Tag Archives: totalitarianism

Lying To Us To Make Us Feel Better: Those Fake Crosswalk Buttons

In the classic science fiction story “The Marching Morons”  by American writer Cyril M. Kornbluth,  the world hundreds of years in the future is a reverse-eugenics nightmare. Between centuries of intelligent people not having children (perhaps to address climate change?) and excessive breeding by fools and dolts, the typical member of the public has an IQ of around 45, while an elite few who have IQs of 100 or more work around the clock to save the world, and the morons, from chaos. One of their tricks is to manufacture cars that make lots of noise and create the illusion of high speeds to fool the morons, who are (as we all know) wretched drivers. In truth, the cars crawl along more slowly than tricycles.

I thought of this when reader and frequent commentator here Charles Green noted in his excellent newsletter that those buttons at pedestrian crosswalks in major cities are an intentional fraud on the public, a placebo to keep us calm and feeling in control when we are not. Charles link was to my old hometown paper, the Boston Globe, but it’s behind a paywall. Never mind, though: newspapers have periodically been noting this phenomenon for years. They apparently think it is amusing. It isn’t.

The New York Times reported in 2004 that the city deactivated most of the pedestrian buttons long ago with the advent of computer-controlled traffic signals.  Today there are 120 working signals; about 500 were removed during major construction projects. But it was estimated that it would cost $1 million to dismantle the rest of non-functioning mechanisms, over a thousand of them, so city officials decided to keep them in place. And people keep pushing them. After all, sometimes, by sheer luck, the light changes soon after the button has been pushed. It works!

Tribal rains dances “work” the same way.

ABC News reported in 2010 that it found only one functioning crosswalk button in a survey of signals in Austin, Texas.; Gainesville, Florida, and Syracuse, New York. Other studies have turned up similar results in dozens of other cities. To be clear, presenting a button to pedestrians that is represented as a legitimate tool to cross the street when in fact it does nothing is a lie. It is an intentional falsehood, designed to deceive. Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Week: San Diego State University Political Science Professor Jonathan Graubart

I find myself annoyed at the groundswell of good wishes for John McCain after his diagnosis of glioblastoma…McCain is a war criminal and, more to the point. someone who as a politician has championed horrifying actions and been lousy on state commitment to public health…But ultimately what troubles me is the urge to send such well wishes to an utter stranger as it reinforces the notion that some lives are more important than others. There are lots of people with glioblastoma and who have died from it (including my mother twenty years ago)….

San Diego State University Political Science Professor Jonathan Graubart on Facebook, prompting some calls for him to be fired, and others on campus to second his opinion.

Is this an Ethics Quote or an Unethical Quote? I could call it  an Ethics Quote because it raises many ethical issues, and mere statements of opinions, even stupid and vicious ones, are not usually unethical in themselves. This quote strongly suggests that the speaker is unethical in  than one respect; it is also, at very least, irresponsible in its context, which is that he is a teacher, and represents the institution.

Jonathan Turley flagged this episode, as he reliably does any time a professor comes under fire for controversial speech. As always, he supports his fellow academic:

“Graubart’s comments are hurtful and hateful. It is a reflection of the incivility that has taken hold of our social and political dialogue. It is always sad to see a fellow academic rush to the bottom of our national discourse. However, we have free speech and academic freedom to protect unpopular, not popular, speech. Popular speech does not need protection. Graubart is expressing his deep political and social viewpoint on social media. He should be able to do that just as his critics have a right to denounce his views.”

San Diego State University is a government institution, and thus subject to the First Amendment, in addition to the principles of academic freedom. However, even a state institution  has a right to protect itself from harm. This isn’t just political speech; it is bona fide asshole speech, signaling that the speaker is not a trustworthy teacher, and that any school that would have someone this intolerant, doctrinaire, vile and contemptuous of kindness and compassion educating, aka indoctrinating students isn’t trustworthy either. Universities, public or not, should be able to insist on a minimal level of professionalism from faculty in their public behavior and pronouncements so the institution isn’t permanently discredited, embarrassed, and harmed.

Here is Graubart’s whole Facebook rant: Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: The Low IQ Parents

Eric Ziegler and his partner, Amy Fabbrini, have below-average IQs…well below average. His IQ is 72 and hers is 66.  After Amy delivered their son Christopher in 2013, other family members, especially Amy’s estranged father, alerted Oregon’s child welfare agency that the couple might not be fit parents. The Department of Human Services’ investigation found no signs of abuse or neglect. However,

In reports of concerns about the couple’s parenting skills, a MountainStar [a nonprofit Oregon group devoted to helping prevent child abuse] worker recalled having to prompt them to have Christopher wash his hands after using the toilet and to apply sunscreen to all of his skin rather than just his face. Fabbrini and Ziegler’s attorneys argue these weren’t sufficient reasons to keep them from their son.

Based on this, Christopher (shown above with his parents) was removed from the couple and placed in foster care, where he remains.

The couple’s  second son, Hunter, was removed by the state while Fabbrini was still in the hospital, with Oregon citing the couple’s  “limited cognitive abilities that interfere with [their] ability to safely parent the child.”

