Weekend Ethics Kick-Off, 9/10/2022: Aftermaths: Dinosaurs, Chess, And Oberlin

How’s this for an aftermath: thanks to the U.S.’s full embrace of alcohol, its social value and its offsetting pathologies, it is the leading cause of traffic fatalities. Indeed, drinking combined with driving kills about one person every 52 minutes here according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, leading to more than 10,000 lives lost each year. Of course, that doesn’t include that many thousands of lives negatively affected by these avoidable accidents, or those scarred, maimed and crippled despite having survived. September 10, 1897 marks the first arrest for drunk driving. London taxi driver George Smith was charged after crashing his cab into a building. Smith  pleaded guilty and was fined 25 shillings. Nobody was harmed. The first U.S.  laws alcohol-impaired driving went into effect in 1910. A professor of biochemistry and toxicology,patented the “Drunkometer” in 1936, and in 1953, Robert Borkenstein invented the Breathalyzer, an improved version that we still use today. Almost everyone I know has driven under the influence of alcohol at one time or another. Most never consider that the only reason they didn’t hurt or kill someone is that intervention of moral luck.

1. “Jurassic World: Dominion” ethics. I mentioned the latest in the “Jurassic Park” franchise in a negative context here, but the fact is that I saw the movie and enjoyed it very much. The film is now considered a conundrum wrapped in an enigma: it is going to soon pass a billion dollars in box office worldwide, and it has the worst reviews and most negative audience reactions of any of the six films in the line. There is a good reason for that: the plot is ridiculous, the sub-plots are even more ridiculous, and the dialogue is hackneyed and moronic.

The film is also too long, and the final images—showing the ultimate aftermath—is zoologically and logically impossible. The film-makers didn’t even try to ensure that this film was consistent with what we learned from the others: for example, the whole thing is supposed to be the follow-up to the mass escape of the only surviving InGen-created dinos from a secret site where they were being auctioned off to international villains and entrepreneurs. In that film there were maybe 20, 30 of those. When they escaped, they supposedly spread all over the world…and now, somehow, there are thousands and thousands of them in a  few years, including species that would never have been made, like the giant pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus, which is—absurdly— shown attacking a cargo plane. The thing was big (36 feet), no doubt about it, but it was also light at about 400 pounds, and it couldn’t catch an airplane on a bet. Still, as I wrote here, people like me see these films for the dinosaurs (and their pals), and “Jurassic World: Dominion” has the most yet, thirty. They are terrific. Absolutely believable, and beautiful. That explains the divergence between the reviews of the film’s other problems and its success.

The movie could have been well-written, have some integrity and not be pitched at idiots, but the film-makers didn’t bother, because they knew they didn’t have to. They knew they were in a business where, more often than not, being unethical pays.

2. Ethics Villains: Oberlin. I am embarrassed to say that Oberlin was my first choice when I applied to college. In the aftermath of the college losing its appeals of the richly deserved $36,590,000 defamation damages arising from its deliberate ruination of the local Gibson’s Bakery based on completely specious accusations of racism by black students apprehended there for shoplifting, the school is finally paying. Nonetheless, its president refuses to have her institution express any remorse or apologize to the family who business they destroyed. According to Lorna Gibson, who wrote an op-ed in the New York Post, she has been told that Oberlin freshmen are being  told to boycott the bakery, and the parents of students have informed her who come in tell me that their kids are being indoctrinated to regard the family business as one more relic of “systemic racism.”

Carmen Twillie Ambar, president of Oberlin,  sent an apology-free letter to the college’s staff and students:

Today, Oberlin College and Conservatory initiated payment in full of the $36.59 million judgment in the Gibson’s Bakery case, an amount that represents the awarded damages and interest owed. Please see the college’s public statement below.

While this outcome is a disappointment, our financial plans for this possibility, which included insurance coverage, mean that this payment will not impact or diminish our academic or student life experience, or require us to draw down Oberlin’s endowment.

Like me, the majority of the campus was not here at the beginning of this matter in 2016. But it is also true that this case has been difficult for all of us who love this institution and its hometown. I am looking forward to all that is ahead, and remain focused on Oberlin’s core mission of providing a truly excellent liberal arts and musical education.

Difficult for Oberlin! There is no mention of the family and business the school attacked because Ambar and her predecessor were unwilling to oppose the school’s black students’ efforts to demonstrate their power. Legal Insurrection which has performed a service by carefully covering this awful episode (as the mainstream media has not), comments that the statement by the first black president of Oberlin treats the punishment for its despicable conduct as “just the cost of doing business…. Considering how she led the campaign to smear the Gibson’s as racist post-trial, that is not surprising.”

3. The aftermath of the rumored chess cheating scandal...The first part of the story was discussed here. Now the Wall Street Journal reports in an op-ed,

Mr. Niemann then spoke up. He admitted to having cheated before with computer engines, but only in online matches, and only twice, when he was 12 and 16. With nervous energy and surprising eloquence, he denied ever cheating against Mr. Carlsen or in an in-person game, and swore that he has dedicated himself entirely to chess to redeem himself ever since his mistake three years ago. “I don’t go outside, other than when I pick up my food,” he said. Furious that his childhood heroes have doubted his greatest accomplishment and turned it into his greatest nightmare, he laid it all on the line.

Is he telling the truth? As grandmaster Levon Aronian commented, “All of my colleagues are pretty much paranoid.” Mr. Carlsen is no Bobby Fischer, but elite chess trainer Jacob Aasgard noted that “ ‘Magnus behaved like an entitled brat’ is at least an equally reasonable theory” as Mr. Niemann’s cheating. If Mr. Carlsen won’t make a formal accusation, he should apologize.

