Mid-Day Ethics Madness, 8/19/2020: Susan B., Fauxahontas, Utah…And “Gordie”

When I was looking through the 2012 posts yesterday, ultimately stumbling upon the long discourse about Barack Obama’s disastrous Presidency, I was struck by how, even in an election year, so many non-political ethics issues were discussed here. This is something that was already driving me crazy about 2020. Thanks to the pandemic, there is virtually no popular culture news. Legal ethics news is drastically reduced, as are reports from other sectors of society and culture. In this warped environment, politics spreads like kudzu, or killer bees, or snakeheads—you can choose your favorite invasive species or opportunistic organism analogy. I’m trying, I swear, but my over-all impression looking back on 2012 is that writing, and I presume reading, an ethics commentary blog was a lot more fun.

I’m sorry.

1. Today’s rejected Ethics Alarms comment comes from “Gordie,” was opining on the post on Ellen De Generis’s late hit accuser. He wrote,

Ellen was an a$$ to this boy and shes paying for it now. All you lip huggers need to wake TFU and rejoice when you hear truth no matter how unsavory or unpalatable you find it. Be a bully, get bullied. Dont you all see that Karma train pullin up? And with enough hands to slap every butt as it goes on by toot toot

Observations:

  • Welcome to my world. This is why so few new voices are added to the commentariat here.
  • Does anyone know what a “lip-hugger” is?
  • Tells in the comment that let us know the writer can’t tell an ethics from fuzzy slipper: mentioning “karma,” and the statement, “Be a bully, get bullied.”

2. Here is some non-political legal ethics news, and it’s important, if technical.

Before this week, only the District of Columbia, where I am licensed, allows non-lawyers to be partners in law firms. The majority position in the profession is that non-lawyers inevitably have a different alignment of values from the legally trained, and thus are not likely to be as sensitive to duties to clients, like confidentiality, and conflicts of interest. Pure “investors” are also banned from buying a share of law firm profits, because they are deemed likely to be governed by financial needs and motives rather than the best interests of clients.

When the D.C. bar decided to break the mold decades ago, everyone assumed that other jurisdictions would follow its lead, and soon doctors, engineers, scholars and accountants, among others, would be joining firms and allowing them to add new services. (Europe and Australia already allow  such “multidisciplinary firms.”) It didn’t happen.

Now, however, the dominoes might be starting to fall.  From the ABA Journal: Continue reading

Censorship, Indoctrination And Intimidation Watch, Part 2

In Part I, I discussed an example of an individual being fired for his expression of an unpopular political opinion on a personal platform. As I mentioned there, this is a recent phenomenon of great concern to Constitutional Law Professor Jonathan Turley. as expressed on his blog and elsewhere, such as his recent testimony in the Senate about the erosion of free speech and academic freedom in  universities . The Ethics Alarms post was originally supposed to highlight examples of this ominous phenomenon highlighted by Turley, and then events overcame both Turley and Ethics Alarms, as another egregious example  arose that Turley hadn’t yet covered.

Since I offered Part I, Turley’s assault on institutions intimidating individuals based on the content of their speech continued. Here, he objected to Dartmouth’s faculty and student body attempting to silence the Dartmouth Review, and independent campus newspaper that has been a voice from the Right on the liberal campus for decades. He wrote in part,

[O]ver 1000 students and faculty members have signed a letter to the Dartmouth Board of Trustees to disassociate the school from the conservative student newspaper, the Dartmouth Review. The letter accuses the newspaper of “hateful ideologies” and “racist” columns, including one cited column objecting to the careless use of the word “racist.” … [T]he reason stated by the organizers to move against the newspaper [was] in part because of a recent controversy involving an alumni who resigned from Fox News…the organizers admit that they decided to move against the newspaper as a way to responding to the controversy surrounding the resignation of a Fox producer with Tucker Carlson. Blake Neff is a 2013 graduate of Dartmouth and Review alumni. He was found to have written a series of bigoted anonymous comments.

…. [T]he idea of the letter to force the Board to prove its antiracism by attacking the newspaper, which had no role in Neff’s misconduct:  “We thought, how can the senior leadership of Dartmouth, President Hanlon and the trustees write this letter to every member of the community, and then continue in silent complicity with a publication that since its inception has consistently been an incubator of racist hate and white supremacy?”

