“Is It Possible To Address A Race-Related Problem Without Being Attacked As Racist?” And Other Reflections On The Holiday Mall Brawls

mall-violence

On the City Journal website, Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute writes in part,

Judging by video evidence, the participants in the violent mall brawls over the Christmas weekend were overwhelmingly black teens, though white teens were also involved. The media have assiduously ignored this fact, of course, as they have for previous violent flash mob episodes. That disproportion has significance for the next administration’s school-discipline policies, however. If Donald Trump wants to make schools safe again, he must rescind the Obama administration’s diktats regarding classroom discipline, which are based on a fantasy version of reality that is having serious real-world consequences.

The Obama Justice and Education Departments have strong-armed schools across the country to all but eliminate the suspension and expulsion of insubordinate students. The reason? Because black students are disciplined at higher rates than whites. According to Washington bureaucrats, such disproportionate suspensions can mean only one thing: teachers and administrators are racist. The Obama administration rejects the proposition that black students are more likely to assault teachers or fight with other students in class. The so-called “school to prison” pipeline is a function of bias, not of behavior, they say.

This week’s mall violence, which injured several police and security officers, is just the latest piece of evidence for how counterfactual that credo is.  A routine complaint in police-community meetings in minority areas is that large groups of teens are fighting on corners…The idea that such street behavior does not have a classroom counterpart is ludicrous. Black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at ten times the rate of white and Hispanic males of the same age. The lack of socialization that produces such a vast disparity in murder rates, as well as less lethal street violence, inevitably will show up in classroom behavior….School officials in urban areas across the country set up security corridors manned by police officers at school dismissal times to avoid gang shootings. And yet, the Obama administration would have us believe that in the classroom, black students are no more likely to disrupt order than white students.

The entire essay is here.

Observations: Continue reading

2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck Ethics Dunce: Jan Chamberlin…It’s The Golden Age For Irrelevant Grandstanding Jerks!

"Pssst...is that HITLER in the audience?"

“Pssst…is that HITLER in the audience?”

Jan Chamberlin, a singer for the 360 member Mormon Tabernacle Choir, sent a resignation letter to the choir president and choir members. Who is Jan Chamberlin, and why is this by any stretch of the imagination news?  She is no one of special note, except that she crafted her resignation an insult to the President Elect of the United States, ignorantly and absurdly. That, according to the news media, and that alone, makes her today’s 15 minute star. She wrote in part:

“Since ‘the announcement,’ [ that is, the cataclysmic announcement that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir would perform as part of America’s celebration of Inauguration Day on January 20 ] I have spent several sleepless nights and days in turmoil and agony. I have reflected carefully on both sides of the issue, prayed a lot, talked with family and friends, and searched my soul . I’ve tried to tell myself that by not going to the inauguration, that I would be able to stay in the choir for all the other good reasons. I’ve tried to tell myself that it will be all right and that I can continue in good conscience before God and man.”

But Jan is thoroughly infected by whatever virus it is that has led so many left-leaning Americans to conclude that all previous standards of respect, honesty, decorum, fairness, civility, common sense and civic duty have been suspended because a manipulative, corrupt and incompetent Democratic Party nominee for President defending the awful record of the current Democratic President somehow managed to lose an election.  Thus the singer concluded that a sensible course was to make a play for historical footnote status, and metaphorically spit on the country, the public and its chosen leader before he has spent a second in the Oval Office.

Naturally, the news media, bidding to be even more roundly distrusted and reviled than its performance during the last year has  made it, responds like Sea World seals. Continue reading

UPDATE: Cyber-Zombie Peter Cushing And The Prospect Of Cyber-Zombie Carrie Fisher Remind Actors To Fight For Control Of Their Post-Mortem Acting Career

cgi

It looks like I wasn’t the only one who felt that Peter Cushing was being abused by finding himself in “Rogue One” without his prior consent. Of the late actor being digitally inserted into a role he never agreed to play and deliver lines he never contracted to deliver, I wrote…

The emerging technology raises many ethical issues that didn’t have to be considered before, but when it comes to using a dead actor in a new role, the ethics verdict should be easy. It’s unethical, unless a performer  gives informed consent for his image to be used post mortem in this fashion. Presumably, the consent or the lack of it will be part of future negotiations and standard contracts. Actors who agree to have their images used as cyberslaves will also probably want to limit the uses of their names and images.

