Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 11/26/2019: The Pooping Engineer, Fake Newspapers, And Other Things Not To Be Thankful For

As the Happy Holidays countdown continues…

1. More trivial ethics: Watching Season #2 (2015) of the excellent Stephen Bochco procedural “Murder One,” my wife and I were stunned to hear an expert witness in the trial of one of the teenage shooters in a school bus mass murder point out, while noting that most sociopaths don’t kill people, the Jack Kennedy and Bill Clinton were examples of very successful sociopaths. It’s very unusual to see favored progressive narratives challenged in television dramas. Of course, this would have been an opportunity for Trump-bashing had the show been filmed a couple of years later.

2.  Ew. Matthew Lebsack, an 18-year employee of the Union Pacific Railroad Co., defecated on a train-car knuckle three years ago, threw feces-covered toilet paper out of the locomotive window, and informed his manager that he had left a “present” for him. Lebsack’s co-workers cleaned up his droppings using bottled water and paper towels.

At the investigation hearing, Lebsack admitted the specifics of the incident and apologized for his behavior. He claimed he  was suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, and his wife had just left him at the time of the incident.

I wonder why?

Yeah, that justifies throwing one’s poop around the workplace. Lebsack was fired, shockingly. His union, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division, or  SMART appealed and the matter was sent to an arbitration board.

The arbitration board found that firing “was too harsh.” That’s good to know, just in case a clueless ethics class frustrates me so much I decide to take a dump on the podium.   Lebsack’s medical and psychological issues were deemed to be sufficient mitigation that board ordered Lebsack to be reinstated once he successfully completes a physical and a psychological evaluation. Union Pacific appealed to vacate the decision and SMART sought to enforce it.

U.S. District Judge Brian Buescher ruled that, under the Railway Labor Act, he was without authority to review the merits of the board’s interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement. Buescher said the arbitration board’s decision fell within its discretion, although he admitted that he didn’t understand its reasoning.

“This court is puzzled how the arbitration board in this matter came to the conclusion that Mr. Lebsack’s actions of purposely defecating on the knuckle of his train and leaving his feces for others to clean up somehow did not constitute conduct worthy of upholding his termination,” Buescher wrote. “As a train engineer, Mr. Lebsack operates large pieces of equipment through public spaces in our country… Upon being given such an important charge that can impact the well-being and safety of the public, Mr. Lebsack should be expected to have better judgment than that which he exhibited.”

Ya think?

3. Oh, sure, this is just what we need...Tara McGowan is the creator of a network of digital newspapers called Courier Newsroom. They are fake news papers, to be precise. Their purpose is to mimic the “fake news” that Russian, Lithuanians and trolls used on social media during the 2016 election, but her organization, Courier Newsroom, will be planting left-wing messages and false stories to defeat President Trump and Republicans. The network has already launched newspapers in six swing states: Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

She claims to have 25 million dollars for the effort, or about ten times what the Russians allegedly spent.

Tara has no ethics at all, apparently, based on her comments, like “There’s no regulations. Misinformation not only runs rampant but is now being condoned by the most powerful social media platform in the world.” How many rationalizations do you see in that sentence? I count three, plus factual distortion. Facebook doesn’t “condone” misinformation, it just properly recognizes that one person’s “lie” is another’s opinion. But Tara is a progressive, so such nuances naturally escape her: she’d prefer that all opposition voices be silenced. Failing that, she has concluded that it is fair to intentionally use Facebook’s advertising tools to seek out a specific audience of readers who can be confused and manipulated by fake news.

I would identify this group as “independent social media-using morons so gullible that they need 24-hour observation to survive a week,” and I don’t think they are the key to winning any election, but Hillary Clinton does.

Here’s one more rationalization from the smugly righteous and ethics-challenged Ms.  McGowan: “A lot of people I respect will see this media company as an affront to journalistic integrity because it won’t, in their eyes, be balanced. What I say to them is, Balance does not exist anymore, unfortunately.”

4. More proof, as if any more were necessary, that posting on Twitter indicates a lack of life competence and a death wish.

International affairs professor Tom Nichols, who teaches at US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, for some weird reason decided to opine on Indian cuisine on Twitter, writing,

“Indian food is terrible and we pretend it isn’t…I think people often pretend to like non-American cuisines as a way of showing sophistication. I’m honest enough to say that my mostly Irish taste buds can’t handle whatever it is that is called “Indian” in the US and UK.  You may all continue with your outrage now”

He was promptly pounced upon by the Social Media Furies, who accused him of being everything from an idiot to a racist, and his needlessly provocative outburst justified racist attacks on all white American, since he was obviously speaking as a qualified representative.

Possessed by the same irresistible impulse, ABC senior reporter Terry Moran tweeted that  “Chinese food is tired. It’s boring, gloppy, over-salted and utterly forgettable.”

