Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/26/1918: It’s Incompetence Friday!

Good Mronign!

Competence is often not regarded as an ethical value, but it is one of the most important of them all. It is also one of the most commonly breached, usually with the rationalization that “everyone makes mistakes.”

1 “The Nip” Redux  In a legendary “Seinfeld” episode, Elaine’s Christmas card features a photo, taken by amateur photographer and inveterate screw-up Kramer, in which one of her nipples is exposed. Kramer, however, was an admitted amateur. What is Vanity Fair’s alleged professionals’ excuse for its current cover (I’m not talking about the nauseating pandering to Hollywood it represents, for which there is no excuse), which shows actress Reese Witherspoon with three legs?

Vanity Fair may have been too focused on photoshopping out actor James Franco, who was in the original photo but became model-non-grata when he was accused of sexual harassment, and as #MeToo has taught us, an accusation is all the due process these male scum deserve.

2. Segue Alert! And speaking of Hollywood, there has been much ballyhoo over the fact that the nominated Best Actresses this year play feisty, unglamorous, tough, in several cases outright repulsive women. Question: Who likes watching such characters (and more are on the way)? The Academy snubbed the most popular film with a female star, Gail Gadot in “Wonder Woman,” who probably is still too politically incorrect because men—ick!—find her attractive. 2017 was a catastrophically bad year at the box office, meaning that Hollywood proved incompetent at its job, with is making movies people want to see. It also displayed incompetence—not to mention arrogance, bias, condescension, hypocrisy and stupidity–by shooting off its various mouths on political matters, making the entire film industry, which should be a unifying force in the culture, polarizing, like everything else in 2018.

The Hollywood Reporter has a report about the role politics plays in the Academy Award voting; this has always been true, but never more than now. I cannot imagine who would care what or who wins the statuettes when it is all transparent political grandstanding, virtue-signalling and an attempt to meet quotas. Next crisis on the horizon: Hispanic artists are gearing up to show how they have been statistically insufficiently represented in nominations and awards. I presume Asians will do likewise. Why are there not more roles and awards for the differently-abled? Trans performers? Hollywood is committed to the Left, the Left is committed to tribalism, and tribalism has nothing to do with popular entertainment.

Or democracy. But I digress.

Aside: You see above that I have a link to Althouse, as happens frequently here. Her analysis and mine are frequently similar; she’s a lawyer, eclectic in her interests, and similarly centrist (which means she is accused of being a conservative by the Left and  progressive by the Right). I sent her a low-key request to include  Ethics Alarms in her blogroll, not because I have had her link here for years, but because Ethics Alarms would be likely to be interesting to her readers and is a lot more relevant to her blog content than some of the other links. (A similar request was quickly honored a few years back by Popehat.) Well, the link isn’t there, and I never got the courtesy of a response. I’ll still link to her posts when appropriate.

3. Something stupid is out there… The depressing re-boot of “The X-Files,”  in its second season with Mulder looking tired and bored and Scully sounding like she’s been gargling acid, decided to be whimsical this week with a parody episode, climaxing in a “The Day The Earth Stood Still”  homage in which an alien messenger arrives to warn Earthlings. The warning was that the Intergalactic Union of Sentient Beings from All Known Universes and Beyond would be constructing an invisible  wall to prevent humans from venturing out into space, a measure made necessary because  “You’re not sending us your best people. You’re bringing drugs. You’re bringing crime. You’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people, but we have no choice. Believe me. For although the rest of the galaxies all have their share of these same problems, we fear you could infect us with the one trait that is unique to Earthlings. You lie….Good luck, and good riddance.” Surely among the producer, director and writers someone was aware that any joke that telegraphs the next 30 seconds—from “build a wall” on—is neither original, clever or funny, and going back two years to gratuitously attack the President with a speech that has been hashed over (and misrepresented) over and over again is sacrificing its audience’s enjoyment to, again, smug self-indulgence.  People don’t watch “The X-Files” for partisan cheap shots. They can watch Stephen Colbert for that. Now that they know the show can’t be trusted,  a lot of people just won’t watch, period.

