Category Archives: Around the World

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/20/17

1. It isn’t just the President’s boorish role modelling and the misbehavior and incivility of his opposition that makes me fear for the ethics alarms of our rising generation. The long-term results of people being able to isolate themselves from social contact—and the social skills and sensitivities that direct, face to face contact nurture—by constant attention to electronic devices is a matter for concern. Yesterday, I became aware of another danger.

I heard, on the new Sirius-XM Beatles channel, a recording of Paul McCartney singing my favorite song from “Guys and Dolls,” a sweet ballad sung in the musical by an elderly father to his grown daughter during her romantic crisis.

McCartney has a foot in two cultures and always has. As much as a rock and pop innovator as he was, Paul was also steeped in the traditional love songs of his parent’s generation, including Broadway. Today both of McCartney’s feet are planted where nobody under the age of 30 is likely to tread, and that is natural. Yet it seems that popular music is increasingly devoid of tenderness, empathy and compassion. Hip-Hop, particularly, seems immune from being able to express a sentiment like that in Frank Loesser’s nearly  70-year-old song that Paul McCartney obviously understands. I wonder, and worry. how many of today’s young Americans understand it, or will grow up with the capacity to do so.

Here’s Bing crooning the same song…

You know I love ya, Bing, but the Moptop wins this round.

2. There was some discussion on a thread here yesterday about the ethics of interests outside the state putting so much money into Georgia’s 6th congressional district’s special election. The House was designed to give communities a say in the national government, so to the extent that a local election is warped by interests outside the community—the Democrat, Jon Ossoff, is a carpetbagger who doesn’t live in the district—it’s a violation of the spirit of the Constitution and the ideal of American democracy. Some have even made an analogy to foreign governments interfering in U.S. elections. On the other hand, all this outside “interference” consists of are words, ads, and marketing. The district’s residents still are the ones who vote. If they are so easily swayed by slick ads and robocalls, that’s their responsibility. (There may even be a backlash.) Continue reading

53 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Rights

Let Us Not Allow Pity And Compassion To Obscure The Ethics Lesson Of The Otto Wambier Tragedy

Young Otto Warmbier  is back from North Korea, where he had been a prisoner since 2015. The a 22-year-old University of Virginia student was finally returned from the Communist dictatorship in a coma, suffering from “extensive loss of brain tissue in all regions of his brain.” Doctors believe he had sustained his catastrophic brain injury sometime before April 2016.

His heartbroken parents are condemning North Korea and praising the Trump administration, which finally obtained his release. Someone, however, needs to make the crucial point that Otto’s fate was directly due to his own recklessness and bad judgment in engaging in conduct that frequently results in disaster, as well as international tensions and needless cost to U.S. taxpayers.

Otto signed up for a five-day tour of North Korea with  Young Pioneer Tours,  a Chinese company that advertises “budget travel to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from.” There is a good reason your mother—and your father, and the U.S. State Department—would rather you stayed away from North Korea. The place is a hell-hole run by a power-mad lunatic, and it is not safe. Nobody put a gun to Otto Warmbier’s head and kidnapped him: he decided on his own to defy his government’s warnings, recent history and the sense god gave puppies to deliberately place himself in harm’s way, knowing that many, many similarly misguided citizens have become prisoners, propaganda tools,  pawns or worse because they willfully placed themselves in similar peril as the people who decide to climb into tiger or lion enclosures at zoos.

Warmbier left on his “tour” in December , 2015. He would have had a chance to see “Bridge of Spies” by then: I wonder if he did. You will recall that the history-based plot involved am American student named Fred Pryor, who is one now a renowned comparative economists. Then, however, he was a graduate student in West Berlin who decided it would be a dandy idea to pass through the half-completed Berlin Wall in August, 1961 to attend a lecture and give a copy of his dissertation  to an East Berlin economics professor.  We know he’s a smart guy, but one would think that the fact that the East German government was in the process of sealing in its citizens as prisoners might have alerted him that this was not the time to go visiting.

