After School Ethics Special, 1/6/2020: Stupidity On Parade



A grateful pointer to Althouse for finding this photo, which raises automatic ethics questions. I am viscerally opposed to putting sweater, clothes and costumes on dogs, in part because all of our dogs have hated it, and one, our feisty Jack Russell Dickens, would twist himself like a contortionist to get out of any garb, whereupon he would rip it to shreds. Several of her commenters make a great point, however: it is unethical to force dogs bred for warm and dry climates to live in wet, cold ones. I have dog-lover friends who insist that dogs are humiliated by being dressed up, like Ralphie in his bunny pajamas. That, I think, is a stretch.

1. Don’t blame Disney. Emerson Elementary School in Berkeley, California decided to raise money for the PTA by selling tickets to a screening of  The Lion King. CNN explains,

“One of the dads bought the movie at Best Buy,” PTA president David Rose told CNN. “He owned it. We literally had no idea we were breaking any rules.” While the school doesn’t know how exactly the company discovered the movie was played, Rose said the school’s PTA will “somewhat begrudgingly” cover the cost of the screening. An email sent to the school by Movie Licensing USA informed Emerson faculty that the company had “received an alert” that “The Lion King” was screened during an event on November 15. Movie Licensing USA manages licensing for Disney and other major studios. And since the school does not have a license with the company, it’s been asked to pay $250 for the screening — and $250 per showing of the movie at any future events at the school.”

What? “Somewhat grudgingly”? They had “no idea” charging for tickets to see copyrighted material broke any rules? Those rules are well-displayed on any DVD, and any duty of reasonable intelligence should be able to figure out what’s illegal about doing what they did. There weren’t any lawyers among the organizers and attendees?

In its story about this episode, Boing Boing, an entertaining site with an annoyingly “woke” staff, implies that Disney is being an greedy old meanie, and that the PTA was an innocent victim of another evil corporation.  Wrong, and stupid. If companies don’t protect their copyrights and trademarks, they can lose them. Disney has been overzealous in this area, but not on this occasion.

2. KABOOM! Chris Matthews suggested yesterday that the Democrats should consider nominating Adam Schiff for President.

3. From the “How did I not know about this?” department: A documentary is out about an outrageous scam, and a movie starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck is being made about it.

Jerry Jacobson, an ex-cop turned security auditor rigged the McDonald’s Monopoly game promotion for a decade, stealing millions of dollars and building a vast network of co-conspirators across the U.S. From 1989 to 2001, there were virtually no legitimate winners of the McDonald’s nationwide promotion. McDonald’s corporate executives were defrauded as were trusting McDonald’s customers.

Jacobson’s associates included members of the Mafia,  and they won almost all of the top prizes, including cash and cars ,in the McMillions McDonald’s giveaways. In total, the scam netted over $24 million. the Daily Beast has a thorough account of the amazing story here.

4. YouTube says it will police election-related content in the year ahead. Just as the Iowa Caucuses were descending into chaos, YouTube announced it would…

  • ….ban videos that gave users the wrong voting date or  that spread false information about participating in the census.
  • ….remove videos that spread lies about a political candidate’s citizenship status or eligibility for public office,
  • ….including vieos that falsely indicated that a government official was dead. And it will…
  • ….terminate YouTube channels that tried to impersonate another person or channel, conceal their country of origin, or hide an association with the government.

These all seem reasonable in that they do not rely on subjective interpretations of what constitutes “lies.”

I don’t trust the social media an tech platforms, because they have lied so often before.

5. Have editorials always been this bad? Maybe they have; I usually don’t read editorials. When I do, I am usually depressed at how poor the logic and ethical instincts of those in charge of our newspapers are.

Here’s one by the Miami Herald Editorial Board headlined, “Parkland dad Fred Guttenberg had a right to shout during Trump’s State of the Union speech.”

That’s a poor start: no, in fact he doesn’t have that right. Nobody has the right to disrupt a government proceeding. We are told that  “Fred Guttenberg‘s act of rebellion” came from the heart, a heart in pain, a heart irrevocably broken. Oh. Is there some kind of exemption from the law if one is sufficiently broken hearted? Is this really the fatuous level of progressive thought in 2020?

