The Worst Sequel To “Home Alone” Yet

Here I was, all ready to shut down Ethics Alarms posting for the day, and I ran across this awful story, which I honestly don’t understand at all. There have to be some basic equipment ethics alarms that have to work in everyone, right?

Charleston, South Carolina police were called to investigate the home of 24-year-old Donald Gekonge when an apartment manager reported that he had found a child alone in the apartment yesterday. They discovered the child sleeping in a bed in the living room. When they walked into the room, the child “immediately reached for an empty water bottle.” The child seemed to be in good condition. Police then spoke to an unnamed person who said Gekonge had sent a message that he was in New York City. Eventually police reached him, and he said that someone was caring for his son, he just wasn’t certain who.

This is always a bad sign.

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Friday Open Forum, “But It Feels Like Sunday” Edition

I apologize: I didn’t focus on the fact that this was Friday until just now. Even at ProEthics, which never rests or takes a vacation, it has been so quiet that I was lulled into weekend mode. All the l-tryptophan didn’t help either. But there is still time to…

Ethics away!

(Ugh. I hate that fad Madison Avenue use of nouns, as in “Let’s movie!” I had to try it once to be sure just how much I hated it. Sorry.)

Ethics Hero: Florida Catholic School Principal Tonya Peters, No Weenie She

In a seventh grade English class at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charlotte, Florida, the teacher was presenting Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer,” using an uncensored version, which is to say, “Tom Sawyer.” The classic novel, like its larger, more ambitious cousin “Huckleberry Finn,” uses the now taboo “n-word” in a society today that should be too sophisticated and wise by now not to know that declaring words taboo is ethically and intellectually indefensible. One African-American community website’s news report on the incident states, “Anyone who has read an unedited version of those books know how racially insensitive they were.” Well:

  • Any one who has only read an “unedited”, meaning bowldlerized, version of “Tom Sawyer” hasn’t read “Tom Sawyer,” and
  • Great literature isn’t supposed to be “racially sensitive”; it’s supposed to be enlightening.
  • The issue of watering down language that some may find offensive in literature is well-considered in this essay.

As described in the letter above, when members of the class read the book out loud and the word “nigger” was uttered, the students began “acting up,” laughing, making comments, and generally acting like undisciplined 7th graders, which they were. When the teacher could not calm them down, she improvised a creative but risky solution: having the children repeat the word over and over again. The idea, obviously (though not sufficiently obvious for any of the media reports to figure out) was to rob the “taboo” word of power by repetition. It’s an old linguistic trick that kids should be familiar with (i know I was): when any word is repeated enough, it becomes just a sound, which is all any word is. (This device becomes the climax of the excellent horror film “Pontypool,” in which something causes the English language to become deadly, destroying everyone’s brains.) Continue reading

‘HA! You Fell For The Trap, White Boy!’

I almost made this an Ethics Quiz, but then decided that there is only one ethical answer.

Star high school quarterback Marcus Stokes posted a video of himself in a car singing a rap song that used the term “niggas.” Or maybe it was “niggers.” We can’t find out, you see, because our infantile, unethical news media will only write  that he said the “N-word,” and the video has been deleted. Journalism!

Stokes’ video caused the University of Florida to rescind its scholarship offer. Stokes is white; there is little question that if he were the right color, singing the song and posting it would not have raised any issues at all. But as Yahoo!’s observes, “Saying the N-word as a white person goes into another territory,” at least in the hypocritical, race-obsessed worlds of sports and academia. Continue reading

Ethics Leftovers, 11/25/22: Macy’s, Police Brutality, Giving Thanks For Genghis Khan, And More

I have now seen three gags online using that introduction above. All of them were really mean; one made me laugh out loud, and I was sorely tempted to use it. However to do so would be neither ethical nor in the spirit of the season, so I’ll just encourage readers to use their imaginations.

I was especially tempted after hearing President Biden and the First Lady call into the NBC broadcast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade—I wasn’t watching at the time, but someone sent me the video yesterday. First, it was an intrusion into what is supposed to be a completely non-political holiday event  for the President to try to exploit it. If Biden had even attempted to be the unifying leader he claimed to be while campaigning in 2020, I’d give it a pass, but at this point anything he does or says has to be taken as purely partisan, not to mention calculated and managed by his “handlers,” as in puppeteers. The phone call also went as you might expect: there were about 20 seconds of dead air time, which is an eternity on TV, as the Bidens could be faintly heard speaking incomprehensibly while NBC weather reporter Dylan Dreyer, smiling like a zany, went through a classic “Can you hear me? I can’t hear you…” routine. Finally, after Joe told  Dreyer that she was doing a “good job” and giving  credit to her for the good weather—she’s the weather girl, see; I think that bit was old by 1964—the First Couple replied  to Dreyer’s invitation to say something of substance to the audience,

Mrs. Biden: “We just want to say we’re so grateful for the people, for this opportunity, for the health that we have now in America, and Joe, what do you want to say?”

