Ethics Observations On The Annoying Case Of The Lingering Christmas Decorations

Xmas lights-letter

Full disclosure: The Marshall Christmas tree is still up, though absent an unforeseen intervening event, today will be its last.

Long Island resident Sara Pascucci received a typed, anonymous letter a week ago reading: “Take your Christmas lights down! Its Valentines Day!!!!!!”

Her relatively elaborate decorations can be seen above, along with the obnoxious missive. As the Washington Post tells the story, Pascucci was especially upset by the letter because she had lost both her father and aunt in January “to” the Wuhan virus. We now know (or should know) that they may have died of something else entirely but with the virus rather than from or of the virus and would still be listed as pandemic casualties because the idea is to keep the public as terrified and malleable as possible. This is irrelevant to the story, but it drives me crazy. What the father and aunt died of is also irrelevant to the story, and in fact I don’t see any justification for including the information at all except as more pandemic-panic propaganda, which has been the news media’s mission for a year. If Pascucci’s father had died of complications following a stroke and her aunt was 105 and had died of an allergic reaction to peanut oil, do you really think that would have been included in the story?

But I digress…

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The Predictable Fate Of TIME’s Election-Rigging Scoop, And The Comment Of The Day On “You Know Why Real Conspiracies Are Always Discovered, Don’t You? It’s Because Someone Always Talks…Gee, Thanks, TIME!”

Uneven playing field

TIME Magazine’s surprising exposition of how the 2020 Presidential election was “rigged” was both a major media story and an important contribution to the public’s understanding of how their liberties are being extracted from them in stages. Unfortunately, nobody reads TIME any more—for good reason—and the mainstream media, among the conspirators indicted by TIME, had no reason to treat this any differently from the other inconvenient and counter-narrative revelations they buried or failed to report during the campaign and before. Their other tactic, as we saw repeatedly, was to discredit such news as “conservative stories,” meaning that they were contrived and the product of fanatic right-wingers. TIME’s story was a special problem, because TIME has been a dependable source of progressive spin for decades.

The solution wasn’t a problem, however. The mainstream news media just ignored TIME’s story. Problem solved! They didn’t try to rebut it—that would trigger the Streisand Effect. It was so much more helpful to the effort to marginalize Republicans, the ex-President, and conservatives to make the silly conspiracy theory-obsessed Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene the center of public attention. It was perfect, really; highlight a conspiracy theory wacko to discredit a genuine conspiracy the mainstream media participated in.

Of course, Fox News covered the TIME story, but you know...Fox. The New York Times took a clever counter-measure, publishing a three part series on “Trump’s efforts to subvert the election.” Whatever online discussion of TIME’s piece there was occurred on blogs like Ethics Alarms (See the PJ Media contribution, and Ann Althouse’s contribution.)

Here is Null Pointer’s Comment of the Day on the post, “You Know Why Real Conspiracies Are Always Discovered, Don’t You? It’s Because Someone Always Talks…Gee, Thanks, TIME!”

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Ethics Warm-Up, 1/22/2021, As Your Host Tries Not To Write Angry

Only the soothing tones of Johnny Nash could calm me down after this morning’s ordeal, and it hasn’t worked yet.

I set out with my wife to get her to a rather urgent doctor’s appointment at an office we had never been to before. I should have been forewarned knowing it was in Manassas (those who know Northern Virginia know what I mean.)To make a long, horrible story short, we never got there. The exits on Route 66 suddely skipped five numbers. There was a sign for Exit 47 A, which was also for 47 B without saying so. The construction everywhere made navigation impossible. After missing the right exit, detours and construction mad it seemingly impossible to get on 66 going the other way, The Google map directions were wrong. The GPS installed in the car refused to take the street number, and dumped us in no-man’s land. Naturally, everyone we talked to at the doctor’s office professed ignorance at how to get there. After wandering in the wilderness for two hours, we gave up. Then the last staffer at the doctor’s office said, “Oh, when you come back, don’t use Exit 47 like all the directions say. Use 44. That takes you right to our door and avoids all the construction.”

NOW you tell me that?

The over-arching goal of ethics is to make life easier and more pleasant for everyone else. If you work or live in a locale that is difficult to get to or find the first time, you warn people.

