Ethics Warm-Up, 9/18/2020: Boy, It’s Hard To Write About Ethics When What You Really Want To Do Is Run Amuck With A Bloody Sword

I don’t even want to talk about the last two days, except to note that what has me proto-homicidal has nothing to do with anything we’ve been discussing on Ethics Alarms.

1. Now THIS is incompetent phishing: “Verizon” contacted me to say,

Dear User :Your incoming mails were placed on pending status due to the recent upgrade to our database, and also exceeded the storage limit of 1 GB, which is defined by the administrator, are running at 99.8 gigabyte. You can not send or receive new messages until you re-validate your mailbox.

  • I no longer have any relationship with Verizon.
  • Verizon no longer runs an email service. It sold its email users to AOL.
  • The letter is ungrammatical.
  • I received that email, along with about 50 others at the same time, telling me I was no longer getting email.
  • “Verizon’s” address was “bavaria2@centurylink.net”
  • The “letter” was signed “VeriZon.”

If you fall for something like that, you are a walking, talking mark, and incompetent at life.

2.  Why doesn’t the public trust the news media? It must be all those Trump “fake news” lies!  CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell used a photo from a “Latinos for Trump”  event in Phoenix to accompany a report on Joe Biden’s Latino event in Florida. The CBS’s chyron read, “Biden pitches crucial Latino voters during Florida campaign stop.”

Here was what viewers saw: Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias! But Why Is Fox Almost The Only News Source Reporting This Story?”

This is kind of an anti-ethical ethics comment by Steve-O-in NJ, but a useful one. Taking off from the juvenile “mean girls” criticism the First Lady gets from the news media regarding whatever she does, says or wears (while anything worn by the previous First Lady, no matter how hideous, was inevitably praised as a fashion coup), Steve lists other examples of “middle school values,” which are all things kids do, say and think before their ethics alarms are operational.  I’ve numbered them for reference purposes. There are sixteen in all. Most of them, though not all, are rendered moot by even a rudimentary understanding of the Golden Rule. Ethics barely peaks is head out in #13. Barely.

Here is Steve-O-in NJ‘s Comment Of The Day on the post, “Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias! But Why Is Fox Almost The Only News Source Reporting This Story?”:

They also busted shoes, no pun intended about her wearing sneakers when accompanying the President to the areas affected by the hurricane in 2017.

It’s a middle school value, that something that is cool when it is done by something one you like, is unforgivable when it is done by someone you don’t like.

Other values: Continue reading

Now I’ve Actually SEEN “Cuties,”So I know What I’m Writing About…

What does Barbara Streisand have to do with “Cuties,” you ask?

And, from my perspective, I have been taught, once again, that I should not rely on the opinions of others. Why is that such a difficult lesson to process? I bet I’ve “learned” it a thousand times, and yet here we are.

I initially wrote about pundit Rod Dreher’s angry assessment of the Netflix hit (it is one of the most streamed productions in its history) in this post. I think it was clear that I hadn’t seen “Cuties” myself, but I should not have written that he was disgusted “with good reason.” Veteran commenter Humble Talent provided Ethics Alarms with his critical assessment of “Cuties” in his Comment of the Day; it was negative as well. Having now watched the film with my wife last night (I regarded the session as work, not recreation), I understand what Dreher’s perspective was, and  I cannot say that Humble’s critique is “wrong.”

I disagree with both of them, however.

My thoughts on “Cuties”:

1.  I did not enjoy the movie. I would not watch it again. I would watch “1918,” “Parasite,”The Circle“…even “JFK,” “Ghost” and “La La Land,’  all movies I felt were at best disappointing and at worst ridiculously over-hyped, before I would sit through “Cuties” again. (I would rather watch “Cuties” than revisit “The Deer Hunter,” but then I would rather have my fingernails  pulled out than revisit “The Deer Hunter.”)

2. That doesn’t not mean I think “Cuties” is a bad movie. It’s a very good movie, for the audience it was made for. (“Ghost” is not a good movie, and anyone who thinks so is a tasteless sap.) This isn’t just a “chick flick,” it is a flick that men should be warned not to see, and possibly banned from trying.

