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Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Essay Of The Month: Andrew Sullivan”

luckyesteeyoreman‘s first comment here was in 2012. He has participated in our colloquy with passion humor and perception through over a thousand comments He has had Comments of the Day before, but not like this one—I’m note sure anyone has made a comment like this one. His catalyst was Andrew Sullivan’s essay on tribalism, and the comment was lost for a day in WordPress Hell, then languished as my time to spend on Ethics Alarms was taken up by transportation and the annoying things called “teaching ethics” and “making money, though not nearly enough.”

I’m sorry it took so long to post this. It’s thoughtful and pure, unadulterated luckyesteeyoreman, which translates loosely into “worth the time to read it.”

Here is luckyesteeyoreman‘s epic Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Essay Of The Month: Andrew Sullivan:

(I don’t have a title for this – only sub-section titles. I beg pardon in advance for unreadability. Maybe it should be titled “Lucky’s Madcap Mangled Manifesto #1 of 2017.”)

Andrew Sullivan, in his essay “America Wasn’t Built for Humans” (alternately titled, “Can Our Democracy Survive Tribalism?”) did not address two particular opposed tribes. I will discuss them, giving them my own choices for labels. I will blame one of the two tribes entirely for the current state of human affairs. I cannot envision any resolution of the conflict, other than the virtual annihilation of one or both tribes. Make no mistake: The conflict and its impacts are historically cyclical, humanity-wide, and universal – not some uniquely American problem.

TRIBES IN CONFLICT

In one tribe are the “governists.” One might be more comfortable with calling that tribe “governmentalists.”

Members of the governist tribe view governance and its machinations – created, continually reformed, and sustained by an ever-omnipresent government, a source and repository of ultimate power – as the sole institution that is essential to the fulfillment of human needs. To the governists, governance must embody ultimate means of power and control over all people, over all other life forms, and over all resources known to be required for (1) sustainment of the lives that are subject to control, and (2) sustainment of the needed means for such power and control.

In the tribe that is irreconcilably at conflict with the governists are the “ownwayists.”

Ownwayists view themselves, as individuals, as sources and repositories of need-fulfilling power – power independent of the powers of government. Ownwayists view their individual power largely as sufficient for need fulfillment, but, limited by their own individual human limitations – where that power is not additionally limited by external forces. Thus ownwayists are unavoidably and eternally conflicted within themselves, over the need for government – powers external to themselves – to combine and orchestrate individuals’ powers synergistically.

A PAUSE: A reader might perceive that statists and individualists are synonyms for governists and ownwayists, respectively. I would have used those terms, if I had felt confident that they are accurate for the tribalism I am aiming to discuss here. I leave to others smarter than myself the resolution of any issue about the best, or correct, labels for the two tribes. In this essay, I will proceed using forms of governist and ownwayist.

The conflict between governists and ownwayists is exposed when ownwayists perceive (correctly or incorrectly) that governists are creating, or have created (knowingly or unknowingly) what I am calling Synergy Despoliation (SD). I could elaborate further here on that specific phenomenon, but have chosen not to. SD can evidence itself in, for examples, inefficiencies of governance; failures of governments to enable the meeting of human needs; and impositions of insufficiencies upon governed individuals which often, but not always, stem from excessive government control of the powers of those individuals.

TRIBES AND TRIBALISMS 

DUALITY…

BLENDING, EVEN SWITCHING

Taking of power from individuals by governments happens, whether those so deprived are ownwayists or governists, and whether those with the power to deprive are ownwayists or governists operating within governments. Acquiring, holding and wielding of governance powers is not necessarily more coveted by any given governist than by any given ownwayist. Nor are there (yet) any inherent obstacles to access to governance powers that completely preclude any ownwayist from holding a position in government that is coveted by any governists. Any given individual can be conflicted internally, between co-opting oneself to governism and relying tenaciously and exclusively upon ownwayism, and on what extents one would embrace both.

Governments will hire from both tribes. In some cases governments will “spawn,” even transition and transform, governists and ownwayists such that some individuals re-set, and even switch, tribal affiliations. In the long run, however, any given government and its governance will eventually favor the existence, pre-eminence, and ways of the most “pure” governists.

