What Is The Ethical Response To The Racially Unbalanced Admissions To New York City’s Elite High Schools?

The question has been giving me a headache since I first read about the stunning results of the process that gives New York City students access to its elite public schools.  Of the nearly 4,800 students admitted into the specialized schools for 2019, 190 are black, down from  207 black students admitted last year out of just over 5,000 offers. Stuyvesant high school, which is representative, gave 7 offers to black students (out of 895 slots),   33 offers to Hispanic students, 194 offers to white students, and Asian-American students received a whopping  587 offers. Overall, Asian-American students constitute 60% of the student bodies of the eight elite schools.

Students take  a single exam that tests their mastery of math and English in order to gains entrance to the academically challenging school. Stuyvesant, which has the highest cutoff score for admission and is thus the most selective of the schools, now has the lowest percentage of black and Hispanic students of any of New York City’s roughly 600 public high schools.

What should the city do about this? Should it do anything?  Continue reading

New Week Morning Warm-Up, 3/4/19: Luck, Fairness, And Delusion

Looking forward to the best ethics week yet…

…but not really expecting it.

…Maybe I’ll get lucky.

1. A Progressive war on luck. Yesterday, NPR, which we all pay for, offered a long segment that was ostensibly about “luck,” but it actually was an extended argument for socialism and a political ad against President Trump. “One we move from talking about merit to concentrating on opportunity, then we have changed our focus from scarcity to abundance,” some Ted-talker said. “Then there is no need for walls.” The general thrust of the program, which included at least one speaker (I didn’t stay to hear all of the agitprop) who literally didn’t know what luck is, was that successful people think that hard work and talent is what got them where they are, when in reality it was all, or mostly luck. Thus the idea being pushed was that national policy should eliminate, or at least minimize, the effect of mere chance on human affairs. This means, once you read between the line, government distribution of resources, jobs and benefits to ensure the “fairness” that the random vicissitudes of cruel fate so often eschew.

As I touched on in a recent discussion of Clarence Darrow’s progressive principles, the rejection of personal responsibility and the very idea of free will has permeated progressiveness from its origins. It is, and has been, an anti-American construct that runs against the core principles the nation was founded on, but the theory has always appealed to those who welcome the opportunity to blame others, or just cruel Fate, for their own mistakes and failures.

That said, of course luck plays a massive and sometimes decisive role in our lives. That’s called “life.” Ironically, one of Clarence Darrow’s favorite poems (I know I have posted this before) makes the point:

Whist by Eugene Fitch Ware

Hour after hour the cards were fairly shuffled
And fairly dealt, but still I got no hand;
The morning came, and with a mind unruffled
I only said, “I do not understand.”

Life is a game of whist. From unseen sources
The cards are shuffled and the hands are dealt;
Blind are our efforts to control the forces
That, though unseen, are no less strongly felt.

I do not like the way the cards are shuffled,
But yet I like the game and want to play;
And through the long, long night will I, unruffled,
Play what I get until the break of day

2. Speaking of controlling “opportunity”…which usually means constraining liberty and autonomy, officials at Lakeland Regional High School in Wanaque, New Jersey have forbidden prom goers from hiring limos or private vehicles to arrive and leave in. The boilerplate official explanation is that the change ensures safety for all students, but it also is an effort to create “equality” because not all students can afford a limousine or party bus. Of course, not all students can afford a prom gown or to rent a tux. Why not ban formal wear, and have a simple dress code that all families can afford, like jeans and a T-shirt?

The school will charge each student $15 for transportation costs.

3. Thank-you, Captain Obvious! Avner Zarmi has written an essay in which she argues that President Trump’s “style” undermines his effectiveness. Ya think? What was Avner’s first clue, I wonder?

If the President could restrain his inner jerk as effectively as his predecessors (for he is far from the biggest jerk to occupy the White House—my vote would be with JFK, but there is lots of competition) and if he wasn’t opposed by a hostile news media determined to magnify his deficits and ignore his accomplishments, he would have a 60% approval rating.

4. And this is why there is a national emergencyContinue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/21/2019: Smollett And His Friends

Good Morning.

(Be honest: how many of you once thought this song was sung by The Beatles?)

1. Jussie Smollett hoax notes:

  • The actor is in custody, is being charged, and the Chicago’s Police Superintendent just gave a withering speech condemning him, asking rhetorically what kind of black man uses a noose as a prop for a false hate crime accusation. It also appears that Smollett had previously sent himself a fake hate crime letter.

Has Smollett wrapped up “Asshole of the Year”? Only in the Hollywood Division, would be my guess, but the year is young.

