Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/22/2019: Five Ugly Ethics Stories (Sorry!) [Corrected]

A pleasant Sunday…

as long as I don’t read the newspaper or watch the Talking Heads…

1. Before I finish a long post about the most recent contrived Brett Kanavaugh smear by the New York Times, ponder this quote from the Times review of “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh”: “[The authors] come to a generous but also damning conclusion, which is that Blasey Ford and Ramirez are believable and were in fact mistreated by Kavanaugh as teenagers, but that over the next 35 years he became a better person.”

Ugh. The conclusion is “damning” because it relies almost entirely on confirmation bias: Blasey Ford’s own lawyer revealed that her motive in using her “recovered memory” against Kavanaugh was to discredit any future anti-abortion opinions he participated in as a member of the court. The accusation by Ramirez isn’t, apparently, even believable to Ramirez herself, since she says she isn’t certain that the Mad Penis-Dangler was Bret Kavanaugh. Why then, do the authors find the claims “believable”? Oh, because they want to believe them, of course; they work for the New York Times, and they certainly weren’t going to get their book promoted by their employer and snatched up by its readers if they concluded, as objective reporters would, that there is no more reason to believe Justice Kavanaugh did these things than there is reason to believe he didn’t.

The real ugh is this, however: if even these biased analysts conclude that the accusations, even if true, do not have any relevance on the grown man who was nominated to the Supreme Court because they relate to a minor who existed 35 years ago—and who has, as most children do, grown up—then the episodes that their book focuses upon literally don’t matter, shouldn’t have been brought into Kavanaugh’s hearing,  and should not be used now to denigrate and discredit him.

2. From “Social Q’s,” a glimpse of what a malfunctioning ethics alarm is like. Prompting the frequently appearing question in my mind, “How does someone get like this?” was the query into Phillip Gallane’s advice column from a woman who threw herself a birthday party, directed guests not to bring gifts but to make a donation to a charity she supports instead, and was annoyed that some brought gifts anyway. She asked if it would be inappropriate to send the gifts back with a disapproving note so they “would listen” to her “next time.”

I know what I would do “next time”…

3. Hey, sounds great, Facebook! Why wouldn’t everyone trust your judgment? Facebook announced  a series of changes last week to squelch hate speech and extremism—meaning what Facebook and its allies consider such— on its platform in a letter to the chairman of a House panel. Facebook said it would prevent links from the fringe sites 8chan and 4chan from being posted on its platform—you, know like it blocks links to Ethics Alarms!  Then it explained how it would develop an oversight board of at least 11 members to review and oversee content decisions—like the decision that a wide-ranging ethics blog that has no political affiliation or agenda, written by a professional ethicist of some note, doesn’t meet the Facebook “community standards.”

In other, unrelated news regarding the obstacles being thrown in my path, the Appeals Court in Massachusetts finally alerted me that it was taking “under advisement” the request for an appeal of the rejected frivolous defamation suit filed about two years ago by a banned commenter here whose boo-boo I wounded.

(I am not concerned.)

4. And while we’re on the topic of unethical lawsuits...Everybody knows that Japan’s Imperial Army’s made sex slaves of tens of thousands of Korean women and others in military brothels during World War II.  Everybody, that is, except perhaps the Japanese, who have been taught various spun and distorted versions of the truth while the country has refused to fully admit its crimes, either domestically or internationally. The official cover-story is that all of those captured women were paid; in other words, not sex slaves, just prostitutes. Even an official Japanese Government apology in 1993 fell far short of complete candor.

Miki Dezaki made a meticulous documentary for his graduate thesis, examining the reasons for the endless obfuscation. His work concluded that racism and sexism were largely behind the false history. In response, five of the most active apologists for the army are suing him for defamation.

His two-hour documentary, “Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of the Comfort Women Issue,” has been shown  in Japan and South Korea and will travel to U.S.  college campuses next month.