In the final outcome, throughout history, governments and their governance continue to rise and fall, regardless of their tribal demographics. The conflict between the two tribes continues throughout history, too, regardless of the forms or tribal demographics of governments.

NATURAL SELECTION AND ITS RESULTS Continue reading

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Ethics Essay Of The Month: Andrew Sullivan

I used to read Andrew Sullivan’ blog regularly: he was smart, gutsy,a good writer, and willing to buck conventional wisdom> then the gay marriage controversy heated up—Sullivan is gay– and Andrew lost it. His focus and once-reliable rationality became distorted by anger, bias and emotion. He eventually gave up blogging because he determined that it was emotionally unhealthy; maybe he finally recognized that he needed a break. By that time, I had stopped reading him.

His brilliant essay in New York Magazine suggest that Andrew has his groove back, which means that his observation are thoughtful and worth pondering. The topic is tribalism, and he writes in part,

Over the past couple of decades in America, the enduring, complicated divides of ideology, geography, party, class, religion, and race have mutated into something deeper, simpler to map, and therefore much more ominous. I don’t just mean the rise of political polarization (although that’s how it often expresses itself), nor the rise of political violence (the domestic terrorism of the late 1960s and ’70s was far worse), nor even this country’s ancient black-white racial conflict (though its potency endures).

I mean a new and compounding combination of all these differences into two coherent tribes, eerily balanced in political power, fighting not just to advance their own side but to provoke, condemn, and defeat the other.

I mean two tribes whose mutual incomprehension and loathing can drown out their love of country, each of whom scans current events almost entirely to see if they advance not so much their country’s interests but their own. I mean two tribes where one contains most racial minorities and the other is disproportionately white; where one tribe lives on the coasts and in the cities and the other is scattered across a rural and exurban expanse; where one tribe holds on to traditional faith and the other is increasingly contemptuous of religion altogether; where one is viscerally nationalist and the other’s outlook is increasingly global; where each dominates a major political party; and, most dangerously, where both are growing in intensity as they move further apart.

Sullivan goes on to explain that this development is antithetical to the model the Founders intended for their new nation:

The project of American democracy — to live beyond such tribal identities, to construct a society based on the individual, to see ourselves as citizens of a people’s republic, to place religion off-limits, and even in recent years to embrace a multiracial and post-religious society — was always an extremely precarious endeavor. It rested, from the beginning, on an 18th-century hope that deep divides can be bridged by a culture of compromise, and that emotion can be defeated by reason. It failed once, spectacularly, in the most brutal civil war any Western democracy has experienced in modern times. And here we are, in an equally tribal era, with a deeply divisive president who is suddenly scrambling Washington’s political alignments, about to find out if we can prevent it from failing again.

Bingo.

Sullivan explains the evolutionary basis of tribalism and why it is so deeply rooted in the human psyche. Then he writes, Continue reading

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Reminder: Hateful Racist Mass Murderers Have The Same Rights You Do

Dylann Roof, the white supremacist sentenced to death after killing nine black church members as an attempt to start a race war, asked a court to replace his appointed appellate lawyers because they “are my political and biological enemies.” The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied his request.

Roof’s pro se motion stated that his lawyers, Alexandra Yates and Sapna Mirchandani, “are Jewish and Indian, respectively. It is therefore quite literally impossible that they and I could have the same interests relating to my case.”  Roof had difficulties on the same basis with his court-appointed lawyer, David Bruck, during his trial. The murderer wrote  in his motion that Bruck is Jewish and “his ethnicity was a constant source of conflict even with my constant efforts to look past it.”

I have been shocked at the reaction of the legal profession, the news media and the public to the 4th Circuit’s ruling. It really does appear that all the education in the world, ethics rules, principles and the Constitution will still be steamrolled by hate and emotion, even when crucial, indeed existential values for our society are at stake. My trust and respect for all professions—all of them—have been grievously reduced by their conduct and ethics blindness over that past several months. No wonder the First Amendment is under attack. No wonder our institutions are being weakened to the point of collapse.

