Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/27/2019: The Grant Viktor Bowen Marshall Birthday Edition

Samara Orphanage #2, where we found our son,

It’s a good day.

On this date in 1994, my son Grant was born in Russia. His mother, who was unmarried, did not abort him as many women in her position might have and do, but chose to give him up to be cared for the state, as she declared under oath that she could not. For six months, he lived in one of the packed and underfunded orphanages in Samara, near Moscow. Samara is among the most depressing places I have ever visited, only slightly edged out on my list  by Lorton Penitentiary in Northern Virginia, now shuttered, and Lagos, Nigeria.

Our adventure adopting Grant is too long and involved to record today, but I need to do that. Boris Yeltsin was closing down international adoptions, and we were in a group of four American couples racing to rescue some kids before the gates closed for an unknown period. Children were (and are) seldom adopted in Russia by Russians, and usually they end up warehoused until they reach 18, when they are released to the street. Samara was, it is fair to say, a true hell-hole, lacking drinkable water, businesses, and basic infrastructure. The nurses and administrators running the orphanages were kind, caring and dedicated, but they were also desperate. They tried every tactic imaginable to persuade Americans to adopt multiple children. I am still haunted by the faces of the kids that were introduced to us, and who we left behind. I don’t want to think about.

After a week of being shuttled and raced around the Russian bureaucracy, bribing officials with clocks and silverware, Grace and I made it to the U.S. Embassy with our new son and the necessary papers. The documents falsely stated that he was suffering from multiple maladies, the only way an infant could be adopted by foreign parents under the existing laws. In fact, he had been the healthiest baby in Orphanage #2, a trait he has continued into adulthood. He is almost never sick.

Just like Damien in “The Omen.”

We flew back to the U.S. on the “orphan plane,” a regular Moscow-to-New York flight routinely filled with U.S. parents and their adopted Russian children. The sound of crying infants and chattering toddlers was constant the whole flight. It was glorious.

I look at Grant today, a healthy, defiantly independent, iconoclastic young man with a life of opportunities and challenges before him , and reflect upon the kind of life he would be facing in Samara had a series of accidents and random events not brought our family together.

When Grant was 6, he asked me why he was born in Russia (the little sneak had surreptitiously broken into our documents box and read his adoption papers. I told him that sometimes a loving couple’s child would be born in the wrong place, and then his or her parents had to retrieve him. That was what happened with him, I explained. Grant liked that story so much he told all his friends.

The funny thing is, although I made it up at the time, I believe that with all my heart.

Happy Birthday, son.

[It’s also a good day because on this date in 2004, the Boston Red Sox ended 86 years of frustration and won their first World Series since 1918. Grant said at the time that finally he was certain that I would never forget his birthday.]

2. How’s that minimum wage increase working out for everyone? I was in a Taco Bell last night. The chain has added computer ordering, and there was one person behind the counter. Minimum wage increases cost jobs and makes automation cost-effective. It drives small businesses to ruin, and moves low-skilled Americans from work to public assistance. All of this has been well-understood and known for decades, yet the Democratic Party and all of the current Presidential candidates still pander to organized labor the economically-challenged by making minimum wage hikes a rich-vs-poor rallying cry. Given that the increases don’t affect the rich at all and hurt the poor, I judge the advocacy and disinformation awfully close to evil. If that’s too harsh, It is certainly unforgivably unethical. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Black Swan Books Owner Nick Cooke

The “A Nation of Assholes” scenario is in full sway when an entire side of the ideological divide attacks the owner of a public accommodation for insisting that his customers are not harassed and abused. That is a fair description of the fall-out from the recent episode at Richmond’s Black Swan Books, where the owner behaved like the owner of the Red Hen restaurant should have behaved: like an American, like a supporter of diversity of view, like a believer in our political system, like a foe of bias and discrimination.

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Nick Cooke, owner of Black Swan Books on West Main Street in the Fan District, said Bannon was in the bookstore Saturday afternoon and that a woman confronted him, calling him a “piece of trash.” Cooke said he called 911 and that the woman left as he made the call.

“Steve Bannon was simply standing, looking at books, minding his own business. I asked her to leave, and she wouldn’t. And I said, ‘I’m going to call the police if you don’t,’ and I went to call the police and she left,” Cooke said. “And that’s the end of the story.”

