Comment Of The Day: “Let’s Have An Open Forum!”

I have not read all of the contributions to last night’s Open Forum (my Zoom presentation went fine, by the way; I hate it), but I was pointed to this comment, by Humble Talent, by many, and they were right. Heck, it earned the honor just by the sentence, “I feel like more and more, we find ourselves an army of hammers in search of nails.”

Here is Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day on honesty, politics, and the state of things, from “Let’s Have An Open Forum!“:

“If everyone woke up one day and found themselves unable to lie, the Soviet Union would fall by noon.”

—-Unknown (Although I always attributed it to Solzhenitsyn, if anyone knows who said this, I’d appreciate the assist)

I feel like more and more, we find ourselves an army of hammers in search of nails. Every problem, every emergency, every poorly worded tweet, is taken as an opportunity to circle the wagons and hammer down hard on prior positions in what can only be described as a masturbatory exercise of a scale never before seen.

One of the great lessons in my young life was that even when people have essentially the same access to information, different people will put that information through different filters, and can come up with *wildly* different takes from that information… They aren’t *necessarily* being dishonest, they could merely be wrong, or biased, or stupid… Never discount stupid… And it’s important to treat those arguments as if they were genuine statements of belief and no matter how wrong, biased, or stupid the argument might be, if the point is to convince someone to listen to you, then you have to approach the conversation with a basic respect for the other person, and not immediately blast their argument. I’m not always good at that. It’s a personal flaw.

I’ve realized that my argumentation has shifted, and I don’t know if it’s a function of the weariness I feel towards political gamesmanship right now, or if it’s just the right response to the kind of arguments I’m facing, but I find myself more often than not repeating what someone has just said to me, while paraphrasing it for clarity or removing euphemisms and asking “Do you really believe that?” Continue reading

Applying The Ethics Alarms 12 Question Protest Ethics Checklist To The George Floyd Freak-Out, And A Thirteenth Question

Of course, when a protest turns into violence, arson, rioting and looting, that protest has lost any claim to ethical legitimacy. Let’s (mostly)ignore that Woolly Mammoth in the room, however, to try to assess the George Floyd protests from as positive a perspective as possible.

Here’s the checklist:

1. Is this protest just and necessary?

Outside of the locale where the incident took place, the protests were neither just nor necessary. They were only necessary in Minneapolis if there was a real chance that the police involved would not be held accountable. There was no reason to assume that in the brief time before the mobs gathered and the chants began.

2. Is the primary motive for the protest unclear, personal, selfish, too broad, or narrow?

As in most such cases, the primary motive was and is incoherent. “Expressing outrage”  is by definition too broad to be productive. “Justice” does not mean what the protesters seem to think it does.

3. Is the means of protest appropriate to the objective?

No, if the objectives are a fair trial and due process under the criminal justice system, which it should be. If anything, the protests undermine those objectives.

4. Is there a significant chance that it will achieve an ethical objective or contribute to doing so? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/22/2020: Krugman, Whitmer And Lemon

Good morning, all!

1. Bad guys 1. Paul Krugman’s column yesterday had the despicable headline, “The Right Sends In The Quacks.” “The quacks” according to Krugman are the Americans who are protesting in public to send a vivid message to increasingly dictatorial mayors, governors and police departments that opening society and allowing people to live their lives like free citizens rather than inmates needs to be a priority, a concept many in office as well as much of the news media appear to have discarded.

Why are the protesters “quacks?” Well, for one thing, they don’t regard protesting government policy as a non-essential activity, as we were told last week by one of our courageous, first-responder police departments. Second, many of them wore MAGA hats, meaning they are per se racists and idiots. Worst of all, some of them carried guns, legally, but still. Guns bad.

Although if I were a protest consultant, I would advise against the guns, legal weapons symbolize the Second Amendments assertion that individual rights much not be squashed by government over-reach, and that citizens have a right to arm themselves as a matter of self-defense, against their own government if necessary. It may be a message that progressives and anti-Second Amendment fanatics are incapable of processing, but it is a crucial message nonetheless, particularly when Americans are witnessing things like this, or this.

2. Or this: Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, currently the face of Wuhan virus crypto-totalitraianism, told  Rachel Maddow last week that she was considering extending social distancing guidelines in response to Michigan  protests against her stay-at-home restrictions. “We might have to actually think about extending stay-at-home orders, which is supposedly what they were protesting,” Whitmer said.

“Supposedly.” Nice. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/21/2020: Groundhog Day

Hi.

I was talking with a colleague about the most relevant movie to watch these days. As readers here know, the outbreak of elected officials letting power go to their heads led me to designate Woody Allen’s “Bananas” for that honor.  (And yesterday I posited the relevance of “Airplane!” )Still, it’s hard to argue against my friend’s position that the right choice is “Groundhog Day.”

In the interest of sanity, I reject “Contagion” and especially “World War Z” or “Quaranteen.” (All good movies though.)

1. Right now it’s turned face to the wall, but today I’m putting a sheet over it…My college diploma becomes more embarrassing by the day. Harvard University has accepted nearly $9 million from the pandemic relief package. With a 40 billion dollar dollar endowment, Harvard is better off financially than the U.S. government.

