Ethics Dispatches From The Sick Ward, 5/26/2020: Arg! Yechh!

Ugh.

I was supposed to be all better yesterday, and instead I took  a step back.

Sorry.

That photo above is from the last scene in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” after all of the comedians and Spencer Tracy have ended up in the hospital with horrible injuries following  their self-created disaster on an out-of-control fire truck ladder at the supposedly hilarious climax of the Sixties epic chase comedy. The film-makers were very creative in their uses of bandages, casts and traction, but even as a kid, I was struck by how it just isn’t possible to make injuries seem very funny.

1. Since everyone is watching as much TV now as I usually watch routinely, I’ll mention this: have you noticed that several commercials show parents playing pirates with their kids? Did you ever play pirates with your parents? Have you ever seen anyone play at being pirates?

The reason this is being forced on the culture as a thing is that political correctness has robbed kids of almost all fantasy outlets, so someone decided that pirates were safe and inoffensive–especially since Disney had to remove the rapey stuff from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” rides. (Pirates are actually murderous thieves, today as always; what a weird safe haven to choose!)

In “Parasite,” Oscar’s Best Picture last year, the little South Korean son of the wealthy family was obsessed with playing “Indians,” complete with feathered headdress and arrows. I wonder if this feature would have disqualified an American film for cultural insensitivity. American kids can’t be cowboys anymore, since they were genocidal; soldiers are taboo, as are cops and robbers; even space invaders are verboten, since they involve guns. As my friends and I discovered long ago, you can try to play superheroes but they don’t leave you much to work with. Sword and sorcery games, like acting out fairy tales, trip on too many anti-feminist stereotypes.

I wonder what the next generation will turn out to be like, absent any symbolic fantasy villains and conflict to instruct their play. Pirates are not the answer, and again, I doubt any kids are playing pirates like the imaginary families in Bounty commercials. The iconic pirate novel “Treasure Island,” once a standard assignment in grade school, has been purged from the canon—too male, or something.  (It’s still a terrific book.) The other classic with pirates is “Peter Pan,” and that one is in the process of being scrubbed and gender-twisted beyond recognition. There still are Johnny Depp’s weird pirate movies, I guess, though his drunken, bumbling pirate slob anti-hero seems unlikely to inspire normal kids into flights of fantasy.

Our culture just is not in competent hands, and what the end result will be, nobody knows.

2. I’m not sure if this is unethical, exactly, but something’s definitely wrong… Continue reading

Ethics Dispatch from The Sick Ward, Memorial Day Edition

Hi.

I won’t say I’m back, because I thought I was over the hump two days ago, and that proved to be a rash miscalculation. But on this, one of many days during the year when I am prompted to remember my father, Major Jack A. Marshall, Sr., I need to make a special effort to ring in, as he would have.  As I have mentioned before, Dad never let illness or injury keep him sidelined for long. It was a matter of honor for him.

1.  Front Page Ethics: When I was preparing to write yesterday’s warm-up, this was going to be the first item…

The Times has tried to come up with every way possible to hype the Wuhan virus outbreak, and, simultaneously, the economic consequences of battling it, to cause as much alarm, fear and panic as possible. I’ve mentioned a few of the stunts, like spiking red graphs that extend beyond the margins of the paper. Those who have  died from the virus have received special treatment, with profiles and photos in the paper, because dying of this cause obviously makes a citizen more important than someone who is killed in a robbery or who died of a ruptured spleen.  This was more of the same: a small-print listing of 1,000 deaths supposedly from the virus. It was an act of pure sensationalism, teeing up cheap attacks on President Trump, another exmaple of how far into hackery the Times and the rest of the news media has fallen

An amusing note: nobody is expected to actually read a page like that, so who knows who accurate it is, but wouldn’t you think that the editors would have made sure that at least the names entered at the beginning of the list were actual pandemic victims? The New York Post reports

[O]ne of the first names on the paper’s earlier editions of the front page, Jordan Driver Haynes, 27, didn’t actually die from the virus. He was murdered, according to local reports. Haynes’ body was found in a vehicle left in a wooded area off a highway in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the local NBC affiliate reported.

Details, details. After all, the point of the stunt wasn’t to report accurate news, but to hype the death tole. The Times could have done the same thing with the number of deaths from the old fashioned flu (60,000, heart disease (about a half-million)lung cancer (135,000) or drug overdoses (67, 000). If 2020 holds to the trends of the last decades, there will be about 620,000 abortions performed. Of course, the dead in these cases don’t have names, but if they did, how would the Times publishing a thousand of them on its front page be regarded?

Isn’t this kind of gross over-emphasis a form of fake news?

