Evening Ethics Exploration, 12/2/21: It’s Enron Day!

enron-logo5b45d

Yes, December 2 is the day Enron, one of the great corporate scams of all time, declared bankruptcy. On this date in 2001, the saga of the Enron Corporation began to unfold, and what an ugly story it was.

Formed in 1985 as the merger of two gas companies, Enron prospered under chairman and CEO Kenneth Lay to rise as high as number seven on Fortune’s Top 500 U.S. companies. By 2000, the company was employing 21,000 people and claimed revenue of $111 billion. But rumors of shady dealings caused Enron’s stock price to plummet, and by November 30, 2001, it was worth 26 cents a share. Lay sold off his Enron stock, while encouraging Enron employees to buy more shares, ssuring them that the company was on the rebound. Nice. Employees’ retirement savings accounts were wiped out, and by the end of the year, Enron’s collapse had cost investors billions of dollars, put 5,600 out of and rendered almost $2.1 billion in pension plans worthless.

Somewhere in my office I have a copy of an Enron employee ethics handbook with a touching introduction by Ken Lay about the company’s commitment to integrity, honesty, and transparency.

1. Bye! I was just in Shirlington Center in Arlington faced with time to kill as a service station fixed a tire. I was about to wander into a new establishment called “Damn Good Burgers,” but there was a prominent “Black Lives Matter” sticker on the door, so I went elsewhere. I don’t care about the politics of businesses or their owners, as long as they deliver what they advertise at reasonably good quality and prices. But if they require me to tacitly endorse a racist, violent, anti-American movement led by Marxists, they can bite me. If your business is going to engage in cheap virtue signaling, it better be actual virtue.

2.’This is the tragedy of Woke Hysteria. Won’t you help with a tax deductible to help people like this?‘ “The Ethicist” (in the New York Times Magazine) got a tortured inquiry from a young woman called “Name Withheld By Request.”

When my father died, I inherited a large trust fund and sole ownership of a family business. I was young and woefully unprepared, so I put my inheritance on the back burner and lived my life as if I was financially “normal.” However, since the pandemic, my portfolio has hit a new high. I am utterly distraught. I feel that I should have never gotten so wealthy when people are suffering so much.

I’ve been seriously considering giving a large portion away, but the more I talk to people, the more I realize that to give away large sums of money responsibly and ethically turns my life into a job that I never wanted. I don’t want my father’s money to become my life, my career or the most significant thing about me, even though I know that I benefit from it. I have privileges with it, it gives me options and frankly I could not afford to live in a big city without it.

My questions are these: How much money is it ethical to keep, and how much would it be ethical to give away? What is the best way to decide who should receive the money? And how much time and responsibility and rewriting of my life do I owe this gift that often feels like a burden?

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Ethics Alarms To NYT Columnist Ross Douthat: “Exactly!” (Corrected)

Abortion monument

I’m still working on the Ethics Alarms prescription for an ethical national policy regarding abortion. The briefs and oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case now before the U.S. Supreme Court are useful, but I received a special assist this morning from Times columnist Ross Douthat, who presented a full page, marvelously thorough and ethically spot-on analysis of the issue in an essay titled, “The Case Against Abortion.”

I wish I had written it, but I am grateful that he did. He deserves to have it read thoroughly by all, but some especially apt sections shout out for special mention:

  • “At the core of our legal system, you will find a promise that human beings should be protected from lethal violence. That promise is made in different ways by the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence; it’s there in English common law, the Ten Commandments and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We dispute how the promise should be enforced, what penalties should be involved if it is broken and what crimes might deprive someone of the right to life. But the existence of the basic right, and a fundamental duty not to kill, is pretty close to bedrock.

    “There is no way to seriously deny that abortion is a form of killing.”

    And that must be the starting point for any policy debate.

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Comment Of The Day: “Is It Too Late To Call It “The Wuhan Virus” Or Better Yet, ‘The China Virus’?”

China Lied

Too strong?