The public literally  not understand the principle I am going to explain now. Apparently naively, I thought lawyers, judges and law professors did. In the interest of clarity, I am going to do this in short, straightforward segments.

I. The Court’s ruling is not just wrong, but frighteningly wrong.

Roof, like all citizens accused of a crime, has a right to a competent, zealous legal defense. A  competent, zealous legal defense requires that the defendant be able to participate fully in that defense. If a defendant does not or cannot trust his lawyers, he cannot be assured of a competent, zealous legal defense.

II. A client has to trust his lawyer.

It doesn’t matter why a client doesn’t trust his lawyer, and the lawyer need not agree that the lack of trust is warranted. The question is whether a lawyer who is not trusted by his client can do an adequate job representing him. The answer is no. The Sixth Amendment, which guarantees a fair trial and legal representation in criminal cases, is not there for the lawyers, or courts, or government. It exits to protect the accused—all accused.

In a famous medical ethics case, an elderly Korean man in a hospital wanted his doctors, specialists in his malady, replaced because they were Japanese-Americans, and as a survivor of the horrors Japan inflicted on Korea, he was convinced that they would kill him. The hospital ethics committee held that he was an irrational bigot, and that he either had to accept the qualified physicians despite their race, or get out. The AMA disagreed. It said that the patient’s welfare is paramount in medical ethics, and a patient who does not trust his doctors—the reason doesn’t matter—will have his welfare and health endangered as a result.

The same principle should apply to Roof. A client who does not trust his lawyer will not, for example, be candid with him, or trust him to keep confidences.

Under the circumstances Roof described, the lawyers have an ethical obligation to withdraw. Two rules are involved:

Client-Lawyer Relationship
Rule 1.7 Conflict Of Interest: Current Clients

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b), a lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest. A concurrent conflict of interest exists if:

(1) the representation of one client will be directly adverse to another client; or

(2) there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person or by a personal interest of the lawyer.

(b) Notwithstanding the existence of a concurrent conflict of interest under paragraph (a), a lawyer may represent a client if:

(1) the lawyer reasonably believes that the lawyer will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to each affected client;

(2) the representation is not prohibited by law;

(3) the representation does not involve the assertion of a claim by one client against another client represented by the lawyer in the same litigation or other proceeding before a tribunal; and

(4) each affected client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing. Continue reading

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From The “Stop Making Me Defend Sean Spicer!” Files: No, There Was Nothing Wrong With The Former Trump Press Secretary Making A Gag Appearance On The Emmy Broadcast

Increasingly, the sheer unreasoning anti-Trump hate members of the media allow to scramble their judgment, common sense and brains is spewing out like Linda Blair’s vomited pea soup, leaving no question for anyone with a soupçon of honesty and fairness that these people cannot and should not be trusted.

The entire 2017 Emmy Awards Show was seasoned with relentless Trump Hate, but there was a moment that could have played in a less poisonous atmosphere as a rare uniting moment.

Ex-Trump press mouthpiece Sean Spicer  made a cameo appearance on the show, taking the podium and saying  that “this will be the largest audience to witness the Emmys, period — both in person and around the world.” He was obviously satirizing his ex-boss’s ridiculous but typical insistence that his inaugural crowd was larger than it obviously was, and his dutiful endorsing of that view, rather than saying what the news media wanted him to say, “What can I do? The President is an idiot.” The real Sean Spicer was also relevant to the broadcast because actress Melisssa McCarthy’s deft imitation of Spicer for the now all Trump hate all the time Saturday Night live helped nab it an Emmy nomination.

Spicer was a lousy, untrustworthy, bumbling and embarrassing press secretary. This, however, was someone making fun of himself on national television. In a less poisonous environment, citizens who believe an elected President deserve a minimal amount of respect—you know, good citizens—would have laughed at Spicer’s gag, and so would those who want to see an elected President removed before an election, because he’s not who they voted for—Democrats, in other words, or progressives, or totalitarians, or journalists…in this matter they are all the same. Laughter unites us.

