Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/9/18: Update On A Jerk, Deceptive Recycling, A Movement Becomes A Club, And The Future Is Abused

Good Morning!

1 Good! Billy Williams, that Derry, N.H. Used Apple Store owner who announced that Republicans weren’t welcome in his store, was evicted from his space. For weeks, a sign in the window has said that the store would re-open after renovations, which Williams’ former landlord says is not true. Williams rented the commercial space for $2,000 per month and owed $15,110 after neglecting to pay rent for seven months.

Williams, you will recall, said that he infallibly could recognize Republicans. His Facebook post announcing the GOP ban described members of the political party as “almost evil, and to be honest, usually evil.” [Pointer: Arthur in Maine]

2. Recycling Deceit: In Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, I was intrigued yesterday by the cylindrical re-cycling receptacles that had two deposit holes, a circular one on one side, into which we were told to put cans and bottles, and a long rectangular slot on the other side, for newspapers and other paper refuse.  I lifted off the top: sure enough, everything went into the same place, newspaper and cans alike. I don’t know what the term is for gratuitously demanding that the public do something pointless and trivial just to exert power, but this was it.

3. The problem with #MeToo. Commenting on yesterdays Comment of the Day, in which Carcarwhite wrote, while criticizing the #MeToo movement,

“I was kissed by Eddie Van Halen back stage in the 80’s, on the lips, a few times. He was tipsy and happy and took a selfie of us before seflies were selfies, and I’ve actually had friends on the Left tell me I should my story publicly. And they say I am ENABLING THIS BEHAVIOR by not going forward”

Commenting, Still Spartan said in part, “What you described is NOT “Me Too.” Just because some people take it too far, does not mean that it is not legitimate. Please take it from someone who had to leave a job and have her career derailed for multiple years because of this crap. It happens, and it happens every damn day.”

I had time, while sitting around in airports, waiting in lines and flying from Atlanta to D.C, to ponder this yesterday, and finally figured out where #MeToo jumped the ethics rails. Still Spartan is unquestionably right that “this crap,” aka male sexual harassment,  unwanted touching and other sex-inspired misconduct,  happens every damn day. The idea behind #MeToo when it was spawned by Harvey Weinstein’s fall seemed to be for women to show how widespread this routine abuse was and is. That’s nothing but good. Pretty close to all women get harassed, discriminated against or sexually mistreated repeatedly throughout their lives, and the culture has shrugged it off for far too long, meaning centuries. As long as #MeToo meant, “Yes, I’ve been harassed, I’m not putting up with any more, and neither should anyone else,” the message is powerful and productive.

Somewhere along the line, whoever, the movement turned into a club, and the way to get admitted was to find a powerful man and wreck his career and his life, often by deciding after years and decades that conduct a woman herself may have shrugged off at the time was, upon reconsideration in the era of new awareness, wrong and needed to become the basis for what I have called here a “late hit,” an accusation regarding events so far in the past that they cannot be effectively denied or confirmed.

This is not good, not ethical, nor fair. This is where #MeToo turned into a witch hunt, with many women being prompted by “friends on the Left” to go public with a newly re-interpreted version of interaction with a man who is now a celebrity, or an elected official, or the head of a nationally known organization.

4. An outbreak of Rationalization 1B.  Joy Reid, the appalling race-baiting MSMBC host (yes, keeping her employed is signature significance for an unethical news organization, and MSNBC’s shame), wrote an Authentic Frontier Gibberish-stuffed post for The Daily Beast, in which concluded that supporters of President Trump or his policies “wanted to go back to the old times, but we aren’t going back.” Here’s how Reid defined the “old times” that “they” want to go back to:

“…a bygone era when coal fires burned, factories hummed, steel mills belched out soot and opportunity and a (white) man with a sturdy back, a high school diploma and a song in his heart could buy a little house, marry a little wife and have 3 cherry-cheeked kids he didn’t ever have to cook or clean for, plus if he can afford it, a hot mistress on the side. Trump is the slovenly but brash, gold-plated emblem of a time when in the imagination of his followers, black women hummed a tune while they cleaned your house or did the washing, black men tipped their hat on the street but didn’t dare look you in the eye, and neither would dream of moving in next door. A time when women asked their husbands for an allowance, not their boss for a promotion, men were “allowed to be men” complete with ribald jokes and a slap on the fanny for the pretty secretary at work, and there were no gays, no trans people, no birth control … they somehow just didn’t exist! The rural folks were the salt of the earth and we only let in “a certain kind of immigrant” whose only goal was to shake off his ethnicity and “assimilate.” Everyone went to (separate) church on Sundays and everyone “got along.”

