Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/18/19: Complainers, Climate Hysterics, Tiny Tims And Fake News

Good morning!

Good news! You won’t be thinking I’m dead any more, at least not until I am.  The combination of some complicated travel itineraries and the death of my laptop resulted in uncharacteristic interruptions of the dialogue here, twice causing soem readers to speculate on my demise, or at least incapacity. No, it was just that budgetary priorities made replacing the travel computer a bit less urgent than things like a new roof, a car that runs, things like that. Over the weekend I address the computer problem, and not a second too soon, as I will be setting off today on yet another New Jersey odyssey. Paul Morella and I will be presenting editions of our Clarence Darrow legal ethics program for N.J. lawyers in Brunswick and Fairfield,  sandwiched in between about 9 hours of driving, but I should be able to keep the ethics fires burning to some extent. Unless I’m dead, of course. As my fatalistic father liked to say cheerily , driving my morbid mom crazy, “You never know!”

1. God bless them, every one! This is one example of non-traditional casting I agree with: increasing numbers of “A Christmas Carol” productions are casting children with disabilities to play Tiny Tim. I would fight to the death for the right of a fully-able young actor to play the roles, as well as for the right of a director to cast one. However, the show presents such an ideal opportunity for a child who normally might not  have many chances to a play any  role on stage  because of his physical limitations that it seems like a shame to let it pass. I also agree with the directors who opine that having a genuinely challenged Tiny Tim gives some extra oomph to the show.

Is it exploitative? Sure, to some extent. That, however, is show business.

I draw the line, however, at casting Cratchit children who are different races than their parents, making it look like Mrs. Cratchit has been turning tricks to make ends meet, or “Tiny Tina.”

2.  Here’s another kind of “fake news”…Yahoo! News felt that an entire post was necessary to inform the world that the President had screened “Joker” at the White House. Why is this news, or even mildly interesting? It’s a big movie, with lots of buzz. Presidents have screened movies at the White House for decades, usually without comment from the news media. Now, if he had screened the original “Birth of a Nation,” like racist Woodrow Wilson, or “Tusk,” that might be worth a small news item.

Let’s see, what other fake news items (as in thins that don’t qualify as news) are there on Yahoo!? How about “Michelle Obama Looked Incredible in a Yellow Corseted Schiaparelli Gown at the American Portrait Gala”? For some reason, I thought the fawning over Michelle, which as always hyperbolic and excessive, might have abated since she left the White House, after all, the news media quit going bonkers over every Jackie Kennedy ensemble once she wasn’t First Lady any more. Then there’s the matter of the gown Yahoo! is raving about…

Cal me cynical, but I’m pretty sure Michelle could attend an event dressed as Mister Peanut and we would see stories about how “ravishing she” was.

What else? Here’s a headline: “Trump’s ‘biggest fear is that he gets exposed’: Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.” How is that “news”? What does Chicago’s ex-mayor and the long-time Clinton and Obama flack know about what this President’s “worst fear” is? Such speculation as fact has been a popular variety of fake news for the past three years: any celebrity or individual who opines about the President critically is immediately a newsmaker.

3. How climate change hysteria is making people go crazy. Read this sad and disturbing op-ed by New York Times reporter Cara Buckley. It begins,

Have you ever known someone who cited the Anthropocene in a dating profile? Who doled out carbon offset gift certificates at the holidays? Who sees new babies and immediately flashes to the approximately 15 tons of carbon emissions the average American emits per year? Who walks around shops thinking about where all the packaging ends up? You do now…the barrage of cataclysmic planetary news, the galloping wildfires, the smack of 90-degree New York autumn days all felt so at odds with the regular tickings of human life that I often felt quite mad. I felt complicit by merely existing. After all, I belonged to the species that was taking most of the other ones down.

Note to Cara: it’s no illusion, you are quite mad. And a note to the Times: I don’t think it’s ethical to employ reporters in the throes of hysteria, paranoia, and impending mental illness.

4. I see presumptuous people! Philip Galanes’s weekend Times column “Social Q’s” highlights the complaints of three inquirers who don’t seem to grasp where their business ends and another individual’s begins.

#1 comes from a woman who is just certain that her annoying sister is “on the spectrum” and needs to seek help before she alienates the family.  Galanes replies in part,

Oh, Sister, you have come to the wrong advice columnist! Make-believe clinicians who hand out diagnoses like Tic Tacs are dangerous. Unlike you, professionals have been trained to assess A.S.D. And pathologizing your sister based on an amateur understanding of autism not only hurts her, but also people who live with the disorder.Brilliant-but-difficult does not always mean Asperger’s syndrome. Moody is not a synonym for bipolar. And sadness is not depression. I know it’s become common to offer such analyses (maybe to make ourselves feel superior?), but they trivialize the disorders and perpetuate the stigma of them. Please knock it off!