But no. Here is former White House reporter for the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza, who moved over to a news organization that is really dedicated to getting Trump, on Spicer’s appearance. Since it is such an unethical outbreak of deranged bias, I’ll stop periodically and flag the worst parts.

Not only was the Spicer bit not funny, it shouldn’t have happened at all… Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/12/17: Hurricane Reports, And Poor Charles M. Blow Needs A Vacation

Good morning.

1 There is supposedly a controversy regarding the on-the-spot hurricane reports: is it ethical for networks and news stations to place reporters and camera operators in mortal peril by having them scream into a mic while being buffeted by wind, rain and debris?

What’s the controversy? Of course it’s unethical. In addition to sending ridiculously mixed and self-contradictory messages—“I’m standing here in the storm telling citizens in the area that they shouldn’t be in the middle of this storm!”—it is also bad Ethics Chess. This stunt will continue until the first reporter is blown into a wall and sustains permanent brain damage, or is injured by a flying piece of debris that impales her, maims her, or cuts her in half. It is entirely predictable that this will happen eventually, and once it does, reporters will stop doing it. Why not stop this before a the inevitable tragedy occurs?

TV stations do it for ratings, that’s all. It’s great visual programming. It’s not necessary. Half the time, we can’t make out what the reporter is screaming, and what they are screaming is redundant and stating the obvious.

Apparently the first reporter to do this was Dan Rather.

Figures.

2. What is the mission of a pundit, a talking head, a columnist? It has to be—don’t you think?—to enlighten readers, to convey a constructive, useful analysis of complex issues, to reliably filter facts and controversies through a unique view-point without so completely tainting his or her output with bias that it actively misleads.

Yesterday New York Times columnist Charles Blow issued a column titled “Soul Survival in Trump’s Hell on Earth.” This was the apotheosis of the kinds of columns Blow has been writing almost exclusively now for months; at least I hope it’s that, for I can’t imagine where he goes from here. This column, like the others, is nothing, literally nothing, but a nearly fact free exposition on the theme, “I hate the President. I really do. I do so, so much. I know you do too, and if you don’t, I hate you too. ARRRGGGGHHH!”

The headline isn’t hyperbole; Blow, if he is to believed, really thinks Americans are living in Hell because Donald Trump is President. Not because there is a Great Depression hovering over the land, not because we are embroiled in a Civil War, or the existential threat of a world war, or the daily threat of an  international stand-off igniting into world-wide thermonuclear obliteration, but because a President was elected that offends the ideological and partisan sensitivities of Charles M. Blow.

Hell.

Seriously.

How can the New York Times continue to justify publishing the weekly primal screams of this pompous, doctrinaire, and now apparently deranged pundit? Exaggerating problems and pronouncing that we are all but doomed is not a service. It is harmful. The only readers who will be persuaded by a column like this are the ones who decide that something has to be done and that it’s time to build that bomb. Moreover, when a pundit reaches the stage that Blow has, where the simple act of a government not agreeing with his views and enacting policies that he does not favor launches him into hysteria, that pundit needs a vacation. Or maybe another career.

What are Blow’s arguments that justify his diagnosis that the United States is now Hell on Earth? Is it that a major party and its supporters have set out deliberately to undermine American institutions by rejecting a national election, seeking to remove an elected President by non-electoral means? Is it that the  international fumblings and ditherings of the previous administration are, as predicted, resulting in increased threats to the United States and the rest of the world? Is it that American journalism and its uniquely free news media, beyond question the app that makes democracy function, has now become, by its own abuses, so completely politicized and untrustworthy that it has become a threat to the nation, rather than its watchdog?

Nah, none of this appears to bother Blow at all; as far as I can detect, he approves of all of it. Here is his Bill of Biased Generalities that add up to Hell on Earth: Continue reading

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From The Ethics Alarms “Law vs Ethics” Files: The Deadly Hexes Of Sally Quinn

In a newly published memoir, Sally Quinn, the famous journalist who married iconic Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and became a D.C. society matron, then a religion columnist, reveals a lief-long obsession with mysticism and the occult. Ouija boards, pentagrams, witchcraft, charms, spells, seances, messages from the dead (like Ben), voodoo, the whole thing: Quinn writes that she has had an  “epiphany” revealing that “believing in magic is as legitimate as any religion or faith.”