No outrageous stereotyping there! John Hinderaker comments,

Reid acknowledges that she is describing a world that never existed. On the contrary, she relates an insane fantasy. The question is, whose fantasy is it? With no evidence, she attributes it to Trump’s supporters. Speaking for myself, however, I have never imagined any such past or any such future. I believe that would be true for approximately 100% of Trump’s voters. The fantasy is entirely Reid’s.I think Joy Reid has inadvertently made an important point. The crazed hatred of Donald Trump that we see on the left is based on a fantasy–a fantasy that liberals attribute to Trump and his supporters, but that in fact exists only on the left. In the minds of liberals.

Such assertions that the progressive nirvana to come—I am very capable of writing an equally insulting and exaggerated description of what Reid and her tribe think will be the perfect progressive future, but that would be wrong—will vanquish all opposition have been popping up all over the place of late, with Larry Tribe, who once really was an intelligent man, praising Reid’s screed and tweeting “the future will win” and Senator Kamala Harris terrifying everyone by telling Chris Hayes (on MSNBC, of course) that “California represents the future.”

I sense in this trend increasing desperation. “Just you wait!” and “We’ll get you yet!” are the catcalls of losers, and represent bravado rather than reason. Rationalization 1B sums up these kinds of last-ditch retorts:

1B. The Psychic Historian, or “I’m On The Right Side Of History”

This especially arrogant and annoying rationalization is essentially “Everybody’s going to do it.”  It is an intellectually dishonest argument, indeed no argument at all. Every movement, every dictator, Nazis, Communists, ISIS, the Klan, activists for every conceivable policy across the ideological spectrum, think their position will be vindicated eventually. In truth, they have no idea whether it will or not, or if it is, for how long. If history teaches anything, it is that we have no idea what will happen and what ideas and movements will prevail. “I’m on the right side of history is nothing but the secular version of “God is on our side,” and exactly as unprovable.

We have heard this rationalization a lot during the escalating culture wars. It is a device to sanctify one’s own beliefs while mocking opposing views, evoking an imaginary future that can neither be proven or relied upon. Nor is there any support for the assertion that where history goes is intrinsically and unequivocally good or desirable. Are millions of aborted babies a year “right”? Is the constantly increasing percentage of children born to unmarried couples “right”?

Those who resort to “I’m on the right side of history” (or “You’re on the wrong side”) are telling us that they have run out of honest arguments.



19 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/9/18: Update On A Jerk, Deceptive Recycling, A Movement Becomes A Club, And The Future Is Abused

  1. “I don’t know what the term is for gratuitously demanding that the public do something pointless and trivial just to exert power”

    I’m not certain such a term exists yet. Let’s coin it here! I submit GOVERNMENTALITY.

    Oh, and as regards the Apple store jerk… there are a handful of other news stories suggesting that this guy might be one taco short of a combo platter.

    • Williams said that the eviction is “complicated,”

      I think we have a new rationalization: “It’s complicated.”

      Also sounds as if this guy could have been called “The Laptop Nazi.” He was evidently rude to customers. “No computer for you!”

      • It’s already on the list!

        46. The Abuser’s License: “It’s Complicated”

        CNN’s host Carol Costello, explaining why it was unfair to criticize Janay Palmer for marrying Ray Rice, the pro football star who punched her lights out in a hotel elevator when they were engaged, said, as the entirety of her argument, “It’s complicated.” My rationalization alarm immediately began clanging.

        Later, Costello noted that the decision to stay with a potentially deadly partner was related to the emotion of love, as if love deserves an ethics pass that other emotions do not. In this context, “It’s complicated” is a matched set with #23. Woody’s Excuse: “The heart wants what the heart wants.”