Then the editors claim, “it seemed particularly heartless for him to be removed from the balcony gallery by security after he shouted out in the name of his slain daughter when Trump failed to address any attempt on his part to confront gun violence in America.” It would have been particularly irresponsible to allow one disruptive guest to interfere with the efforts of everyone else and attendance as well as millions viewing on TV to hear what the President of the United States had to say. What would the editors suggest as an alternative? Gagging him? Just let him shout out stuff as the mood struck him?

Apparently. The rest of the editorial takes the useless and lazy position that Guttenberg was justiviably enraged because “mass shootings have continued; so has the day-to-day deadly gunplay in our cities. Neither Congress nor the president has offered real solutions to crack down on either.”

Oh. “Real solutions.” And what might those “real solutions” be? The editorial notes,

In Florida, three weeks after the shooting, then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, a comprehensive bill that included provisions that raise the age to purchase a gun, ban bump stocks and allow law enforcement, with the approval of a judge, to confiscate the gun of a person deemed dangerous because of mental illness…

…and  seems to concede that these typical “do something” regulations don’t work. Thus, agreeing with Guttenberg, the editors find it outrageous that the President of the United States, sworn to uphold the Constitution, says that he will protect that Second Amendment.

Editors whose though processes are this flawed and whose writing is this emotional without mooring in reality are unqualified to oversee news reporting. Citizens who abuse individual rights are one of the unavoidable costs of having those rights.

Conservative blogger Charlie Martin wrote today, regarding the Iowa fiasco, “If it seems stupid, it probably is stupid.”

I like that rule, and I have been trying to find out if there is a name for it. If not, I’ll be calling it “Charlie’s Law of Stupidity.” While doing my research, I uncovered this useful document, “The Basic Laws of human Stupidity,” by Carlo Cipolla.

Very enlightening.

24 thoughts on “After School Ethics Special, 1/6/2020: Stupidity On Parade

  1. 1. They are surprisingly accommodating if you go through the right channels. The local PTA pays less than those $250 per screening.

    2. Have they learned anything at all?

    Dogs with clothes. My old dog Cody was not stupid but what I affectionately call “intellectually lazy”. Any toys that require a small amount of thinking to get a treat would be used once and then ignored. But she loved her sweaters. You’d put one on just before bedtime and she’d snuggle placidly on her bed. Wore it out for her walk and after returning when she felt it was too warm for it she’d take it off by herself. Loved watching her do that. Also, she had a silly hot dog costume for Halloween pictures. She treated it as a portable cushion.

    • My dog seems to be the same way. He has no interest in his coat when he’s not cold. But if he’s shivering, and I bring out the coat, he runs up with a wagging tail and stands patiently while I put it on him. He’s a terrier mix with fairly thin fur, so when it’s about 35 degrees or below, he gets pretty chilly. Our previous dog lived to be 21 years old, and for the last few years, she had difficulty regulating her body heat in cold weather, and a coat seemed to make her much more comfortable. I’ve never “dressed up” a dog for fashion, but there’s a strong utility case to be made in some cases, and dogs that *need* a coat seem to understand what it is and appreciate what it does.

  2. #5 It’s all about the feels, Jack. If it feels right do it; especially if it is in a leftist cause to disrupt the Devil, I mean President Trump. Wonder how they’d react to Obama being similarly interrupted for his policies setting the entire middle east on fire or winning re-election, in part, by falsifying the causes for a terrorist attack in Libya while illegally detaining an unwitting filmmaker or sending out his Ambassador to the UN to knowingly lie on national television multiple times to protect his campaign or…I could go on….

    But its all good, Obama was the Alinskyite they needed.

  3. RE: #1, almost all of these licensing enforcements are a result of a whistleblower. Usually they are former employees, especially when it relates to using unlicensed software. So an unhappy PTA member or attendee likely made the licensing group aware. I am not complaining. People, especially the young, think entertainment products are free to use, share, present, etc. in anyway they want, just because they are easy to use and share, etc. This is a good and not expensive wake up.

    Boing Boing, as a woke and hip entertainment site, should consider a go fund me.

    • I think the proper reply to the first Disney inquiry would be “Who told you that? Never happened.”

      Second letter: “Prove it.”

      Full disclosure: I have come to question the ethics of copyright as it is used today. Patents have been extended to artificially keep drug prices astronomical (Viagra, Epipens). Someone creates a song, and their estate sues an artist decades after their death because a song ‘sounds like’ the dead artist’s. Plueeze. I work creatively: engineers create things. Much of what we do is an art form itself. I cannot get paid every time someone walks a bridge I designed, or buys a car I helped design.

