Sundae Ethics Sundae, 6/5/2022: Bad Jokes, What I Thought Were Jokes, And What I Wish Were Jokes

The most famous event that occurred on this day in U.S. history was the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968. Assassinations are unethical, of course, though Bobby Kennedy was quite likely a dangerous man to have in the White House, as he was perhaps even more of a sociopath than the typical Kennedy, such as Jack and Teddy. Less dissonant as an ethical landmark is George Marshall’s 1947 speech planting the seeds of the Marshall Plan—the name has a certain ring to it, somehow!—by calling on the United States to aid in the economic recovery of postwar Europe, which it did by sending billions of dollars to Western Europe to rebuild the war-torn countries. This was not altruism, however, but pragmatism: there was a quite legitimate fear that the contagion of Communism was in the air and likely to spread. The Marshall Plan was a Cold War strategy, and nobody can say whether it “worked” or not. Western Europe was able to resist communism, but that might have just been moral luck.

A notable unethical historical episode was the work of President Grover Cleveland, known as “Grover the Good.” The name “Grover the Mixed Bag” would be more accurate. This time, in 1888 (as Jack The Ripper was getting ready to murder his first victim in Whitechapel). Johanna Loewinger’s Civil War veteran husband died 14 years after being discharged from the army. Upon his death in 1876, his pension was discontinued. Johanna, applied for a widow’s pension, but was denied since her husband died from suicide by cutting his own throat rather from wounds suffered while fighting for the Union. (He had been discharged for chronic diarrhea.)  His widow claimed that the war had driven him mad and was the reason for his death. After she failed to get the pension she felt she was owed, Johanna appealed to a member of Congress to petition the President. Grover denied the widow’s petition.

1. I don’t even know what to say about this. Here are Burger King Austria’s special Pride Month Whoppers, with two bottom rolls or two tops. I thought it was a joke. It’s not.

2. Who does he think he is, Ricky Gervais? David Weigel, who covers politics for the Washington Post, retweeted a tweet that said,: “Every girl is bi. You just have to figure out if it’s polar or sexual.” His colleague Felicia Sonmez, who also covers politics, wrote: “Fantastic to work at a news outlet where retweets like this are allowed!” Allowed! I agree that the tweet was inappropriate in a workplace setting, but the proper response would be a little reminder from the brass.  Weigel, however, felt it necessary to grovel, and tweeted, “I just removed a retweet of an offensive joke. I apologize and did not mean to cause any harm.”  Washington Post COO Kris Coratti Kelly announced, “Editors have made clear to the staff that the tweet was reprehensible and demeaning language or actions like that will not be tolerated.”

The action was a joke. It had the form of a joke, and was intended as a joke. If I cared enough and my sock drawer weren’t a mess, I’d do some research into the kinds of jokes about men, Republicans, President Trump and his supporters Post staff have retweeted. I’m pretty sure what I’d find. Like everything else, satirical humor goes in only one direction in D.C., and the reverse “will not be tolerated.”

3. Speaking of bias..Take the New York Times. Please! I have a Facebook friend who really and truly announced that he was a fan of Times op-edderess Michelle Goldberg. She is biased as well as intellectually dishonest, and does not deserve a regular platform in the Poughkeepsie Weekle Packet, much less the New York Times. Her continued existence there is signature significance, so I felt vindicated to see this column last week:  “The Amber Heard Verdict Was a Travesty. Others Will Follow.”It began, “The verdict in Johnny Depp’s defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard is difficult to explain logically.” Difficult to explain logically to whom? Heard got the Washington Post to publish her op-ed that made defamatory accusations against Depp that she couldn’t back up, statements that alleged as fact matters that could not be shown to be fact, which is the essence of libel. Not only that, she promised the ACLU a large contribution in exchange for assisting in writing the piece, and the organization testified that she stiffed them, not that they didn’t deserve being stiffed, since taking sides in celebrity domestic disputes is not exactly in the organization’s mission statement. Heard was unequivocally exposed as a serial liar, but never mind: Goldberg makes it clear Heard should have won the suit because other women have been abused by powerful men, and because “Believe all women” must be the norm. The jury should have rejected Depp’s defamation claim because his victory hurt the cause. “Even if Heard lied about everything during the trial — even if she’d never suffered domestic abuse — she still would have represented it,” Goldberg writes.