1. Welcome “Impeachment or Removal Plan U”! Well, not really welcome. Not really a removal plan either. Plan U is based on Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was being thrown around as a way to punish Senator Hawley and Cruz for doing what Democrats had done every time this century a Republican had won the Presidency: challenge the electoral vote. When Republicans do it, you see, it’s an insurrection. Then teh second that word escaped their lips, coup-minded Democrats hit themselves in the forehead with teh palm of their hands, “I could have had a V-8!” style, and said, “Wait a minute! How did we let this get by us when we were trying to devise a way to get rid of Trump without winning an election! It was there all the time!” Then, choosing to ignore the fact that you can’t “get rid of” someone who’s already gone, this became the latest of 21—yes 21!—bogus anti-Trump plans. (I haven’t added it to the list yet. Give me a break.)

Let U stand for “Unbelievable!”

Section 3 provides:

“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

Law profs Seth Tillman and Josh Blackman soberly analyze the theory here, saying in conclusion,

“…it is not clear that the House managers seek to disqualify Trump under the Impeachment Disqualification Clause, as well as under Section 3. The sole article of impeachment is opaque on this point. It references Section 3, but we think it is only referenced in the context of efforts to define a substantive impeachable offense. We expect that President Trump’s counsel will argue that the text of the House’s single article of impeachment does not give him fair notice that he faces Section 3 disqualification. Once again, the House’s rushed drafting may determine the fate of the Senate impeachment trial.”

That. and the fact that the impeachment was based on literally nothing.

2. Now this is a weird ethics movie…“The Killing of a Scared Deer, the 2017 film now on Netflix, raises a “Sophie’s Choice”-style ethical dilemma with solution that looks ridiculous but has at least surface validity if you can accept the premise: the character who has to make the choice is dealing with some kind of a curse.

3. Is it incompetent to employ a strategy that nobody knew was incompetent? Statistical analytics now show that the traditional football strategy of punting usually makes no sense. Now, college and professional teams are going for a first down when once they would have kicked the ball away.

The Chicago Tribune reports,

Punting has become far less prevalent in recent years. NFL teams punted an average of 3.7 times per game during the 2020 regular season, the lowest figure in recorded pro football history. Teams averaged 4.8 punts per game as recently as 2017, a rate that had held more or less steady since the mid-1980s but has declined in each of the last four seasons….The sudden decrease in punting comes over a decade after the football analytics community began decrying the punt as a counterproductive strategy, particularly in short-yardage situations near midfield or when trailing late in a close game. It doesn’t take much number-crunching to realize that if the average offense gains 5.6 yards per play (the 2020 rate), not only should a team be able to pick up a yard or 2 on fourth down, but it should also be wary of gifting the ball to an offense capable of marching right back down the field 5.6 yards at a time.

The traditions and conventional wisdom in sports and other activities, wrong, counter-productive or silly though they may be, don’t indicate incompetence until data, changed conditions or experience indicate that they don’t work. Now it seems obvious that punting is usually foolish, just as baseball finally learned that sacrifice bunts were dumb except in very special situations. But when a culture accepts conventional wisdom and it it is embedded in that culture, one cannot call it incompetence to stick with tradition, unless and until there is access to information proving the accepted practice to be folly.

4. A reminder: Yahoo! and other news sources have reported that “Over 408,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 as of Thursday.” That’s false. It is the essence of fake news. As Ethics Alarms had noted repeatedly, over 408,000 Americans may have died WITH the virus, but there is no question that they all did not die OF the virus. I am still waiting for a well-publicized estimate of how many of those deaths were not super-seniors, cancer patients, or others who may well have died anyway. This is something we have a right to know.

5. A plea for a double standard from Joe. Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller asked President Biden if the vaccination goal was “high enough,” since “that’s basically where the U.S. is right now.” Biden responded with pique, although he did not call Miller a pony-soldier, saying, “When I announced it you all said it wasn’t possible. Come on, give me a break, man.” It’s a fair request, but if there was ever an instance when any journalist from a non-conservative news organization gave Biden’s predecessor a break, please refresh my memory. I can’t think of one. Besides, Biden is already getting one ” break” after another, as Mediate notes in a recent post titled, “Media Begins Biden Presidency With Overt Fawning and Flattery.”

6. Hank Aaron has died. The legitimate baseball career home run champ (I do not count Barry Bonds) was 86. He represented the very best of baseball ethics on and off the field throughout his career unlike the icon whose homer total he bested (Babe Ruth had no peer as a player, but had the ethics of a ten-year-old his whole life), and the miscreant who passed him by cheating, Bonds. The Hammer was always being over-shadowed by someone: Willy Mays, a contemporary, was more gifted and charismatic; Ernie Banks was more lovable, Roberto Clemente was never had a chance to grow old. Henry Aaron just did his job every day, seldom missing a game due to injury, leading the National League in various seasons in batting average, homers,runs, hits and RBI. Aaron only won one Most Valuable Player Award (in 1957, when his Braves won the pennant), but over his 23 year career, he proved more valuable than almost all of his contemporaries.