Same result, of course,  One person replied to his tweet: “Oh Lord here we go again with bubble-inhabiting white guy, announcing his pathetic ignorance of an entire cuisine and its myriad regional varieties.”

I’d estimate that there are at least five contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination who, if elected, will make sure that similar tweets like those from Nichols and Moran will be considered hate speech and justify dismissal, if not prosecution.

Hate speech, you know.

5. Speaking of Twitter, here’s today’s “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!” note. From Newsbusters:

Washington Post editor Marty Baron loves to claim his newspaper isn’t all about defeating (or removing) President Trump. “We’re not at war, we’re at work,” he claims. But what if we took a look at the official main Twitter page for The Post? Would we find a war with Trump? The answer is: Yes.

On Thursday, November 21, the Post was covering the last day of Adam Schiff’s impeachment hearings, as well as the previous night’s Democrat presidential debate on MSNBC (co-sponsored by the Post). In the 24 hours of Thursday, the Post’s main Twitter page posted 183 tweets (including retweets). This is what we found:

— Seventy of those (38 percent) were focused on impeachment. Another 29 tweets (16 percent) were about Trump or his administration. The impeachment tweets were (almost by definition) overwhelmingly negative – they all seemed to try to build momentum for removing the president from office. The most popular tweet (with more than 5,700 likes) was “Fiona Hill shows how Trump and Republicans function as Putin’s useful idiots.”

Nineteen of the 29 non-impeachment tweets about Trump were identifiably anti-Trump, and the other ten were more neutral. One negative tweet was “Trump took credit for opening a Mac factory. It’s been open since 2013.” (The Post story elaborated: “On Wednesday, the company announced it had broken ground on a $1 billion, 3 million-square-foot campus that is expected to open in 2022 and initially house 5,000 employees.”)

— In contrast to that 54 percent, the MSNBC-Post Democrat debate drew only 17 tweets (nine percent).

Another five tweets could be defined as about Democrats, so that would get you to 12 percent. Many debate tweets were neutral or positive, such as “Beating Trump, rather than beating up on each other, was focus of fifth Democratic debate.” One tweet/article criticized Bernie Sanders for a “wrong” answer on “Lock him up” chants (he wouldn’t condemn them). One non-debate tweet/article noted Deval Patrick had only two people turn up at an event at Morehouse College.

…[O]ther sections of the Post were an afterthought to the main Post account. There were nine tweets about sports. There was only one tweet about local politics, and that linked to an article touting how high Democrat Mayor Muriel Bowser’s approval ratings are. (There were another two tweets about Baltimore politics.)

— Of 183 tweets, 56 (30 percent) were explicitly marked as “Opinion,” “Perspective,” or “Analysis,” or marked with shout-outs to opinion sections Post Opinion or Post Everything. Some of these were opinions on non-political topics (like sports).

When Marty Baron goes to college campuses and lectures [that] Team Trump wants to disqualify the press as “an independent arbiter of fact,” and “we have to agree on a baseline set of facts, like what happened yesterday? And at the moment, we can’t seem to agree on that, that everything is viewed through a partisan lens, and that’s really disturbing.” It’s apparently not a “partisan lens” when the Post is tweeting these pieces: 

“Imagine defending Trump after this week’s hearings. Oh, wait…”

“The administration’s climate denialism is getting more and more dangerous.”

“The frenzy of flattery around Trump is reaching new extremes.”

“A definitive guide to 64 Republican impeachment excuses.”

“Democrats already have a popular, progressive agenda. They just need to amplify it.” 

And, from Dana Milbank: “Republicans have a new enemy — truth itself.”


19 thoughts on “Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 11/26/2019: The Pooping Engineer, Fake Newspapers, And Other Things Not To Be Thankful For

  1. 3. “She claims to have 25 million dollars for the effort…”
    Check Steyer’s, Blumberg’s, and Soros’ bank statements.

  2. for some weird reason decided to opine on Indian cuisine on Twitter

    He was responding to a tweet that asked, “What is your most controversial food opinion?”

    Titania McGrath’s tweet in response captures the times exactly:

    Any white man who doesn’t like Indian food is a genocidal racist.

    Any white man who likes Indian food is guilty of cultural appropriation and is no better than Hitler.

    Take your pick.

  3. I tend to use Indian food as a an example of delicious non-meat based foods. I am very critical of any burger that is not made from meat. They usually taste like hockey pucks. You can have delicious meat-food and delicious not-meat-food. You tend to get in trouble when you have not-meat–meat-food.

  4. Regarding deliberately false news stories;

    They can be justified under certain conditions. For example, the Black Radio, Soldatensender Calais etc that broadcast a mix of real and false news to occupied Europe,targeting the German Army.

    Whether they admit it or not, any group disseminating deliberately false news to a nation is committing an act of war against it.

    • Zoe writes:

      They can be justified under certain conditions. For example, the Black Radio, Soldatensender Calais etc that broadcast a mix of real and false news to occupied Europe,targeting the German Army.