  • Speaking of contenders, stop making me defend Adam Schiff. The House’s #1 Trump-Hunter deleted this tweet…

Now he’s being criticized by conservatives for trying to send his embarrassing embrace of Smollett’s facially absurd story “down the memory hole.” I don’t blame anyone for deleting stupid social media posts, especially public figures. Why give your enemies a graphic club to bash you with…forever? Of course, a public statement that he was wrong, rash and inflammatory would be appropriate, but this is Adam Schiff we’re talking about. Watch him spin when the Mueller report turns out to be a dud.

  • Here’s part of a Boston Herald editorial:

As Jussie Smollett’s account of his alleged assault falls apart, it is important to note that politicians, the media and influential voices did their best to fan the flames of outrage, based on nothing but the dark premise that conservatives and Trump supporters are evil….It was a flimsy yarn from the outset, which only became more precarious with each passing day. That didn’t stop those most deeply invested in the narrative of Evil Trump to jump into action.

Presidential hopefuls Cory Booker and Kamala Harris each labeled the supposed attack a “modern-day lynching,” with Harris adding that, “We must confront this hate.” Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted, “This is a sickening and outrageous attack, and horribly, it’s the latest of too many hate crimes against LGBTQ people and people of color. We are all responsible for condemning this behavior and every person who enables or normalizes it …” Joe Biden tweeted, “What happened today to @JussieSmollett must never be tolerated in this country. We must stand up and demand that we no longer give this hate safe harbor; that homophobia and racism have no place on our streets or in our hearts. We are with you, Jussie.”…freshman congressman, Rashida Tlaib, tweeted, “The dangerous lies spewing from the right wing is killing & hurting our people.”

… Hollywood notables also reacted as expected. Director Rob Reiner tweeted, “The horrific attack on Jussie Smollett has no place in a decent human loving society. Homophobia existed before Trump, but there is no question that since he has injected his hatred into the American bloodstream, we are less decent, less human, & less loving. No intolerance! No DT!”

The media has comported itself badly as well. Almost immediately after getting the Covington Catholic story so wrong, many in the news industry immediately accepted the Smollett story as true…. a Washington Post writer named Nana Efua Mumford wrote this: “If Smollett’s story is found to be untrue … The incident would be touted as proof that there is a leftist conspiracy to cast Trump supporters as violent, murderous racists. It would be the very embodiment of ‘fake news.’ And that reason, more than any other, is why I need this story to be true.”

In other words, Trump supporters are violent, murderous racists. That dark premise is a lie, fake news and untrue. Let us hope one half of the country can correct their horrifically jaded view of the other half before we lose ourselves.

Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Amazon-NYC Blow-Up

Amazon shocked the Big Apple yesterday by announcing that it was cancelling plans for a corporate “campus,” aka.headquarters, in Queens. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio had promoted the deal, which would have given Amazon $3 billion in tax breaks in exchange for bringing Big Tech to the city and creating an estimated 25,000 jobs, among other benefits.  Anti-corporate and neighborhood activists, however, including elected officials like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, led opposition to the arrangement, based substantially on the objection to “corporate welfare” to one of the richest companies on Earth. Now Democrats are pointing fingers at each other, and everyone’s mad at Amazon.

At its core, this fiasco is an ethics conflict, with the absolutist ideals of rigid ideology opposing the ethics of the real world.

Amazon: The company is both popular and flush. It can literally take its business anywhere, and many communities will pay for the privilege. The company did nothing unethical in seeking the most advantageous deal it could get. Large employers help a community’s economy. Because they have many choices, it makes sense for them to shop around. It is not unethical to ask for a tax break to choose a city like New York, and it is not even unethical to demand such a break. It is certainly not unethical to accept one, and similarly, not unethical to reject such a deal because, as an Amazon spokesperson said yesterday, Looking at the opposition and the timeline we decided we don’t want to work in this environment in the long term.” Amazon “became increasingly concerned that the backlash in New York showed no sign of abating and was tarnishing its image beyond the city,” J. David Goodman wrote in the New York Times.

It’s their money, their business, their decision. Amazon is not a public charity, nor is it obligated to behave like one. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/28/19: Ethics Avalanche!

ARRGH!!!

