Wednesday Ethics Windstorm,11/11/20: Liars, Knaves, Fools And Birds

Great Tit

1. Incompetent headline dept. Someone at a newspaper has to be alert enough to catch a risible headline like this:

Great tits

A Great Tit is the pretty bird above.

2. Who believes that MSNBC didn’t know this? (I don’t.) MSNBC was shocked—shocked!—to discover that the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jom Meacham, who had been a regular on MSNBC’s 24-7 anti-Trump barrage, never told them that he was working for the Joe Biden team. on speeches, including his victory address. Meacham appeared on MSNBC following the speech to comment on the speech he had written but didn’t disclose to viewers that the speech he loved cane from his own laptop as he said,  “Tonight marks — the entire election results mark — a renewal of an American conversation where we’re struggling imperfectly to realize the full implications of the Jeffersonian promise of equality,” said Meacham. “It’s taken us too long, our work has been bloody and tragic and painful and difficult and, Lord knows, it is unfinished, but at our best we try.”

MSNBC announced that due to this “discovery. Meacham would no longer be a paid contributor, but he would be welcome to appear on future panels, thus showing the high regard for integrity for which the network is famous. If Meacham lied to MSNBC and its viewers while withholding a crucial conflict of interest, why would he be allowed back on the air in any capacity? Why would anyone trust him?

I believe that MSNBC knew that Meacham was working for Democrats while he was bashing Trump. And this is yet another example of how unprofessional the profession of historian has become.

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Ick or Ethics? The Cool Diorama Controversy

Lion_Attacking_a_Dromedary

Boy, as a kid, would I have loved the diorama “Lion Attacking a Dromedary” at The Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh! Things like that—by “like that” I mean cool, stimulating exhibits that fired my curiosity—got me interested in all sorts of subjects growing up: paleontology, zoology, history. The creation of French naturalist and taxidermist Edouard Verreaux and his brother was made for the Paris Exposition of 1867 and has been at the Pittsburgh museum since 1899. I wish it had been lodged at the Peabody Museum in Cambridge, Mass., where I used to spend long, leisurely Saturdays with my best friend, Peter Bena.

But now, fully in the grip of what I call “The Great Stupid,” the Carnegie Museum’s interim director says the exhibit is being “reconsidered,” because the exciting scene has disturbed “some.” After all, it depicts violence against a man described as an Arab courier. Also, the victim’s garb has been determined to be “derived from” at least five separate North African cultures. So that’s bad. I’m not sure why, but it’s bad. I’m sure PETA thinks the scene encourages cruelty to camels.

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Ethics Quiz: The Robot Dog

Robot seals work too, apparently…

From a recent New York Times story:

When Linda Spangler asked her mother, in a video chat, what she would like as gift for her 92nd birthday, the response came promptly.

“I’d like a dog,” Charlene Spangler said. “Is Wolfgang dead?” Wolfgang, a family dachshund, had indeed died long ago; so had all his successors. Ms. Spangler, who lives in a dementia care facility in Oakland, Calif., has trouble recalling such history.

So Linda, who is a doctor, got her mother a dog.

Well, Mom thought it was a dog, anyway. It was a robot dog. Sensors allow it to pant, woof, wag its tail, nap and awaken, and users can feel a simulated heartbeat.

Hmmm.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Was this ethical?

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Of Intent, Offense, And Uncivil Parrots

The Lincolnshire Wildlife Centre in Great Britain has a problem, or thinks it does. Billy, Eric, Tyson, Jade and Elsie, gray parrots all,  joined  to zoological park’s  flock of 200 gray parrots in August, and quickly proved to be a bad influence.  All five have a penchant for telling visitors to “fuck off,” and one reportedly has called a zoo manager a “fat twat.”  Zookeepers believe the five  were encouraging each other to be potty-beaks, and risked turning the entire group of gray parrots into little feathered versions of Bill Maher.

