Friday Ethics Potpourri, 9/24/2021: On PBS, Boeing, A Political Hack Law Dean, And Caring

Lawn sign

Many thanks to reader and commenter Jeff for bringing that lawn sign to my attention. It’s available here. I wish I had thought of it; one of these days I’ll get around to making a “Bias Makes You Stupid” T-shirt as an Ethics Alarms accessory. I would never post such a sign on my lawn for the same reason I object to the virtue-signaling signs in my neighborhood: I didn’t ask to my neighbors’ political views thrust in my face, and I don’t inflict mine of them. However, if a someone living in a house on my cul-de-sac inflicted a “No human being is illegal” missive on their lawn where I had to look at it every day, the sign above would be going up as a response faster than you can say “Jack Robinson,” though I don’t know why anyone would say “Jack Robinson.”

1. Roger Angell on caring…It’s September, and the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees start a three game series tonight with nine games left to the season. It could well determined which of the two teams will go on to the post-season, with a shot at the World Series. The encounter brings back a flood of memories, wonderful and horrible, about previous Sox-Yankee battles of note, including one from 1949, before I was born. I worked with a veteran lawyer at a D.C. association who was perpetually bitter about all things, and all because the Red Sox blew a pennant to New York that year by choking away the final two games of the season. For me, moments like this are reassuring and keep me feeling forever young: as I watch such games, I realize that I am doing and and feeling exactly what I was doing and feeling from the age of 12 on. Nothing has changed. Roger Angell, one of my favorite writers, eloquently described why this is important in his essay “Agincourt and After,” from his collection,”Five Seasons”:

“It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitive as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look — I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring — caring deeply and passionately, really caring — which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naivete — the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball — seems a small price to pay for such a gift.”

A small price indeed.

2. PBS may be a progressive propaganda organ, but the facts will out. A streaming service offers the channel’s documentaries for a pittance, and they are a reliable source of perspective and enlightenment. One that my wife and I watched this past week was about the development of the FDA and other federal agencies that protected the public and workers. When workers at manufacturing plants making leaded gasoline started dying of lead poisoning, the government scientists’ solution was to just ban the product. General Motors and Standard Oil fought back and overturned the ban, assuring Congress that they could make leaded gas safe to produce, and they did. This was a classic example of why we must not let scientists dictate public policy: leaded gasoline transformed transportation and benefited the public. The scientists’ approach was just to eliminate risk; they didn’t care about progress, the economy, jobs or anything else. Science needs to be one of many considerations, and when scientists have been co-opted by partisan bias, as they are now, this is more true than ever.

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Have I Mentioned Before That The National Football League Is An Organizational Ethics Dunce? I’m Pretty Sure I Have…[Corrected]

Helmet slogans

…but still I am stunned by how deep the NFL’s lack of principles, craven weakness in the fact of political correctness bullying, and near complete contempt for its fans goes. Still! What the hell’s the matter with me?

Trembling in fear of Black Lives Matter and the strength of a players union with almost 80% black membership, the NFL announced that it will permit players to display progressive and Black Lives Matter propaganda on their outfits. The league is going so far as to provide six pre-approved phrases for players to choose from for display on their helmets during games: “Black Lives Matter,” “End Racism,” “Stop Hate,” “Inspire Change,” “It Takes All Of Us,” and “Say Their Stories.” (For some reason, “Ramalama-ding-dong” didn’t make the cut.) The league will also allow home teams to have one of two phrases written across the end zones of their fields: “End Racism” or “It Takes All Of Us.”

So now the NFL thinks that presenting a sporting event for which fans pay ridiculous sums for tickets reasonable includes partisan, divisive, race-based propaganda as part of the unavoidable experience. If NFL fans don’t push back against this and hard, they are weenies, and not just that, they are aiding and abetting an undemocratic and divisive trend. The one cynical consideration the ethically inert owners and executives may be counting on is that nobody in the stadium can read what players have on their helmets. All right, two considerations: the average mouth-breathing NFL fan wouldn’t care if Joe Wonderful had “KKK” or Man-Boy Love Association slogans on his helmet as long as he throws that game-winning touchdown pass.