…The failure [to] actively target the newspaper is now viewed as de facto tolerance for racism even after the school issued a letter proclaiming its support for Black Lives Matter.

…As a blog committed to free speech issues, the concern over this controversy is obvious. There are routinely over-heated rhetoric in college newspapers including many reckless statements from faculty and students on the left. We have defended many of those speakers and writers.  However, the first response of many Dartmouth graduates to the Neff story was to seek to attack the leading conservative newspaper on campus in part for its prior association with Neff.

… What is being lost in such moves is the diversity of thought on campus…. they are seeking to pressure the university to marginalize students who want to participate in these debates from a conservative viewpoint.

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/13/2020: Kamala Harris Selection Hangover Edition [UPDATED]

Hi!

In the 1945 drama “The Lost Weekend,” Ray Milland (above) played alcoholic Don Birnam, and won  the Oscar for Best Actor. The film also won the Oscar for Best Picture. Have you ever seen it? The film is virtually never shown on TV. Milland is another one of the once major Hollywood stars who are almost completely forgotten today, a fascinating group that includes Claire Trevor, Fredric March, Irene Dunne, John Garfield, and Norma Shearer, among others. If their major works were in black and white, they weren’t lucky enough to star in a film regarded as a classic, and they didn’t have a popular TV show when their movie career waned, the culture just forgets about them….and loses as a result. How many non-film nerd Americans under the age of 40 could recognize any of those actors, never mind all of them?

1. Nothing to see here: move along! Yesterday it was reported that the Democratic Party purchased the Antifa.com domain, and that clicks on the link went directly to the Biden campaign site. I checked: it did. Then, by 5:30 pm, the Biden redirect was eliminated. Res ipsa loquitur!

UPDATE: I’m putting an official question mark on this one. It is true that the Antifa.com went to Biden’s site, but that could have been a partisan dirty trick.  Of course, if true, this is the kind of story that the mainstream media would bury. If it was a set-up, it’s the kind of story the right-leaning media would credulously report as proof of Democratic de facto embrace of violence.

Trustworthy, objective journalists would be nice…

2. The vise tightens...Yesterday I noted that colleges and universities were increasingly cancelling their acceptances of students based on revelations of their past social media posts. In one case, Liberty Woodley, 17, the 2020 valedictorian of her high school class in Cape Coral, Florida., had accepted an offer to attend the University of Florida. Then a self-righteous and vicious  actress and “influencer” named Skai Jackson last month asked her more than 500,000 Twitter followers to send her screenshots of  “hateful” social media posts, so she could wrck lives and inflict pain on strangers. Someone sent in one of Woodley’s old Instagram posts in which she wrote when she was 16.

“I really try so hard not to be a racist person, but I most definitely am, there’s no denying it,” it said. Based on that, her acceptance was revoked.

 In an interview with The Gainesville Sun,  Liberty explained that had written the post out of anger at a time when she was being constantly bullied by some black classmates. “I am not racist at all, and I am not full of hate,” she said.  Well, there’s a Catch-22 for you! Oprah Winfrey and others are haranguing whites to admit their inherent racism as a first step to addressing “systemic racism,” but if they do what is asked, it means they are hateful and must be cancelled.

What do you want to bet that Liberty will vote for all Democrats in November? Continue reading

Censorship, Indoctrination And Intimidation Watch, Part I [Corrected]

Not my meme, but it fits!

Constitutional Law Professor Jonathan Turley has been on what for him qualifies as a rampage lately, condemning efforts from the Left  to intimidate and punish anyone who isn’t in lockstep with its current agenda. Those nay-sayers are  racists and hate-mongers, you see.

Turley is always labeled a “liberal professor” by the conservative media, and once that would have been an accurate description. He, however, has remained true to his ideals while his party (he is, or was, a Democrat) and its allies moved sharply in the direction of leftist totalitarianism. Dissent on the Left or opposing the Left is no longer countenanced in most universities, in news organizations,  even in business and non-profit organizations. When Turley made legal mincemeat out of the Democratic argument for impeachment, students at American University tried to get him fired.

Turley believes in academic freedom to the extreme, as well as the First Amendment, of course, and he is properly alarmed to see professors (and others) facing institutional hostility or worse because of non-conforming views. I’ll discuss some of his recent targets in Part 2.

