Tag Archives: Progressives

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/24/2018: ‘Can’t We All Get Along? Nah…’ Edition

Good morning!

1. What? Negotiation competence? Boy, we haven’t seen THAT for a while. President Trump just pulled out of the scheduled summit with North Korea, a public lesson in Negotiation 101. If only Barack Obama had taken the Art of the Deal seminar before capitulating to Cuba and Iran. the letter the current elected President just sent to North Korea could not be more obvious in its devices, but I guarantee you that my negotiations professor at law school, Dean Adrian Fisher, one of the negotiators of the SALT treaty, would have approved. Here’s the letter, released this morning.

This is another ethics test, by the way. Take note of who criticizes the President for this, for they  will be revealing themselves as either reflex-Trrump haters or the kind of people used car dealers love to see walking in the door.

2. “A Nation of Assholes” update. It is now beyond dispute that the concept was right but that I badly misjudged the population that I thought would be primarily affected. My theory in the 2015 essay was that that having an ethics-challenged boor like Donald Trump as President would degrade the ethical standards of the public through the “rotting fish head” process: people follow the leader. Well, that has happened too, but the worst asshole transformation has beset progressives and “the resistance.,” as their behavior gets worse by the hour. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Leadership, Rights, Social Media

Messy Case, Messy Issues, Messy Commentary: The Trials of Curtis Flowers

The basic facts of the Curtis Flowers murder case are these: On the morning of July 16, 1996, someone walked into a furniture store in downtown Winona, Mississippi, and shot four employees in the head. Police charged  Curtis Flowers with all four murders. After 22 years of trials, mistrials and reversals, Flowers has faced juries six times for the same crime. He has been on death row since the first conviction, and the most recent one is being appealed. Many believe he is innocent.

I think it can be stipulated that this has been a badly botched prosecution, whether Flowers is innocent or not. There is no limit on how many times someone can be tried for the same crime, as long as the trials end in mistrials or convictions. The Flowers case suggests that we need a limit. If the system can’t get a conviction properly after a reasonable number of attempts—I don’t know what a reasonable number is, but I am confident that it is less than six—then the accused should go free. So far, Flowers has been in prison for over two decades without being convicted. That’s wrong.

It would be nice and reassuring if a knee-jerk liberal columnist like the New York Times’ David Leonhardt, whose background is in journalism and mathematics, not law, could inform the public about an outrageous case like this without mucking it up with ideological leaps of logic, unwarranted conclusions and progressive talking points. He can’t help himself, though.

Pity.

For his entire op-ed, he relies on this podcast about the case. A podcast about a legal case is like a documentary: it has a point of view baked into it. I admire the podcast, but it isn’t evidence. It isn’t the trial transcripts, or the decisions overturning the three convictions that were found to be flawed. Never mind: the Times writer sees “no good reason to believe that Curtis Flowers is guilty.” Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

Althouse’s Commenters Delineate A Trend

Is something in the etho-cultural air? I wonder. Suddenly hints that patience with the resistance/progressive/Democratic/mainstream media assault on the Presidency, democracy, fairness, honesty, civic discourse and the rule of law is running out even with typically left-leaning citizens are turning up in multiple venues all at once. This is, of course, gratifying here at Ethics Alarms, since I have regarded this as an ethics crisis since 2016.

Fascinating evidence can be found in the comments to a recent post by Ann Althouse, in which she pointed to a res ipsa loquitur piece in Politico, “‘What Happened to Alan Dershowitz?’,  which I would summarize as “Whatever could have possessed Alan Dershowitz to make him opt for objectivity, principles and integrity at a time like this?” Ann, as she frequently does, didn’t comment substantively on the essay, deciding instead to make an arch observation while pointing the way for her readers. She flagged what she called “the most obvious quote” in the essay: “Maybe the question isn’t what happened to Alan Dershowitz. Maybe it’s what happened to everyone else.” Of course, nothing happened to Dershowitz. He’s doing what a lawyer, an analyst and a trustworthy pundit is supposed to do: apply the same standards to everybody; not let emotion rule reason, and when all around him are losing their heads and blaming it on him, keeping his own despite temptations to follow the mob.

Ann’s readers distinguished themselves in their reactions. I wonder if the Democrats are paying attention. They are fools if they don’t.

Read as many as you can. Here’s a representative sample: Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Quotes, The Internet, U.S. Society

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

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Google And The Bail Bonds: When Virtue-Signaling Goes Horribly Wrong

..or, in the alternative, go ahead and BE evil, but make sure you’re pretending to be progressive while you’re doing it.

“With great power comes great responsibility not to be reckless and stupid.”

Google recently announced this policy change. See if you can spot what is wrong with it: I shouted, “What???” pretty much through the second paragraph.

At Google, we take seriously our responsibility to help create and sustain an advertising ecosystem that works for everyone. Our ads are meant to connect users with relevant businesses, products and services, and we have strict policies to keep misleading or harmful ads off of our platforms—in fact, we removed 3.2 billion bad ads last year alone. Today, we’re announcing a new policy to prohibit ads that promote bail bond services from our platforms. Studies show that for-profit bail bond providers make most of their revenue from communities of color and low income neighborhoods when they are at their most vulnerable, including through opaque financing offers that can keep people in debt for months or years. We made this decision based on our commitment to protect our users from deceptive or harmful products, but the issue of bail bond reform has drawn support from a wide range of groups and organizations who have shared their work and perspectives with us, including the Essie Justice Group, Koch Industries, Color of Change and many civil and human rights organizations who have worked on the reform of our criminal justice system for many years. According to Gina Clayton, executive director of the Essie Justice Group, “This is the largest step any corporation has taken on behalf of the millions of women who have loved ones in jails across this country. Google’s new policy is a call to action for all those in the private sector who profit off of mass incarceration. It is time to say ‘no more.’” Enforcement of this policy will begin in July 2018. This policy change is part of our ongoing efforts to protect users on our platforms.