The Richmond Police Department confirmed a call was made around 3:15 p.m. Saturday for a report of someone yelling at a political figure in the bookstore and that the call was canceled before any officers responded.

“We are a bookshop. Bookshops are all about ideas and tolerating different opinions and not about verbally assaulting somebody, which is what was happening,” Cooke said.

But it was not the end of the story, because so many Democrats and progressives have taken a dangerous turn to totalitarianism and the tactics of  Lenin and the Nazi Party, seeking to harass and abuse those with whom they disagree. The antifa is no longer on the far fringes of the Left: it is creeping toward the center, or perhaps the better metaphor is that the Left is creeping toward it, and I do mean creep. These are awful people, as I’ve said before. Not because of their beliefs, but because of their conduct. Unable to produce the political dominance that they thought had been assured with the election of Barack Obama, frustrated progressives are increasingly abandoning the values and processes of a constitutional democracy to resort to political and social warfare. The attempt to exclude conservatives and Republicans from the basic rights of citizenship, such as being able to walk down a street, shop, or have dinner without being accosted and hectored, represents an escalation, and is signature significance for an ideological movement that has forsworn ethics for the pursuit of power.

( And yes, I personally think Steve Bannon is also an awful person. As is President Trump. As are Maxine Waters, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell, Joy Reid, Michael Cohen, Charles M. Blow, Barry Bonds, Stephen Colbert, Howard Stern, Joe Arpaio, Omarosa, Anthony Scaramucci, Harry Reid, Scott Pruitt, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. There are many millions of arguably awful people, all well short of being criminals, in this country, and every one of them has the right to live his or her life unmolested when they are not being overtly awful. Any political party that takes the position that this statement is not true should be disqualified from holding power.)

Speaking of awful people, Philippe Reines, a top aide in Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign, tweeted out the contact information for the bookstore on Sunday afternoon, in effect doxxing her and siccing the social media mob and the Maxine Waters Brigade on the book store and its owner. Typical of the illogic employed by the self-righteous harassers was this tweet:

Woman: Steve Bannon, you’re a piece of trash!

Bookstore Owner: We are a bookstore! We tolerate different ideas!

Also Bookstore Owner: *calls police on woman to have her removed because she expressed her different ideas*

No, you lying moron, the owner called the police because the woman was harassing his customers.  Presumably Nick would have called the police on Bannon if the former Trump aide had been harassing her.

Black Swan Books  is the anti-Old Town Sport&Health Club, which I wrote about as an Ethics Dunce here.

In that 2017 fiasco, a Georgetown professor named Fair, ironically enough, harassed white nationalist Richard Spencer while he was quietly working out, no Heil! gestures or anything, and the club revoked his membership.

(Remember: awful people. Do NOT let them get power.)

I wrote—and I’m sorry for such a long self-quote, but I think I wrote it well the first time:

I’m so weary of reading about restaurants that give discounts to diners who pray, and bar owners who declare that no Democrats are welcome and Maine propane dealers who tell their customers that they can freeze to death if they voted for Donald Trump. I’m tired of pointing out what should be obvious to everyone in a pluralistic society, but suddenly isn’t, particularly, it seems, to proto-totalitarians like the Georgetown professor, who is doubtless hard at work indoctrinating her young charges into believing that those with non-conforming views should have their rights taken away for the greater good. I detest Spencer’s views, but I consider Fair and her kind the far greater threat to the nation, in part because there are so many of them.

Why? She is a greater threat because her version of society doesn’t work, and soon devolves into armed camps. As I wrote in a post called, “Americans: End This Slippery Slope Now, Before It’s Too Late,” about a Washington, D.C. restaurant that publicly apologized for letting an alt-right group to eat there,

I know, I know: Neo-Nazis are really bad. Yet I don’t want my freedom to participate in life and society to be limited by someone else’s judgments about my beliefs or politics. Listen to the rhetoric from angry Clinton supporters since the election. If you want to enforce immigration laws, you hate Latinos. If you think the unborn deserve rights, you are a misogynist. If you voted for Trump, you are a blight on humanity. Thanks to the rhetoric of Black Lives Matters and the tacit approval of some well-placed politicians, police officers have been refused service in various establishments… The argument that this group or that group is special and doesn’t deserve the same courtesy and service as other groups is simply a rationalization born of bias, like… the position that the Vice President Elect, alone among all the millions of audience members who are allowed to attend theatrical performances as part of the community, ought to be subjected to personal harassment based on his political beliefs.