3. As a man, I felt like a voyeur watching these semi-pubescent girls try to navigate their emerging sexuality and the corrosive influence of the culture. It’s not that I’m uninterested in this aspect of a reality I didn’t experience, it’s just that…ick. My wife, on the other hand, who grew up with three sisters, kept asking, “So what was supposed to be so objectionable about this?”

4. If art is supposed to convey truth, “Cuties” succeeds, I suspect. Of course, just because a story is true or embodies truth doesn’t mean it needs to be made into a movie. This precise topic has been dealt with before, but never so directly, at least in any movie that has been widely publicized.

5. I agree with Humble’s complaint that the director—a woman, of course—focused the camera on the girl’s bodies as they gyrated and twerked to the verge of salaciousness. I’m sure she would have a good answer for why she made this choice, and why it was artistically valid, but it was still a troubling choice.

6. I thought the girls were all excellent, and several were remarkable. That does not mitigate one of my ethical objections to the film, which is that juveniles were given this kind of material to absorb and experience. It doesn’t matter that they performed it well, and it doesn’t matter that the movie could only be made with pre-teen actresses. Nor will it change my view if they all grow up to be well-adjusted and happy adults: that’s moral luck. The actresses were below the age of consent, and should not be asked to/ compelled to perform such material. The parents who consented for them are irresponsible and unethical, just as Dakota Fanning’s parents were unethical to allow her to be in a  graphic rape scene in “Hounddog,” just as Brooke Shields’ parents were unethical to allow her to appear as a pre-teen prostitute in “Pretty Baby,” just as Linda Blair’s parents were unethical to allow her to play the possessed girl in “The Exorcist.” I  may ask child performer advocate Paul Peterson to author a guest column on his view of “Cuties.” I think I know what he will say.

7. One of the major complaints about the film is that it will appeal to pedophiles. That’s an unfair reason to criticize a movie: the fact that sick people will like it for the wrong reasons. I refuse to believe that pedophiles are the intended audience, nor that either the director or Netflix were seeking to entertain men who have a sexual fixation on little girls. I’m sure “Seabiscuit” titillated some people who fantasize about having sex with horses.

8. The runaway success of “Cuties” is as fine an example of “The Streisand Effect” as we are likely to find. The only reason a film like this, focusing on a Muslim pre-teen coping with her family stresses by becoming obsessed with sexually provocative dancing that is rampant among girls just slightly older, becomes an cultural phenomenon is if it is controversial. Critics like Dreher guaranteed that many more people would watch “Cuties” than the subject matter would normally draw. It’s not titillating or enjoyable to watch 11-year-olds get into sexually provocative costumes and make-up and act like go-go dancers in a cage. It’s creepy, and it’s supposed to be creepy. But Dreher and the other would-be conservative cultural gate-keepers made sure that the pervs would find “Cuties” and settle down to watch with their lotion handy. Good job, everybody!

Big Stupid In Little Miami

In this public school story out of Ohio, the only ones who didn’t embarrass themselves were two suspended students.

When the Little Miami High School football team took the field in the Hamilton Township on September 11, one player carried a Thin Blue Line flag and another a Thin Red Line flag alongside the American flag. The boys, Brady Williams, and Jarad Bentley, were honoring their fathers as well as the first responders in the Twin Towers tragedy. Williams’ father is a police officer, and his son said he wanted to honor all the cops who lost their lives trying to save others on 9/11. Bentley’s father is a firefighter. “If it had been him killed on 9/11, I would have wanted someone to do it for him,” he said.

The gesture got both students suspended indefinitely. Their mistake, according to school officials: asking for permission, and carrying the flags on the field anyway after they were turned down.  “We can’t have students who decide to do something anyway after they’ve been told that they shouldn’t be doing it,” said the school’s athletic director. But why was a gesture of respect to first responders deemed inappropriate on the anniversary of the attacks? The athletic director says he saw the flags as  political, presumably in the context of the George Floyd Freakout.  “We did not want to place ourselves in a circumstance where another family might want a different flag to come out of the tunnel, one that may be [one that] many other families may not agree with from a political perspective,” he said.