Sure enough, Pryor was arrested, thrown in jail, and became a bargaining chip in the U-2/Gary Powers/Rudolph Abel negotiations. Had Otto Warmbier seen the film (which Pryor says misrepresents his part of the story), I would think he would  have been a bit more resistant to a sales pitch that said, “This is a great time to visit beautiful North Korea!” Indeed, being 22, presumably literate and of sound mind,  he should have had the knowledge and sense of self-preservation to resist that sales pitch even  if he had never seen any movie in his whole life. Continue reading

44 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/9/17

1. News Item: “More than 130 imams and Muslim religious leaders in the United Kingdom have said they will refuse to perform funeral prayers for the Manchester and London terrorists as a rebuke to the “dastardly cowardice” of the “vile murderers.” Notes Ethics Alarms issue scout Fred, “This time it’s religious institutions refusing [to provide a service based on religious/political beliefs and conduct], and it’s based on the actions of the people they’re refusing to pray for or bury. On the other hand, anyone born in Scotland is entitled to the government’s services even if he’s No True Scotsman. By analogy, is it right for them to deny funerals to Muslims, even the most egregiously sinful?

I’d have to do more research on Islam than I have time for right now to address that question, but it’s an interesting one.

2.  As a follow-up to New Orleans’ lamentable decision to remove statues honoring Confederate figures (discussed on Ethics Alarms here), The Atlantic published an exhaustive brief against the “myth” that Robert E. Lee was worthy of his reputation as a noble human being who fought for Virginia out of loyalty to his “country,” but who deplored slavery. I have criticized the hero-worship of Lee as well, but much of what is in Adam Serwer’s article was completely unknown to me. If accurate, it is horrifying. Just one example:

“Lee’s cruelty as a slavemaster was not confined to physical punishment. In Reading the Man, the historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor’s portrait of Lee through his writings, Pryor writes that “Lee ruptured the Washington and Custis tradition of respecting slave families,” by hiring them off to other plantations, and that “by 1860 he had broken up every family but one on the estate, some of whom had been together since Mount Vernon days.” The separation of slave families was one of the most unfathomably devastating aspects of slavery, and Pryor wrote that Lee’s slaves regarded him as “the worst man I ever see.”

3. I’ll discuss the Comey testimony in detail later, but I came close to writing about the unseemly and self-indicting display of gleeful anticipation by much of the news media (and “the resistance,” of course) over what they were just certain would be the smoking gun to get President Trump impeached. CNN had a countdown, second by second, on-screen the whole previous day, like Christmas was coming. Ann Althouse nicely summed up how foolish and ugly this was: Continue reading

49 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Education, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Religion and Philosophy

Comment Of The Day: “Facebook User Ethics : Don’t Spread Panic, And Don’t Make Your Friends As Ignorant As You Are”

The post on Facebook hysteria over the U.S.’s decision to withdraw from the largely symbolic Paris climate change accords has drawn perplexing commentary. The post did not assert a position on climate change, nor did it defend the reasons given for the withdrawal.  The post simply stated that it was irresponsible and dishonest to claim dire consequences of the decision when the accord itself is almost entirely symbolic, requires nothing, in the sense that there are no enforcement mechanisms, and can’t possibly carry the existential weight that social media, politicians, pundits and activists are claiming. It is all appeal to emotion and ignorance.

And it is. Especially since most of the social media hysterics haven’t read the accord and are illiterate regarding climate science.

And they are.

I guess I knew that both climate change flacks and those suspicious of them would shift gears into the messy issue itself and its controversial research and models. The dreaded (and misleading) “97% of all scientists” stat even made its appearance, although, again, it was irrelevant to the post.

Finally, Zoltar Speaks!, Popeye-like, declared that “I ain’t gonna take it, ’cause I can’t take no more!” after a side debate over whether the infamous hacked e-mails among climate-change researchers “proved” that there was a conspiracy to distort the science on climate change (no,  they prove that the scholarly research community members are not as objective and independent as they are professionally obligated to be, and that this makes their conclusions inherently untrustworthy). He produced an epic essay in response, so long and detailed that he posted it on a satellite blog. With his permission, I am posting it in it’s entirety here.

Here is the Zoltar Speaks! Comment of the Day on the post, “Facebook User Ethics : Don’t Spread Panic, And Don’t Make Your Friends As Ignorant As You Are” … Continue reading

74 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, History, Journalism & Media, Professions, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

Ethics Hero: London Terror Attack Witness Richard Angell

Richard Angell, the director of a British Labour Party think tank called Progress,  was dining with friends at the Arabica Bar and Kitchen at London’s  Borough Market when he witnessed Saturday’s terrorist attack on London Bridge, like everyone else, he was focused on the unfolding scene, which he described in detail to Buzzfeed.

Unlike everyone else, Angell returned to the establishment, now closed indefinitely,  on Sunday morning so he could pay his tab and tip the staff.

