Assorted Ethics Thoughts In The Throes Of Insomnia, 8/17/2019: The Foot-In-Mouth Edition

Started as a Morning Warm-Up, then it was a Mid-Day Update, then a Late Night something or other.

1. From the “Steve King is an idiot” files: Rep. Steve King, a Republican from Iowa whose avocation is sticking his foot in his mouth, told the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale, Iowa that the unborn who result from rape are no less lives that other fetuses, and should not be subject to any “exception” to principled exception to abortion. “It’s not the baby’s fault,” he said.

So far, so good: King is right. Then he had to go and say this:

“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that? Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages that’s taken place, and whatever happened to culture after society, I know that I can’t certify that I’m not a product of that. And I’d like to think every one of the lives of us are as precious as any other life.”

So when you really think about it, rape and incest are a good things, right, Steve?

That’s certainly how Democrats and progressives took his comments, and to be fair, his infuriatingly ham-handed rhetoric made it easy.  The position that unborn children are just as deserving of life regardless of how they were conceived is a powerful and greatly misunderstood ethical argument. It is not necessary to rationalize rape to make it; in fact, King’s dumb argument just muddles the issue. It’s also bad history and anthropology.

NBC has an article up claiming that King’s words show the “misogyny” at the heart of white supremacy. No, they just show that King is a moron, and we already knew that.

2. Nice. Here’s the title of a Gail Collins op-ed in yesterday’s Times: “How to torture Trump.” Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Romp, 4/10/2019: A Swirl Of Emotions…

Ah, I feel wefweshed!

Just took a post-seminar nap—one of the bennies of a hime business– counted philosophers jumping over a fence, and now I’m awake and ready to rumble…

1. Wow. The quality of posts on this morning’s Open Forum is off the charts. Now my self-esteem is crushed , since it’s obvious that I’m keep the group back with my mundane commentary. If you haven’t dropped in on the colloquy yet, I recommend it highly.

2. This is why we can’t  have nice things, and will have fewer and fewer of them as time goes on…Related to a thread in the Open Forum, about a controversy over the way artificial intelligence screens job applicants is this news from a week ago. Google announced that it was dissolving a newly established panel. called the Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC). which was founded to guide “responsible development of AI” at the tech giant (colossus/ behemoth/monster). The group was to have eight members and meet four times over the course of 2019 to consider issues and recommendation regarding Google’s AI program. The idea was to have an intellectually and ideologically diverse group to avoid “group think” and narrow perspectives.

I know something about such enterprises. I once had the job of running independent scholarly research within the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on contentious policy matters. My methodology was to invite experts from all sides of the issue, the political divide, and spectrum of professions and occupations. The method worked. Oh, we had arguments, minority reports, everything you might expect, but the committee meeting were civil, stimulating and often surprising. This, of course, requires an open mind and mutual respect from all involved. Continue reading

2018 Ethics Restrospective #1: “Unethical Quote Of The Year” [Retitled]

As part of my determination to get the Ethics Alarms Awards completed this year, here is an opportunity for reader input. I won’t guarantee that the poll results here will dictate the final choices, but they will be a great help. Don’t hesitating to use the comments to make other suggestions and nominations. I’ll be posting these periodically during the day and evening. First up…

Nominations for “Unethical Quote Of The Year”

 

  • “Overturning Roe vs. Wade by an all-male majority, two of whom have had credible accusations of sexual misconduct lodged against them, would not be a legitimate action.”—–ABC correspondent Terry Moran

 

  • “Our future is: Female. Intersectional. Powered by our belief in one another. And we’re just getting started.”Senator Kirsten Gillbrand

 

  • “I am going to unfollow and block anyone that spouts the “age” shit. Ageism is NO different from sexism – or racism, or homophobia. A person is either competent – or they fucking aren’t. It has NOTHING to do with their fucking age. Go ask Pelosi – and RBG”—-Joe Biden fan and defender @perpetualTJ on Twitter

Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Emily Yoffe

“Even as we must treat accusers with seriousness and dignity, we must hear out the accused fairly and respectfully, and recognize the potential lifetime consequences that such an allegation can bring. If believing the woman is the beginning and the end of a search for the truth, then we have left the realm of justice for religion.”

—-Emily Yoffe in her essay titled, “The Problem With #BelieveSurvivors”

More…

…in a Senate floor speech the day before the hearing, Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York announced that it was unnecessary for her to hear Kavanaugh’s testimony. Gillibrand declared, “I believe Dr. Blasey Ford.” Many Democrats, in keeping with #BelieveSurvivors, are taking their certainty about Ford’s account and extrapolating it to all accounts of all accusers. This tendency has campus echoes, too: The Obama administration’s well-intended activism on campus sexual assault resulted in reforms that went too far and failed to protect the rights of the accused.

