Open Forum!

Well, not THAT funny—I’ve been swamped with ethics work.

I have several posts in various stages of completion, some of which should, I hope, make it up today, but I am now whipsawed by some deadlines, so, with the complete confidence that you will handle the responsibility as well as you have in the past, I’m going to turn Ethics Alarms over to you for a while.

As always, keep to the topic,  stay civil, and aim for productive and provocative commentary.

20 thoughts on “Open Forum!

  1. Ah…let’s have a war! This is exactly what it is – a war. In a war you have casualties and in this instance, it will be some American businesses, but addressing China is long overdue. The Chinese have used predatory practices for decades to take advantage of other nations especially the United States. Thank Nixon for “opening up” China. They have hacked into our businesses, stolen trade secrets, forced other countries to turn over sensitive information to secure trade agreements, manipulated currency, had far more protective tariffs and subsidized their own companies to create a trade advantage.

    This is politically unpopular but absolutely correct. Trump could do what other administrations have done and keep an even keel and avoid or fail to confront this. He chose to address it and not pass it forward. That takes courage since it is unpopular. The reality is it is insignificant about of money when you consider the trade involved and GDP – Canada and Mexico mean more. As far as the farmers this is all an attempt by China to hit back at the Trump base by targeting selective products such as soybeans. No surprise and a smart reply from the Chinese.

    • Agreed. I have a private equity buddy who’s pissed about Trump because tariffs with increase the cost of the stuff he’s buying from China and throw one of his deals out of balance. In other words, “Forget about the Chinese screwing everybody, I want my cheap stuff so my deal will work out. Trumps awful. He’s downright unAmerican! I need my twenty percent annual return! Where’s Mike Bloomberg?”

    • My thoughts exactly. If the Chinese buy 60 % of our soybeans and our farmers continue to expose themselves to the relatively high imbalance of transactional power of the Chinese then that is on them

      What many do not know is that soybeans are not used only for feedstocks. Soybeans are used in printers inks, industrial lubricants and numerous other export products of China. We only hear about the costs to our consumers or the impact on our exporters we are not given the other side of the equation -the impact on Chinese buyers and exporters. What happens if the Chinese have no soybeans to produce critical intermediate goods necessary to support their entire export industry or the ability the produce final goods for export.

      The Chinese play on our unwillingness to suffer any minor inconvenience but they are willing play the long game in which they can force the costs of gaining a perpetual political and economic advantage onto its citizens with little fear of political fallout.

      Soybean farmers could have shifted to other commodity grains since the last round before the 2018 elections or sought out new buyers for their products. We can sell strategically as easily as the Chinese can buy.

    • Only the stupid companies are going to get hurt. The CEO of my employer figured China doesn’t have long term stability and decided to pull out three years ago. His belief was the future was in South and SE Asia.

      Turns out to be a phenomenaly smart call. We’re not paying 25%. It’s hard not to buy anything from China, but what we are buying is going to India, Vietnam, or Indonesia first and getting integrated into products there. Single digits tarrifs is what we’re paying to simultaneously sell into China and the US. This trade war is phenomenal for us.

      • Diversification is the key to business risk reduction. Having suppliers in a variety of countries mitigates risk.

    • I bought a water filter from the other week that turned out to be a total fake most likely from China. Walmart wouldn’t take it back either because they had farmed it out to some third party vendor so somehow wasn’t their problem even though I bought it off their website. Got my money back eventually but only after pointing out that the filter weighed half what it was supposed to when checking against the specs of the brand name filter they allegedly shipped to me. Looked exactly like the real item though and I would have been fooled but for the missing insert from the brand name company. I don’t buy from Walmart and Amazon’s websites anymore. They’ve just become flea markets for the Chinese to offload their fakes. Trump stiffed them with a tariff hike? Good. 50% tariff sounds fine to me. I don’t want anything that came from China in my household. They can pollute their homeland, exploit their children and workers, infringe on the intellectual rights of others all they want– but I’ll have no part in it. If it can’t be sourced right here in America, we don’t need it. It must not be that essential.

