Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/7/2022: Neil, Sam, Kwame, Mehmet And More

I took a wild guess that Neil had to have done this parody of his biggest hit because it was so obvious, and sure enough, I was right!

It’s not exactly an ethics story, but it does involve my home town of Arlington, Massachusetts: on September 7, 1813, a local newspaper in Troy, New York wrote about how Troy’s Samuel Wilson, a meat packer who supplied barrels of beef to the United States Army during the War of 1812, was being facetiously called “Uncle Sam” by soldiers because he stamped the barrels of meat “U.S.” The trivial story caught on and the nickname persisted. Decades later, brilliant 19th Century political cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902) began using a character called Uncle Sam as the personification of the nation, giving Sam the white beard and stars-and-stripes suit that he still wears today. Troy, quite reasonably, later dubbed itself “The Home of Uncle Sam.” But Wilson was born in Arlington, Mass., and the town management, frustrated with its relative obscurity despite being in the midst of other Greater Boston tourist destinations like Concord, Lexington and Cambridge, decided a few decades ago to promote Arlington as “The Birthplace of Uncle Sam,” essentially horning in on Troy’s historical territory (Troy was not pleased). Arlington even paid to have a statue of Nast’s Sam designed, cast and erected.

Nobody cared.

1. More on “quiet quitting”:  Gallup estimates that at least half the workforce is “quiet quitting,” meaning that it does the bare minimum required to keep jobs rather than working to do their best. Gallup’s analysis blames management, which is certainly part of the problem. It does not address the serious cultural ethics issue of workers seeking to be excellent because it is beneficial for society as a whole and an embodiment of the Golden Rule, as well as a life habit that develops good character and justifies trust. Quiet quitters are just a few degrees better than freeloaders, an anchor on the nation, the economy and the quality of life.2. “The Ethicist” on another variation of the cognitive dissonance conflict. In a post last month I mused about a personal quandary in which a valued colleague and trusted expert resource was revealed as having once engaged in horribly unethical conduct. At the end of last month “The Ethicist,”

I don’t think The Ethicist answered the question, saying in essence, 1) You have no obligation to keep helping the man; 2) But it’s not as if his opinions have any impact, so by continuing to help him, you wouldn’t be aiding and abetting racism. 3) “The situation would be more complicated if he were in serious need and had become reliant upon you, with nobody else to take up the slack,” but as it is, you can do what you want.

It seems to me that Appiah is endorsing the concept that it is ethical to make kindness, compassion, generosity and charity conditional on whether we like or agree with a needy person’s beliefs.

3. Digging deep to denigrate Dr. Oz…Hard Left feminist website Jezebel informs its readers that Dr. Mehmet Oz, now running as a Republican against a barely recovered stroke victim for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, disqualified himself in an interview on the morning radio show The Breakfast Club in February 2014. A questioner asked if it was “okay” to have sex with a second cousin, and Oz, speaking as a doctor, said “If you’re more than a first cousin away, it’s not a big problem.” Well, that’s an accurate response from a genetic point of view. Ethically, it’s an “Ick” issue, not an ethical one. The taboo on incestuous relationships exists because they confound family hierarchies, which were crucial to survival in earlier civilizations. Incest in the core family also raises issues of child abuse and abuse of power. Between second cousins? That isn’t exactly “Chiantown.” I barely know my second cousins. FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt were distant cousins. I have an old friend well past child-bearing age who married her first cousin—and the harm is…what?

4. I don’t think she quite understands the “babysitting” principle. In Adventura, Florida, 18-year-old Elizabeth Leon was hired to babysit a four-year-old from 1:45 pm until midnight. The mother texted Leon at 11:14 pm to say she was on her way home and should arrive by midnight. The babysitter texted back that she was leaving the house early because her mother paid for an Uber to take her back home and it arrived ahead of time. But not to worry: Leon said  she had locked the doors and that the toddler was asleep. She reminded the mother that she was owed $168. (Holy cow! Is that what babysitters get paid now?)

Yet the home’s security camera showed Leon leaving at 9:45 p.m. Confronted by the mother, she admitted to leaving early and generously said she would only have to be paid $141.

Police have charged the AWOL babysitter with child neglect.


5. Is anyone going to do anything about the obvious partisan political vengeance and intimidation represented by the excessive prosecutions and punishment being inflicted on members of the January 6 mob? Take this guy: Richard Michetti of Pennsylvania was sentenced to nine months in federal prison yesterday, as well as 24 months of supervised release while being required to pay $2,000 of restitution. Way back in May he had pleaded guilty to a felony count of “aiding and abetting obstruction of an official proceeding.” He was part of the mob. That was it.

The contrast between the treatment of the George Floyd rioters and people like Michetti is disgusting and indefensible. The more I think about it, the more I conclude that Donald Trump’s pledge to pardon the January 6 political prisoners is ethically correct.

Michetti also was victim of an unethical motive elsewhere: he was turned in by his girlfriend in retaliation for his calling her a “moron” for not believing the 2020 election was “stolen.”