Cushing’s exploitation and the subsequent death of Carrie Fisher with widespread speculation that she would soon be added to the “Star Wars” franchise’s army of CGI clones have now sounded the alarm loudly. But apparently many actors were already aware of the threat, and taking affirmative action to control their destinies. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Uber Driver Keith Avila

keithavila

Outside a house in Sacramento, California, two women got into Uber driver Keith Avila’s car with a girl who looked to him like she was just 12, wearing a short skirt.  One of them asked Avila to turn up the music as his car approached their destination, a Holiday Inn in Elk Grove. But Avila could still hear them.

“They were describing what they were going to do when they get there: ‘Check for guns. Get the money before you start touching up on the guy,’” Avila said on Facebook Live, minutes after he dropped off the passengers and had called police to report that the women seemed to be selling a child for sex. Though the girl was 16 and not 12, she was being sold for sex at the Holiday Inn.  Avila was correct. Continue reading

The Ethical Problem With The Cinnebon Tweet

cinnebon-fisher

First I was going to post an essay about Cinnebon’s humorous tweet above under the title “How Humor Dies.” Our culture is in serious trouble if a clever, playful, obvious joke like this attracts so much criticism that it generates a retraction and an apology.Clearly, there are Political Correctness Furies on the Left and  Puritan Scolds on the Right lurking and  lying in wait to make any attempt at levity too much of a risk for all but the socially inept or defiantly rude to attempt. I confess, I laughed out loud when I saw Cinnebon’s gag. I thought the company deserved applause, not opprobrium.

Then I thought about it, and decided to make the episode an Ethics Alarms ethics quiz. Does the fact that Cinnebon can be accused of using Carrie Fisher’s tragic death as product promotion outweigh the cleverness of the tweet, or was the joke a natural one for the sticky bun-makers to make? Who better to remind us of all the jokes about Leia’s odd hairstyle when “Star Wars” debuted? Maybe this was one example where the “she would have approved” standard might be more than a rationalization. Is there any doubt that Carrie Fisher would have laughed at Cinnebon’s joke more heartily than anyone?

Fortunately, I thought some more.

I hadn’t realized until just a few minutes ago that the tweet was issued on the day Carrie Fisher died.  Ick, and also, yecchh, as well as “Ethics Foul!”

It doesn’t matter how clever, well-executed or funny it was. Krusty the Clown could have told Cinnebon what was wrong with the tweet in a trice, if they had the sense to ask, and Krusty wasn’t a cartoon character.

Too soon.

When Debbie Reynolds Took A Stand

Some readers were offended that I noted in a comment here that Debbie Reynolds characteristically upstaged her daughter by dying a day after Carrie Fisher, again stealing the spotlight from her daughter. Sorry about that—but it’s true. For most of her life, Reynolds was less than comfortable when she didn’t feel an audience watching her, as Fisher herself complained in her semi-autobiographical novel, “Postcards from the Edge.” Debbie Reynolds shared the life-defining neurosis of many performers: she was happiest when she was being herself for the world to see. Debbie, in fact, was an extreme version of this model. Most such performers are miserable, and recognizably so, when they aren’t performing. Reynolds appeared not to acknowledge that there was a world off-screen.