Too many festering ethics issues to cover in as much detail as they deserve…

1. The deterioration of the New York Times, and with it respectable print journalism, continues. Over the weekend, the Times published a very large, front page diagram showing the President in the middle of a circle of indicted aides, advisers and others with some connection to his campaign. (I’m looking at it right now; I can’t find a version on the web to post.) It belongs in the Guilt by Association Hall of  Shame, and some other shameful halls as well. Literally none of the indictments involve any campaign activities by Trump or his campaign that would constitute illicit cooperation with Russia to affect the 2016 election—you know, the supposed point of having a Special Counsel. The bulk are so-called “process” violations, which means that the individuals lied in some aspect of the investigation, and was charged to pressure him to “flip” on the President.The one individual whose charges are linked to Trump is Michael Cohen, whose actual crimes had nothing to do with Trump, and whose alleged crime involving Trump–paying off an adulterous sex partner to keep quiet—is probably not a crime at all, even though Cohen pleaded guilty to it to save his skin.. The graphic proves nothing and clarifies nothing. It is just raw meat for Trump-haters, asserting guilt without substance. Similar circles could be assembled around many, many national figures and politicians (Bill Clinton comes to mind, and Barack Obama), especially following two years of targeting their associates.

2. Ann Althouse vivisects Tom Brokaw.  Just go to this link and read Ann’s expert commentary on Tom Brokaw’s bizarre turn on “Meet the Press,” and the even more bizarre tweets he issued to apologize to the social media mob for opining that “Hispanics should work harder at assimilation.” (Hispanics assimilate just fine, especially when they are here legally.)

Yes, poor Tom really did tweet, ” my tweet portal is whack i hv been trying to say i am sorry i offended and i so appreciate my colleague.” 

3. This would be an unethical quote of the day except that CNN fake media ethics watchdog Brian Stelter says and writes unethical things so often that it is no longer worth highlighting. Stelter re-tweeted with favor this quote from a panelist on his show as they discussed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex:

“She’s got a target on her back because she ticks every box that makes conservative men uncomfortable.”

Of course, this is pure race- and gender-baiting, the progressive and media reflex response to any criticism of female or minority Democrats, and insulting to women and progressive men as well. I assume many of the latter—the smart ones, anyway—are also made “uncomfortable” by arrogant, ignorant, under-qualified, anti-Semitic, Socialist naifs who garner a disproportionate amount of publicity while advocating absurd and irresponsible policies. A member of Congress who blathers like AOC would be like fingernails on a blackboard if she were a midde-aged he of Nordic descent.

Boy, Stelter is terrible. I hereby apologize to Howard Kurtz for being so hard on him when he had Stelter’s job. Compared to Stelter, Howard is me. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/2/18: Those Tricky Things Called “Standards” [Updated]

Goooood MORNING, Cape Cod!

(I miss you, but I miss your clams more.)

1. It is amazing the amount of publicity the Manafort trial is getting. I actually heard a Fox News correspondent argue that Manafort’s indictment proves that the Mueller investigation isn’t a “witch hunt.” I see my anti-Trump Facebook friends making the same claim. Bias makes you stupid. No aspect of the charges against Manafort relate to “Russian collusion,” and if the news media were not determined to convince the public that proof of impeachable offenses were just over the horizon and that Mueller was getting closer, closer, CLOSER, this would be a minor news event, if a news event at all. In fact, the Manafort trial is evidence that the Mueller investigation, whether the special prosecutor intends it to be or not, is functioning like a witch hunt. Any associate of the President past, present or future is on notice that he or she is a potential target, involving potential expense, embarrassment, and smears by the media. The political objective of the investigation is to make governing impossible, by causing widespread fear of guilt by association among those who might assist the President.

Virtually any past President you name had shady friends and associates who would be at risk from a Mueller-style “see-what-dirt-we-can-dig-up” operation. The GOP planted the seeds for this tactic with Whitewater. Republicans have no standing to complain, but Trump does.

2. THIS must be impeachable, somehow. CNN headline: “Donald Trump has no earthly clue about how real people buy groceries.”

The crux of the complaint is that the President used buying groceries as an example of basic requirements of life that involve the uses of IDs, as part of a riff on the need for voter identification laws. The “he doesn’t buy his own groceries!” accusation was last used against George H.W. Bush, when he expressed “what will they think of next?” amazement at computer checkout devices. “[The President] has no earthly clue what the average person, living paycheck to paycheck, making ends meet, is dealing with day to day. Going to the grocery store is not about presenting identification, but it can be about figuring out how you’re going to pay for groceries,” bleats Jen Psaki, Obama’s former communications director, so we know she’s unbiased.

