Monthly Archives: December 2018

Happy News Year, Everyone. And Thanks.

I’ll be honest—this is an ethics blog, after all—this has not been a great year for my family, for my nation, for ethics. I leave 2018 more pessimistic than I entered it, and I hate that.  I feel alienated from a lot of my friends, and am feeling futile–I really hate that. I’ve spent too much of 2018 angry at selfish, dishonest, intellectually lazy, ignorant and mean people, and not enough—almost none, really—having fun. I can’t remember the last time I had fun.

The people, events and things that salvaged the year and made it bearable–the Red Sox had the best team and season by far in my lifetime, and it’s ridiculous how much that helps my state of mind—include the readers and commenters here on Ethics Alarms. As a group and individually, you all are attentive, respectful, serious, tough, smart and generous. Thank you.

Proethics also had a good year, even if some clients behaved spectacularly unprofessionally—how can you be unethical to an ethics company?–and even if every inquiry we got about sexual harassment training withered and died when I insisted that I wouldn’t do boilerplate junk, and would talk about the importance of due process for those accused.

True, I was targeted by a couple of vicious and ideology-driven social justice bullies and feminist Furies this year with minimal damage: I was slimed on a legal gossip website and blackballed on NPR for, the complaining host said, “seeming to defend Donald Trump,” which I wasn’t. I lost a contract for refusing to apologize to brainwashed Chinese academics for describing Mao as a mass murderer, which, or course, he was. As the year ends, Facebook is blocking my posts.

That’s OK. I appreciate the opportunity to practice the courage, integrity, obstinacy and stubborn adherence to principle that Jack Sr. worked so hard to instill in me. (Still working on it, Dad!).

I learn so much researching and writing this blog: as one of my mentors, U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue once told me, “Sometimes I don’t know what I think until I hear what I have to say.” I wish I had a bigger megaphone, a larger audience, more influence, a higher place on the cognitive dissonance scale. That I don’t is my own fault and failing, of course; there’s a price for being a dilettante. Well, I’m not going to wallow—if there was one thing I learned from directing “Follies,” regret will kill you.

So my resolution this year is the same as it has been for many years now. I want to end 2019 smarter, wiser, and more ethical than I began it, and if I can be of any assistance helping others to do the same, that will be wonderful.

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The Killer Ride

38-year-old Jose Calderon Arana suffered a fatal heart attack two years ago after taking the “Skull Island: Reign of Kong” ride at Universal Orlando Resort. He had  heart problems, didn’t speak or read English,  and now his family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, arguing that Universal was negligent by not displaying warning signs in Spanish, since it knew that many tourist were non-English speakers.

Skull Island employs animatronics and 3D screens  to simulate a truck expedition through the monster-filled island depicted in the “King Kong” movies. (If those icky giant bugs are on the ride, I might have a heart attack.) A very large sign at the entrance says, in English, “Warning! This ride is an expedition through the rough terrain of King Kong’s natural habitat. The movement of the truck is dynamic with sudden accelerations, dramatic tilting and jarring actions.” It goes on to warn that people with heart conditions or abnormal blood pressure, back or neck conditions, and expectant mothers shouldn’t go on the ride. Graphics accompany the warnings:

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, language, Law & Law Enforcement

Comment Of The Day: “Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/30/2018: A Petition, A Career-Killing Joke, And Priestley’s Play” [Item #4]

P.M.Lawrence, who comments from Australia, often flagging what he views as American biases and misconceptions, jumps ahead in the line of waiting Comments of the Day with this brief note. It raises an issue that I have thought about often in the past, and argued about with friends and others. What is the ethical obligation of Americans to use foreign spellings of proper names when writing about places and things for domestic readers? The particular example at hand was my using “Labor Party” to label the British organization which calls itself “the Labour Party.”

I’ll have a rebuttal after P.M.s Comment on the post, Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/30/2018: A Petition, A Career-Killing Joke, And Priestley’s Play , and am very interested in what others think.

A minor point: the original spelling of proper names should be used out of respect, even if that is different from your own usage of the words involved. Just as it would be wrong to write “National Inquirer”, so also it is wrong to write “Labor” when writing of the (British) “Labour Party” – even though it is right to write “Australian Labor Party”, for the very same reasons. It gets trickier with groups like our Australian DLP (“Democratic Labour Party”) that have chopped and changed over time; I incline towards using whichever spelling was in place at the time of the reference being cited.

This is all part of the Rectification of Names.

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Filed under Around the World, Etiquette and manners, Journalism & Media, language

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/31/2018: “Goodbye 2018, And Good Riddance!” Edition

Happy dying gasps of 2018!

1. Double standards inquiry: Will someone please explain to me why this magazine cover, which made O.J. Simpson blacker than he really is…

 

was universally condemned as racist, and this current cover of New York Times Magazine, making the late Aretha Franklin look like a ravenous rotting zombie from Hell..

…is just an artistic choice? (ARRGHHHHH!!!)

2. And speaking of looks…It is impossible not to notice that TV commercials are increasingly featuring overweight, ordinary-looking actors instead of the impossibly beautiful people who once were the automatic choices to sell products. This is an ethical development for the culture generally, and should help children develop more realistic aspirations regarding their own appearance. Now if only TV dramas would adopt the same inclusive casting policies—a particularly egregious candidate for reform is “law and Order” creator Dick Wolf.  His old series cast one eye-popping beauty after another as the male ADA’s sidekick, and now he is stocking his current NBC line-up of Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, and Chicago PD, with police women, female firefighters and distaff doctors who would be right at home in the pages of Vogue.