Joe: “I want to say thanks to the firefighters and police officers, first responders. They never take a break.”

Mrs. Biden:  “And God bless our troops for sure.”

Joe:  “And by the way, we’re going to be talking to some of our troops later in the day, both here and abroad. I hope everybody remembers. We remember them every single day. God bless our troops for real.”

1. More Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ethics.…On the one parade broadcast I did watch for a while, the commentators used the buzz-word “diversity” three times in less than fifteen minutes, explaining at one point that a marching band was wonderful because it was “diverse.” Bands are good when they look and sound good; it shouldn’t matter what colors it is or whether there is a nonbinary flute player. Then I remembered that Macy’s had just dropped the Salvation Army and will no longer allow its Santas and bell-ringers to solicit seasonal charity contributions, because the conservative religious organization isn’t sufficiently all-in with Macy’s political and social pandering mission to “grant funding to advance human rights, racial justice, workforce development and economic opportunity.” This despite last year’s embarrassing attempt by the Army to jump on the Critical Race Theory bandwagon. The government/media/corporate alliance to mandate beliefs and opinions and punish dissenters brooks no deviation.

The last metaphorical straw was when some female pop star I had never seen, heard or heard of before serenaded the viewers with the brain-numbing Christmas song, “What Christmas Means to Me”:

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The Ethics Alarms 2022 “It’s A Wonderful Life” Ethics Guide, Revised And Updated

2022 Preface

I had this year’s introduction all written in my head—that’s how I write, you know—and then discovered hat it was what I wrote last year. No wonder it seemed so obvious. Well, never mind: there are still plenty of new matters to consider.

The main one is that “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a Thanksgiving film as much as it is a Christmas story. In the end, it is all about being thankful and grateful for life, family, friends, being lucky enough to live in the United States, and avoiding bitterness and regret. George Bailey is a good man who is nearly destroyed by bitterness, anger, frustration and regret, and Frank Capra, who directed and partly wrote the screenplay, is telling us that this is no way to live, or even survive. It’s a tough lesson: I have been tempted many times to fall into that trap. Regular readers here have seen me do it. Like George, I often feel like I didn’t achieve and experience what I could have, that my choices too often didn’t pan out, that I barely missed the breaks that I needed when I most needed them. I feel this way even though my father constantly lectured me, really all the way through our relationship, never to fall into George’s pit of despond. As long as you’re breathing, he said, there is always opportunity and hope. Reflecting on what might have been is foolish, depressing and paralyzing.

Ironically, Capra’s fable shows a man for whom revelations of what might have been are decisive evidence that his life, however disappointing to him, nonetheless had meaning. “It’s A Wonderful Life” is perhaps the first screen time travel parable, a forerunner of “Back to the Future,” and anticipated chaos theory long before Edward Lorenz figured out how chaos works. Harry’s toast at the finale, as I wrote last year,

states a life truth that too many of us go through our own lives missing. What makes our lives successful (or not), and what makes makes our existence meaningful is not how much money we accumulate, or how much power we wield, or how famous we are. What matters is how we affect the lives of those who share our lives, and whether we leave our neighborhood, communities, associations and nation better or worse than it would have been “if we had never been born.” It’s a tough lesson, and some of us, perhaps most, never learn it.

I’m not sure I have learned it yet, to be honest with myself. Intellectually, perhaps, but not emotionally.

I just watched the film again today; every time I notice something new, which is reflected in the updated guide  below.  I am also convinced that this is the greatest, riches, most complex ethics movie of all time.  “A Man For All Seasons” was long my winner in this category, but having watched that film too again recently, it doesn’t measure up to Capra’s masterpiece. Recalling the the real Thomas More burned heretics alive rather takes the sheen off Paul Scofield’s marvelous performance.