The impulse to arrive at a predetermined conclusion is familiar to Samantha Harris, a vice president at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Harris says that under Title IX, students who report that they are victims of sexual misconduct must be provided with staffers who advocate on their behalf. These staffers should “hear them out, believe them, and help them navigate the process,” she said, but added, “When the instruction to ‘believe them’ extends to the people who are actually adjudicating guilt or innocence, fundamental fairness is compromised.” Harris says that many Title IX proceedings have this serious flaw. As a result, in recent years, many accused students have filed lawsuits claiming that they were subjected to grossly unjust proceedings; these suits have met with increasingly favorable results in the courts…

…The legitimacy and credibility of our institutions are rapidly eroding. It is a difficult and brave thing for victims of sexual violence to step forward and exercise their rights to seek justice. When they do, we should make sure our system honors justice’s most basic principles.

All true, but here is my question: How did we arrive at a place where any of what Joffe writes needed to be said at all?

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/7/17: Al Franken’s Day That Will Live In Infamy [UPDATED]

Battleship USS West Virginia sunk and burning at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. In background is the battleship USS Tennessee.

Good Morning, Bad Memories…

1 The duty to remember…The most amazing thing about Pearl Harbor was perhaps how lucky the United States was that the sneak attack by Japan, as devastating as it was, didn’t permanently cripple our ability to defend ourselves. Two links lead to explanations why. Here is a letter written by Admiral Nimitz, then in his eightieth year. to Admiral David L. McDonald, the present Chief of Naval Operations. The National Review provides the tale of how a forgotten Georgia Congressman, Democrat Carl Vinson saved the country and probably the world.  An excerpt:

For nearly a decade before Pearl Harbor, Vinson had schemed and politicked in brilliant fashion to ensure that America was building a two-ocean navy larger than all the major navies of the world combined. Vinson had assumed in the mid-1930s that fascist Japan and Germany posed existential threats to the United States. For America to survive, he saw that America would need mastery of the seas to transport its armies across the Pacific and Atlantic.

This is Thank You Carl Day. Read it all.

2. ‘I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t smart enough, and doggone it, nobody likes me!’ This appears to be the end for Senator Al Franken. If it’s not, the end is near and inevitable. His seventh new accuser was the tipping point, for some reason, though her story Franken denies—especially the part where the anonymous woman claims that after she ducked his attempt at a spontaneous kiss in 2006, he  protested, “It’s my right as an entertainer! ” The soon-to-be-former Senator told Politico,

“This allegation is categorically not true and the idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous. I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation.”

That “It’s my right” comment sounds to me like a desperate attempt to save face by making a joke out of an awkward situation, not a serious claim. If I’m right, then Franken’s statement is deceit: he’s saying that he would never claim such a right, but he isn’t saying that those words never came out of his mouth. Al’s slippery, mealy-mouthed, not-quite apologies are a large part of why he’s in this mess, as I wrote here. 

Still, no one should be presumed guilty or face negative consequences for a public accusation by an accuser who refuses to go on the record. This is basic fairness and due process. Never mind: the Democratic women in the U.S. Senate are less interested in due process and fairness than grandstanding and standing for the proposition that women must be believed in cases of sexual assault, unless they were assaulted by Bill Clinton. I think that’s the rule, right?

They led a coordinated attack on Franken yesterday by 16 U.S. Senators, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York—you know, the one who championed “Mattress Girl”?–who  wrote in a 650-word statement,”While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve.”

That’s right, Senator, it’s better to send the message that due process is just a sham to make doing what you want to do look fair.

For example, how do you like this (from Politico):

Two former colleagues of the woman independently corroborated her version of events, including Franken telling her he had the right to try to kiss her because he was “an entertainer.” The first former colleague interviewed by POLITICO said she was told of the incident in 2006, shortly after it happened. The second former co-worker said she was made aware of the encounter sometime in 2009 or 2010.

What? Those women didn’t corroborate the the accuser’s “version of events”! How can any journalist write such junk? How could an editor let it pass? All they can do is corroborate that the woman said this happened, not that her account is accurate or true.

