Saturday Ethics Respite Before Holiday Madness, 11/21/2020: The Justice, The Pope, The Scouts, And The Chickens

This is annually the last day before everything goes bananas in Marshall World. From now until New Years, its like the Nantucket Sleigh ride, not quite as dangerous, but not as much fun either. November 22 is the anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination, my generation’s 9-11. It changed everything. The 23rd is my anniversary, #40, which my son is sure to forget and my wife, for various reasons, doesn’t like to celebrate. Next is Thanksgiving, always depressing now because what was once a vibrant table of 7-15 relatives and friends is now at most four and a lot of wistfulness. My birthday comes on December 1, forever tainted because my perverse father chose the date to die on, and fate chose me to find his body. Then it’s the anxious run-up to the Christmas holidays, which always follows in the deadest period for ProEthics, meaning that we are counting pennies at the one time of the year we don’t want to be. (There is also the annual tree drama, since both my family and Grace’s were addicted to real, meticulously decorated trees, and we have a 20 foot ceiling which makes any tree less than 8 feet look silly. The thing takes about 2500 lights, which I have the responsibility of hanging, and then over a hundred mostly unique ornaments, beginning with the yarn Santa my mother made for Jack Sr. and Eleanor’s first scraggly tree in their new Cape Cod-style home in Arlington, Massachusetts. It was 1948. Getting our tree up and decorated to family standards takes about twelve hours and multiple First Degree prickle wounds. I can’t wait.

On the plus side, I’ll finally finish the Ethics Alarms Ethics Guide to “Miracle on 42nd Street”…

1. No, I’m not surprised that the Catholic Church sexual abuse cover-up went straight to the top. Are you? I’m not even disappointed. This is what organizations and institutions do: they protect themselves, and sacrifice the victims of their misconduct.

The Vatican this month released a report that showed Pope John Paul’s role blame in allowing the disgraced former prelate Theodore E. McCarrick to continue in the Church’s hierarchy.

The investigation, commissioned by Pope Francis, who canonized John Paul in 2014, reveals how the Pope ignored a wave of accusations of sexual abuse and pedophilia against McCarrick. Three popes participated in the cover-up, but one of them, John Paul, has been canonized. So Catholic saints are now accessories to rape.

A reversal of the canonization, which may never have happened, is unlikely, but it may slow the rush to canonize future popes.

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Nestlé Clarifies Its Priorities, Or, In The Alternative, Is Run By Incompetents And Morons

Red Ripper

Now that the election is (probably) settled, we can get back to the business of flagrant corporate virtue signaling, groveling to the trace-bullies, and submitting to the political correctness police. Joe Biden was right! His election can restore normalcy to the world!

Nestlé, which owns candy giant Allen’s, will rename the candy brand known as “Red Skins” because because, you know, there’s that racist potato. Its crack marketing department, after doing its due-diligence, checking trademarks, employing focus groups and doing all the things we expect of international corporations, announced that the new, child-friendly, politically correct name of the candy would be “Red Ripper.”

The Washington, D.C. football team opted to change its popular, harmless nickname from “Redskins” to the far catchier moniker “Washington Football Team” as a desperate effort to join the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck. You have to admit, “Washington Football Team” wouldn’t be a good name for a candy, but was it really a good idea for Nestlé to honor this guy…

-red-ripper-Andrei-Chikatilo

Andrei Chikatilo (that’s a more recent photo above the post) who sexually assaulted, murdered, and mutilated at least 52 women and children between 1978 and 1990 in Russia, the Ukraine, and Uzbek? He’s popularly known as “The Red Ripper”…

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The Damning Ethics Bombshell In “The Crown”

The Netflix series The Crown, which had its 4th season debut over the weekend, is a terrific historical soap-opera featuring some superb acting by its regulars and walk-ons. It is also historical fiction involving living people, notably Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and other members of Great Britain’s royal family. This is an ethically problematic area that Ethics Alarms has delved into before. There are legitimate ethical objections to a work of fiction misrepresenting the actions of any historical figure to that individual’s detriment and damage to his or her reputation. The ethical breach is worse when the fictional version of reality involves those who are still alive, and worse still, at least in the eyes of many Brits, when the dubious narratives put into vivid dramatic form involve the current head of state. This is an issue in part because such works of artistic license are too often accepted as fact by viewers who are too lazy to check Google, Wikipedia, or a history book.

“The Crown’s” scriptwriter, Peter Morgan, has said, “Sometimes you have to forsake accuracy, but you must never forsake truth,” whatever that means. The four seasons of his series have made sensational use of some genuinely disturbing chapters of British royal history that the monarchy would like to forget—this infamous cover-up of a Communist spy in Buckingham Palace is particularly stunning— but Morgan has also been justly criticized for making up events out of gossamer and parallel universe annals.