[Notice of Correction: I wrote “million” instead of billion in the original post. Really stupid typo. I apologize.]

There is no excuse for the school accepting the money. It is getting widely criticized for taking it, and ought to be.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education said ithat Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “shares the concern that sending millions to schools with significant endowments is a poor use of taxpayer money. In her letter to college and university presidents, Secretary DeVos asked them to determine if their institutions actually need the money and, if not, to send unneeded CARES Act funds to schools in need in their state or region.”

In an episode of Spokesman vs Spokesman, a mouthpiece for the Ivy said, disingenuously,

“By federal formula laid out in the CARES Act, Harvard was allocated $8.6 million, with 50% of those funds to be reserved for grants to students. Harvard is actually allocating 100% of the funds to financial assistance for students to meet their urgent needs in the face of this pandemic. Harvard will allocate the funds based on student financial need. This financial assistance will be on top of the significant support the University has already provided to students — including assistance with travel, providing direct aid for living expenses to those with need, and supporting students’ transition to online education.”

This is an exercise in deflection and rationalization. The only issue is that Harvard has plenty of money to do all of this without any hand-outs from the government, and many other institutions need the money more, which is an easy calculation because no institution needs money less than Harvard does. Continue reading

Vermont Crosses The Line: When Government Is Cavalier About Restricting Our Liberty, It’s Time To Push Back

Right wing pundit Sarah Hoyt has been at the forefront of those arguing that it would be better and safer to accept the risk  of more deaths from the Wuhan virus than to allow state governments to behave like police states. So far, I have thought she was wrong and unduly paranoid, but Vermont’s latest action has me agreeing with her response, which was, “I’M SORRY. ARE THE PEOPLE OF VERMONT ALL OUT OF MIDDLE FINGERS?”

From the Burlington Free-Press (Bernie Sanders was once mayor of Burlington. That’s just something to keep in the back of your mind, as this episode suggests the slow but deadly spread of the Totalitarian Left Virus, which may eventually need to be called “the Burlington Virus”):

Large Vermont retailers such as Target, Walmart and Costco are now required to limit the sales of non-essential items in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The directive was announced by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development on Tuesday. The agency hopes it will reduce the overall number of people going into stores to purchase items such as clothing, electronics and toys during the state’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order.

“Large ‘big box’ retailers generate significant shopping traffic by virtue of their size and the variety of goods offered in a single location,” said Lindsay Kurrle, secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development in a news release.  “This volume of shopping traffic significantly increases the risk of further spread of this dangerous virus to Vermonters and the viability of Vermont’s health care system.”

Retailers are being asked to promote online ordering, delivery and curbside pickup to customers….

The order is here. Continue reading

Where’s PETA When We Really Need Them?

A self-described “underground radical group”called “Pigeons, United To Interfere Now,” ( PUTIN, get it? HAR!) released pigeons with tiny “Make America Great Again” hats glued to their heads in anticipation of President Donald Trump’s visit  to Las Vegas, Nevada. (One bird had a Trump style blond wig.)  “The stunt was intended as a gesture of support and loyalty to President Trump,” “Coo Hand Luke,” a spokesperson for the group said with his tongue firmly in his bill, er, cheek.

Now we know what end-stage Trump Derangement looks like.  Not pretty.

Morons.

The group also claimed that gluing things to pigeons’ heads wasn’t cruelty to animals, because “It’s what women use to put around their eyes for eyelash extensions.” Oh! The pigeons should enjoy it then!

As I said.

Morons.

Imagine the amount of time and effort these fools spent on making little MAGA hats and gluing them on pigeon heads, to make a completely  incoherent  statement in opposition to President Trump. All my Facebook friends who scour the news and “resistance” websites every day for stories attacking the President, hysterical memes and manufactured outrage so they can post them for the Facebook Borg and harvest likes and angry faces and “Pray for  Bernie!” comments need to realize that these are the kinds of people they are allied with, and that little pigeon hats may be in their futures if they don’t, you know, get help.

And it is cruel.  (Would YOU want a MAGA cap glued to your head?) PETA isn’t on the case because the group is doubtlessly occupied with more important matters, like fighting “anti-animal language.”

The Olympics Gets More Specific About Banning Protests, But Remains Vague About Punishments. Let Me Suggest Something…

And the gold medal for obnoxious virtue-signaling goes to…

The International Olympic Committee’s rule on protests at the Olympics Games has been confined to one sentence in the Olympic Charter, and since that didn’t define what a “protests” were (the Committee appeared to be against them) that sentence had no practical effect. It reads, “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

.Recognizing, however, that the athletes of one of the teams likely to win a lot of medals also had a growing proclivity for protests against it own government and  President—guess which country that would be?—the IOC published a detailed list of prohibited actions that would not be welcomed at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Among them…

Kneeling during national anthems.

No fist-raising.

No use political signs or armbands.

None of the above  in stadiums, pools or at a finish line, not on podiums during medal ceremonies, norduring opening orclosing ceremonies.

No such protests in the Olympic Village, either.

