Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 6/30/2019: Post Rugby Edition

This just has to be a better day than yesterday.

And I’m not even referring to the Yankees beating the Red Sox 17-13 in the first MLB game ever played in Europe.

Also, much thanks to the many readers who sent their condolences to me and my family. It helped.

1. Keepin’ a-goin’!  Believe it or not,  having to say farewell to our sweet, vocal and witty Jack Russell terrier  was not necessarily the worst part of our Saturday. This makes today another ethics challenge, that being the theme of the intentionally simple-minded poem used by comic actor Henry Gibson on “Laugh-In,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” and later as a country music song in Robert Altman’s “Nashville.”

The ditty was “Keep A-Goin,” and Gibson, unethically, left the impression that he had written it. He hadn’t: the poem was written Frank Lebby Stanton (1857-1927), now forgotten, and Henry (who died  in 2009) bears some of the responsibility for that, though the poem was ripe for stealing since the copyright expired long ago.. The “Nashville” credits claim Gibson was the author of the song. Wrong. Here it is:

Ef you strike a thorn or rose,
    Keep a-goin’!
  Ef it hails, or ef it snows,
    Keep a-goin!
  ‘Taint no use to sit an’ whine,
  When the fish ain’t on yer line;
  Bait yer hook an’ keep a-tryin’—
    Keep a-goin’!

  When the weather kills yer crop,
    Keep a-goin’!
  When you tumble from the top,
    Keep a-goin’!
  S’pose you’re out of every dime,
  Bein’ so ain’t any crime;
  Tell the world you’re feelin’ prime
    Keep a-goin’!

  When it looks like all is up,
    Keep a-goin’!
  Drain the sweetness from the cup,
    Keep a-goin’!
  See the wild birds on the wing,
  Hear the bells that sweetly ring,
  When you feel like sighin’ sing—
    Keep a-goin’!

Since around 4:30 pm yesterday, I have felt like doing absolutely nothing other than grieving and helping the rest of my family deal with the sadness that engulfs us. But, as another poet memorably said, I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.

So do we all. Continue reading

The SCOTUS Ruling In Trump v. Hawaii [UPDATED]

The Supreme Court properly and ethically  killed the burgeoning liberal judicial theory that different Presidents have different restrictions on how they can exercise established Presidential powers. The majority in in the just announced decision in Trump v. Hawaii conclusively struck down a Hawaii judge’s ruling that Trump’s hostile comments about Muslims on the campaign trail rendered his travel restrictions unconstitutional, while a similar measure ordered by a nice President for the right intuited reasons would be presumably acceptable. This seemingly partisan ruling required substituting mind-reading for the President’s stated reasons for the Executive Order, and would have established a terrible precedent in a number of areas.

Sadly, this was another 5-4 ruling where the Court seemed to divide along ideological lines. However, since it seems clear that the five conservatives would have ruled the same way no matter which party’s President had issued the order, while the liberal bloc was indulging “the resistance” with a “Trump is special” approach, only one side of the political divide appears to have left integrity and and objectivity in their spare robes. Many, many commentators around the web have noted that this should have been a 9-0 decision, and that the political bias of the Hawaii decision was flagrant from the start. I agree. The President’s authority in this area is clear and unambiguous.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the government “has set forth a sufficient national security justification” for its action. “We express no view on the soundness of the policy,” Roberts added.

More, from the holding: Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Observations On The Masterpiece Cake Shop Decision”

How refreshing it is, while at least half the pundits and journalists are misrepresenting the Masterpiece Bakery decision to the public, to read an Ethics Alarms comment that both clarifies Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion’s flaws and also highlights an important issue that only the routinely-derided Justice Thomas focused on.

As it happens, I disagree with Thomas that a custom wedding cake for a gay wedding is  necessarily “compelled speech.” What is it saying? If it can’t be reasonably interpreted to express a position that can be fairly attributed to the baker, then it’s the customer’s speech, not the baker’s. I know there are cases where sign-makers and others have been upheld in their refusal to reproduce messages they personally find offensive. We saw a hint of that in the silly “Summa ___ Laude” cake fiasco. My position is that a business that creates a setting for speech by others should have no right to interfere with that message—hateful messages, obscene messages, it shouldn’t matter. It should be no more acceptable for a sign-maker to say “I won’t make that sign” than for a cabbie to say, “I won’t drive to that address,” or a haberdashery to refuse to let you buy a suit that makes you look fat.