3.  More on “Enemies of the People”: Novelist and conservative gadfly Sarah Hoyt has issued a spirited defense—okay, it’s a screed, a rant even— of President Trump’s characterization of the news media, going over ground I have covered (most recently here and here), but with special brio. Read the whole thing— she is mostly right, if a bit hyperbolic and inflammatory—but here are some highlights: Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, Race, Social Media, Workplace

2018 Ethics Restrospective #1: “Unethical Quote Of The Year” [Retitled]

As part of my determination to get the Ethics Alarms Awards completed this year, here is an opportunity for reader input. I won’t guarantee that the poll results here will dictate the final choices, but they will be a great help. Don’t hesitating to use the comments to make other suggestions and nominations. I’ll be posting these periodically during the day and evening. First up…

Nominations for “Unethical Quote Of The Year”

 

  • “Overturning Roe vs. Wade by an all-male majority, two of whom have had credible accusations of sexual misconduct lodged against them, would not be a legitimate action.”—–ABC correspondent Terry Moran

 

  • “Our future is: Female. Intersectional. Powered by our belief in one another. And we’re just getting started.”Senator Kirsten Gillbrand

 

  • “I am going to unfollow and block anyone that spouts the “age” shit. Ageism is NO different from sexism – or racism, or homophobia. A person is either competent – or they fucking aren’t. It has NOTHING to do with their fucking age. Go ask Pelosi – and RBG”—-Joe Biden fan and defender @perpetualTJ on Twitter

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes

Unethical Quote Of The Week: “Meet The Press” Host Chuck Todd

Silence, Denier!

“Just as important as what we are going to do this hour is what we’re not going to do. We’re not going to debate climate change, the existence of it. The Earth is getting hotter, and human activity is a major cause. Period. We’re not going to give time to climate deniers. The science is settled, even if political opinion is not.”

NBC’s “Meet The Press” host Chuck Todd, introducing a “special” edition today on climate change.

It’s difficult to see the progressive-mainstream news media alliance more openly flexing its totalitarian muscles than that, is it?

“Settled science” on this topic has become one more debate and knowledge stifling cliché,   like similar dishonest word games such as “right to choose,” “sensible gun laws” and “comprehensive immigration reform.” It also means “Shut up!” Todd demonstrated this literally, by refusing to allow any dissent on a program with the objective of frightening the public into accepting draconian and speculative policy measures by uncritically accepting a doomsday scenario that is anything but settled science.

This is not merely bad science, it’s unethical journalism. I presume that the program didn’t mention, for example, the inconvenient report just this week  that 2018 had the fewest major tornadoes in recorded in history.

Wait—how could that be, when the much ballyhooed (and criticized)  federal report on climate change had Democrats crowing things like Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D–TX),  the presumed chair of the House science committee in January, about the certainty of report’s conclusion predicting “increased wildfires, more damaging storms, dramatic sea level rise, more harmful algal blooms, disease spread, dire economic impacts, the list goes on and on. That being said, all hope is not lost, but we must act now. We have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, work on adaptation and mitigation, and explore technology solutions such as geoengineering and carbon capture and sequestration”?

The less-destructive tornadoes go along nicely with the highly- reduced numbers of major hurricanes in the past decade. Don’t they at least suggest that the “settled science” can’t predict what is going to happen as accurately as “settled science” should? Does the settled science know how long warming trends will continue? How warm it will get? Whether various proposed measures will be effective in combating it? Does the settled science know why every model has failed so far, and why all the dire reports still must be called speculative at best, irresponsible hysteria at worst?

Most news media that reported the tornado data never even linked it to climate change models and the federal report, which it directly contradicted. Check the Hill for example. Call me a stickler, but I like my “settled science” a lot more settled than “the Earth continues to warm due to man-made pollution, and this is causing catastrophic extreme weather that threatens our lives, economy and infrastructure, but for some damn reason this hasn’t been true of hurricanes and tornadoes—you know, the most destructive storms there are?–lately and we don’t know why.” Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

Unethical, Shameless, Gutsy, Creepy Or Thought-Provoking: Kevin Spacey’s Christmas Video

What do we make of this, released by actor Kevin Spacey lastweek almost at the same time as he was being indicted for sexual assault?

Yikes.

The much-acclaimed actor  career collapsed in 2017 as more than 30 people claimed that Spacey had sexually assaulted them. Now he is speaking in the persona—with accent!— of his Netflix series villain, Frank Underwood, the central character of “House of Cards.” Or is he? Much of the speech seems to refer to Spacey’s own plight, and suggests that the actor is being unfairly convicted in the court of public opinion. By using the voice and character of an unequivocal miscreant however, for Frank is a liar, a cheat, a sociopath, indeed a murderer, such protests are automatically incredible.

Or is Spacey making a legitimate argument that an artist’s personal flaws should be irrelevant to the appreciation of his art, especially in a case like “House of Cards,” where the actor’s role can’t possibly be undermined by the actor’s own misdeeds: whatever one says or thinks about Spacey, he can’t  be as bad as Frank Underwood. If you enjoyed watching Underwood destroy lives on his way to power, why should Spacey’s conduct, even if it was criminal, make you give up the pleasure of observing his vivid and diverting fictional creation? This isn’t like Bill Cosby, serially drugging and raping women while playing a wise, moral and funny father-figure. Spacey seems to be arguing that there should be no cognitive dissonance between him and Underwood at all. Who better to play a cur like Frank  than an actor who shares his some of his darkness? Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Workplace