[Notice of Correction: I originally wrote that Hank never won an an MVP. Thanks to LoSonnambulo for the correction.]

Kevin

Spuds head small

That’s Spuds above; the story only tangentially involves him. Today I took him to the Shirlington dog park about 7 minutes from our house. He loves it; it’s huge, and there are about 50 or more happy and generally well-behaved dogs of all breeds and sizes running and playing on a nice day, like today was. A half hour to 45 minutes is sufficient to get both of us exercised, him romping, me trying to keep him in sight.

When I arrived there were two geezers outside the gates, apparently leaving, one with a huge Bouvier that wanted to make Spuds’ acquaintance. I started chatting with the owner, and the older of the two men, who did not appear to have a dog, noticed my Red Sox warm-up jacket and launched into a pointless tale about Carl Yastrzemski. It turns out the guy—I later learned his name was Kevin—-had been an usher at Fenway Park 50 years ago. He was thrilled to learn that I was also a Bostonian.

I was mistaken, for Kevin wasn’t leaving; his dog was still inside the dog park. Spuds took off looking for pals, and Kevin latched on to me like a barnacle. I can match anyone in Boston-related anecdotes, and periodically interjected some while Kevin rambled on about Richard Cardinal Cushing, the Bruins, Boston College, Tip O’Neill, the death of Durgan Park, Jesuits and the Kennedys. He had done a lot of things and known some famous people; he also had a background in national intelligence. Unfortunately, he kept forgetting his stories mid-tale, and each incomplete story led to another: it was like spending time with Grandpa Simpson. Kevin also walked very slowly, so I kept losing sight of Spuds.

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The Throw-Away Puppies

That was a Facebook post relayed for comment on Reddit. I read it with a large, happy rescue dog snoring on my lap; he had already been given up to shelters twice in his young life. I found myself wondering how many innocent, loving, trusting animals would be experiencing the same cruelty, not just after Christmas but after a pandemic in which shelters have been depleted by people seeking companionship while they are stuck at home.

I suppose it is a good thing the Facebook user who composed this had her name redacted: some crazed PETA members–or my wife—might have tracked her down with mayhem on their mind. I have known people like the writers—still do, in fact—and they all regard themselves as decent, ethical people whose values are in order. In truth, they have the same ethical vacuum as dog-fighting enthusiasts, just from a different socioeconomic perspective

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Integrity Test At Harris -Teeter’s

I was doing a quick shopping run this afternoon at the local Harris Teeter’s, and ran into one of those little ethics challenges that eventually define us all.

As I was placing all my items on the conveyor belt, the nice old guy loading my cart—he’s helped me before—pulled the cart ahead so he could start putting in the bags. I had to catch up to to it to rescue the soft-drinks in the lower section of the cart. Eventually all was well and I was checked out— I saved 50 bucks!—and I rolled my bounty into the parking lot where I began loading it all into the trunk. Just as I thought I had finished, I noticed a large pack of paper towels (speaking of Bounty), maybe 15 dollars worth, sitting in the bottom of the cart in the front where I had originally put it. I got a horrible thought: had I left teh store without paying for it? I didn’t recall putting it on the belt. I decided that it must have escaped the old bagger’s attention when he pulled my mostly empty cart past the register.

So I was a paper towel thief. Now what? There was a huge line at all the registers. I could take the package to the customer service counter, but my receipt had the name of the cashier on it, and I worried that I would get her in trouble. I’ve been in these mess-ups before, and usually everyone would rather just avoid the hassle of getting it straight. I even considered driving back to the store tomorrow and just paying the money after explaining what happened. I checked the receipt, and didn’t see the item, but then I didn’t see several things I knew I had purchased. After avoiding several bouts of “Oh, hell, it just paper, why not go home and forget about it?,” I decided to be late coming home and to just get at the end of the line with the paper towels.

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Comments Of The Day, As “The Monday Friday Open Forum” Became The Ethics Alarms Mailbag

Mail

For some reason, the most recent Ethics Alarms open forum attracted quite a few ethics quandaries for discussion. Here are two I thought were especially noteworthy…first, from The Shadow, which is ironic, since I thought The Shadow was supposed to know what evil lurked in the hearts of men…

This is something that happened in my neighborhood (that I’ve only lived in for 2 months, so I don’t know anyone involved) and I was just an interested observer.