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There Are More Important Ethics Stories On The Runway, But This One Gets Priority Because It’s Soooo Stupid…

Resolute-Athletic-Complex-Columbus-OH-Sports-Club-exterior

ESPN, which we can now safely conclude is incompetent as well as being unethical in that very special way the Great Stupid demands, released this statement:

“We regret that this happened and have discussed it with Paragon, which secured the matchup and handles the majority of our high school event scheduling. They have ensured us that they will take steps to prevent this kind of situation from happening moving forward.”

What was “this kind of situation”? Oh, just a national sports network televising a high school football game between one of the the top teams in the nation and a fake team fielded by a fake high school. That’s all.

On Sunday, ESPN broadcast a high school football game between featuring Florida’s IMG Academy, one of the top rated teams in the country, and Ohio’s Bishop Sycamore, an obscure high school with a team nobody has written about or paid much attention to. ESPN had been assured by Bishop Sycamore—schools get compensated when their teams’ games are televised– that its football squad was stacked with top players. Uh, no. This was a primetime match-up on ESPN, but nobody there did any due diligence to check on the juggernaut IMG Academy’s competition. IMG won by the heart-pounding score of 58-0. The broadcasters were reduced to telling funny stories and expressing concern that the Bishop Sycamore players were at risk of serious injury.

But wait! There’s more!

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New Category! “Most Innocent And Fair Quote Of The Month That Gets Used To Tar The Speaker As A Racist And Destroy Her Career”: Former ESPN Rachel Nichols

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“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball. If you need to give her more things to do because you are feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity — which, by the way, I know personally from the female side of it — like, go for it. Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing away.”

—-ESPN sideline reporter Rachel Nichols in a phone conversation nearly a year ago after learning that she would not host coverage during the 2020 N.B.A. finals, as she had been expecting.

The phone call, unbeknownst to her, was being recorded, and someone leaked it to the ESPN brass and the public. The ethical issues raised by that conduct are clear and have been discussed here often: it is a dastardly thing to do, a breach of basic Golden Rule ethics, and indefensible because it creates harm to all involved. But that’s not the issue at hand.

After the video was leaked, many black ESPN employees told one another that it confirmed their suspicions that outwardly supportive white people talk differently behind closed doors. Nichols, seeing the ominous handwriting on the wall, tried to apologize to Taylor with texts and phone calls. Taylor did not respond. Meanwhile, ESPN employees turned against Nichols, whom they perceived as indulging in a “common criticism used by white workers in many workplaces to disparage nonwhite colleagues” when she suggested that “Taylor was offered the hosting job only because of her race, not because she was the best person for the job.”

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Showdown At CVS

I’ve been looking for an excuse to use my favorite Ethics Alarms movie clip again [FYI: The library has been updated!]…

Against my usual proclivities, I am engaged in a war with the CVS that I am not going to back down from, stranding my family members there and leaving my my weapons behind to be used by terrorists. I found it odd that every time I made a purchase at the store, about twice a week, I was asked to “re-enroll” in a savings program that I had participated in for over a year. This required me to click “yes”(rather than “later”) at the end of my transaction. I finally asked a clerk what was up, an he said he would check. The result: checking “yes” did nothing. My membership could not be reinstated at that time. He could not tell me why.

So I asked to see the manager, a nice middle-age woman whom I have known there for years. She couldn’t explain why either. Finally she said, “It’s the machines,” and wrote down a phone number for me to call at CVS’s website. “Excuse me, but why to I have to call because your store’s machine’s don’t work?,” I responded. “I’m the customer, I’m misinformed for weeks, I don’t get discounts I’m supposed to get, and I have to fix your problem? I have to sit through automated phone systems and wait times? You are CVS’s agent. You work here. You’re paid for it. You fix the problem. Don’t foist it off on me. I’m the one being inconvenienced.” At this point, by some sadistic twist of fate, a large, aggressive, loud and belligerent young woman had entered the store near the front counter, and she started addressing me stridently.”Why are you harassing them?” she boomed out. “They aren’t CVS. They just work here.”