On the other hand, such labels as “on the autism spectrum,” sociopath, narcissist and paranoid are highly subjective even when they are applied by professionals. There is nothing wrong with a non-psychiatrist opining that Donald Trump (or Barack Obama) is a classic narcissist, or that Bill Clinton (or O.J.) seem to fit the mold of a sociopath, as long as they can defend their opinion and don’t appeal to authority that doesn’t exist.

#2 is invited to her friend’s lavish wedding in Italy, but miffed that she was not invited to the states-side party for those who either weren’t invited to the wedding or who couldn’t attend. “To make matters worse,” the writer complains,  “the bride was a bridesmaid at my small wedding two months ago. Do I ask why I was left off the guest list?”

Ugh. That’s a terrible spot to put a friend in, or even a non-friend, and I remember well being put in it by a woman in my office at the time of my impending wedding who confronted me because she hadn’t been invited. Like a chump, I “hominahomina-ed” and sent her an invitation. I barely knew the woman then, and may have spoken six words to her since. Galane: “No! Being invited to a party is not a right or something you earn by inviting people to yours. And scrutinizing the guest lists of other people’s parties (with that sense of entitlement) is a surefire way to make yourself miserable.”

#3 is the worst of the batch. He has a wealthy best  friend, and is not rich himself. He bitches,

Recently, I adopted a rescue mutt and have been taking her to obedience classes at the local shelter. Shortly after that, my friend bought an expensive purebred and — even more annoyingly — sent it away to training camp for two weeks so he could have (as he called it) a “turnkey dog.” This situation pisses me off. What should I do?

The level-headed Gallanes again has the right response, though he is nicer about it than I would have been. Can you guess what he said?

25 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/18/19: Complainers, Climate Hysterics, Tiny Tims And Fake News

  1. Have you ever known someone who cited the Anthropocene in a dating profile? Who doled out carbon offset gift certificates at the holidays? Who sees new babies and immediately flashes to the approximately 15 tons of carbon emissions the average American emits per year? Who walks around shops thinking about where all the packaging ends up? You do now…the barrage of cataclysmic planetary news, the galloping wildfires, the smack of 90-degree New York autumn days all felt so at odds with the regular tickings of human life that I often felt quite mad. I felt complicit by merely existing. After all, I belonged to the species that was taking most of the other ones down.

    OK, but now for the more interesting news: the Liberal Progressive ideology is itself a manifestation of mental illness.

    The ‘tenets of modern hyper-liberalism’ are themselves a manifestation of mental disorder. And it is the ‘disordered modern’ who is susceptible to them.

    “But Alizia”, you say in dismay, “Does this mean that you are sane and we are (somewhat) insane?!? No! That can’t be! You evil post-Venezuelan ex-Jewish Nazi-kind! Away! Away!”

    This is going to be hard. Take it slowly . . . 🙂

    Listen to “Richard Houck on Liberalism Unmasked” on Spreaker.

  2. #3: Ms. Buckley may be a certifiable loon, but at least she’s not (yet) claiming she can actually see CO2 molecules, like the Blessed Saint Greta Of Stockholm.

  3. Re: Tiny Tina;
    I presume there would be a caveat that a girl could play Tiny Tim, no?
    In high school, we had a production of Oliver where the lead was played by a girl. She had short hair, was very talented, and probably had the voice they wanted.

    Re: The Joker;

    News? Maybe. Birth of a Nation was a big deal because the technology was new-ish at the time. Nothing had ever been screened there before, as I recall.

    There have been other notable screenings there. Didn’t Bush screen a film about JFK and invited Teddy?

    So, it’s not unheard of, but it would not surprise me if the media quickly switched from the fact (he screened the movie) to spin (see: he a psychopath!).

    Re: Michelle Obama;

    Oh my god, that dress is hideous! Of course, if Melania wore the same thing, the press would have had the courage (audacity?) to speak the truth (and call her a stripper or whore, by the way).


  4. 3. Part of Ms. Buckley’s sadness likely stems from her sources of information – starting with her own paper. Imagine her ecstatic joy when she discovers that we are in the wettest year in recorded history, and the 3rd or 4th coolest on record – going back to the 1890s. According to the Danish Meteorological Institute, Greenland’s ice sheet has increased by ~1.2 trillion (with a “t”) tons of ice in the last 3 years. Sea-ice extent is statistically unchanged in the polar regions over the last dozen years – pretty good since Vice President Gore said the Arctic could see ice-free summers by now. Wildfire burn acreage – for all the press it gets – is a fraction of what it was a century ago. And for all his talk about rising oceans, President Obama and his wife were recently reported to have purchased a $15m home in (I believe) Martha’s Vineyard that sits just a few feet above sea level. President Obama must know something…I wonder what that is?