Your Ethic Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Day…

Is Oregon’s removal of this couple’s children based solely on the parents’ low IQ scores ethical?

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/16/2017

 Isn’t it a lovely morning?

1. This isn’t the first post of the day: I woke up around 4 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep (“As My Guitar Gently Weeps” was playing over and over in my head, don’t ask me why, and images from the Red Sox 16 inning loss to the Yankees was giving me the night terrors), so I went to the office and wrote this post. Charlie Green, critic and friend, properly pointed out that my comment in passing that incorrectly alluded to rumors about Joseph P. Kennedy being a bootlegger was exactly what my  post was criticizing David Brooks for doing in his attack on the entire Trump family, going back generations, a truly ugly op-ed.

What I was sorely tempted to say was that I’m just an ethics blogger, trying to focus attention on ethics standards in a daily blog from which I receive no income and intangible professional benefits if any. I mange to get 2000-4000 words published every 24 hours, working in short bursts while I try to earn a living, run a business, do research and be as good a father and husband as I can be. I have no editors, no researchers (except generous volunteers) and my blog is not a “paper of record” for journalists, seen by millions and paid for by subscribers. Is it really fair to hold Ethics Alarms to the same standards as David Brooks and the New York Times?

Make no mistake: my own standards are that no typo, no misstated fact, no misleading argument, are acceptable on an ethics blog, or any blog, or anything published on the web. Charles was right: using an unproven accusation of long-standing (Until Charles flagged it, I thought the bootlegging charge was a matter of public record) undermines my case against Brooks. Nonetheless, Brooks has absolutely no excuse. This is all he does, he has all week to produce a column or two, and he has a staff.

I’ve also corrected my error within hours of making it. What are the chances that Brooks and the Times will ever admit that they intentionally impugned the character of Fred Trump using rumors and innuendo as part of their ongoing effort to demonize the President of the United States?

My guess: Zero.

2. The big story this morning appears to be O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing. Will he be paroled and released after serving just nine years of the three-decade sentence he received for his participation in a burglary? Assuming that it is true that O.J., now 70 and unlikely to stab any more ex-wives and innocent bystanders to death, has been a model prisoner, yes, that would be the ethical result. O.J. got away with a double murder—he will not be asked at the hearing, “Once you’re out, can we assume that you’ll renew your relentless hunt for the real killer?”—but he wasn’t put in prison for that crime. Officially, he’s innocent. His fellow burglars were all put on probation, while the judge threw the book at the former football star, presumably to exact a measure of societal revenge for Nicole and Ron. The sentence was unethical. I don’t feel sorry for O.J. at all; I’m glad he had to serve hard time, just as I would have been happy if he had been squashed by a meteor. Justice, however, demands that he go free.

The bastard. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Round-Up: 7/5/17

Good morning!

1. I’ve always had ethical problems with parole hearings, and thanks to a link sent by Ethics Scout Fred, I really have ethics problems with parole hearings. This story, from New Hampshire public radio, portrays an unprofessional and chaotic process in which parole boards, made up of officials without training or guidelines, insult, bully and deride prisoners to get the answers they want. A sample:

“While they may review cases beforehand, the parole board has only about 15 minutes to speak with people convicted of charges including sex offenses, drug crimes, and domestic violence before deciding if they can live safely outside prison walls. Members receive no training and appointment requires no prerequisite experience. Most of the time, inmates who meet minimum requirements are granted parole.”

Great.

2. Crime naturally makes me think of Chicago, where, it is reported, the wise city managers, led by Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) are installing a system that requires public high school students to show that they have plans for the future before obtaining their diploma. In order to graduate, students will  have to demonstrate that they’ve secured a job or received a letter of acceptance to college, a trade apprenticeship, a gap year program or the military The Washington Post reports. Emanuel’s plan, approved by the Board of Education in late May, makes Chicago’s the first big-city system to make post-graduation plans a requirement.

“We are going to help kids have a plan, because they’re going to need it to succeed,” Emanuel told the Post. “You cannot have kids think that 12th grade is done.”

Oh, why don’t we just enlist the kids in the Social Justice Youth Corps, give them uniforms and some good progressive indoctrination, and be done with it? This is such an egregious abuse of power and autonomy, as well as parental authority, that the fact that it got a single vote indicates that the culture’s values are coming apart. I’m going to list five things that are unethical about this plan, and invite readers to some up with the doubtlessly large number of others that I missed because its early and the shock of this story fried half of mu brain:

It’s dishonest grandstanding. How are they going to enforce the “plan”? Will Chicago’s Plan Police keep tabs on graduates? Will students who don’t follow the plan be captured and thrown back into high school?

  • It is unfair, coercive. unconscionably narrow. What if a student’s plan is to continue her education by taking a year off and touring the world? What if the student plans on training for the Olympics, or a bodybuilding championship?

What if she wants to go to New York City and audition for shows?

  • The measure demonstrates myopic disregard for the original, the eccentric, the creative, the  bold, the dreamer, the non-conformist and the individualist

But then individualists make poor sheep, right?

