Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/6/2019: Who’s The Worst? [CORRECTED]

Good morning!

The day got off to a grand start when the first thing that came up on TV was the ending of John Wayne’s “True Grit.” When the Coen Brothers did their (dark) remake starring Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, I wondered which version would survive as the definitive one. Sometimes remakes of classic films obliterate the originals, like “The Thing,” or “Invasion of the Body-Snatchers.” Sometimes the original films are so obviously superior that the remake just vanishes. Sometimes it should vanish, but doesn’t, like the ugly “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” created by Tim Burton. Both “True Grit’s ” are excellent, but so far, at least, the Duke’s Oscar-willing performance has prevailed. Good.

1. From the “You can’t fool all of the people all the time, especially if you’re a callow, arrogant fool” files:  Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez offended an audience made up predominantly of African Americans when she slipped into assumed regional slang to lecture them about the dignity of menial jobs for life

“I’m proud to be a bartender, ain’t nothing wrong with that!” Ocasio-Cortez proclaimed. [CORRECTION NOTE: Originally, the version of this statement I had was an Ebonics-fest that I got off of a tweet from an attendee. This was incorrect: thanks to Chris Marschner for the fact check.]

Actually, the real offense was her content, not her delivery. This is communist cant for the proles: don’t aspire to more than your hum-drum jobs, for you are serving the greater good (and your superior overlords). That’s not the American values system, or American culture, which encourages productive dissatisfaction, personal initiative, and determination to be better and do better.

2. I knew Harvard wouldn’t be able to duck the college admission scandal! Harvard has launched  an “independent investigation” into a series of suspicious events that occurred in 2016. Wealthy businessman  Jie “Jack” Zhaopaid inexplicably paid $989,500  for a home in the Boston suburbs that was valued at only $549,300.  Seventeen months later he sold that home for $665,000, for a loss of $324,000.

The home he purchased was being sold by famed Harvard fencing coach Peter Brand, who was already coaching Zhoapaid’s older Harvard undergrad son, Eric.   Brand and his wife purchased a $1.3 million condominium in Cambridge a week after their house was sold to Zhao that just coincidentally had been listed at $989,000, nearly the exact the amount ($989,500) Brand had been paid by Zhao. Shortly thereafter, Zhao’s younger son, Edward, was admitted into Harvard as a student-athlete and member of the fencing team.

Coincidences! It’s all coincidences and circumstantial evidence!  Zhao insists that his real estate transactions were completely unrelated to  Harvard’s admissions process.

Sure. At very least, Brand should be fired for this multiple conflict of interest scenario and creating an appearance of impropriety damaging to the university.

3. This is what George Will calls “condign justice”... A Nashville woman had dated Gregory Cole for four years until he accidentally butt-dialed her in the midst of a sexual encounter with a man, though Cole had always represented himself as strictly heterosexual.  She listened to the whole call, which included explicit sexual conversation and vivid narration of various, uh, actions.  The call lasted 1 hour and 28 minutes. Cole’s now ex-girl friend got tested, and learned she was infected with HSV-2, genital herpes, which is incurable. She has now filed a lawsuit against Cole  seeking $1 million, alleging battery, infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and fraud.

Good. THAT’s betrayal, and no, she shouldn’t forgive him.

I must add, however, that butt-call ethics require that the one who receives such a call immediately hang up . In this case, however, it’s a good thing she didn’t.

4.  More from our moral superiors Down Under: Knee-jerking to the March 15 attacks in Christchurch in which a white supremacist  used a helmet-mounted camera to stream on  Facebook his massacre of worshippers in two New Zealand mosques, Australia’s Parliament passed legislation this week  holding social media executives criminally liable if their platforms stream real violence.

“Together we must act to ensure that perpetrators and their accomplices cannot leverage online platforms for the purpose of spreading their violent and extreme propaganda — these platforms should not be weaponized for evil,” Attorney General Christian Porter told Parliament while introducing the bill, which was passed without the usual procedure of a committee scrutinizing its content first.

The law  makes it a crime for social media platforms not to remove “abhorrent violent material” quickly, and such negligence will be punishable by three years in prison and a fine of 10.5 million Australian dollars ($7.5 million), or 10% of the platform’s annual turnover, whichever is larger. The law defines as “abhorrent violent material” acts of terrorism, murder, attempted murder, torture, rape and kidnapping. The material must be recorded by the perpetrator or an accomplice for the law to apply. Platforms anywhere in the world would face fines of up to AU$840,000 ($597,500) if they fail to notify Australian Federal Police if they are aware their service was streaming “abhorrent violent conduct” occurring in Australia.

