Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/13/2019: I Throw Down The Gauntlet, Alexa Betrays Us, A Chinese Restaurant Isn’t Chinese Enough, And Thus Must Die [UPDATED]

Good morning!

1. Basically, to hell with them. Yesterday I was ostentatiously snubbed by two old friends at an event. It hurt, and more than that, it pissed me off.  Since I have not been directly involved with either of them for over a year, it was pretty clear what their justification was: I refuse to join “the resistance,” and also regularly call out Facebook garbage that is simply the unthinking regurgitation of Trump Derangement talking points. I don’t engage in political debates at social events unless someone makes an objectively false or offensive statement in my presence. The conduct I was subjected to was a political statement, however, and fascist in style. Shunning and marginalizing non-conforming views is increasingly the Left’s favored tool of gaining power, because it works. It works because most people will go along to get along. The next step is to try to shun and marginalize  people  who associate with the target, in this case, me.  Well, shame on them, and bring it on, baby. That kind of peer pressure has never worked on me, or anyone in my family,  my entire life.

What I have noticed on Facebook, and on Ethics Alarms, of course, is that the Angry Left and the “resistance” are mostly made up of cowards.  I actually got push back yesterday on a summary of the Boston Globe story, and the dissent consisted of “Yeah, but Orange Man Bad!” and “We’ll have to agree to disagree.” NO! The first response is a deflection, not a rebuttal, and the second is pure cowardice. (Simple “I disagree” comments don’t make it through moderation here.) What those responses mean is “I don’t like the facts and analysis you are presenting, because they interfere with my preferred narrative, so I’m rejecting them while impugning you, though I in fact have no arguments whatsoever to challenge your assertions. The day before, when I posted about the discriminatory  audition notice, I was accused of making the story up.

“The resistance”  has reached the point where it refuses to argue, because it can’t win arguments on the merits. One of the  Facebook commenters yesterday of the “Orange Man Bad” persuasion mouthed one of my favorite canards, the “he [President Trump] violates norms” argument. “What norms?” I asked. See, I know my Presidential norms, and my democratic norms, and this argument, pushed by the dishonest history professor wing of “the resistance,” is demonstrably crap, and I’m someone who can demonstrate it. I also can point to vital norms at the core of our democracy that Democrats and “the resistance” have breached, with serious, perhaps permanent consequences. What norm has the President breached that comes within a thousand miles, for example, of Democrats and progressives encouraging harassment and violence against the other party and its supporters?

Yesterday tears it for me. I’m taking off the velvet gloves. These are uncivil people who are relying on my civility, and cowardly advocates whose duty, if they had any integrity at all, would be to accept  that they can’t argue their case persuasively and reluctantly conclude that it’s time to admit that their case stinks. From now on, I’m telling them so.

2. A tale of two perspectives. From Fox News:

New York Assembly Democrats on Tuesday blocked a bill that proposed expanding college tuition aid for children of deceased and disabled military veterans after– having a week earlier– approved a state budget that set aside $27 million in college tuition aid for illegal immigrants.

For “illegal immigrants” read “Dreamers,” which is not quite the same thing. In fact, Fox is engaging in the same kind of deceit its Left-biased colleagues engage in when they call illegal immigrants “immigrants.” The so-called Dreamers are a special category of illegals, and while I agree that creating an incentive for illegal immigration by granting special benefits to Dreamers is unethical and irresponsible, Fox is being intentionally inflammatory and misleading

Nonetheless, the dueling priorities are worth flagging. Of course citizens should have higher priority than wilful non citizens if the budget is in zero sum game mode. Now here’s another article about the same matter that doesn’t mention the Dreamer issue at all. Leaving out relevant facts to warp perception of the story is a species of fake news.

3.  Here’s a controversy too annoying to justify a full post, but still…From the Times;

Arielle Haspel, a Manhattan health coach with a sleek social media presence, wanted to open the kind of Chinese restaurant, she said, where she and her food-sensitive clients could eat. One where the lo mein wouldn’t make people feel “bloated and icky” the next day, or one where the food wasn’t “too oily” or salty, as she wrote in an Instagram post a few weeks ago.

She chose a name for her new restaurant, Lucky Lee’s, that sounded stereotypically Chinese, even though she and her husband, Lee, are not Asian. She decorated the restaurant with bamboo and jade touches, and designed her logo with a chopstick-inspired font.

And then, quite predictably, she was flamed on the internet for it.