Like so many of the propaganda we have been witnessing lately, this is aimed at the gullible and the easily misled, and for everyone else—perhaps a minority, we shall see, just further removes the new media from its position of influence. Continue reading

OK, “Jane Doe” Was A Lying, Venal, Fick. It Doesn’t Make Abortion Any More Or Less Ethical

In the final 20 minutes of the documentary “AKA Jane Roe,” “Roe,” whose real name was Norma McCorvey, reveals that when she converted to an anti-abortion, born-again ex-gay Christian with the help of leaders of the evangelical Christian right, she was scamming them, us, everybody. Before that stunning reversal, she had been at the center the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, in which the U.S. Supreme court declared that the right to have an abortion was protected by the U.S. Constitution.

“This is my deathbed confession,” she says in the film, sitting in a chair, on oxygen, in her nursing home room , quite evidently pleased with herself. She is asked , “Did [the evangelicals] use you as a trophy?” “Of course,” she replies. “I was the Big Fish.”

“Do you think you would say that you used them?” “Well,” says McCorvey, “I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money and they took me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say. That’s what I’d say.” She even gives an example of her scripted anti-abortion lines. “I’m a good actress,” she points out. “Of course, I’m not acting now.”

Of course.

McCorvey isn’t the first litigant in ground-breaking jurisprudence to change her mind. William J. Murray, the atheist son of activist Madeline Murray O’Hair, who used his complaint about being forced to pray in school to launch the litigation that eventually  got all school prayer in public schools banned as unconstitutional, later became an ardent Christian. This always leads opponents of the decision to respond with “See? SEE?” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/19/2020: They Can’t Handle The Truth

You want warm? I’ll give you warm!

1. That candidacy flamed out quickly! A movement seemed to be underway to have New York governor Andrew Cuomo replace doddering Joe Biden as the Democratic Presidential nominee when his press briefings regarding his state’s handling of the pandemic seemed so much clearer and straightforward than President Trump’s. (Not exactly a high bar, that.) Then the actual consequences of his leadership became apparent. Cuomo had issued a directive on March 25 requiring nursing facilities to accept patients recovering from the Wuhan virus,  and the policy, as many health experts predicted at the time, was a disaster. More than 5,400 New Yorkers have died in nursing facilities from the virus, forcing Cuomo to withdraw his directive last week. Then New York officials admitted to miscounting nursing home Wuhan virus deaths by only counting residents who died from the disease in the facility itself , intentionally omitting the deaths of residents who died after being transferred to a hospital.

The other problem for Cuomo when he was suddenly thrust into the limelight is that the man is an arrogant jerk who can’t seem to hide it, though the news media usually labors mightily to help him try. Over the weekend, however, a reporter asked Cuomo, “Governor, what would you say to families who have suffered losses inside nursing homes? They’re looking for accountability, and they’d like to see justice.”

Imagine the uproar if Donald Trump had given Cuomo’s answer, which ended with a shrug:

Older people, vulnerable people are going to die from this virus. That is going to happen despite whatever you do. Because with all our progress as a society, we can’t keep everyone alive. Despite what everything you do and older people are more vulnerable. And that is a fact. And that is not going to change.

Oh, I think it matters what you do, Governor. For example, deliberately placing people with a highly contagious disease in a crowded facility filled with the kind of people most at risk of dying from the virus pretty much ensures that more of those vulnerable people will die than would have otherwise. Continue reading

Monday Morning Ethics Eye-Opener, 5/18/2020: Shopping Carts, Stupid Cabinet Member Tricks, And More [CORRECTED]

Ready?

Many readers have been sending in suggested post ideas, which is especially appreciated since the news media seems to have decided that only pandemic-related matters, Democratic Party-boosting  and Trump-bashing are worthy of prominent coverage. Let’s look at today’s Times front page—one, two—out of six stories, only one, at the bottom of the page, isn’t in one of these three categories.

I’ve also been receiving much appreciated help fixing typos. Thanks. Sometimes I find my own mistake, like noticing this morning that Glenn Logan’s excellent Comment of the Day from the weekend somehow got posted without a headline or a tag mentioning that it was the Comment of the Day.

1. Is State Secretary Mike Pompeo  really as irresponsible, reckless and arrogant as it appears?  The firing of Inspector General Steve Linick is causing “firestorm” #81,753 of the Trump administration because he was reportedly investigating the Secretary of State’ss alleged misuse of taxpayer-funded assets for personal rather than professional purposes. Last summer, members of Congress looked at a whistle-blower complaint accusing Pompeo of asking diplomatic security agents to run errands like picking up restaurant takeout meals and retrieving the family dog from a groomer. In October, a Democratic senator called for a special counsel to investigate his use of State Department aircraft and funds for frequent visits to Kansas, his home.

