Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/5/2018: Doppelgangers And Other Weirdness

Oh-oh! It’s a creepy morning…

1. If “there are no coincidences,” then what the hell does THIS mean? The ethics category, if there is one, would be “Nature Incompetence,” or perhaps “deity abuse of power.” Look at minor league baseball pitcher Brady Feigl:

Oh! I’m sorry! I meant “Look at these TWO minor league baseball pitchers who are both named Brady Feigl.” One is in the Texas Rangers system, and the other is in the Oakland A’s system.

A similar example of God fooling around for his own amusement and our confusion had historical significance.

This man is Will West, a convicted criminal who was sent to Leavenworth Prison in 1903…


…and this is William West, who was already being held there:

The fact that the two men were so facially similar helped convince American law enforcement to begin using fingerprints rather than facial measurements for identification.

2. Over-blown conservative news media controversy of the week: In “First Man,” Ryan Gosling plays Neil Armstrong. For some reason, director Damien Chazelle decided to omit the iconic moment when Armstrong planted the American flag on the Moon. The Horror. Fox News can’t stop talking about it. President Trump has declared that he’ll boycott the film. Morons.

Nobody now complaining has seen the movie. In a vacuum, I’d agree that the choice is a strange one (and Gosling’s explanation that Armstrong’s achievement “transcended countries and borders” doesn’t help, but he’s an actor, and this is why actors need scripts.) Still, there is no reason to presume that the choice is an anti-American one. The movie does not suggest, apparently, that Armstrong didn’t plant the flag. When John Wayne made “The Alamo,” some were upset that he didn’t show Travis drawing a line in the sand and asking those who wanted to stand with him and defend the fort  to cross it. That moment is one of the most iconic in Alamo lore. I don’t know why the Duke made that choice: it’s true that the story is unproven, but it’s not as if there weren’t plenty of other inaccuracies in that movie. Still, the only question that matters is whether 1) the decision to portray or not portray a particular moment or event fulfills the director’s vision and 2) whether that vision results in a work of art that audiences appreciate. I felt that the the director’s decision in 2016’s “Dunkirk” to ignore the sheer scope of the rescue to focus on individual boats and characters was a terrible choice, but I saw the movie before I made my decision.

Some conservatives are also upset that Armstrong is being played by a Canadian actor, which is what Gosling is. Anyone who even thinks that cretinous complaint is ethically estopped from ever mocking progressive accusations of “cultural appropriation” again.

3. Ridiculous progressive conspiracy theory of the week: The depths of madness that Democrats and their hysterical allies descended to in the Brett Kavanaugh hearing yesterday defied belief.  The low point? Social media detectives determined that the hand position of the woman sitting behind the nominee…

…was a white supremacy signal.“What fresh hell is this!!!??? Kavanaugh’s assistant Zina Bash giving the white power sign right behind him during the hearing? This alone should be disqualify!!!” Amy Siskind, president and co-founder of the female advocacy group New Agenda tweeted.  “This neo-nazi is Zina Bash. She’s intentionally throwin up White Power signs at a Supreme Court Justice confirmation hearing. On national TV. She works for Kavanaugh & is also one of the writers for Trump’s immigration policy. This is their new Amerikkka,” tweeted actress Kelly Mantle. “Kavanaugh’s former law clerk Zina Bash is flashing a white power sign behind him during his Senate confirmation hearing. They literally want to bring white supremacy to the Supreme Court. What a national outrage and a disgrace to the rule of law,” wrote Dr. Eugene Gu, in a tweet retweeted 12 thousand times. Naturally, some of my Facebook friends took up the narrative, because they wanted it to be true.

Of course, the whole thing was hysterical nonsense. Bash no longer works for Judge Kavanaugh and is now employed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Her husband, U.S. Attorney John Bash, posted a series of tweets regarding the madness, saying..

“The attacks today on my wife are repulsive. Everyone tweeting this vicious conspiracy theory should be ashamed of themselves. We weren’t even familiar with the hateful symbol being attributed to her for the random way she rested her hand during a long hearing. Zina is Mexican on her mother’s side and Jewish on her father’s side. She was born in Mexico. Her grandparents were Holocaust survivors. We of course have nothing to do with hate groups, which aim to terrorize and demean other people — never have and never would. Some of the Twitter comments have even referred to our baby daughter. I know that there are good folks on both sides of the political divide. I hope that people will clearly condemn this idiotic and sickening accusation.”

But if the crazy smear could help defeat the Kavanaugh nomination, I am certain Democrats would be satisfied with that, because, as you know, the ends justify the means.

4. Thomas the Tank Engine Ethics. This is not an Onion parody, unfortunately:

…Mattel and the United Nations have been engaged in an 18-month collaboration that has the diplomatic body helping shape story lines and characters on the cable television series, now titled “Thomas & Friends: Big World! Big Adventures!” When the new-look show launches on Nick Jr. on Friday, on display will be not just a fresh direction for a toy brand but also a trial balloon of sorts for a new – and, to some, thorny – form of entertainment, one in which global activism and commercial Hollywood are entwined.

