End Of Week Ethics Clean-Up!

I blame Woodrow Wilson.

I like to start the week with a clean slate, especially now, when the George Floyd Freakout finds new ways to shatter previous standards of public decorum, civic decency, and respect for nation and community. However, despite over 3,000 words in three posts today, I still had to leave several stories on the bench that I wanted to explore.

Here they are:

ITEM: “18 shot in 24 hours as spike in gun violence in NYC continues”

What a coinky-dink! As soon as  Bill De Blasio, one of those Democratic mayors that Philip Bump says did nothing to make his city more violent, disbanded the NYPD’s  anti-crime unit, the city  had an explosion of shootings. Police said a total of 70 people were shot this week, compared to 26 the same week last year.

This is what more communities have to look forward to as a result of city officials across the country putting their virtue-signaling embrace of white guilt and Black Lives Matter ahead of the welfare of citizens.

ITEM: “New Jersey politicians charged in massive mail-in ballot voter fraud scheme, face years in prison”

Of course,  corruption in New Jersey politics is hardly news, but this story is ironic as Democrats are claiming that Republican opposition to mail-in voting is motivated by a desire to suppress election participation rather than a legitimate concern about the ease of voter fraud.

“New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal charged Paterson City Councilman Michael Jackson, Councilman-elect Alex Mendez, and two other men after the U.S. Postal Inspection Service alerted the state attorney general’s office that it had found hundreds of ballots from a special election last month stuffed in a single Paterson City mailbox,” InsiderNJ reported. According to WNBC-TV, more than 3,000 ballots were set aside over voting fraud concerns in the Paterson City Council election — 16,747 were received, but only 13,557 were accepted — meaning a whopping 19%, or nearly 1-in-5, were rejected. More than 800 of the rejected ballots were invalidated because they were found tethered together in mailboxes. This was especially significant because the margins in two of the contests were razor thin.

I had a devil of time finding out the party affiliation of the politicians charged in multiple news sources. That usually means that it’s a Democratic scandal. It was.

ITEM:Denver “proactively” removes Kit Carson statue from downtown monument ahead of protests” Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Reflections, 6/28/2020: For The Defense….

Greetings from the Ethics Alarms bunker…

1. I’m current reflecting on a personal and professional ethics conflict. A colleague and long-time professional competitor—I would never call him a friend—has been ousted from his leadership position in the very successful organization he founded as a result of unproven allegations of sexual harassment and assault. It was a “believe all victims” situation, as well as what feels like a successful coordinated effort to “get” someone who had accumulated a lot of enemies, resentment and envy in a notoriously nasty industry once his power was waning.

On one hand, I feel like I should reach out to him and offer my guidance and support (as an ethicist and sexual harassment trainer, not a lawyer, and gratis, of course). On the other, I am pretty certain that he is guilty of at least some of what has been alleged, based on confidential accounts I have recently heard from reliable sources. Ethically, however, his ousting (it appears that he was given the option of “retiring”) lacked due process and fairness, and the organization was guided by public relations motives rather than legal or ethical ones.

Whose side should I be on?

2. Stop making me defend Facebook! As if there wasn’t enough to worry about, the aggressive pandering mode of corporations right now is being exploited by would-be censors of political speech. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced updated election policies and stricter “hate speech” rules in response to employee protests and pressure from activists, whose transparent objective is to silence or constrict any political views antithetical progressive positions and goals. In a message last week, Zuckerberg  outlined plans to police disinformation relating to voting and elections, to flag certain content that risked triggering violence (I wonder what  that standard is like today?) and concluded,

Continue reading

My Ethics Conflict: Woodrow Wilson’s Name Should Have Been Removed At Princeton Long Ago, But Erasing It Now Opens The Floodgates, Part I: The Case For Woodrow

Reviewing, I see that the original Black Lives Matter attack on American values, history and culture first broke out in 2015. Then as now, Democrats rushed to embrace the racist group’s anti-white, anti-police and anti-America agenda, seeking, as usual, to enamor itself with its base. That was also the first time Princeton University was urged by student activists to remove honors to Wilson from the campus, though Wilson was not only a President of the United States (and according to Democrats until recently, one of the greatest) but also a lauded president of Princeton. The 2015 calls for his airbrushing out of Princeton’s history coincided with many similar attempts, some successful, to dishonor past historical figures whose legacies or conformity with modern values had been called into question.