More than one Trump Cabinet official has had to leave because of this stuff. Anyone working for President Trump has to know that they are under special scrutiny because a whole political party and the news media is searching for any means possible to weaken Trump’s Presidency, throw monkey wrenches into its work, and further undermine public trust. What Pompeo is accused of is petty abuse of power and position, but it is still abuse, and also arrogant rich guy-entitled, “Mad Men” style  self-indulgence. Pompeo knows it’s wrong, and also knows he’s a target. If the allegations are true, it is really stupid for him to do this, and also stupid for the President not to have announced a no-tolerance policy about this kind of conduct months, heck, years, ago.

2. An ethics analysis I had never heard of before: “The Shopping Cart Theory.” [Pointer: valkygrrl] Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Matt Taibbi, “Rolling Stone” Columnist

“I can understand not caring about the plight of Michael Flynn, but cases like this have turned erstwhile liberals – people who just a decade ago were marching in the streets over the civil liberties implications of Cheney’s War on Terror apparatus – into defenders of the spy state. Politicians and pundits across the last four years have rolled their eyes at attorney-client privilege, the presumption of innocence, the right to face one’s accuser, the right to counsel and a host of other issues, regularly denouncing civil rights worries as red-herring excuses for Trumpism.”

—Progressive “Rolling Stone” columnist Matt Taibbi, in “Democrats Have Abandoned Civil Liberties: The Blue Party’s Trump-era Embrace of Authoritarianism Isn’t Just Wrong, it’s a Fatal Political Mistake”

I’m not highlighting Taibbi’s excellent essay as an appeal to authority, not at all. I’ve written about the situation he’s bemoaning for more than three years, and I’ve made my case. (Check the “Totalitarianism” tag—Taibbi should be using that term rather than “authoritarianism.”)  I don’t need Matt Taibbi to prove my analysis correct. I’m calling attention to his essay because it’s a relief: so many people have told me that I am a Fox News, Trumper zombie for pointing out what should be screamingly apparent. For years I have been reading fevered warnings that the President was a dangerous authoritarian endangering democracy, when it seemed apparent that the party those critics supported were presenting the real threat by undermining our institutions and ignoring both the Constitution and the law.  I was beginning to doubt my sanity, just like Ingrid Bergman in “Gaslight.” Only a handful of analysts with courage and integrity—Professors Turley, Dershowitz, Jacobson and Althouse; journalist Glenn Greenwald, a few liberal pundits like Taibbi and Andrew Sullivan (sometimes) kept me from self-commitment.

More from Taibbi, on Michael Flynn:

Warrantless surveillance, multiple illegal leaks of classified information, a false statements charge constructed on the razor’s edge of Miranda, and the use of never-produced, secret counterintelligence evidence in a domestic criminal proceeding – this is the “rule of law” we’re being asked to cheer.

Russiagate cases were often two-level offenses: factually bogus or exaggerated, but also indicative of authoritarian practices. Democrats and Democrat-friendly pundits in the last four years have been consistently unable to register objections on either front.

Flynn’s case fit the pattern. We were told his plea was just the “tip of the iceberg” that would “take the trail of Russian collusion” to the “center of the plot,” i.e. Trump. It turned out he had no deeper story to tell. In fact, none of the people prosecutors tossed in jail to get at the Russian “plot” – some little more than bystanders – had anything to share.

Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias. Continue reading

Cemetery Ethics: The German POW Gravestones.

If you encountered that gravestone in a cemetery, would it move you to file a protest? Or to start an advocacy group dedicated to having the marker removed or taken down?

There are two such  gravestones marking the resting places of German prisoners of war in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, and another one is in Fort Douglas Post Cemetery in Salt Lake City. They are located among the graves of American veterans, some of whom fought against Germany in World War II. A retired colonel visiting his Jewish grandfather’s grave at the Texas cemetery saw one of the markers with the swastika symbol,  and his complaint moved  the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which obviously does not have enough on its plate, to demand that the Veterans Administration “do something.”

Apparently in the throes of a strong attack of common sense and possessing functioning ethics alarms, the VA’s National Cemetery Administration has responded to the protest  by stating that it “will continue to preserve these headstones, like every past administration has. All of the headstones date back to the 1940s, when the Army approved the inscriptions in question.”

Mike Weinstein, the founder of the MRFF and a former Air Force officer, deeply feels the pain of having to allow buried soldiers have the emblems of the nations they fought for on their headstones, and is apoplectic about the decision.  “It’s intolerable,”  he said. “This should not require explaining why this is wrong.”

Baseball writer Bill James once wrote that when someone says that that their proposition shouldn’t require explaining, it usually means that they have no valid arguments.

“But..but…” Wienstein sputters, if you translate the German phrase on the the headstones, they read, “HE DIED FAR FROM HOME FOR FUHRER, PEOPLE AND FATHERLAND”! I know I always enjoy translating the foreign languages on headstones over the graves of strangers just in case I can find them offensive. Continue reading