Third Of July Ethics Concert, 2020, Part 2: The Less Grand And Not Historic, One Hopes

For historical and quirky reasons, “The Egg” is my favorite song from “1776.” The number takes place on July 3, as the Continental Congress debates Jefferson’s handiwork, and Tom, Ben Franklin and John Adams sit outside, hesitant to witness  the rhetorical carnage they know is coming. I played the role of Adams in several musical reviews, a part I would have loved to have tackled on-stage in a full production, but I am about 7 inches too tall.

Some productions cut this number, which is both bad history and bad theater. (The number to cut is “Cool, Cool, Considerate Men,” a cheap shot at conservatives, and a lousy song.)

1. And I will say, “None of your business, officer!” A new Virginia law, the Community Policing Act that took effect this week, requires police officers to ask individuals pulled over during traffic stops for their race, ethnicity, and gender. I very much doubt that the law will withstand a legal challenge. The change is part of the Governor Ralph “Call me Michael Jackson” Northam regime of enacting every oppressive progressive agenda item he can get away with. This one is aimed at eliminating “bias-based profiling,” and requires officers to record the driver’s race, ethnicity, age, and sex while conducting traffic stops.

Like so many other misguided approaches to fixing “systemic racism,” this one attempts to protect the rights of African-Americans by infringing on the rights of everyone else. If I am pressed to answer the question by an officer, I will answer that I identify as Asian and female. I urge my fellow Virginians to do likewise.

2. Wuhan virus ethics train wreck update: Continue reading

Statue-Toppling, The Ethics Incompleteness Principle, And Calvin Griffith, Part Two

Where Cal Griffith’s statue once stood…

Here is what Calvin Griffith said in the 1978 remarks that led the Minnesota Twins to remove his statue in from of the team’s stadium, Target Field.

Griffith was invited to speak to the Lions Club in Waseca, a small city in southern Minnesota. Taking questions from the audience after his planned speech, someone asked Griffith  why he brought the Twins to Minnesota from Washington, D.C., in 1961. Griffith lowered his voice, asked if there were any blacks around, and  looked around the room. Apparently confirming that his audience was all white,  Griffith said,

“I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. Black people don’t go to ball games, but they’ll fill up a ‘rassling ring and put up such a chant it’ll scare you to death. It’s unbelievable. We came here because you’ve got good, hardworking, white people here.”

It’s hard to get more racist than that, at least short of a Klan rally. I’ll poll this at the end of the post, but I believe that this is a case where the Ethics Incompleteness Principle applies, and the usually valid ethical objections to pulling down the statues of problematic, controversial or subsequently disgraced historical figures have to yield to other considerations, which are these: Continue reading

Statue-Toppling, The Ethics Incompleteness Principle, And Calvin Griffith, Part One.

The Ethics Incompleteness Principle, a core concept on Ethics Alarms, holds that even the most convincing ethics rules, moral codes, laws and principles have exceptions. The inspiration for this observation was the work of Czech-born mathematician Kurt Gödel, whose two Incompleteness Theorems, which relate to mathematical proofs, are his most famous contribution to civilization and science. A linguist as well as a scientist,  Gödel unintentionally delivered an essential blow against the ethics absolutism of Kant and rigid morality when he proved that human language is not sufficiently precise to define rules that will work as designed in every instance. The logical extension of Gödel’s theorems, which he applied only to mathematics and, by extension, physics, tells us that there will always be anomalies on the periphery of every normative system, no matter how sound or well articulated it is. If one responds to an anomaly by trying to amend the rule or system to accommodate it, the integrity of the rule or system is disturbed, and perhaps ruined. Yet if one stubbornly applies the rule or system without amendment to the anomaly anyway, one may reach an absurd conclusion or an unjust result. [ Here is an online discussion of the application of Gödel to ethics, which appeared years after the Ethics Incompleteness Theorem was posited on Ethics Alarms.]

The Ethics Incompleteness Principle suggests that when a system or rule doesn’t seem to work well when applied to an unexpected or unusual situation, the wise response is to abandon the system or rule—in that one anomalous case only— and use  basic ethics principles and analysis to find the best solution. Then return to the system and rules as they were, without altering them to make the treatment of the anomalous situation “consistent.”

