#freebree = Lawlessness, Vigilantism And Hypocrisy

"let's run her up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes!"

“Let’s run her up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes!”

Various anti-gay marriage zealots vowing to defy the Supreme Court and the law of the land are un-American and wrong, but a woman who decides to unilaterally make a decision that only the elected representatives of the citizens of South Carolina are authorized to make is a hero. Such is the muddled state of thought, ethics and civics among America’s progressives. Disobey the laws you don’t like, condemn the character of those who disobey the laws you favor. No integrity, no principles, no responsibility, no coherence, just grandstanding and anarchy, aimed at cheering ideologues incapable of proportion or restraint. This is an ethics vacuum masquerading as virtue.

“Bree,” which is what pole-climbing flag-grabber Brittany Ann Byuarim Newsome calls herself, is under arrest, as she should be, charged with defacing a monument and facing a fine. Good. She deserves one, and no accolades whatsoever. The Confederate flag is already under siege and on the verge of a permanent cultural taboo. Her actions would have constituted genuine civil disobedience and courage had it come before the flag was magically assigned blame for the murder of nine Charleston African Americans, to call attention to its symbolic defiance of civil rights. Coming now, Bree’s stunt is just  self-promoting vigilante theater, seeking and receiving support from the likes of Michael Moore.

There was nothing brave, productive or necessary about the flag stunt. The was a lot wrong about its message: don’t wait for the government process to work, don’t allow democracy and civil discourse to prevail, just unilaterally do what you “know” is right, and let the “ends justify the means” embracing mob celebrate. No doubt, this is the anti-Constitutional attitude the President has encouraged, but it recklessly risks fraying the seams of our democratic government, and erodes the rule of law. Continue reading

Unethical and Unjust Firing of the Week: The MSNBC Cheerios Tweeter

CheeriosWhen reader Scott Jacobs sent me a link to the now infamous MSNBC tweet that presumed that all “right-wingers,” which in MSNBC Universe means anyone who doesn’t want to put Barack Obama on Mount Rushmore, were horrified by the very existence of bi-racial families, I honestly didn’t understand what he was telling me.  MSNBC’s official position is that Republicans are racists, so he couldn’t have been referring to that….everybody knows that. (“But did you know Old McDonald was a really bad speller?”) And what racists approve of bi-racial families? So the tweet wasn’t illogical or dealing in rationalizations. The tweet—oh, here it is:

“Maybe the rightwing will hate it, but everyone else will go awww: the adorable new #Cheerios ad w/ biracial family” Continue reading

The Fifth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2013 (Part Two of Three)


The Ethics Alarms review of a truly disheartening year in ethics continues with fallen heroes, ficks, fools and follies with Part Two of the 2013 Worst of Ethics awards….and there’s one last section to come. Be afraid..be very afraid:

Fallen Hero of the Year

Edward Snowden, whose claim to civil disobedience was marred by his unwillingness to accept the consequences of his actions, whose pose as a whistle-blower was ruined by the disclosure that he took his job with the intention of exposing national secrets, and whose status as a freedom-defending patriot lies in ruins as he seeks harbor with not only America’s enemy, but a human rights-crushing enemy at that. The NSA’s over-reach and mismanagement is a scandal, but Snowden proved that he is no hero.

Unmitigated Gall of  The Year

Minnesota divorce lawyer Thomas P. Lowes not only violated the bar’s ethics rules by having sex with his female  client…he also billed her his hourly fee for the time they spent having sex , a breach of the legal profession’s rule against “unreasonable fees.” Yes, he was suspended. But for not long enough…

Jumbo Of The Year

(Awarded To The Most Futile And Obvious Lie)

Jumbo film

“Now, if you had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.”

—–President Obama

2013 Conflicts of Interest of the Year Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: The Ridgedale Church of Christ

This is Kat and Krista. I mean, come on! Look at those two women, blatantly being a couple like this! How can any God loving, devout person, even one of their mother's tolerate conduct like this? I mean, just look at what they're doing!