If we, as a culture,  approve of this abusive treatment of the alt-right, then we are approving similar treatment when the group being discriminated against is the Democratic Party, the ACLU, a mosque, the Shriners, the Boy Scouts, NARAL, or a newspaper editorial board. Rights mean nothing if the most unpopular, most controversial, most offensive individuals and organizations cannot exercise them….This is a slippery slope that leads right to the end of the principles and liberties that make the United States an ethical nation, and perhaps a nation at all.

Well, since I wrote that, self-righteous, proto-totalitarian progressives and “the resistance” have been greasing that slippery slope.

The Richmond bookstore owner’s effort isn’t enough by itself, but at least he demonstrated how to throw sand on it.

 

 

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/13/2018: A Strange Philanthropist, A Redeeming Cadet, A Good Idea, And An Obvious Observation

Good Morning!

(This was definitely the oddest LP in my Dad’s Jimmy Durante collection….And good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are…)

1. Ethics Hero, I guess. A sad one…The Henry Street Settlement , a community charity, was shocked to receive $6.24 million donation, the largest single gift from an individual in its 125-year history, from the estate of the late Sylvia Bloom, a legal secretary from Brooklyn worked for the same law firm for 67 years until she retired at age 96 and died  in 2016. When one of the wealthy lawyers she worked for bought a stock as she made the transaction for him (or her; I don’t know), she bought the same stock for herself, in a smaller amount. The woman amassed all this money, which she could have used while she was still breathing to assert some beneficial influence over society, help others, or just to expand her own experiences and life opportunities, but instead delegated the responsibility to a non-profit organization to handle after her death. She spent a lifetime in thrall to a law firm, and never could take the initiative to be free.

I view this story as a strong argument for feminism.

2.  Progress: For the first time in The Citadel’s 175-year history,  the Corps of Cadets command was awarded to a female cadet, Class of 2019 Regimental Commander Sarah Zorn. This was no affirmative action or gratuitous diversity moment, but an honor well-earned. In addition to her academic record and demonstrated leadership abilities, Zorn can do 70 pushups in two minutes (I’ve done 7 push-ups in two decades) and has three martial arts black belts. This triumph finally eradicates the humiliating beginnings of the South Carolina military academy’s gender integration, when Shannon Faulkner won a lawsuit against the school’s strict male-only admissions policy, became the first female cadet admitted, then showed up out of shape and irresolute, washing out after five days, four of which were spent in the infirmary. I have always regarded Faulkner as the anti-Jackie Robinson, the perfect example of how a trailblazer without sufficient character can make the trail worse than it was before.

3. An ethics inspiration from Europe. 15,000 European 18-year-olds will be able to travel free of charge in Europe this summer, using special free travel passes valid for 30 days. The European Parliament initiative was passed “to enhance a sense of European identity and European values.” . The cost will be about $14.2 million dollars in American currency.

Great idea, and better, in fact, for the United States to try than Europe, since the United States actually has a national culture and one that a majority of young people are neither learning about nor understand. The U.S. version should include tickets to a baseball game, of course.

4. Duh. Imagine my surprise when, after opening the Sunday New York Times Sunday Review section, I found leading off the insert that has been dominated by anti-Trump hate and hysteria since last November an essay that dovetails nicely with this Ethics Alarms post from yesterday.  Liberals, You’re Not as Smart as You Think” by Gerard Alexander, professor of political science at the University of Virginia, was given the front page of the section to make a point, a full year and a half into President Trump’s administration, that has been a theme on Ethics Alarms for all of that time, and should have been screamingly obvious to anyone whose own ethics alarms still had functioning clappers. Alexander writes in part, Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/9/18: Update On A Jerk, Deceptive Recycling, A Movement Becomes A Club, And The Future Is Abused

Good Morning!

