Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/22/2020: Death, Ethics, And Rationalizations

I just learned that my sweet, kind cousin Kathy has died as the result of several recently discovered brain tumors. I hadn’t seen her for decades, so in my mind she’s still 35, vibrant  and beautiful. I have to come to terms with the fact that we had no relationship at this point, but her loss still stings. She lived alone after her marriage with a real creep fell apart; never had children. Like all of the Coulourises (my mother’s side), family was so important to her. I could have picked up the phone.

1. I suppose today’s anniversary of Lincoln signing the  Emancipation Proclamationin 1862 has to be noted, but it was a strategic act, not an especially ethical one. After all, it exempted slaves in the border states, which allowed slavery  but had not joined the Confederacy. After the Union’s sort-of  victory at the Battle of Antietam earlier in the month,  Lincoln announced that enslaved people in areas still in rebellion within 100 days would be free. Then, on January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation, which declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebel states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”  Note that it freed no slaves that he had the power to free, but the maneuver successfully made the Civil War about human rights. Anti-slavery nations like Great Britain and France, which the Confederacy desperately wanted as allies,  couldn’t back the Confederacy after Lincoln made the war explicitly a statement against slavery.

2. Does Mitt Romney have any core principles at all?  If he does, I don’t know what they are. It has always been clear—I hope— that he is a pure pragmatist, doing whatever he thinks will work at any given time. Non-ideologues often make effective leaders: FDR was one. Lincoln too. Romney would hate this, but Donald Trump is like Romney in that regard. (So are Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.). Over in the Facebook hive, the Deranged are gnashing their teeth over Romney’s announcement that he’ll vote for a qualified nominee for SCOTUS. I guess they thought that he would be like John McCain, and be governed by spite. Sure, Romney voted for impeachment because it was meaningless except to give the President a poke in the eye. He is still a Senator from Utah, however. he’s not going to torpedo an effort to solidify a conservative majority on SCOTUS.

If he were a Senator representing Massachusetts, it would be a different tale.

3. Black Lives Matter quietly deleted the “what we believe” page on its website. You know, that was where the group said its mission is to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure,” to “dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work ‘double shifts’ so that they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work,” as well as “foster a queer-affirming network” by “freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual.” Maybe they were afraid all of those corporations, sports teams and politicians proclaiming their support might finally decide to read about what they were endorsing. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/6/2019: Fan Ethics, Hospital Ethics, Vandalism Ethics, And Diplomatic Immunity

Well, I woke up…

…and as my father was fond of saying, that should be enough. Of course, he adopted that philosophy during combat in World War II…

1. I have been asked, “With your beloved Red Sox out of the post-season, are you paying attention to the play-offs?” The answer is, “Oh, sure.” I’m not like Yankee fans, what my dad called “summer soldiers.” In fact, the post-season is a more enjoyable, less anxious, purer experience for a fan when his or her team is absent. I can just enjoy the beauty, suspense and constant surprises of baseball without being distracted by my emotions, conflicts of interest, and bias. Post-season baseball is the best of the game; when I am trying to introduce baseball to neophytes, this is the best time to do it. Yes, the dumbed-down broadcasting by the networks is annoying, but it’s always been that way. And yes, I still have some rooting biases: most of my friends  are Washington Nationals fans, do a piece of me is supporting them. I like underdogs, so the Twins, Rays, and every National League team but the Dodgers have my sympathies. The Yankees have had such a courageous, astounding season, winning over a hundred games despite having more significant injuries than any MLB team in history, that I even find myself rooting for them, because if any team deserves a championship, the 2019 New York Yankees do.

2. First, do no harm. Second, don’t be an asshole...This is incredible. Employees at a St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, Maine  created a “wall of shame” where they displayed confidential medical records of disabled patients in 2016, the state Human Rights Commission has found.

The records posted on the wall concerned sexual activity, photos and descriptions of  body parts and bodily functions of patients. St. Mary’s told CNN that it is “fully committed to ensuring this doesn’t happen again.”

Gee, that’s comforting. How did this happen in the first place?

The Shame Wall was revealed as part of a harassment complaint. MyKayla McCann, an employee who had been treated at the hospital, said that the existence of the “wall of shame” constituted an “abusive environment” where hospital staff displayed open hostility to those with disabilities.

“Coworkers constructed a workplace display ridiculing patients with disabilities. [McCann] encountered the display every day as part of her regular environment, making harassment pervasive,” the investigation said. “The information posted on Shame Wall was intended to demean and humiliate and included supposed ‘jokes’ about the hospital’s physically and mentally disabled patients.”

One employee was fired and another was given a warning in response to the incident. It took the hospital  four months after McCann’s complaint to take the Shame Wall down, according to the report. How caring. How efficient.

Continue reading

Emory Update: University President James Wagner Vows To Punish Perpetrators Of “Trump 2016” Grafitti, And Reason Whiffs On Why That’s Wrong

Nice equivocating, Reason.

Nice equivocating, Reason.

