Celebrate July 2

July 2, 2020
On July 2, 1776, the 2nd Continental Congress Formerly Adopts ...

Before we get to July 4, we should commemorate an equally (or maybe more) important anniversary–that of the events in Philadelphia on July 2, 1776, as well as the events of July 2 four score and seven years later at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

You should know about momentous July Seconds. Let my ethics friend Jack Marshall refresh your memory at https://ethicsalarms.com/2020/07/02/morning-ethics-warm-up-7-2-2020-part-i-its-know-your-american-history-day/comment-page-1/#comment-696355. And try to ignore his knock against Dems who don’t condemn quickly enough or strongly enough the far leftists who denigrate our history.

What to do on July 4 and 5

June 30, 2020

For 90 years the New York Times has published a full-page facsimile of the original Declaration of Independence every fourth of July. I always considered it a rite of Americanism to read it, and I read it every July 4. I used to read the Times’s facsimile of the original, on paper; now I read it here: Here’s the Times’s reprint. It reminds me what America stands for, and however imperfect he was, what Jefferson’s vision of America is–today as in 1776.

But not every American’s vision. My friend, Michael Schroeder, history professor at Lebanon (Penna.) Valley College, taught me that I should read something else the next day, July 5. It’s Frederic Douglas’s speech, What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? It’s painful to read, but I think every American should read it.

It’s a part of our National heritage along with the Declaration of Independence and the Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Every American should read each, over and over. I recommend reading the Declaration every July 4; the Douglas speech every July 5 (he gave if July 5, 1852–thirteen years before Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves of the Confederacy). And read King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail every Martin Luther King Day.

Statues, Black lives matter, mobs, and patriotism

June 26, 2020
It wasn't a mistake to pull down the statue of Ulysses S Grant ...

It often gets my blood flowing, and my mind thinking, when I read opinions and analyses I disagree with. Often I disagree with my friend Jack Marshall, whose blog, EthicsAlarms.com, I’ve learned a lot from.

I eagerly look for columns of his where I could say, “Perfect. I wouldn’t change a word.” His piece today about mobs, statues, Black lives matter, and patriotism comes pretty close. If you’re a liberal like me look it over here.

It won’t hurt you.

Like Jack, I’m against all mob actions, in fact against all mobs, period. But two reservations about this column:

1. I believe “Black lives matter” is a slogan, value, cause, movement. To me it’s a reminder that in our society black lives are often, by some people, some government officials, treated as not mattering as much as white. So I’m happy to give people who write, talk, or march peaceably in protest, my ear. I believe, however, the movement is often invaded by criminals and anarchists, and the unorganized movement has no organized way to stop them. But this doesn’t invalidate the cause.

2. I abhor all mobs, and to the point, all the tearing down of statues. I also agree about the historical value of many statues (Grant, Key, etc). I do know, however, that some statues are (small?) humiliations to many people. Think about a Black in Nashville having to walk by a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest twice a day.

What to do? It’s not up to any mob, not even to BLM believers. In our still-democratic system it’s up to the local authorities. I hope they follow the example set by the Memphis City council, who voted three years ago to remove their Bedford statue.

Death Toll from the Tulsa Rally

June 19, 2020

Anyone attempting to spread COVID-19 intentionally may face ...

How many deaths will result from the Trump rally in Tulsa? The formula is simple:

(# of attendees in arena plus overflow) x (Fraction of attendees already infected) x (Average transmission rate) x (mortality rate of Covid-19) = deaths

Let’s call (# of attendees in arena plus overflow) = N

(Fraction of attendees already infected) = F

(Average transmission rate) = R

(mortality rate of Covid-19) = M

So, Deaths = N x F x R x M

Nobody can dispute this equation; it’s true by definition. The uncertainty is what values to assign to the variables N, F, R, and M.

Here are my guesses:

N = 30,000 (19,000 in arena plus 11,000 outside and in the overflow area Read the rest of this entry »

The NEW Purpose of a Corporation

August 24, 2019

Image result for business roundtable

Shareholder Value Is No Longer Everything, Top C.E.O.s Say,” read the headline on the New York Times business page.  Most readers probably just skimmed by, without taking much notice. It reminded me of the long-ago Times of London contest – to see who could write the dullest headline. The winner was, “Small Earthquake in Chile. Not many dead.”

