1. I may start banning commenters who keep saying this. A new, articulate and agenda-driven commenter, Ross Grazier, writes, “But your writing on this blog seems to be all about politics and much less about ethics.” I don’t want to drive Ross off, since the position of Ethics Alarms Knee-jerk Progressive Ratioanalizer And Denier of Mainstream Media Bias seems to be vacant at the moment, but I’m really, really sick of this common smear of my work (Ross’s comment also reminded me that I need to add the “s0 called ethicist” and “self-anointed ethicist” to the magic phrases that can get a commenter banned). Not for the first time, I decided to categorize every topic I wrote about here in the past week as political, non-political, or “mixed,” meaning that the article included substantive relevance to political figures or controversies but that the ethical issues involved were not solely political in scope or relevance. There were 42 distinct topics discussed (I did not include the Comments of the Day). Of these, 26 were non-political. Ten were “mixed.” Exactly six were “about politics.”
I was surprised, frankly. I expected a bit more emphasis on politics.
I regard Ross’s accusation and others like it as an either an effort to undermine my credibility and the reputation of Ethics Alarms, or as an example of confirmation bias at work. Easily debunked claims that are asserted anyway in print are unethical.
2. Movie Ethics Potpourri! A. I finally saw “Peter Rabbit,” which was the subject of a (Non political, Ross!) post here. You may recall that Sony was pressured into grovelling an apology for a scene in which the animated rabbits shot blackberries into Mr. McGregor’s mouth using sling-shots, provoking an allergic reaction. Seeking its 15 minutes of cheap publicity and social media outrage mongering, Kenneth Mendez, president and chief executive of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, said, “Making light of this condition hurts our members because it encourages the public not to take the risk of allergic reactions seriously, and this cavalier attitude may make them act in ways that could put an allergic person in danger.” Naturally, there was a Change.org petition demanding that the offending sequence be removed. Now that I’ve seen the film—which is pretty good, not quite “Babe” good, but well-done and fun—I can appreciate the full insanity of the complaints. B. The British film “Calibre,” now playing on Netflix, is a “Deliverance” style ethics movie, in which two reasonable good guys go on a hunting trip in Scotland and are hurled by bad luck and panic into a series of ethical dilemmas, managing to make exactly the wrong decision at every turn. In the end, three people are dead, multiple crimes have been committed, and the lessons are murky. This is an excellent “what would you do?” film for group discussion, though the ultimate answer is “Don’t go hunting, in Scotland or anywhere else.” C. Finally, in the rarified category of giant ant movie ethics, there is “Them!” It is a justly admired 50’s Sci-Fi flick about an alien invasion of giant ants, featuring a surprisingly accomplished and diverse cast including pre-“Gunsmoke” Jim Arness, James Whitmore, ol’ Santa Clause himself, Edmund Gwenn, ubiquitous Western character actor Dub Taylor, and Sigourney Weaver’s wacky uncle, Doodles Weaver. I hadn’t seen it for a while, and forgot that it included one of the most blatant examples of Rationalization #58. The Universal Trump, or “Think of the children!” on film.
Scientists and the military have determined that the giant ants—We’re talking THIS big:
—have invaded California (from outer space, in ant-shaped space ships!), that they pose a threat to LA, the state, and entire country, and that there may be hundreds of thousands of them. California has declared martial law. A military commander announces that the best strategy is to gas underground passages where the ants are presumably gathering, and then kill the ones who escape to the surface. No, says Big Jim. It seems that there are two small children missing that were taken by the ants from their now thoroughly masticated and dead father. As long as there’s a chance they may still be alive, Jim says, we can’t take the chance of harming them. The man is gob-smacked. “You mean you’d risk all of Los Angeles for two kids who are probably already dead?” he asks, in a fair framing of the issue. “Why don’t you ask their mother?” says Arness. “She’s right over there.”
Well all righty then! How can you argue with that?
3. Spoiler: This is unconstitutional. California governor Jerry Brown is being asked to sign a now-passed bill from his out-there legislature that will require publicly-traded companies headquartered in California to place at least one woman on their board by the end of next year — or face a penalty. Some European countries have such requirements, so this must be a good rule. A majority of the S&P 500 have at least one woman on their boards, but only 25% have more than two. CNN cheers this development in the Golden State, saying, “Research shows that female representation on boards is key for women’s advancement in corporate America. Women on boards are more likely to consider female leaders for the C-suite and choose more diverse candidates for the board itself.”
Somehow it managed to omit some key information: the law would be unconstitutional, though some of the female SCOTUS justices would likely try to torture law and logic to justify it. It even violates the California Constitution, as lawyer Hans Bader points out…
Courts have struck down gender-balance requirements for government boards, concluding that they are illegal quotas that violate the Constitution’s equal protection clause. See, e.g., Back v. Carter, 933 F.Supp. 738 (N.D. Ind. 1996).
They also have struck down requirements that regulated entities (such as private companies) adopt racial or sexual quotas, or gender-balance requirements, governing their own workforces. See, e.g., Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod v. FCC, 141 F.3d 344 (D.C. Cir. 1998).
Courts also have also rejected the argument that “diversity” justifies gender quotas. See, e.g., Lamprecht v. FCC, 958 F.3d 382 (D.C. Cir. 1992).
The California Constitution’s equal-protection clause also forbids racial and sexual proportionality requirements. (See Connerly v. State Personnel Board, 92 Cal.App.4th 16 (2001)). And such requirements are at odds with the public policy contained in Article I, Section 31 of the California Constitution, which forbids racial and gender quotas even in the public sector. (See Hi-Voltage Wireworks v. City of San Jose, 12 P.3d 1068 (Cal. 2000)).
This isn’t even a close call. True liberals shouldn’t want governments demanding what individuals companies choose to manage them based on race or sex. When did “the ends justify the means” become the operating principle of the Democratic Party?
Governor Brown would show courage and integrity if he refused to sign the bill. He knows it’s illegal, and he knows it will be overturned.