Here is Glenn Logan’s excellent Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Observations On The Masterpiece Cake Shop Decision:

Justice Thomas, in his partial concurrence:

“Ac­cording to the individual respondents, Colorado can com­pel Phillips’ speech to prevent him from “‘denigrat[ing] the dignity’” of same-sex couples, “‘assert[ing] [their] inferiority,’” and subjecting them to “‘humiliation, frustration, and embarrassment.’” Brief for Respondents Craig et al. 39 (quoting J. E. B. v. Alabama ex rel. T. B., 511 U. S. 127, 142 (1994); Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, 379 U. S. 241, 292 (1964) (Goldberg, J., concurring)). These justifications are completely foreign to our free-speech jurisprudence.

States cannot punish protected speech because some group finds it offensive, hurtful, stigmatic, unreasonable, or undignified. “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable. Johnson, supra, at 414. A contrary rule would allow the govern­ment to stamp out virtually any speech at will.”

This is the opinion that should’ve carried the day. In fact, Kennedy’s opinion is a blatant special pleading, fallacious on it’s face when he claimed the CCRC disparaged Phillips’ position. Even if I allow the comments made by some CCRC members do in fact disparage Phillips’ religion, the law makes it clear that religion is inoperative as a defense against its requirements anyway. How, then, can hostility to religion matter one jot or tittle, and isn’t such expression protected in its own right? The CCRC needed not show the least deference to Phillips’ religion, because the law that creates it manifestly doesn’t: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 6/5/18: Cakes And Fakes

Good morning…

1. Dummies or Liars? In a comment about yesterday’s 7-2 SCOTUS ruling favoring the Christian cake shop in another baker vs. gay couple controversy, Still Spartan wrote, ” I also don’t want to spend the next few months explaining the ruling to non-lawyer liberals who already are beginning to tear their hair out because they don’t understand the opinion.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly what she will have to do, and the rest of us, as there is already a deliberate effort underway to misrepresent the decision and deceive members of the public too lazy to read Supreme Court opinions, or too under-educated to understand them. (It really isn’t that hard.) This is fear-mongering, and also an effort to undermine the Supreme Court, which can be expected to be blocking a number of left-driven totalitarian measures in the not-too-distant future.

For example, on “The Late Show,” where a disturbingly high percentage of millennials get their news commentary, the smug, insufferable Stephen Colbert described the ruling this way:

“It’s a bad day for gay rights in America. And also for cake rights because this morning, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake to celebrate the marriage of a same-sex couple. That is tough news. But to lighten the blow the Supreme Court did send the gay couple a lovely cake” which was a cake in the shape of the middle finger.

Hilarious! And a complete misrepresentation of the opinion. The question is, did Colbert and his writers really not understand the ruling? What are the odds that any of them read it? If they didn’t know what the ruling was, isn’t it irresponsible to pass along false information? Or did they know that the opinion in no way undermined the rights of gays to be served in public accommodations like everyone else, but found, and correctly so, that the process was rigged against the baker because of open hostility to religious freedom? If so, the “joke” was deliberate misrepresentation.

The fact that the lie would have been in service of a joke is not a justification. Spreading falsity in public is harmful, and it does not matter who does it, or why.

2. From the “Stop making me defend the New York Yankees!” files:  This is an integrity vs. cash test for Major League Baseball. ESPN announced that it was picking up the Yankees’ one 1 o’clock Sunday, July 8 game with the Blue Jays in Toronto for its 8 p.m. Sunday night Game of the Week. This decision, however, was announced after the Yankees and Orioles players agreed to make up last week’s rained out game as part of a doubleheader on July 9.  As now scheduled, the Yankees will have to play three games in a 24 hour period. The Yankees would probably not leave the ballpark in Toronto until midnight, then have to go through customs, getting into Baltimore at 4 or 5 a.m., into their hotel rooms around 7, and be due at Camden Yards in a few hours.