 Dezaki is a second-generation Japanese-American who was not told about the “comfort women” in any detail by his Japanese immigrant parents, and assumed that the Western news media “had gotten it wrong somehow.” For his film project, he interviewed historians, activists and lawyers, reviewed official documents that  proved the Japanese military’s direct role in managing the brothels, and read the accounts of hundreds of survivors who described  conditions there.

Some audience members in Japan were surprised by the documentary’s revelations that were absent from their history textbooks. Tsubasa Hirose, a freelance copywriter, wrote on her movie blog that she had always thought comfort women “treated people at the hospital, like nurses.” I didn’t know anything,” she wrote, “and I wasn’t given any opportunity to.”

It sounds to me as if Dekaki is already bending to the intimidation effort. “My conclusion is not final,” he told one interviewer. “I don’t know everything. I feel like I can defend my conclusion based off what I know. I’m always aware that there’s a possibility that one of the factors in my argument might not hold.”

Don’t let them beat you down, Mike.

5. Why Pete Buttigieg is a weasel. OK, maybe there’s a nicer way to say that. Or maybe not. The South Bend mayor who habitually lectures conservatives about what Jesus would do and their alleged hypocrisy was asked about the grisly discovery of the  remains of more than 2,200 fetuses/unborn babies at the Illinois home of a former Indiana abortion doctor with the German war crimes name of Ulrich Klopfer, who died earlier this month. The good doctor had an abortion clinic right in South bend. Buttigieg’s response:

“I find that news out of Illinois extremely disturbing, and I think it is important that it be fully investigated. I also hope that it does not get caught up in politics at a time when women need access to health care.”

Buttigieg knows a good Democrat cannot find the deaths and callous disposal of the unborn “disturbing” without having to admit that there is something wrong with aborting millions of such beings every year. Thus he breezily  slides past the issue to focus on the other side of the ethical equation, where the votes are.


I would have more respect for Mayor Pete if he had the integrity to say, “Obviously this needs to be investigated. However, if the fetuses were legally aborted with the full consent of the women involved, this is a matter of improper disposal of biological waste. These were not human beings, and they had no right to live, as much as the foes of women’s rights and Roe v. Wade would like us to believe.”

17 thoughts on “Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/22/2019: Five Ugly Ethics Stories (Sorry!) [Corrected]

  1. I sincerely hope that Miki Dezaki doesn’t back down on his documentary although Korean women were hardly the only victims when Japan was expanding their Asian Co Prosperity sphere. Tens of thousands of Chinese, Indonesian, Filipino, and Dutch women suffered the same fate. I only wish that MacArthur had gotten over his fear of Japan becoming communist after the war and put Hirohito on trial for war crimes right next to Tojo.

    • The charges probably wouldn’t have stuck. The emperor was kept around as a figurehead and living national historic shrine in the time of the shoguns, and, although Emperor Meiji pushed the shoguns aside and ended the era of the samurai, the modern army and navy officers quickly took their place. Emperor Showa was not really in a position to push Tojo and company out of power, and might well have found himself under house arrest if he had tried.

  2. 1. I dunno about this one. I think the accusations leveled at Kavanaugh were complete garbage and unsupported by the evidence. I also thought Ford was absolutely not credible, both because of her testimony and because of the machinations she and her legal team engaged in, like trying to have Kavanaugh tell his side first, so she could tailor her story. I am not 100% willing to go along with the idea that Kavanaugh became a better person now, so these accusations, if true (which is a big if, and I don’t believe they were true), don’t bear on his fitness. I believe character isn’t built. I believe it is revealed. Those who are jerks, bullies, cheaters, and troublemakers as kids usually go on being the same way as adults, except usually as adults the bullies are now trying to sell you insurance, the cheaters are the ones telling you a pay raise is just impossible right now, and the troublemakers are the ones telling you your tax return, or your performance, or something else, is going to be audited, while the jerks are some combination of the above. Usually they stop getting physically violent, but a few keep it up, and usually end up in jail. I still wouldn’t talk to some of the people who treated me like shit when I was a kid. I’d tell them to go straight to hell, even though we’re all close to 50 now. I don’t give a damn if you raised two great kids, or donated a bunch of money to worthy causes, or became a deacon in your church, or anything else. If you attacked me and tried to beat me up, I want nothing to do with you, now or ever again. A girl who some guy tried to have his way with while dispensing with her thoughts on the subject is well within her rights never to forgive him.