In “The Unsinkable Debbie Reynolds,” an excellent appreciation of her career today in the New York Times (another good one is this, in “Variety,”and the Times obituary is here.), Anita Gates confirms my assessment. It was hardly a difficult one, for Reynolds radiated her love of performing in everything she did. Here are some excerpts (do read the whole essay), as Gates begins by doubting that we will ever see a show business figure like Debbie Reynolds again in our increasingly cynical culture:

“Who’ll be as plucky? Who’ll work as hard to stay as morally pure? Who the hell is gonna be named Debbie? …We’ve all been happy to be at the movies. She always seemed happy to be in the movies. She never ceased to be thrilled to be herself. Ms. Reynolds, who died Wednesday, didn’t so much act as sell — she sold happiness, she sold pragmatic romance, she sold professional stardom…Ms. Reynolds was, as they say, a trouper. So she did what came naturally to her: She trouped… Ms. Reynolds embraced virtue. She was the least ostensibly neurotic of her peers — a class that included Shirley MacLaine and Doris Day. The movie titles got a lot of that anti-anxious decency across. She played “The Singing Nun,” for heaven’s sake. But she also starred in the 1964 musical “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” a title whose adjective best explains the full Debbie Reynolds experience: maximum buoyancy…”

When a time came to take a public stand on principle, however, Debbie Reynolds proved that she had her priorities straight. Continue reading

George Michael’s “Trunk”

trunk

Performers are dropping dead left and right, and people are trying to find ways to keep their talents and names profitable without their consent so quickly that it’s hard to keep up. I just read that a CGI version of Debbie Reynolds will star in a sequel to “Singin’ in the Rain.”

Kidding!

So far, at least.

Pop singer George Michael died on Christmas day, and already there is a controversy over his unpublished songs, what Irving Berlin and his generation referred to as a songwriters’ “trunk.” The “trunk” was where composition deemed unfinished, unsatisfactory or just not quite right were stored, perhaps for future commercial use, perhaps for oblivion.

Fadi Fawaz, Michael’s partner, posted online a song from Michael’s unreleased and unfinished album “Trojan Souls.” The song, called “This Kind of Love,”includes the lyrics: “This empty house seems to get colder and colder. So won’t you stay here with me?”

Michael’s  fans immediately clamored for the song to get an official release, calling for it to be properly edited to share with the world in George’s  memory. Michael’s Wham! collaborator Andrew Ridgeley has disagreed strenuously.  In response to one fan who suggested that a previously-unheard track should be released to raise money for Michael’s preferred charities, Ridgeley tweeted:

“No, #GM [George Michael] controlled all his output. I, nor anyone else have the right to transgress that principle.”

The singer’s representatives have not confirmed plans for any future releases, but don’t be surprised if they do: now that he is dead,  Michael’s music is hot and flying up the charts. We can expect that the same rationalization regarding Michael we have heard regarding the “Star Wars” franchise using Peter Cushing’s cyber-zombie to reprise his original role despite the fact that he is long dead and never anticipated having post-mortem, computer controlled performances attributed to him: “I’m sure he would have wanted it this way,” or in the case of Cushing’s  heirs, “We’re sure he would want us to make money off of him.”

Maybe, maybe not. In the case of performances and songs an artist chose not to reveal to the public while he was alive, the ethical course is to presume he did so for a reason, and whatever that reason was, it should be respected now.  Andrew Ridgeley is right.

Keep that trunk closed.

 

Dear Rockettes: You Are Professionals And Americans…Act Like It.

rockettes

Asked about whether he would perform at the January 20 Inauguration or its subsequent official celebrations in Washington, D.C., country music super-star Garth Brooks said, simply, “It’s always about serving. It’s what you do.”

Right answer. This marked him as a professional, a patriot, and an adult (or perhaps as a lying hypocrite, since for whatever reason, he is not performing). The opposite reaction of so many of his show business colleagues mark them, in contrast, as divisive, arrogant, ignorant and unprofessional jerks.

Performers fit all the requirements for being regarded and respected as professionals, who are those who use their skills and talents for the benefit of humankind and society. The traditional definition adds that professionals do this service at some personal sacrifice, a virtue that most doctors and many lawyers can no longer claim. Performers, however, are largely impoverished, devoting their lives to making people gasp, laugh, weep, cheer or most important of all, think, because they love what they do, and understand the importance of art to society and civilization.

