Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/28/18: As 2018 Runs Out…

Good Morning!

1. By the way… I want to thank all the stalwarts who have kept the comments lively over this holiday period, when traffic traditionally  all-but-halts at Ethics Alarms, and the 2018 installment has been especially slow, like the whole %^&$#@ year, really. It’s no fun speaking into the winds and shouting into the abyss. The responses and feedback mean a great deal to me, and I am grateful.

2. This sexual harassment concept really shouldn’t be so hard to grasp...but you know how it is when there’s a way to use  legitimately wrongful conduct to  justify exerting power over another—-they’ll streeeeeetch the definition as far as it can go and beyond. This is creative, I must say: A University of Missouri official was questioned regarding a case where a black male Ph.D. candidate asked a white female fitness trainer to go on a date and was eventually suspended from the school for sexual harassment and stalking.  In her deposition in the current appeal, the official suggested that the fact that the male student was larger than the female student gave him “power over her” and violated school policy.

This, of course, would make all instances where a larger male asks a smaller woman out in a school or workplace setting potential harassment, depending on whether she decided later that she was intimidated.  I presume that this would also apply in the rarer circumstances where a larger woman asks out a smaller man…here, for example:

I wonder if the heels count?

3. More over-hyped harassment: A white paper by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and Urban Institute classifies hard staring as sexual violence. Amy Alkon relates an incident when a victim of such staring called it “rape,” and indeed, “stare rape” is now recognized in some deranged setting as an offense. Continue reading

Encore: On the Importance Of Christmas To The Culture And Our Nation : An Ethics Alarms Guide

[As promised, here is the Ethics Alarms Christmas package, lightly revised, last posted three years ago]

I don’t know what perverted instinct it is that has persuaded colleges and schools to make their campuses a Christmas-free experience. Nor can I get into the scrimy and misguided minds of people like Roselle Park New Jersey Councilwoman Charlene Storey, who resigned over the city council’s decision to call its Christmas tree lighting a Christmas Tree Lighting, pouting that this wasn’t “inclusive,” or the  CNN goon who dictated the bizarre policy that the Christmas Party shot up by the husband-wife Muslim terrorists had to be called a “Holiday Party.”  Christmas, as the cultural tradition it evolved to be, is about inclusion, and if someone feels excluded, they are excluding themselves.  Is it the name that is so forbidding? Well, too bad. That’s its name, not “holiday.” Arbor Day is a holiday. Christmas is a state of mind. [The Ethics Alarms Christmas posts are here.]

Many years ago, I lost a friend over a workplace dispute on this topic, when a colleague and fellow executive at a large Washington association threw a fit of indignation over the designation of the headquarters party as a Christmas party, and the gift exchange (yes, it was stupid) as “Christmas Elves.” Marcia was Jewish, and a militant unionist, pro-abortion, feminist, all-liberal all-the-time activist of considerable power and passion. She cowed our pusillanimous, spineless executive to re-name the party a “holiday party” and the gift giving “Holiday Pixies,” whatever the hell they are.

I told Marcia straight out that she was wrong, and that people like her were harming the culture. Christmas practiced in the workplace, streets, schools and the rest is a cultural holiday of immense value to everyone open enough to experience it, and I told her to read “A Christmas Carol” again. Dickens got it, Scrooge got it, and there was no reason that the time of year culturally assigned by tradition to re-establish our best instincts of love, kindness, gratitude, empathy, charity and generosity should be attacked, shunned or avoided as any kind of religious indoctrination or “government endorsement of religion.”  Jews, Muslims, atheists and Mayans who take part in a secular Christmas and all of its traditions—including the Christmas carols and the Christian traditions of the star, the manger and the rest, lose nothing, and gain a great deal.

Christmas is supposed to bring everyone in a society together after the conflicts of the past years have pulled them apart. What could possibly be objectionable to that? What could be more important than that, especially in these especially divisive times? How could it possibly be responsible, sensible or ethical to try to sabotage such a benign, healing, joyful tradition and weaken it in our culture, when we need it most?