“We think this can be a whole new way of collaborating,” Richard Dickson, president and chief operating officer of Mattel, said in an interview. “We hope partnerships like this become an example for others.”

The arrangement began when Mattel executives in early 2017 approached the United Nations and said they would like to work together. Soon teams from Mattel and the United Nations were gathered in New York, where U.N. staffers pitched ideas to Thomas brand managers. The parties were trying to figure out which of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals – the 17 objectives in areas such as poverty, hunger and sanitation it aims to achieve by 2030 – would make sense for story lines.

They eventually settled on six. Five of them – education, sustainable communities, responsible consumption, gender equity and “life on land,” about healthy ecosystems – will be featured in a total of nine of the 26 episodes and related short-form content this season. (A sixth goal, related to clean water, was accepted but wound up on the cutting-room floor because it could not be worked in easily.)

To address gender equality, for instance, producers replaced several male characters with female ones, including an orange car named Rebecca, an African car named Nia and a Chinese engine named Hong-Mei, and worked messages about gender into the episodes….

You can read the rest, if your stomach is stronger than mine. The article is happily extolling blatant political propaganda being planted in a children’s show by an international organization to achieve its ideological agenda, for the explicit purpose of indoctrinating kids. The idea that trains—virtually all the characters are trains, you know—have to be racially diverse is so bats I can’t even process it. An American corporation is enthusiastically complicit, because they hope to make more profits off of the parents of freshly brain-washed kids.

The scheme reminds me of nothing so much as the pods we see possessed parents lovingly placing in the beds of their sleeping children in “Invasion of the Body-Snatchers,” so the kiddies will wake up thinking like everybody else.  Here’s a little bit more from the article:

“For the global body, the hope is that putting the messages in an entertainment context will help them reach people in ways bureaucratic programs cannot.”We felt strongly that we’d have more impact working on content,” said Jeffrey Brez, the U.N. chief of nongovernmental-organization relations and advocacy, who helped spearhead the project. “Thomas is a global franchise in a larger number of countries and languages. They can do things we can’t. Our outreach capacity is very limited.”

61 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/5/2018: Doppelgangers And Other Weirdness

  1. 4) Thomas the Train show was garbage before any of this. Watch one or two episodes and look for the underlying messages. We stopped letting our kids watch them when we paid attention to a few.

      • There are some good messages, but among the handful of underlying messages that bugged us was the insistence that your value to the community depended entirely on your usefulness.

        Make no mistake, there is a shadow of a true message in there that encourages helpfulness and seeking to provide value to the community, but it just seemed to us that the way it was emphasized also came across as a bit troubling in its implications.

          • Yeah, Gordon was an ass but so was James. He was vain. Percy was always helpful and kind to the new engines. My son loved Murdoch. Sir Percival was a terrible line controller, bureaucratic and fastidious.

            As you can tell, I am well steeped in “Thomas” lore. I never did like the Narrow Gauge Engines, with the exception of Peter Sam.


        • I always liked that line: “Thomas, you are a really useful engine.” I thought it was amusing. I have used on our pooch quite often. The Pooch refuses to be indoctrinated though. He looks at me with those brownish eyes and I can hear the constant buzz of low-level static in his brain – “Cookie? Did you say cookie?”


        • “We’ll get a diesel to do your work!” That was one of the lines from the show my wife would jokingly say to my son if he was misbehaving. He’d straighten right up, then laugh.
          I think of the line now days when I see calls for higher minimum wages.

        • “To each according to his needs; from each according to his abilities.”

          Presumably, there is no need to credit this quote.

      • Yeah, I must say, I thought the show was a charmingly benign as a kids show could be, even when George Carlin was the Station Master. Liked the songs, too.The prices on the trains, however, were unconscionable…

        • We were fortunate enough that we bought all the trains in China off of there version of ebay. I think we spent like $20 for the whole set at the time.

  2. 1. Surely these are twins separated at birth…right?
    2. Fine. Erase nationality. While we’re at it, let’s erase President Kennedy’s challenge to the US space program, since it doesn’t matter which country invested and achieved.
    3. Jewish Mexican power! Right on, Mrs. Bash. (Gawd.)
    4. More cars, more gender identities, more continents of origin. The fight for engine and train car speaking lines begins. This is going to be a train wreck…yup it is.

  3. #3 The social justice warrior brainwashing propaganda is never ending. I’m beginning to think that some of the clearly paranoid social justice warriors making all these accusations are certifiably insane.

  4. Re No. 4:

    Some much for the Oily Diesels (‘Arry and Bert) busting up the Stinky Steamies (Thomas, Gordon, and Percy). Is nothing sacred? I wonder what Sir Topham Hatt will do now that his Lines on Sodor have been globalized.


  5. Regarding Number 2, I heard the suggestion that they did not want to offend the Chinese market. I don’t know if that is true, as I would think you could simply edit something out for international release (though that would provide the same grounds for outrage).