1 Good! Billy Williams, that Derry, N.H. Used Apple Store owner who announced that Republicans weren’t welcome in his store, was evicted from his space. For weeks, a sign in the window has said that the store would re-open after renovations, which Williams’ former landlord says is not true. Williams rented the commercial space for $2,000 per month and owed $15,110 after neglecting to pay rent for seven months.

Williams, you will recall, said that he infallibly could recognize Republicans. His Facebook post announcing the GOP ban described members of the political party as “almost evil, and to be honest, usually evil.” [Pointer: Arthur in Maine]

2. Recycling Deceit: In Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, I was intrigued yesterday by the cylindrical re-cycling receptacles that had two deposit holes, a circular one on one side, into which we were told to put cans and bottles, and a long rectangular slot on the other side, for newspapers and other paper refuse.  I lifted off the top: sure enough, everything went into the same place, newspaper and cans alike. I don’t know what the term is for gratuitously demanding that the public do something pointless and trivial just to exert power, but this was it.

3. The problem with #MeToo. Commenting on yesterdays Comment of the Day, in which Carcarwhite wrote, while criticizing the #MeToo movement,

“I was kissed by Eddie Van Halen back stage in the 80’s, on the lips, a few times. He was tipsy and happy and took a selfie of us before seflies were selfies, and I’ve actually had friends on the Left tell me I should my story publicly. And they say I am ENABLING THIS BEHAVIOR by not going forward”

Commenting, Still Spartan said in part, “What you described is NOT “Me Too.” Just because some people take it too far, does not mean that it is not legitimate. Please take it from someone who had to leave a job and have her career derailed for multiple years because of this crap. It happens, and it happens every damn day.” Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month: Derry, NH Used Apple Store Owner Billy Williams

“There comes a time when every man will needs to stand up for what’s right and blaze a better path. Today we do that, today we say no thank you to any Republican. If you affiliate with the Republican Party you are not welcome into our store. We will not offer you service. If you come in anyway, I suppose you could sneak in but we will probably know. In fact, we can point out a Republican just from the way you look in person or in a photo. Once I tried doing this and realized I could. We put to a test and told 30 random people that we were guessing Republican or not and all 30 I was correct. You have an uptight, closed energy, negative aura to you… almost evil, and to be honest, usually evil. You also lack a psychic gateway to technology.”

—Billy Williams, owner of the Used Apple store in Derry, New Hampshire.

Signature significance: Billy is unethical, a bigot, a bad neighbor, a bad citizen, a bad American, and a toxic asshole. He is the kind of hateful hyper-partisan fool who is poisoning our culture, our communities, national politics and our public dialogue.

So is anyone who cheers him on.

Billy takes pains to point out that his bigotry isn’t illegal, so it must be OK. (See: Rationalizations List, #4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical.”)  He also doesn’t worry about backlash from any potential customers who might choose to direct their business to someone who isn’t working to divide the United States into divided camps, each discriminating against the other based on hate and contempt for their opinions. “If you’re in it for the right reasons, it doesn’t matter that someone isn’t gonna come to you with their money,” Williams said, courageously. .He then compared himself to Oskar Schindler.

You know, that’s exactly who I thought of! No, wait—it was Oscar Wiener….

Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Sarah Silverman

“I love Louie, but Louie did these things. Both of those statements are true. So, I just keep asking myself, can you love someone who did bad things? Can you still love them? I can mull that over later, certainly, because the only people that matter right now are the victims. They are victims, and they’re victims because of something he did.”

—Comedian Sarah Silverman, speaking of her friend and fellow comic Louis C.K., whose career is in freefall after revelations by five women that he masturbated in front of them.

I hope Sarah doesn’t have to ponder her question too hard, because the answer should be obvious.

Of course you can love someone who did bad things. Everyone of us has, and probably does. Good people do bad things. Loving and lovable people do bad things, even terrible things. Being loved is one of the crucial life experiences that makes people better.

There are limits, of course. Still, at the root of Silverman’s question is the narrow intolerance and self-righteousness that are polarizing and fracturing our society. I find it ominous that she would ask the question.