This is a woman who literally takes facts and puts them through the procrustean process of fitting her preconceived conclusions, whether they really do or not. The column proves it. She is a much of an unapologetic liar as Heard: for Goldberg, the ends justify the means.

Note: That’s only the second time I’ve been able to use the word “procrustean” in over 14,000 posts.

4. I thought this was a joke too. I was tragically wrong. The tale of the California appellate court decision ruling that bees are fish has turned up several times in the EA comments. I saw the headlines in various blogs, laughed, and assumed they were clickbait. Uh, no. From The Sacramento Bee, henceforth to be known as “The Sacramento Fish”:

Bees are now legally considered fish in California under the state’s endangered species law, an appeals court in Sacramento ruled Tuesday.

The 1970 act explicitly protected “fish,” which were initially defined as invertebrates. And because the act has protected snails and other invertebrates that live on land since, Tuesday’s ruling said it interpreted the legislation to also include bees.

“Accordingly, a terrestrial invertebrate, like each of the four bumble bee species, may be listed as an endangered or threatened species under the Act,” the 3rd district California Court of Appeals Associate Justice Ronald Robie wrote.

In short, the ruling restored protections to bumblebees, which were initially classified as endangered by California Fish and Game Commission in 2019.

Agricultural groups later appealed this decision, and in 2020, a judge from the Sacramento County Superior Court sided with farmers, citing the law was only intended to protect invertebrates who live in marine habitats such as fish.

You want to know what “judicial activism” is? That’s judicial activism, and it’s unethical, flat out, and an abuse of power. A court’s proper message is, “No, the statute at issue obviously doesn’t include bees. If the legislature wants it to include bees, it’s the job of the legislature to amend the law accordingly. It is not the judiciary’s job to fix its mistakes.”

And this, my friends, is why it is essenatial to have conservative judges on the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, someone check Antonin Scalia’s grave: he is probably spinning so fast he’s libel to pop out like an XM missile…

5. And the obligatory Great Stupid story!

21-year-old Brian Hernandez was arrested last week at the Dallas Museum of Art. He broke in and destroyed more than $5 million in irreplaceable artwork, but he had what he thought was a good explanation. He was “mad at his girl.”

 Hernandez smashed the glass front entrance to the museum with a metal chair, and once inside intentionally damaged or destroyed $5,153,000 worth of artwork, including statues. Hernandez used a stool to destroy at least two display cases worth $17,000 each along with four pieces, a “Black Figure Panel Amphora 6th Century Greece” pot and a “Red Figure Pyxis 450 B.C.” pot that were both shattered. The pots, together, were valued at $5 million. A 6th Century ceramic cup, “Kylix Herakles and Nemeon Lion,” valued at $100,000, and the Caddo statue “Batah Kuhuh Alligator Gar Fish,” valued at $10,000, were also destroyed.

That should teach his girlfriend not to annoy him.

Curmie, who passed along this item (keep those emails coming, everybody!) asks if this makes more or less sense than the idiot at the Louvre who attacked the Mona Lisa to warn against climate change. I just hope attacking art to make a statement completely unrelated to the art being attacked doesn’t become a fad…

6. And speaking of stupid protests, we have this woman:

She interrupted play at the French Open for about 15 minutes by tying herself to a net. She had a T-shirt that read, “We have 1028 days left.” Yes, that refers to one of the doomsday climate change predictions. Look at her face: she really thinks she isn’t ridiculous. What does tennis, of all sports, have to do with climate change? If her protest was at the Indianapolis 500, at least that would make some sense. These are triply unethical protests: they punish random people who are not responsible for what is being protested, they have no nexus to their desired objective, and worst of all, they make their cause look silly by making its advocates look silly.