  2. Okay boys and girls, it’s AOC time:

    Is she kidding when she talks or is she serious? What does she mean by “dry humor?” Is she talking about the four humors? Greek medicine? We have Congress people who watch “The Office?” Clearly, she’s gone totally off script from her Justice Democrat handlers. Ventriloquist dummies would make better Congressmen for them. These humans have the ability to randomly generate sentences.

    • Of course she is not talking about the four humors when she talks about dry humor.

      Only two of the four humors are dry;* the other two are wet. **

      What? Do you think she’s stupid?


      * Choleric and Melancholic

      ** Sanguine and Phlegmatic

    • ” She wrote: ‘This is a technique of the GOP, to take dry humor + sarcasm literally and ”fact check” it. Like the ”world ending in 12 years” thing, you’d have to have the social intelligence of a sea sponge to think it’s literal. But the GOP is basically Dwight from ”The Office” so who knows.” ”

      Wow, so little self-awareness. Substitute “GOP” for “Trump”, and “dry humor + sarcasm” for “hyperbole + empty bloviating”, and she has described every Democratic “fact check” for the past three years.

  3. Brain is working hard to come up with something useful. I could have sworn I have recently thought several times, “oh, I will bring that up in an Open Forum….”

    Now, nothing.

    Here is something: is the proposition that “the personal is political” an inherently problematic position?

    Better: is that statement socially corrosive?

    To me, it seems to be in the background of so many problems.

    Washington owned slaves.

    Jack’s Twitter named controversy (Haney Effect? Nagey? Whatever!)

    The Simpsons banning Michael Jackson.

    The Sullivan Harvard controversy.

    I first experienced this, I think, in my Freshman year of college when someone said she could not order Dominos Pizza because she was Pro-Choice.

    It’s the Pizza, stupid!

    Now, it is Chik-Fil-A, or Hobby Lobby.

    Or Woody Allen.

    On the one hand, one should be free not to go to Chik-Fil-A if they don’t like the owner, but the fact that I love them (hypothetical: I had one of their breakfast sandwiches once in an airport, but I hear they are great) does not make my personal preference a political statement.

    Or does it?

    I think this mind-set is incredibly detrimental.

    I am an individual. I am not a group. My choices are personal, not political.

    But, that last statement just shows my privilege.

    Or does it?


    • Here is something: is the proposition that “the personal is political” an inherently problematic position?

      Only when one does not have the power to electrocute those who don’t accept one’s own conclusions about the politically personal.

      It’s the best I could come up with!

    • I don’t do economic boycotts for political reasons – and I went to a megachurch in the ’90s when Disney cartoons were considered taboo.

      I eat the food I like and I don’t eat what I don’t like. I find Chick Fil-A’s chicken to be dry; but I won’t turn down Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. Nobody tells me what I am or am not allowed to buy.

      But Washington only slaves, while a personal choice, cannot help but be political. It was a political issue in his day and his decision to keep or free slaves was based, in part, on the mores of the day, upon criticism by those who rightfully pointed out the hypocrisy of valuing liberty while holding others in bondage and even concern about losing the support of his Southern neighbors if he started freeing slaves while in office.

      For a public figure, many personal choices have a political element to them, regardless. I just finished Chernow’s biography of Washington today. I recommend it strongly.

  4. Today’s NYTimes:

    White House Reviews Military Plans Against Iran, in Echoes of Iraq War

    Oooh! This sounds really exciting! Geo-politics, if looked at in the right way, can be really thrilling! And to think people fear the unknown and the destruction that threatens! Fools!

    The idea was to use cyberweapons to paralyze Iran in the opening hours of any conflict, in hopes that it would obviate the need to drop any bombs or conduct a traditional attack. That plan required extensive presence inside Iran’s networks — called “implants” or “beacons” — that would pave the way for injecting destabilizing malware into Iranian systems.

    I have to admit I was taken — for a while, I admit — with the idea of exploding nuclear bombs at a certain elevation and creating a high-altitude plasma surge with tremendous psionic power that would unleash deadly protoss high-templars!

    The day is coming — Oh Happy Day! — when the US will be able to annihilate its enemies by focused mind-waves. All they will be able to think about if getting a MacDonald’s burger!