      Yes, i get the legalities, and the inexcusable ignorance of showing the film in the first place. I actually read disclaimers in documentation, and have read the boiler plate notices in front of every DVD movie. Not realizing that those words mean something is lazy, entitled, or both.

  4. Isn’t “Charlie’s Law of Stupidity.” really just a corollary of Forrest Gump’s law of “Stupid as stupid does”? If not, then a subpart of Charlie’s Law is “If you ask a child to make policy, you are going to get childish policies.” Take that, Greta!


  5. I worked at McDonald’s during that time period. It was…interesting. But a peon at the cash register or the grill had no access to the packets that the security specialist in question did so we could not pull what he did. The most we could ever win was a free hash brown if we pulled off a winning tab.

  6. When I was a school librarian the teachers disliked it when I would remind them that they couldn’t show movies as a “reward” in class. Showing a film had to be part of direct instruction. They would often comment, “Disney has enough money.” I would ask who in the art department, the supporting cast, lighting crew, etc., shouldn’t get paid. They didn’t like that either. At our public library we don’t show anything that isn’t copyright free or covered our movie license. Yes, there are restrictions, but we play by the rules. Especially the golden rule.

  7. 2. “Bernie is a tough fighter. He doesn’t look like a guy who is going to quit and give his marbles to somebody else,” Matthews said. That’s unfortunate. Obviously Chris has lost his marbles and could use anyone’s. Senility?

  8. #1 – I’m certainly not an advocate of breaking the rules because I disagree with them, so don’t take my post as advocating that. Follow the rules or be willing to pay the consequences.

    That said, our current copyright rules are unethical. And Disney is one of the key participants in that. When copyright was created, it was to be for 20 years. That provides more than long enough to profit from the creative work. It matched the duration of patents, and patents still have that same 20 years. We don’t have to pay the guy who created the delay wiper in the 1970’s for every car made. We now have the ridiculous time of 90 years so the grandkids can be vigilant about making sure no songs sound like something their long dead grandparents created.

    I’ve long thought internet piracy is engineering karma coming back around. I’ve got patents that are about to expire – many engineers do. But if I was an artist, my grandkids would have rights to them. Engineers have been getting the short end of the stick, and now something they created, the internet, is leveling the playing field.

    • Now I understand: you’re a poet!

      Richard Brautigan:

      “I feel horrible. She doesn’t
      love me and I wander around
      like a sewing machine
      that’s just finished sewing
      a turd to a garbage can lid.”

      Other Bill:

      “Our short haired daschunds loved their jackets in winter. They have a coat about the density of human eyebrows.”

      • Yes, Alicia, I am a poet. I haven’t been writing any poetry for the last ten or twenty years or so, but I write what I call “serious fiction.” I’m a big believer in anecdotal evidence. I think it’s the best evidence. At heart, I’m an artist. But not good enough at it, not a genius, to make a living at it so I practiced law. Just took my grand daughter to see “La Boheme” this past weekend. She’s thirteen. I said to her, “the moral of the story is always be able to take care of yourself.” Hah.

        People like poetry like Brautigan’s? Yikes!

  9. That’s a poor start: no, in fact he doesn’t have that right. Nobody has the right to disrupt a government proceeding. We are told that “Fred Guttenberg‘s act of rebellion” came from the heart, a heart in pain, a heart irrevocably broken. Oh. Is there some kind of exemption from the law if one is sufficiently broken hearted? Is this really the fatuous level of progressive thought in 2020?

    Would these editorsd have had the same attitude if the victims of the Benghazi attack yelled at President Obama during the 2013 State of the Union.

    Oh. “Real solutions.” And what might those “real solutions” be? The editorial notes,

    What these editors fail to note is that Congress already enacted a real solution in 1994. It was called the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. It was enacted in response to violent crime.

    I am old enough to remember that time, remember reading stories about children being gunned down in the streets for their name-brand shoes, being gunned down in the streets for wearing the wrong-color clothes, being gunned down in the streets because their parents made a wrong turn.

    It was against this background that the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was signed.

    what were the consequences of this crime bill?

    The Act—which provided funding for 100,000 new police officers—has been widely criticized for aiding in the mass incarceration of African Americans; even President Clinton has since backed away from it.