Like me.

4. Worst negotiation ever. I imagine that Chuck Schumer’s handling of the negotiation regarding the “Dreamers” and “The Wall” will be taught in diplomacy and business school classes for decades as classic incompetence. It will be really hard now to put over the resistance’s Plan E—Trump is mentally incapable of doing his job!—when the disabled President rolled Chuck so easily. If the offer is citizenship for The Dreamers in exchange for the wall, how can Schumer and the Democrats possibly reject it? The Dreamers are here—they don’t care about the wall. Foes of illegal immigration are far less bothered by the Dreamers than the lax enforcement of border security which got them, and the country, in this mess in the first place. Schumer’s party’s base, however—you know, “the Resistance” –will be furious at any resolution that will impede, symbolically or otherwise, the “undocumented.” He can’t win. It’s zugswang: any move loses. Trump trapped him.

Among the ruthless dead and living Presidents chuckling and saying “That’s how you get things done; I have to give this jackass credit! “ are Lincoln,  FDR, Ike, LBJ, Reagan and Clinton. Among the negotiation-challenged Presidents saying, “Huh? Whahappened?” are Wilson and Obama.

5. Pundit incompetence parade:

A. Gail Collins. Following the school shooting in Kentucky this week, the “liberal progressive” Times columnist couldn’t resist the reflex gun control screed. Do incompetent gun critics depend on incompetent readers? Collins uses another shooting that ” modest gun-safety legislation” wouldn’t have stopped to argue for modest gun-safety legislation, because we have to do something. Maybe she’d hoping for incompetent Second Amendment advocates, who can’t figure out that if each shooting is used to add more regulations that don’t stop the next shooting, the process inevitably leads to gun banning and confiscation, which is and has been the objective of dishonest pundits like Collins all along. In the Kentucky case, a father left his legally purchased gun in the house where his kid could grab it. Go ahead, Gail: explain what “modest gun-safety legislation” fixes irresponsible parenting.

” [Y]ou can definitely try to disarm evil,” Collins writes. Oh, really? Collins party has made it increasingly clear that it regards Republicans, conservatives, whites and men “evil,” as well as what they say. A competent editor would tell Collins, “You know, Gail, this is just foolish, and it makes you and the paper look bad.”

B. Barbara Kingsolver. (Hold onto your cranium.) The American novelist, essayist and poet wrote an opinion column for The Guardian in which she asks, “How would we react to sexist practices if they applied to racial minorities instead of to women?”…

If any contract between men required the non-white one to adopt the legal identity of his Caucasian companion, would we pop the champagne? If any sport wholly excluded people of colour, would it fill stadiums throughout the land? Would we attend a church whose sacred texts consign Latinos to inferior roles? What about galas where black and Asian participants must wear painful shoes and clothes that reveal lots of titillating, well-toned flesh while white people turn up comfortably covered?

In the competition for the championship of terrible analogies, this one has to be a finalist, and a second crown for apples and papaya convolution is likely as well. No contract requires women to take the name of her husband, but there are certain tangible and cultural benefits of having a single name for a family. Women are welcome to play pro football: be my guest! I guarantee that a woman who could throw passes like Tom Brady and not be crushed beyond recognition after the first blitz of 300 pound linemen would be recruited in a trice. I’m sure many women are eager to suffer crippling brain disease. (Interestingly, there is a sport that largely excludes one race: the NBA.)

And who forces women, anywhere, any time, “to wear painful shoes and clothes that reveal lots of titillating, well-toned flesh”? That’s their choice.

The core problem with Kingsolver’s hypothetical is that there are real, tangible, unavoidable differences between men and women. The races, however, require no distinctions in treatment or societal roles at all, and none are justified.


Pointer: Advice Goddess Blog


45 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/26/1918: It’s Incompetence Friday!

  1. “Among the ruthless dead Presidents chuckling and saying “That’s how you get things done; I have to give this jackass credit “ are Lincoln, FDR, Ike, LBJ, Reagan and Clinton.”