But again, never mind. This is The Terror. Al’s a man, Democrats have been caught in the web of hypocrisy they started spinning when Clinton was President, and his metaphorical blood must cleanse them. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/10/17

 

1. In the category of “Good!”, or maybe “Better late than never!” was the news that CNN, after a a full week of pondering, determined that maybe it wasn’t sufficiently professional for a host to call the President of the United States a “piece of shit,” or anyone a “piece of shit,” really, or use “shit”  under the CNN banner, so it fired “Believer” host Reza Aslan. I don’t know why CNN can’t figure out that an immediate firing sends the message that the organization has professional standards and enforces them, and the way CNN handled this says, “We were hoping this would blow over, but guess not.”

Aslan’s tweet after his hook raised other questions:

  • Wait, CNN is trying to be an unbiased new outlet???
  • Oh, is “piece of shit” how scholars express themselves now?
  • “I need to honor my voice” by being able to use vulgarity to express his measured views. Got it.
  • The “tenor” of discourse is entirely within the control of the speaker.
  • Why does CNN put people on the air who don’t understand or respect their professional obligations to the network or the audience?

2. Fox News’s Sean Hannity got web headlines yesterday by tweeting to Aslan: “I do not think you should be fired. You apologized.” Sean Hannity is really too dumb to be allowed out without a leash. His theory is that an apology magically returns everything to where it was before the conduct in question, as if there were no effects. This was serious breach of professionalism and responsibility showing the Aslan was too untrustworthy to be allowed to have his own TV show. It proved that he was a threat to CNN’s reputation (Crude News Network” is the current successor to “Clinton News Network,” and no organization can function if its announced policy is “Go ahead, do anything; as long as you apologize, your job is safe.” Continue reading

“We Understand One Of My Colleagues Raped You. Here, Have A Taco, And Shut Up”

taco

Some sadistic and none-too skilled cynic appears to be writing the news, and I don’t appreciate it, especially the news about how our justice system deals with rape.

Felipe Santiago Peralez, a La Joya, Texas police dispatcher, repeatedly assaulted, raped, terrorized,  and forced a woman into performing various sex acts during an “all night invasion of her body” while she was in the custody of the La Joya police department for a misdemeanor probation violation. Even after Peralez’s colleagues and superiors saw the jail security video, they refused to take his victim to a hospital for an examination as required by Texas law for all rape investigations. One of them was  kind enough, she says, to offer her a taco. (It is unknown if she actually ate the taco, or if it was yummy.) An officer also told her that if she breathed a word about what happened, she was liable to go “missing.”

This happened in 2014. The La Joya police chief at the time also saw the video, and reported it to city authorities. As a result, a Hidalgo County grand jury charged Peralez with three counts of civil rights violations and one count of “official oppression”—yes, I would agree that a cop sticking various objects, organic and otherwise, into a confined woman’s vagina without her consent qualifies as “oppression”— and he was sentenced to a whopping 6 months in state jail and 30 days in county jail after a plea bargain.

See? Those Texas types know how to handle rapists with rough, effective frontier justice…none of this lame California sentencing, with a rich kid Stanford swimmer getting just six months because he promises that he’ll devote his life, well, some time anyway, to telling other rich kids not to drink so much that they think unconscious women are blow-up sex dolls. Yup, none of that slap on the wrist nonsense in Rick Perry’s domain! There, a police rapist gets six months AND another month. It serves him right! Don’t mess with Texas!

All of this comes to light in a law suit filed by the victim, referred to as A.R., that names Peralez, the City of La Joya, its former and current police chiefs, its city administrator, several La Joya police officers, the city of Peñitas, its police chief and two more officers there, and asks for 70 million dollars in damages.

I feel like I’m losing my mind. How can an entire community become so corrupt that it would behave this cruelly and unjustly? The police officer who warned A.R. to keep her mouth shut was a woman. The whole story reads like the screenplay of a lurid revenge fantasy like “I Spit On Your Grave,” except that it’s missing the fun part where the victim meticulously tracks down her abusers and tortures them to death in the most ingenious and disgusting ways possible. Of course, it appears that A.R. would have to track down the whole town, including its police force and the grand jury. And the local news media. When the justice system delivers this kind of outrage, isn’t the media supposed to report it, and loudly? Maybe reporters were told that they might go missing too.

Or someone offered them tacos.

The absence of any national reporting on this two-year-old horror is just one of the aspects of the story I find disturbing. Such as… Continue reading

Campus Rape: How Opposing The Use Of Fake Stats, Lies and False Narratives Became “Conservative”

fondo abstracto de tecnologia 3d.Lenguaje binario

I just don’t see how or why insisting on using objective and verifiable facts in policy-making and public discourse became “conservative bias.” I don’t recall the media’s interest in correcting fake combat statistics during the Vietnam war being regarded as “liberal bias.” I can’t bring myself to believe that only moderates and conservatives care about making sure that the public isn’t deceived into believing things that aren’t true.

