Jeanette Rankin, The Pearl Harbor Ethics Dunce

This post is a day late, I guess. A friend on Facebook posted the headline above, bringing the episode back to me.

Jeanette Rankin (1880-1973) is a feminist icon, and with good reason. She was the first woman to be elected to Congress (From Montana), even before women were  able to vote under the Constitution. [She also played a pivotal role in  the passing of the 19th Amendment, finally granting all women in the U.S. the right they should have had from the beginning. (Montana was one of the states that allowed full voting rights to woman before the 19th Amendment was passed.)

But Rankin voted against declaring war on Japan after its deadly sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the only member of Congress to do so. In her case, the fact that the only woman in Congress also was the sole opposition to war was no coincidence.

As a trailblazing feminist,Rankin believed that feminism was a natural ally of pacificism. She believed that having women in power instead of men would mean fewer wars, and  less violence. By today’s standards, I would call her a bigot, and that particular brand of bigotry still lurks under the surface of the modern feminist argument that more women should be elected to positions of power just because of the inherent virtue attached to having only x-chromosomes. Continue reading

Sackler, Tufts, Cancel Culture And The 100th Rationalization: The Reverse Ruddigore

I have been waiting to find the ideal 100th Rationalization, officially #70 (there are 30 sub-rationalizations on the EA Rationalizations list. It’s “The Reverse Ruddigore,” the equally valid opposite of Rationalization #21. Ethics Accounting, or “I’ve earned this”/ “I made up for that”:

 You cannot earn the right to act unethically by depositing a lot of ethical deeds in the imaginary ethics bank, nor can unethical conduct be erased by doing good for someone else. The illusion that one can balance the ethics books this way is referred to on the Ethics Alarms blog as “the Ruddigore Fallacy.”  Nobody earns the right to be unethical, not even once, no matter how exemplary their conduct. An unethical act is just as unethical, whether it is performed by a saint, a hero, or a villain.

“Ruddigore,” for those of you sadly unaware of the joys of Gilbert and Sullivan, is the unjustly under-rated work by the Victorian geniuses that involved an ancient curse on a family that required a Baronet of Ruddigore to perform a crime a day or die in agony, courtesy of his re-animated ancestors, who otherwise hang around, literally, as portraits in a haunted gallery. One member of the family who has inherited the curse, Sir Despard, believes that he has found a loophole:

“I get my crime over the first thing in the morning, and then, ha! ha! for the rest of the day I do good – I do good – I do good! Two days since, I stole a child and built an orphan asylum. Yesterday I robbed a bank and endowed a bishopric. To-day I carry off Rose Maybud and atone with a cathedral! This is what it is to be the sport and toy of a Picture Gallery!”

Looking back on past posts, I laid the groundwork for #70 when I condemned the decision of Walt Disney World to remove Bill Cosby’s bust from the its Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame of Fame:

[L]ast I heard Bill Cosby was still recognized as a major trailblazer in stand-up, TV comedy, and television integration (remember “I Spy”?), an important positive cultural force for race relations and black community self esteem, and a spectacularly talented comedian with a unique voice and presence. None of that has changed. Those were the achievements that prompted Cosby’s bust’s inclusion in Disney’s Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame Plaza, along with celebrities such as Lucille Ball and Oprah Winfrey who, like the Cos, have been inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. O.J. Simpson is still honored in the College Football Hall of Fame, because he was one of the greatest college stars ever. His post-career hobby as a murderer, like Bill’s extra-curricular activities as a serial rapist, have nothing to do with the honor, just as Cosby earned and still deserves, his honor for what he achieved on stage and screen.