26 thoughts on “Sundae Ethics Sundae, 6/5/2022: Bad Jokes, What I Thought Were Jokes, And What I Wish Were Jokes

  1. 1. “With two equal buns… for equal love and equal rights.” Aw, that’s a cute gimmick. Just so long as everyone remembers that corporations have no principles beyond short-term gain.

    2. Did Weigel retweet the sexist comment publicly using an official work-related account? If so, he’s damaging the reputation of his workplace, such as it is. If he retweeted it to some kind of internal work network (does Twitter have those?) then it’s creating a hostile work environment. If he retweeted it using his personal, non-work account, then I wouldn’t think he’d be punished for it. He’s free to be a jerk on his own time. I’d be more inclined to allow the joke excuse if it were a good joke, but it’s just sexist. I guess for someone who thinks “heh heh, women are just incomprehensible am I right?” it might seem close enough to true to be funny.

    3. Ah, so the falsely accused must be found guilty because they represent actual perpetrators and their accusers represent actual victims. Is Goldberg a visiting journalist from an actual fascist dictatorship or something? What’s her next article, “How to Avoid Being Associated With Enemies of the State”? Or did she already write that one?

    4. I looked through the text of the law but didn’t find anything that mentioned invertebrates. I’m reserving judgment until I learn whose bright idea it was to set the precedent for all invertebrates to be listed under “fish”, because that action would have been the real activism. Once the precedent was set that “fish” could include any invertebrate, the current court is only staying consistent with that. Some people are saying that it was originally interpreted that way because humans thought that fish were invertebrates in the 1970s, but I’m reasonably sure that’s not true. Then again, it was before the days of the internet. Maybe the lawmakers had never passed a basic biology class. Or watched a cartoon showing a cat eating a fish down to the bones. Or heck, went fishing. Maybe they assumed all fish were boneless because that’s how they arrived in restaurants.

    But the real villains here are those who wrote and approved “…a native species or subspecies of a bird, mammal, fish, amphibian, reptile, or plant…” when they could have just written “biological organism” or “life form” and been done with it. Sometimes specificity is not your friend, because you’ll accidentally say something you don’t mean or leave something out that you really care about. This is why you don’t try to write a law about food or vehicles that enumerates every member of those categories you can think of.
    This isn’t a parlor game. The only possible benefit to doing that is that it creates loopholes, which is great if that’s what you want.

    5. My first instinct was to suggest the death penalty. Once I thought through the situation a bit more, I realized… nobody with that sort of disregard for art cares enough about art to vandalize a museum. (At least the pie guy was trying to raise awareness by being a moron.) I’m betting this is a coverup for some other crime, like someone replaced those works of art with fakes and hired this stooge to smash the fakes so they can collect the insurance or something. We need to keep an eye on this guy to see if he changes his lifestyle once he gets out of jail.

    6. 1028 days left before… what, specifically? That’s an awfully precise forecast for something so far away, which obviously makes it more scientific. Who came up with this number, who is so wise in the ways of science?

    • #4. Exactly how they got to the “fish are invertebrates” part, I couldn’t say. But I read somewhere when I was working on my own post Friday that a particular species of snail had already been declared a fish a while back because, you know, invertebrate. So: precedent!
      #5. You are extremely cynical, EC. I approve.

      • The logic was: the snail qualified because it’s a mollusk. Shellfish are mollusks. Shellfish must be fish, and snails are close enough to create a precedent. You’re right, it still doesn’t make sense…

    • The definition of fish comes from the definition section of the Fish and Game code of California:

      The California Endangered Species Act is Chapter 1.5 of Section 3 of the Fish and Game Code. The FGC definition of fish is “…wild fish, mollusk, crustacean, invertebrate, amphibian, or part, spawn, or ovum of any of those animals”. I’m guessing the justification for land snails and bumblebees is that the definition of fish that the CESA references didn’t specify aquatic mollusks and invertebrates, that it intends land animals as well. Also probably the inclusion of amphibians, which spend part of their time on land. I guess frogs are fish in California.