I liked and respected Marcia, but I deplore the negative and corrosive effect people like her have had on Christmas, and as a result, the strength of American community. I told her so too, and that was the end of that friendship. Killing America’s strong embrace of Christmas is a terrible, damaging, self-destructive activity, but it is well underway. I wrote about how the process was advancing here, and re-reading what I wrote, I can only see the phenomenon deepening, and hardening like Scrooge’s pre-ghost heart. Then I said… Continue reading

In Gratitude: Fred Greenstein (1930-2018)

The New York Times obituary for Dr. Fred Greenstein states early on, “Dr. Greenstein, who taught politics at Princeton University for nearly three decades, first made his mark with a reconsideration of Eisenhower, who was long perceived as disengaged from the job. Dr. Greenstein’s book, “The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader” (1982), upended that view.” Professor Greenstein first “made his mark” with me when I was in college, and discovered some scholarly articles he had written about the psychology of leaders and U.S. Presidents, and later, a thin volume, written in 1969, called “Personality and Politics.” His writings, research and theories gave me the idea for my honors thesis, which set out to determine whether there was an “American Presidency type” which our system tended to guide to the White House. (My conclusion: there was indeed.)

My research on this project informs my opinions and analysis to this day. The thesis was a bear: my thesis advisors told me it was far too ambitious. It required reading all the major biographies and autobiographies of the Presidents to that point,matching them to various psychology studies, and trying to find legitimate and documented similarities in background and character that might have predictive value. I always intended to expand my thesis, which was well-received by the Government Department, into a book, but life, as often happens, got in the way.

Professor Greenstein, however, kept expanding and refining his theories. In addition to showing why Ike was not a weak President, as Kennedy-worshiper Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr., ranked him (infuriating my father, along with other veterans), but a strong one with a unique and confident leadership style, Greenstein continued to analyze this most difficult, complex and personal of leadership roles in later works: “Presidents and the Dissolution of the Union: Leadership Style from Polk to Lincoln” (2013);  “Inventing the Job of President: Leadership Style from George Washington to Andrew Jackson” (2009); “The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to Clinton” (1996) and “How Presidents Test Reality: Decisions on Vietnam, 1954 and 1965” (1989). Continue reading

#41 Funeral Ethics Quiz: Honoring Our Presidents

This is a National Day of Mourning, and since President Trump ordered it, reporters, pundits and Democrats are bitching about it. It also helps that the dead President in question is a Republican. Had a National Day of Mourning been designated to bury recently-canonized Trump-hater John McCain, I doubt any complianing would have been put in print. Or (still kicking) Jimmy Carter, on my ranking list an equally inept President as Bush #1.

Over at the National Review, Charles Cooke questions whether we “over-honor” our Presidents, writing in part,

“Irrespective of whether he was a great man or a poor one, George H. W. Bush was a public employee. He was not a king. He was not a pope. He did not found or save or design the republic. To shut down our civil society for a day in order to mark his peaceful passing is to invert the appropriate relationship between the citizen and the state, and to take yet another step toward the fetishization of an executive branch whose role is supposed to be more bureaucratic than spiritual, but that has come of late to resemble Caesar more than to resemble Coolidge.”

Well, that’s your quiz: is he right? Or is the National Day of Mourning just a waste of money and over-kill, if you’ll excuse the term?

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day, dedicated to George  Herbert Walker Bush,  is…

Do we over-honor our Presidents?

Continue reading

Mid-day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/28/18: Thanks, Twitter, A Properly Derisive Label Needed, And More Mainstream Media Bias That Is All In My Mind

Having a nice day?

1. A tardy recognition of things to be thankful for. Several of the regular readers here, notably Other Bill, valkygirrl, Pennagain, Michael West, Neil Dorr and Zoltar, but also others, have been flagging ethics stories for possible Ethics Alarms coverage. This has been especially helpful during my recent bronchitis battle, but I can always use tips, especially since my amazingly productive ethics scout of many years, Fred, had to take his talents elsewhere. The best way to send me your links and recommendation is at jamproethics@verizon.net.

2. This explains a lot. Pollster Frank Luntz says that 67% of Democrats believe it is “definitely true” or “probably true” that “Russia tampered with vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected.” There is no evidence, none, that Russia tampered with vote tallies. There isn’t even evidence that Russian-planted “fake news” in social media and other meddling had any measurable effect on the election. Never mind: two-thirds of Democrats are convinced that Hillary Clinton couldn’t possibly have lost to a creep/Nazi/ lunatic/ moron/racist  like  Donald Trump without sinister forces making it so.

This delusion does explain a lot. As a foundation for false beliefs, it is strong impetus to confirmation bias, which Democratic officials and the news media have aggressively and cynically—and successfully—courted. I thought Republicans should hide their heads in bags after polls showed that about 40% of them as recently as 2016 believe that Barack Obama probably wasn’t born in the U.S. Two-thirds of Democrats believing Russians hijacked the election is, if possible, worse. Of course, Republicans didn’t force an endless investigation over Obama’s qualifications to be elected President, so that’s in their favor.