“I’ve got to pay my bill. Also, we haven’t given the staff a tip and they looked out for us when they should have been helping themselves. It was lovely food and I want the rest of my main course,” he said.

He was displaying exemplary ethics. Yes, perhaps he was grandstanding a bit too: I’m not sure how this came to be publicized. I’m hoping that the restaurant owners reported what was meant to be an example of someone quietly doing the right thing when nobody was insisting on it. In fact, that’s what I’m going to believe what happened. Whatever his motives, Angell did the right thing. He deserves the benefit of the doubt, and I need an Ethics Hero.

20 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes

The President’s London Terror Tweets

I’ve GOT it! Make Trump move to the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center! Problem Solved!

Flat learning curve. That’s really the most alarming thing about President Trump’s tweet barrage over the weekend, as he responded stupidly, irresponsibly and offensively to the terror attack in London. It proved that he hasn’t learned a thing, despite repeated Twitter-assisted catastrophes that in the past have turned potential victories into embarrassments, mere mistakes into disasters, and whimsy into large clubs for his enemies to beat him bloody with. How could he not be wary when he considers a tweet? What happened to “Once burned, twice shy?” How about 6,348 times burned? How analytical do you have to be to think, after hitting yourself in the head squarely with a 2 X 4 and realizing that it is permanently dented (the head, not the board), “Wow! That hurt! I sure don’t want to do that again!”?

And yet here we are.

I can’t say I’m surprised, and that itself is depressing. But I’ve dealt with enough alcoholics in my life who I have asked, following particularly devastating relapses that placed everything they cared about (or should have cared about) in jeopardy, “Why would you do that, after all you have been through?”…and watched them shrug, shake their heads, and say, in various words, “I can’t explain it, and you’ll never understand.”

After the two attacks on Saturday, the President’s tweets weren’t all terrible. The second one read, “Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the U. K., we will be there – WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!” Then, like a binge drinker out of rehab who takes a small sip of chablis at a reception, POTUS was on a Twitter bender—a Twender. He began exploiting the tragedy to lobby for his stalled travel ban. He blamed the attacks on political correctness. He mocked the Mayor of London. He somehow saw the episode as revealing the hypocrisy of gun control advocates. Metaphorically, the President of the United States was reeling and staggering all over the street, singing “Barnacle Bill,” stopping traffic and vomiting on pedestrians. Continue reading

31 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership, Professions, Social Media, Unethical Tweet, Workplace

Facebook User Ethics : Don’t Spread Panic, And Don’t Make Your Friends As Ignorant As You Are

The eruptions of frantic doomsaying and apocalyptic fantasies on Facebook following President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would no longer consider itself a party to the Paris accord on climate change. Seldom have I been more tempted to write, “Have you taken leave of your senses?” on so many of my friends’ walls. The statements are hyperbolic in the extreme. “I am glad that I won’t be alive, but fear for my children and grandchildren, when the effects of this catastrophic decision arrive!” wrote one hysteric. “What can we do to save the earth?” wrote another, in all caps. Naturally there were links to similarly over-heated blog posts and op-eds, and the routine amount of Trump vilification and hate. “Is he trying to destroy us all?” wrote one usually rational acquaintance who appears to be headed for a padded room and a guardian ad litem. 

These people are all circulating among similarly oriented citizens increasingly emotional outcries unhinged to facts or reality, and making each other stressed, anxious and miserable. This is the cyber-equivalent of running around in a crowd screaming that something horrible is about to happen. What happens when you do that? Reason vanishes, fight or flight instincts take over, and people get hurt. These Facebook posts, and similar messages on other social media platforms, are at best shameless virtue-signalling–-I care about the environment! I’m a believer in everything I’m told that scientists are saying even though I really don’t understand anything about it! I hate Donald Trump like every other decent human being! Love me!-–and at worst, they are societal napalm.

Both President Obama’s 2016 signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change and President Trump’s withdrawal from that agreement had minimal policy impact, if any.  The  advocates are arguing about symbolism as if it were substance.  Is it possible that the people writing that Trump has destroyed the future while cackling maniacally in his White House lair know how non-substantive, unspecific, self-defining, voluntary and unenforceable the thing is?  I have to assume they have not, in which case  everyone is reading climate change doomsday predictions from friends who they trust and assume they know what they are talking about, when, in fact, they don’t. Continue reading

91 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Facebook, Government & Politics, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology, Social Media, U.S. Society