To avoid burying the lede, let us understand right off that this is known as “chilling free speech,” and is un-American and wrong.

Following the revelation that Emory chief James Wagner ratified the complaints of ideology-disabled students that the expression of support for a major party political candidate was an unacceptable assault on student “safety,” Reason now informs us that Wagner is reviewing security tapes so the students can be subjected to the “conduct violation process.” Although the University has not demonstrated similar verve when chalk-scrawled messages contained more popular content, it is making the disingenuous argument that the manhunt is only about policies requiring prior approval of such chalk campaigns, and that prohibit chalk graffiti that won’t be washed away by rain like the itsy-bitsy spider.

The problem with swallowing that malarkey is that mere chalking has never prompted security camera footage examinations or presidential concern before. This is about condemning and squelching mainstream political speech that the prevailing majority of the campus doesn’t like.  This wasn’t swastikas or “hate speech.” “Trump 2016” at Emory is no different from “LBJ 1968” at Berkeley.

Being gentle and oh so careful to avoid sounding too much like he doesn’t sympathize with Trump-despisers,  Reason reporter Robby Soave writes, Continue reading

Unethical Comment of the Month: Homeland Co-Creator Alex Gansa

homeland2

“We wish we’d caught these images before they made it to air. However, as ‘Homeland’ always strives to be subversive in its own right and a stimulus for conversation, we can’t help but admire this act of artistic sabotage.”

—-Alex Gansa, co-creator of Showtime’s hit series “Homeland,” discussing a recent episode in which the Arabic street artists the show hired to paint  graffiti on walls used as a backdrop to a scene spray-painted messages that translated into “ ‘Homeland’ is racist,” “There is no ‘Homeland’, ”  ‘Homeland is a joke,’and “ ‘Homeland’ is not a show.”

It might be (generously)  called an act of artistic sabotage if the artists snuck onto the set and changed the Arabic graffiti on their own time and dime. That was not what they did, however. They accepted money under false pretenses, and did not deliver the services promised. This is not merely sabotage, but fraud, dishonesty and a breach of trust. Rather than engage in civil disobedience and accept the consequences, which would be a principled and courageous act (however misguided)  Egyptian artist, Heba Y. Amin, decided to profit from it as well.

If they at least had the integrity to return their fees, they could win back some ethics points. Continue reading

There Is No “Debate”: Graffiti Artists Are Vandals, And The First Step To Stopping Them Is To Eliminate The Myth That They Might Be Anything Else

Rattlesnake Canyon "art": Breathtaking!

Rattlesnake Canyon “art”:
Breathtaking!

Since I don’t get out to the ol’ hiking trail that often, being chained to my desk, I was blissfully unaware that a group of lawless and arrogant vandals masquerading as “graffitti artists” are moving their ugly misappropriation of public spaces to the wild.

From the L.A. Times:

Andre Saraiva is an internationally known graffiti artist. He owns nightclubs in Paris and New York, works as a top editor of the men’s fashion magazine L’Officiel Hommes and has appeared in countless glossy magazines as a tastemaker and bon vivant. Two months ago he showed up on the decidedly un-fashionista website Modern Hiker, along with a photo of a boulder he tagged in Joshua Tree National Park. Since then, Saraiva, who lives in France and is known by his fans as Mr. Andre and Mr. A., has been scorned by American nature lovers and thrust into a highly charged debate. Saraiva is of a new generation of graffiti artists who regard nature — not just the built environment — as their canvas. They tag national parks, then post photos of their work on the Internet.

The Times—they are so open-minded in California!—goes on to say that “those acts infuriate outdoor enthusiasts,” as if there is any reason for the acts not to infuriate every thinking and reasoning human being on the planet. This is the awful journalistic device I have flagged in a political context, minimizing clearly unethical conduct by suggesting that only those with an agenda see it as wrong. “GOP critics assail Hillary Clinton for foreign donors,” for example, is a misleading characterization suggesting that one would and should only object to blatantly unethical conduct if one was a Clinton foe. Wrong. There is something ethically rotten about anyone who doesn’t see Clinton’s conduct as seriously unethical, just as everyone, not just “outdoor enthusiasts,” should recognize that defacing rocks, trees and landscapes is indefensible, ethically and legally.

Andre Saraiva is a fick–a person who acts unethically and celebrates it shamelessly. He is an art fick, a sub-species Ethics Alarms has not encountered often.

Jonathan Turley, a hiking enthusiast as well as a Constitutional scholar, makes his conclusion crystal clear, in the embodiment of the Ethics Alarms principle that “where ethics fail, law steps in”: Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week

“Passivity cloaked in tolerance results in nothing being done.”

—-National Public Radio Correspondent Megan Williams, reporting on how Italians are apathetic regarding the ugly graffiti marring virtually every public building, including churches, in Rome.

Tolerance as a virtue receives too much unqualified praise.. Often what passes for tolerance is really ethical negligence and laziness, or, as in Rome, apathy. Some things do not deserve toleration, and tolerating what should be intolerable is no virtue at all.