In the current season, for example, a lot of time is devoted to a rift between Prince Charles and Lord Mountbatten that Morgan admits never happened. The problem is that when complete fantasy is mixed in with real events, public understanding of what is fact and what is fiction becomes blurred. (See “Titanic” and “JFK”)

This may allow the Royals to wiggle out of the implications of the astounding scandal revealed in one of Season 4’s episodes, “The Hereditary Principle.” Some of the details are fudged—the horrible truth was not, as far as we know, uncovered by Princess Margaret (played by Helena Bonham Carter)—but it is true that five of her and Queen Elizabeth’s cousins were secretly committed to a mental hospital in 1941 and declared dead.

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A Case Study In Intimidation: The Self-Cancelling Children’s Book Author

childrens book illustration

This could have been a standard Ethics Dunce post, but I think it warrants more attention than that category might suggest.

One of the reasons it is fair to say that the President had the election stolen from him, or, as he likes to say (and shouldn’t) “rigged,” is that his supporters have been relentlessly intimidated and indoctrinated into attitudes designed to make them doubt their own judgment and values, especially those that aligned with the President’s policies. The tactics have ranged from threatening and even physically attacking citizens for wearing MAGA hats, to forced resignations of company officials and academics for the “crime” of endorsing Donald Trump’s actions in office.

Self-censorship triggered by fear of rejection and social isolation allowed Facebook, for example, to become a progressive echo chamber with minimal dissent. (I haven’t posted on anything related to the election for a month. It’s just a waste of time, and I end up losing respect for people I would like to keep as friends while having to defend views that should require no defense.) We are also seeing the related phenomenon of self-flagellation, self-shaming and self-cancelling of the sort demanded by the “Silence is violence” mobs. Like tortured and brain-washed North Korean prisoners of war,  we are ordered to denounce our great sins, such as engaging in “systemic racism,” enjoying “white privilege,” defying the political correctness police, and daring to support the President of the United States. When Black Lives Matter terrorists burst into restaurants and demand that diners raise their fists or hands in support of the Marxist, racist, anti-law enforcement group, the photographic evidence is that they do as ordered in hopes that they be left alone. What nation’s citizens from the past, say, 85 years ago do these timid souls remind you of?

Never mind. I digress…

Adam Pottle’s children’s book “The Most Awesome Character in the World” tells of Philomena, a young deaf girl whose  deafness  has made her vibrant and  imaginative person. (The author is also deaf.)  .

Pottle did not have approval over the illustrations his publisher chose to complete his book, and with the nudging of some negative reviews online, was horrified at the illustration above.  He concluded that the single drawing was “racist,” and Pottle asked that it be changed. The publisher, Reycraft Books, refused (the profit margin on any book is small, and this would guarantee a money-losing project), so Pottle took to social media and asked people not to buy his book and retailers not to stock it. Several retailers supported him.

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Saturday Ethics Aftermath, 11/14/2020: Art And Ethics

Brussels statue

1. Movie plot ethics. It’s clear that I have watched far too many movie and TV programs. I am now at the point where certain routine plot and directorial devices not only annoy me, they insult me. I regard these now as disrespectful and incompetent, and in that sense, unethical. I’m not talking about the cliches that still work with the young and uninitiated, like how the apparently dead/injured/ betrayed/ rejected or abandoned character you forgot about is always the one who shows up to save the day. (Among the reasons I love the “Magnificent Seven” so much is that when the one member of the team who had quit shows up to rescue his pals in the final gun battle, he is shot and killed immediately.) I’m referring to tropes that are self-evidently stupid and should seem so for any viewer over the age of 12.

For example,  if there’s a vicious, murdering psychopath chasing you, and you knock him cold with a steel pipe or incapacitate him in other ways, you don’t assume he/she/it is dead and leave the killer there to revive and slaughter you. You make sure the manic/monster is dead. Beat his head to a pulp; heck, cut it off.  This is often paired with another idiotic scene, the ill-timed hug. The world is going to blow in seconds, zombies are coming, crazies are beating down the door: save that passionate embrace for later, you morons! The same applies to long, emotional conversations in the midst of disasters when every second counts. Which is worse, I wonder: the long debate in “Armageddon” between Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck when they have literally seconds to save the Earth from an asteroid apocalypse, or the even longer argument among three fire fighters in the middle of a burning building?  That was in “Backdraft,” and I never quite felt the same about director Ron Howard after that.

2. Statue ethics again.  A new London  sculpture dedicated to Mary Wollstonecraft, the 18th-century writer and feminist hero (and the mother of Mary Shelley) is attracting much hate from art critics and the public.