I’ll buy that. I wouldn’t say that the next step is an application to Hogwarts, however.

So these are the people who presume to tell Americans what to think, eh? Good to know.

But I digress. In a recent Washingtonian Magazine profile contrived to puff the release of  “Finding Magic,” Bradlee’s widow says that she not only believes in hexes, she’s used them. And they work!

She reveals that, in her less mellow days, she put hexes on three people who promptly wound up having their lives ruined, or ended.

The first, cast in 1969, was spurred by old-fashioned jealousy. Some exotic beauty at a Halloween party inspired lust in Quinn’s beau at the time—and then killed herself just days after Sally cast her spell.

Her second victim was Clay Felker, the longtime editor of New York magazine who oversaw a brutal profile of Quinn in 1973, just before her catastrophic debut on the CBS Morning News. Quinn hexed Felker not long after flaming out at CBS and returning to Washington. “Some time afterward, Rupert Murdoch bought New York magazine in a hostile takeover, and Felker was out,” she writes. “Clay never recovered professionally. Worse, he got cancer, which ultimately caused his death.”

Target number three: a shady psychic who, the autumn after Quinn Bradlee was born, ran afoul of Sally’s maternal instincts. The woman dropped dead before year’s end.

This raises a classic ethics question that I nearly posed today as an Ethics Quiz. I didn’t, because I know the answer and have no doubts about it. (If it’s an ethics quiz, I at least have doubts.) The question would have been:

Ethically rather than legally, is there any difference between Sally Quinn and a murderer?

The answer is no.

I’d say that the first two victims make her the ethical equivalent of someone who is guilty of manslaughter, and the last one, after her first two hexes led to her targets’ deaths, was, again ethically rather than legally, premeditated murder.

Sally says that after the psychic dropped dead, she swore off her Death Hex. That’s admirable. The fact remains, however, the while believing an instrumentality would lead to harm when employed against specific individuals, she employed it, got her desired results, and believed that she was the cause of their subsequent deaths. She also doesn’t express any remorse or regret. Continue reading

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“U.S. Race Relations Have Finally Reached The Point Where They Make No Sense Whatsoever” Sunday #3: The Transgender Racist Model

As they say, gender may only be skin deep, but ugliness goes to the bone…

Munroe Bergdorf had just been hired by L’Oreal , with great fanfare, as its first trans model. So she immediately inflicted Facebook with an anti-white rant in the wake of Charlottesville, writing,

“Honestly I don’t have energy to talk about the racial violence of white people any more. Yes ALL white people.

Because most of ya’ll don’t even realise or refuse to acknowledge that your existence, privilege and success as a race is built on the backs, blood and death of people of colour. Your entire existence is drenched in racism. From micro-aggressions to terrorism, you guys built the blueprint for this shit. Come see me when you realise that racism isn’t learned, it’s inherited and consciously or unconsciously passed down through privilege.

Once white people begin to admit that their race is the most violent and oppressive force of nature on Earth… then we can talk. Until then stay acting shocked about how the world continues to stay fucked at the hands of your ancestors and your heads that remain buried in the sand with hands over your ears.”

L’Oreal fired her. Of course they did. There isn’t an international consumer corporation on Earth that wouldn’t fire her.

Incredibly, the model was indignant. In another post and in various interviews, she, and her  defenders in print, claimed disingenuously that she had been quoted out of context.  Having insulted a substantial portion of humanity, now Bergdorf is insulting everyone else’s intelligence. “All white people” are involved in racial violence is wondrously unambiguous no matter what the context is. So is “racism isn’t learned, it’s inherited” and demanding that white people must admit ” that their race is the most violent and oppressive force of nature on Earth.” There’s no ambiguity. This is racist hatred, and nothing else. Continue reading

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