From The Law vs. Ethics File: The Discriminatory Charlotte Pride Parade

Brian Talbert, a member of “Gays for Trump,” submitted  an application to Charlotte Pride, Charlotte’s Gay Pride parade, so they could have a float in this year’s event. His application was rejected, with this explanation:

 

Charlotte Pride reserves the right to decline participation at our events to groups or organizations which do not reflect the mission, vision and values of our organization, as is acknowledged in our parade rules and regulations by all groups at the time of their parade application. In the past, we have made similar decisions to decline participation from other organizations espousing anti-LGBTQ religious or public policy stances.

Charlotte Pride envisions a world in which LGBTQ people are affirmed, respected and included in the full social and civic life of their local communities, free from fear of any discrimination, rejection, and prejudice.

Charlotte Pride invites all individuals, groups, organizations and causes which share our values to join our community’s celebration of the LGBTQ community, history, arts and culture during the Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade, Aug. 26-27, 2017.

In other words, because Charlotte Pride does not support Talbert’s political views, he is being denied the opportunity to present a minority point of view. Constitutional Law prof Eugene Volokh explains why this is entirely legal:

“First, Charlotte and North Carolina do not ban discrimination by parade organizers based on political affiliation. Only a few jurisdictions include political affiliation on their lists of prohibited bases for discrimination.

Second, even if a public accommodation law did ban such discrimination, it couldn’t apply to parades organized by nongovernmental organizations. Such parade organizers have a First Amendment right to exclude groups from their parades based on the messages the groups convey about their members’ sexual orientation, political affiliation, religion, race and whatever else to make sure that a parade conveys just the speech that parade organizers want to convey.”

The precedent Volokh cites for this principle? Why, it’s Supreme Court’s holding in Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc. (1995), declaring that the organizers of Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade had a First Amendment right to exclude the gay/lesbian/bisexual group.

It seems that many groups advocate diversity, tolerance and fairness until they achieve the power to do their own discrimination. That is, good bigotry. Discriminating against gays is bad.  Gays discriminating against gays who support the President of the United States is good.

Sure it is. Golden Rule? What’s that? This is intolerance, bigotry, a failure of integrity, hypocrisy….and also bullying, as it aims to coerce group members to accept mandated political views that are not their own.

But it’s not illegal, so it’s all right! Continue reading

Comment Of The Day (2): “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’”

This is the second Comment of the Day on the post about the Alexandria, VA gym that kicked white supremacist, aka “Nazi”, Richard Spencer out because a Georgetown professor found his presence there, in town, in the universe, offensive.

Here is Extradimensional Cephalopod’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”:

Stipulated: This person believes things that we think are wrong, and we want him, ideally, to stop believing them.

I assert that shunning him is counterproductive with regards to getting him to stop believing these things. He is almost certainly aware of the public opinion of Nazis, and he evidently doesn’t care, so peer pressure is already shown not to work. Besides, truth is not determined by a majority vote, so if we act like our numbers are the major argument against the Nazi ideology, or whatever similar ideology this person subscribes to, it not only weakens our position in his eyes, but also leads us to forget the real reasons for what we believe.

We have at least four options:

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

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”

My initial response to this comment by Spartan on the post about Richard Spencer being harassed while trying to use his gym membership and the gym’s response of kicking him out rather than his harasser was in part:

“A very clear and well-stated exposition of an unethical point of view that many misguided people agree with…thus imperiling our pluralistic society.”

It troubles me greatly that so many intelligent Americans are thinking this way in 2017.

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

This guy is a public figure and he will be recognized. He chose to be in the limelight. Gym members are allowed to quit their memberships because they don’t want to work out with an asshole. Now imagine (in liberal Old Town) that 75% of the members decide to quit their memberships at this gym because they don’t want to be around him. The business will now suffer.

I used to go to this gym, and I can tell you that I would not want to be around this man. So, although I would not circulate a petition or demand that the gym expel him, I would quit my membership. And, I probably would tell all of my friends why, so I imagine many of them would quit as well. Also, keep in mind that this gym is super tiny — you are pretty much forced to interact with other members.

In this scenario, the gym might end up closing because of lack of membership. So, this is trickier than you make it out in your hypothetical. I am not obligated, as a private citizen, to be polite or even silent around odious human beings. While I do not support a gym’s decision to terminate membership based on political (although I’m being generous here) beliefs, the fact is that people can vote with their feet.

Continue reading