      • Ah, thanks! So that’s where that was from. It looks like even in the 21st century some politicians don’t pass basic biology. So we’ve got fish and amphibians (vertebrates both) and all invertebrates, but then they decide to list crustaceans and mollusks separately for some reason. Obviously they’re going for an aquatic theme here, but they don’t actually say that…

        Since the original endangered species law lists all vertebrate categories plus “fish” and plants, the only unprotected life forms seem to be from the kingdoms of fungi, protists, bacteria, archaea, and… chromista? That’s a new one. It looks like they split protists into a kingdom of autotrophs (chromista) and heterotrophs (protozoa). Hopefully we don’t have any trouble stopping the non-animal, non-plants from going extinct. They seem to be pretty low-maintenance, though.

  2. Yes, that refers to one of the doomsday climate change predictions. Look at her face: she really thinks she isn’t ridiculous. What does tennis, of all sports, have to do with climate change?

    I wonder what is it about climate science that attracts these kind of people. I do not notice these kind of people doing these kind of things in the name of string theory or the Goldbach Conjecture.

    • Perhaps it’s the “faith” element intertwined in the climate debate. I’m far from the first person to observe that people like our young tennis disrupter seem to treat the topic in a very religious way. They have essentially rejected traditional faiths and filled the vacuum thus created with a religion based on the precepts of climate change.

      The nice thing about “climate science” is that almost no hypothesis is truly testable in an experimental way. We only have the one climate, so the field is limited to observational conclusions mostly. You can’t pull a bunch of CO2 out of the air and see if that causes atmospheric cooling, for example. It’s kind of like economics, both are systems too complex and chaotic to model with anything beyond than extremely crude resolution, and too large to conduct meaningful experiments on, so the practitioners of both just generally attempt to find data that supports their preconceptions.

    • This is because it isn’t science. You see this sort of thing with religious cults. Scientific theories don’t lead to this among people who understand it, especially a theory that had determined that there has been at most 1 degree (Celsius or Kelvin) of warming in the last 140 years. Oh, no! Soon, thing could be as bad as they were during the Medieval Warm Period!

    • Gosh golly gee, I don’t know. After all, string theory and the Goldbach Conjecture both predict that maintaining the status quo of humanity’s industrial activities will result in changes to natural systems that humanity is unprepared for, so it’s a mystery why people aren’t more vocal about those as well.

      …What’s that, nonsarcastic-me? String theory and the Goldbach Conjecture don’t predict any such thing? Of these three examples, it’s just the climate models that climate change activists use that do that?

      Well, shucks, that might just happen to be why nobody engages in string theory activism or Goldbach Conjecture activism, y’think? Maybe nobody believes that civilization will have a bad time if people don’t make policies based on string theory or the Goldbach Conjecture?

    • “I wonder what is it about climate science that attracts these kind of people. I do not notice these kind of people doing these kind of things in the name of string theory or the Goldbach Conjecture.”

      …or, I think more appropriately, the coming heat death of the Universe.


  3. 6. You know, … France.

    What microscopic percentage of the population watches the French Open tennis tournament? How many people play tennis on clay courts? Sheesh.

  4. 1. Next year they’ll put the bun in the middle and all the fillings (with the addition of some crow feathers, a whole raw turnip, and a sock) on the outside, and demand that everyone acknowledge it, publicly voice their approval, and work towards establishing a national holiday in honor of it.

    2. Has it now become traditional for lunatics to attack artworks (Portland Vase, Pieta…it was not even the first or second time for Mona Lisa)? Couldn’t they at least focus on, maybe, Rothco, Basquiat, ….?
    (Trivia: In the 1845 destruction of the Portland Vase, the vandal was charged with destroying the case it was in, estimated at that time as being worth more than the vase.)

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