This is Kat and Krista. I mean, come on! Look at those two women, blatantly being a couple like this! How can any God loving, devout person, even one of their mothers tolerate conduct like this? I mean, just look at what they’re doing!

The culture’s rapid acceptance of same-sex romantic relationships and their natural progression, gay marriage, is leading some churches to isolate themselves from basic societal values, and call into question the sincerity and validity of organized religion itself. Today’s lesson: Chattanooga’s Ridgedale Church of Christ.

Linda Cooper and her family had belonged to the church and its community for more than 60 years. Then her daughter, Kat Cooper, led the months long effort that led to the Chattanooga suburb of Collegedale becoming the first city in Tennessee to offer benefits to same-sex spouses of its government employees.Kat, a detective the Collegedale Police Department was  married to her same sex spouse Krista, in Maryland, in May. During her successful and well-publicized legal battle, Kat was supported by her mom. Linda stood by her side throughout the process. She held tight to her daughter’s hand at a July meeting over the issue. And the two embraced after the City Council’s 4-1 vote in favor of same-sex benefits on Aug. 5.  Her church took notice…and disapproved. Continue reading

D.C.’s Official, Tolerant, Peaceful and Just Oppression of Donnie McClurkin

Donnie McCutcheon: Unfit to honor MLK Jr.?

Donnie McClurkin: Unfit to honor MLK Jr.?

Grammy Award-winning gospel singer Donnie McClurkin, who is African-American and also a pastor, is furious that he was dumped from the roster of performers at “Reflections on Peace: From Gandhi to King,” a city-sponsored concert on August 10 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, honoring the 50th anniversary of King’s March on Washington. He should be furious; so should any authentic follower of Dr. King. By targeting McClurkin, lesser men than King shamed his legacy by showing disdain for principles the martyred civil rights leader fought for, like tolerance, courage, honesty and inclusiveness. You see, McClurkin’s politically incorrect views on homosexuality rendered him, to the arbiters of political discourse, unfit to perform.

Courage among the District’s political leaders is almost in as short supply as trustworthiness, as city Mayor Vincent Gray demonstrated by caving to complaints made by, his office explained, a dozen people, including local gay activist and longtime civil rights advocate Phil Pannell. Pannell called the gospel singer’s public statements on homosexuality “vile.” Wow, a dozen people and one prominent activist! Pretty near a whole nation was opposed to King when he started his crusade for civil rights, and his successors can’t mount the courage to tell a dozen people advocating political discrimination to pound sand. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978)

The Angry Man

The other day I chanced to meet
An angry man upon the street —
A man of wrath, a man of war,
A man who truculently bore
Over his shoulder, like a lance,
A banner labeled “Tolerance.”

And when I asked him why he strode
Thus scowling down the human road,
Scowling, he answered, “I am he
Who champions total liberty —
Intolerance being, ma’am, a state
No tolerant man can tolerate.

“When I meet rogues,” he cried, “who choose
To cherish oppositional views,
Lady, like this, and in this manner,
I lay about me with my banner
Till they cry mercy, ma’am.” His blows
Rained proudly on prospective foes.

Fearful, I turned and left him there
Still muttering, as he thrashed the air,
“Let the Intolerant beware!”

Poet Phyllis McGinley, quoted in the comment thread on the Volokh Conspiracy’s post about the Supreme Court decision this week in Glowicki vs. Howell Public School District. Continue reading

Unethical Smoothie Bar of the Month: The “I Love Drilling Juice & Smoothie Bar” of Vernal, Utah


 As you can see from the sign above, the I Love Drilling Juice and Smoothie Bar in Vernal, Utah, owned and operated by a local pro-oil and gas activist George Burnett, charges liberals an extra dollar for its fare. The smug owner then donates the proceeds from his partisan surtax to  the Heritage Foundation and other conservative organizations.

