Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/10/2021: “Help! Every Ethics Story I Find Makes Me Want To Jump Into My Shredder!”

Remember that Ethics Alarms is dependent on its many scouts, tipsters, fans and friends to keep the content varied and enlightening. As it is I can’t keep up, and having to engage in principled boycotts of unethical news sources (CNN, MSNBC, NPR, Fox News, ESPN, ABC and more) has made research more difficult, since even these blighters of the culture occasionally have something useful to report. Positive stories, those that tell me that society may be heading into the light rather than slithering into the darkness, have been in especially short supply lately, or if they have not, I’m not seeing them.

Speaking of seeing, maybe one reason I am in a rotten mood is that my wife decided that the perfect way to begin the week was by watching the 2008 Canadian film “Blindness,” a smug, would-be ethics film in which much of the world is suddenly rendered sightless by a mysterious pandemic. The movie’s villain is a blind man with a gun, who declares himself “king;” Julianne Moore plays an ophthalmologist’s wife who pretends to be blind so she can stay with her sightless husband as the stricken are rounded up by the government; and the plot has developments like this (from the Wikipedia plot summary):

“A man with a handgun appoints himself “king” of his ward, and takes control of the food deliveries, first demanding the other wards’ valuables, and then for the women to have sex with their men. In an effort to obtain necessities, several women reluctantly submit to being raped. One of the women is killed by her assailant, and the doctor’s wife retaliates, killing the “king” with a pair of scissors. In the ensuing chaos, the building catches fire, with many inmates dying. The survivors who escape the building discover that the guards have abandoned their posts, and they venture out into the city. Society has collapsed, with the city’s population reduced to an aimless, zombie-like struggle to survive.”

Amusingly and predictably, the movie was attacked by organizations representing the blind.

It made me wish I was blind while I was watching it.

1. Wow…the New York Times really is sticking with the debunked “1619 Project” narrative! Nick Rojas writes this in a Times news story:

The Three-Fifths Compromise, an agreement reached during the negotiations in 1787 to create the United States Constitution, found that, for the purposes of representation and taxation, only three-fifths of a state’s enslaved people would be counted toward its total population. It is regarded as one of the most racist deals among the states during the country’s founding.

The Three-Fifths Compromise was not racist, and it is only notorious to the historically ignorant and those who have deliberately misrepresented the facts to advance Critical Race Theory. Giving full representation to slaves in the Southern states would have vastly increased the slave states’ power, and made it more difficult to keep slavery from spreading. Historians are mostly in agreement that the compromise was ultimately in the long-term interests of black Americans and began the process leading to emancipation.

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Stop Making Me Defend Stacey Abrams!

tucker-stacey-abrams

Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson thought it would be cute last night to have his senior producer “perform a dramatic reading of the most titillating moments” from one of the pulpy romance novels Georgia politician Stacey Abrams wrote before she started running for office. The excerpt was objectively awful, but that’s irrelevant: Carlson’s stunt was an unethical cheap shot, and the equivalent of an ad hominem attack. Abrams’ bad prose tell us nothing about the validity of her political positions, and bringing them into the discussion is designed to mislead.

I hate this tactic, and I have condemned it before regardless of who was the target and who was the slime artist. Minnesota Republicans tried to discredit Al Franken when he was first running for U.S. Senate by digging up a sexually-provocative humorous piece he had written for “Playboy”—you know, the epitome of evil—eight years before when he was a full-time comedy writer. “When Republicans do things like this,” I wrote on the old Ethics Scoreboard, “they insult voters by assuming that they are narrow-minded and illiterate, celebrate humorlessness, and willfully blur the difference between entertainment and public policy.”

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Weekend Ethics Frolics, 5/9/2021: Birthing Persons Day Edition

Frolicking

Surely you have heard by now that a few addled Democrats in Congress have begun using the hilarious term “birthing people” to describe mothers. This is in order to pander to the trans population, because the special problems of this tiny minority are worth turning the entire culture inside out and upside down. So far it’s three certifiably silly people on the Hill whose credentials as ethics dunces are unusually strong, even for Congressional Democrats (the links go to signature significance EA posts: Senator Cory “Spartacus” Booker , certifiable Rep. Ayanna Pressley, previously heard arguing that “girls” have a right to attack other girls with knives “uninterupted”, and the spectacularly unqualified Rep. Cori Bush, who was supposedly on Biden’s short list for VP, which is terrifying—yes, even more terrifying than Kamala Harris:

birthing person tweet 1Birthing person 2

This is fascinating from an ethics perspective, specifically the slippery slope. The Great Stupid that has descended over the land, with special focus on progressives, has led to vocal support for so many ridiculous ideas—defunding the police, paying people more to stay out of work than to have jobs, open boarders, electing Joe Biden, packing the Supreme Court, and more—that the once fairly bold line between “progressive” and “batshit crazy” appears to have been erased. At some point, and maybe “birthing people” is it, even left-tilting Americans will wake up and say “Whoa! These are wackos!”