But dull headline aside, this is undoubtedly the big economic news of the year. It will—gradually—change the way business operates. The Times’s “Top C.E.O.s” make up the Business Roundtable, comprising the heads of America’s leading companies. It’s the most powerful and prestigious group of business leaders in America. For decades its statement of corporate principles held that corporations exist principally to serve shareholders.

Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and the guru of corporate America, put it this way, in a 1970 article that formed the bedrock of every argument about corporate purpose,

“There is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it … engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.”

Friedman’s dictum has for decades loomed over every business conversation about what the corporation owed society. Purists said, “Friedman says profits first and only.” Discussions of worker benefits, charity, environmentalism, relations with suppliers, all were overshadowed by Friedman.

No longer, according to America’s top business leaders. They announce that the corporation purpose has changed from serving shareholders to serving stakeholders, that is, customers, suppliers, workers, and communities, as well as shareholders.

Do they mean it? Undoubtedly they are influenced by the current anti-business rhetoric and animus showed by today’s talking heads and Democratic Presidential candidates. Read the rest of this entry »

To Impeach or not to Impeach?

April 22, 2019


Tearing the Constitution.jpeg

I’ve not been a fan of impeaching the President. While I want Trump to leave office, I’ve bought into the conventional wisdom that impeachment is a dead end because there’s no chance of getting roughly one-third of the Republicans in the Senate to vote to convict. And an impeachment that failed to convict will appear to the public like just another political battle, and what’s new?

Absent impeachment, I think the Democrats have a much better than even chance of defeating Trump next year in next year’s election. If they impeach him and the Senate votes to acquit, I think their chances of winning the election are diminished. That’s why until now Speaker Pelosi and many others have opposed any efforts to impeach.

But the Mueller report challenges this view. While many Democrats in the House of Representatives act as if they were sent to Washington to facilitate the election of a Democratic president, that’s not what they took an oath to do. It was to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”

The President also swore an oath: to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and … to the best of [his] ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”.

The Mueller report shows the president has done two things that violate his oath and challenge the members of Congress to remove him:

  • He has repeatedly interfered with, and attempted to stop, the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and
  • He has repeatedly—and criminally— obstructed justice.

Rather than defending the Constitution against Russian subversion, he has undermined it. And in criminally obstructing justice he has placed himself above the law.

The Constitution gives the House of Representatives the power to impeach, and gives the Senate the power, upon impeachment, to remove the President from office. Members of both Houses of Congress took oaths to preserve our constitutional government. Regardless of the political calculations, the Congress has an ethical duty to pursue impeachment, wherever it might lead.


From The Ethics Alarms Lost Files: The Ballet Dancer, The Man On The Tracks, And The Duty To Rescue

September 29, 2017

I don’t usually copy other people’s columns, but I couldn’t resist copying this one from my friend Jack Marshall’s EthicsAlarms.com.


[This story is several months old, but I missed it.  Luckily my friend, long-time Ethics Alarms reader and commenter Ethics Bob did not, and sent it to me. Then I missed his e-mail. Until today.]

Ethics Alarms often writes about the duty to rescue, but has also often discussed the reasonable limitations on that duty. You are ethically required to do what you can to prevent a tragedy if you have the power to do so, and instant presence of mind to do so. There is no ethical duty to act like Batman, unless, of course, you are Batman.

Gray Davis is Batman.

Well, that’s not quite right.

Let’s call him “Ballet Man,”

In June, a 58-year-old homeless man fell or was pushed onto the subway tracks at the 72nd Street Broadway-Seventh Avenue station in Manhattan. People began screaming and shouting for someone to help. Davis, 31, told reporters that “At first I waited for somebody else to jump down there…. But nobody jumped down. So I jumped down.” Actually he leaped down. Davis is a ballet  dancer with the American Ballet Theater. He had not performed that night, a Saturday, because he was recovering from a herniated disk. He had just watched his wife, soloist Cassandra Trenary, dance in both the matinee and the evening performances of “The Golden Cockerel.”