    2. That’s just stupid, although gifts can be a dicy subject. My brother and I, who were both still students and couldn’t put on a big party for our parents when they were married 25 years, did put one on for them when they were married 30 years. Mom and Dad weren’t looking for presents, and the etiquette guide we consulted said that we had to put “gifts not required” in French (?!) on the invitation. Some folks brought gifts anyway, which were accepted in the spirit in which they were offered, of course.

    3. Unless and until social media gets regulated like a public utility, it’s going to be treated like the private property it is. Big Tech is run by woke people with neither patience or interest for those they don’t agree with.

    4. Japan is only one step down from Turkey, where you can be thrown in jail for two years if you say that the Ottomans slaughtered millions of Armenians, ethnic Greeks, Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, etc., or say that Ataturk was anything other than a complete hero. It’s called “insulting Turkishness.”

    5. Of course it’s all about the votes, and abortion is the holy grail of the left.

  3. I suggest they looking up the Rape of Nanking. This event documents the Japanese “raping” the Chinese in both sense in the word by killing 200,000 civilians and raping 20,000 women and children and then killing them.

    There are some pictures, but I don’t suggest them if you can’t handle that kind of thing.

    • I remembered, and almost referenced it. That one was about people dictating charity to their favored causes as a substitute for gifts as wedding gifts. I should have mentioned that the birthday girl didn’t encourage donations, she just said that if you had to give something, that was the way you were allowed to do so.

  4. “His wok concluded that racism and sexism were largely behind the false history.”

    Now I want to see the anime series about Miki and his talking wok!

  5. Funny thing, mayor Buttigieg; Jesus lived under the governance of the most powerful and widespread political entity in the world, and never once even hinted that it was the responsibility of the Roman Empire to do anything about poverty, health care, or free college for anyone. Somehow I think Jesus’ teaching about each individual’s responsibility to care for his or her neighbor wouldn’t translate to “vote straight Democrat and they’ll take care of it” today.

    It’s bad enough that politicians who don’t believe in objective right and wrong use the language of moral absolutism anyway to fool the rubes. Buttigieg employs a Christianity that seems to exist only to gaslight Christians.

    • Isaac, as always things that are said here inspire a range of different thoughts. I am interested in this:

      Jesus lived under the governance of the most powerful and widespread political entity in the world.

      There is in today’s NYSlimes a very interesting series of video-expositions by Jaron Lanier beginning with The Great Data Robbery. What he points to, and of course what many thinkers like him point to, is a governing and controlling system that is now taking shape, which indeed has already been installed, and is being exploited.

      Jesus did not live in a system that was very comparable to the technological management business system that has taken shape today. OK, so I admit that I tend to see such things through a dystopian lens, but do you and do others who write here see it differently? Honestly? Can one actually be alive and awake in our present and feel optimism? What attitude should one have? Is it a mistake to focus on the so-called darker element? And is it ethical therefore to choose an optimistic, hopeful outlook?

      In a real sense the *texts* and even the *prophetic texts* that define or circumscribe how we view this reality taking shape are extensions of the Biblical prophetic narratives. I am thinking of The Matrix for example or (as Lanier references and I guess he had something to do with it) The Minority Report. It was as though these revealing texts presented a picture of what would develop, but had not yet developed, and now what was seen and predicted begins to show itself: as an installed system.

      What interests me is the implications of all this. In the sense of a management and control system that is thousands of times more amplified — if one looks at it in a negative light — of the Roman Imperial system.

      It’s bad enough that politicians who don’t believe in objective right and wrong use the language of moral absolutism anyway to fool the rubes. Buttigieg employs a Christianity that seems to exist only to gaslight Christians.