  • It is totalitarian. It is none of the government’s business what a student chooses to do after graduation, or when that student decides to it. Here was my plan, fully backed by my parents: spend as much time figuring out what I want to do with my life as it took.

I’m still figuring.

  • It is arrogant. It is disrespectful. It is presumptuous. It is an invasion of parental authority. It is probably unconstitutional. It is wrong.

ARRRRRRRGHHHHHHH!!! Continue reading

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How About This Solution: Let’s Move Northwestern University To Portland, Ore, Then Let’s Move Portland Out Of The U.S.

Ethics Dunce doesn’t do justice to Portland’s Mayor Ted Wheeler, nor his city’s residents for electing a First Amendment opponent to lead them. Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month comes closer, but describing mayors who refuse to acknowledge the rights of free speech and freedom of assembly as merely incompetent isn’t strong enough either. They are living

Wheeler (Guess his party!)  has asked federal authorities to cancel two upcoming rallies organized by conservative groups in the wake of the recent incident in which two passengers were fatally stabbed on a commuter train last week after confronting a man shouting anti-Muslim slurs. He wants the feds to revoke the permit for a June 4 “Trump Free Speech Rally” in downtown Portland as well as to refuse the requested  permit for a “March Against Sharia” scheduled for June 10.Wrote the mayor on Facebook yesterday,

“Our city is in mourning, our community’s anger is real, and the timing and subject of these events can only exacerbate an already difficult situation…I urge [the events’ organizers] to ask their supporters to stay away from Portland. There is never a place for bigotry or hatred in our community, and especially not now.”

The ingenuity of anti-speech progressives is impressive, but there is no “city in mourning-anger-timing’ exception to the First Amendment. Citizens of the United States, yes, even in Portland, have a right to make statements that the Anointed Arbiters Of What Is Politically Acceptable—you know, like Wheeler—don’t agree with, even if the AAOWIPAs try the neat trick of calling such  statements “bigotry” and “hatred”, or “hate speech,”  which they continue to claim, in a classic use of the Big Lie method, isn’t protected by the Constitution. It is protected.  As the ACLU of  Oregon said in ringing rebuttal to Wheeler,

“The government cannot revoke or deny a permit based on the viewpoint of the demonstrators. Period. It may be tempting to shut down speech we disagree with, but once we allow the government to decide what we can say, see, or hear, or who we can gather with history shows us that the most marginalized will be disproportionately censored and punished for unpopular speech.”

Oh no, you misunderstand my pure motives! the Mayor protesteth through his office. It is only violence we seek to avoid!

This is another popular anti-speech trick. If leftist thugs threaten violence against non-leftist speech, that’s an excuse to muzzle the non-leftists—Milo, Coulter, Charles Murray, Richard Spencer. As  Reason’s Scott Shackford puts it: Continue reading

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Indoctrination And Intimidation At The University Of Arizona: Who Will Say, “So What’s The Matter With That?”

I feel the same way, Lucy…

There is a dumb joke in an old “I Love Lucy” episode that this story brings to mind.

Lucy is outraged when she reads that there is am all- filly race at the local race track and misunderstands. Horrified, she erupts, “How long  has this been going on? They’re racing little girls at Churchill Downs!” Ricky promptly explains why she was being an alarmist.

I hope that somehow the news item’s reporter got the facts wrong or I am missing something, because this story is far worse than racing little girls, and nowhere near as funny.

The University of Arizona is accepting student applications for what administrators call “social justice advocates.” The job requires the students to “report any bias incidents or claims to appropriate Residence Life staff,” and pays the student workers $10 an hour. They’re expected to work 15 hours a week, earning $600 a month in taxpayer funds—this is a public university—to police their fellow students speech and conduct.

Part of the job description reads:

“The position also aims to increase understanding of one’s own self through critical reflection of power and privilege, identity and intersectionality, systems of socialization, cultural competency and allyship as they pertain to the acknowledgement, understanding and acceptance of differences. Finally, this position intends to increase a student staff member’s ability to openly lead conversations, discuss differences and confront diversely insensitive behavior.”

Their #1 job, however, is to report “bias claims” so the student miscreant involved can face a Star Chamber, or the university equivalent. Such a claim can be what someone regards as  an outright act of “racism,’ which presumably could include anything from using a racial epithet to saying Maxine Waters is an idiot,  to  “microaggressions” like “cultural misappropriation,” or calling a transgender student by the wrong pronoun. The social justice advocate’s job will also include “fostering dialogue” related to “diversity, multiculturalism and social justice”—in other words, to be a full time left-wing scold— and  to “increase  awareness of diverse identities” while “promoting inclusive communities.”

I wonder if being stuffed in a closet or hung on a hook will be considered a “biased incident” by these paid political correctness snitches? That is, after all, what would happen to them on a healthy campus. Will they have little badges and whistles? I think they should get badges and whistles. Or get a uniform like Rolf at the climax of “The Sound of Music.”

They’re racing little girls at Churchill Downs! Continue reading

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