Objecting to the measure, Arthur Moses, president of the Australian Law Council, the Australian ABA, said the law could lead to media censorship—gee, ya think?— and prevent whistleblowers from using social media to expose atrocities

Executives of Facebook, Google, Twitter, internet service providers and Australian phone companies had met with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and three ministers last week to discuss proposed social media regulation.  Facebook apparently “did not present any immediate solutions to the issues arising out of the horror that occurred in Christchurch.”

The solution is to focus on the criminals and the crime, not on hiding it. I see no block on the slippery slope from making real-life transmissions of violence illegal to making social media portrayals of fictional violence equally punishable, and then the portrayals themselves.

The frightening aspect of this story is how many Americans, ignorant of their own Constitution and the essential role the First Amendment plays in keeping us free, will applaud this law. We know Christiane Amanpour will approve of. 

I would guess that most of the totalitarian-trending, anti-Second Amendment Democratic Presidential wannabes will cheer it on as well. And at Fark, the snarky news aggregator with 21st Century sensibilities, the story is tagged, “Cool.”


40 thoughts on “Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/6/2019: Who’s The Worst? [CORRECTED]

  1. Mark Zuckerberg cheered the Australian law, and called on governments to come together to create global standards for speech….

    Because I trust an organization that puts countries with surgical removal of limvs as a judicial punishment on a ‘Human Rights’ council to tell me what ideas I can express ….

    If I we’re Zuckerberg, I would immediately shutter all local operations in Australia, and operate all servers out of the US (chanting USA, USA, USA the whole while).

    Incidentally, this is Wikipedia’s policy when it comes to content – foreign law is irrelevant for it US based sites.

    • Zuckerberg wants governments to police Facebook, so he can dodge criticism for censorship, and hide behind “we’re just following the law”. He’s a coward with authoritarian tendencies. I expect Jack Dorsey at Twitter follow his lead soon.

    • Except that “you people” is a contrived “gotcha!” All all black group is referred to as “you people” by a white billionaire. HE’S not black. They know his meaning. They choose to pretend its an insult.

  2. I am one that would jump on the bash AOC train in a heartbeat when necessary but to call her statement ebonics is wrong. It is just improper grammar and enunciation designed to give her “authenticity”. I will not fault her for saying there is nothing wrong with being an x, y or z. There is dignity in all work. Nothing in her statement suggests she expects people to remain in menial jobs. I believe her comment was in the context of relating Trumps derision of her as a 29 year old bartender when he ridiculed the green new deal.

    The GND would be a disaster but to suggest that it would be one because the authors age or occupation is considered inadequate is luducrous. The Wright brothers were a couple of young bicycle mechanics, not aerospace engineers.

    I do expect that degreed persons who wish to discuss policy do so using standard english and not stereotype an audience as one incapable of understanding or using proper english on a regular basis.

    • Boy, that “nothing wrong with menial jobs; keep at it” to a black audience broke my ethics alarms. Especially in light of some of her other rhetoric, I don’t see how anyone can think she meant “there is dignity in all jobs” rather than “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”—don’t worry, do your part, the wise state will see that you get your share anyway. Where do you get any Green New Deal context?

      Similarly, the idea that speaking in fake dialect suggests authenticity makes my head explode. What I see is pure condescension, like talking to children in babytalk.

      • Jack
        I can see how you arrived at your conclusions.

        I read the story via the link and I do agree her use of slang or, what I call improper english, was grossly inappropriate for a member of Congress or a VP that stated Trump would “put y’all back in chains”.

        Her schtick is playing “Jenny from tbe hood”. That is what got her elected. I would be interested in how the other speakers at the National Action Network addressed the crowd. Al Sharpton is not exactly known for his eloquence.

        To be honest I did not see the statement “keep at it” in the story. I may have read too fast. But your interpretation is,while reasonable given what we know about her, it is not to only interpretation which is what I provided.

        We will only find the worst in people when that is all we look for.

      • Honestly, I had no problem with the sentiment. It reminded me of this:

        If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all hosts of heaven and earth pause to say, “Here lives a great sweeper who did his job well.”

        Was that racist? Was that pro-socialist?


      • I went back and listened to her actual speech. Absolutely no Ebonics, no black english. The enunciation yhat I heard was ” aint nothing wrong with that.” The tweeters claiming she said “aint nun wrong wid dat” are absolutely wrong.

        I find this women an existential threat to western civilization but we must not make up criticisms when there are plenty of arguments against her policies. If we create false allegations against AOC she will be able to solidify her support by showing that her adversaries will create fake news.