The Times says the controversy is over “cultural appropriation.” Since there is no such thing as a legitimate complaint about cultural appropriation, because the “offense” is contrived, anti-American bullshit, that’s neither accurate nor good reporting. Admittedly, being of Greek heritage and knowing that my fellow Greek-Americans have become the masters of launching successful eateries featuring very un-Greek cuisine, I find the very suggestion that a non-Asian can’t launch her own version of a Chinese food restaurant outrageous.

However, her decision to brand her Chinese food as “clean” was just plain stupid and tin-eared.

[UPDATE: Several readers have pointed out that “clean food” is a term of art, and means “cleansed” of unhealthy ingredients. Apparently this is a common parlance in New York, though the articles I perused claiming that it was a racist slur on Chinese-American made no hint of that. It’s a dangerously loaded term, given that “dirty” is the usually assumed opposite of “clean.” In “Poltergeist,” “clean” means “no longer haunted.” I HATE haunted Chinese food…]

That implies that other Chinese restaurants are somehow “unclean,” and the gaffe can be twisted into racism. Now, I’ve been in family restaurants in D.C.’s Chinatown that required more than a little faith, but the dirtiest restaurant I ever frequented–still one of my favorites–was an Italian place that kept the lights down so you wouldn’t see the filth. (It was closed by the health department about once a month. But the food was delicious!)

As for “Lucky Lee’s,” do we want to call that deceit? It’s really her husband’s name, but it also does faintly suggest Chinese ownership. But that’s (maybe) deceit, not cultural appropriation. Would it be cultural appropriation to call the restaurant, say, “Mrs. Chow’s”? Come on. Does a seafood restaurant called “Atlantis” have to have Aquaman in its managent?

There is nothing unethical about re-imagining Chinese food to develop less caloric, less salty, less oily versions of the cuisine for a market that wants it, just like the weird hybrid dishes at Olive Garden are ethical even if they would make an Italian gourmet retch. The social media campaign to destroy “Lucky Lee’s” is unfair and indefensible.

4. I KNEW it! Multiple sources now report that Inc. employs thousands of people to listen to and review transcripts of voice recordings captured in Echo owners’ homes and offices. We are told that this is to improve the Alexa digital assistant powering its line of Echo speakers. But it doesn’t matter whether or not the reason for this violation of users’ privacy has a benign purpose. The point is that the Alexa and Echo users did not consent to their private conversations being captured and listened to by strangers. I see no reason why this isn’t illegal wiretapping, except that there is probably some disclaimer buried in the small print in the Amazon user agreements.

Not to repeat my self, but I’m going to repeat myself: these big tech companies cannot be trusted. Isn’t that obvious by now? This means that trusting artificial intelligence such companies put in your homes is naive and foolish.


35 thoughts on “Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/13/2019: I Throw Down The Gauntlet, Alexa Betrays Us, A Chinese Restaurant Isn’t Chinese Enough, And Thus Must Die [UPDATED]

  1. So, I can’t remember for sure, but we’ll say I’m 95% sure that when I set up my Google home (amazon Alexa/echo equiv) there was a checkbox to allow them to review my dictation logs to improve performance.

    Was there none similar in the echo setup (I don’t own one)

    I forget if it was default selected, but I enabled it.

    • well, the article claims that they don’t let people know. If that’s the case A: I can’t believe that’s legal and B: I have a feeling we’ll see their ToS for Alexa change _very_ quickly after this incident.

    • Let’s be clear, your devices are listening at all times. Even when off. Yes really.

      I put my digital marketing students through this all the time to prove it.

      The ads, unrelated to online behavior, come through in contextual form every time though all phones are off during the test conversations.

      You privacy does not exist. Just wait until AI runs the internet…think Minority Report.

      • these things CAN be foiled, but it takes a bit of work. Wifi devices (and phones, for that matter) can be placed in faraday cages, or bags that act as one. No signals in or out. A device that does not have a battery can be unplugged. A phone that has a battery can be disabled (iPhones must use the bag option)

        This is a lot of trouble, and most won’t go to these lengths until they suffer from the eavesdropping (how long until law enforcement subpoenas these little recordings? How many times has sexual intercourse been recorded and then posted on the Internet?)

        I simply don’t have the devices. Phones can be left in the other room.

  2. RE: #4 Any casual reader of science-fiction/fantasy is familiar with the trope of people being constantly observed by cameras or listened to by microphones. This is usually set in an horrific dystopian society, with a totalitarian societal organization. The constant observation/lack of privacy is forced on all by the government or dictator (sometimes non-human, or machine) in charge.
    I know of no author who has been so bold as to write of a world where citizens willingly paid for, and voluntarily set-up the surveillance which was inevitably used to oppress them.