Maybe this isn’t as stupid as it appears. Maybe Google is trying to protect its users by ensuring that potential predators accused of crime rot in jail while they are awaiting for trial because they don’t have access to bail.  Now that would be sinister and cruel, but not idiotic. Maybe? Perhaps?

No, this is just idiotic.

Prof. Alex Tabarrok, the Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics at the Mercatus Center and a professor of economics at George Mason University, explains:

Bail bonds are a legal service. Indeed, they are a necessary service for the legal system to function. It’s not surprising that bail bonds are used in communities of color and low income neighborhoods because it is in those neighborhoods that people most need to raise bail. We need not debate whether that is due to greater rates of crime or greater discrimination or both. Whatever the cause, preventing advertising doesn’t reduce the need to pay bail it simply makes it harder to find a lender. Restrictions on advertising in the bail industry, as elsewhere, are also likely to reduce competition and raise prices. Both of these effects mean that more people will find themselves in jail for longer.

And may I add, with respect, “Duh.” You don’t begin reforming the bail system by making it harder for people who need bail to get it….that is, you don’t do that unless you have a cranial vacuum.  Moreover, Prof. Tabbarrak has the same message based on his experience with bail bond companies as I did when I had criminal defendants as clients—and when I have had to help family members and friend deal with the bail system: Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Research and Scholarship, The Internet

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunces: Jeremy Lam And The Cultural Appropriation Police”

Huh! I didn’t know this was traditional Chinese business attire! Imagine: This is what Marco Polo must have seen!

The most amusing reaction to the apotheosis of progressive silliness that was the attacks on Utah high-schooler Keziah Daum for wearing a Chinese-style prom dress came from China, where the South China Post’ s Alex Lo, who authored a column titled, “Go ahead, appropriate my culture.” He wrote in part,

If anyone thinks social media is harmless, this incident should prove otherwise. A person called Jeremy Lam apparently first tweeted about her transgression, which is now being called “cultural appropriation”. “My culture is NOT your goddamn prom dress,” he posted…I apologise in advance for contributing to the silliness, but just needed to get it off my chest.  A publication as esteemed as The Independent of London ran a column supportive of the criticism.“The debate her prom pictures have prompted is justified,” the columnist wrote. “Cultural appropriation is about power, and to many she is the embodiment of a system that empowers white people to take whatever they want, go wherever they want and be able to fall back on: ‘Well, I didn’t mean any harm’.”

I would argue those who scream loudest about cultural appropriation are themselves after power…Why does Jeremy Lam think Chinese is his culture? Is his the same as mine? Is it some kind of property like an inheritance? If so, where is the will, written in our DNA, perhaps? And is it taxable or payable, and by whom? Why did Lam write in English? Isn’t he inappropriately appropriating English-speaking culture? …SJWs turn culture into some kind of finite asset, a zero-sum rather than a growing-sum game. They are oblivious or ignorant of how human cultures actually work: culture is cultural appropriation.

The topic sparked many excellent comments here, including this Comment of the Day by Alexander Cheezem…on the post, Ethics Dunces: Jeremy Lam And The Cultural Appropriation Police:

It’s worth noting the issue of what I can only call — with much irony — aggregation bias here. There _has_ to be a term for it that doesn’t rely on punning off a statistical concept, though…”

In reflection, I suppose that what’s going on is technically a variant of the ecological fallacy — but it’s manifesting as a form of bias (in the non-statistical sense) based on the aggregation of behavior… so the term isn’t quite right, leading me right back to punning off of the statistical concept. I can’t explain the issue without a massive amount of technical language (e.g. “the emergent nature of many features of a complex system”).

And that is a huge problem with modern liberalism. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media, Social Media, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunces: Jeremy Lam And The Cultural Appropriation Police

Utah high school student Keziah Daum posted a picture of herself looking lovely in a prom dress, and thanks to the warped values and cracked ethics of a young social justice warrior tweeter named Jeremy Lam, was set upon by the social media Furies.

Here is the tweet:

The tweet received 179 THOUSAND likes, and was retweeted 60 thousand times. Yes, a young woman going to her high school prom was condemned by all those strangers for liking and wearing an Asian-themed dress.

I don’t know what broken-chromosome mutation of progressive thought creates Americans like Jeremy—who is living in our culture, which is an amalgam of all cultures, but better—but the fact that he could attract such support with his divisive, segregated version of what our society should be is one more sign that the hard-Left is getting more anti-American by the hour. David French nicely puts this episode in perspective:

“Just so we’re clear, the radical progressive position is (1) America’s borders should be flung wide open to people from every culture in the world; (2) when American white people encounter people from those hundreds of different cultures, they need to stay in their lane; and (3) white people staying as white as possible will help our nation totally unify and diversity will be our strength.”

That’s about right. Kaziah Daum is the victim of racism here. Reasonably for someone unfairly thrust into the culture wars without justification or warning, she responded that she wasn’t trying to upset anyone; she just thought it was a pretty dress. The rest of  us, French suggests, need to be more assertive: Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Social Media, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President