    Bill ins’t dead yet, he just looks like a zombie resurrected by his necromantic wife.

  2. Add me to the list of viewers annoyed by political lectures in my entertainment. A few weeks ago, on “Supergirl”, a Latina immigrant explained that he abandoned his daughter when she was a teenager after she came out as gay (and while both were living in the U.S.) because “They want to build a wall…”

    Really? Trump (or the Trumpian forces in the Supergirl universe) wanting to build a wall now to keep out illegal immigrants is the reason why you dumped your gay teenage daughter years ago? I’m still trying to figure out that logic.

    • Agents of Shield is my guilty pleasure, but last season they had an episode crammed with as many political references as they could (Hydra was a stand in for the GOP) that was done so badly that the good guys looked incompetent and tyrannical at the same time. I kept chuckling, but not for the reasons the writers thought one would.

      • I don’t think Maggie’s father’s argument was supposed to be logical. The way I read it, he was justifying his own anti-gay bigotry by claiming that he just wanted his daughter to “fit in” to society, and was blaming anti-Hispanic bigotry for his own need to see his daughter as being as perfect as possible. He claimed that by coming out she would be seen as “less then” by the rest of the world, but really it was his own homophobia he was projecting onto the rest of the world (and white people specifically, making him an anti-white bigot as well). Nowhere does the show suggest he’s anywhere close to right, but it’s a position I’ve heard many parents of color take in response to their gay children–Master of None did a similar storyline with a black mom. I thought it was an interesting storyline.

        The wall reference didn’t really work for me, though, since the show has established that Linda Carter’s character is president and explicitly rejects anything resembling xenophobia (since she’s, you know, an alien).

        I thought there were a few lines that were too on the nose in the Hydra arc on SHIELD, but overall I thought that was their best storyline in ages.

  3. I don’t see a third leg. I see a fold in her gown that falls next to one of her two legs.

    Fiction writers should stay away from punditry. They’re best at making things up.

  4. 4- Worst negotiation EVAH!

    Deserving of mention was Obama’s legendary *bargaining* (such as it was) with China’s Xi Jinping in Novemeber of 2014.

    He shrewdly committed the U.S. to a 25 % reduction in plant food, I EVIL C02, emmissions by 2025.

    Not to be outdone, he then deftly cornered a far-out-of-his-league Jinping into agreeing to *start* reducing China’s coal-fired plant emissions after 2030.

    Funniest thing; it was a matter of record that China was scheduled to naturally wean itself off coal by (and this is where it gets good!) 2030!

    Thus, the 4th Greatest President EVAH!!! got China to commit to something that was scheduled to happen anyway.

    Of course an obsequiously slobbering Lefty media portrayed this as Obama making Winston Churchill look like Neville Chamberlain.

      • Some folks think he’s just Da Bomb as a negotiator. Welp, I for one won’t disagree that he bombed.

        Late 2009/early 2010 was NOT a good time for burnishing his image as shrewd, rallying, deal-maker par excellence.

        He thought, (read: Valerie Jarrett convinced him) that jetting into Copenhagen to pitch Chicago for the 2016 Olympics (a “take no prisoners” full court press with 2020 POTUS favorite Oprah!) would be a slam dunk.

        It turned out to be more like a body slam.

        Even attending Environoiac Ecogogues (seemingly immune to Chosen One syndrome) slobbered “Right city, wrong date” ahead of the Copenhagen Climate Conference.

        He returned two months later for that, and whiffed badly.

        Trying to help Martha Coakley secure “Teddy’s Seat” in the MA special election blew up in his face after a heckler made him lose his shit; her tumbling in the polls (not entirely his fault) is the stuff of legend.

        That’s what happens (unsubstantiated faux self-esteem) when you’re propped up to believe that you’re something special when that ain’t the case.

  5. “The core problem with Kingsolver’s hypothetical is that there are real, tangible, unavoidable differences between men and women. The races, however, require no distinctions in treatment or societal roles at all, and none are justified.”

    Steven Pinker gave a great speech on the dangers of denying realities like this, I’ve found most of a transcript, and here’s the money section. I’ll also link the whole 8 minute video below.