And indeed they are.

1. Also from the “What an idiot!” files…On baseball and Giants’ Hall of Fame immortal Willie Mays’ 90th birthday last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Twitter account posted a picture of Willie McCovey. Willie Mays is a national icon, probably the greatest African-American baseball player of all-time, and any American, especially any American elected official, who does not know what he looks like is too ignorant of America’s culture and history to serve competently. (I’m only exaggerating a little.) Not only is this an insult to the Say Hey Kid (What does that nickname mean, Nancy? Huh? Come on, you represent San Francisco!), it’s the kind of “they all look the same to me!” mistake that white officials are typically savaged for, as when Senator Rubio mixed up Rep. John Lewis with Rep. Elijah Cummings. At least Cummings and Lewis looked a little bit alike. McCovey, who was also a Hall of Fame slugger and who also played for the Giants,

Willie McCovey Holding Baseball Bat

looked nothing like Willy Mays…

Willie-Mays-US-2155529

…and to make the distinction easy for baseball ignoramuses, Willie McCovey is DEAD.

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From The “Just Tell Me The Rules” Files: Are Alvin And The Chipmunks Racist?

The song you hear above was the brainchild of Rostom Sipan “Ross” Bagdasarian, a cousin of author and playwright William Saroyan. He performed under the stage name of Dave Seville, and using that name, had a novelty hit in 1958 with “I Told the Witch Doctor.” The song introduced the gimmick of speeding up a human voice to sound high pitched and funny, as with helium. The singing “witch doctor” (it was, of course, “Seville” himself) was returned to vinyl later in the same year as a chipmunk, actually three chipmunks, in a Christmas novelty song, “Christmas Don’t Be Late.” That hit, in turn, spawned sequels, eventually an animated TV series, and finally, two movies.

By current woke standards, having a “witch doctor”—generally thought of as a black member of a primitive African tribe—sounding silly and singing gibberish like “Ooh ee ooh ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang, ooh ee ooh ah ah ting tang walla walla bang bang” is racially demeaning (rather than what uninfected people would call “silly and harmless”) bordering on racist.

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From The Increasingly Fantastic Annals Of The Great Stupid: Norton And The Philip Roth Biography

One more time I have to remark, “I don’t understand this at all.”

Last week, publisher W.W. Norton sent a memo to its staff announcing that it will permanently take Blake Bailey’s biography of Philip Roth out of print, as a result of allegations that Bailey sexually assaulted multiple women and also behaved inappropriately toward his students when he was an eighth grade English teacher.

If that sentence makes sense to you, The Big Stupid has you by the brain stem.

“Norton is permanently putting out of print our editions of ‘Philip Roth: The Biography’ …Mr. Bailey will be free to seek publication elsewhere if he chooses,” the email said in part, and was signed by Norton’s president, Julia A. Reidhead. Reidhead later said that Norton would make a donation in the amount of the advance it paid to Bailey in a mid-six-figure book deal to organizations that support sexual assault survivors and victims of sexual harassment.

What’s the theory here? That the book is eeeevil? The late Philip Roth did nothing to justify banning his book, and besides, since when did we ban autobiographies of bad people anyway? Reviews of the biography were mostly positive: in The New York Times Book Review, novelist Cynthia Ozick called it “a narrative masterwork both of wholeness and particularity, of crises wedded to character, of character erupting into insight, insight into desire, and desire into destiny.” The Washington Post described it as “a colorful, confident and uncompromising biographical triumph.” The book quickly landed on the New York Times best-seller list.

As for Bailey, he is an acclaimed literary biographer of writers like Richard Yates, John Cheever and Charles Jackson, and the author of a memoir of his own. He received the Guggenheim Fellowship and was a Pulitzer finalist for his Cheever biography. Philip Roth handpicked Bailey to write his biography after meeting with him in 2012.

In addition, the allegations against Bailey have nothing to do with his profession as a writer or his professional output. It’s not as if he was running for President and was accused by a former staffer of raping her while he was serving as a U.S. Senator. More importantly, the allegations are unproven and untested. Bailey denies them, saying in a statement, “I can assure you I have never had non-consensual sex of any kind, with anybody, ever, and if it comes to a point I shall vigorously defend my reputation and livelihood.”

Suzanne Nossel, the chief executive of the writers organization PEN America said that Norton’s action risked establishing a new, troubling norm that could narrow the range of ideas and information available to readers.