        Love does not get a pass, or warrant one. Love is one of the most powerful of the non-ethical consideration magnets that stop ethics alarm clappers from moving when they should, and the sentimental, warm and fuzzy tradition of excusing harmful, irresponsible, clearly wrongful conduct because it might have been motivated by love is a rejection of ethics in favor of romance. Love is not the most benign of impediments to sound ethical reasoning, but rather one of the most insidious. Some of the worst crimes in human history have been rationalized by lovers. If the the coded meaning of “It’s complicated” is “it’s love, and we can never plumb the mysteries of the heart!”, the sentiment should be received with exactly the same contempt as “It’s greed,” It’s hate,” or “It’s revenge.”

        Fine: Ray Rice’s fiancee will allow him to escape accountability for criminally assaulting her, thus putting herself and other women in mortal peril as well as encouraging similarly irresponsible and reckless conduct from similarly deluded and vulnerable women. It may be complicated, but its still wrong. If we don’t criticize people who do obviously wrongful, self-destructive, anti-social things, like marrying domestic abusers and allowing them to avoid the consequences of their actions, then such conduct appears to be acceptable in the eyes of society.

        “It’s complicated” has broader uses, however. The implication is that “yes, this looks bad, but if you knew all of the details, history and considerations, you would understand.” The meaning, however, is simpler still: “This was a difficult decision, so we shouldn’t judge it.”

        Of course we should.

        Ethics decisions are often difficult and complex; if they are easy, then there is seldom a problem. Complexity doesn’t change the nature of right and wrong. When an ethical dilemma or conflict is complicated, that is when special care, thought and analysis is mandatory. When the wrong resolution is chosen, the fact that the issue was complex is irrelevant to the fact that the final decision was unethical. If it was unethical, it is important to say so, to make certain that nobody labors under the misconception that it was the right thing to do when they face similar decisions.

        “It’s complicated” is also lazy. Let’s tackle the complicated ethical issues, dive into them, and solve them. Abortion is complicated; capital punishment is complicated; the Israel- Palestinian problem is complicated; illegal immigration policy is complicated; euthanasia is complicated; the proper use of U.S. power in the world is complicated. Complexity doesn’t relieve us of the responsibility of seeking the right approach to these matters. “It’s complicated” is an ethics cop-out.

        The irony is that the decision of Janay Palmer to let her abuser avoid appropriate legal consequences and trivialize his conduct toward her by endorsing a dangerous social pathology and marrying Ray Rice isn’t all that complicated.

        It is just wrong.

  2. Regarding 2. Recycling Deceit, it is a well known issue that people will through trash into the first available container without looking or even caring.

    While single stream recycling eliminates the formal need to sort paper, plastic, and cans, it cannot sort out food and other non-recyclables. When contaminated, the whole bin must usually be emptied into the trash. While cans and bottles can be rinsed clean and melted for reuse, greasy paper cannot be recycled and can only be disposed.

    I have a bit of first hand knowledge, as my only scout troop used to collect cans and bottles during the local fair to collect the $0.05 deposits. We would set up bins with can-shaped holes around the grounds, and would collect them every couple hours. We would also have to spend several minutes at each barrel to remove trash shoved through the opening. On a commercial airport scale, this would be unworkable.

    All it takes is an inconsiderate fool throwing a banana peal into the the recycling, and everyone else’s efforts to recycle are wasted.

  3. Not much related to anything, just something that tugged a string in my brain

    I had time, while sitting around in airports, waiting in lines and flying from Atlanta to D.C, to ponder this yesterday

    This is what is so powerful about speech. You say something, maybe even something little or tangential, but it puts a thought in someone else’s head. Obviously they willingly listened to what you said, but even without consent the thought burrows in, knocks over some knick knacksf, rearranges a belief you have and sometimes changes the world forever. I think this is why free speech is so important and such a foundational element of our society. The fact that just some schmuck (no offense to anyone) on the internet can say something that causes tens, hundreds or even thousands of others to start thinking about things that had not occurred to them before is profound. I think that when we attempt to restrict or redirect this away from taboo thoughts, we are doing ourselves a great disservice and putting ourselves in great peril. Lest we forget that it was precisely this that has announced the beginning of the end to the some of the most evil paradigms in history. I wonder if those who deride free speech have conceptualized the dangers they are ushering in when they attempt to restrict and redefine what is acceptable discourse and turn that into an act of violence by fiat?