MW memorial

The work by the British artist Maggi Hambling features a small, naked woman standing on a pillar silvered bronze, set on a cube of dark granite. The overall form is just larger than an average person, and sits well with the park: “Why is Mary naked?” critics are demanding. One Twitter user said: “I had no idea Mary had shredded abs.”

Morons. Read the statue’s base: “For Mary Wollstonecraft, 1759-1797.”  This is not intended to be a likeness of, but a tribute to,Wollstonecraft, whose most famous quotation from her “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,” published in 1792, appears on the other side of the base:  “I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.”

Before one starts criticizing anything, it is essential, fair and responsible to know what one is talking about. Every day I send to Spam Hell comments from Ethics Alarms critics who obviously didn’t read the post they are commenting on. I once went to great lengths to get a local theater critic fired who reviewed a show I directed after I saw her walk out before the second act.

On the other side, as a stage director who made being clear my prime directive, I hold the artist partially responsible when a large proportion of viewers don’t understand what is being communicated.

3. Then there is this:

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November 5, 2020: A Date Full Of Ethics, Good, Bad, And Complicated

November 5 is one of the ethically significant days in U.S. history and, as Willy Loman’s wife famously said, “Attention must be paid.” For example,

  • On this day in 1912, arguably the most destructive and unethical President in US history, Woodrow Wilson, was elected, thanks to Teddy Roosevelt’s inability to get his ego under control. Wilson, a racist, super-charged Jim Crow; after gaining re-election by boasting that he kept America out of the Great War, he entered the war anyway, destroying the lives of thousands of young men to no discernible purpose. When he was a key member of the “Great Powers” leaders to decided on the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, he permitted ruinously punitive conditions to be imposed on Germany, seeding the anger and nationalism that led to the Second World War. He did this so that his pet project, the League of Nations, would be included in the treaty, and then couldn’t even get the U.S. Congress to approve the idea or join the body itself. Meanwhile, Wilson, against the warnings of medical experts, sent thousands of infected soldiers to Europe, spreading the deadly flu that killed millions. If our current pandemic should be laid at the feet of China, and it should, the so-called Spanish Flu by rights should be remembered as “the American Flu,” or better yet, “Wilson’s Flu.”

As a final unethical flourish, Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke while trying to get the public behind his League of Nations, and allowed his wife and doctor to hide the fact, as they illegally ran the country from his bedside. Despite all this, historians lied to the public for decades, listing him as one of the greatest Presidents, when he may have been the worst.

  • In Minnesota on Novembber 5, 1862, more than 300 Santee Sioux were sentenced to hang for their part in an uprising that was probably justified by outrageous mistreatment. A month later, President Lincoln all but 39 of the death sentences and granted a last-minute reprieve to one more, but the other 38 were hanged on December 26 in a mass execution. Lincoln is often criticized for this, but in truth he had a very difficult utilitarian ethics conflict to solve, and, as I wrote here, did his usual good and ethical job. From the post:

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Wednesday Ethics Wind-Down / Thursday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/14-15/2020: The Unmasking Of News Media And Social Media Bias Continues…[UPDATED!]

phantom-of-the-opera

1. Notes from The Great Stupid. Here is a passage from a New York Times book review of “The Tragedy of Heterosexuality”:

In examining the pressure to partner with the opposite gender we find the extortions of capitalism, the misogyny of violence against women, the racist and xenophobic erasure of nonwhite families, and the homophobic hatreds that pervade so much of everyday life.”

Well, that and the biological imperative to continue the species. This brilliance is the work of Haley Mlotek,  a senior editor for SSENSE. Imagine: this is the quality of thought among our intellectual class.

No wonder the political class is so idiotic.

2. So this is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, is it? Nikole  Hannah-Jones, faced with a careful and accurate fisking of her fraudulent “1619 project” by Times columnist Bret Stephens (covered by Ethics Alarms here) did not try to rebut him, or make a civil, reasoned argument. She did what her entire generation of prominent African Americans have been conditioned to do, because it works so well. She accused Stephens and the Times of racism, with a dash of sexism for flavor. Hannah-Jones tweeted,

“In 1894, the NYT called Ida B. Wells a ‘slanderous and nasty-minded mulattress’ for daring to tell the truth about lynching. 100 years later she earned the Pulitzer Prize. These efforts to discredit my work simply put me in a long tradition of [black women] who failed to know their places.”

(It is satisfying to watch the Washington Post pounce on the Times over this fiasco. The rivalry between the papers is one of the few factors that ever pushed one of them into practicing actual journalism these days.)

As for Nikole Hannah-Jones, she is a child. Her tantrum was irresponsible and an embarrassment to the Times, and she should, by rights, be fired. She won’t be, because of black privilege, now enhanced in the wake of the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck. The embarrassment for the Times, however, will linger. This woman was given leave by the paper to create and promote a false historical narrative that was not designed to enlighten but to further a political agenda. In truth, the Times deserves the embarrassment even more than Hannah-Jones deserves to be fired.