Much as we would like it to be otherwise, for life would be so much simpler if it were so, no system or rule is going to work equally well with every possible scenario. This is why is why committing to a single ethical system is folly, and why it is important to keep basic ethical values in mind in case a pre-determined formula for determining what is right breaks down.

When a reader and frequent commenter sent me this announcement from the Minnesota Twins a few days ago, my reflex reaction was as you would expect: Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Wednesday Ethics Jolts, 6/17/2020: I Think We Have Our Answer To Question 13….”

JP, a minister, has another Comment of the Day, this one inspired by his own recent  experience and  item #1 of the post, “Wednesday Ethics Jolts, 6/17/2020: I Think We Have Our Answer To Question 13…..” That note concerned the meltdown of the National Book Critics Circle over the refusal of one member to endorse the group’s proposed statement on the George Floyd Freakout. Unfortunately, JP encountered something similar…

You have spent some time on the first issue. Like with all the Covid-19 type pandering. I mostly just roll my eyes when I see it and move forward. After all, I don’t really put much stock in it. I am a firm believer that I be defined by my actions, not by my words. Words are cheap and can change at the drop of a hat. So when all these things started happening, I thought it was a good time to address it to my congregation. I’ll spare you the details, but it seemed to go over quite well. Then we get to Monday.

On Monday I get an email from a local group of ministers (from different denominations) in my town.Once a month we get together to talk about how we as a group can help the community. On their last meeting they wanted to put out some kind of public statement. This is what they decided:

“Micah 6:8 What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” God’s love embraces all and our Christian faith requires of us that same love for others. We confess our sin of racism that continues to plague our nation. May we be people of God’s justice and God’s peace!”

I think my nine year old could have easily picked this apart. But I wanted to help, so I wrote the following reply:

I have three problems with the statement as it is.

First: I have no clue why you’re writing this other than to…grandstand? Virtue signal? It is what is going on in the world? If you have a purpose what is it?

Second. You make racism sound like original sin. This actually creates the third problem. Continue reading

Let’s See If Professor Loury Gets Cancelled For This…

We noted Brown Prof. Glenn Loury last week when he protested Brown’s pandering message of support for the protests/riots for containing no actual content, just unsupported generalities, much like the annoying virtue-signaling PR posts you are seeing from the marketing departments of BestBuy, PetSmart, and the NFL. (Aside: EA has received enough submissions of such grovels to do its promised awards, once I have the time to sift through them.) Now he is interviewed in the City-Journal, and stating what I think is the most inconvenient truth of them all regarding the George Floyd Freakout. Fortunately he’s an African American, so nobody will try to call him a racist. (There is a lively debate about whether Brown will be pressured to fire him, however, since we are in a “no dissenting from the mob” free speech lockdown.)

It is fair to assume that his well-reasoned position won’t get any publicity outside of conservative news sources, and that he won’t be given a chance to be on a CNN panel where he would be likely to demonstrate that his debating Don Lemon or Chris Cuomo is like me debating an avocado.

Read the whole interview, please, but Loury says in part, Continue reading

The Question That Must Be Asked In Any Fair And Responsible Analysis Of The George Floyd Tragedy…

…and yet nobody seems to be asking it.

That question is “How do we know George Floyd is dead because he was black?”

There is absolutely no evidence  that George Floyd is dead because he was black, and no evidence that former officer Chauvin had his knee on his neck until Floyd died because Floyd was black. This has been presumed, and no politicians or national leaders, and certainly no mainstream media reporters,  have had the integrity or courage to require more than that mandated presumption before accepting the narrative. No evidence of racism among the officers involved has been found, and you know people have been looking.  The proposition that any time a black citizen is abused by the police it is per se racism, that is, presumed racism, is logically and ethically absurd, and people should have the courage to say so. Yesterday a Trump administration official opined that all things being equal, Floyd would have probably met the same fate if he were white. That’s not an unreasonable opinion, and it shouldn’t be unspeakable, but to the extent the news media covered it al all, it was reported as an oddity, as if he had claimed that Fish People were walking among us.