Can’t have that. The zoo is separating Billy, Eric, Tyson, Jade and Elsie for being  bad influences on each other and threatening to corrupt the other parrots.

This episode has special resonance with me. In 1988, I had just joined the staff of The Association of Trial Lawyers (now called, to the group’s great shame, The Association for Justice because a consultant found that people don’t like trial lawyers) to run its various profit centers. Almost immediately, I found myself in Maui overseeing the group’s winter convention at the Ka’anapali Beach Hyatt in Lahaina. That sounds nice, but my convention manager was in the process of going nuts, and I was tasked with minimizing the damage when, among other things, she locked herself in our convention headquarters weeping and screaming.

I had other responsibilities as well, including dealing with rebellious exhibitors and moderating various meetings at which virtually no members were attending, given the lure of the warm breezes and Hawaiian surf. On the day ATLA’s new Executive Director screamed at me for not being able to talk my convention manager out of her fortress of solitude, and the exhibitors ambushed me at a meeting and called me a Nazi, I was walking, disconsolate and exhausted, from a meeting room back to the exhibit hall in the late afternoon. As I walked past a large, colorful macaw in a cage, I heard a voice say, “Fuck you!” I remember freezing, turning around, and staring at the bird. “Really?” I said. “Really? That’s just what I needed to hear today.” Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/20/2020: Tales Of The Great Stupid [Updated and Corrected]

1. Yes, these are the people who want to have power over our lives. Imagine: this woman isn’t mourning the death of a human being, she’s angry because that human being can no longer serve her interests. The human being in question continued to work for the public long after she could have retired with dignity and comfort, and this woman is furious that she wasn’t physically able to do so “until 2021.” Not only that, she posted this repulsive video with no apparent comprehension that it exposes her as a horrible human being. She just assumes that most who share her political persuasion are just as  incapable of empathy and compassion as she is. Maybe she’s right.

Again I must ask, “How do people get like this?”

***

Okay, I just stumbled on some timely satire. I generally hate memes, but this is genuinely funny. Forgive me.

2.  Speaking of memes and The Great Stupid, what can you say about an adult who would post this on Facebook in all seriousness, as if it was profound or true?

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Further Reflections On “What Do We Do With Jeffrey Previte?’

The reason I posted the Ethics Quiz about the consulting company CEO caught on a security camera beating a small dog is that I genuinely do not know what society is supposed to do with people like that. The conduct is sick and evil, and as I noted in the post, Previte’s comments showed that he neither regretted his actions nor understood what people were upset about. The poll was included to get a sense of the assembled, and it has been one-sided:

It is the esteemed veteran ethics warrior Michael West who focused on the question from a practical viewpoint, and, after all, this is a practical ethics blog. In a series of comments he wrote,

I voted for the apology route because there’s no choice between apology and appropriate punishment that incorporates aspects of both. His conduct is gross and indicative of his character, but our society is getting to a point where we don’t allow for any rehabilitation ever. And that’s not a good development.

I had posited to another commenter a public official caught on camera terrorizing his family to counter the argument that it was unfair for this conduct to be made public, and Michael countered,

I think psychologically terrorizing family combined with being a public official changes the scope of invested parties and certainly justifies a larger body of people interested in knowing about the behavior. In this case, while not absolving him of being scrutinized and shunned by an appropriate section of society, “it’s just a dog” does guide the level of this man’s infamy as compared to your hypothetical. But yes, once the video is out the video is out. But, if, after appropriate demonstrations of genuine remorse, repentance and change of character and appropriate consequences are leveled against this man and…such as reduction to mere data entry job…I don’t think I would “take my business elsewhere” if I discovered he happened to be the man entering the data I need entered.

I mean at some point the “shunned by society” is clearly disproportionate…should grocery stores refuse his ability to buy food?

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What Do We Do With Jeffrey Previte?

Jeffrey Previte is –last I checked—the co-CEO of EBI Consulting in Los Angeles. That’s him on the left, and that’s also him on security footage where he lives, abusing his little dog. There’s a video too. You can view it—if you have the stomach– here.