    On the other hand, it would not surprise me if it is all about money.


    • I would say the complaint is related to the same complaint in #4 – indoctrination. Like Orwell warned about those seeking to erase the past.

      But for those curious, I like to go to historyvshollywood to look at “historical” movies vs the actual history.

  6. #3: The ADL actually put out an article debunking this supposed “white supremacist sign” as a hoax. It was part of a campaign by 4channers to publicly discredit anti-racists by making them flip out over anodyne gestures.

    • Yes, it was an attempt to make everyone see how insane the mainstream left has become. It didn’t work. There seems to be no level of insanity that they won’t accept to get at Trump. It wasn’t just ‘social media sites’, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Business Insider, Yahoo! news, the Daily Mail, Time, CBS News, the Austin Statesman, the Dallas Observer, and WOAI San Antonio all reported that this is a widely held ‘white supremacy symbol’. They may have said it is disputed or that she really didn’t mean it that way, but they all stated that it is regarded as a symbol of white supremacy. Unfortunately, the ADL has reversed their position and claim that this is now a ‘white supremacy symbol’ because so many people have fallen for the hoax (so many people believe the lie that it is now true?).
      The Boston Globe got it right, pointing out that it is NOT and never has been a symbol of white supremacy and it was just a hoax. Apparently, the Boston Globe is the only news source capable of a small amount of rational thought.

  7. #3. I think #handshakegate might have been worse. I didn’t see anyone giving the sign serious credence, while a lot were talking about the handshake that didn’t happen.

  8. 2. So what SHOULD be the first words spoken by the first human to step onto Mars? (I haven’t Googled this, so, am unaware of how many contests have already been held and who the winners are, and which proposed sayings are trending most popular at present.)

    How about (in Chinese):
    “Holy SHIT! That was a long ride just to see an uninhabitable WASTELAND!”

  9. Just how will Mattel personify Thomas’s other rolling stock without using stereotypical imagery? Will the Hispanic car named Jesus be adorned with graffitti tags or will it be a low rider. Will the chinese car be yellow with a pointy hat and slanted eyes? And of Nia the African car will it be sub-Saharan or more Morrocan or Egyption in character. I hate to contemplate her adornments and cartoonish physical features.

    How will anyone know who the cars are representing if they all sport the same cartoonsh features? I cannot wait to see the backlash.

    So much for teaching color blindness

  10. 1) There’s a documentary out now about triplets separated at birth: “Three Identical Strangers.” And from the looks of it, there are fascinating ethics angles to that story.

    3) Bash’s thumb and forefinger aren’t touching, even if it were the case that the “OK” gesture is about white supremacy. Moreover, she has an “ethnically ambiguous” look: “white” in virtually the same way George Zimmerman was “white” after he shot Trayvon Martin. I’m reminded of the progressive friend who told me that the black police officers involved in Freddie Gray’s death were instruments of white supremacy. The “freedom fries” sort of chauvinists in 3 are more rational, but in both cases the concern is more to do with symbols of tribal loyalty—so-called “virtue-signalling”—than reality.

    4) I’m really curious how industrial machinery powered by fossil fuels will be used to indoctrinate children about healthy ecosystems. Will the steam and Diesel engines be retired to make way for electric engines running on power generated by wind turbines and solar panels? There are possibilities, here …

    Also, Jack, you might be interested in an ethical analysis of this story: The 9th Circuit has ruled that it is unconstitutional “cruel and unusual punishment” to prosecute homeless people for sleeping in public:

  11. I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration
    I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

    Sept. 5, 2018

    The Times today is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers. We invite you to submit a question about the essay or our vetting process here.

    President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader.

    It’s not just that the special counsel looms large. Or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Trump’s leadership. Or even that his party might well lose the House to an opposition hellbent on his downfall.

    The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

    I would know. I am one of them.

    To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.

    But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.

    That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.

    The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

    Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.

    In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the “enemy of the people,” President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.

    Don’t get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.

    But these successes have come despite — not because of — the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.

    From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.

    Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.

    “There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next,” a top official complained to me recently, exasperated by an Oval Office meeting at which the president flip-flopped on a major policy decision he’d made only a week earlier.

    The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the White House. Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. But in private, they have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful.

    It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.

    The result is a two-track presidency.

    Take foreign policy: In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.

    Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly, and where allies around the world are engaged as peers rather than ridiculed as rivals.

    On Russia, for instance, the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But his national security team knew better — such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.

    This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state.

    Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.

    The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.

    Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation.

    We may no longer have Senator McCain. But we will always have his example — a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.

    There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first. But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans.


    Is this the work of a young activist?

    There are several verbal cues that imply to me that no one with writing experience composed this.

    • Michael West asked, “Is this the work of a young activist?”

      To be honest I think the core of the piece, that the author is a “senior officials in his own administration… working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations” is a balded-faced lie and the NYT likely knows it a lie.

      This piece wreaks of psychological propaganda.

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