This list was described as a “non-exhaustive list,” meaning that violations of the spirit of the prohibitions could also be judges a violation. The documents said that merely “expressing views” was not necessarily a protest.

Boy, I guess the Committee is counting on not many athletes being lawyers. Or Bill Clinton. Continue reading

Last Sunday Of The Decade Ethics Alarms, 12/29/2019: Herman Kahn Rolling Over In His Grave Edition

Good morning!

In my one, fortuitous one-on-one conversation with futurist Herman Kahn, then regarded as the most brilliant man in America, he observed that society periodically for forgets everything it has learned over the years, and then chaos reigns temporarily until bad ideas and horrific mistakes re-teach the lessons that once were accepted as obvious. He was talking about the Sixties, but it is clear that this is another one of those periods. Kahn also noted that some of the forgotten lessons are re-learned too late to save society from permanent harm. The Sixties gave us socially acceptable promiscuous sex and the resulting normalization of children born out of wedlock, the re-assignment of of abortion as ethical (somehow) rather than criminal, and societal sanctions of recreational drug use.

Nice work, Boomers…

1. Speaking of abortion...can there be a more empty, fatuous justification of it than what Senator Cory Booker tried last week? ”Abortion rights shouldn’t matter to men because women are our mothers, sisters, daughters, friends,” Booker tweeted. “They should matter to men — to everyone — because women are people.”

How profound. Nobody has ever disputed that women are people, and Booker’s non-logic—the statement compels the response, “And SO…????”—is an appeal to emotion without substance. It also makes its own rebuttal screamingly obvious to anyone but a pro-abortion zealot: “Abortion should be repugnant to men and women…and Presidential candidates…because unborn babies are living human beings.” Continue reading

Not Protesters, Just A Mob

Giving a mob the dignity and legitimacy of referring to them as “protesters” just encourages them. A prime example occurred two days ago in New Haven, at the traditional Harvard-Yale game, the culmination of the Ivy League college football season. Personally, I wouldn’t have crossed the street to attend the 136th edition of “The Game,” though I witnessed the most famous of the them all, 1968’s 29-29 tie. Nonetheless, what a bunch of climate-addled demonstrators inflicted on a large group of students and alumni just trying to have a good time enjoying football, traditions, nostalgia and camaraderie  should not be romanticized. The “protesters” are arrogant, disrespectful and anti-democratic jerks. Boola-Boola.

A large mob of Yale Bowl spectators rushed the field at halftime, demanding that Harvard and Yale divest themselves of investments in fossil fuel and energy companies, delaying the start of the second half by nearly an hour, and causing the game to finish in near-darkness. Students from both schools, who didn’t care who they hurt or inconvenienced, rushed to midfield as soon the Yale band finished performing. ( At least they could have done it while the Yale band was performing…)The contest resumed after the Yale police issued 42 summonses for disorderly conduct. But the wasted hour threatened game’s finish:  the Yale Bowl lacks stadium lights, and the game went to double overtime. Yale won just before it became too dark to play.

The Ivy League referred to the protest as “regrettable.” and Yale said that while it “stands firmly for the right to free expression,” it added that “the exercise of free expression on campus is subject to general conditions, and we do not allow disruption of university events.”

So will Yale suspend or expel any of the mob? Of course not.

Protesters that set out to get attention by disrupting the lives of law-abiding citizens engaged in innocent activities are low-level terrorists. They aim to bypass democracy by creating implicit threats, hoping that their adversaries will surrender to just shut them up and avoid the annoyance. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Unethical Tweet Of The Month: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)”

An old, old, lament: “Laws are for the little people…”

I am constantly impressed at the perceptive and eloquent comments that issue from such a large number of Ethics Alarms readers. It cushions the blow of the traffic fall-off here that came shortly after the 2016 election, as the rapid Trump-Haters and resistance acolytes fled to secure echo chambers. (Facebook banning EA didn’t help.) I’d like both, sure, but I’ll take quality over quantity every time.

Aaron Pascal is long-time participant on Ethics Alarms, and he has issued many provocative comments, usually with a refreshing edge. This, in reaction to the most recent of AOC’s annoying and ethics-dead tweets, is one of his best.

Here is Aaron Pascal’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Unethical Tweet Of The Month: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)”….

“Jail the poor to free the rich” smacks of a combination of two extreme positions on two separate valid social dilemmas interacting.

First, there is the moderately unsettling (to me) privately funded and operated prison system. It’s been suggested that inmates are the product that is sold to bring in money. If people stopped being put in prison, then the corporations running the prison would lose money. Ergo, they get the politicians (especially the nasty, racist Republicans) to criminalize more activity, and push for longer sentences for smaller and smaller offenses. Especially if the crimes you tighten up on end up imprisoning a disproportionate number of racial minorities. Not a viewpoint completely without merit, but if you assume it’s the norm it certainly encourages a topsy turvy view of criminal activity vs the justice system. It also requires picturing the police, the justice system, the prison system, and the government as really bad, selfish people. Which is only a problem for leftists once you get to the government, which once you assign the blame to those horrible Republicans, the cognitive dissonance goes away. Continue reading