Of course, virtually nobody on the left wants to consider the possibility that Floyd is dead because he had a contentious confrontation with a bad cop who was a human ticking time bomb. If Floyd had been white, there would have been no protests or riots, although the injustice and the misconduct would have been exactly the same. Especially convenient for activists, and too hard to resist,  was the symbolic nature of a white cop having his knee on the neck of a black man: the perfect metaphor for white supremacy. That it may have had nothing to do with white supremacy and everything to do with an angry cop deciding to teach a perp a lesson (as he may have done many times before) can’t even be considered. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Great Central Park Dog-Walking Controversy

Oh, fine, another one of these.

Isn’t it fun how, thanks to the toxic combination of cell phone cameras and social media, a few minutes of what once would have been an isolated moment of bad judgment and rude behavior is now able to metastasize into a life and career-destroying catastrophe? Do you like that new reality? Awfully brutal and unforgiving, isn’t it?

The episode at hand involved the woman in the video above, Amy Cooper. She was walking her cocker spaniel off leash when  a bird watcher named Christian Cooper—no relation—told her the unleashed dog  violated park rules. When Amy refused to put her dog on a leash, Christian told her he was going to offer her dog a treat because this typically makes owners want to leash their dogs in response. That wasn’t the other Cooper’s response, however. She threatened to call the police and tell them that “an African American man” was threatening her life. She did too, as Christian recorded it all. Later, Christian’s sister, also named Cooper, posted the video, which got 33 million views on Twitter alone, and is now pushing 200 million views on other platforms.

Then, the deluge. Christian appeared on CNN with Don Lemon, where he accused Amy of trying ” to bring death by cop down on [his] head.” She got death threats, which Christian said was wrong, though his accusation would seem to have helped spark them. Amy Cooper, seeing what was coming,  told CNN she regretted calling the police, saying,

“It was unacceptable, and words are just words, but I can’t undo what I did. I sincerely and humbly apologize to everyone, especially to that man and his family, I’m not a racist. I did not mean to harm that man in any way.”

Unfortunately for Amy, apologies don’t make a dent in the fervor of social media mobs. Some members of this one, after somehow tracking down her dog-walker,  contacted the Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue, Inc. where Amy had obtained “Henry” several years ago, and the organization announced on Facebook that she had “voluntarily surrendered” her pet to the organization. “He is safe and in good health,” the group wrote.

Cooper had been a head of insurance portfolio management at Franklin Templeton, but her employer announced that she had been placed on leave while the incident was being investigated. By yesterday afternoon, she had been fired. “Following our internal review of the incident in Central Park yesterday, we have made the decision to terminate the employee involved, effective immediately. We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton,” the company announced.

Now Christian Cooper is having twinges of regret. “It’s a little bit of a frenzy, and I am uncomfortable with that,” he said. “If our goal is to change the underlying factors, I am not sure that this young woman having her life completely torn apart serves that goal.”

He might have considered that before turning the video over to the mob.

Michael Fischer, president of the Central Park Civic Association, decided to pile on—heck, why not?—and issued a statement calling for Amy to be banned from Central Park:

“This disgusting display of intolerance is unacceptable and should never, ever be accepted in the City’s public domain like Central Park.The Central Park Civic Association condemns this behavior and is calling on Mayor de Blasio to impose a lifetime ban on this lady for her deliberate, racial misleading of law enforcement and violating behavioral guidelines set so that all can enjoy our city’s most famous park.”

Let’s all applaud the impeccable virtue of Mr. Fischer, since that’s obviously what he’s after.  I’m sure, if we think creatively, we can think of more ways to punish Amy Cooper beyond destroying her reputation, ending her career and taking away her dog. Make her change her name, move out of the country, have plastic surgery, end up pushing a grocery cart full of junk…after all, she was really horrible to a  stranger for about two minutes. What else? Continue reading

Three Intriguing Updates And Supplements To Recent Posts!

