Monthly Archives: November 2018

Sick-Bed Ethics Warm-Up, 11/14/18: Ethics Among the Sneezes [UPDATED]

Good whatever it is….

1. Bottom line” Don’t trust Facebook. From the Times: “Facebook failed to closely monitor device makers after granting them access to the personal data of hundreds of millions of people, according to a previously unreported disclosure to Congress last month.” Surprised? As with Google promising moths ago that it was no longer reading our mail, then admitting months later that it had resumed the practice, the big tech companies have proven repeatedly that that we cannot believe what they say, or their motives, or their pledges of good will and public service. More from the Times story:

Facebook’s loose oversight of the partnerships was detected by the company’s government-approved privacy monitor in 2013. But it was never revealed to Facebook users, most of whom had not explicitly given the company permission to share their information. Details of those oversight practices were revealed in a letter Facebook sent last month to Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat, a privacy advocate and frequent critic of the social media giant.

In the letter, a copy of which Mr. Wyden provided to The New York Times, Facebook wrote that by early 2013 it had entered into data-sharing agreements with seven device makers to provide what it called the “Facebook experience” — custom-built software, typically, that gave those manufacturers’ customers access to Facebook on their phones. Those partnerships, some of which date to at least 2010, fall under a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission drafted in 2011 and intended to oversee the company’s privacy practices.

Read the whole thing. I just assume that anything I put on Facebook, regardless of the alleged settings,will be sold to or otherwise obtained by potentially malign entities.

2. Just what we need now, a rogue First Lady. First Lady Melania Trump publicly called for the President’s deputy national security adviser, Mira Ricardel, to be fired.  In a word, well, two: Shut up. The felicitous circumstance of marrying someone who is later elected President of the United States confers no expertise or authority. The position of First Lady has no Constitutionally recognized duties, nor does it carry any real power. There is nothing anyone can do to diminish the influence and spouse may have with the President behind closed doors—and that is a problem—but she or the inevitable he must not confuse, confound or otherwise seek to influence affairs of state with public comments and opinions. Why Melania wants Ricardel fired is irrelevant. It’s none of her business.

I just want to point out that I sneezed six times while typing those last four words. Applause, please. Continue reading

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Ethics Warm-Up, 11/13/18: ” Not Dead, Just Wishing I Was” Edition

I’m here.

The weekend was a near total wipe-out for me, as the incipient flu-cold or whatever it is that has been stalking me for at least a couple of weeks finally ended all ambiguity by leveling me  just as the long weekend was getting started. I was in bed virtually all day yesterday, most of the day before, and if I’m getting better, damned if I can see it. I’ve always got to be wary when I cough like this, as I am susceptible to bronchitis, but ProEthics, and ethics itself, wait for no Weenie.

1. What do you do with these idiots? The guys in Baraboo High School’s class of 2019 posed with Nazi salutes at their junior prom this year.

It isn’t Mel Brooks High School: “the  Heil sign” is only amusing or satirical in the most carefully constructed context. In any other time of place, it trivializes a historical nightmare, genocide and the engineered murder of millions of people by a madman,  his henchmen, and a poisoned culture. The Wisconsin school district that included Baraboo claims to acting on the photo,  but since it went viral on social media, current and former students have said that the school itself has a culture of racism and bigotry openly that is allowed to thrive by indifferent teachers and administrators.  There’s a lot I don’t understand about the photo.  Where are the girls? Are these only the Nazis in the class, or is it all of the boys? The kids that aren’t saluting: are they protesting against the display? Did they just miss the shot? Why are they in the photo at all? Who in their right mind would participate in such a stunt?

2. Fact: acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has no conflicts of interest with the Mueller investigation. So why are Democrats insisting that he recuse himself, now that his is overseeing the investigation as Jeff Sessions could not? As far as I can see, the only reason is that they want Rod Rosenstein, who had been the acting AG for only the Mueller matter to continue to supervise it because he is perceived as being hostile to the President. Rosenstein does have a conflict, and properly should have recused himself long ago. He was very much involved in the Comey firing, which is part of the  Mueller investigation’s inquiry into alleged obstruction of justice by the President. He conceivably possesses information about the President’s  motives in firing Comey, and quite possibly has  a personal interest in how the episode is interpreted. Rosenstein thus would very likely be a necessary fact witness in any obstruction inquiry in connection with the Comey firing. That’s a conflict.