We do need a name for the Left’s conspiracy theorists regarding the 2016 election, though, since the group appears to comprise the majority of Democrats. “Truthers”…”Birthers”…and?

Submissions welcome. Here’s the poll data (more here): Continue reading

Monday Ethics Musings, 11/26/18: Surprise! I’m Not Going To Discuss The Border Mess Here.

Good Morning!

Well, the combination of the holidays and my extended illness, plus some lost days due to travel and speaking engagements, just resulted in the worst 9 days of traffic in recent Ethics Alarms history. As Robert E. Lee said after Pickett’s Charge, “It’s all my fault,” and I want to express my gratitude and appreciation to the readers and loyalists here who continued to visit, read and comment despite my failure to keep up on content.

1. I WAS going to cover the “caravan’s” travails...but when I started it was clear that the topic would be too long for the Warm-Up. Reflecting my disgust as the dishonest and hysterical punditry on the matter, low-lighted by the “They’re gassing women and children!” narrative, I was also going to title the post, “Morning Ethics Throw-Up.”

2. Yesterday’s post about Bill “Bojangles” Robinson has garnered an unusual response so far: far more links to social media than comments. This essay is a good example of why I miss the self-exiled progressives here. I really would love to read an argument of why Fred Astaire’s homage to his friend and teacher is nonetheless racist, because it’s “blackface.” I don’t expect good or persuasive arguments, mind you, because I doubt there are any. But we all benefit from the process of debate when both sides are intelligent and arguing in good faith. Even the most doctrinaire ideologue’s per-programmed talking points can be valuable, if only to help us understand how the hive-mind is buzzing.

An aside: I wonder how many Americans under 50 know what The Kingston Trio was, or have any idea how influential they were on music and the culture in the Fifties and Sixties?

3. Yeah, I guess this is bias. Still...A Nassau County (New York) judge, Thomas Rademaker, had ordered the jailing of a dead-beat dad, Michael Berg, in November 2016 and said he could win his release by paying nearly $518,000 to satisfy his obligations. Rademaker also told Berg that he “symbolizes everything that’s wrong with the world today.” He called Berg “selfish,” “self-interested,” “lazy,” “arrogant,” and said Berg was the last guy he would “want to be in a foxhole with” because he would “fold like a cheap suit.”

The appeals court decided that the judge’s comments had crossed the line and constituted sufficient evidence of bias to mandate a new judge to be appointed to consider whether Berg had willfully failed to pay child support. Berg had not moved for a recusal, which meant the bias issue was not preserved for appellate review. The court said it was nonetheless considering the issue of bias “in the interest of justice.”

I’d love to see how Berg argues that he unintentionally neglected to pay a half-million in child support. Continue reading

Future Ethics News From The 2018 World Series

Bulletin: When the opposing teams are announced before Game #1 of the 2018 World Series tomorrow night, the manager of the National League Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, Dave Roberts, will receive a loud standing ovation from the capacity Fenway Park crowd as he walks out to the third baseline.

There is no question about this. Anyone who knows Boston, Fenway, Red Sox tradition or the team’s fan culture has any doubts: it is a sure thing. That ethical gesture of gratitude and respect is as certain as the tide coming in on Cape Cod’s Wellfleet beaches, or the leaves turning gold in Concord this Fall. Red Sox fans have always maintained the tradition of recognizing excellence from opposing players, but the gesture and salute tomorrow goes far beyond that. For it was Dave Roberts, then a reserve pinch-running specialist in the twilight of his career and playing his only season with Boston—and only a couple months of that season at that—who was sent in to run for Kevin Millar, who had walked  in the bottom of the 9th inning of the potential elimination game in the 2004 ALCS.

The hated New York Yankees were leading the best of seven series three games to none, and no team in baseball history had ever come back from such a deficit to win. Pitching was Yankee closer Mariano Rivera, probably the greatest relief pitcher of all time. Everyone knew that Roberts had entered the game for one reason: to steal second base and set up the possible game tying run. And he did it—it was a close play, but he made it, and seconds latter, Red Sox batter Bill Mueller singled him home to tie the score. David Ortiz won the game with a home run in extra innings, and the Red Sox went on from there to sweep New York, and the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2004 World Series as well. The team’s storied 86 year World Series drought was finally over, along with it the Curse of the Bambino, Pesky holding the ball, Lonborg facing Gibson on two days rest, Ed Armbrister getting away with blocking Fisk’s throw to second, Bucky %!^$! Dent’s cheap homer, the ball rolling under Buckner’s legs, Grady Little’s Great Choke, and more, as they all faded into irrelevancy like a long, horrible nightmare. Continue reading