The Daily Mail broke the story after it obtained the video from the concierge at the Seychelle Condominiums building in Santa Monica, California, where Previte lives. The  concierge passed along the film–why to a British tabloid I don’t know (it probably paid him)  and asked to remain anonymous in case he wanted to be a source for an Atlantic Monthly hit piece on President Trump. He told the  Mail that he heard the dog whimpering from the front desk, saw the video,  and filed a report with the police about the incident. “I heard the dog screaming and when I looked on the camera, I saw him beating the dog,” he said. The concierge claims that the building’s management did not take his report seriously.

Previte has only made himself more despicable since the story came out, and revealed himself as an individual without ethics alarms.

“I think this is very unfortunate that this has come across your desk. I don’t even know exactly what to say but I will say this: [The concierge] called me the evening of this interaction with my dog and that was at nine o’ clock at night and he attempted to extort money from me so that he wouldn’t report it to the building,” said Previte in a statement.

All absolutely irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is what we see on the video. How does someone think impugning the character of the person who reports his misconduct mitigates the conduct?  Dead ethics alarms. Then he said, “There’s nothing illegal about what I did.”

This might be the best example of Rationalizations #4, Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical,”and #5, The Compliance Dodge I have ever seen, except that I’ll want to gag every time I think about it.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is..

“What is a fair and proportionate way for society to treat this creep?”

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Sunday Morning Ethics, 9/6/2020: Dog Food, A T-Rex, An Astronaut, The Pope…But No 2020 Campaign Items Whatsoever! Let’s Hear A Little Applause!

1 . Boy, the Pope must hate the U.S. media. ‘Did you hear that four people say the President called our soldiers “losers”? It’s true! They really say that!’

Pope Francis called gossiping a “plague worse than COVID” and risks dividing  the Catholic Church. The devil, he says, is the “biggest gossiper.” who is seeking to divide the church with his lies.

Francis was discussing a Gospel passage about the need to correct others privately when they do something wrong. The Catholic hierarchy calls this the “fraternal correction” of priests and bishops to correct them when they err without airing problems in public. You know; like when they sexually abuse children. “Gossip” apparently means “talking about things the Church is trying to cover-up.”

Got it, Your Holiness!

2. Proposition: It’s unethical to buy your dog’s food at the Dollar Store. Sunshine Mills Inc., an Alabama-based pet food company, issued a recall of its dog food this week due to the levels of Aflatoxin, a toxic mold by-product with  the potential of making dogs sick, according to a Food and Drug Administration news release. The products recalled are  FAMILY PET Meaty Cuts, Beef Chicken & Cheese Flavors;  HEARTLAND FARMS Grilled Favorites Beef Chicken & Cheese Flavor; and HAPPY LIFE Butcher’s Choice Dog Food. All are sold exclusively at Dollar General and Family Dollar stores.

I wonder if they sell baby food? Continue reading

Ann Althouse Meets Spuds: On Althouse Saturday, Two Canine Ethics Questions From The Blogger I’ve Been Meaning To Answer

Our rescue dog Spuds is gradually coming into his own now: after being starved by his previous owner, he finally is secure enough to leave some food in his dish and finish it later. He’s also finding his inner puppy at 2 and a half, which is both challenging for us as he gets stronger, and fun. I honestly don’t know how we went so long without a dog in our home after Rugby left us.

Ann Althouse, whose opinions have been unusually visible on Ethics Alarms today,  raised two dog-related ethics issues since we adopted Spuds last month, and since the dog left me panting by running me over hill and dale this morning as I allowed him to run off leash for the first time, addressing them now seems like a timely task.

