rejection of the principle of freedom of association, one of those enumerated rights protected by the Ninth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, and a cornerstone of American principles. If the college can, in effect, create a blacklist withholding institutional honors from those who choose to belong to an all male or all female club completely distinct from the university, what clearly delineated line prevents the same institution from declaring that membership in the Republican Party, Occupy Wall Street, Americans For Trump or the NAACP are similarly undermining its values?

There is no such line. Continue reading

Twelve Post-Veto Ethics Observations On The Arizona “Religious Freedom” Bill

veto2

1. As we now know, Governor Brewer vetoed AZ SB1062, the so-called “religious freedom” bill that was widely (and accurately) interpreted as support for discrimination against gays. In the previous post, I suggested that her delay in doing so sent a message that was as hostile to gays as the law itself: if she felt the law was ethically wrong, then she should have and would have announced that she would not sign the bill long ago. Instead, she waited to see how much economic damage the law would do to the state, and then vetoed it, not because this was the right ting to do, but because it was the pragmatic thing to do. (As the satiric Borowitz Report put it, “The state of Arizona found itself in the middle of a conundrum today as it awoke to the awkward realization that gay people have money and buy stuff.”) USA Today noted that, to the contrary,”Some political insiders believe Brewer has allowed furor over the legislation to build to thwart social conservatives’ attempts to push a similar bill later.” I doubt it, but if so, Brewer allowed her state and her fellow Republicans to be represented nationally as homophobic for as long as possible to spare herself the inconvenience of vetoing a second bill.

2. Despite the extravagant debate over the bill, almost no commentators actually published the bill’s text in the commentary. The reason appears to be that since the bill is really an amendment of an existing law, it takes a modicum of intelligence to figure out what’s going on. Here it is (the original law is in black; the new text is in blue; what has been removed in the amended version is struck through): Continue reading