This is potentially dangerous to the players (baseball is hard to play while asleep), and also undermines the team: the Yankees are expected to be in a neck-and-neck race with the Boston Red Sox for primacy in the American League East, and a single game could be crucial. If the Yankees are forced to play Sunday night on July 8, the Yankee management and players are threatening to retaliate against ESPN by refusing all interviews with ESPN broadcasters. Of course, killing those in-game interviews will only improve the broadcast.

Then the Yankees will claim that the Red Sox were colluding with ESPN, and there will have to be an investigation… Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Masterpiece Cake Shop Decision

The Supreme Court ruled today in favor of Jack Phillips, the Christian baker in Colorado who refused to bake a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The Court  found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission infringed on Phillips’s rights in ruling that he violated the Colorado anti-discrimination law barring merchants from refusing service based on race, sex, marital status, or sexual orientation. The ruling is narrow; it does not empower merchants to deny service based on sexual orientation.  It is based entirely on  the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s  hostility toward Phillips’s religious views in ruling against him.

Observations:

1. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor were the only dissenting votes, meaning that the decision was 7-2, and not a “conservative vs liberal” outcome. Even the dissent is based on narrow legal and factual distinctions rather than ideological ones.

2. Read the opinion, and the dissent. Also, if you really want to impress your friends, access the resources available here.

3. These statements from Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion, cited by Justice Ginsberg, help clarify matters in the right legal and ethical direction:

  • “[I]t is a general rule that [religious and philosophical] objections do not allow business owners and other actors in the economy and in society to deny protected persons equal access to goods and services under a neutral and generally applicable public accommodations law.”
  • “Colorado law can protect gay persons, just as it can protect other classes of individuals, in acquiring whatever products and services they choose on the same terms and conditions as are offered to other members of the public.”
  • “[P]urveyors of goods and services who object to gay marriages for moral and religious reasons [may not] put up signs saying ‘no goods or services will be sold if they will be used for gay marriages.’ ”

The ruling could have hardly been less of a ringing endorsement of either “side.”

4. To which I say, “Good.” As I wrote the last time this case was discussed here,
Continue reading

It’s A Comment Of The Day Weekend! First Up…Comment Of The Day (3): “An Ethics Alarms Holiday Challenge! Identify The Rationalizations, Logical Fallacies, Falsehoods And Outright Errors In This Essay…” AND, In Related News, Another Bakery Gets Slammed In Oregon

I’m not exaggerating: I have at least four Comments of the Day stacked up on the Ethics alarms runway after this one, and there are usually COTDs arriving on Saturdays. I can’t promise to get all of them up today, especially since I’m hacking away at the 2017 Ethics Alarms Awards, and this is a long working weekend at ProEthics. Still, I will get a lot of them to you, and it’s a provocative group, as you will soon see.

But first, a prelude and some context.

An Oregon appellate court this week upheld a ruling against the owners of the since-closed Sweetcakes by Melissa,  Aaron and Melissa Klein, forcing them to pay emotional-distress damages of $135,000 to Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, a lesbian couple for whom they refused to design and sell a wedding cake almost five years ago. The Klein’s argued that state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian violated state and federal laws and their rights as artists to free speech, their rights to religious freedom and their rights as defendants to  due process.

The Oregon court ruled that the Kleins’ argument that their cakes entail an artistic expression is “entitled to be taken seriously,” but it’s not enough for the couple to assert their cakes are pieces of art:

“Although we accept that the Kleins imbue each wedding cake with their own aesthetic choices, they have made no showing that other people will necessarily experience any wedding cake that the Kleins create predominantly as ‘expression’ rather than as food.”

This mess commenced  when Rachel Bowman-Cryer went to the suburban Portland bakery with her mother in January of 2013. When Aaron Klein was told that the wedding did not involve a male partner,  he said that the bakery did not make cakes for same-sex weddings. They left, but soon the mother returned to argue with Klein as Rachel sat in the car, weeping. her mother went in to speak with Klein. The mother told Klein she had once thought like him, but having two gay children forced her to see the error of her ways.  Klein retorted with Leviticus: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”

The complaint and action by Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries followed. You can read the opinion here.