          • Jack

            My take on the context was that she was defending bartenders in the context that Trump referred to the GND as a product of a 29 year old bartender. Trump’s comments appeared to me to be suggesting what could a 29 year old bartender know. Ipso facto the GND is farcical. I cannot speculate on any other underlying motivation. We know she is a socialist and it is obvious she wants a centrally planned economy because that will ensure ” equality” . I cannot give her any credit to understanding Marxism other than the superficial. That is what she and many like her are – superficial windbags.

    • I tend to agree. My problem with Ocasio-Cortez isn’t that she’s a former bartender talking about environmental policies, it’s that she’s apparently got an economics degree from a prestigious university and has demonstrated repeatedly that she doesn’t understand basic economic concepts. That’s a much more damning indictment of her mental capabilities than is her former job.

      • Jeff
        Spot on. My undergraduate degree is in Economics. I taught introductory econ courses for years and her grasp of the concepts suggests she was tested on memorizing terms and not how the concepts interactively behave in the environment.

        From what I see we no longer have statesmen and stateswomen we have marketers who are selling their snakeoil any way they can.

    • A funny (at least to me) anecdote on speaking in other people’s accents. In the early ‘70s, I drove my girlfriend and two other college friends from our upstate NY college to Miami, Florida for spring break. They were all from the northeast and had never been anywhere near the Sayouth. I had long hair and a beard and looked like a hippie, but we were in my Dad’s International Harvester Scout (two wheel drive only) and I was wearing a classmate’s letter jacket, the internationally recognized badge of legitimacy and respectability, at least in the Sayouth. Somewhere in North Carolina, we had stopped for gas and I got out of the Scout to chat up the station’s (white) attendant. As we concluded our transaction, I looked into the Scout and saw all three of my Yankee passengers staring at me absolutely slack-jawed and wide-mouthed, as if I’d grown a third eye in the middle of my forehead. Back on the road, I pretty quickly realized they’d been shocked to hear me, from the south (but not the south – Miami’s a strange place) and living with them in the north,evidently like a spy, speaking Southern. I’d slipped into it completely unnoticed. (I’m of the opinion that the United States is actually a federation of about fiver or six different countries sharing a common currency and a somewhat common language.)

      Needless to say, the concept of “cultural appropriation” was not even a glint in the eye of any African American Studies pioneer at that time. I guess I thought it was respectful and proper to speak the guy’s language rather than a foreign one. I’d have spoken Southern if the guy had been black, but I would have spoken white Southern to him. I don’t know black Southern well enough. I’d have ended up sounding like an Amos ‘n’ Andy routine and doing so would have been an insult to both of us. Which is where Alexandria made her mistake. Even if she grew up around lots of black people in the Bronx, for a white person to try to speak black is just too difficult and fraught. In a word, it’s dumb.

            • Robin Williams. What a phenomenon. A buddy took me to a Robin Williams … what should it be called… performance? Recital? Show? Stand up routine? It was the most amazing night I’ve ever spent in a theater. Coming out of the building, my face ached from smiling and laughing but I was exhausted. It was the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to a psychedelic trip without drugs. He was so manic, it was unbelievable. He must have been on something. He was sweating like a pig and drinking bottle after bottle of water from a stand in the center of the stage that was his only prop. A manic comic. I guess that’s what he was. Did a great shtick of a Scot “explaining” golf.

              • Indeed bi-polar, on many things, brilliant, an adrenaline and attention junkie. Entertainers live unhealthy lives to make us laugh, but its also essential therapy for permanently damaged individuals.

              • He left an arguably impressive list of performances and starred in a couple of my faves: ”Mrs. Doubtfire” (his Dude Looks Like A Lady? Fuggeddaboudit!), ”Birdcage” (I’ll never listen to The Pointer Sister’s We Are Family without seeing Gene Hackman in Marilyn Monroe drag singing-n-dancing), and ”Good Will Hunting.”

                Couple of (IMO) sleepers were ”Insomnia,” “One Hour Photo,” and his last, “Boulevard.”

        • I attended a 85% black school, and graduated with a total of 36 students, a third of which simply aged out. I can speak Texas black lingo and still slip into it at times when appropriate to the audience.

          Many times it is simply a way to put someone at ease, or let them know the college educated white boy has some sense.

          I also speak mid-Atlantic English when addressing yankee… er, those from more northern states. In that case it is simply a way to put someone at ease, or let them know the Texas born white boy (redneck) has a college education.

  3. The American left is continually smearing the right with charges of racism. Just like the claims of facism when the real facism is on the left (assault for wearing a MAGA hat is facism, folks.)

    I will not deny there is hate based racism on the right. No doubt, they do make a fraction of the voter support. But they are on the margins of life, with no power other than providing some of the votes of the coalition.