    Oh God, please, please, if You are listening, help us to bring democracy to these benighted peoples!


    So now disagreeing with scientific claims is evil.

    Somehow, I doubt that is part of the scientific method.

    When Andrew Wiles punlished his first attempted proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem, critics found a flaw in his proof? Did he accuse critics of being evil? Write letters to the British Parliament? Use ad hominem attacks against doubters? Argue that even if a counterexample to the theorem existed, we get clean air and water?

    Or did he simply complete the proof?

    What about Watson and Crick? Why did they use that stupid scientific method to carefully describe experiments to prove the existence of DNA, instead of accusing any doubters of their claims of being evil?

    Or Albert Einstein? Why, the idea that objects shrink and clock slow down as they move must have sounded preposterous. Why not accuse his critics of being evil? Accuse doubters of working for Big Oil? Argue that even if special relativity was wrong, we at least get clean air and water?

    Who would have taken Wiles, or Watson, or Crick, or Einstein, or Charles Darwin, or Isaac Newton, or Leonhard Euler, or Terence Tao, or Pythagoras, or Euclid seriously if they resorted to ad hominem attacks, accusing their critics of being evil, instead of proving their theorems?

    • I’d at least be able to UNDERSTAND them if they were handwringing over denial of SETTLED science, like the roundness of the Earth, or, say, the fact that there are only 2 genders.

      But Earth’s climate is not subject to experimentation. There are nearly INFINITE variables. And climate scientists have done a very poor job so far making any accurate predictions. Nothing is “settled” if your predictions aren’t coming true. What’s more, just about 100 percent “climate skeptics” seem to still agree on wanting to reduce waste and pollution, so it’s not as if the existence of skeptics is going to make the plot of Wall-E happen.

      I don’t necessarily believe that climate scientists are trying to spook us into socialism, but I know that lots of proudly idiotic socialists appeal to climate science (which they don’t understand) to try to spook us into socialism…so it ends up looking the same. Which isn’t a good look.

  6. Writers who write a promoted series and take a disproportionate amount of time to complete their last book (or books) are unethical.

    If you write a book as part of a series, promote that series, entice readers to emotionally and monetarily invest in your series and the story that you’re telling, you then have an ethical (if not legal) requirement to finish the series.

    The most obvious offender of this is George RR Martin. Here are his books and the release years.

    A Game of Thrones (1996)
    A Clash of Kings (1998)
    A Storm of Swords (2000)
    A Feast for Crows (2005)
    A Dance with Dragons (2011)
    The Winds of Winter (forthcoming)
    A Dream of Spring (forthcoming)

    George RR Martin is 70+ years old. At this rate it’s likely he wont live to finish the series.

    I personally haven’t read his books, but I’m comfortable calling him an ass hole. When readers give you their money and spend their precious time reading your books, they’re doing so with the expectation that you’re actually going to produce to finish at a reasonable rate. As proof of that: how do you think his sales numbers would have changed if George RR Martin had printed the above release schedule on the back of the first book in the series. I guarantee it’s be a serious loss – no one’s excited to wait 8 years for to find out what happens next.

    This is speculation, but I’m betting that now that he’s a multi millionaire he just doesn’t care anymore. Writing is hard and he’d rather be bowling or watching movies or sitting around puffing fine tobacco than doing the hard work of writing. In essence he bit off more than e can chew. He had enough passion and drive for a narrative arc spanning 5 books and not that it’s spent he’s proceeding at a glacial pace. The ethical thing to do would be to firstly practice professionalism and accurately assess what you can produce and failing that (as we all do sometimes) own it, tell people that you’ve lost the drive and either quit the series or buckle down and deliver.

    So TL;DR: If you ask people to become invested in a series, then they invest in the series, you have an ethical obligation to deliver the series. Loitering authors aren’t violating a legal contract but they sure are shitting on an ethical one.

    George RR Marin: Buy my books, love my characters and story!
    Millions of People: Buys, reads, loves, waits on tender hooks for the conclusion…
    George RR Martin: Thanks for the money, but this writing thing is hard and I’m gonna fuck off instead

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