Whitaker, however, has no conflict. His statements about how Mueller has run the investigation don’t create a conflict of interest under the applicable ethics rules, not does it raise the appearance of impropriety. Democrats are signaling here, as they have repeatedly for two years, that their objective is to “get Trump” by any means necessary, and they will torture and distort, law, ethics and common sense to achieve that goal. Continue reading

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Armistice Day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/11/18: Pettiness, Tit-For-Tat, And Fake All-Stars

Good Morning!

Why Nora Bayes? Let me tell you a story…

I learned about Nora Bayes (1880-1928) while mounting a production of a “lost” musical, George S. Kauffman’s Hollywood satire “Hollywood Pinafore,” which was essentially a parody of Gilbert & Sullivan’s classic, “H.M.S. Pinafore.” Nora was mentioned in a laugh line in the script, so the 1941 show assumed that the audience knew who she was. I had never heard of her, so I did some research. She was a fascinating character, and a huge vaudeville and Broadway singing and comedy star, household name huge. “Over There” was one of her biggest hits; another was “Shine on Harvest Moon,” which she wrote with her second husband (she ultimately had five), Jack Norwith. He also wrote “Take Me Out To The Ball Game,” another Bayes standard. According to one online biography, Bayes Bayes “provided some flamboyant, indeed extreme, examples of the broad social changes happening in the United States in the early twentieth century, namely the questioning of traditional roles for women as well as the challenges to male political and economic power that marked the women’s movement of the time.”

I almost wrote about her in April. As regular readers here know, I believe it is the our duty to honor the memories, accomplishments and cultural influence of past figures in American history, because the more we remember, the more we learn, and the wiser and more ethical we are. Somehow Nora Bayes, famous as she one was, had been in an unmarked grave for 90 years.  On April 21, a group of Nora Bayes enthusiasts placed a granite headstone over her plot. The New York Times told the strange tale here.

Now I think of Nora Bayes every time I hear “Over There,” “Shine on Harvest Moon,” and “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” Maybe you will too.

1. Truth in labeling. Major League Baseball has sent a team to Japan to play a series of exhibition games against a Japanese All-Star team, reviving a long-time tradition that had been suspended for several years. As you may know, the U.S. was critical in introducing baseball to Japan, and sent several major stars there to help get the sport established. Playing in Japan is mostly a lark for the American players, but the games are taken very seriously by the Japanese. In the first two games, the MLB All-Stars have lost, greatly pleasing the locals.

I don’t begrudge the Japanese fans their David and Goliath fantasies, but calling the U.S. team “All-Stars” is misrepresentation. For example, one of the pitchers who got clobbered in the last game, a 9-6  contest that began with the Japanese team jumping out to a 9-0 lead, was a Red Sox pitcher named Brian Johnson. I like Johnson, a crafty swing-man who had some good moments last season, but he’s a lifetime 6-6 pitcher who was left off the Red Sox post-season roster, and will have to battle to stay in the majors next season. I know you can’t sell tickets if the U.S. team is called the “All the players we could talk into coming to Japan Team,” but that’s what it is.

2. Tit for Tat  may be funny, but it’s not ethical. Representative Dan Crenshaw, the veteran who was mocked last week on Saturday Night Live for his disfiguring war wound, appeared on the show last night to mock the appearance of his tormenter, Pete Davidson. Crenshaw was unusually poised for a pol on a comedy show, and the bit successfully got Davidson and SNL, which had been widely criticized for its nasty routine, off the hook. Clever. Successful. Funny. Still wrong, however. This represents an endorsement of Donald Trump ethics, as well as the endlessly repeated rationalization for the non-stop ad hominem attacks the President has inflicted on him daily by the news media and others. The President famously—infamously around here—has always said that if you attack him, he’ll attack you back harder. His haters argue, in turn, that their tactics are justified by his. This is how the culture got in the escalating spiral to Hell it is in. I don’t blame Crenshaw: if he hadn’t accepted the invitation to get funny revenge on Davidson, he would have looks like a petty jerk. Nonetheless, he has now officially become part of the problem, not just a victim of it.