      It is easy, perhaps, to ‘believe in’ objective right and wrong, but I suggest that it is impossible, literally impossible, to define such ‘right and wrong’ within the context of the types of systems that are being installed and have been installed. What does a Christian do? How does a Christian see?

      Here is another thing: There is no politician whom any Christian can trust, as far as I am able to tell, because The System which a given politician serves has now crossed over a line. I do not mean to say that there might not be an honest Christian politician, though I do darkly imagine that most would show hypocrisy similar to Buttigieg in one area or another, but rather that the System itself has become too vast, too powerful, and is in a real sense outside of the control of individual and and certainly the lone individual.

      Apparently, things will soon become mechanized and run by artificial intelligence computer systems. In a way that could hardly have been so in any former time the individual will be reduced, extraordinarily, to a state similar to *slavery*. Yet taken to another level. Am I right or wrong? Is it proper to *see* this or is such seeing a dark hallucination? So, what does a Christian do in the face of this? How does he and she view the government, the ‘System’ as I describe it, and the trajectory of these technological control and management systems?

      What is the relationship right now, in this American Present, within the country itself, between the goals and objects of Christian life and valuation, and that of the System that is rapidly being constructed? And how in that context should conversations on ethics be undertaken?

  6. Re: No. 2; the Obligatory Birthday Gift.

    This has been a puzzle to me over the years for two reasons:

    1. I don’t understand the motivation behind telling someone to do something they are not otherwise required to do, and

    2. How do I respond to the “in lieu of presents, donate to ABC Charity.”

    This is something I see on Facebook. In your notifications section, there is a list of people celebrating a birthday on a particular date. Invariably, I see this:

    “For my birthday this year, I’m asking for donations to __________. I’ve chosen this nonprofit because their mission means a lot to me, and I hope you’ll consider contributing as a way to celebrate with me. Every little bit will help me reach my goal. I’ve included information about ______ below.”

    There is a link to the charity, with the birthday person’s donation/giving goal. Throughout the day, Facebook will tell you that the goal has not been reached and to act now to help achieve that goal.

    As many readers on this page know, I am a member of the Rushinati, and we work to promote Rush’s music because we believe that Rush and their music make the world a much, much better place. Consequently, many of the Facebook friends are members of the Rushinati, so I get lots of this requests. I have never donated to those sites, though. Mostly, it just does not seem right to obligate someone to give a birthday gift to some charity. I understand it in the context of a funeral as it is the family’s request to make a contribution to something the decedent or his/her family thinks is a worthy cause – I do allow for my idea to be complete hogwash. Birthdays, though, seem more personal and are much more voluntary. Demands like this remove the gift-giver’s free will and make a gift compulsory.

    With that in mind, a recipient of a gift who does not like the gift has one option: express gratitude for the gift and keep one’s mouth shut. If I don’t like the lead crystal bowl my neighbor gave me for my birthday, then I thank them and, quietly change it for something else or make a donation on their behalf to the chosen charity. Reminding people of their unwanted gifts is asswholish and arrogant. It says to the gifter that they are too stupid to follow instructions and their stupidity is unacceptable.

    Oddly enough, I had this conversation a family who criticized my/our gifts to his family for holidays and birthdays. My less-than cordial response was, “Really? Bite me.”


  7. Late to the party, as usual these days (pesky life getting into my EA reading)

    1. So this is where the partisan hacks can point when confronted with how they treated Kavanaugh when one of their own is treated this way by the right (See! We admitted that actions decades earlier should not be held into account today! How dare you act like we did!)

    And it IS coming.

    2. In the future, on might find out what her least favorite charity would be, say, the NRA or an anti-abortion organization. Then donate in her name and have the card sent on her birthday, if possible.

    3. Facebook has become what they advocate fighting. Evil to the core, pandering to self centered idiots.

    4. Japan, like Germany, had a hard time facing what was done in the name of conquest. Seems to me that there is a saying about those who refuse to learn (or hide) the lessons of history.

    5. Servants of Moloch need human lives to sacrifice (and sell the body parts: fun AND profit!) This has been going on for literally thousands of years. Nothing new under the sun.

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