    I could go on and on, but maybe this will give Cara enough hope to pursue more of the truth on her own. See?…it’s not so bad.

    • Cynic. Don’t you know Saint Greta is stuck in the middle of the Atlantic because they changed the locale of the eco-summit to some place in Spain because of civil unrest in Chile? She wouldn’t fly there because greenhouse gasses so she will miss here keynote speech as a result of her convictions. Damn luck, that. I wonder, though, if she would be violating HER principles if she “”hitchhiked” a ride on passing jet airliner – I mean, it’s the one polluting and not her. She taking a ride on that Big Ol’ Jet Airliner wouldn’t increase the plane’s carbon footprint, and she does need to get to that summit lest we the unaware and unwoke continue in our disreputably polluting ways.


  5. 4. I just imagine that in the partially seen picture to her left, one of the founders (Washington?) is backing away in horror.

  6. 2. Screening Joker in the White House is a major news story because before Joker came out there was media-led hysteria that it would inspire mass shootings, and everybody knows that white supremacists are responsible for almost all mass shootings, and even though Joker did not actually inspire any shootings, the fact that Trump watched it is further proof that he is a white supremacist.

  7. Re: No. 4: Advisory Buttinskies:

    Not exactly on point, but there is this story out of Texas: It seems a mom likes to put notes in her 5 year old son’s lunch kit* to remind him she loves him when he eats lunch at daycare. Well, as luck would have it, she put a note in his lunch, asking the daycare worker to tell her son she loves him very much. The daycare worker would have none of that nonsense, so he/she told the mother to put the son on a diet instead. Here is a link to the story:

    Now, the daycare worker is a jerk and should be strung up by his/her thumbs for doing something so idiotic. I wonder what goes through the mind of someone who deals with youngsters at a daycare who would tell the mother that said daycare worker would, in fact, NOT tell the child that mommy loves him/her, and would do so by writing a note back to the mother, effectively telling the mother she is a bad parent. Seems cruel to me.

    But, I wonder why this was reported to the news media, and I wonder why the media picked up the story and made it go “viral”. When I searched for the story, it had been picked by the local Houston ABC affiliate, then the NY Post ran it, and so on. Why? Why would a parent alter the media and why would the media care about this? If it had been my son, my wife would not have thought about calling the media, though she would have marched down to the daycare and unceremoniously leveled the place with a well-placed anathema.

    The mom, Francesca Easdon, appears to have contacted a lawyer. In the report, it looks like she is sitting in law office – she demands justice for . . . what? Not sure, but she wanted the employee fired, which apparently happened. Here is her Facebook page:*F*F-R&eid=ARAhA0fbFegynQHmr1NPAhP6E53qPSEdnBn2GoUj7OZi7bz19crFQWpA6vbbfPoegtFZRLrEqdCdEsqs&tn-str=*F

    The post, dated November 13, tells me that there is a lot more going on behind the scenes. She throw out that she removed her son (name and all) from the daycare center and enrolled him somewhere else, thinly veiling a threat of litigation because she is ” . . . worried about the higher cost but I will make it work, no matter what I have to do.” So, is that it? Does she think she is going to score some cash in a lawsuit? If so, will the center cave in to end the bad publicity?


    *Ed Note: I do question the propriety of doing this as Helicopter Parenting but, hey, the kiddo is 5 and who doesn’t like nice notes in lunch kits? I prefer Hostess Fruit Pies but a nice note is acceptable. Especially given that Pottery Barn Kids, Barnes & Noble, Target, and a whole host of other retailers sell these things so I would assume it is not uncommon.

  8. Nero was not exactly a rescue dog. Let’s say we rescued each other, through the intercession of a good friend. Now, he is my best buddy, even though he is eating me out of house and home.

  9. Nontraditional casting: A local group is putting on “12 Angry Men” but calling it “12 Angry Jurors,” presumably because they have a mixed cast. Thoughts? My hazy memories of the movie don’t indicate any NEED to have an all-male cast, although changing the name seems like a weird decision.

    Joker Movie: a lot of the furor surrounding the movie is because its main character is a sad-sack white male, and portrays his descent into evil as a series of steps rather than just being evil for the sake of it. Way too many people a) are unable to understand that the main character of a movie isn’t necessarily being portrayed as the “good guy,” and b) think that explaining WHY the bad guy did what he did is the same as claiming he was JUSTIFIED to do what he did.

    So clearly Trump is sending a dog whistle that white male domestic terrorists are really the victims of society.

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