Extradimensional Cephalopod, as is his (it’s?) wont, chose to approach the question of what to call the pandemic virus (I am unalterably devoted to calling it what it is, as a deadly pathogen that developed in China and allowed to infect the world BY China “the Wuhan virus” in order to ensure that accountability, blame, and, if possible, liability attaches now and forever) by seeking an ethical process that has applications in other contexts. Below is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Is It Too Late To Call It “The Wuhan Virus” Or Better Yet, “The China Virus”?

Recent news has reinforced the unavoidable conclusion that China is a corrupting influence on the world and it culture. Disney, which like so many, indeed most—all?—major corporations has no ethical principles it is willing to lose profits from hewing to if at all possible, censored an episode of “The Simpsons” that satirized the nation and its government. Disney eliminated the episode from the package it sold to Chinese media. Let’s be clear: this means that Disney is assisting China in government censorship of creative expression arising in Disney’s own nation, and also assisting China’s totalitarians in controlling the minds of its population. I regard the “Covid” cover word being used to avoid connecting this regime with the disaster its habits created to be a similar form of complicity.

Now here’s “the Squid”: I’ll be back ever so briefly when he’s finished:

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Ethics And Those Wacky Cuomo Boys, 2: Andrew And His Book

Chris’s scandal may be more embarrassing, but Andrew’s latest problem may be more expensive.

In July 2020, then-New York Governor Cuomo, riding high in the public eye, asked the state ethics panel for permission to write a book about his leadership during the pandemic.

I must interject here that such books are virtually always unethical, often in multiple ways. I say “virtually” because there really may be some instance, buried deeply in the sands of time, when a book written while a popular elected official (or a First Lady) was in office and published with that official’s name as the author was really written by the official in his or her spare time, wasn’t just a government-funded campaign and propaganda tool, and also didn’t provide a way for supporters both individual and corporate to launder contributions. Maybe, but I doubt it.

For one thing, if an elected official spends any time at all writing a book during his or her work day, he or she is getting paid by taxpayers to do work that primarily benefits the official. Books are hard. Books take time. Trust me on this, I’ve co-written one, and would have five more (I have the titles and outlines!) out there if I could get out of my own way. But my time is my own: I don’t bill clients for writing this blog, and any time I spend writing a book is time I don’t get paid for. Governors, like Presidents, are paid to be on-duty every waking hour.

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December 1 Ethics Considerations: Five Big Ethics Stories That I Should Write More On…

Dad1

Yikes. There are several items below—in fact, all of them— that I would like to devote whole posts to, but far more in my In-Box that I have to devote whole posts to. For some reason, the ethics issues dam has burst in the last few days.

That’s my father above, who died on this date in 2009. I’ve been thinking about him a lot today.

1. There should be no controversy over this: it is wrong, unfair, and absurd for Lia, formerly “Will,” Thomas to compete as a female swimmer in collegiate competitions. Here is the transitioned, now female, former University of Pennsylvania’s men’s swim team star (for three years). His “after” photo is on the left. Oddly, his various treatments and operations have left him a better swimmer as a side effect! Well, that’s not quite right, but she’s dominating the women’s meets, as against Columbia University last month when she won a pair of gold medals in the 200 free and 100 free with margins of 5.4 seconds and 1.3 seconds.

That photo on the left is virtually the only shot of Lia now: I can’t find any full body shots since she transitioned into a championship competitor. Hmmmmm...

Lia Before

If female swimmers who haven’t had the boost of going through male puberty don’t have the guts to protest this, then they deserve what happens. That goes for the female athletes in every other sport as well, and their parents, and their coaches, and the feminist weenies who are allowing women’s sports to be destroyed by their unwillingness to appear “unwoke.”

No question, excluding trans, ex-males from gender-segregated sporting events is a hardship for the new women. I’m sympathetic. I am. But it makes no sense ethically or logically to allow the special problems of a tiny minority to harm the vast majority of female athletes.