Gee, ya think?

“Bringing out a book should signify that a publisher believes there is something edifying, worthwhile or elucidating contained in the volume,” Nossel said. “It should not be construed as an endorsement of the ideas or narrative purveyed, nor of the personal conduct of the author.”

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Ellen DeGeneris Meets The Cognitive Dissonance Scale

Ellen DeGeneres’s brand and reputation have always been built on the illusion that she was nice. She was called the “Be Kind” Lady. Then, last July, BuzzFeed reported that several of her popular daytime talk show’s former and current staff members said they had been subjected to “racism, fear and intimidation” on the set. Other staff members said producers had sexually harassed them. Warner Bros. investigated the complaints and concluded that there were major problems. Three of the show’s producers were fired. When DeGeneres returned from the show’s summer hiatus to open its 18th season, she began with a vague and deeply unsatisfying apology. “I learned that things happen here that never should have happened,” she said in part. “I take that very seriously. And I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected.”

Well wait a minute: whose name is on the title card? Who believes that Ellen DeGeneres had no idea what was going on in the management of the Ellen DeGeneres show? How is that even possible? And if it is possible, it’s still unforgivable. She is accountable.

There were also increasingly frequent accounts suggesting that Ellen herself wasn’t so nice. (I am reminded of my late night conversation with the late Broadway choreographer Thommie Walsh, who said, “You have to remember, Jack, that virtually all star performers are horrible people.”) Among the disturbing allegations was the claim that staff on DeGeneres’ show were instructed not to talk to her. She supposedly tried to get a waitress fired who chipped one of Ellen’s nail. There were leaks that she expressed contempt for her audience behind the scenes.

Sometimes the public surprises me: after all, it voted for Joe Biden to be President, and Joe has a completely phony nice-guy image that has been exposed again and again as a cynical facade. Yet in Ellen’s case, her hypocrisy was rejected. “Ellen,” the ratings companies report, has lost more than a million viewers since September, averaging 1.5 million viewers over the last six months, down from 2.6 million in the same period last year.

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Undercovers Ethics, 4/27/21

Well, here I am trying to write a post in bed. This never works our well, but it’s this or nothing. I have clients waiting, my dog is mad at me for not walking him on a gorgeous day, and I wish I could just soldier through it all. I can’t, though, and feel like an utter failure. I’ve in pain in more than one location, a lower back strain being the latest addition, I’m in the midst of an allergy attack, and all the drugs have made me nauseous and dizzy. But ethics waits for no one, and it certainly isn’t going to wait for the likes of me.

1. This is what “systemic racism” propaganda produces…an op-ed by a civil engineering student from the University of California, Los Angeles, written for the the College Fix documents some of his discussion with the woke-infected on campus. He says he recently took part in an online debate about “systemic racism” during which some UCLA students complained that automatic soap dispensers are racist. One student said the dispensers “don’t see her hands” because of her dark skin. Another student claimed that the dispensers force “black and brown” people to show their palms, “the only light areas of the skin,” before the liquid soap comes out.

Both students are delusional, but this is how the current “racist America all the time everywhere” makes gullible and insecure blacks paranoid and miserable.

2. Blame Mitch McConnell for the “court packing” rationalizations. Last week, a Georgetown law student—poor bastard— confronted Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) when he accused Democrats of making a “power grab.””You didn’t see Republicans, when we had control of the Senate, try to rig the game. You didn’t see us try to pack the court,” he said. The law student protested, “How is court packing any different than what the Republicans did in 2016 and 2020?”

“We filled vacancies, that’s not packing the court,” Cruz insisted, as the law student insisted there was no difference between what Republicans refusing to consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to replace Justice Scalia, did and what Democrats are now trying to do by expanding the court. “They’re doing something that’s allowed under the Constitution,” the student countered. “It’s not an obstruction to the rule of law if it’s in the law.”

Ugh. Mitch McConnell’s unethical—not illegal—gambit to bury the Garland nomination under a contrived election year rule may have worked, but Republicans will be suffering for it for generations—and they deserve to. No, what the GOP did wasn’t “court packing,” which has had a specific, well-understood meaning since FDR tried it. But the laws student is already adept at the progressive craft of redefining words and concepts to meet whatever goal they are seeking to justify at the moment.