1. This Time, Blame The Victim (3/24/2020) and High Noon Ethics Showdown, 4/2/2020: Reality Dawns

From the National Review:

Arizona police are now conducting a homicide investigation into a woman who claimed she gave her husband fish tank cleaner after President Trump claimed the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine was an effective treatment for coronavirus.

Wanda Lenius told NBC News last month that she and her husband Gary consumed fish tank cleaner because it contained a chemical that Trump suggested might be an effective prophylactic and treatment for coronavirus. The cocktail, which contained four teaspoons of fish tank cleaner mixed with soda water, put Wanda in the ICU and killed Gary. “My advice,” Wanda explained, is “don’t believe anything that the President says and his people because they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

When I wrote the first post about Wanda Lenius, who, she said, persuaded her  husband to swallow fish-tank cleaner because the President had promoted chloroquine, one of the ingredients, as a promising treatment for Wuhan virus infections, commenter Joe Fowler suggested that the story sounded to him as if she had figured out how to bump off her husband, writing,

Am I alone in finding it suspicious that the couple that consumed the fish tank cleaner is presumed to have done exactly what the wife is claiming? The husband is dead in bizarre circumstances, poison in fact…. The “Trump told us to do it!” nonsense is just too perfect a narrative for the corrupt media, They can’t help but use it.

Blogger Ann Althouse also suggested that foul play might be involved, and so did my wife. later we learned that far from being a robotic Trump-follower, the woman was, in fact, an active anti-Trump donor. She and her husband had a contentious relationship that had include a domestic abuse complaint.

Stay tuned... Continue reading

The Banjo/Damien Patton Affair: Can You Ever Escape A Disgraceful Past? Should You Be Able To?

Damien Patton is the the 47-year-old co-founder and CEO of the rising data gathering startup Banjo. The combination of the company’s success and its founders’ inspiring life story has made him the subject of many tech media and business publication profiles, for it is the kind of gutter to boardroom story on individual bootstrapping America has always celebrated.  He has described an abusive childhood that caused him to run away from home at age 15. He joined the U.S. Navy, then worked as a NASCAR mechanic before learning the craft of crime-scene investigation.  He  learned to code, and then became a co-founder of Banjo as he raised  nearly $223 million in venture capital for the Utah-based company.

However, Americans don’t like their rags-to-riches stories to begin too deep in the gutter. The tech news outlet OneZero uncovered transcripts of courtroom testimony, sworn statements, and more than 1,000 pages of federal records revealing that before he turned to coding, Patton was a member of the Dixie Knights, a Ku Klux Klan group active in the Nashville area in the late 1980s and early 1990s,  and not a passive one. He was was involved in shooting up a synagogue, for example. Understandably, this detail was something Patton did not highlight in his inspirational speeches before aspiring entrepreneurs.

The question is, now what? What does this mean today? What should it mean? Continue reading

First They Came For Tiger Lilly, And I Said Nothing. Then They Came For The Land O’Lakes Girl…

(Actually, I did say something about Tiger Lilly…)

Well, it finally happened. Land O’Lakes  capitulated, as spineless corporations are wont to do, to silly and contrived political correctness bullying and is sending its iconic Land O’Lakes Indian Maiden logo to the Happy Hunting Ground. The comely illustration that has appeared on  containers of butter and margarine since 1928 will be replaced by photos of real Land O’Lakes farmers and co-op members, along with the phrase “Proud to be Farmer-Owned,” according to a company release. Gee, what fun.  As I wrote here, the company had already eliminated the logo’s famous capacity for sophomoric snickers in 2018…

“…so you could no longer do the “boobs trick” by folding the package just right and making a little flap on the butter package that  young Elizabeth Warren or whatever her name was held that when raised  would show her oddly shaded knees as something less pedestrian. Why they would bother papering paper over one of the longest-running and most famous commercial artist gags ever after decades, I don’t know. In its day, the gag was considered obscene, but by 2018 it was Americana. I had an uncle who kept one of the risque package cut-outs in his wallet.”

(You can see how the gag worked at the link.) Continue reading