He  hasn’t covered this story so far. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Stockton University (NJ), And Anyone Else Who Thinks A Photograph Of The President Of The United States Constitutes “Taunting”

“OH NO! TAKE IT AWAY! IT’S EVIL!!! EVIL!!!

I am about to conclude that schools and universities keep attempting to unconstitutionally smother students’ freedom of speech and expression because they think eventually the culture will just give in and let them enforce viewpoint conformity.

In the alternative, the people who run these institutions are just dumb as a box of nutcrackers.

Let’s take Stockton College in New Jersey, for example.

Doctoral student Robert  Dailyda used a photo of the President of the United States as his Zoom background during a July 1 virtual class. Some students complained, and he administration wrote in an incident report that the photo caused students “to feel offended, disrespected, and taunted.” Such students should have been told, in no uncertain terms, “Donald Trump is President of the United States, and the elected leader of the government of the nation in which you live. If his picture makes you feel offended, disrespected, and taunted, feel free to visit the campus mental health facilities. In the alternative, grow the hell up.”

Instead, ten days later and being Summa Cum Ethics Dunces, Stockton’s administrators called the student in “on the carpet”  to justify his political views, claiming that students were offended by the Zoom background of the Evil POTUS, Dailyda’s comments in the subsequent GroupMe chat in which he was attacked by other students in the class, and his subsequent Facebook post defending his rights to express his opinion. The university claimed that students also found that post “offensive, threatening, and concerning.”

The “offensive, threatening, and concerning” post read, Continue reading

More Speech Suppression And Intimidation On The Campus: The Juniata Affair

The “Concerned Juniatian” was a student named Colin Daly. This was the very end of a much longer screed (You can read the whole, very long letter here) that the Juniatia College student sent to his campus community anonymously. Juniata is a small Pennsylvania liberal arts college affiliated with the Church of the Brethren, a Christian denomination. It is also apparently devoid of respect for such values as free speech, individuality, and dissent.

Daly, a senior, wrote the email without including his name but accidentally “left identifying information on the system he used to distribute his post to all of Juniata’s email accounts,” according to PennLive.

Before it identified Daly as the author, the college’s President James Troha wrote in a statement that the email contained “slurs, hateful language, and intimations of violence directed at members of our community on the basis of their identity.” There is no threat of any kind in the letter, and the “slurs” are words referred to as slurs, not used as slurs. Here’s the section of the letter I assume Troha is referring to:

I’d like to see Daly sue Troha for libel; I think he’d have a strong case.

The next day, after it was determined that Daly was the author, the college released a new statement. claiming that “law enforcement agencies are continuing their own investigations of the matter,” and suggesting that the letter’s author student may have broken state and federal laws.

That’s some education students at Juniata are getting. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Waning Sunday Ethics Reveries, 7/12/2020: You Know, Ethics Isn’t Fun For Me When Everyone’s Acting Irrationally”

I have a couple of Comments of the Day on the runway and a guest column too, but when Steve-O-in-NJ delivered one of his epic epistles—I think they transcend “comments”—of Alizia Tyler length, I had to choose it to end the day. The topic is one Ethics Alarms has discussed in recent week: the disturbing similarities between the Red Scare and McCarthyism and the current George Floyd Freakout.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Waning Sunday Ethics Reveries, 7/12/2020: You Know, Ethics Isn’t Fun For Me When Everyone’s Acting Irrationally”:

I dub this the White Scare.

No doubt there are still a few people who have nightmares of the living nightmare of sitting uncomfortable and squirming in the lowest seat in the Senate chamber. You sit alone before an intimidating array of microphones, all eyes on you, questions being fired at you like crossbow bolts from every angle about anything and everything. You don’t exactly know how you got there, maybe someone said your name was mentioned in connection with some gathering or that you said or wrote something that concerned them. Your finances, your job, your friendships, your family, nothing is off-limits. Question after question, hour after hour, it drags on until you forget when it began and have no idea when it will end. Letters you wrote years ago, conversations you barely remember having, meetings you remember attending, but can’t remember who else was there, leave alone the subject, the questions keep coming. As you shake inwardly, your shirt soaked from the stress of the interrogation and the fear of its consequences, the stern-faced Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin fixes you with a glare like God throwing the Egyptian host into a panic and thunders possibly the most dreaded question in history, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” Refuse to answer, give the wrong answer, claim not to remember, or equivocate, and you are finished, tarred as a “Red,” a Communist, someone in league with the most evil regime then in the world, and the second or third worst ever, against America, the Constitution, and everything that was good.