(As I type this, Spuds is trying to climb onto my desk…)

1. On August 23, Althouse wrote,

Why don’t the people who think you should get a “rescue” dog when you want a dog also think you should get a “rescue” child when you want a child? In fact, isn’t the argument for adopting an older child with special needs even stronger than the argument for adopting an older dog that hasn’t had the advantages of a loving home and careful training? After all, many dogs are euthanized, but we strive to keep all our children alive even when they have terrible behavioral problems. And dogs are kept under the control of owners all their lives, while children become adults and are allowed to move about freely in the world even when they are quite dangerous. It’s therefore especially important to take great care of all of the children who have been born into this world.

People will say that they want their own biological offspring, but what makes you think what you have to give genetically is so wonderful? Dog breeders have much higher standards selecting which dogs to use for breeding. People just decide to use themselves. When you have your own biological children, you’re picking yourself because you are yourself. I’m not saying that’s wrong. In fact, I think it’s quite beautiful, making something out of your own body and the body of a person you love. So I’m beginning to see the answer to my question. When you have your own child, you’re not being a eugenicist, looking for the ideal baby. You’re accepting the randomness of who you happen to be and who you’ve found to love. The baby grows out of that is more like a rescue dog than a breeder’s dog.

I do think Althouse answered her own question., at least the human part. Having a child (or many) with someone you love is part of the human experience, helps bind couples and society together, and is a spiritual as well as a natural biological act. Of course, that description assumes a lot: that the child was planned, that the parents love each other, that they are married, and that there are no known toxic hereditary traits to avoid. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Wind-Up, 8/29/2020: Bias Makes You Stupid, Stupid Makes You Incompetent, Incompetence Makes You NBA Commissioner, And My New Dog Makes Me Happy…

“Good eeevening!”

Many TV series from the black and white era seem hopelessly dated today, almost unwatchable. The Westerns hold up well: “Gunsmoke” is still excellent. “The Rifleman” is smart, ethical, and terrific. Of the dramas, “Perry Mason” and “Peter Gunn” among others still work. “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “The Andy Griffith Show” at their best, which was often, are brilliant. “The Twilight Zone” is probably the most acclaimed show from that period, and I love many of the episodes, but the duds, and there were quite a few, seem even duddier today. To be honest, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” which ran from 1955 to 1965, may hold up the best of all.

I thought about the show this week, after the story came out about the woman who was delivered to the funeral home and about to be embalmed when they found out she was alive. Now THAT’s incompetence! But it also echoed a famous  “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” episode, in which Joseph Cotton played a man  involved in a bad traffic accident that leaves him so paralyzed–eyes open, mouth in a rictus of horror, as Stephen King likes to say—that when help arrives they think he’s really dead.  Cotton narrates his plight in real time, as we hear the desperate man’s thoughts. He tries to signal using his little finger, the only part that works, and the medics move him so he’s on top of his hand. They are zipping up the body bag when…well, you should see the episode.

Another classic is when a young Steve McQueen plays a compulsive gambler whose car breaks down in front of crazy Peter Lorre’s home. Lorre bets Steve he can’t light his lighter ten times in a row. If he can, Steve gets Lorre’s car. If the lighter fails before flame ten, Steve loses a finger. Lorre stands over McQueen’s tied down left hand holding a hatchet. You could not possibly guess the ending. 

1. “Well,” as Elaine would say to George on “Seinfeld,” “That’s because you’re an idiot.” In an interview with Mediaite, Don Lemon said that CNN is not biased. The CNN anchor said in part,

I don’t really understand how people will say CNN is biased and focuses on the negative of Trump.How is being factual, bias? How is taking evidence and someone’s own words and their own actions, and their own policies, and just presenting it back to the public on television or whatever medium, whatever journalistic medium you happen to be in, how is that bias? …

As head-exploding as that statement is, it is only remarkable in that it is such a guileless indication that someone prominent in a profession where objectivity is essential literally doesn’t know what bias is, and is incapable of recognizing it.

Bias makes you stupid, but it is also true that being stupid—and Lemon is a very stupid man—makes it easier to be biased. Continue reading