    • “This is what is so powerful about speech. You say something, maybe even something little or tangential, but it puts a thought in someone else’s head. Obviously they willingly listened to what you said, but even without consent the thought burrows in, knocks over some knick knacks, rearranges a belief you have and sometimes changes the world forever.”

      You have also just described the concept behind memetics, from which the term “meme” is drawn. In wise hands, it can produce wonderful advancements in the human condition. In the wrong hands, it can produce the shitshow that is my Facebook feed.

      • Omg!!!!!! Facebook shitshow!!! Yes!!!!

        I’ve invited my left activist friends over here to comment or share their views… which only their narrow minded Facebook followers praise… and none will.

        And the SS continues. Same people parroting the same things they hear in their respective places they get their news.

  4. 2. Apparently Oregon sends it’s recycling to China, though the country is putting greater restrictions on what they’ll take lately. Seems like shipping this stuff to the East is not sustainable. Also isn’t that rather imperialist of us to make brown folks in an already polluted country sort through our crap? #greenwashing

    5. I suspect Reid’s future utopia sounds a little like this:
    A person is defined solely by the extent of his influence over other people, by the sphere of his interrelationships; and morality is an utterly meaningless term unless defined as the good one does to others, fulfilling one’s function in the sociopolitical whole. -Lathe of Heaven by Ursula Le Guin

    • 2. You’ve hit upon the dirty secret of the “green” world. Recycling is, generally speaking, grossly unprofitable (especially with China’s National Sword initiative you mentioned) and bad for the environment.

      Oregon, and most of the country (I think China used to take around 70% of our recycleables) sends material across the ocean in a large ship, where China processes it, and then sends it back across the ocean for us to buy it back. That’s assuming they don’t send it back untouched due to contamination.

      • Metals are 100% recyclable, and far cheaper and cleaner to process than raw ore.

        Plastics degrade with each cycle, and can only be used for progressively lower quality items.

        Paper, too, can only be used in lowrs quality applications, such as newsprint and toilet paper. Most recycled paper, however, is captured cleanly from industrial waste trimmings, and is more cost effective to recycle than dispose.

        • Apart from large, very operationally disciplined companies, like Amazon, Intel, etc., or companies that deal exclusively in paper, most of your recycled paper is going to come from commercial and residential single stream. And unless you have a facility with a specific clean paper line, the cost of sorting, contamination, depreciation, etc., makes most recyclables a very expensive process. Sure, a year ago, when prices were twice what they are now, you could make good money on OCC or metal, now the profit is gone.

          Of course, this is highly dependent on the market. You can bury a ton of paper in the ground in Nevada for $6, all in, or recycle it for closer to $40 depending on prices. I’d imagine that would be very different in a market like Seattle or California, where they think landfills are the scourge of humanity.

  5. 1. Looney leftist is a thief. Who woulda thunk it? Not that leftists hold a monopoly on sticky fingers syndrome, just that holding certain views seems to rot the soul, the morals, and the ethics. Just an observation, which applies to the holders of the views and not necessarily their politics.

    2. I refuse to recycle. Where I live, they require you wash everything, pull labels, sort through, and will penalize you for making a mistake (A Fine, no less!) You do this for free, because ‘woke’ or something, and then they make profit on your labor selling the trash! Bite me, enviro nazi. (Sorry, this pisses me off as I used to recycle)

    3. This is what I was trying to get across to Spartan in that thread. As usual, you said it better, Jack. Thanks.

    4. joy Reid has just placed herself on whatever mental health list they come up with to remove her right to buy a gun. Can there be any argument?

    ‘California represents the future.’ Over my cold, dead body. And I will have a lefty vanguard to escort me into Valhalla!

  6. Regarding the jerkoff computer store owner being kicked out for not paying his rent…

    Never has Nelson Muntz’ wisdom been so perfectly applicable.

  7. 2. Recycle. The dirty secret is that, most likely, all the receptacles, recycle and trash, end up in the same dumpster to be sorted later by a team of homeless folk driving stolen grocery carts.

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