A family had pickets knocked off their fence multiple times in the past few months, so they put up a security camera. The next time it happened, the camera caught teenagers ramming and kicking the fence, then running across the road into the back yard of a house. An older couple owns the house, but the have teenage grandchildren living with them. This family posted the video on the neighborhood Facebook group asking for advice; they didn’t want to go talk to the people across the street because “they didn’t want to start trouble”. Some suggested going across the street to talk to them anyway, some suggested calling the police. Another neighbor ended up talking to the grandparents and It turns out the culprits were friends of the teenagers living with them.

I don’t know the final outcome, but there are many good ethics angles here:

1) Should this family have posted the video to Facebook?
2) What should they have done with the information about the teenagers across the street?
3) Should the 3rd party have stepped in to talk to the people across the street (does “duty to confront” apply here)?
4) Once it was known the culprits were friends of teenagers living there, what should the grandparents have done?

Any other good ethics angles here?

I think this is a pure Golden Rule situation, which means not posting the video to Facebook, and not going to the police, at least initially. You have the courtesy of going to the elderly couple, and ask if they will take care of the issue by contacting their grandkids’ friends’ parents. If they won’t do anything, then the police are the next stop. One must do what is necessary to get compensated for the property damage, while doing as little damage to everyone else as possible.

Now here’s ethics puzzle #2, from Sarah B.:

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These Are The “Experts” Your Present And Future Masters Rely Upon

monster-replica

If I weren’t so sick of this topic, it would deserve longer post…a rant even.

Reason reports that many epidemiologists believe we should all wear masks and socially distance forever:

“I expect that wearing a mask will become part of my daily life, moving forward, even after a vaccine is deployed,” Amy Hobbs, a research associate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health says.Marilyn Tseng, an assistant professor at California Polytechnic State University, said life would never revert to the way it was, though the preventative measures currently practiced—masks and social distancing—will feel “normal” in time. Similarly, Vasily Vlassov, a professor at HSE University in Moscow, said life was perfectly normal now because this is the new normal….”

Of course they say that. Are you surprised?

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“Duty To Confront” At The 7-11

Well, your friendly neighborhood ethics scold, unlike Democratic mayors and governors, is dedicated to doing what he urges others to do. In tonight’s case, I was obliged to follow through on the duty to confront (or the duty of confrontation), which has been a frequent theme here. I think it all came into focus for me when two jackasses at a Washington Nationals game were taking up two parking spots in the lot so they could “tailgate.” When I pointed out that they had only paid for one spot and were blocking where I wanted to park, their answer was “What are you going to do about it?” They chose…poorly. But I digress.

Tonight I was running an emergency errand to the local 7-11, and for some reason—free beer?—the parking lot was packed. Cars were double-parked, and I witnessed two near-accidents; it’s always been a badly designed lot. I had to cicle the block twice before I saw a space. And in the middle of it all the whole time, as other vehicles also searched for places to park, was a car with its hazard lights flashing, squatting in a spot right outside the store’s door, as the woman at the wheel blithely played, texted or whatever on her cell phone.

I went into the 7-11 and pointed her out to the two employees there. “You know, she’s preventing your customers from parking,” I said. “Oh, she’ll leave in a minute,” I was assured by one of the clerks, who obviously wasn’t looking forward to a confrontation. Neither was I: I was late getting home, I was hungry, and it was raining. By now, there were some empty spaces, including the one on the driver’s side of her car.

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A Favorite Personal Ethics Story From The Past, Revived By “The Queen’s Gambit”

the-queens-gambit-8b97b1d

The Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit” isn’t exactly an ethics film. However, it did trigger a memory from high school of an episode in my life that I cherish, when a group of callow teenage chess-players, led by me, repeatedly made the admirable choice, and left the scene as heroes, even though we lost.

It was my junior year, and approximately the same period in which the heroine of “The Queen’s Gambit” finds herself discriminated against for being a rare young woman in the male-dominated world of competitive chess. Arlington High School had a chess club, and I was president of the club and captain of the team. We had a girl on the team: my sister Edith, who was a freshman that year. She was undefeated in our league in ten competitions with other schools, first because she was very good, if ruthless, second because everyone she played under-estimated her, and third because I “stacked” her in our ten board line-up. Edith always played 9th or 10th board, which means she was facing inferior players, giving the AHS team a guaranteed win every time.

That year we decided to enter the Metropolitan Boston High School Team Championship tournament, a five player-team affair routinely won by Sharon (Mass.)High School’s team. It featured the highest ranking junior player in the state, and the state Junior Champion, as well as a third player of similar caliber. I brought Edith as our fifth board, and sure enough, she was the only girl in the tournament. She also did very well, though she lost one game early on: the competition was much stronger than what she was used to.

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