I hate to pop Mr. Burnett’s self-satisfied balloon, but his stunt is unethical and profoundly un-American. The former is best illustrated by the scheme’s obvious failure to satisfy Kant’s Rule of Universality, a.k.a. the “What if everybody did this?” test. If every business discriminated on the basis of political and ideological belief, daily life would be unbearably complicated, contentious, and nasty, with all communities broken into exclusive, inconvenient and hostile camps. The practice of making people pay extra for basic goods and services according to whether their politics are Blue or Red is also hostile to basic American principles of respectful diversity, open minds, and civil discourse. Yes, Burnett’s  liberal tax is legal and constitutional. But it is unfair, and violates the principle, if not the letter, of equal treatment for all. Punishing citizens for their beliefs is bullying, whether the culprit is a city mayor who wants to ban a business because its owner opposes gay marriage, or an arrogant activist who wants to make anyone who disagrees with “drill baby drill!” to have to pay more for smoothies. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: The Videogame Burners of Southington, Conn.

book burning

On January 12, they are burning “violent videogames” in Southington, a Connecticut town not far from Newtown, scene of the Sandy Hook massacre.

Is there a more irresponsible, historically ignorant, un-American, First Amendment-offending, foolish, ignorant and ugly act than burning speech and art because you object to their content? They burned rock and roll records  in the Bible Belt during the 1950s—that was stupid, disgusting and frightening. Hitler, you may recall, burned books; the USSR too. In 2013, consigning electronic media like videogames to the flames is indistinguishable from burning books. I would expect American citizens of normal intelligence to immediately realize that.

I guess I would be wrong.

The local group organizing the bonfire has put out some rationalization for it. I could not care less what sad reasoning and warped values motivate their book-burning. It is a symbolic insult to freedom of thought.

No question: book burnings are legal and protected speech. It is also conduct redolant of mob rule, ignorance, intolerance, fear, hate, and Ray Bradbury novels. Some activities have earned permanent revulsion, legal or not, in American culture because they are the traditional tools not of democracies, but of totalitarian governments,  the enemies of democracy and free thought. Book burning is one of them.

And burning videogames is exactly the same thing.

Update: The news accounts eventually make it clear that the group will collect the various forms of violent entertainment in a dumpster, which will also include movies and recordings, and that the actual incineration will be performed by city workers, as part of their rubbish disposal duties. Is this better? Worse, because now the town government is participating? I don’t think it is useful or enlightening to play parsing games. I see this event as indistinguishable from a book-burning, and while The Guardian’s description of it as such could be called misleading (or inflammatory?), I salute them for correctly diagnosing what this is in its essence.

The Egypt and Libya Embassy Attacks: So, Are We Going To Have An “Everybody Make An Insulting Film About Muhammad Day” Now?

Why not? It’s your right!

“We went into this knowing this was probably going to happen,” said Steve Klein, a consultant on Nakoula Basseley Nakoula’s anti-Islam, Muhammad-bashing film. The film is apparently the reason two U.S. embassies were attacked yesterday, resulting in the death of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and others. That was the “this” Klein was referring to. Nakoula and his Isreali backers set out to make a film that denigrates both Islam and its prophet, knowing what the response in Muslim nations has been to such things, as well as the deaths caused by podunk bigot pastor Terry Jones, with his Quran-burning stunts.

Now people are dead, the Arab world is inflamed, and the perpetual tinderbox known as the Middle East is ready to ignite. The online film has had almost no audience yet, but don’t worry: international violence was probably part of the marketing plan. Maybe Nakoula will be really lucky, and have his First Amendment-protected agitprop start World War III, and he can take his place in history next to Gavrilo Princip, in the coveted “Insignificant Jerks Who Started World Wars” category.

Indeed, as an American citizen, Nakoula has a sacred right to make any movie he wants, write any book, draw any cartoon, burn any book. Americans have a sacred right to be irresponsible, and thanks to electronic communication, they can now be irresponsible on a grand scale, disrupting diplomacy, inciting international unrest, fanning racial, ethnic, international and religious discord. That means that sometimes an exercise of  the right of free speech can be legal, cherished, and terribly wrong. Among those times are when you know that shooting off your metaphorical mouth has a strong probability of getting people other than you killed.