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Ethics Hero: Twitter

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Ethics Alarms has honored some unlikely people as Ethics Heroes—Bill Clinton, Bill Maher, and Terry McAuliffe, for example. Twitter nabbing the distinction may be a record for cognitive dissonance, though. It is an unethical company, with a platform that does more damage than good. And yet…

Twitter announced that it was expanding its private information policy to forbid posting the ” media of private individuals without the permission of the person(s) depicted.

Good.

Not that this policy is remotely possible to enforce; it isn’t. “When we are notified by individuals depicted, or by an authorized representative, that they did not consent to having their private image or video shared, we will remove it,” Twitter explains. “This policy is not applicable to media featuring public figures or individuals when media and accompanying tweet text are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”

Yes, the policy goes well beyond any legal restrictions: that’s what makes it ethical rather than compliant. What is ethically admirable about the rule is that it calls attention to an ethical violation so common that few think it is a violation at all. When I allow a friend to take a photo of me, that is consent for that friend to make and have a copy of my likeness. It is not consent for my likeness to be circulated to the world on social media, included in facial recognition databases, be manipulated digitally to embarrass or humiliate me, or any other purpose. No law will help me claim that I did not consent to circulation of my likeness, which is why Naked Teachers have a problem. The law assumes that such use can and should be anticipated when I let myself be photographed. That, however, is a legal fiction. I have seen, online, photos of me when I wasn’t aware that I was in the picture. I hate photos of me.

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Being Woke, Disrespectful And Stupid Is No Way To Go Through “West Side Story,” Spielberg!

West Side story

Gee, I’m getting a lot of opportunities to write, “I told you so!” lately. But I won’t…

In 2019 Ethics Alarms noted,

There is going to be a new film version of “West Side Story,” apparently to have one that doesn’t involve casting Russian-Americans (Natalie Wood) and Greek-Americans (George Chakiris) as Puerto Ricans. Of course, it’s OK for a white character to undergo a gender and nationality change because shut-up. This is, I believe, a doomed project, much as the remakes of “Ben-Hur” and “The Ten Commandments” were doomed. Remaking a film that won ten Oscars is a fool’s errand. So is making any movie musical in an era when the genre is seen as silly and nerdy by a large proportion of the movie-going audience, especially one that requires watching ballet-dancing street gangs without giggling. Steven Spielberg, who accepted this challenge, must have lost his mind.

Ah, but apparently wokeness, not art or profit, is the main goal.

I am so glad that, based partially on this, I turned down an invitation to do a lecture right about now for the Smithsonian on the evolution of “West Side Story” through the years. For here comes the news that Stephen Spielberg, who has never directed a musical in his life on stage or screen, has completed his “improved” version with this considerate feature:

[T]o lend the movie an extra touch of authenticity, Spielberg, and screenwriter Tony Kushner, made the choice not to subtitle any of the Spanish dialogue that’s regularly heard throughout the film. Instead, multiple scenes in West Side Story take place entirely in Spanish — or with a pronounced mixture of English and Spanish — and there’s no onscreen text to fill in the gaps for non-Spanish speaking viewers.

“Extra touch of authenticity”?!! Characters are singing their feelings in the film! I assume that, as in the first film version, they are also doing ballet in the streets. Musicals have no “authenticity.” But aside from that asinine statement from Yahoo! reporter Ethan Alter, the decision to frustrate non-Spanish speaking audience members by making dialogue from the book incomprehensible cannot be defended logically or artistically. What is the objection to sub-titles? It is not only beneficial to the movie to make certain all of the audience knows what’s being said, it is basic courtesy to the original author of the book (Arthur Laurents). What is the objective of this choice?

Divisiveness and to stick it to English-speaking Americans, it seems.

Here’s one contemptuous tweeter: “Steven Spielberg a king for not including subtitles in the Spanish dialogue for his West Side Story…very bold and non-compromising. Make these losers try and decipher what the boricuas are saying along with the rest of the Latinx.” Here’s another: “”Much to love about the new West Side Story, but Steven Spielberg’s deliberate choice not to subtitle any Spanish dialogue was his most brilliant decision. Cops and Jets gang members screaming, “speak English!” The real-world parallels to the American experience of today run deep.”

