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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/5/2017: Stupid Quotes Edition…Plus “Catalexit”

Good Morning!

1 The Las Vegas Strip massacre has triggered so many dumb and unethical quotes flying around on social media and out of the mouths of elected officials that it’s hard to keep up: any of them could sustain a full post.

  • Here’s one from Gloria Steinem, quoted approvingly by a feminist Facebook friend:

“How about we treat every young man who wants to buy a gun like every woman who wants to get an abortion — mandatory 48-hr waiting period, parental permission, a note from his doctor proving he understands what he’s about to do, a video he has to watch about the effects of gun violence, an ultrasound wand up the ass (just because). Let’s close down all but one gun shop in every state and make him travel hundreds of miles, take time off work, and stay overnight in a strange town to get a gun. Make him walk through a gauntlet of people holding photos of loved ones who were shot to death, people who call him a murderer and beg him not to buy a gun.It makes more sense to do this with young men and guns than with women and health care, right? I mean, no woman getting an abortion has killed a room full of people in seconds, right?”

Wow.

First, we learn that no matter what the human tragedy, all some activist can think of is how it can further their own single issue obsession. With Gloria, that single issue abortion, even though there are no helpful or intellectually honest comparisons to be made between guns and abortions. Second, we learn that Gloria never grasped the old “two wrongs don’t make a right” concept.  The various abortion-blocking measures she alludes to are all unethical and unconstitutional interference with a Constitutionally protected right, but she would joyfully inflict them on citizens trying to exercise their rights, because she doesn’t care about those.

  • This one is more surprising and depressing: Matthew Dowd, a regular on ABC’s Sunday morning round-tables with George Stephanopoulos,  meaning that he is presented as competent, historically informed, and trustworthy, actually tweeted,

“2nd amendment was all about having a militia available to protect the government from threat foreign or domestic w/out a standing army.”

This is not just wrong, but spectacularly and inexcusably wrong. Dowd is either lying, ignorant, or unable to process information. His nonsense has been used by anti-gun fanatics for decades, but the Supreme Court and the vast majority of Constitutional scholars reject it, concluding that the Bill of Rights, which all focus on individual rights that cannot be taken away by the government, would not include as #2 provision endorsing militias and nothing more.

The tweet should disqualify him from commenting on any gun policy issues from now until the stars turn cold.

  • I decided that Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) has already been exposed enough on Ethics Alarms this year (as a result of his unethical and divisive boycott of President Trump’s inauguration) that I don’t need to hand him another Ethics Dunce, but this rant delivered during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Hardball” (which network has been more shameless in anti-gun ravings, MSNBC or CNN? Tough call…) is certainly worthy of the award:

“The American people will not stand to see hundreds and thousands of their fellow citizens mowed down because the lack of action on the part of the Congress…We have to do something…The time is always right to do what is right. We waited too long. How many more people will die? Would it be a few hundred? A few thousand? Several thousand? We have to act. We cannot wait.”

This should be enshrined in the “Do something!” Hall of Fame. Lewis never hinted at what exactly will end gun deaths, just that Republicans and the NRA are responsible for not doing it. This is pure demagoguery and designed to mislead and inflame his party’s Second Amendment hating base. “We have to act! We cannot wait!” Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “New Orleans’ Historical Air-Brushing Orgy”

I confess: I’m behind in posting Comments of the Day. There are at least two that are on the runway. This one, Steve-O-in-NJ’s discussion of statue-toppling and historical airbrushing in other nations, is the most recent. It also doesn’t involve virulent anti-Trump hysteria, which I am becoming extremely weary of even as I have to chronicle it, since it, and not its target, is one of the major ethical crises of our time. (It also is really, really interesting.)

Here is Steve-O-in-NJ’s Comment of the Day on the post, “New Orleans’ Historical Air-Brushing Orgy”:

There IS some historical precedent for something like this. I don’t know how well-traveled you are, but if you visit Ireland and India you will still see plinths that once held statues of individuals associated with the British Empire that were removed in the aftermath of independence. You will also see relatively new statues of folks associated with the new regime, some of whom, in life, might have been considered criminals or terrorists. Two obvious examples are:

Michael Collins, national hero to the Irish, magnificent bastard to the Brits, and, any way you slice it, terrorist, who achieved his goals by shooting police and soldiers in the back, sniping, and bombing. His bust stands in Dublin and his statue marks the place where he was assassinated after mistakenly thinking he could just turn off the tap of the passions he had stirred up

Tatya Topi, Indian rebel ruler who it is believed gave the order for the massacre of women and children at Cawnpore, later captured and executed by the British. At least three statues in India now honor him as a freedom fighter, and one of them was in fact placed where a memorial to the victims of the massacre once stood.

