Tag Archives: ethics

No, I’m Not Going To Write About Ethics And #Gamergate

Whatever.

Whatever.

I keep getting emails asking when I’m going to discuss Gamergate on Ethics Alarms. Several readers have sent me extensive links to bring me up to date. I’ve read them, or at least tried. Not since I was assigned the tome Peace and War by Raymond Aron has any text bored me more.

Gamergate appears to have all the markers of an ethics train wreck, but to me, at least, the train might as well be in Mongolia. I can’t contribute anything of value on this topic, because gaming is not part of my life, skill-set or interests in any way. This is a culture I don’t understand, and frankly, don’t have the time or interest to understand. I make a yeoman effort to keep up with popular culture, because I think once it gets too far ahead of you, your ability to understand the world around you is severely limited. But triage is essential. Just a few years ago, I knew who all the celebrity contestants on “Dancing With The Stars” were; this year, I never heard of half of them. More than half the stories on TMZ lately are about “celebrities” that are completely off my radar screen. I am confident, however, that in about six months, most of these stealth celebrities will be where Snookie and “The Situation” are now, which is obscurity, has-been Hell, or maybe jail.

There are ethics lessons to glean from this endless gamer scandal, but Ethics Alarms will just have to glean them elsewhere. For those who feel neglected, I highly recommend the recent post by Ken at Popehat, along with his links. It hits most of the salient ethics issues, and Ken, I gather, follows this stuff, as do his Popehat colleagues. My hat’s off to him, and them. But #Gamergate is one ethics controversy that I am not qualified to explore, and don’t want to be.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Popular Culture, The Internet

Ethics Alarms Encore: “Tom Yawkey’s Red Sox Racism, and How Not to Prove It”

Yawkey TributeEvery now and then a comment out of the blue reminds me of a post that I had forgotten. That was the case here. Reading it again for the first time in five years, I was struck by how the crux of the post is still relevant today (that crux has nothing to do with baseball), and indeed how the intervening five years have made what I thought was a bad trend a genuine political and cultural malady.

And the World Series is going on, and I feel badly about the Red Sox having such a miserable season. This post, which few read when it was first published as the blog was attracting (let’s see…) less than 200 views a day as opposed to nearly 4000 a day now, is a good one, and I enjoyed it.  That “self-professed ethicist” has his moments…. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Workplace, Sports, Journalism & Media, History, Race, Character

Pop Song Ethics Flashback: “Why Do They Always Say “No?” by Lawrence Cook and The Jim Dandies

It probably isn’t the winner in the Ethics Alarms quest to identify the most unethical pop songs, but the 1949 ditty “Why Do They Always Say No?” is one of the most instructive nominations. The fascinating and essential feature of ethics is that our understanding of right and wrong evolves, changing and advancing with wisdom, cultural debate and reflection. This song is a tuneful reminder, arriving at our attention just as the culture, especially on campus, is struggling over exactly the dilemma the song celebrated. In 1949, however, literally no one thought about romantic or sexual gamesmanship as an ethical issue, or at least not a momentous one.

Have a listen (It’s on the B side of the record pictured, and starts playing at the halfway mark):

The lyrics are credited to Harry Pease, Frank Davis, Ed G. Nelson and Billy Glason. Only the latter has much of a footprint on Google, and none of them rate a Wikipedia entry. I doubt that it took four guys to write this song: It’s not exactly “A Day in the Life.” Glason (b. 1904) was probably the author. He shows up in the Encyclopedia of Vaudeville as a “singing comedian,” known for devising new punchlines for ancient  jokes, such as

Q: “Who was that lady I saw you with last night at that sidewalk cafe?”

A: “That was no sidewalk cafe! That was our furniture!”

Pease, Davis, and Nelson were all musicians, though it’s also hard to imagine that the elemental tune required three collaborators. The lyrics are more disturbing read than heard:

Why do they always say no
When they know they mean yes all the time
You ask a girlie for a kiss or two
She’ll let you know that’s something I don’t do
How can they tell such a lie
And still look you straight in the eye
Whenever they say no to you go right ahead
Cause it’s 10 to 1 that they mean yes instead
Oh, why do they always say no
When you know they mean yes all the time

Why do they always say no
When you know they mean yes all the time
You start to love them and they pout and fret
Down in their hearts they want all they can get
What keeps them acting that way
They don’t mean a word that they say
A girl that said she’d never marry me
She’s the mother of my happy family
Why do they always say no
You know they mean yes all the time

Why do they always say no
When you know they mean yes all the time
You ask your girlie for a kiss or two
She’s lets you know that’s something I don’t do
How can they tell such a lie
And still look you straight in the eye
Whenever they say no to you go right ahead
Cause it’s 10 to 1 that they mean yes instead
Oh, why do they always say no
When you know they mean yes all the time

You know they mean yes all the time.

“You know they mean yes all the time.”

Sure you do.

_________________________

Special thanks to my volunteer scout Fred, whose wife found this piece of musical ethics archeology.

 

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Popular Culture, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

Pop Song Ethics, Part II (The Dark Side)

We are coming up on the anniversary of my post asking for nominations for the most ethical pop songs from past decades. Both here and in my office mail box, I received excellent suggestion—so many, that I have not been able to find the time to finish the project. However, I am determined to have the final list ready by the anniversary date, November 14, 2014.