It is as unprofessional for a singer, dancer, juggler or actor to refuse to entertain audience members whose politics or character they oppose as it is for a doctor to refuse to treat them, for a lawyer to refuse to represent them, or a clergyman to  withhold from them spiritual guidance. The problem unique to performers as professionals is that they are not educated to appreciate their responsibilities like typical professionals, nor do their professions exercise any ethical oversight. As a result, we get the current display of divisive and ignorant grandstanding over performing—or not performing— at Donald Trump’s inauguration.

In Honolulu, Hawaii, yet another partisan and bigoted establishment has ordered anyone who voted for Trump to take its business elsewhere, as a local cafe posted a sign that reads: “If you voted for Trump you cannot eat here! No Nazis.” It has become clear that if many progressives have their way, their efforts to divide the nation into the Good and the Bad, with the fairly elected President of the United States as the defining feature of the latter, will shatter societal bonds coast to coast like nothing the U.S. has seen since the Civil War. The sooner the Angry Turned Vicious Left comes to its senses, the safer and healthier we all will be.

Performers, as professionals, are supposed to understand that they have a higher calling than restaurant owners. They are here to bind society together, for what we all experience in a diverse audience brings us closer in sentiment, emotion, empathy and enlightenment. For performers to decide to excise certain audience members from that process is madness, as well as a betrayal of their mission and art. Continue reading

Déjà Vu Ethics Dunce: Steve Martin (Coward, Too)

martin-tweet

Comedian Steve Martin posted the heartfelt tweet above after the announcement of the death of “Star Wars” star Carrie Fisher yesterday. Some internet Political Correctness Furies were lying in wait, however, eager to find someone to bully for thoughtcrime, and pounced. In addition to the shaming tweets Martin’s reflection generated—Objectification! Objectification!—a New York Magazine writer named Claire Lansbaum scolded Martin on its affiliated website, The Cut. Martin, compliant progressive weenie that he is, deleted the tweet.

He’s pathetic. Martin is a skilled and literate writer and should stand up for the words he uses. “Creature” includes human beings among its accepted and traditional definitions. There was nothing inappropriate or in any way condescending about his use of the word, accept to those looking to be offended and to bend a victim to their will. Nor was an honest memory about how Fisher made Martin feel as “a young man” anything but truth—though we know that fanatics believe that truth they don’t like should be hidden and distorted. When young Martin saw Fisher, she was dressed like this…

leia-slave

…which was an appearance designed to make young men see her as a “beautiful creature,” to use one of the more restrained descriptions. Landsbaum writes about how Fisher fought against her image as a sex symbol. Well, of Carrie’s many admirable and provocative public positions, that was the least credible. The reason Fisher was an icon, the reason anybody cared about what she thought, and the only reason her death is being publicized like she was Katherine Hepburn, was in part because she excited young men as Princess Leia. Continue reading

Unethical Website Of The Month: AWD News

My best guess: "AWD" stands for "Assholes Wanting Destruction."

My best guess: “AWD” stands for “Assholes Wanting Destruction.”

You might think that AWD News gets this coveted Ethics Alarms Honor by having one of its hoax news stories prompted a threat of nuclear retaliation against Israel by Pakistan’s Defense Minister.

You would be wrong. That embarrassing response from a Pakistan official with a penchant for saber rattling is just moral luck. The story that “The former Israeli Defence Minister has threatened to “destroy” Pakistan-after Pakistan said on Thursday it will send Sunni fighters to Syria” was a hoax, and since no other news source was reporting it, the fact that Pakistan’s defense minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, allowed his confirmation bias to take over his brain, and leaped to the assumption that it was accurate just shows that Pakistan has an irresponsible fool in a key government position.

Imagine that. Continue reading