I wonder if a student carrying a Black Lives Matter flag would have been treated as harshly. (No I don’t.) Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/12/2020: Remembering Boston Busing; Deriding BLM Lawn Signs And The Smug Bias They Represent

I remember this date, all right. I was scheduled to do a three hour CLE legal ethics seminar in Rhode Island on the 13th, and all the flights were cancelled. The bar association assumed I would cancel too, but I’m a “The show must go on” guy, and I said, “I’ll be there if I have to drive all night.” And I drove all night.

1. This date also had significance in the history of misguided utilitarian solutions to the problem of racial disparities. In his June 1974 ruling in Morgan v. Hennigan, U.S. District Judge Arthur Garrity held that Boston’s geographically segregated public schools created de facto school segregation that discriminated against black children. He ordered the busing of African American students to predominantly white schools and, punishing innocents for “the greater good,”  white students to black schools. Forced busing  began on September 12, and  was met with massive protests, particularly in South Boston, the city’s main Irish-Catholic neighborhood. Protests continued unabated for months, and many parents, white and black, kept their children at home. In October, the National Guard was mobilized to enforce the federal desegregation order.

The rest of the story: Boston’s draconian and unfair busing plan lasted for fourteen years, and (those who fail to learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them) didn’t work. Racial divisions were exacerbated, parents pulled their children out of public schools, and many families moved to the suburbs. Continue reading

There’s Nothing Wrong With “Dwarf Pride,” But When It Means Making Sure Your Kids Don’t Grow, It’s Unethical

Yeah, I know I’ve been using this clip and the “Blazing Saddles” “You, know, morons” clip too often lately, but it is because people proclaiming objectively stupid positions that are being taken seriously is becoming an epidemic, and one that has the potential to do more damage than any virus.

Today’s example: a study published  in the journal The Lancet reveals that an experimental drug called vosoritide increases growth in children with the most common form of dwarfism, achondroplasia. Taken early enough and long enough, such children can grow at nearly the same rate as  children without the malady. Achondroplasia leads to eventual back pain and breathing difficulty in addition to guaranteeing that its sufferers will look up to jockeys and call Mickey Rooney imitators “Stretch” for their entire lives. Yet the existence of a treatment has sparked opposition among some parts of the “Little Person” community, which insists that being only four feet tall  is “a unique trait to be celebrated, not a problem in need of a cure.”

See Rationalization # 64, “”It isn’t what it is.” Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics, 9/6/2020: Dog Food, A T-Rex, An Astronaut, The Pope…But No 2020 Campaign Items Whatsoever! Let’s Hear A Little Applause!

1 . Boy, the Pope must hate the U.S. media. ‘Did you hear that four people say the President called our soldiers “losers”? It’s true! They really say that!’

Pope Francis called gossiping a “plague worse than COVID” and risks dividing  the Catholic Church. The devil, he says, is the “biggest gossiper.” who is seeking to divide the church with his lies.

Francis was discussing a Gospel passage about the need to correct others privately when they do something wrong. The Catholic hierarchy calls this the “fraternal correction” of priests and bishops to correct them when they err without airing problems in public. You know; like when they sexually abuse children. “Gossip” apparently means “talking about things the Church is trying to cover-up.”

Got it, Your Holiness!

2. Proposition: It’s unethical to buy your dog’s food at the Dollar Store. Sunshine Mills Inc., an Alabama-based pet food company, issued a recall of its dog food this week due to the levels of Aflatoxin, a toxic mold by-product with  the potential of making dogs sick, according to a Food and Drug Administration news release. The products recalled are  FAMILY PET Meaty Cuts, Beef Chicken & Cheese Flavors;  HEARTLAND FARMS Grilled Favorites Beef Chicken & Cheese Flavor; and HAPPY LIFE Butcher’s Choice Dog Food. All are sold exclusively at Dollar General and Family Dollar stores.

I wonder if they sell baby food? Continue reading

Ann Althouse Meets Spuds: On Althouse Saturday, Two Canine Ethics Questions From The Blogger I’ve Been Meaning To Answer

Our rescue dog Spuds is gradually coming into his own now: after being starved by his previous owner, he finally is secure enough to leave some food in his dish and finish it later. He’s also finding his inner puppy at 2 and a half, which is both challenging for us as he gets stronger, and fun. I honestly don’t know how we went so long without a dog in our home after Rugby left us.