So there is still time to get your nominations in. Meanwhile, as I was driving home from a Virginia Beach ethics seminar and keeping myself occupied during the three hour drive with the Sirius-XM 50s-60’s-70’s and 80’s stations, I heard this song, by Leslie Gore, from 1964:

With the domestic abuser ethics issue still percolating in my fevered brain, it occurred to me, as it had not before, what a vile message the song sent to teenaged girls. “What else can” Leslie do about her abusive boyfriend? Dump him, that’s what. I wonder if Janay Rice knows this song.

Or sang it. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Love, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

A Proposed Enforceable Campaign Pledge To Reject Corruption

OathRichard Painter is a distinguished, ethics-savvy attorney of a progressive bent who teaches legal ethics and who is a frequent contributor to the Legal Ethics Forum. He has formulated a legally enforceable candidate’s pledge requiring a member of Congress, once elected,not to accept campaign contributions except from natural persons residing in a congressional district and a promise, after leaving Congress, not to accept a lobbyist job that would entail lobbying former colleagues in the Capitol.

Painter was inspired to do so, he says, when contacted former student  who is managing the John Denney for Congress Campaign in Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District.  Denny wants to take such a pledge, and Painter obliged with the document below.

What do you think? Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics

“Borderism” And The Ethics Of Circulating Stupid Ideas

"Certainly sir! We'd be honored to publish your opinion piece in the Washington Post! We welcome new ideas, whatever they may be!"

“Certainly sir! We’d be honored to publish your opinion piece in the Washington Post! We welcome new ideas, whatever they may be!”

For some reason I’m not certain I’d be happy to discover, some editor at the Washington Post thinks what our world needs at this disturbing moment in time is a new form of injustice to address, one that most of us never considered an injustice at all. Thus that helpful editor decided to give a megaphone to someone named , whom, we are told, is chief information officer of an NGO in Guatemala that promotes local governance in developing countries. This is itself interesting, because it provides a hint regarding why it is that developing countries have such a hard time developing. For Mr. , by the evidence of his opinion piece, deemed worthy of publication in a prestigious newspaper, is bats.

Essentially, his essay “Losing the Birth Lottery” asserts that life is unfair, so the only ethical thing to do is to make life chaotic and unfair. feels that it’s really, really mean that the United States doesn’t guarantee the same rights of U.S. citizens to every human being on earth, and insists that its refusing to do so is the moral equivalent of racism. He helpfully suggests the term “borderism” as the name for this heinous attitude, and writes:

“One could certainly argue that racial discrimination is worse than borderism because it excludes people from opportunities within their own countries. But how much worse? Many aspiring immigrants are born into nations where jobs are nonexistent, corruption is rife and indiscriminate violence plagues daily life. Being legally segregated into poverty and tyranny because of one’s ancestry is a cruel fate, regardless whether it’s because of race or citizenship.”

Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Matt Williams’ Blues: Consequentialism, Hindsight Bias, And Moral Luck

zimmermann

As I wrote last year about this time, the baseball play-offs make us unethical. Managers make decisions that either work or back-fire, and feed the toxic human tendency toward  consequentialism thusly: when they work, the decisions werecorrect; when they don’t, the manager was an idiot, and the choicee were obviously wrong. As with judging the ethics of an act, what happens after a baseball decision is made is irrelevant to whether it was a good decision when it was made.  This is almost impossible to keep firmly in mind. Our logic rebels at the idea that an ethical act can have horrendous consequences, or that the right tactical decision can result in defeat. But that’s life, as my father was fond of saying.

Hindsight bias further pushes us to confuse the making of a decision with its consequences. It is, not surprisingly, much easier to make a strong case that a decision was the wrong one after all the results are in. This, of course, is unfair to the decision-maker, who didn’t have the data the critics do when he or she acted. On the other hand, sometimes the reason the decision was the wrong one is that it was wrong, and the fact that the results were bad just support that verdict.

This morning, indeed since last night, Washington D.C. baseball fans and sportswriters have been wrestling this conundrum. The Washington Nationals, widely believed to be the strongest National League team in the post season, and quite possibly the favorites to win the World Series, find themselves down 0-2 in the best of five National League Division Series after a grueling, 18 inning loss to the San Francisco Giants, who didn’t even win their own division. The way the game went into extra innings will be debated for months if the Nats fail to rally and win the series. Nats starting pitcher Justin Zimmermann, who had pitched a no-hitter in his last outing, had been almost as good this time, pitching his team within one out of a 1-0 win that would have evened the series. He had dominated Giants hitters in every way, and had not shown any signs of weakening or, as they say in the game, “losing his stuff.” In the old days, that is, as recently as 20 years ago, a pitcher on a run like this would finish the game unless he had a stroke on the mound. Now, MLB managers are trained to be ready to go to their ninth inning specialist, the so-called closer, at any hint of trouble or even without it, and they almost always do.

As a reflex action, it makes no sense a lot of the time, other than “everybody does it.” A pitcher whom you know is pitching well is a known quantity, while a pitcher newly arrived to the game, whatever his skills, is not.  If the choice is between a starter who is not just doing OK but rather mowing down batters like Samson jaw-boning the Philistines, and bringing in a new arm, logic would dictate that the latter is the greater risk.

Nats manager Matt Williams acknowledged that Zimmerman was “in the zone” by not lifting him to begin the ninth, and was rewarded with two quick outs. When he walked his first batter of the game, however, on his magic 100th pitch (they count pitches now, and 100 is the number at which pitchers supposedly turn into pumpkins), and Williams lifted him, calling on closer Drew Storen. Continue reading

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Filed under Daily Life, Journalism & Media, Sports