14 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/7/2022: Neil, Sam, Kwame, Mehmet And More

  1. Regarding Number 1, “Quiet Quitting” seems to be an old topic that has been re-fashioned with a trendy name. It reminds me of this memorable exchange from the 1999 movie, Office Space:

    “Peter Gibbons: The thing is, Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.
    Bob Porter: Don’t… don’t care?
    Peter Gibbons: It’s a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don’t see another dime; so where’s the motivation? And here’s something else, Bob: I have eight different bosses right now.
    Bob Slydell: I beg your pardon?
    Peter Gibbons: Eight bosses.
    Bob Slydell: Eight?
    Peter Gibbons: Eight, Bob. So that means that when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That’s my only real motivation is not to be hassled; that, and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.”


        • Massive.
          I once worked for a company that was a delight to work for until the founder’s heir’s turned it over to wall street. The MBAs decided we were all overpaid, coddled and had too much benefits. I started looking for a new job right away, but things like that take time.
          I remember seeing a rerun of Office Space and not finding it funny at all. Fortunately I’ve moved on and now can laugh at the movie again.

  2. Quiet Quitting in a societal context: Only paying your required taxes and not volunteering for government positions like school PTO, municipal boards & commissions, shelters, and youth enrichment programs.

  3. 1. Just as you can’t compel compassion, you can’t compel “above and beyond”, by definition. You can’t require someone to exceed what’s required; that would be absurd. The minimum standards are called “minimum” for a reason.

    That said, slackers like Wally from Dilbert should at least try to contribute to society in some way, if it’s not excellence in the job they’re paid to do. Otherwise society will stagnate, because the people running the big corporations they work for certainly aren’t agents of vitality.

    2. I might suggest the reader introduce the old bigot to the following point: “If I believed that the only people who deserve kindness are the people who are like me and who believe what I believe, then I wouldn’t be here helping you. Think about that.”

  4. $168. (Holy cow! Is that what babysitters get paid now?)

    Its about $16 an hour. It does seem like a lot, especially for a single child. A flat fee might have been cheaper. I would have done it for $100, for a friend, significantly less (maybe free).

    • The math doesn’t really work: 1:45-9:45 @ $141 and 1:45-11:15 at $168 is $17.68 or $17.62/hour. I assume it’s maybe $17.50 plus rounding? I don’t know… Seems a whole lot compared to what I used to make, but that was 15 years ago.

      • My first reading understood this to mean she was still owed the full amount. I don’t know what math was used. From 2-midnight (10 Hours) is $16 an hour. That leaves $8 for 15 minutes.

      • The original shift was from 1:45P to midnight, 10.25 hours. The actual time worked was from 1:45P to 9:45P, 8 hours.

        If she made $12/hr. and charged $45 dollars for something else like cooking dinner, Uber fee (I have no idea how much Uber costs), etc. Then you would have.

        10.25 x $12 + $45 = $168
        8 x $12 + $45 = $141

        Pure speculation on my part but solved using simultaneous equations.
        x = rate in $/hr
        y = charge for something extra

        10.25x + y = 168
        8x + y = 141

  5. Quit quitting: After using a company auto response chat service to answer a simple question for twenty minutes I finally got to a customer service agent. I then spent 45 minutes on the phone with my mortgage company. I changed my automatic payment amount two months ago. it was paid on September 1. The website did not have the new statement posted. I simply wanted to know when was the September statement going t be posted. It took three customer service representatives 30 minutes to understand and provide an answer. The answer was the first week of the month. I then reminded them that today’s date was September 8, so the first-week f the month has come and gone. The response was “there was a holiday.”
    In my military career, we were always urged to check our files if we ever are in DC. I was in DC so i went by the personnel office to check my files. Here is the transcript of the conversation.
    Me: Good morning, I am Captain DL. I would like to review my personnel file!
    Beeurocrat: What is your name?
    Me: DL
    Beurocrat: How do you spell it?
    Me: D….. L……
    Beuroccrat: L……, that begins with L correct
    Me: Yes Capital L……
    Beurocrat; We don’t have access to your file.
    ME: Why not?
    Beurocrat: The person in charge of LM is out.
    Me: Isn’t there anyone else who can go to the LM section to get my file?
    Beurocrtat: No we cannot go to that section only the person who is assigned the LM section can access that file and she is out sick.
    Me: Why cannot the person in charge of JK or the NO section access the LM section?
    Beurocrat: They are not trained to do that!
    Me: I Left in frustration and dismay

    N.B. This was in 1975, so the phenomenon of “quiet quilting” is not new.

    • Agreed, “quiet quitting” isn’t a new phenomenon. Actually, it isn’t a phenomenon at all. What it is, is a media-amplified non-story. What it is, is people who have always been lazy, unexceptional, untalented, or unmotivated (or some combination of the above) who have never excelled at their jobs latching on to an excuse they think makes them the hero in the story. They’re not bad at their job, see, they’re striking a blow against corporate greed exploiting the downtrodden working class!

      Lots of people have been terrible employees for as long as there have been jobs. They’re just trying to find a way to market it so they can get some Victimhood Points on the scoreboard. After all, the productive economy might be dangerously close to a total collapse, but the grievance economy is booming!

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