Ann Althouse, whose opinions have been unusually visible on Ethics Alarms today,  raised two dog-related ethics issues since we adopted Spuds last month, and since the dog left me panting by running me over hill and dale this morning as I allowed him to run off leash for the first time, addressing them now seems like a timely task.

(As I type this, Spuds is trying to climb onto my desk…)

1. On August 23, Althouse wrote,

Why don’t the people who think you should get a “rescue” dog when you want a dog also think you should get a “rescue” child when you want a child? In fact, isn’t the argument for adopting an older child with special needs even stronger than the argument for adopting an older dog that hasn’t had the advantages of a loving home and careful training? After all, many dogs are euthanized, but we strive to keep all our children alive even when they have terrible behavioral problems. And dogs are kept under the control of owners all their lives, while children become adults and are allowed to move about freely in the world even when they are quite dangerous. It’s therefore especially important to take great care of all of the children who have been born into this world.

People will say that they want their own biological offspring, but what makes you think what you have to give genetically is so wonderful? Dog breeders have much higher standards selecting which dogs to use for breeding. People just decide to use themselves. When you have your own biological children, you’re picking yourself because you are yourself. I’m not saying that’s wrong. In fact, I think it’s quite beautiful, making something out of your own body and the body of a person you love. So I’m beginning to see the answer to my question. When you have your own child, you’re not being a eugenicist, looking for the ideal baby. You’re accepting the randomness of who you happen to be and who you’ve found to love. The baby grows out of that is more like a rescue dog than a breeder’s dog.

I do think Althouse answered her own question., at least the human part. Having a child (or many) with someone you love is part of the human experience, helps bind couples and society together, and is a spiritual as well as a natural biological act. Of course, that description assumes a lot: that the child was planned, that the parents love each other, that they are married, and that there are no known toxic hereditary traits to avoid. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/28/2020: A Bad Couple Of Months For Museums And Sexual Predators

Good morning!

1. Related to absolutely nothing anyone is currently thinking about...I was re-watching “Spotlight” to remind myself that the news media sometimes does its job, and again was reminded how Hollywood constantly makes Americans more ignorant by its sheer arrogance and laziness. The film, which reasonably accurately recounts how the Boston Globe’s investigative “Spotlight” team broke the story of the extensive Catholic Church cover-up of pedophile priests, a scandal still unfolding now, 20 years later, has a scene in which a lawyer who represents the victims of such priests tells a reporter that he’s effective because he’s an “outsider.” “I’m Armenian,” he says. “How many Armenians do you know in Boston?” Having been brought up in Boston, I know that the answer to this question is “A LOT.” Boston was a center of Armenian immigration at the turn of the 20th Century, and its Armenian community, in the city and especially the suburbs, is huge and influential. There are many Armenian organizations as well. In Arlington, Mass., where my family lived, Armenian-Americans were prominent in business and government. The little side street where we lived, Brunswick Road, had ten families living on it: the Marshalls, the Gares, and the Moreland,  the Zeffs (who were Jewish, then two Sakoians, the Nazarians, the Catherians, the Berbarians, and the Masmanians. Just Googling “Boston Armenian conmmunity” would have let the film-makers know the scene was nonsense, and they couldn’t be bothered.

2. And speaking of  sexual predators…the cover-up of sexual predators in the coaching ranks for Olympic sports is being exposed slowly but surely.  Last month a lawsuit was filed against Richard Callaghan, an elite American figure skating coach best known for coaching Tara Lipinski to an Olympic gold medal in 1998 and coaching Todd Eldredge to a world title and six national championships. The suit alleges ongoing sexual abuse of one skater that endured over two decades. Callaghan’s victims were male, not female, but the story is familiar: parents guilelessly entrust their talented athletic children to mentor/coaches in swimming, skating, and gymnastics, without considering for a moment what attracts many of these people to working with children and teens.