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The Baby On The Album Cover: Dumb Lawsuit, Valid Ethics Point

Naked baby cover

Thirty years ago, Spencer Elden, age four months, was photographed by a family friend naked and floating in a pool at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center in Pasadena, California. The striking and cute photo was then sold by his parents to be the cover of “Nevermind,” the rock band Nirvana’s second album that shot the Seattle band to international fame. (Never could stand Nirvana myself.)

Through the years Elden pretty much exhausted the opportunities to exploit his accidental celebrity, recreating the wet, wild and adorable moment for the album’s 10th, 17th, 20th and 25th anniversaries (but not with his naughty bits exposed, of course) “It’s cool but weird to be part of something so important that I don’t even remember,” he said in an interview with The New York Post in 2016, in which he posed holding the album cover at 25. Eldon even reportedly has “Nevermind” tattooed on his chest.But this year he needs money, or has a change of heart, or met up with an unethical lawyer, or something. Now Elden is suing Nirvana for damages, claiming his parents never signed a release authorizing the use of his image on the album, and more provocatively, that his nude infant image constitutes child pornography.

“The images exposed Spencer’s intimate body part and lasciviously displayed Spencer’s genitals from the time he was an infant to the present day,” legal papers filed in California claim. Lasciviously? The album cover indeed showed Elden as a baby with his genitalia exposed. Maybe it also made tiny Spencer seem greedy, since the graphic artist added a digitally added dollar bill on a fishing line, leaving the impression that the tot was trying to grab the dollar.

Of course, he IS greedy now.

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The FIFA Scandal’s Lesson: The U.S. Government Does Not Comprehend The Principle Of “A Culture Of Corruption”

jackheadexplosion

Why I am I not surp….oh, oh, there goes the head again. I guess I am surprised after all.

Since I regard soccer as about as entertaining as watching paint dry, I took only scant notice of the massive scandal in 2015 involving the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), which oversees international soccer. More than 50 people and companies were charged in the case, and dozens have pleaded guilty. You can catch up here; I’ll wait.

All set? OK, then process this: six years after the massive criminal indictment exposed decades of corruption in global soccer, the U.S. government approved the payment of more than $200 million to….wait for it!—- to FIFA as well as its two member confederations also implicated in the scandal.

See, the theory is that the organization that was run by the individuals who stole all that money and engaged in bribery, money laundering and corruption, was really just another victim of it all. The repayment begins with an initial payment of $32.3 million in forfeited funds, the Justice Department announced, and prosecutors have approved a plan in which the soccer organizations could receive as much as $201 million.

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: “A New Deal For Broadway”

“[N]ever assemble an all-white creative team on a production again, regardless of the subject matter of the show…”

——A provision in the “New Deal for Broadway,”  an agreement signed by Broadway “power-brokers” pledging to strengthen the industry’s diversity practices as theaters reopen following the nearly 18-month pandemic shutdown.

A New Deal for Broadway,” was developed by Black Theater United, one of several organizations established last year, the Times story tells us, “as an outgrowth of the anger Black theater artists felt over the police killings” of George Floyd in Minnesota and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. “Black Theater United’s founding members include some of the most celebrated performers working in the American theater, including Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, Wendell Pierce, Norm Lewis and LaChanze.”

The pledge was signed by the owners and operators of all 41 Broadway theaters as well as the Broadway League, the trade organization representing producers, and Actors’ Equity Association, which represents actors and stage managers.

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Evening Ethics, 8/19/2021: Those Were The Days…

Ah, those heady days when the U.S. felt ethically justified in toppling governments it didn’t approve of, and “nation building” was still considered practical and virtuous. Today marks the anniversary of the U.S. overthrowing the government of Premier Mohammad Mosaddeq and reinstalling the Shah of Iran in 1953, The Shah was a torturing, oppressive autocrat, but he was our torturing, oppressive autocrat for 26 years, a dependable anti-Communist ally of the United States until a revolution ended his rule in 1979. You should know the rest. Wonder why Iranians aren’t crazy about the U.S.? Today is one big reason. Also on the ethics regrets list is the release of the West Memphis Three on this date in 2011. I wrote about that one here. An excerpt:

“In an ethical system, prosecutors would have made certain the wrongfully convicted men were freed, without any further adversary action. But this was not an ethical system. Instead, prosecutors insisted on a bizarre plea deal in which the Memphis Three agreed to take an Alford plea, a strange, dishonest and much criticized guilty plea in which a defendant essentially lies to avoid an otherwise unavoidable unjust punishment. With an Alford plea,  the prisoner or defendant asserts he or she is innocent, but acknowledges that the prosecution has sufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and thus acknowledges legal, though not actual, guilt.   Prosecutors insisted that all three men plead “guilty” in this fashion in order to agree to release them with time served. The judge accepted the deal. Now Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley are free, their lives all but ruined by 18 lost years, thanks to a rotten system. The news media for the most part didn’t bother to explain why the terms of their release was just one more gratuitous assault on their existence by Arkansas legal hacks.”

I’m sorry today reminded me of this case. It still upsets me to think about it.

1. Here’s evidence that the current complaints of antiracism propagandists is a crock: Denzel Washington. I’ve been watching a lot of his movies lately, and a comparison with Sidney Poitier is unavoidable. Poitier was the ground-breaker, the black man who became a genuine movie star in a majority white market, and more than that, did it by holding up the racism and discrimination in American culture for all to see. Nonetheless, he was limited by his race. Poitier always played character’s whose race was central to their roles in the plot. He never played a villain: like many stars, like John Wayne, Cary Grant and Clark Gable, he regarded his career as a continuous work exploring a particular archetype in all of its facets. For Poitier, it was that of the outstanding black man as an outsider in American society. In Poitier’s amazing year of 1967, he was in three hit movies: “In the Heat of the Night,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?,” and “To Sir, With Love.” All three featured Poitier as a black man thrust into a biased white environment, and gradually earning respect and some measure of equality. Today the #1 black star is Denzel, and he doesn’t have to play such sanctimonious roles. Race plays a part in many of his movies; he has even played black civil rights activists, like Malcolm X and Hurricane Carter. Washington, however, in part because of Poitier’s work, often plays parts that were written for white actors, and nobody cares. He isn’t afraid to play flawed characters and even brutal ones, like in “The Equalizer.” Washington’s success, and the versatility and range he is allowed to explore in his movies, would have been impossible in Poitier’s prime years. His body of work is proof of how far American attitudes toward race have advances and how unfair and dishonest the Black Lives Matter/ Critical Race Theory narrative is holding that the Jim Crow culture still rules America.

Denzel is also better than Poitier, although it is fair to say that Poitier never had the option of being as versatile as Washington. If Sidney Poitier is cinema’s Jackie Robinson, Denzel Washington is its Willie Mays.

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Ethics Quiz: Apple Thinks Of The Children

Apple privacy

Last week, Apple announced a plan to introduce new technology that will allow it to scan iPhones for images related to the sexual abuse and exploitation of children. These tools, however, which are scheduled to become operational soon, can be used for less admirable objectives, like so many technologies.

Apple’s innovation will allow parents have their children’s iMessage accounts scanned by Apple for sexual images sent or received. The Parents would be notified if this material turns up on the phones of children under 13. All children will be warned if they seek to view or share a sexually explicit image. The company will also scan the photos adults store on their iPhones and check them against records corresponding with known child sexual abuse material provided by organizations like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Cool, right? After all, “Think of the children!!” (Rationalization #58) But while Apple has promises to use this technology only to search only for child sexual abuse material, the same technology can be used being used for other purposes and without the phone owner’s consent. The government could work with Apple to use the same technology to acquire other kinds of images or documents stored on computers or phones. The technology could be used to monitor political views or “hate speech.

Computer scientist Matthew Green, writing with security analysist Alex Stamos, warns,

“The computer science and policymaking communities have spent years considering the kinds of problems raised by this sort of technology, trying to find a proper balance between public safety and individual privacy. The Apple plan upends all of that deliberation. Apple has more than one billion devices in the world, so its decisions affect the security plans of every government and every other technology company. Apple has now sent a clear message that it is safe to build and use systems that directly scan people’s personal phones for prohibited content.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Does the single beneficial use of the Apple technology make it ethical to place individual privacy at risk?