Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/22/2020: Death, Ethics, And Rationalizations

I just learned that my sweet, kind cousin Kathy has died as the result of several recently discovered brain tumors. I hadn’t seen her for decades, so in my mind she’s still 35, vibrant  and beautiful. I have to come to terms with the fact that we had no relationship at this point, but her loss still stings. She lived alone after her marriage with a real creep fell apart; never had children. Like all of the Coulourises (my mother’s side), family was so important to her. I could have picked up the phone.

1. I suppose today’s anniversary of Lincoln signing the  Emancipation Proclamationin 1862 has to be noted, but it was a strategic act, not an especially ethical one. After all, it exempted slaves in the border states, which allowed slavery  but had not joined the Confederacy. After the Union’s sort-of  victory at the Battle of Antietam earlier in the month,  Lincoln announced that enslaved people in areas still in rebellion within 100 days would be free. Then, on January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation, which declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebel states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”  Note that it freed no slaves that he had the power to free, but the maneuver successfully made the Civil War about human rights. Anti-slavery nations like Great Britain and France, which the Confederacy desperately wanted as allies,  couldn’t back the Confederacy after Lincoln made the war explicitly a statement against slavery.

2. Does Mitt Romney have any core principles at all?  If he does, I don’t know what they are. It has always been clear—I hope— that he is a pure pragmatist, doing whatever he thinks will work at any given time. Non-ideologues often make effective leaders: FDR was one. Lincoln too. Romney would hate this, but Donald Trump is like Romney in that regard. (So are Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.). Over in the Facebook hive, the Deranged are gnashing their teeth over Romney’s announcement that he’ll vote for a qualified nominee for SCOTUS. I guess they thought that he would be like John McCain, and be governed by spite. Sure, Romney voted for impeachment because it was meaningless except to give the President a poke in the eye. He is still a Senator from Utah, however. he’s not going to torpedo an effort to solidify a conservative majority on SCOTUS.

If he were a Senator representing Massachusetts, it would be a different tale.

3. Black Lives Matter quietly deleted the “what we believe” page on its website. You know, that was where the group said its mission is to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure,” to “dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work ‘double shifts’ so that they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work,” as well as “foster a queer-affirming network” by “freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual.” Maybe they were afraid all of those corporations, sports teams and politicians proclaiming their support might finally decide to read about what they were endorsing. Continue reading

The Definitive Reason Why The Parkland Shooting Freak-Out Is Cynical, Dishonest Fear-mongering, And Why We Should Not Tolerate It Any Further

David Ropeik, who teaches at Harvard and who is a risk assessment expert, finally wrote the article I’ve been waiting for…and it was published almost a month after the Parkland shooting, following almost a month of the ignorant and arrogant grandstanding  by the high school students who have been used as virtual human shields by the anti-gun lobby, almost a month after the news media and expedient politicians, including the President, began pandering to grief and ignorance while going out of their way to make the public believe that school shootings are a national crisis.

I’m glad that some sunlight of reality made it through the human-made fog, but it is unconscionable that it took this long, Now let’s see how thoroughly the news media, a full partner with the ban-gun effort, will bury it.

Before I start, however, let me salute the Washington Post. I have not read a Post Sunday Outlook section since switching over to the Times—a better paper but far, far more partisan and biased than its only close competitor—and it was stunning to be reminded what a Sunday news commentary supplement looked like that didn’t feature hysterical Trump -bashing in 75%-90% of its articles. Not only that, the Post had the courage to challenge the conventional, and false, wisdom about school shootings being actively promoted by the Times and the rest of the mainstream media.

Among the points made by Ropeik in his essay, “School shootings are extraordinarily rare. Why is fear of them driving policy?”:

  • “The Education Department reports that  roughly 50 million children attend public schools for roughly 180 days per year. Since Columbine (1999), approximately 200 public school students have been shot to death while school was in session, including the recent slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. (and a shooting in Birmingham, Ala., on Wednesday that police called accidental that left one student dead). That means the statistical likelihood of any given public school student being killed by a gun, in school, on any given day since 1999 was roughly 1 in 614,000,000.”

This is not a great risk. This is not even a significant risk. To say, as the Kiddie Corps has been telling us, that this risk is “unacceptable” can only mean that the official, anti-gun position is that no risk is acceptable. Surely no one is going to argue that a 1 in 614,000,000 chance of being killed in another Parkland or Newtown is unconscionable, but a one in 1, 228,000,000 chance is just fine. And how do we reach no risk? We spend incredible amounts of money, trash our national liberties, send kids to lightless, joyless iron boxes…and there will still be a risk

  • “[S]ince the 1990s, shootings at schools have been getting less common.”

What? What about all those statistics that claim the opposite? They are advocacy statistics, spun and manipulated.  Cheating, in other words. Ropeik is hardly an NRA shill: it’s clear that he is venturing to make these observations while aware that he is risking his progressive bona fides, and thus his invitations to Cambridge cocktail parties. He writes for example,

The problem with all of this is what our excessive fears could lead to. Having more guns in schools, as President Trump advocates — or more guns anywhere — increases the likelihood of gun violence. …The Parkland tragedy itself teaches that more guns don’t automatically mean more safety: The school was patrolled by an armed guard.

The studies claiming that more guns lead to more gun violence are all based on cross-cultural, international comparisons, which many believe (as do I) pollute the findings. Do more guns in the US lead to more gun violence? Reiko himself  cited a stat that suggests otherwise: there are more guns in the U.S. now than before Columbine, and a decline in the frequency of shootings at schools. As for the armed guard, citing a professional with a gun who doesn’t do his job tells us nothing about guns, just that it is who is holding it that matters—which is what the NRA has been saying since I was knee-high to a chipmunk.

More from Ropeik: Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month: Simon Radecki

“You probably haven’t seen the news. Can you confirm whether or not your daughter Bridget has been kidnapped?”

–Pennsylvanian Simon Radecki of Northampton County, asking Senator Pat Toomey a question at a public town hall relating to the President’s decision to suspend the DACA.

It’s seldom one sees a deliberate breach of question and answer ethics from a member of the public (journalists breach these all the time, but they also are held to higher standards).Radecki’s question to the Senator qualifies, and is about as odious as the breed gets.

To begin with, the question was framed as a lie, suggesting that there was any report to confirm. It was also vicious, an intentional infliction of emotional distress (a tort), a plausible threat, and a direct Golden Rule breach. Nobody would want to have someone falsely report that his daughter was the victim of a crime or in mortal danger, yet this is exactly what Radecki did to Toomey. To add to the question’s unethical pedigree, Radecki dragged Toomey’s innocent 16-year-old daughter ( Ivanka Trump-hate  notwithstanding, being the child of a Republican is not yet a crime)  into a political controversy, exploiting her and employing her as a tool of partisan attack.

Nice. Continue reading