    “The other way in which I do agree with my fellow panelists that political correctness has done an enormous amount of harm in the sliver of the population that might be, I wouldn’t want to say persuadable, but certainly whose affiliation might be up for grabs, comes from the often highly literate, highly intelligent people who gravitate to the alt-right, internet savvy, media savvy, who often are radicalized in that way, who swallow the red pill, as the saying goes, the allusion from The Matrix. When they are exposed the first time to true statements that have never been voiced in college campuses or in The New York Times or in respectable media, that are almost like a bacillus to which they have no immunity, and they’re immediately infected with both the feeling of outrage that these truths are unsayable, and no defense against taking them to what we might consider to be rather repellent conclusions.

    Here is a fact that’s gonna sound ragingly controversial but is not, and that is that capitalist societies are better than communist ones. If you doubt it, then just ask yourself the question, would I rather live in South Korea or North Korea. Would I rather live in West Germany in the 1970s or East Germany or in the 1960s? I submit that this is actually not a controversial statement, but in university campuses, it would be considered flamingly radical.

    Here’s another one. Men and women are not identical in their life priorities, in their sexuality, in their tastes and interests. This is not controversial to anyone who has even glanced at the data. The kind of vocational interest tests of the kind that your high school guidance counselor gave you were given to millions of people, and men and women give different answers as to what they wanna do for a living and how much time they wanna allocate to family versus career and so on. But you can’t say it. A very famous person on this campus did say it, and we all know what happened to him. He’s no longer, well, he is on this campus, but no longer in the same office.

    Here’s a third fact that is just not controversial, although it sounds controversial, and that is that different ethnic groups commit violent crimes at different rates. You can go to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Look it up on their website. The homicide rate among African Americans is about seven or eight times higher than it is among European Americans. And terrorism, go to the Global Terrorist Database, and you find that worldwide the overwhelming majority of suicide terrorist acts are committed by Islamist extremist groups.

    If you’ve never heard these facts before and you stumble across them or someone mentions them, it is possible to come to some extreme conclusions, such as that women are inferior, that African Americans are naturally violent, that we all ought to be Anarcho-capitalists and do away with all regulation and social safety nets, that most terrorism in this country is the fault of Muslims. These are unwarranted conclusions because for each one of these facts there are very powerful counterarguments for why they don’t license racism and sexism and Anarcho-capitalism and so on. …

    Now let’s say that you have never even heard anyone mention these facts. The first time you hear them, you’re apt to say, number one, the truth has been withheld from me by universities, by mainstream media, and, moreover, you will be vindicated when people who voice these truths are suppressed, shouted down, assaulted, all the more reason to believe that the Left, that the mainstream media, that universities can’t handle the truth. So, you get vindicated over and over again, but, worst of all, you’re never exposed to the ways of putting these facts into context so that they don’t lead to racism and sexism and extreme forms of Anarcho-Libertarianism. So, the politically correct Left is doing itself an enormous disservice when it renders certain topics undiscussable, especially when the facts are clearly behind them because they leave people defenseless the first time they hear them against the most extreme and indefensible conclusions possible. If they were exposed, then the rationale for putting them into proper political and moral context could also be articulated, and I don’t think you would have quite the extreme backlash.”

    I’ve been saying versions of this for years, if in a much more crude fashion. you don’t beat the Nazis by making them counterculture and verboten, because verboten counterculture is sexy to teenaged angst, you give them the spotlights they can grab, and then you mock them, thoroughly, as stupid, misguided lunatics. Because laughingstocks AREN’T sexy to teenage angst. When you take ideas that are reprehensible, and make it so that you can’t even talk on the periphery of the subject without being labelled something equally abhorrent, then when certain brutally obvious truths assert themselves, you can’t even contextualize the reasons for those truths outside of the most basic paradigms because doing so gets you bum rushed out of the fainting couch echo chambers of people too lazy, or stupid to do any real heavy lifting.