    The left is rife with a more subtle but incredibly insidious form of racism. It is not based on hatred, but of a paternalistic bias that views minorities as inferior and in need of assistance because they are unavailable to excel without special help. They think they’re doing it for good intentions so it’s ok.

    AOC let the mask slip.

  4. “don’t aspire to more than your hum-drum jobs, for you are serving the greater good (and your superior overlords)”

    This is the doctrine of the aristocracy. That is why it is seen as ‘uppity’ to try to become middle class if you come from a working class background. Perhaps this is why the ‘elites’ are attracted to Communism. It is easier to convince the masses to vote for Communism via promises of free stuff than it is to get them to vote for hereditary titles for all prominent Democrats. The proud tradition of Southern aristocrats talking down to the commoners and the slaves is alive and well. AOC’s problem was that she didn’t have any hot sauce in her purse.

      • Well, it is easy to do. It is a consistent message of the ‘elites’ in this country. When everyone around her is sending this message, it is easy to see the message everywhere.

      • I think her message was that work is dignified and there is nothing to be ashamed of.

        Her delivery was bad; I think criticism of her delivery is on point. (Disclaimer: I don’t often listen to audio of her, so, if her other speeches have a similar cadence and rhythm, I would retract that comment.)

        The irony is that, when Republicans/conservatives say something similar (skip college and go to trade schools; learn a skill), they are criticized as anti-intellectual.


  5. I find this very hard. I supported the airing of the Wikileaks video ‘Collateral Murder’ showing the action from the Apache gunship and the killing of over a dozen people including 2 Reuters news staff. This for me very usefully showed the American taxpayers what they were financing. But I also knee jerkingly want maximum action to shut down the Christchurch video and anything like it. I fear such material being used to agitate for philosophies and ideas I vigorously oppose. Yes I suppose it unavoidably follows that I don’t slavishly follow 1st amendment thinking on freedom of speech. It is convenient in this case not to be American.

    • Not being an American also gives you a different perspective on what you think the government’s role is. It seems like you think it OK to show brutal death if it furthers an anti-American cause, but not if it doesn’t support your agenda. This is logical if you feel the government should promote and even enforce a ‘correct’ ideological agenda. If you feel the role of the government is merely to serve the people, to build roads and defend against invasion, you would logically be against the government telling you what to think and restricting your access to information. The 1st Amendment is merely a consequence of that view of government. The slavish adherence isn’t to the 1st Amendment, but to the idea that we are free citizens, not a subjects owned by a government.

      • Michael. Thanks yes, some truth here. I concede I can’t find a way to block the Christchurch material without potentially losing public access to the Collateral Murder video and the My Lai massacre photos; which to my mind were much more important. I accept that we can’t safely block the publication of information because we don’t like the message, or the protagonists. We might start with sensible rules (ie that ‘we’ agree with) but the danger of a slip to major abuse of power is obvious.

        But I don’t yet hold that we are necessarily doomed to accept completely unregulated intercourse, although it is hard to see the way forward with the increasing reach of social media.

        Maybe in the longer term we will as individuals learn better how to filter our increasing volumes of information and be better equipped to counter manipulation. I don’t have any confidence in Jack’s apparent crusade against media bias. Everywhere everything is biased. In my view our best chance is to access a diverse range of biased input and be ready to engage in dialogue, which is why I am a regular on this site ( albeit with blood pressure medication closely to hand).

  6. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’ segment was far from the worst of the group, but I couldn’t help but vote for it anyway, just because she’s the worst, in general.

  7. Only on Osario-Cortez. Moron. Did she not realize what an insult her speech would be? What lack of respect it would inspire? I continue to believe that intelligent, ethical people refuse public service because, just as an example, what happened to Kavanaugh. Love of family/self trumps (no pun intended) service to our country. So we are left with the dregs, and BECAUSE NEITHER PARTY CAN NOMINATE ANYONE ELSE (!) we are left with the likes of her.

    It is the beginning of the end of our nation. The Romans drank water loaded with lead and eventually it destroyed them, though that water was an unknown: we are are drinking, loving and accepting lies, agit/prop and ignorance, and doing so knowingly. No republic can long survive that, but thinking people know it and have no way to fix it.

    Oh, PS on Harvard. I have dismissed that institution since (1) it was forced to sell its South African kuggerands in the 1980s, and (2) when I learned that each of their investment counselors make more than $4 million each as their cut from the university’s profits. (Non-profit indeed — its endowment is as large as the 9th largest national budget in the world.) Since then it’s only downward, and it’s an embarrassment to one of my nearest and dearest that it is his alma mater.

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