I agree that there is something amiss when “The Book of Mormon” is winning accolades on Broadway, knowing well that if the satirical musical targeted Islam instead of Mormonism the Great White Way might be running red with blood. I agree that it reeks of a double standard when columnists like Charles M. Blow can tweet about Mitt Romney’s “magic underwear” but American Muslims are immune from similar indignities because, well, they might kill us. This elevates instability, intolerance and lack of respect for human life to an asset, and that is itself intolerable—but what is the solution? Charles Krauthammer, condemning our Egypt embassy’s conciliatory response to the mob attack on it  yesterday, said that our response should be “Go to hell.” In this he was endorsing the response of the Everybody Draw Muhammad Day crowd, which decided that an organized, mass insult to Islam was the intelligent response to one Islamic terrorist intimidating Comedy Central into censoring South Park. Their reasoning: “You can’t kill us all.”

They can kill our Ambassador, though, can’t they?

Since there is no justification for hateful, intentional denigration of anybody’s religion, there should be a bright line between caving to Islamic threats over satire and humor, which is disgraceful and un-American, and not setting out to agitate the Arab street with calculated insults, which is the domain of Jones and Nakoula. The latter is flagrantly irresponsible and reckless, and should not be condoned or excused, Constitutionally protected though it is. Nakoula, it was reported, was in hiding for his life.

If so, good.

“We went into this knowing this was probably going to happen,” said his colleague. Having to fear for one’s life seems like a fair punishment for someone who knew his hateful, rinky-dink movie might get other people killed and cause mass violence, and made it anyway.



Graphic:  No Short Corners

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

Tim Tebow Hatred and the Rabbi’s Fears

How dare he?

I have avoided weighing into the controversy over Tim Tebow, the Denver Bronco quarterback whose very public Christianity, combined with his penchant for leading miracle comeback victories for his team, has made him the most polarizing figure in sports today, and one of the most polarizing people in the culture as a whole. I have avoided commenting because I think the ethics of the controversy are obvious. Tebow is a decent, law-abiding, well-bred young man in a sector of our culture that produces profane, semi-literate, violent, or arrogant  jerks, fools, cheats and felons, not to mention arrested adolescents, by the hundreds, who are cheered, worshipped and enriched based solely on their talent to excel in stadiums and arenas. Anyone who chooses Tim Tebow, out of all these travesties of sports celebrity, to deride solely because he is vocal about his religious beliefs isn’t worth arguing about, because the verdict’s in: that critic’s priorities are backwards, inside out and warped. Tebow, unlike the NFL’s assorted felons, the NBA’s many dead-beat dads, and baseball’s steroid cheats, is a worthy role model for kids. He is humble, respectful, does his job and plays by the rules. What’s not to like?

Well, we know the answer to that question. He prays on the field, thanks God after every touchdown pass, and is prone to saying things like, “First and foremost I gotta thank my lord and savior Jesus Christ”  to reporters. Is it annoying? Oh, sure it is. This stuff is annoying from any athlete. To begin with, it is silly—the very idea that a Supreme Being gives a hoot which wins a football game is infantile—and it comes off as a commercial, like an athlete who makes sure that he says, “Well, first and foremost I have to thank the General Mills  people, because Wheaties, “The Breakfast of Champions,” has made me who I am today!”  in every interview. But Tebow’s statements aren’t  commercials, though, and anyone inclined to be fair knows it. This is a man with a deep religious faith who really believes that God guides his every move, and that it is right and responsible to thank Him when  the quarterback  is being celebrated for athletic exploits that in Tebow’s belief system are the product of his relationship with his deity. The sentiment is sincere and the motivation is virtuous. For Tebow’s displays of faith to incur hatred is an indictment of the haters. If he annoys you, don’t listen to him. If you do, the annoyance is your fault, not Tebow’s. Continue reading