    The great irony? PZ Meyers of Freethoughblogs (a misnomer if ever there was one) led the charge in saying that Harvard Educator and famous liberal Steven Pinker is an alt-right sympathizer. A significant pillar of Pinker’s argument was “If you don’t engage with them, you push them away” and progressives responded by attempting to lump him in with the “other side”. Fucking amazing. The video is only 8 minutes long! Pinker is pretty eloquent and easy to understand! What kind of goldfish attention span do you have to have not to understand this?

    • Bingo. Completely hold in disdain certain truths, and when people find those truths, they will naturally have an affinity to the particular truth teller…never mind if THAT truth-teller is abusing the truth to advance their own nefarious world-view. It’s how it sucks people in.

      “you give them the spotlights they can grab, and then you mock them, thoroughly, as stupid, misguided lunatics. Because laughingstocks AREN’T sexy to teenage angst. “

      Here’s the thing though. I decry the method that the MSM has put idiots like Richard Spencer and his dimwit brigade into the spot light. They haven’t done so for the reasons you listed. They have done so to pretend like American Nazis are larger problem than they really are and to advance the claim that they’re views generally correlate with the conservative half of the population or that by merely being a conservative, an individual may as well be in the alt-right.

      The MSM doesn’t use mockery against morons like him in their coverage…they use morons like him and his infinitesimally small following in their coverage to mock conservatives and other right wingers.

      • But the MSM doesn’t give them a spotlight, they give their pictures airtime and then talk about them incessantly like they’re big bad and tough. A properly interviewed Richard Spencer would implode under the weight of his own shitty ideas.

  6. Regarding the photo, when I enlarged it what appears to be a vertical leg is merely the inside fabric of her dress which is about the same shade as her legs.

    As for Kingsolver, why does she not lament the fact that women are excluded from being required to register with selective service and failure to do so is a bar to federal educational benefits and federal employment? Nor does she lament the fact that women are discriminated against in family courts because they are more often than not given custody of children because our patriarchy thinks mothers are better parents than fathers. Why should they have to put their careers on hold while the father gets to grow professionally.

    • “Regarding the photo, when I enlarged it what appears to be a vertical leg is merely the inside fabric of her dress which is about the same shade as her legs.”

      If that were true, her left hip would have had to dislocate in order to pull off that stance. follow the line from her waist to her hip to her knee.

        • I recognize that airbrushing is rampant and often poorly done. I just believe that this photo is not necessarily evidence of incompetence. There is far more incompetence that carry with it far more negative consequences than this. That should be our focus. Moreover, when we fixate on the inane we lose sight of the truly insane.

          • Yes, but this is literally airbrushing history! Comrad Stalin is not impressed!

            It is a toss up as to whether it is botched or not. Zooming in, I see where the two colors kind of blend to suggest it is continuous fabric from her dress folding. As the other women’s dress is floor length, that the dress falls below Oprah’s black dress is not a problem. That it aligns nearly perfectly with her hip could be a coincidence.

            I can almost recreate her current position, which means it is plausible, if not comfortable. From the slit in her dress, we see the side of her left thigh. Her knee is then bent slightly backwards, obscurd by her right leg. Judging from her right shoe, the leg is anatomically correct.

            If instead her left leg is straight down, I do not see how she could cross her right leg. The top leg makes no sense, and the bottom leg reaches the floor, while bent (the foot conveniently hidden by Oprah’s dress so it could be either!) – her straight leg would also have to be bent, otherwise it would be have to be much shorter than her right!

            As I am writing, I am more convinced that it is an illusion caused by the shadows, while before I started, I was less so. I think Franco would have been behind Oprah and Demi – the other bookend complementing Ford. I couldn’t think they would put him up front with any of the lovely ladies. He was replaced by a bare red wall – or more likely by Harrison himself, who looks to be under different lighting than everyone else!.

            In either case, Demi would not need to be altered. Not that she needs to be….

            • UGH!

              Substitute “Demi”, with “Reese”, and the world will not implode.

              Hey, did you here that Reese What’s-her-name was stabbed!?!….