After Gray’s graceful assemblé from the platform onto the tracks, he lifted up the man, following a temps leve, although the carry itself was not standard and had several technical flaws by ABT standards, forgivable because ballerinas are not typically dead weight, and unconscious homeless men are not typically ballerinas. Gray deposited his temporary partner on the platform, where he was immediately attended to by others.

Then the dancer heard a train in the distance, and for the first time realized how high it was to the platform from the tracks. “Luckily, I’m a ballet dancer,” he said. Luckily for everyone. Lifting his let up over his head is a breeze.

Ballet dancers are much-maligned, and increasingly unappreciated as artists despite the fact that they are among the most skilled athletes in the world. Batman would have to have ballet training; Daredevil too. Unfortunately, they aren’t real. Graey Davis, Ballet Man, is real, and when a life was at stake and everyone else was calling for someone else to he a hero, he was one, because he knew he had the skills to pull it off.



NFL Protests and the First Amendment

September 25, 2017

Kaepernick kneeling

We’re up to our hips in hogwash about the First Amendment rights of protesting NFL players. They have no such rights. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution doesn’t apply to football. It applies ONLY to Congress, and by legal extension, to all lawmaking bodies in the United States.

Here’s what it says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

So the owners are not prevented from firing players by the First Amendment. Arguably, they are as free to fire a player for taking a knee for the National Anthem as Google, for instance was free to fire James Damore for taking public exception to Google’s diversity efforts. And for the same reason: damaging the employer.

Not to say firing a player would be good business. Players have a way of sticking up for each other, whatever their color or politics. So even if an owner disagreed strongly with the protests, they’d be unwise to fire the protester.

Protesting by display against the National Anthem raises questions of ethics and comity, but don’t bring the First Amendment into it.

Ethics Beyond the Obvious at Charlottesville

August 19, 2017

Christopher Cantwell supremacist.jpg

In 3rd grade, or maybe it was 7th, Miss Finestein made me write on the blackboard 50 times “I will not pull Joanne’s hair.” I think that was overkill. Making an example of me in front of the class and perhaps making me write it three or four times would have been enough. After that it just made me hate Miss Finestein.

So too with President Trump. We get it. Trump committed an ethical monstrosity when he equated pro-Nazis with anti-Nazis, and when he said that there were “very fine people” marching in Charlottesville alongside those carrying torches and Nazi and Confederate battle flags, and chanting “Jews won’t replace us.”

Trump was wrong wrong wrong. That’s an easy call, and anyone in public life who doesn’t make it is also committing an ethics disgrace. But let’s move on.

Some of the protesters came equipped with helmets, shields, baseball bats, and pepper spray. And used them, as shown in the photo. From the L.A. Times:

University of Virginia student Isabella Ciambotti: “I was on Market Street around 11:30 a.m. when a counter-protester ripped a newspaper stand off the sidewalk and threw it at alt-right protesters. I saw another man from the white supremacist crowd being chased and beaten. People were hitting him with their signs. A much older man, also with the alt-right group, got pushed to the ground in the commotion. Someone raised a stick over his head and beat the man with it, and that’s when I screamed and ran over with several other strangers to help him to his feet.” Read the rest of this entry »

Tear Down the Statues

August 17, 2017


I like history. I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, where the main square of the city, Rodney Square, was dominated by the equestrian statue of Caesar Rodney above), who rode seventy miles through a thunderstorm from Dover to Philadelphia on the night of July 1-2, 1776, to cast Delaware’s vote for Independence. I read Hamilton before it was cool. I still stop along country roads to read historical markers.

So I like statues and monuments that remind us of history. Even unpleasant history. I admire the German decision to preserve the remnants of Gestapo headquarters in Berlin, with plaques describing the horrors perpetrated by the Gestapo. And the preservation of the concentration camp of Dachau, just as it was in the 1930s and 1940s.

I didn’t like the current movement to remove statues of Confederate generals, even the one of the slave trader/Ku Klux Klan founder, Nathaniel Bedford Forrest. I thought these statues were just history, although some of them were erected in the 1960s, as a sort of f-you response to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The trouble with the statues as history is that, to many African-Americans, and to a not-insignificant number of whites, they’ve come to idealize the “good old days” of white supremacy. So when the statues cease to represent history it’s time for them to come down.