Lazy Sunday Afternoon Ethics Picnic, 5/1/2022: A Very Merry Un-Birthday Edition

There’s vintage Disney—back before it decided it had a stake in having young children instructed in sexual matters by teachers, and when innocence was considered worth protecting. Yes, I recognize the irony in saying that about an “Alice in Wonderland” clip, given that Lewis Carroll was unhealthily obsessed with little girls, often asking their parents for permission to photograph them nude…and got it! (Alice was his favorite model.)

That’s the very strange and great Jerry Colonna voicing the March Hare, and Ed Wynn, of course, as the Mad Hatter.

Today is my “un-birthday.” My 94-year-old aunt, the last surviving member of her generation in my extended family called me up this morning to wish me a happy birthday. Since my real birthday is December 1, I was faced with an instant ethical conflict: was the right course to tell the truth, risking embarrassing her, or to play Birthday Boy, lying but being kind in the process? I opted for honesty, both using the Golden Rule—I wouldn’t want to be patronized—and deciding that my aunt, still sharp and always with a sense of humor, could, like Tom Cruise, handle the truth. She could; she laughed, wondered how she has the wrong date on her calendar, and we talked for an hour. SHE mentioned “un-birthdays,” causing me to recall the song.

1. Ethics lesson: Integrity should trump Loyalty. Elon Musk, responding to to the absurd ad hominem attacks from progressives calling him a fascist, a white supremacist and, worst of all, a conservative, provided this handy dandy sketch via, of course, Twitter, explaining that his beliefs have remained relatively stable, while his critics’ perspective has shifted:

2. And we trust these people with educating or rising generations…The University of Southern California former dean of the University of Southern California asked the law firm Jones Day to investigate allegations that its education school directed administrators to omit information from its U.S. News & World Report rankings submission to boost the school’s placement.  at least as far back as 2013, According to the just-release investigation results,   former dean Karen Symms Gallagher made sure that the Rossier School of Education only included information on its Ph.D. program, which has a lower acceptance rate than its Ed.D. programs,  despite explicit instructions in the questionnaire to include both Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs. Gallagher stepped down in 2020 after 20 years as dean. She’s now a professor at Rossier.

The probe turned up what Jones Day referred to as “irregularities” in how the education school calculated and reported research expenditures, and it identified other possible misreporting of faculty metrics, online program enrollment, graduates’ job-placement rates and more.  USC had pulled the  school from consideration in the U.S. News & World Report graduate-school rankings prior to the report.

Will she be sacked as a professor? What’s your guess?

3.Nice, blunt comment from Ann Althouse in response to a Times description of how Twitter began moderating tweets:

It seems that the earliest motivation was to protect women and to keep them from avoiding the site. But then it turned into assisting the Democratic Party.

4. Wait, the ACLU did what? The ACLU helped Amber Heard, Johnny Depp’s crazy ex now battling him in a sensational libel suit, draft the Washington Post article accusing Johnny Depp of domestic abuse. The organization was promised a $3.5m donation from her divorce. Somehow Elon Musk money was involved too, but never mind: the ethics issue is what THE HELL the ACLU is doing ghostwriting celebrity spouse attacks for the Washington Post?

The American Civil Liberties Union’s general counsel, Terence Dougherty, testified that the organization decided to propose Heard as an ambassador for the group after Heard pledged the millions to be paid over 10 years. “Ms Heard spoke with such clarity and expertise on issues of gender-based violence that [ACLU representatives] decided she would be an appropriate person to ask to become an ACLU ambassador,” Dougherty testified.

Translation: “She bought us.”

5. Netflix’s “Ozark,” making the public dumber. “Ozarks” has wrapped up its fourth an final season. It’s a good and entertaining series, if a bleak one, with many ethics issues, prime among them being “Oh what a tangled web we weave” when we build a life on lies. Others:

  • “Never sleep with anyone crazier than you are.”
  • “The ends don’t justify the means.”
  • “The love of money is the root of all evil”
  • “Power corrupts.”
  • “If you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas,” and
  • Don’t trust drug cartels!