Virtually NONE of our national elected officials have bought their own groceries in years, and probably decades. The significance of this is so infinitesimal that it would escape detection by the naked eye. I hate buying groceries. I admire and envy anyone who has progressed to the stage in life where they can have some compensated minion do the job for them. Meanwhile, this is one of—what, a million? Is that too many, or two few?—examples of habitual Trump critics pouncing on one of his–what, a trillion?—careless verbal gaffes and trying to make them seem more damning than they are. Trump could have, quite accurately, cited many other normal transactions less crucial to the nation than the integrity of the ballot box that require IDs, like renting a car, checking into a hotel, getting auto registration renewed, or buying a bottle of scotch. He chose, for reasons buried somewhere in his unique mind—buying groceries, which as a mistake. I don’t care. I question the priorities and intelligence of anyone who does care.

Especially someone who tries to lie to her readers with this whopper: “In 2008, when then-candidate Barack Obama was running against Sen. John McCain, a clear turning point for the campaign came when McCain could not remember how many houses he owned. ” Sure Jen. That was the turning point! I remember it well: I said to my wife, “Oh NO! This is like Gerald Ford saying that Poland wasn’t behind the Iron Curtain! McCain is doomed! Doomed, I tell you!” And when Hillary couldn’t shake her email scandal, I remember thinking, “You know, this is just like McCain not remembering how many houses he owned!”

And the fact that the economy crashed right after McCain’s gaffe was just frosting on the cake.

3. This is defend Sonny Gray Day. In addition to being ambushed by an attempted Hader Gotcha and stinking up Yankee Stadium with a terrible performance against the Baltimore Orioles, now a minor league team, Gray is being criticized in New York because he smiled as a he walked off the mound while boos, jeers and catcalls reigned down on his head by the typically classy Yankee fans.

What was he supposed to do? Weep? Rend his garments? Booing an athlete who has done nothing to indicate that he wasn’t trying, but who merely failed, is asshole behavior. Gray’s smile meant, “Boy, these fans are ridiculous. Well, what can you do? This is New York.” Indeed. The smile was about the only thing Sonny did right yesterday. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/25/18: Bricks In The Wall [UPDATED]

1. Nah, that’s not a misleading title! An op-ed in the Times yesterday had the alarming header, “Trump’s New Target: Citizenship.” In fact, the piece was about the movement to end automatic U.S. citizenship for those born here of illegal immigrant parents, and the Trump administration policy of seeking to “denaturalize” foreign-born citizens who achieved citizenship status by withholding disclosure of previous crimes.

As with many aspects of the bizarre national immigration debate, support for continuing the first principle is hard to justify. It is a remnant of a time when there were no restrictions on U.S. immigration, so the birthright rule made sense. Now, when illegal immigration is a serious concern, the same principle creates a perverse incentive to break the law, and makes immigration law enforcement complicated and difficult. The second issue is more debatable. The New York Times has another “good immigrant” story, this time one that seeks sympathy for Norma Borgoño, a Peruvian immigrant who took the oath of citizenship in 2007. The Justice Department has moved to revoke  Borgoño’s citizenship, claiming that she committed fraud when she applied for it. She apparentlyfailed to disclose that she had taken part in a serious crime several years before her application, then four years later, in 2011, pleaded guilty when she was charged for helping her employer  defraud the Export-Import Bank of the United States of $24 million.

Writes the Times, “Since President Trump took office, the number of denaturalization cases has been growing, part of a campaign of aggressive immigration enforcement that now promises to include even the most protected class of legal immigrants: naturalized citizens.” That is a deceitful sentence, full of spin, as is the entire story. For “aggressive immigration enforcement” read “enforcement.” The U.S. has every right, and in fact a duty, to assess what kind of people it wants to allow to become citizens, and criminals need not apply—after all, we have enough of them already. The Times finds it significant that Borgoño hasn’t been charged with her crime when she  applied for citizenship, but she was still a criminal, and the crime wasn’t stealing a loaf of bread, either. It also spins that her aiding a massive theft was “to no benefit of her own.” Oh! Then that’s OK, then! Presumably there was the benefit of keeping her job with her boss the felon, at very least.

The Trump administration isn’t “targeting citizenship,” but rather naturalized citizenship that was improperly granted, based on false representations.

2. The irresponsible neglect of the national infrastructure continues. I could write about this every day, and maybe I should. A microcosm of the national crisis is illustrated in the recent news that the New York City subway system is still falling apart, and even after the city spent about $333 million on emergency repairs its condition has barely improved. Waiting until transit systems, bridges, roads, railroad track, waterways, sewer and water pipes,  airports, the power grid and the rest of the structures that support civilization start crumbling, stifling commerce and killing people is an idiotic and suicidal approach to a basic  function of government, but  that has been our national policy since the 1960s. President Trump has claimed that addressing this was a priority, and maybe it will be, but recent history suggests that nothing will be done of substance until there is a lot of sickness, death, and destruction. Continue reading