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Theoretically Tuesday Ethics Nightcap, 10/6/2020 (All Right, Both Of These Should Be Individual Posts): The Impending Wauwatosa Riots And Reflections On The Distinction Between Racism And Being Treated As A Minority

Back to the Future

Why “theoretically”? This post was almost finished at about 6:15 pm yesterday. Then I heard a scream from my wife: Spuds, our delightful rescue dog of a month’s duration as a Marshall had somehow shed his lead and dashed off in the direction of the field behind the school near our house. I had to fumble for my shoes (I’m barefoot most of the day—keeps the gout away!) and a sweater, pause for a brief, clearly unfair “how could you let this happen?” exchange with Grace (that I paid for later,) and went running in the direction of my wife’s “He went thataway!” finger. The odds were high where Spuds would be. Of late he has frequently joined a small group of delightful dogs (there’s Snow, Star, Minnie, Hunter, and other occasional drop-ins) and their owners for a sundown romp. He was not scheduled for a playdate, but had decided, I assumed, to schedule one himself. Sure enough, there he was, wrestling with Snow the Samoyed. It only took me about twenty minutes to collar him: he knew he was in trouble.

After that adventure, I was beset by one vicissitude of life (my Dad’s phrase) after another, and never got back to the office….until now, at around 4:30 am Wednesday morning. Spuds woke me by rolling over onto my face, and I decided to finally get this post up.

1. Oh great: here comes another one. Wauwatosa, Wisconsin police reported that a 17-year-old fired a gun before he was fatally shot by a police officer in a Mall parking lot in February. There is no question that the shooting victim, Alvin Cole, had a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun and ammunition on his person when he was shot; they were recovered at the scene. The gun had been stolen. Police were summoned after a disturbance was reported inside the mall; Cole ran from police and according to the police report, fired first. Officer Joseph Mensah fired five shots at Cole, police said, killing him.

Tomorrow, that is, on the October seventh, the DA is  supposed to hand down the decision of whether to indict Mensah. Fortunately, Mensah is black, so the racist cop trope is a bit harder to maintain that in other recent incidents. But now, thanks to so much of the culture swallowing whole the false litany of Black Lives Matter,  the assumption is that any time a black man, and especially a teen, is shot in a confrontation with police, it’s an example police brutality. If Mensah was white, I assume the riots would have started already. The city is preemptively closing the schools and City Hall among other pre-riot measures. Once again, Facts Don’t Matter.

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The Vegan Parents: No, They Haven’t “Suffered Enough”

Review: “I don’t recommend this formula. It killed my baby.”

The vegan parents of a baby girl they condemned to a lifetime of brain damage pleaded guilty to negligently causing serious injury, thus avoiding jail time. They will  have to perform 12 months of community service, and will also have to undergo mental observation and treatment.

Talk about locking the barn door after the horse has escaped.

Having ignored all legitimate health advice regarding the nutritional needs of infants for a full year, the parents took their 12-month-old baby girl to an emergency clinic in August 2018 with her suffering from extreme malnutrition, open wounds, rashes, bruises, discoloration of her skin, internal bleeding and blood in her stool. Her condition, doctors said,  resembled those of babies being raised in countries during famines.

A week before, the father had sought the help of an online vegan website, writing,

“Hi my 1-year-old has stopped wanting to drink/eat and when she does, it’s not staying down or she starts to cough,” he reportedly wrote in the email. “What can I do to help her keep it down and allow her to drink? She doesn’t have a temp. She is on a fruit diet. Please help asap.”

The recommended solution: “stomach tea.” The parents had decided that they didn’t trust doctors after being told  told that their baby required more than the coconut water and health store powders that they began feeding her after she stopped breast-feeding. Continue reading

Discrimination, Diversity, And The Tattooed Teacher

Sylvain Helaine, 35, has, as you can see above, gone to great lengths to cover nearly every centimeter of his body with tattoos, including the whites of his eyes. He is, believe it or not, a kindergarten teacher, and Helaine is complaining that he has been told he cannot teach young children because some of them find his appearance nightmare-inducing. This, he feels, is discrimination.  Nonetheless, he is still teaching older children.

He says that he hopes his tattoos will teach his students about acceptance so that “maybe when they are adults they will be less racist and less homophobic and more open-minded.”

I’m sorry this issue is emerging in France and not in the U.S. It’s an excellent Ethics Incompleteness Principle case. When an individual deliberately mutilates himself like this, a school rejecting him as a teacher of young children, and indeed older children as well, is fair, reasonable and responsible. His “disability” is self-inflicted, his appearance teaches that narcissism and lack of respect for others is admirable, and he is quite possibly mentally ill. Continue reading