But I digress. What was profoundly aggravating in the final moments of the series was to see a blatant and rather well-known legal principle related to the Fourth Amendment and unlawful searches simply ignored by the script as if it didn’t exist, just to set up the ending. This principle has been explicated in movies and TV for 60 years. It was a major plot point in “Dirty Harry.”


9 thoughts on “Lazy Sunday Afternoon Ethics Picnic, 5/1/2022: A Very Merry Un-Birthday Edition

  1. (2) These are now too numerous to count. The stakes are so high because the number of college students continues to drop (birth rate) and the real difference between number 5 and number 50 is probably negligible. The rankings at the top are based on little things and politics. Remember, the #1 high school in the country retained its #1 status even though it’s entire student body dropped 0.5 grades in math achievement due to their new race-based admissions program. Seems legit…

    (4) What would you expect from the anti-civil liberties association? They are protecting women and attacking men. As far as I can tell, their mission is and always has been just to support the left. As far as I can tell, they took that one free speech case in the 1970’s so they could claim ‘see, we support right-wing nutjobs too!’. I could be wrong, but I am not old enough to remember them being anything but what they are now.

  2. All this talk about May Day being an UNbirthday & all ought be balanced by someone whose REAL birthday is May 1st.

    If there are no other takers…um…may I humbly volunteer…?

  3. On Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard;

    Like I said a while back, watching court TV has become something of a guilty pleasure of mine, starting with the Rittenhouse trial, then the Potter trial (cop who shot Daunte Wright), and most recently this… It’s something.

    It’s amazing how some things transcend class. It’s downright jarring to hear about the amount of drugs and booze Depp imbibed while on private planes between his private homes on private islands be juxtaposed beside the kinds of domestic abuse that people of any walk of life can experience. The arguments, the fights, leaning on friends, alienating others (made only more jarring because of the names attached). It’s always interesting to see the lives of celebrities, but this… this is something special. Depp, between direct and cross, testified for almost 20 hours. And you know… sometimes you wonder how much is the mask. How much is the script. How much is their prep work. One thing I realized very quickly about Depp is that he’s actually a very intelligent person. Heard is up this week.

    Depp is asserting that Heard defamed him by saying that Depp had domestically abused her. That’s an uphill battle, I’m on record in saying that it only takes one punch to be abuse, and all of a sudden, the ultimate defense against a defamation charge is that the utterance was true.

    But regardless on how the trial technically comes out, I think Heard’s career is basically over, Depp’s team did a very good job of bringing into the light, kicking and screaming, all the abuse Heard lobbed at Depp, and regardless of whether or not Depp ever hit back (we haven’t seen this yet), I think the case was good for people to see, because it showcased, very publicly, than men can in fact be the victims of domestic abuse, and that #metoo should never have been a women’s only hashtag, regardless of how many progressives screamed that it should have been. #metoo was born of the belief that women weren’t adequately heard or believed when they alleged abuse. They were wrong. Victims aren’t adequately heard or believed when they allege abuse, and if you have to gender it, progressives are going to be disappointed that their narratives once again have come up against the brick wall of reality.

    In Heard’s own words:

    “Tell the world, Johnny, tell them, Johnny Depp, I, Johnny Depp, a man, I’m a victim of domestic violence, see how many people believe or side with you.”

    I guess we’ll see, won’t we?

    • I saw recently an internet petition calling for the producers of the most recent Aquaman (that Heard is in) to pull her out of the movie. It will be interesting to see if that actually happens. 2.6MM signatures when I saw it.

    • “…It only takes one punch to be abuse.”

      Abuse isn’t always physical, your last quote from Heard is a shining example of verbalized emotional abuse.

      Wish I knew and could recognize this before spending half my life under it.

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