College campuses, not city streets, were ground zero in 2015. Yale and the University of Missouri led the madness. At Mizzou, black students manufactured racial outrage out of ambiguous and off-campus incidents, then engaged in what Ethics Alarms then termed  an “I’m mad at the world and somebody has to pay for it” tantrum (Hmmm! Still sounds pretty good!), demanding all sorts of special accommodations and race-based policies and hirings, and demanding the university president’s resignation. Thomas Wolfe did resign, giving us an early precedent for all the capitulation and cowardice we are seeing today. As we’re seeing today, intimidation, race-bullying and attacks on free expression and language were part of the assault:

  • Amherst students demanded a crack-down on any free speech in the form of criticism of Black Lives Matters or the protest goals.
  • Dartmouth’s Black Lives Matters members roamed through the campus library, verbally assaulting white students attempting to study.
  • Smith College held a sit-in, and barred reporters-–the new breed of campus freedom-fighters just don’t like that pesky First Amendment—unless they promised to cover the protest positively. .
  • Occidental College students occupied a three-story administration building, demanding “a series of actions ranging from racist to just unreasonable to oppressive” in the name of “safety” and “diversity”, of course. Predictably, the leftist faculty which helped make the students this way were fully supportive.Refresh your recollections with the list of student demands here; my favorites: demanding an increase in tenured black professors and black doctors; funding for the student group for black men, which is racist and counter-diverse by definition; and “elimination of military and police rhetoric from all documents and daily discourse.”

Why is this so familiar? Continue reading

Stipulated: The Emancipation Statue Represents White Supremacy. It Still Has To be Protected.

Facts don’t matter to a mob. This is why indulging mobs–ever and at all—is foolish and dangerous. It is also why the current push to remove the Emancipation Statue, also known as the Freedman’s Memorial, has to be resisted, and successfully.

I know a slippery slope when I see one; I think I’ve established that since I saw this particular slippery slope  being greased five years ago. I saw that it would slide right into the Founders and an attempt to separate the United States from its origins and the brave and brilliant patriots who risked everything to attempt this experiment in liberty.

If any statute of Lincoln is allowed to satisfy the mob’s lust for vengeance and power, any memorials and honors to Jefferson and Washington are doomed, including the Washington Monument. As with the less violent and more dignified—but no less dangerous— mobs that destroyed lives and reputations during the Red Scare and McCarthy  era, politically motivated mobs like the Black Lives Matter-catalyzed demonstrators will treat each victory as a green light for escalation. It is astounding that so many supposedly educated people in government, academia, business and the arts have somehow forgotten this fact in their rush to grovel and submit, hoping, as Winston Churchill observed of appeasers, that the crocodile would eat them last.

The attack on America escalated when NFL players began “taking a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem, one of the main symbols of our nation and its values. The players and their spiritual leader, Colin Kaepernick, made incoherent efforts to explain why their disrespect during the Anthem wasn’t aimed at the melody, but at the nation it—well, the racism that—well, they never could manage to explain their logic. That’s because the protest was really aimed at the United States itself. Continue reading

Monday Ethics Warm-Up, 6/22/2020: Lenin, Oliver, And The Troublesome Name

It would be well to consider the fate of that ultimate Sixties folk-pop group the Mamas and Papas, as we watch today’s idealistic anarchists make fools of themselves. By mid-way through their four-year run (during which they sold 40 million recordings), the group was self-destructing with inter-and extra-group sexual affairs and stage appearances where one or more of the group was too drunk or stoned to perform. The group kept breaking up and re-assembling, and fell apart for good in 1969. Mama Cass died of heart failure at the age of 34, after battling heroin addiction and other substance abuse. John Phillips, the creative leader of the group, also was a heroin addict and had emotional and substance abuse problems that he managed to pass on to his daughter, actress Mackenzie Phillips. In her memoir, “High on Arrival,” she wrote that she had a long-term sexual relationship with her father. Papa John also died of heart failure, when he was 66. Tenor Denny Doherty’s solo career flopped after the group ended. He was an alcoholic, but stayed sober for the final decades of his life. An acting career also failed; he finally got a gig as the “Harbormaster,” hosting a kids TV show that was a flagrant rip-off of “Thomas the Tank Engine,” but starring a talking tugboat. Doherty was 67 when he died from an aneurysm.

Michelle Phillips is the lone survivor of the group. She avoided substance abuse problems and after divorcing Phillips, whom she wed at 18, went on to a moderately successful acting career.

As today, these people who aspired to inspire lacked the wisdom, common sense, self-discipline, character, values or perspective to be trusted with their chosen mission.

1. Speaking of...When asked how it was that a statue of Vladimir Lenin was still standing in Seattle when protesters had toppled those of Ulysses S. Grant and others, the Human Rights Campaign’s Charlotte Clymer said, among her reasons, that “Lenin was not a slave-owner, you Confederate apologist fucks.”

To which National Review writer David Harsanyi responded with the obligatory, “Lenin created tens of millions of slaves.”