      • Point taken. I wonder if they didn’t imagine it because they couldn’t imagine people tolerating it, much less volunteering for it. I lean very libertarian and I’m livid, and sad.

    • It’s a recurring theme of David Brin’s. He first talked about it obliquely in Earth (writtten back in 1990), but he’s pretty open about discussing it now. Usually he does so couched in terms of transparency, and how it can be a good thing, if it’s controlled by the population overall instead of by governments or individuals. I tend to find those arguments somewhat naive (they assume that the overall trend of large populations will be towards freedom of choice and action on the behalf of all participants, and that the quashing of minority groups won’t happen because other minorities will inherently realize it’s a threat to them as well). But, if you’re looking for an interesting read on the idea, The Transparent Society is probably his seminal work on the issue.

  3. Jack,

    In fairness, you do engage in quite a bit of name-calling against those with whom you disagree. In this post alone you’ve referred to “these people” as cowardly, uncivil fascists without integrity. I could go back only a few days to find worse criticisms of a lot of your now-critics. Perhaps it has less to do with viewpoint discrimination and more to do with people preferring not to have you belittle them. Additionally, however exemplary your rhetoric may be in public, you say a lot in print. I don’t see how you can expect people not to equate the one with the other?

    • Neil
      I have come close to making Jack’s head explode occasionally and he while he may be quite to the point in his rebuttals he has been quite civil.

      When trying to advance a particular POV, your adversary routinely equates you as a racist, nazi or white supremacist to avoid debating the real issue what do you call people that instead of debating seek to marginalize you then turn away and state unequivocally that there is no arguing with a ( Nazi, supremacist, facist etc.)

      I call that a cowardly facist tactic, wouldn’t you?

      • When trying to advance a particular POV, your adversary routinely equates you as a racist, nazi or white supremacist to avoid debating the real issue what do you call people that instead of debating seek to marginalize you then turn away and state unequivocally that there is no arguing with a ( Nazi, supremacist, fascist etc.))

        The political Left and the ‘progressives’ of our day do not, in truth, have an ideological and rational leg to stand on. I do not say this just to be inflammatory and to insult them. They do not in fact have a solid and rational position. They have emotionalized ideas, received ideas, a sentimental sense of ‘how things should be’. A ‘true conservative position’ must by definition be structured through reason.

        I think it fair to say that Jack has an extremely well-defined and coherent position that is explained rationally and discursively in every blog post. What he defines is the legal, Constitutional and rational understanding of what America is (and what it is supposed to be). Therefore, when confronting those who do not even understand what that position is supposed to be, and those who instead are defining an emotions-based, hysterical ‘resistance’ posture, there is no way to describe them that is not (to their ears) rather harsh and biting.

        However, the American Political Left when it hears ‘dog whistles’ and when it notices that America definitely was supremacist, and extremely racist, and if one takes into consideration the tenets of the American eugenics movement, also ‘Nazi-like’; that when these Progressives employ their hysterical selves in their hysterical projects of ‘resistance’ it is not irrational. And it is not irrational to understand that here in the US, and also in Europe, there are movements which are reconsidering positions and ideas which are extremely unpopular in our present.

        I have been reading a critical biography of Madison Grant by Jonathan Spiro (who is Jewish and opposed to any sort of identitarian Americaism) called “Defending the Master Race: Conservation, Eugenics, and the Legacy of Madison Grant”. If you (I mean ‘America’) actually understood the degree to which America had been grounded in what you now call ‘racism’, and if you understood how this position is rational, constructive, grounded in idea and also progressive, you would likely pass out. The shock would be too much!

        If an open discussion were actually allowed, and if all the parts and pieces could be put on the table for open and rational discussion, I guarantee you that many people would be influenced to reconsider the sound logic and the grounded principles that informed people like Madison Grant (who was also the father of American and world conservation).

        For this reason the conversation must be shut down! And the way it is shut down is, obviously, not through opening the conversation to the free flow of ideas, but the shaming and expulsion of those who are capable of expressing the ideas, who understand them, who can successfully communicate them.

        Most of you on this blog are not really conservatives. You are progressives-of-a-certain-sort. However, Madison Grant was a progressive. And the movement he put in motion was also progressive. You are not progressives, you are people who have absorbed and internalized radical doctrines! You are (in your unique semi-stodgy ways) American Radicals. You have much more in common with today’s ‘progressives’ than you do with the progressivism of people like Madison Grant! (And Jack too is also linked to radical progressivism).

        Your unique ‘centrist’ option — it is what I call a manoeuvre — is to place yourselves to the slight right of center of today’s political scale. But you exist relationally to radical progressivism of the American species. You accept all the tenets of Postwar Americanism, and you also support the Americanopolis (because you cannot even conceive of a contra-position to it, it cannot exist ‘metaphysically’).