If you have few friends when you sit down in this loneliest chair in the world, you could well have none when you leave it. There’s a very good chance that if you held a security clearance it will be revoked, because there are just too many maybes for you to be trusted. There’s a good chance that you will lose your job as you can’t hide or scrub off the red stain. There’s a very good chance your life and your family’s life will collapse or be greatly damaged or diminished. Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms Corrupt And Cowardly Colleges Files: Marquette And Penn State

I’m sorry. I really am. These stories get worse and worse, far beyond anything I could have imagined just  a few years ago. I am so relieved that my son decided long ago that for him, college would be a waste of money and time. This has spared me the chore of explaining to him that it would be a waste of his values and mind as well.

First, let’s look at the latest chapter in the Marquette debacle involving Samantha Pfefferle, the incoming freshman who became an object of revulsion and terror because she dared to post a harmless, infantile video proclaiming her support for President Trump. The first part of the story dawned on Ethics Alarms this morning, here. Now we know that Mike Lovell, the president of Marquette, sent an email to Marquette’s Board of Trustees about the incident. The email was a dishonest, dastardly misrepresentation that would fully justify his firing for cause if the trustees had the curiosity and integrity to investigate the facts. Here I’m going to send you to John Hinderaker’s blog, Powerline, to read his expert vivisection of Lovell’s slimy machinations. I’m leaving it to him for two reasons. First, Hinderaker is a a skilled legal mind, and he does a superb job. Second, his blog is specifically mentioned, and denigrated, in in the president’s email.

The last time Marquette was mentioned critically here was in 2015, through the attentions of MIA Ethics Alarms commenter Rick Jones, aka “Curmie.” Rick, who used to give out his annual “Curmie Awards” for outrageous conduct in academia, nominated Marquette for firing a tenured professor who wrote a blog post that criticized a graduate student teaching assistant for telling a student that his opinion opposing gay marriage was homophobic and would not be permitted in her class.

Curmie was right and Marquette was wrong: a court later reinstated the professor and held the university liable for breaching his  “contract’s guarantee of academic freedom.”  The latest episode show that the school’s progressive intolerance for non-conforming view has metastasized since Curmie’s nomination.

John Hinderaker  titled his latest post “Marquette Weasels.” If that conduct was weaselly, what do we call this, from Penn State? Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Hero: Michael Shellenberger”

I had two Comments of the Day to choose from to greet the morning. This one, by Lumiere, was the less depressing of the two, so you can imagine what the other one was like. However, The last paragraph in the post, a comment on the climatologist who admits in a new book that he joined his colleagues in hyping and fearmongering,  gives me hope.

My mind was already on indoctrination and the way our scientists, scholars and educators have abused the public’s trust. A truly frightening story was revealed by College Fix: an incoming freshman at Marquette, Samantha Pfefferle,  posted a (silly and obnoxious) pro-Trump video on the social media site Tik Tok, and administrators at the school began suggesting to her that her admission might be revoked because of her unacceptable beliefs. What was unacceptable about them was that, based on the video, she supported the President of the United States, ergo his policy positions. The Horror.

Pfefferle explained that following the TikTok, she was contacted by Brian Troyer, dean of undergraduate admissions at Marquette, who she said told her her acceptance to the school was far from certain.

“[He] had the heart to tell me I wasn’t a student,” Pfefferle said. “This means that my classification is still in limbo and is currently being decided by the administration. I have been accepted, I paid for my housing, I have my roommates, I even have a complete class schedule. If that doesn’t make me a student, what does?”

Some Marquette administrators also asked Pfefferle a series of questions meant to judge her morals, she said.

“They also asked me hypothetical questions regarding Dreamers,” she said. “How would I respond if a Dreamer who lived down the hall from me came up to me and told me she didn’t feel safe or comfortable with my views and me being on campus. They also asked me if they thought there was anything I could do to improve my image on campus. They proceeded to ask if I was comfortable with the reputation I have established for myself. The assistant dean asked if I put any thought into the response I would be getting from my videos.”