In related news, a 2015 video  of an interview with Black Lives Matter founder Patrisse Cullors shows her saying, “We actually do have an ideological frame. Myself and Alicia in particular, we’re trained organizers. We are trained Marxists. We are super versed on ideological theories…”

Several of the tenets seen on the BLM website are redolent of Karl. Do all these companies and pandering celebrities giving lip service to the group, attaching #BlackLivesMatter to their tweets and proclaiming support, know what they are supporting? I think it’s pretty obvious that they don’t. They are signaling their virtue by ostentatiously endorsing the most simple-minded and deceptive interpretation of the slogan, as if there is anyone who believes black lives don’t matter. I bet the vast majority have never visited the BLM website and read its agitprop.

That, needless to say, is as dumb as it is irresponsible. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, Father’s Day Edition Though There’s Absolutely Nothing Here About Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day.

On YouTube, the first comment on this video is from someone who writes, “It’s a grate song.” Yeah, THAT guy had one hell of a father…

1. Bored with statue-toppling and honor stripping yet? Obviously the Hun and Vandals aren’t. Here in the D.C. universe, George Preston Marshall the original owner of the Washington Redskins who was the NFL’s version of Cal Griffith, lost his statue two days ago when the D.C. government pulled it down after protesters had vandalized it. Mayor Bowzer is one of the Democratic mayors who are actively enabling the protests. Of course, with statues being indiscriminately being toppled now, the gesture is increasingly less meaningful. Woodrow Wilson, the white-supremacist, racist President who spread the Spanish flu around the world by sending infected troops into Europe when he  sent the U.S. into The Great War for no discernible reason, and who then planted the seed for World War II by sitting by and allowing the victorious English, French and Italians inflict devastating punitive  term on Germany as long as he got his pet project, the League of Nations, into the Versailles Treaty, will have his name removed from buildings by Monmouth University and  Camden, New Jersey. A private college in West Virginia announced last week that it is removing the name of the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd from its health center. The Democratic Byrd may have been a reformed KKK member, but he also brought many millions of dollars into rural West Virginia, thus explaining the proliferation of his family’s name there. Surely you heard that protesters in Liverpool, England, want to rename Penny Lane of Beatles song fame, because a Liverpool man with the last name of Penny was a slave-trader. Was the street actually named after him? No, there’s no indication that it was, but hey, any association with the name Penny now has a “connection” to racism, so let’s see how far this goes. Penny candy! Penny arcades! Penny loafers!  Penny, Sky King’s niece on the old TV show!

Meanwhile, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, the owned of Eskimo Pie, now says the name is “derogatory,” and that it will be changing the product’s name and marketing. The head of marketing  told CBS News. “We are committed to being a part of the solution on racial equality, and recognize the term is derogatory.”

This is yet another example of the Niggardly Principle. The term Eskimo, according to the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, actually came from the French word esquimaux, meaning one who nets snowshoes, like what  Arctic peoples do. Never mind: the rumor started that the term was racist because racist Europeans used it. I highly doubt any native Inuit people are offended by the name of the ice cream bar. In fact, many Native Alaskans still refer to themselves as Eskimos, in part because the word Inuit isn’t part of the Yupik languages of Alaska and Siberia. Is it racist when they use it?

Losing its famous brand will almost certainly eliminate the product, costing business and jobs, but apparently it’s worth it for the company to signal it’s virtue with a move that can’t possibly have any salutary effect on racial equality whatsoever.

“Madness. Madness!” 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

Saturday Ethics Freakout, 6/20/2020: Fake News, Resignations, Topplings And Cancellations…But Also Hope

I know just how you feel, Homer.

1. Mainstream media journalism, 2020. I thank Tim Levier for this classic, from NBC News:

Fake news. First, the Court did NOT rule that Trump cannot end DACA. The opinion by Chief Justice Roberts said explicitly that he can. Second, “Dreamers”  were not legal immigrants so they cannot magically become legal immigrants. At best, they will be illegal immigrants who have been given a pass for their violation.  The tweet is deceptive, misleading, and incompetent.

2. Cancellations, Resignations and Topplings Update! The current list of entertainment celebrities and politicians who have been documented as wearing blackface for one reason or another is long, and if one falls to the mob, the rest might start feeling awfully nervous.

The list includes Justin Trudeau, Ralph Northam, Howard Stern, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Joy Behar, Sarah Silverman, Ted Danson, Gigi Hadid, Julianne Hough and Billy Crystal.  Right now rumors are swirling around the irredeemable Jimmy Kimmel, who has suddenly announced a hiatus, with many speculating that he is holding on to his job by a thread…and if he goes, the innocuous Fallon may be next. Though Stern, Kimmel and Behar are blights on the culture whose professional demise I would cheer, long past blackface dabbling should not be used to punish any of these people now….except perhaps the Virginia Governor.  Northam is a special case, because his party is wildly hypocritical to allow him to escape accountability when it is cheering on the mobs. However, again, a law school costume has no relevance to the Governor today.