Subsequent bad acts no more cancel out past good ones than Sir Despard’s cathedral would make up for kidnapping sweet Rose Maybud. The current “Cancel Culture,” however, holds otherwise. In the latest episode, Tufts University announced today that it will strip the Sackler name from the buildings and programs on its medical campus, after a report censured the school for its relationship with the family whose drug company made OxyContin, the opioid blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths nationwide. Continue reading

Dear Progressives: The Failure Of Reality To Conform To Your Biases And Desires Does Not Make It Unethical

Let us stipulate: the failure of Kamala Harris to thrive in the race for the Democratic nomination for President was not because Democratic voters are racist or sexist.  It is because she was a lousy candidate from the beginning. Checking off boxes is never enough, thank heaven. She is a woman, “of color,” a lawyer and a Senator from a large and powerful state. To top it all off, Harris is relatively young, and attractive. Perfect!

Except it was easy to see that she was an empty suit with a penchant for saying stupid things, often things she couldn’t possibly believe and that contracdicted her record as a prosecutor. She said that it was “outrageous” that the Trump administration wanted to deport illegal immigrants who had committed crimes. [Me: “It is not and cannot be “outrageous” to say that any illegal immigrant, criminal or not, qualifies for deportation. To maintain otherwise is to say that the United States cannot enforce its immigration laws, and not only that, it is “outrageous” to enforce the laws. Is that the position of the Democratic Party? “] She said that she supported legalizing pot because it brought people “joy.” You know, like heroin, rape, and child molesting. She said, when Joe Biden correctly pointed out that a President could not ban “assault weapons” by executive order, she responded, “Well, I mean, I would just say, hey, Joe, instead of saying, no, we can’t, let’s say yes, we can.”  Horrified when she saw the exchange,, law prof Ann Althouse wrote, “The transcript cannot convey the feeling and expression in Kamala Harris’s  [ response]. It is so awful, so lightweight and dismissive of constitutional law (and without any of the dignity of constitutional critique.”

There are plenty more catalogued here, and it is hardly exhaustive. Harris flopped because she proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was unqualified to be a Senator, much less a President. As if that wasn’t enough, she couldn’t manage her campaign, which had disintegrated into finger-pointing and defections. When Barack Obama was challenged in 2008 over his lack of leadership experience, he cited the success of his campaign. Slim indeed, but  Harris couldn’t even say that.

As the writing on the wall began to be undeniable, Harris stooped to race- and gender baiting, expressing doubts as to whether a “woman of color” could be elected President (in such a racist, sexist nation, she implied.) No, Senator it’s just that you can’t be elected.

Her polling in free-fall, Harris dropped out today. What was the reaction of the Left’s pundits? Why, outrage over that racism and sexism of the public, of course: Continue reading

The Topless Stepmother Conundrum: When Ethics Work Better Than Laws

MOM?!

A lawyer for Utah’s chapter of the ACLU asked Utah Judge Kara Pettit to rule that the state’s lewdness law violates the Constitution by treating women differently than men and thus violating the Equal Protection Clause. The  statute makes it a crime to expose “the female breast below the top of the areola” in the presence of a child in a private place “under circumstances the person should know will likely cause affront or alarm.”

Tilli Buchanan, 27, faces imprisonment, fines and the requirement to register as a sex offender for 10 years if convicted of violating the law, which she certainly did. Buchanan and her husband had been installing drywall in the garage, and they had taken off their shirts that had become scratchy from the fibers, she told reporters.  When her stepchildren, aged 9, 10 and 13, walked in, she “explained she considers herself a feminist and wanted to make a point that everybody should be fine with walking around their house or elsewhere with skin showing,” her lawyers wrote in court documents. Here’s Tilli…

Just kidding.

Lawyer Leah Farrell of the ACLU says the law requires women to do a “mental calculation” about whether going topless would cause alarm. But men can go shirtless without violating the law and without making that calculation. “That really sets up an unequal and unfair dichotomy,” Farrell says.

Prosecutors say that Buchanan stripped in front of the children and  was under the influence of alcohol at the time. They also claim she said she would put her shirt back on if her husband showed her his penis.

Ick. Continue reading

Thoughts Upon Reading The Comments To The Recent “Conscience Clause” Post

The comments on the recent post regarding the so-called conscience rule being voided in court generated the comments the topic always does. What follows is a relatively short, general post to frame the issues as clearly as possible.  Admittedly, when a post is titled “When Law and Ethics Converge,” perhaps I shouldn’t have to explicate with a post focusing on the difference between law and ethics. I strongly believe that conscience clauses undermine the law, and are unethical, as you will see.