The “response” she was getting from her video was threats, harassment and intimidation, perhaps from Marquette students. Strange: that would seem to be the problem that administrators had a legitimate reason to be concerned about. No, they apparently approved, since the college officials decided to engage in some intimidation of their own: “Nice little college acceptance you have here…too bad if something were to happen to it..”

I would normally be skeptical that any administrators from a reputable college would challenge a student’s political opinions in the manner Pfefferle described, but Marquette confirmed that  “the admissions team did recently have a conversation with incoming freshman Samantha Pfefferle about statements made on her social media accounts.” After unwelcome publicity on several blogs and conservative websites, Marquette announced that the student’s acceptance was not in peril and had been finalized, firmly placing what the school did in the “it’s not the worst thing” category.

It was bad enough. It is unethical for educational institutions to promote viewpoint conformity among their students, yet this incident, like the confession of the suddenly remorseful climate scientist, indicates that this is increasingly how our professionals whose duty is to enlighten us see their roles: not to inform, but to indoctrinate.

Here is Lumiere’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Hero: Michael Shellenberger:

What this is? Is scary.

Not just for climate science but for EVERY SINGLE THING that has been promoted or supported by the left in the name of Science. And the willingness to punish, and silence people who disagree because “How dare you reject science?”…

The problem is mostly in the narrative. What is left out? what is emphasized? What is implied? For example “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah claims to be an objective evolutionary history of humankind (it leaves out many facts and is full of many assumptions) reads totally as socialist cant, with sufficient human bashing that presents human existence as the worst thing that has ever happened to the earth. Now a person who reads that book as their introduction to human biological history would accept its postulations as facts, become indoctrinated and would have their view of humankind changed drastically for the worse.

This kind of indoctrination is the reality in many fields of human endeavour and it’s sad to see people form such emotional attachments to ideas that makes rational discourse almost impossible

One thing I’ve learnt to do is always ask myself the question “What if you are Wrong?”. I always ask myself that question on EVERYTHING. And it informs my attitude to contrary and differing opinions…

My Ethics Conflict: Woodrow Wilson’s Name Should Have Been Removed At Princeton Long Ago, But Erasing It Now Opens The Floodgates, Part I: The Case For Woodrow

Reviewing, I see that the original Black Lives Matter attack on American values, history and culture first broke out in 2015. Then as now, Democrats rushed to embrace the racist group’s anti-white, anti-police and anti-America agenda, seeking, as usual, to enamor itself with its base. That was also the first time Princeton University was urged by student activists to remove honors to Wilson from the campus, though Wilson was not only a President of the United States (and according to Democrats until recently, one of the greatest) but also a lauded president of Princeton. The 2015 calls for his airbrushing out of Princeton’s history coincided with many similar attempts, some successful, to dishonor past historical figures whose legacies or conformity with modern values had been called into question.

College campuses, not city streets, were ground zero in 2015. Yale and the University of Missouri led the madness. At Mizzou, black students manufactured racial outrage out of ambiguous and off-campus incidents, then engaged in what Ethics Alarms then termed  an “I’m mad at the world and somebody has to pay for it” tantrum (Hmmm! Still sounds pretty good!), demanding all sorts of special accommodations and race-based policies and hirings, and demanding the university president’s resignation. Thomas Wolfe did resign, giving us an early precedent for all the capitulation and cowardice we are seeing today. As we’re seeing today, intimidation, race-bullying and attacks on free expression and language were part of the assault:

  • Amherst students demanded a crack-down on any free speech in the form of criticism of Black Lives Matters or the protest goals.
  • Dartmouth’s Black Lives Matters members roamed through the campus library, verbally assaulting white students attempting to study.
  • Smith College held a sit-in, and barred reporters-–the new breed of campus freedom-fighters just don’t like that pesky First Amendment—unless they promised to cover the protest positively. .
  • Occidental College students occupied a three-story administration building, demanding “a series of actions ranging from racist to just unreasonable to oppressive” in the name of “safety” and “diversity”, of course. Predictably, the leftist faculty which helped make the students this way were fully supportive.Refresh your recollections with the list of student demands here; my favorites: demanding an increase in tenured black professors and black doctors; funding for the student group for black men, which is racist and counter-diverse by definition; and “elimination of military and police rhetoric from all documents and daily discourse.”

Why is this so familiar? Continue reading