3. Stop making me defend President Trump Dept.  You see, I am kicked around on Facebook for not just falling meekly into line and declaring that everything Donald Trump does is an outrage and proof that he should be impeached. I tell you, it’s tempting. The mass bullying campaign to herd everyone into the undemocratic effort to overthrow an elected President using relentless criticism and flagrant double standards has been effective in stifling others, and it also serves as a kind of mass cultural hypnosis. I don’t like defending Trump. He is doing serious damage to his office, as are his unhinged foes, who are apparently willing to destroy the nation, democracy, and the Constitution to “save” it from him. But I will not be intimidated out of pointing out the revolting pettiness, hypocrisy and unfairness of his critics. Two examples surfaced yesterday. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: Mid-Day Ethics Warm-Up, 10/16/18: The Jerk Squad (Item #2)

Elizabeth Warren has been allowed to have her embarrassing experience with DNA testing slide back into the memory hole, and Massachusetts voters happily returned the Leftist demagogue to the Senate. Ignoring the character deficiencies of its Senators is a long tradition in my home state. For once, my sloth in not posting Comment of the Day in a timely fashion has paid dividends, for it allows me to raise the Warren fiasco of last month…yes, it was less than a month ago, incredibly—in all of its yummy ethics nastiness.

johnburger2013 authored this commentary, and here is his Comment of the Day on Item #2 in the post, Mid-Day Ethics Warm-Up, 10/16/18: The Jerk Squad, in which I opined in part,

If all goes well, Elizabeth Warren’s triumphant discovery that she is 99.9% white and therefore was justified in representing herself as a “person of color” for institutional diversity purposes will sink her career aspirations as deep as they deserve to be sunk. The fact that so much of the mainstream media is willing to have their credibility brought down with her is indicative of how stupid bias will make people. The Daily Beast, for example, writes in a headline, “Warren revealed results show Native American heritage Monday.”

Keep it up, guys. Pretty soon the jig will be up for identify politics, since  if 1/1,024th Native American means “Native American heritage,” then everyone is “of color” somehow. In that case, perhaps we’ll owe Warren a debt of gratitude….

Now here’s jb….

Warren had an easy out of this mangled story: She should/could have said that she believed her family’s telling of the events and, being originally from Oklahoma, it would be reasonable to believe that she had Native American heritage.* But, she elaborated on the story, to make it more compelling. She also told interviewers her father’s parents did not approve of his choice for a wife because her mother was Cherokee.**

Warren is a lawyer and, supposedly, is very bright. If you’ve watched or listened to CNN and MSNBC for the last four years or so, she is the very embodiment of moral authority over all things . . . erm . . . moral, guided by a passionate desire to help the poor and the middle class.

She knew, and reasonably should have know, that DNA is not determinative of Native American heritage. What matters is being included in the tribes’ relevant hereditary scrolls. In fact, she said that in an interview, so she was aware of the standard and she is aware that she is not so listed. Continue reading

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Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/10/18: “Ugh!” “Bah!” “Arf!””Ew!”And “Ahh!”

Why are these guys happy? Read on…

Goooood morning!

1. Why does anyone pay attention to what Dan Rather has to say about the trustworthiness of the news media? Interviewed in some Trump-bashing forum or another, the man who was fired from CBS for using a fake document to bolster an anti-President Bush story argued that President Trump was waging a “war on the press” in order  to “undermine the public’s trust in the rule of law, ” and that he was making “some headway” in undermining the press’s legitimacy.

To the contrary, Dan Rather and his biased news media colleagues have been 100% responsible for undermining the public’s trust in journalists. All of the Presidents attacks and insults would come to nothing if it were not so obvious, which more evidence every day, that the news media was biased, incompetent, dishonest, and pursuing a partisan agenda. Indeed, the fact that CNN, MSNBC and other news sources still resort to Rather as a credible commentator is enough to justify distrusting the new media all by itself.