Law and Ethics are not the buddies people think they are, or wish they were. If you look around Ethics Alarms, you see why. Ethics, as the  process by which we decide and learn what is good and right conduct, evolves with time and experience. A predictable cut of a society’s ethics are always going to be a matter of intense debate. Ethics are self-enforcing, for the most part and by nature, because being ethical should make us feel good.  Once an authority or power starts demanding conduct and enforcing  conformity, we are mostly out of the realm of ethics and into morality, where conduct is dictated by a central overseer that, if it is to have genuine authority, must be voluntarily accepted by those subject to its power.

Society cannot function on ethics alone. Without laws, chaos and anarchy result. Because chaos and anarchy are bad for everyone, no individual who has accepted the social compact may decide which laws he or she will follow and which he or she will defy—at least, not without paying a price, which is society’s punishment. In ethical terms, this is a utilitarian calculation: we accept laws that individually we may find repugnant, because allowing citizens to pick and choose which laws they will obey as a matter of “conscience” doesn’t work and has never worked. Ethics pays attention to history.

Thus it is ethical to obey the law, and unethical not to,  even if good arguments can be made that particular laws are themselves unethical. This is where civil disobedience comes in: if a citizen chooses to violate a law on a the basis of that citizen’s conscience or principle, the citizen also has to accept the legal consequences of doing so as an obligation of citizenship. Continue reading

When Law And Ethics Converge: Goodbye To The Trump Administration’s Unconstitutional and Unethical “Conscience Clause”

Today’s decision by U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer, voiding the Trump administration’s “conscience rule” that resuscitated the Bush Administration’s similar rule, is right on the law, and, more important for this blog, right on ethics. The Trump version, which was yet to go into effect,  allowed health-care providers to refuse to participate in abortions, sterilizations or other types of care they if they disagreed with them on religious or moral grounds.

It was an invitation to open-ended discrimination, and as objectionable in principle as allowing public accommodations to refuse to serve Jews, blacks or gays. This topic has been thoroughly explored on Ethics Alarms over the years, and I don’t have anything much new to say. In fact, perusing my various essays on the topic, my favorite is one that is so old, it was on the Ethics Alarms predecessor the Ethics Scoreboard (on which I am slowly making progress in my efforts to get it back online) and mentions Paris Hilton, working at Blockbuster, and an earlier incarnation of Colin Kaepernick in the NBA.

I wrote, in 2005, Continue reading

The Naked Congresswoman Principle Is Confirmed, Rep. Hill Resigns, And She Refuses To Accept Responsibility

Of course she does.

Democratic Rep. Katie Hill of California has resigned. from the House of Representatives. Ethics Alarms examined Rep. Hill’s plight in the recent post, Just What We Needed: The Naked Congresswoman Principle. It concluded,

“The Naked Teacher Principle, Naked Congresswoman Variation, rules. The fact that these photos became public undermines trust in Hill’s judgement, competence, and trustworthiness, if not her physical fitness. It doesn’t matter how or why they got online. The person ultimately responsible is Hill. If you want to have a career based on respect and trust, don’t pose for naked pictures, sex photos, or pictures that make you look like you’re employed by an escort service. That shouldn’t be so hard.”

The lesson of the Naked Teacher Principle and most (though not all!) of its variations held true for Hill: once there are photos out there of a professional holding a position requiring dignity and trust behaving like or looking like a porn star, a drunken frat date, Kim Kardashian or a Sports illustrated swimsuit model, that professional’s ability to do her (or his) job has been seriously wounded, perhaps mortally. It would have been nice, and admirable, if Hill acknowledged this fact of life, the workplace and politics, but as you can see from her resignation letter below, she did not:

Ugh.

Hill appears to be taking no responsibility for her fate at all. This was a “rising star” in the Democratic Party firmament? Yechh.  Continue reading