But why does this stuff keep happening, and particularly, why does it keep happening under the supervision of Democrats and their supporters during the Obama years? I know I’ve been harping on “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” and the deification of Mike Brown as contrary to all evidence, common sense, fairness and rationality, but such cultural embrace of lies is objectively outrageous and dangerous. I also resent being called a “teabagger,” a racist, or a right-wing nut for pointing this out.

One reason resent it, perhaps the main one, is that I’m a lifetime iconoclast, curmudgeon and contrarian (just like Dad!) and while I know that having  people, even friends, angry at me never changed my opinions, words or behavior very much, most people are not like me. Most people, when they are called racists on Facebook or bombarded with dishonest Daily Kos internet memes or realize that their friends aren’t inviting them out for beer because they will object to the conventional liberal wisdom of the nonce, decide its more important to get along than to fight the good fight, so they just adopt the prevalent opinion of their “crowd.” Usually, personal growth and education on the issue stops about then: if you listen hard, you will hear the sound of a slamming door. Soon they’ll be calling others racists on Facebook.

The fake campus sexual assault issue is another area where this phenomenon is occurring. CBS’s Sunday Morning gave one of its gauzy features about it yesterday, beginning with the assumption that for some reason (the reason was already pre-programmed and injected directly into the Democratic Party’s second most reliable “base” group, young single women bloodstream, with its “war on women” convention theme in 2012) campus sexual assault is epidemic. On the show’s website, proving that this was propaganda rather than journalism, was this sentence: “According to the U.S. Justice Department, one in five college women will experience some kind of sexual assault while in school.” (It had been removed by this morning.) Continue reading

Sen. Gillibrand’s State of the Union Guest

Emma and her mattress: actually, many of the other attendees at the State of the Union would have loved to have had a mattress...

Emma and her mattress: actually, many of the other attendees at the State of the Union would have loved to have had a mattress…

I was considering framing this as an either/or ethics quiz, with Sen. Gillibrand (D-NY) inviting Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia student who continues to harass the student she accused of rape despite her allegations being judged, by the school and police, as unprovable to the State of the Union, being compared to Speaker John Boehner’s in-your-face invitation of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress about Iran. I don’t like either of the moves: both are unethical in different ways. I can at least devise an argument for Boehner, however. I don’t see how anyone can excuse Gillibrand, who is essentially accusing a young man of rape when she has no direct knowledge of what happened.

Columbia student Paul Nungesser was found “not responsible” for sexually assaulting Sulkowicz, Since that official determination, Sulkowicz has been carrying a mattress around the university as “an art project” to protest Nungesser’s success at defending himself. When he learned that the Senator had injected herself into the controversy, he told reporters,

“I am shocked to learn that Senator Gillibrand is actively supporting Ms. Sulkowicz’s defamation campaign against me by providing her with a public forum in which to broadcast her grave allegation. By doing so, Senator Gillibrand is participating in a harassment campaign against someone who, for good reason, has been found innocent by all investigating bodies.”

Yup, I’d say that’s a fair interpretation. He continued,

“Sulkowicz’s accusation is untrue and unfounded: I have never sexually assaulted anyone. This is why Columbia University after seven months of detailed investigation in November 2013 found me to be not responsible…I voluntarily let myself be interviewed by DA chief of Sex Crimes at SVU in New York City, in August 2014. Shortly after this interview, the DA’s office informed me that they decided not to pursue the case further.”

Sulkowicz  decided not to pursue the criminal case any further. She just took the alternative action of setting out to hound, harass, accuse, stigmatize and embarrass Nungesser as “art.” Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: Charlie Rangel’s Birthday Celebrants

From “The Hill”:

“Democratic leaders and major party donors plan to hold a lavish 80th birthday gala for Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) at The Plaza Hotel in Manhattan next month, despite 13 ethics charges pending against the veteran lawmaker.”

Apparently New York’s U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand plan to attend, as well as New York Gov. David Paterson and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo—Democrats all.

Here is the ethical problem—and it is hardly rocket science. When a public figure’s misdeeds are more prominent in the public’s view than his or her lifetime accomplishments, it is impossible to celebrate the latter without appearing to endorse, support, or other wise fail to show sufficient disapproval of the latter. Continue reading