As for Trudeau–I don’t care.

3. Cancellations, Resignations and Topplings Update, Literary Division. At the Poetry Foundation earlier this month,  leadership was forced to resign because its official grovel to Black Lives Matter and the George Floyd mob was deemed not abject enough. The Foundation had issued a brief, four-sentence statement on June 3, expressing “solidarity with the Black community” and declaring faith in “the strength and power of poetry to uplift in times of despair.” This prompted a critical uproar from the progressive poets, with another letter from members calling the statement “worse than the bare minimum” and an insult to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other African-American victims of police violence. The foundation’s president and board chairman then quit, because, I suppose, poets are lovers, not fighters.

“As poets, we recognize a piece of writing that meets the urgency of its time with the appropriate fire when we see it — and this is not it,” the letter said. “Given the stakes, which equate to no less than genocide against Black people, the watery vagaries of this statement are, ultimately, a violence.”

Genocide! Talk about poetic license. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethical Quote Of The Month: French President Emmanuel Macron”

Prolific commenter Steve-O-in-NJ was on a roll last night, ultimately producing the epic Comment of the Day below regarding French President Macron’s unequivocal rejection of historical airbrushing and statue toppling in his country.

Earlier, Steve had made the sharp observation that the George Floyd Freakout mobs and their complicit elected officials and journalists are simultaneously demanding sanctification of the image and memory of Floyd, whose life consisted of a series of socially destructive and irresponsible acts,  while demanding the de-honoring of important historical figures world wide. “The only thing he ever did of note was to die at the hands of a crazy cop,” he wrote. “Yet we’re supposed to brush his history aside and worship him as some kind of new saint. Columbus achieved one of the greatest things ever done. Jefferson wrote the [Declaration of Independence]. Washington was the father of this nation. Churchill saved the world in its darkest hour. Yet we’re asked to forget their achievements and reduce them to their failures. Anyone want to explain the logic here?”

Logic, except to the extent that cultural lobotomies are a tool of revolution and totalitarianism, has little to do with it. Nor does perspective and erudition, as proved by UK Activist Lorraine Jones, who is chair of the Lambeth Independent Police Advisory Group Jones was asked about the wisdom of removing a statue of Winston Churchill in London that has been a target of local protesters.

“I’ve heard many arguments on both sides,” Jones told reporters. “Some say that he’s a racist, some say that he’s a hero. I haven’t personally met him, but what I would say is that that question of whether he should remain should be put to the community.”

She has no idea who Winston Churchill is.

Here is Steve-O-in-NJ’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethical Quote Of The Month: French President Emmanuel Macron”:

I discussed the attempted airbrushing of history here by the removal of several monuments to the Confederacy or its adherents some time ago. At the time I would have described the feeling underlying it as what I would call a moral panic, similar to the overwhelming fear surrounding role-playing games in the 1980s or the unreasonable response to New Zealand’s Mazengarb report. However, moral panics usually ebb and flow and eventually the majority see how silly they really are. I was wrong, this was not a case of a moral panic. This was a case of a chisel often used by the left, that of iconoclasm, finding an opening and being used to chip away at society in an attempt to recurve it in their image. It’s now spread to Columbus memorials, and is starting to seep into memorials to the Founding Fathers and now even to Abraham Lincoln and Churchill(?!).

Iconoclasm, defined broadly as the organized destruction of images or symbols, has been around pretty much since man started erecting symbols and memorials to individuals, groups, ideas, or anyone or anything deemed important enough to build a lasting memorial to. Sometimes it was practiced in straight-up war between nations or civilizations, as a way to damage the enemy’s morale, although it ran the risk of making him angrier instead. Sometimes it was practiced in internecine conflicts, when one group seized power over another. Occasionally it has been performed simply as a matter of political policy, without actual armed conflicts.

Examples of the first category include the sack of the Jewish Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius’ destruction of the Persian fire temple at the Throne of Solomon (this one particularly thorough, with the knocking down of the temple, the extinguishing of the holy fire, and the deliberate pollution of the sacred lake with dead bodies), and the Muslim policy of destruction of religious symbols of those they defeated: the Persians’ holy standard, the original church at Santiago de Compostela (for which the Muslim rulers of Seville later paid a terrible price at the hands of St. Ferdinand of Castile), and countless Hindu idols and temples. Continue reading