I also realized that this is very much an adult film. Kids don’t get it; indeed, I wonder if anyone under 40 really does. That makes it a strange Christmas movie. I grew up without seeing the film; the period when it was sold at junk prices to local TV stations which then resuscitated it reputation by wide exposure (I live when that happens) began while I was in college. Now that I think of it, I don’t know if my son has seen the movie. The black-and-white film block for so many younger Americans is a genuine obstacle to both cultural literacy and ethical instruction, and no, Ted Turner’s colorized version of IAWL doesn’t help, since it stinks.

Last year I wrote—and this was one of the points I had forgotten that I had made in last year’s introduction—

This movie’s intended message needs to be considered and taken to heart in 2021. Frank Capra, the movie’s director, designed the film to explain why it’s a wonderful country we live in. It may be that more and more vocal and powerful people want to send the opposite message today than ever before.

Tragically, it is definitely true that more vocal and powerful people want to send the opposite message today than even last year. Show them the movie, and all they will do is count black faces: yup, the only black resident of Bedford Falls appears to be the Baileys’ maid. Clearly, that means that “It’s a Wonderful Life” is just one more relic of systemic racism, and should be ignored and forgotten.

A society that can or will no longer learn from “It’s a Wonderful Life” is doomed to creeping stupidity and confusion. Ethics Alarms presents this annual ethics guide in the hope that we have not reached that desperate state yet.

1. “If It’s About Ethics, God Must Be Involved”

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Thanksgiving At Ethics Alarms, #1: The Ethics Holiday

Thanksgiving is an ethics holiday, almost as much an ethics holiday as Christmas. The United States is a nation founded on ethical idealism, so it figures that that increasingly vile and relentless defilers of the nation, who have multiplied like bacteria in agar for a wealth of reasons, attack both holidays with as much gusto as they attack the U.S. year ’round. Here’s the reliably disgusting Joy Reid on Thanksgiving: in a typical Reid rant, she said it is…

….important to unpack the myth of Thanksgiving. It is a holiday riddled with historical inaccuracies. 

Built on this myth that the indigenous welcomed their colonizers with open arms and ears of corn. A simplistic fairy tale interpretation of a 1621 encounter between indigenous tribes and English settlers that erases the genocide that followed. It’s the truth that Republicans want banned from our textbooks because here is the secret they want so desperately to keep. 

We are a country founded on violence. Our birth was violent. In 1619, a ship with more than 20 enslaved Africans landed in Virginia, ushering in two centuries of American slavery that left millions in chains or dead. With those humans in bondage were finally free, a terrorist organization that was a card carrying member of polite society, Ku Klux Klan, picked up where the Civil War ended, using violence to maintain white supremacy. The Klan is still active and as Americans, we continue to choose violence. We are a country that chooses violence over and over again. There is no facet of the mark in society untouched by it.

Typical of Reid, she engages in an orgy of historical misinformation, to use the Left’s favorite word of late, to claim that Thanksgiving is “riddled with historical inaccuracies.” Holidays are not about technical accuracy, but tradition and symbolism.  Deconstructing any holiday is a breeze; all one has to do is focus on related events and facts that the are not the reason the holiday exists. Let’s talk about Martin Luther King, Joy! Continue reading

Pre-Thanksgiving Ethics Warm-Up, 11/23/2022: Dead Ethics Alarms, Good Ethics Advice From An Unexpected Source, And Other Appetizers

I know my wedding to Grace Bowen Marshall 42 years ago was important because virtually nothing else genuinely significant in world history happened on November 23. The date is amazingly weak on important birthdays too: the most impressive are Franklin Peirce, our tragically weak 14th President (just when the nation needed a strong one), and, in 1921, Jack Marshall, the Hollywoord musician, arranger and composer who wrote the theme music for “The Munsters,” among other things.

The calendar this year is, as it happens, like it was the year we got married. We had changed the date from the 22nd to the 23rd because neither of us wanted Kennedy’s assassination on our minds. After a wedding presided over by Grace’s dad, a Methodist minister, we enjoyed a wild reception highlighted by a performance by the combined talents of the two musical revue groups I had performed in and directed, The Showstoppers and the political satire group, The Music Lobby. Then it was off to a romantic evening at the historic Hay-Adams hotel, across the park from The White House. The next day was Thanksgiving, which we celebrated by having a turkey picnic on the floor of our just-purchased, unfurnished home in Alexandria, Virginia. Then it was off to Zion’s Crossroads, near Charlottesville, for a brief honeymoon at an inn converted from an old plantation. They had a honeymoon cottage, and today we would be expected to be horrified by its history as the slave overseer’s residents. We weren’t then, and I’m not now.

