Sunday Ethics Reflections, 9/13/2020: “Hold On To Your Butts!”

1. Our aspiring leaders:

  • A 31-year-old female deputy and 24-year-old male deputy were shot while sitting in their patrol car at a Metro rail station in Compton, California. Protesters gathered outside the emergency room at the hospital where they were treated. The sheriff’s department found it necessary to tweet:  “To the protesters blocking the entrance & exit of the HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM yelling “We hope they die” referring to 2 LA Sheriff’s ambushed today in #Compton: DO NOT BLOCK EMERGENCY ENTRIES & EXITS TO THE HOSPITAL,. People’s lives are at stake when ambulances can’t get through.” President Trump tweeted in response to the shooting:

Incredible: flat learning curve. After all the uproar about calling people “animals.” And if the shooters are minorities…The only one who can lose this election for President Trump is President Trump.

  • The Times of Israel reports, based on a recording of a virtual fundraiser, that Joe Biden said that the recent development of Arab states normalizing relations with Israel was “something positive” President Trump is doing “accidentally.”

Stay classy, Joe. To be fair, that has been the narrative of the Democratic Party/”resistance”/news media alliance for four years: if something goes wrong, it is the President’s fault; if something goes right, it’s either wrong anyway because Trump is responsible, or it’s just luck or an accident.

2. And now, from the world of sports! Continue reading

Open Forum On Zoom Day!

Ugh. I have a Zoom seminar  on legal ethics to give today, which means dry runs, tech checks, and anxiety. I’ve concluded that I detest Zoom programs. You can’t read your audience, and for all I know they are doing crossword puzzles. Managing notes is awkward, graphics don’t look very good, and neither do I.

I  intend to be pantless as my silent protest against the whole fiasco.

Since I have no idea how and when posts will be emanating from 2707 Westminster Place, I’m opening up another Open Forum. As always, keep your commentary on topic (ethics and leadership), civil, witty, and substantive.

Now I’m going to review my notes…

Ethics Quiz: The Doomsday Projection

From: EcoWatch:

Deforestation coupled with the rampant destruction of natural resources will soon have devastating effects on the future of society as we know it, according to two theoretical physicists who study complex systems and have concluded that greed has put us on a path to irreversible collapse within the next two to four decades, as VICE reported.

The research by the two physicists, one from Chile and the other from the UK, was published last week inNature Scientific Reports. The researchers used advance statistical modeling to look at how a growing human population can cope with the loss of resources, mainly due to deforestation. After crunching the numbers, the scientists came up with a fairly bleak assessment of society’s chance of surviving the climate crisis.

“Based on the current resource consumption rates and best estimate of technological rate growth our study shows that we have very low probability, less than 10 percent in most optimistic estimate, to survive without facing a catastrophic collapse,” the authors write in the study abstract.

From all the issues that the climate crisis raises like rising sea levels, increases in extreme weather, drought, flooding, and crop failures, scientists zeroed in on deforestation since it is more measurable right now. They argue that forest density, or its current scarcity, is considered the cataclysmic canary in the coal mine, according to the report, as The New York Post reported.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quizto conclude this weekend pf nonsense and frustration:

Is this story responsible to report as news without a lot more context? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/7/2020: Writing The Morning Warm-Up While In A Foul Mood Is Like Grocery Shopping When You’re Hungry..

In other words, a bad idea…but I don’t have much choice.

1. Let’s see if talking about two ethics movies helps. In honor of Wilfred Brimley’s death last week, I watched “Absence of Malice” from the beginning for the first time in decades. The film is shockingly relevant. It deftly exposes both the culture behind unethical journalism and the abuse of government investigations, and in both cases the arrogant “the ends justify the means” mentality that infects both professions at fault. I venture that it is impossible to see the movie now and not think about Mike Flynn, the Times and CNN, fake news, the Russian collusion investigation, Adam Schiff  and the weaponization of leaks.

The main difference between the movie and what we have watched in real life over the last nearly four years is scope: “Absence of Malice” is about a local investigation, and there is an implication that what we see isn’t typical, but a single instance of a system going wrong because of a couple of “bad apples.” Now we know, or should, that the film was a harbinger of things to come.