2. Yup, those Republicans won’t return to civility…Kathy Griffin, trenchant as always and teeming with wit, has now called President Trump a “stupid racist piece of shit.” It is time to definitively establish that the “Trump is a racist” slur is a Democrat/”resistance” Big Lie, and nothing else. There is no evidence that Donald Trump is a racist. I have reviewed the episodes that supported support that contention, and ultimately they boil down to “If you aren’t a progressive, you’re a racist.” Trump opposes illegal immigration, and the dishonest advocacy of open borders has relied on intimidating supporters of this self-evidently correct position by tarring them as racist. Trump challenged Barack Obana’s birthright citizenship exactly as he challenged Ted Cruz’s citizenship in the 2016 campaign for the GOP nomination. (Ted’s not black, in case you hadn’t noticed.) The argument that this proves Trump is a racist is a failed syllogism: Many racists were birthers, Trump was a birther, ergo he’s a racist. False. He’s an asshole. He would have trolled any President, of any color, with the same idiotic accusation if it suited his purposes. But, again, the Democratic play-book for eight years now has dictated that any criticism of Obama is suspect of racist motives. And, of course, the President must be racist because he wants to limit the number of Muslims who enter the country from hotbeds of terrorism.

The hypocrisy of Trump’s foes using the Nazi Big Lie tactic while accusing him of being a fascist is so obvious that it’s hard to believe everyone doesn’t see it. I admit, it’s a versatile Big Lie, allowing pundits to equate Trump’s advocacy of “nationalism,” meaning opposition to the world government dreams the Democratic Party (and quite a few Republicans) have been promoting since Woodrow Wilson (who WAS as racist) with “white nationalism.”

Griffin’s “evidence”? The President said the White House might pull the press credentials of April Ryan, who happens to be black. If CNN was real news organization, it would have fired Ryan, who is a biased, ideologically-driven hack, long ago. Here are the Ethics Alarms Ryan files. Here is what April Ryan considers legitimate questioning of the White House Press Secretary:

“Sarah, is slavery wrong? Sarah, is slavery wrong? Does this administration think that slavery was wrong? Sarah, does this administration believe slavery was wrong?”

Stop making me defend President Trump. Continue reading

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Rationalization 32 B: “The Comforting Accusation,” Or “You Would Have Done The Same Thing!”

It’s been a long time since the last new rationalization joined the list. This one, “The Comforting Accusation” or “You would have done the same thing!“, follows #32. The Unethical Role Model: “He/She would have done the same thing,” and #,32A. Imaginary Consent,  or He/She Would Have Wanted It This Way.”

32 B adds the nasty little element of alleged hypocrisy to the mix, making it especially effective. How can someone criticize your conduct if they couldn’t or wouldn’t resist the same thing? Thus the author of an unethical act deflects his or her own accountability by making someone else the target of an accusation, albeit based on assumption rather than fact. The rationalization attempts to transform the wrongdoer into the judge’s reflection.

There are four problems with #32. First, it may be that the assumption that someone else would have taken the same unethical course is wrong, and, of course, it is just speculation anyway. Second, it doesn’t matter: this is just a personalized fractal of the hoariest rationalization of them all, Numero Uno, “Everybody does it.” Unethical conduct is not cleansed because it has company, or, as in this case, might have company.

Third, it’s a sneaky evocation of #14. Self-validating Virtue, in which an act is judged by the perceived goodness the person doing it, rather than the other way around. Most people, because of bias, automatically think of themselves as the most ethical person they know. The Comforting Accusation recruits the cognitive dissonance scale to elevate an unethical act by attaching it to something deep in the positive end of the scale for just about everyone: themselves. #32B is ultimately an appeal to bias.

Most important of all, the fact that I may have done what you did under similar circumstances doesn’t make what you did less wrong, It only means I have some sympathy for you, and am more likely to apply the Golden Rule if I am assigned the responsibility of holding you to account—which I should apply anyway.

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Another Monty Python Cultural Ethics Check: Is This Satire Now Offensive?

I almost added the above scene from the Monty Python troupe’s masterpiece “The Life of Brian” to the previous post.  Has sensitivity to the demands and travails of the LGBT community rendered this satire offensive? Should it be considered offensive? If satire targeting people who demand that they have a right to do the impossible is offensive, is satire doomed in a woke world?

Following in the tradition of this recent post, with the intent of clarifying the political correctness rules so I know what I am defying, Ethics Alarms presents the following poll based on the video clip above:

 

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