I sympathize with the young Mr. Niemann, but only to a point. Anyone who would cheat at chess once or twice, because it was only an online tournament, is capable of doing it a third time, or of producing a new excuse to take it further. It is unlikely that he cheated this time, given the logistical difficulties involved. Yet soon after Mr. Niemann “came clean” for his past misdeeds, Chess.com, the online-chess behemoth, said it has “information that contradicts his statements regarding the amount and seriousness of his cheating on Chess.com.”

Every chess game, whether between young children or old men, begins and ends with a handshake. If Bob Dylan is still searching for dignity, I know where he can find it: Even during the worst of the pandemic, the ragged chess hustlers of New York’s Washington Square Park extended their hands to me, no matter the result. How to lose was one of the most important lessons I learned, slowly and imperfectly, from youth chess. But I suppose the greatest players never learn even that. If they did, they might not be the greatest…

Spot on. I agree that World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen behaved like a jerk by quitting the tournament and placing the player who defeated him under suspicion. I agree that he has an obligation to apologize to the tournament organizers and to the player who was smeared by his conduct.

I also agree, however, that cheating at chess comes very close to signature significance, whether its in an online game of face to face.

[Thanks to Dr. Emilio Lizardo for the pointer!]

11 thoughts on “Weekend Ethics Kick-Off, 9/10/2022: Aftermaths: Dinosaurs, Chess, And Oberlin

  1. Wait- the cheater was a teenager when he was a cheater?

    That’s signature significance of being a juvenile. It’s not a good thing to carry into a adulthood but it’s no guarantee that will be carried into adulthood either.

    Pink teens do punk things.

    • As a chess player, and a one-time semi-serious chess player, I literally can’t fathom anyone over the age of 8 cheating at chess. It’s antithetical to the game, and to me indicates that a screw is loose somewhere, and probably many screws.

          • When there are dinosaurs on screen, they are great. The legacy actors from the original films are misused and the plot seems very undinosaur-like. It’s not my favorite of the films.

          • Yes. Among other things, the fact that they are still mostly models, robots and puppets means that it never feels like CGI (like the dinosaurs in “King Kong,” for example. The liberty taken with them in a couple cases is annoying (one terrifying variety of feathered raptor in a scene on a frozen lake was represented a about 8 feet tall when the real thing was the six of a chicken, and a major scary predator in the film was really an herbivore), BUT they had Demetradons(not dinosaurs, but close), and they were terrifying—loved them. All those old movies being represented by iguanas with sails glued to their backs, and finally the real things (well, you know what I mean.) One of the first pieces in my collection!

      • When we were juvenile morons (but I repeat myself), friends would get on internet games like hearts or spades (yahoo used to host a wide variety of casual venues for players to get on) and cheat out the wazoo because nothing delights juveniles more than seeing people frustrated and the internet makes you infinitely more powerful in doing just that. I assure you, they grew out of that very rapidly.

  2. I wonder why drunk driving continues despite decades of education.

    The film-makers didn’t even try to ensure that this film was consistent with what we learned from the others: for example, the whole thing is supposed to be the follow-up to the mass escape of the only surviving InGen-created dinos from a secret site where they were being auctioned off to international villains and entrepreneurs. In that film there were maybe 20, 30 of those. When they escaped, they supposedly spread all over the world…and now, somehow, there are thousands and thousands of them in a few years, including species that would never have been made, like the giant pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus, which is—absurdly— shown attacking a cargo plane.

    More dinosaurs were cloned.

    • It doesn’t make sense. They also never explained in any of the movies how the scientist knew what DNA they were getting from the ambered mosquitos until they had a whole creature, unless they had already cloned one.

  3. On Gibson’s Bakery…

    36 million seems like a lot. And it is. But I don’t think it was enough.

    David Gibson was the owner of Gibson’s bakery at the time of the incident (a black student tried to buy a bottle of wine with a fake ID, tried to steal more wine by concealing the bottles in his jacket, and then with the help of two other black students outside the bakery, beat the owner’s son after the son pursued him out of the shop). David was the person who started the legal proceedings, and I hope he rests better now that this is all over.

    We won’t know, of course, because David Gibson is dead, the victim of pancreatic cancer. And while we’ll never know if he would still be alive absent the proceedings, there was a court order specifically prohibiting the family from revealing David’s cancer, because the position of the court was that a cancer diagnoses might have biased the jury by making David sympathetic. David, out of an abundance of caution, and wanting to appear strong in court, paused his chemo treatments while the case was going on, and discovered that his cancer had gone too far in the meantime. He died in 2019.

    The facts of this case are infuriating. The Gibsons operated for 135 years, through Jim Crow, with a demonstrated history of inclusivity. The students admitted what they did. There was physical evidence of what they did. There’s no question about what really happened.

    But the administration and students were so married to their narrative. Demonstrably false though it was, that they went through a five year process of harassment to the family. And 36 million dollars later, plus their legal fees, which I’m sure are ungodly…. They learned *NOTHING*.

    • Thank you for that added perspective HT.
      The woke movement, aka wokeism, is pure hate steeped in revenge and marinated in ignorance of history.

      Try calmly informing a wokester that by a huge percentage, more slavers were BIPOC than whitey and practiced by virtually all civilizations since mankind began to organize.
      Slavery still exists today if the wokesters need another place to park their learned hate and need to exact revenge.
      It is no accident that an insidious aspect of student indoctrination is a carefully spoon-fed narrative always devoid of historical perspective.
      And that’s a wrap!

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