  10. “when Trump failed to address any attempt on his part to confront gun violence in America.”

    Well that is maybe a lie. Trump pointed out that ICE captured 2000 people wanted for murder (actually homicides) in one year. Many of those were ‘gun crime’. There are only about 10,000 murders/year in this country. Over 80% of them are gang related. Assuming even 25% of the 2000 were wanted for murder, this seems a substantial attempt to confront what I will call ‘gun crime’. It is probably similar to the number of people murdered with legally owned firearms. Knowing this, it is hard to make the statement above (if you have a conscience).

    I do not believe in stopping ‘gun violence’ because most gun violence is justified, legal, and I support it. I think most people conflate ‘gun violence’ with ‘gun crime’. Most gun violence is firearms use in self-defense (750,000-2 million cases each year) and that is what gun control tries to stop. I am against gun crime, overwhelmingly committed by illegally-owned firearms. No current gun control legislation seeks to stop gun crime. Does this father want to stop ‘gun crime’ or ‘gun violence’?

    • He doesn’t know what he wants. He’s in mourning, he’s angry, he’s lashing out at reality. I sympathize. But people in an irrational state of mid don’t belong in a national policy debate. The only way to achieve his goals, other than to make his daughter come back to life, would be to have all guns magically vanish. That’s not happening, and it is a waste of time and emotion to keep calling for it.

      • Stephen Michael Sterling once wrote a novel series about a futgure where guns no longer work because the laws of physics changed.

        In the setting, ninety percent of humanity died within one year after the Change.

        Fred Guttenberg is sadly not alone in wanting to sacrifice civil rights for the promise of safety, nor is the 2nd Amendment the only civil right people want to sacrifice for the promise of safety.

        U.S. District Judge Wayne Andersen’s ruling ended the latest round in an emotional dispute between city officials and civil libertarians who argue that the courts can’t grant a wholesale waiver of the Constitution’s protection against unreasonable searches.

        “The erosion of the rights of people on the other side of town will ultimately undermine the rights of each of us,” Andersen said in refusing to lift a ban he imposed last month.

        Violence last summer prompted the Chicago Housing Authority to ask police to conduct the random, door-to-door searches for weapons.

        President Clinton said after the ruling he has ordered Atty. Gen. Janet Reno and Housing Secretary Henry G. Cisneros to develop a search policy for all U.S. public housing that is constitutionally permissible.

        “We must not allow criminals to find shelter in the public housing community they terrorize,” Clinton said in a statement.

        Some tenants also backed the warrantless searches, saying they would prefer the sweeps to random gunfire that made it dangerous to stand near windows or venture outside.

        “Mothers put kids in their bathtubs in fear of their lives,” CHA chairman Vincent Lane said before the hearing.

        (emphases added)

        The unnamed tenants in this story were the Fred Guttenbergs of their generation.

    • What a coherent and logical post, Mike! Well put.

      Just realize, your name just went on the list of deplorables long-exiled-but-lurking Chris is compiling. You are now destined for the FEMA camps when progressives win government again.

  11. 3. Holy crap! I read that entire McDonald’s story last night…couldn’t stop. I had never heard about this, so I’m glad you posted it. I wonder if the movie will closely follow the actual events…you wouldn’t have to change a thing and I’d go see it.

  12. Hello, I am the owner of this dog. Someone notified me that you had reposted it on your site.

    I’m seeing a lot of ignorant comments here. My dog is a Podenco Canario, I rescued her from southern Spain. She was born and raised in the Mediterranean climate. She has <10% body fat and almost no fur (characteristics of the breed). To bring her out into below freezing temperatures in NYC without a coat would be animal abuse. Do a quick google search “do greyhounds need to wear coats” and you will see that 100% of professional opinion agrees. It is not an opinion, it is a fact. It is likely not dissimilar to you walking outside nude in below freezing temperatures.

    People put coats on their dogs all of the time. It is rare for me to see other dogs in NYC that have short fur and do not wear clothing in the winter. The only thing that makes people uncomfortable here is that it is a tailored garment and it resembles current fashion trends. I care so deeply for this dog and her needs, that after watching her shiver uncontrollably with coats that only cover 1/3 of her body, I made something custom for her body to ensure maximum comfort and warmth.

    She loves wearing her jumpsuits and sometimes brings them over to me on lazy indoor days as a way of asking me to put it on her.

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