Some of the monuments that represented the old ways were treated like scrap metal, like a statue of Queen Victoria that once stood in Dublin, dumped in a grass field until a deal was struck to ship it to Sydney, Australia, where it stands now. Five other statues of kings of kings and viceroys were moved to an abandoned area of Coronation Park in New Delhi following independence, where they stand forlorn and poorly maintained, partially because no one wants to pay to have them destroyed or shipped somewhere else in the world that might want them. Ironically, the one of George V, which came from India Gate, was to have been replaced by one of Gandhi, but to this day the canopy is vacant, because the Indian Parliament could not agree on details.

Continue reading

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“Camp Kill Jews” Ethics

And they say “Washington Redskins” is offensive.

"What a charming name! What does it mean in your language? Oh...wait, WHAT???"

“What a charming name! What does it mean in your language? Oh…wait, WHAT???”

From Spain comes the news that the town of Castrillo Matajudios, which literally means “Camp Kill Jews,” has voted to change its name after 400 years. This appears to be part of Spain’s recent, rather belated, I would say, efforts to acknowledge and express regret to Jews for the persecution they endured during the Spanish Inquisition.

Strange as it seem, the current name probably came into being not to denigrate Jews, but to protect Jews in the town who had officially converted to Catholicism under threat of torture and death. As such, it is a piece of history, and the words convey information about the town, the country, and the people who lived there, not a slur….except to someone who knows nothing about the town.

I’m not aware of a perfect analogy for this situation. It has some similarities to the plight of the towns of Blue Ball, Pennsylvania, named for a famous and long-gone hotel in the area, and the Amish community of Intercourse, Pennsylvania, named when a common uses of that term conveyed “fellowship.” In a  parallel universe where political correctness was dictated by social conservatives rather censorious progressives, these towns might be getting coercive signed letters from Republican Senators “suggesting” that they change their names to something less offensive, even though, as with the Redskins name, history and context would be lost. Continue reading

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Ethical Burglar Of The Year (Assuming Santa Doesn’t Qualify)

Now this is an ethics category you don’t see very often!

"Let's hope that I do not, while gathering my swag, encounter evidence of a crime that, unlike burglary and theft, my personal value system regards as repugnant, for then, as a responsible citizen burglar, I would be ethically obligated to report it to law enforcement officials, thus placing myself at greater risk of arrest..."

“Let’s hope that I do not, while taking valuables and property from the private residence I am about to break into, encounter evidence of a crime that, unlike burglary and theft, my personal value system regards as repugnant, for then, as a responsible citizen burglar, I would be ethically obligated to report it to law enforcement officials, thus placing myself at greater risk of arrest…”

In Spain, a burglar  broke into the home of a trainer for a kids soccer team, and discovered a collection of child pornography, including self-made recordings of the homeowner sexually abusing children as young as ten. The burglar placed an anonymous call to local police and said he left the evidence in a car, along with a note on which he wrote the apparent pedophile’s address. “I have had the misfortune to come into possession of these tapes and feel obliged to hand them over and let you do your job, so that you can lock this … up for life,”  the burglar told police in his message.

The trainer has been arrested and charged;  one of his victims, who is now 16, told authorities she had been abused since the time she was 10.

A few ethics observations on an intriguing case: Continue reading

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The Strange, Conflicted, Unethical Holiday We Call Columbus Day

"Yes, it seems like a catastrophe now, but some day creatures called human beings will celebrate this day..."

“Yes, it seems like a catastrophe now, but some day creatures called human beings will celebrate this moment…”

What are we celebrating on Columbus Day, and is it ethical to celebrate it?

When I was a child, I was taught that we were celebrating the life of Cristoforo Columbo, popularly known as Columbus, who was convinced, against the prevailing skeptics of the time, that the Earth was round rather than flat, and in the process of proving his thesis, made the United States of America possible by discovering the New World in 1492. Virtually none of what we were taught about Columbus was true,  so what we thought we were celebrating wasn’t really what we were celebrating. Columbus wasn’t alone in believing the world was round: by 1492, most educated people knew the flat Earth theory was dumb. He blundered into discovering the New World, and by introducing Spain into this rich, virgin and vulnerable territory, he subjected millions of people and generations of them to Spain’s destructive and venal approach to exploration, which was, in simple terms, loot without mercy. The Spanish were like locusts to the Americas; South and Central America are still paying the priced today. Surely we aren’t celebrating Columbus’s complicity in that. Continue reading

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Unethical or Dumb? Three Scenarios From The News

Many actions that appear to be unethical at first glance are really just thoughtless, careless decisions by people who should know better. It is only when knowing better is an obligation of their jobs or positions that a foolish mistake becomes unethical, or when it involves willful disregard for basic ethical principles.

Here are three scenarios from the news. Your choices: Dumb, Unethical, or Dumb and Unethical. Continue reading

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