One choose not to speak English, or not to learn to speak it intelligibly. And then has chosen not to be hired for any job requiring clear and effective communication with the majority of Americans. “Speak English”? Damn right. If the new film’s objective is to discredit that basic obligation of citizenship, it doesn’t just deserve to fail, it deserves to be condemned.

Yet another tweet: “Also I like there are not subtitles when they spoke Spanish. The back and fourth between English and Spanish was so familiar ( in my house Portuguese) but you get the idea. That’s how it should be.”

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Ethical And Unethical Quotes In The Chris Cuomo Scandal

Chris Cuomo2

  • “The New York Attorney General’s office released transcripts and exhibits Monday that shed new light on Chris Cuomo’s involvement in his brother’s defense. The documents, which we were not privy to before their public release, raise serious questions. When Chris admitted to us that he had offered advice to his brother’s staff, he broke our rules and we acknowledged that publicly. But we also appreciated the unique position he was in and understood his need to put family first and job second. However, these documents point to a greater level of involvement in his brother’s efforts than we previously knew. As a result, we have suspended Chris indefinitely, pending further evaluation.”

—CNN’s official statement last night.

Verdict: Unethical, and signature significance for an ethically brain-dead organization. First, Cuomo should have been fired for cause, immediately. (He should have been fired years ago anyway, as I reminded readers yesterday.) The evidence was enough. Second, the statement that Cuomo was in a “unique position” is pure, rationalization-polluted crap. There’s nothing unique about conflicts of interest and family crises for a professional, which is what journalists claim to be (but seldom are). If one feels he or she must put family before duty to one’s employers and stakeholders, the ethical course is to disclose the conflict, respect the necessary ethical boundaries, and, if necessary, quit the job. Third, there is nothing to evaluate. Cuomo lied to CNN’s audience. That disqualifies him as a host, as a pundit, and as a broadcast journalist.

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November Ending Ethics, 11/30/21: Unethical Appeal, Buried Corruption, The Usual Hypocrisy, A Supreme Court Threat, And That’s Not All…

Bye November

I’m currently weighing whether to try to get up the Ethics Alarms Best and Worst of 2021 this year, after several years in a row of failing to find the time and energy…I am also re-watching “Clickbait” in preparation for the special Ethics Alarms Zoom discussion that, I hope, will soon be scheduled for some tome in the next 31 days. As regular readers here know, my ambitions sometimes exceed my grasp.

Heh. Sometimes...!

1. Oh look, a frivolous appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, because #MeToo, or something…The prosecutors who unethically used improperly obtained evidence to put Bill Cosby prison are now asking the United States Supreme Court to throw out the appellate court ruling earlier this year that overturned his 2018 conviction for sexual assault on due process grounds. Cosby was released in June after serving less than three years of a three-to-10-year sentence. He should not have served any time at all. A ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that Cosby’s rights had been violated when the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office pursued a criminal case against him despite a binding “non-prosecution agreement” given to him by a previous district attorney. Cosby’s rights were violated, raping scum that he is.

Notice how feminists, civil rights activists on the left, anti-Trump fanatics and others who have a monopoly on Truth and Right (or think they do) increasingly want the law to yield to “justice”? There is no valid basis for this appeal. Zip, none. The lawyers filing it should be sanctioned for unethical conduct, just as Trump lawyers who filed suits to flip-flop the 2020 election without evidence have been sanctioned.

2. Speaking of the 2020 election, the shady dealings of Joe Biden’s son, quite possibly with Joe’s knowledge and even facilitation, were, we now know, kept from the public just long enough to ensure Donald Trump’s defeat. Today, Senator Chuck Grassley took to the Senate floor to expose more smoking gun documentation. Here’s the video:

Of course, none of the news networks, except maybe Fox, will run it, and I assume the major print sources sill ignore it. The situation is not helped by the fact that Grassley is 88 and has no business being in the Senate. He’s pretty sharp for 88, which is like saying Jane Fonda is pretty hot for 83. I don’t want to see her do a sequel to “Barbarella”, and I don’t want to have to watch Grassley stumble through an important presentation.

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