      Whether they admit it or not, any group disseminating deliberately false news to a nation is committing an act of war against it.

      There are profound problems and issues here that you allude to but do not develop. One of them is that the propaganda-techniques that were so useful and influencing during the First and especially the Second WW became part of the way that communication takes place in very many different areas of society in the Postwar years. So, to go right to the core: It has become normal and acceptable that the Lie be used (this includes the partial-truth and the semi-truth) in order to uphold a given political, economic or social structure.

      We know by experience and by what people say that they do not trust those who purvey information to them. In my own case, I resort to a simple statement: Everyone is lying to me, and the force of their lies is directly proportional to their level of *complicity*. All you need to do is to discover, or uncover, where their specific *interest* is, and to expose that *interest*, to then understand how their rhetoric is constructed.

      You say that lying is justified ‘under certain circumstances’, and I will agree that lying might be understood as needed and necessary, but don’t you fail to point out the basic premise of G. Orwell? That the Lie — all the tools and machinations of lying — are far too attractive to *interested parties* and will be used, are used, everywhere in order to sway and persuade people to accept specific viewpoints which may, and often do, militate against their own *real interests*.

      So far so good I assume?

      Now, you have said something very interesting, but I doubt that you — or almost anyone who writes on this Blog — will be able to carry forward into poignant commentary, and this is that we must grasp, right now, that there is an idea-war of huge consequence going on. But I suggest that *you-plural* (‘vosotros’) fail to identify 1) that there is a war, 2) that you are the object over which the war is faught, and 3) there is a degree in which *you-plural* are highly complicit with the nefarious powers who conduct this war.

      War, social engineering, propaganda, the lies of the state, the lies of private industry, the lies that get *you* to support horrifying attacks on other nations, and then the more basic lies that underpin the Industry of Persuasion on which a market economy such as ours is based — where it is recognized and accepted that using lies, using tricks and distortions of rhetoric, if it leads to economic success, or the swaying of the masses to a particular viewpoint, is a justifiable activity and that the ends justify the means.

      Now, and obviously, I point out — to total silence I must say — that a Great Replacement is going on. It is astoundingly simple to point to it, to prove it: in 1965 European Americans were 90% of the population of America. Now they represent 65%. In 20 years Whites will be a minority.

      2 + 2 = 4
      2 + 2 = 5

      Please choose the *right* answer and the one that does not contain the Lie. (Take your time!)

      The point? Ah yes, the point: The point is that we live in a time, and under the regime, of mass lies and massive lies with which we are complicit! We can and I suppose we often do notice the Lies that understructure our lives, yet we deliberately choose not to *see* them.

      Now, please explain to me that magic! How is such a thing possible? (You know that I used the Great Replacement as an example of a Big Lie, but you must also know that there are dozens and hundreds of other examples I could have used.

      The actual topic — for people concerned about Ethics — is How does it come about that an entire people come under the sway of such Lying Mechanics? and How can they begin to deconstruct and dismantle the lies that undergird their existence?

  5. 4. Wonder how Nichol’s “Irish taste buds” react to the haggis of Ireland’s nearest neighbor

    . India, stretching almost 2,000 miles, has a geography-based variety of foods that include tastes that could satisfy any Gaelic Gourmet. China, too. Thing is, you can’t argue taste or appetite preference any more than you can the choice of music you love. When I lived in Colorado, I once had a waiter make a “ychh!” face, presumably involuntary, when I ordered a T-bone “rare” – this was in a so-called steakhouse I thought he misunderstood and heard “raw,” so I repeated “rare” but that just drew the attention of nearby diners (while my dinner companions were beginning to cringe). The waiter went away and came back a few minutes later saying “the chef wants to know ‘how rare'” and I started to give him the picky detailed instructions I would use to cook it myself, but felt my friends pleading at my back so I just said something like: tell the chef that we came here because this restaurant has a reputation for serving meat that “rivals Kobe beef,” which means tender and full of flavor. The more you cook meat the less tender and flavorful it is. If your chef doesn’t understand that, just tell him to make it halfway between raw and medium-rare, okay? End of story: the chef came out with the waiter carrying the order and apologized, explaining that they mostly got customers from Texas and Kansas who like their beef “otherways.” We had a delicious meal, à chacun ses goûts, topped off by a check that totaled zero. The next time I went back, a few months later, my visiting friends had gone and I was with a bunch of celebrating co-workers. Two of us ordered “rare” and there was no fuss about it. When the check came, the boss who was paying said both orders marked “rare” were crossed out and initialed “ok”. “Don’t ask me!” the waiter tossed over his shoulder. It never happened again. A few years later I heard the chef had left and hoped it was over an argument about having to ruin good meat by making charcoal out of it. By then, I had several good Texas friends; by common consent, we never served or ordered steak in each others’ company.

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