      • HT.
        I guess I just dont see it. I understand how it looks but I don’t think someone photoshopped a leg into a photo. That makes no sense.. Typically, photo retouching involves removal not addition. There also appears to be a vertical seam to the right of the rearmost “leg”.

        I also don’t know how women can cross their legs in which the crossed leg calf can lie perpedicular to the other calf. It is one of their superpowers because when I try it I pull a groin muscle.

        • “Typically, photo retouching involves removal not addition.”

          The 77 Square Miles Surrounded By A Sea Of Reality once did a little subtraction by addition.

          In 2000, a UW-Madison (GO BADGERS!) admissions counselor approached then senior Diallo Shabazz to tell him he was on the cover of the 2001-2002 UW Undergraduate Application/Admissions booklet.

          The picture showed him basking in the crowd at a Camp Randall Football game.

          One problem: Shabazz had never attended a game.

          Just like the pasty-white Elizabeth Warren being dubbed “Harvard Law’s 1st Woman Of Color,” institutions of higher indoctrination don’t give a toss about actual diversity when the mere appearance of it will satisfy the great unwashed.

          • Ok I concede. Based on the evidence presented most airbrushing involves adding not subtraction because some people create fictional imagery. I guess all those airbrushed models had a few skin blemishes and a few pounds added to make them fit the typical image of beauty.

            What I don’t understand is why Reese needs a third leg for the photo. Is she a stool? Perhaps she uses the third leg when she is drunk and yells at the police demanding if they know who she is.

            • Chris; I wasn’t disputing your contention, I agree with it actually.

              Just taking the all-too-frequently-available opportunity to give my hometown and Alma Mater an atomic wedgie for their dipstick efforts to craft the narrative they believe will bathe them in a “Gosh We’re Nice” light.

  7. Oscar Nominations:

    My guess is that the snubbing of Gal Godot has less to do with her looks than with her service in the Israeli Defense Force and enthusiastic support of the Israeli military. The BDS anti-Israel movement is already protesting any company that uses her as a model or endorsement figure, even to the point of chastising the designer whose dress she wore to some event or other. It could also have something to do with the fact that her big film of the year was a popular superhero movie that people enjoyed, instead of an Oscar-bait “important” movie.

    You ask: “Who likes watching such characters?” about feisty, unglamorous, tough, or repulsive women? I mean, it depends on the movie, but I LOVE feisty, unglamorous, tough female characters- as long as that’s what the role calls for, just like any other role.

    • It could also have something to do with the fact that her big film of the year was a popular superhero movie that people enjoyed, instead of an Oscar-bait “important” movie.

      I think that’s more likely than the anti-Israel theory.

      • There was the huge kerfuffle over The Dark Knight getting snubbed that was supposed to point toward an increase in recognition of popular movies as good movies, but it’s hard to teach an old Academy voter new tricks.

        • True, but it was a grim serious movie about how superheroes end up bitter and old- an artsy drama with a superhero wrapper. Logan even makes fun of comic books on camera. It wasn’t about folks in spandex punching evil to save the world. (It WAS a great flick though).

  8. 1. I’m sure heads WILL probably roll over that one, but we will never know because Vanity Fair “doesn’t comment on personnel matters.” Someone was obviously in a rush. I’m an amateur and I spent nearly an hour last weekend trying to get text I was adding to a picture to be the proper color and in the proper place vis-à-vis the background that you could read it. A professional has no excuse. Yup, that’s well known, one accusation and you’re done, that’s the price of rooting out this culture of harassment.

    2. Psst. Gal Gadot is Israeli and a veteran of the IDF. Hollywood loves Jews, but hates Israel. There’s plenty of room for Brooklyn or Berkeley nebbishes with curly hair and glasses or Borscht Belt shrinking violet doctor’s daughters. There is very little room for strong or proud Israelis who fight (gasp) Arabs, the most misunderstood and maligned people in history.

    3. Someone wasn’t even trying here.

    4. They’ll reject it, and just blame Trump the next time a shutdown looms. They have the media on their side still.

    5. I’m beginning to think women can be intelligent, or idealistic, but never both.

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