As Gus says to Woodrow call as he dies in “Lonesome Dove,” “It’s been a hell of a party.” And we still haven’t opened all the presents…

1. When Ethics Alarms don’t ring: Fashion company Balenciaga has withdrawn a really oogy advertisement campaign featuring children with sexualized teddy bears, but such an ethics botch is signature significance. In one photo, one of the little girls poses on a sofa by one of plush bear bags, surrounded by wine glasses and branded bondage gear.

A sharp-eyed viewer spotted a copy of a Supreme Court opinion declaring pornography protected speech in another photo with a child. Here’s another one in the series:

The company’s apology as it abandoned the ads also doesn’t suggest familiarity with basic ethics alarms. “We sincerely apologize for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused. Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign. We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms,” the apology posted on its Instagram page read in part. “We take this matter very seriously and are taking legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set and including unapproved items for our Spring 23 campaign photoshoot. We strongly condemn abuse of children in any form. We stand for children’s safety and well-being.”

Someone just sneaked those ads into publication without the company’s knowledge, eh? Sure.

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So That Gay-Hating, Tucker Carlson-Inspired Killer Who Shot Up The Colorado Springs LGBTQ Nightclub Is “NonBinary,” Uses “They/Them” Pronouns, And Wants To Be Called “Mx. Aldrich.” Oh.

The public defenders for Anderson Lee Aldrich, the alleged perpetrator of the mass shooting at a Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub, said in a court filing obtained by a New York Times reporter that their client is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns.

Is it fair to say these revelations suggest that the rush to blame “anti-LGBTQ” rhetoric—you know, like ” we really shouldn’t allow people with penises to throttle biological women in competitive sports” and “drag queens are not appropriate library story-tellers for children,”hateful stuff like that—for the tragedy was a tad premature? Reckless even? Cynically exploitative, mayhap?

Why yes, I think it is fair.

Over at CNN, so crushed were the talking heads by the revelation that their usual conservative villification campaign would have to be more creative that they engaged in this desperate analysis:

ALISYN CAMEROTA: So, attorneys for the accused shooter, Anderson Lee Aldrich, say in new court filings tonight that the suspect now identifies as non binary. …They use they/them pronouns. And for the purposes of all formal filings will be addressed as Mx Aldrich….Joining me now CNN political commentator Errol Lewis, also back with me Al Franken and Joe Walsh. I don’t know what to say about that. I mean that’s not anything that we had heard from his background. People had been looking into his background, and I don’t know if anybody here–are you guys lawyers? I mean, you know, I don’t know what to say about that. That’s what he’s now saying. 

ERROL LEWIS: It sounds like they’re trying to prepare a defense against a hate crimes charge. That’s the least of his problems, legally speaking. But it looks like they’re trying to build some kind of sympathy or at least confusion on the question of whether or not this was purely motivated by hate. 

CAMEROTA: That is what it sounds like. We will wait to see.

“That is what it sounds like”? If you are an idiot, I guess: the “hate crime” enhancement is hardly a major concern when one has killed five and wounded 18. {Not to beat a dead horse, but Lewis’s statement perfectly embodies the utter stupidity of the “hate crime” blot on our criminal justice system. Sure, Errol, he might have shot all of those people out of mild pique.]

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San Francisco: “You’ve Done An Exemplary Job, John, And You’re Out, Because You’re A White Male…” [Corrected]

You have to hand it to the San Francisco Elections Commission. It was open, transparent and honest, and presented its compensatory racism without shame or obfuscation. This is, however, because in the Bizarro culture of San Francisco, “good” discrimination because of race and gender is nothing to be ashamed of. From the moment that “diversity-equity-inclusion became the latest woke buzz term, this episode was inevitable. The question, after the heads of all rational Americans stop exploding like Krakatoa, is “Now what?”

San Francisco Department of Elections director John Arntz has run the elections for the county and the city for 20 years. The San Francisco Elections Commission praised Arntz for his “incredible leadership,” but voted 4-2 not to renew his contract. Though all twelve election directors signed a letter requesting that Arntz be reappointed, he is now out of a job. Election commissioners were clear that their decision to dismiss him had nothing to do with inadequacies in his effectiveness in performing his duties, but, it was explained, there are more important things than being good at your job.

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