Another sport that is coming to terms with a sexual predator is equestrian competition.  George Morris, an Olympics equestrian coach known as  a “kingmaker” for his success with riders,  was barred for life from the sport by the United States Equestrian Federation  based on an investigation of alleged sexual misconduct He is now facing lawsuits filed this month by two people claiming that he raped them as teenagers. Jimmy Williams, another  riding coach who guided many Olympians and  was also named in a lawsuit by a woman who said Williams had sexually assaulted her from the ages of 12 to 17.  Though Williams died in 1993, he was recorded as barred for life from the federation in 2018—yes, a dead man was banned for life— after an investigation by The New York Times revealed accusations by nearly a dozen women, including the Olympian Anne Kursinski, that he had preyed upon them as girls.

Parents are so desperate to live vicariously through their offspring that they willingly hand their kids over to the care of predators. I’m sorry to say this, but absent thorough, thorough investigation, it is irresponsible to trust these coaches. The history and what we know of human nature presents too much of a risk.

The same applies to allowing children to work in professional theater, TV, and movies. Continue reading

The Daughter Of KellyAnne Conway And George Conway Is A Monster, And Of Course It’s Their Fault

The rebellion of 15-yeqr-old Claudia Conway against her politically prominent parents, Trump Counsellor KellyAnne Conway and NeverTrump jerk George Conway (when one devotes one’s time to publicly attacking one’s spouse’s employer, one is, by the Ethics Alarm definition, a jerk. Also an asshole.) qualifies for the famous George Kaufmann reaction, which has been quoted here frequently, when crooner Eddie Fisher (husband of Debbie Reynold and Elizabeth Taylor, father of Princess Leia) visited  ’50s TV panel show and complained about his  love life:

Mr. Fisher, on Mount Wilson there is a telescope that can magnify the most distant stars to twenty-four times the magnification of any previous telescope. This remarkable instrument was unsurpassed in the world of astronomy until the development and construction of the Mount Palomar telescope.The Mount Palomar telescope is an even more remarkable instrument of magnification. Owing to advances and improvements in optical technology, it is capable of magnifying the stars to four times the magnification and resolution of the Mount Wilson telescope.Mr. Fisher, if you could somehow put the Mount Wilson telescope inside the Mount Palomar telescope, you still wouldn’t be able to see my interest in your problem.

Why am I writing about it, then? Claudia is an unusually spoiled teen, but a teenager rebelling against her parents is neither news nor intrinsically interesting. However, her rebellion is publicly embarrassing her parents while turning her into a celebrity,  That shouldn’t happen, and it is the result of multiple  instances of unethical conduct that it has happened.

Claudia has been assailing her parents on social media all summer, and her insulting  attacks, notably on Tik Tok where one of her videos referred to her mother as “Smelly Kelly,” have “gone viral’ much to the joy of Trump Haters everywhere. (Nobody cares  about George Conway, except as a resistance tool.)  Now she has announced that she’s seeking emancipation from her parents because co-existing with two conservatives who love her and who have provided the very essence of privilege is  just too, too horrible to bear.

Observations:

  • Two career-focused and neglectful parents weren’t sufficiently attentive to the basic duties of parenthood to convey to their daughter minimal ethical values, including one’s obligations to  family.

KellyAnne Conway has publicly encouraged her daughter to have “independent” views. That’s self-serving cover. Her daughter has watched her father attack her mother’s job and employer in public, and has seen her mother shrug it off as if her husband was a just another Trum- deranged stranger. That is the respect for family, love and loyalty that has been modeled for her. Claudia’s conduct is the natural and predictable result.

  • I don’t know what kind of ideological indoctrination Claudia has undergone in the high-priced private schools she attended, but it’s an easy wager that she has been subjected to constant progressive brain-washing away from home, and limited influence by her parents in it. My wife and I briefly sent our son to one of those schools, and Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” was presented as part of the science curriculum. For decades, parents have naively and negligently trusted our education system, because it saved them time and anxiety to do so.  The United States is now reaping the whirlwind as a consequence.

It is clear, or should be, that parents must not trust teachers, public schools, private schools, colleges, universities,or the administration of those schools, to keep politics out of education. That is the revelation that the riots around the nation  engineered by anti-American revolutionaries should be bringing home.

  • Social media has the capacity to make our children monsters. It gives them power they are neither mature, responsible, experienced nor wise enough to handle. Claudia could be the poster girl for this phenomenon.

She is the victim here.

In one of her whiny tweets, Claudia writes that her parents have ruined her life. I think she’s right, but not for the reason she thinks.