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Comment Of The Day: “Monday Ethics Meander, 4/26/2021: Oscar, Rachel, Ma’Khia And The ACLU” (Item #4: The Oscars)

 

I announced in a post today that I would no longer devote essays to the Academy Awards Show because it no longer has the cultural importance and influence to make it important, nor the integrity to make discussing its ethical issues worth the time to write about. I may not have been clear that this kills me. The annual Oscar broadcast was a big event in my family, and we almost always had seen all of the nominated films and performances. My dad, as a veteran, had privileges at Hanscom Air Base not far from Arlington, Mass., and at the movie theater on the base showed movies before general release. Tickets cost 25 cents for kids, 50 cents for adults, and there would be 5-6 different movies every week. It wasn’t unusual for the Marshalls to see three new films in some weeks. I used to care who won the Oscars: when John Wayne won Best Actor for “True Grit,” which my friends from high school and college knew I loved and had seen many times, I got phone calls from all over the country.

But in those days, political grandstanding was for acknowledged jerks like Marlon Brando: the Oscars were managed as a unifying feature of society, not a divisive one, as they should be. the hosts were middle-of-the road types like Johnny Carson and Bob Hope; the past was honored and respected. No doubt about it, the show and the industry was all-white, but that, like the rest of the nation, was changing. Destroying something in order to save it is almost always unethical, but that’s what they did to the Academy Awards, like so many other institutions. Most of them I don’t miss. I miss the Academy Awards, but they are officially toast, and the Academy did it to itself, with a big assist from Hollywood.

But A.M. Golden did an excellent job in his overview today after watching the Oscars so I wouldn’t have to. Here is his Comment of the Day on the Oscars section in Monday Ethics Meander, 4/26/2021: Oscar, Rachel, Ma’Khia And The ACLU“:

Prologue: Well, the only part of the Oscars I ever watch is the “In Memoriam” segment the day after so I can see who they left off. This year’s snubs:

David Prowse – Darth Vader
Jeremy Bulloch – Boba Fett
John Saxon – primarily known for TV but also appeared in a number of films.
Kenny Rogers – musician, yes, but starred in a movie.
Honor Blackman – Bond girl
Geno Silva
Annie Ross
Mac Davis – musician, again, but also starred in a movie
Stuart Whitman – primarily known for TV, but appeared in “The Longest Day” and “The Comancheros” with John Wayne.
Diana Serra Cary a.k.a. “Baby Peggy” –

They included late African-American actress Ja’Net Dubois, who was best-known as wacky neighbor Willona Woods in the tv sitcom “Good Times”, whose film work appears to be relatively insignificant. She died several days after last year’s Oscar telecast and wouldn’t have been included then anyway, but including her at all in the Oscar In Memoriam seems odd, especially in comparison to some of the above exclusions who had more prominent roles on film.

It’s not unusual for the Oscars (or the Emmys, for that matter) to pad their “In Memoriam” segments with performers who were best known for music or sports. I think the Oscars included Steve Jobs one year.

But I couldn’t shake the notion that they stuck Ja’Net in there to make sure there were some African-Americans in there. Kind of like the ridiculous extreme of Ricky Gervais’ 2020 Golden Globes joke about him refusing to allow an “In Memoriam” segment there because there wasn’t enough diversity in the people who died.

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Ethical Quote Of The Day: Tyler Perry

“Stand in the middle, because that’s where healing happens.That’s where conversation happens. That’s where change happens. It happens in the middle So anyone who wants to meet me in the middle, to refuse hate, to refuse blanket judgment, and to help lift someone’s feet off the ground, this one is for you, too.”

—Tyler Perry, African-American playwright, screenwriter, producer, director and actor, in his acceptance speech for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at last night’s Academy Awards

Perry was one of the few attendees at last night’s Oscars who could make such a contrarian speech without looking like a hypocrite. He has always been defiantly politically incorrect in his plays and screenplays, which critics frequently attack on the grounds that he employs negative black stereotypes. (What Perry has proved is that African -Americans can laugh at themselves, at least as long as the satirist is the right skin-shade.) He is also extraordinarily wealthy and powerful within the industry, and doesn’t have to signal his virtue to anyone. At another point in his speech, Perry said,

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Assorted Ethics Items, 4/23/2021: I Can’t Talk Or Eat, But I Can Still Write. And Think, Sort Of…[Finally Corrected!]

Well, THAT was certainly unpleasant…made a root canal seem like the warm embrace of a succubus by comparison…

1. An alternate juror in the Chauvin trial gave an interview. She seems like a pretty rational sort, but two comments support the contention that the trial was not a fair one:

  • “I did tell them that I saw the settlement run across the bottom of the screen one day…I was not surprised there was a settlement, but I was surprised they announced it beforehand.” She also said she understood that civil trial and criminal trial standards were different, but the fact that the city essentially announced that its police were liable for Floyd’s death cut the legs out from under Chauvin’s defense.
  • “I did not want to go through rioting and destruction again and I was concerned about people coming to my house if they were not happy with the verdict.” If any jurors feel that way, it’s not a fair trial.

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