Ugh.

This case is even worse than the one currently before the Supreme Court, discussed here. Continue reading

Welcome To The Slippery Slope! Fordham’s Coffee Shop Bigotry

A recent episode at Fordham illustrates quite effectively the way American society could unravel as a result of a Supreme Court decision supporting the Masterpeice Cakeshop’s claim that its faith-based objection to same sex marriage should justify restricting service to some customers.

Rodrigue’s Coffee House is an off-campus coffee shop run by a student club at Fordham University.

The shop has a “Safer Space Policy” that reads…

“Rodrigue’s strives to be a safer space on Fordham’s campus. For these reasons, consider the following:

Do not make assumptions about someone’s gender, sexuality, race, class, or experiences. Be aware of your own identity, while being considerate of the personhood of your peers. Be mindful of the ways in which your words and actions impact others. Be aware of the boundaries of other’s space, physical or otherwise, and respect their consent. No racism – No sexism – No homophobia. If you feel that someone has transgressed this policy, we want you to feel comfortable confronting them or approaching a member behind the counter, who is available as a resource to assist you.”

This is Authentic Frontier Gibberish and first degree virtue signalling, and could be fairly translated as “We are pompous and oppressive social justice warriors who are intolerant of the views, statements, or opinions of anyone who does not share our rigid and undeniably correct ideology. We hereby declare our right to ostracize such non-conforming individuals on the basis of what we, in our sole discretion, consider hate speech. Fear us.”

Fordham College Republicans visited the coffee shop wearing MAGA hats. Sure, they did this to provoke a response, knowing what the likely reaction would be, much like a gay couple deliberately asking for a wedding cake at a Christian bakery.  Memorialized in the video above, the president of the club didn’t disappoint, and angrily ordered the College Republicans to leave the premises.

“This is a community standard—you are wearing hats that completely violate safe space policy. You have to take it off or you have to go…I am protecting my customers,” the president said. Note that she was “protecting” his customers from exposure to the thrice-removed (initials, the phrase “Make America Great Again” which is benign on its face, and its association with the Trump campaign) message on a cap.

“We are your customers, we bought something,” one of the young Republicans replied.

“I don’t want people like you supporting this club… no one here wants people like you supporting our club,” the president answered. “I am giving you five minutes….You are threatening the integrity of our club. This is a community standard—you are wearing hats that completely violate safe space policy. You have to take it off or you have to go.”

When one of the students then asked her to explain what she thinks the MAGA hat stands for, to which she shouted, “Fascism, Nazis! You have three minutes.”

Legally, of course, this conduct is distinguishable from the conduct of the same-sex marriage decrying cakeshop owner. There is no law prohibiting a proprietor from behaving like a vile, intolerant, rude, bigoted asshole, just basic standards of decency.  Nor is there a law protecting conservatives from invidious discrimination in public accommodations based on passively displayed political beliefs, although if this kind of thing starts proliferating, there will be.

However, the toxic effects on the culture by the two examples of intolerance and disdain for other citizens and human beings is exactly the same. Each is similarly mean-spirited, each is based on excessive self-righteousness, and each equally harms society, and the nation by elevating tribalism to standard practice. The theory of the coffee shop proprietor, I suppose—that the mere presence of a hat with initials on it is “unsafe” —-is marginally more outrageous and idiotic than the baker’s claim that selling a cake for a wedding he will not attend, is not invited to, that will never impose on his consciousness once the customers walk out the door unless his cake turns out to be poisoned, and that will take place whether he provides the cake or not,  is a burden on his religious faith. Marginally. They both constitute  unethical mistreatment of other human beings who deserve better, and breaches of the Golden Rule. That in both cases the victims of the unethical conduct may have intentionally presented themselves to be abused does not mitigate the abuse.

I might as well state the obvious, that the members of the intolerant club operating the shop are 100% behind the cause of forcing the cakemaker to sell the gay couple a wedding cake, but believe it is fair and just to refuse to sell Republicans a muffin.

Sometimes I am embarrassed that I even have to write a post. This is one of those times.

If higher education is manufacturing future citizens who think and act like the club president running the coffee shop, then higher education is doing the nation more harm than good.