        This is why you cannot and you never will be able to oppose the current of radical progressivism that is sweeping over America now. You have no idea structure from which to do this. In order to get such an idea structure that could oppose American Radicalism you’d have to define positions that were common and considered normal prior to the Sixties radicalism. You’d have to go back to the conservationist movements of the 10s and 20s in America. You would have to develop a counter-definition to the present definition of America — and this you cannot do! It’s ‘a bridge too far’. Also, doing that (gaining an understanding of what people were thinking then), you’d have to shift how you view both fascistic and ultra-conservative European movements. You’d have to see them differently, and this you also cannot do.

        But that is, as I often say, what is happening in certain intellectual circles. We are doing this. And that is, I suggest, why you too must *hate* us and oppose us, and if the s**&t ever did hit the fan you would side with American Progressivism against *us*. That battle is now being rehearsed.

  4. 1. Basically, to hell with them

    Good. About damned time. To Hell with them if their politics consume their souls.

    What I have noticed on Facebook, and on Ethics Alarms, of course, is that the Angry Left and the “resistance” are mostly made up of cowards.

    I don’t know if it’s cowardice. I think, rather, that they have forced themselves to reject reason. Everything is an emotion, so they don’t feel any particular need to defend what they feel is self-evidently true.

    Which is even worse than cowardice — it’s a kind of insanity. I’m not sure it’s possible to have courage if you’re not fully sane to begin with.

    “The resistance” has reached the point where it refuses to argue, because it can’t win arguments on the merits.

    That’s not why, Jack, and you know it. “Merits” have nothing to do with it. If it offends their feelz, it is wrong, and no reasoning is necessary to defend a self-evident absolute — which in the world of the “resistance” is that anything Trump touches is instantly evil, and no praise of him, however well-deserved, is intolerable because “Orange Man bad.”

    As I say, this is a form of insanity. I see it on my Facebook page as well — the two times per month I look at it, that is.

    Yesterday tears it for me. I’m taking off the velvet gloves.

    They will just un-friend you, of course, but I don’t blame you for getting fed up.

  5. Jack, I believe their is little difference between calling those that crossed our borders without lawful permission illegal immigrants and what we euphamistically call dreamers. Both are illegal immigrants. Dreamers are not being deported en masse and neither are all those that are treated as illegal aliens.

    Describing dreamers as illegal immigrants is no more deceptive than suggesting they entered the country legally. Questioning why Dreamers are allocated funding for education and Gold Star family members are told to wait is appropriate. It is an insult to the citizens and nothing more than acquiesing to a larger minority constituency to prove to them they will be happy to sublimate the majorities interests for a few votes.

  6. Eating “clean” is an actual thing and most New Yorkers probably know exactly what it means in this context. Many restaurants and grocery items are using the term. To suggest that its use is stupid and tin-eared seems to be a violation of The First Niggardly Principle.

    • In my case (and apparently the accounts I read), it’s pure ignorance. I never heard the term before, and I’m pretty aware. Then again, I don’t live in New York. Thanks for this…I’ll make an appropriate revision.

      • I was going to suggest the same thing. However, I did not make the comment Paul H did because I don’t think “clean” food is stupid, but I agree that it might be a bit tin-eared.

        It’s not stupid because it is a thing (fresh ingredients, less processing, fewer preservatives, etc.) that they are apparently trying to do.

        It may be tin-eared because it may not be a term that is known widely enough that it can be used without explanation. In a similar vein, “locally sourced” probably requires little explanation; “sustainable” is kind of a borderline buzz-word; on the other hand, “organic” is widely understood, but almost ambiguous enough to be meaningless.


        • I just added this:

          UPDATE: Several readers have pointed out that “clean food” is a term of art, and means “cleansed” of unhealthy ingredients. Apparently this is a common parlance in New York, though the articles I perused claiming that it was a racist slur on Chinese-American made no hint of that. It’s a dangerously loaded term, given that “dirty” is the usually assumed opposite of “clean.” In “Poltergeist,” “clean” means “no longer haunted.” I HATE haunted Chinese food…

  7. Cultural appropriation from the Chinese has its risks. I once heard of a young lady who found a line on a Chinese menu so visually attractive that she traced it out and had it printed on a T-shirt of hers. Some time later, while she was wearing it, a passer-by told her it meant “this dish is cheap but tasty”. (Related: I once saw a man in a restaurant who had the Arabic word “saab” as a tattoo, so I asked his girlfriend what she thought it meant; she said “tough”. It actually can mean “hard”, but in the sense of “difficult”.)

  8. 1. To some degree, Jack, I want to ask “what took you so long?” The sad fact is that it’s next to impossible to change other adults’ opinions. Since I’ve been posting here (quite a while) I have seen very few posters change, develop, or evolve. The righties have stayed righties, the lefties have stayed lefties, and the likes and dislikes have mostly remained the same. If anything, people’s positions have hardened. I think that’s part of another process that’s been underway since probably the end of the Cold War. I’m not so sure it started under Bush the elder, may he rest in peace, but it was definitely underway under Clinton, and really took off under GWB, especially toward the end, when social media came into its own.

    The fact is that now anyone can say anything about anything and get a ton of affirmation for it very quickly, and the shorter, pithier, and more insulting, whether by rapier wit or blunt instrument profanity that anything is, the more affirmation it gets. Anyone can also exclude anything he doesn’t want to hear, and a lot of folks often do. I don’t block very much, unless someone personally attacks me, but I do a LOT of unfollowing of people whose views I already know and with whom I am never going to find even a little common ground.

    I also think a steady diet of all Trump hate (or all any hate) all the time is toxic. I loathed Obama, but I didn’t post attacks on him and insults and hatred against his supporters every day, sometimes three, four, even five times before breakfast, and then there’s still the rest of the day to go. I sometimes do comment on current events as they happen on social media, but I don’t think it’s necessary or even appropriate to add my two cents’ worth to everything that hits the news. The fact is that it’s too easy to do it, though, and after a while it becomes second nature or habit to throw quickie zingers, forward hard-edged partisan stuff with “this” or “boom” or something like that as your only comment, or do what I call “snap posts” full of insults, profanity, and opinion with thinking only an inch deep if you become angry or triggered.

    The main point I’ve been leading up to with all this is that now this increasing stridency and ease of shutting out those you don’t want to hear has caused this kind of behavior to start to “bleed” into real life. In the past we politely changed the subject, gracefully excused ourselves at the first opportunity, or, if we were mature, wise, and in control of ourselves, had a civil conversation about a difficult subject. These days we have no problem with snubbing, silencing, or shouting over others if they dare to disagree with us. Quite often we feel like we struck a blow for our side if we yelled at or embarrassed or made a fool of someone we disagreed with, and now let’s not forget the left is now encouraging its adherents to harass, bully, and intimidate those who disagree with it. Maybe you should consider yourself lucky you just got snubbed. Next time these people may get up into your face or worse. We’ve pointed out here a few times that eventually this is going to go too far. Someone’s going to get hurt or someone’s going to get killed, and then what? We haven’t even really talked about what happens when the next Democratic president is elected, does the left think the right won’t take a leaf from its playbook? This is a genie that’s never going back in the bottle.

    2. This is just more of the same thing that’s been going on for a while. Between Fox News and CNN you’d think you were living in two different countries, or even two different realities. It’s like when DC Comics wrote “Flash of Two Worlds” and brought back the Golden Age (WW2-era) characters to interact with the Silver Age (60s and 70s) ones, creating the concept of Earth-2 and Earth-1, occupying the same space and time, but where what happens is VERY different. (I wish there was time for a whole several coffee, reconstructed comic geek discussion of the one vs. the other.) The main difference between comics and reality, though, is that at least the characters were mostly the same between the realities, and everyone was mostly on the same page historically. In reality, to hear Fox News you’d think it was a new Age of Reagan, and to hear CNN you’d think a nascent Hitler had stolen the White House.

    3. MAYBE the name was clumsily phrased. The rest is just proof of how crazy and hateful the social-media addicted left has become.

    4. I’m surprised this hasn’t resulted in litigation.

    • 1. I haven’t given up trying to focus people on ethical and fair conduct. I’ve given up being polite when otherwise smart people won’t argue ethically. And looking back, there have been many times that commenters here have changed their views–including you. The much maligned Chris was notable in that respect: he sometimes conceded points until the Trump Hate virus overcame his immune system.
      2. That’s what I always think of when I watch dueling news sources spin: the Flash.
      3. See new edit to the post.
      4. It might yet.

  9. So, we are now going to protest any restaurant not owned by someone with the wrong genetic background? Boy, the true mongrel Americans have it MADE in this system! Ice cream, by the way, is an English invention. Beware non-English owner’s of ice cream shops! Fried chicken is a mix of Scottish and black American cultures, so beware fried chicken restaurants that aren’t Scottish-Afro-American (do we need a DNA test on Harlan Sanders?). What is next, are people going to picket Taco Bell because they all aren’t owned by Mexican-hipsters?

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