All of the ethics points are made the Assistant US Attorney General James Wells, played by Brimley, when he gathers the involved parties at a courthouse in the movie’s climax. The whole scene isn’t on YouTube, which is too bad, but two of Brimley’s speeches stand out:

To the ambitious and arrogant reporter played by Sally Field:

“You know and I know that we can’t tell you what to print, or what not to. We  hope the press will act responsibly. But when you don’t, there ain’t a lot we can do about it.”

And referring to his subordinate, an ambitious and arrogant prosecutor played by Bob Balaban:

“We can’t have people go around leaking stuff for their own reasons. It ain’t legal. And worse than that, by God it ain’t right.”

The other ethics film I watched was “Hondo,” a John Wayne movie based on a Louie L’amour novel. Somehow I had missed it, even though I have seen almost all of Wayne’s “A” films, and quite a few of his “B” and “C” efforts as well. “Hondo” was a product of Wayne’s own production company. There are ethics themes in many Wayne movies, but perhaps this one qualifies more than the rest as an ethics film.

The movie has honesty and integrity as its main themes, and is especially interesting in the light of efforts by the cancel mob to paint Wayne as a racist. In “Hondo,” he plays a wandering gun-fighter who is part Indian, and whose respect for the tribes and sympathy for their plight in America is palpable. It’s an excellent and thought-provoking film; picking the Duke’s top ten is impossible, but “Hondo” is easily in his top 20.

2. The awful Senator Hirono. Hawaii Senator Maizie Hirono repeatedly refused to specifically condemn Antifa, retreating to “all violent extremists are bad” rhetoric. She ultimately walked out of Senator Ted Cruz’s hearing on “The Right of the People Peaceably to Assemble: Protecting Speech by Stopping Anarchist Violence” after he asked her to clarify whether she included Antifa in her definition of violent extremists. She refused, and then walked out of the hearing, taking six other Senators with her, and for the life of me I can’t find out their names because our news media is hopeless.

3. More on Cruz: Senator Cruz’s statement on Black Lives Matter during his hearing warrants circulation, and I’d love to hear all the lazy and craven Black Lives Matter shills respond to his points. He said this after Hirono said that “Defund the police” wasn’t intended literally:

What else does BLM the organization support? On its website it is called for a “boycott of white capitalism.” In 2017, they called on people not to spend any money with white corporations. And not only that, the BLM website says that one of their objective is dismantling the “patriarchal practices and disrupting the Western prescribed nuclear family.” That’s what they say their objectives are. Now the reason that matters is right now corporate America is desperate to demonstrate their virtue as we see great racial dissension.

So Black Lives Matter, BLM the group, raises money on ActBlue, the fundraising mechanism for virtually every elected Democrat in Congress. Among the donors to BLM the organization, according to public reports, include the company Ubisoft, which has given between $50,000 and $100,000. DoorDash, which has given reportedly $500,000. Amazon, which has given an unidentified portion of $10 million. Gatorade, which has given an unidentified portion of $500,000. Nabisco, which has given an unidentified portion of $500,000. Deckers, which has given an unidentified portion of $500,000. Microsoft, which has given $250,000. Dropbox, which has given $500,000 and Fitbit, which the amount given is not identified.

I would note Microsoft, the largest individual shareholder is Bill Gates. It’s more than ironic that Microsoft is funding an organization calling for boycotting all white corporations. Bill Gates is white. Microsoft is literally funding an organization calling for Microsoft to be defunded. Jeff Bezos, the largest owner of Amazon, who likewise is funding this radical Marxist group. Jeff Bezos is white too. And he’s funding an organization that is calling for the boycotting of Amazon.

This is dangerous and it’s worth understanding that when corporate America floods millions of dollars into explicitly Marxist terrorist organizations that glorify cop killers, that glorify violence, that the violence and terrorism that flows from that should not be surprising.

Bingo. Continue reading

Let’s Get The Week Off To A Positive Start With Encouraging Ethics Stories! Like…Oh. Never Mind…(Part 2)

Part I is here.

Still trying to empty my “annoying ethics notes” in-box. Bear with me…

4. It’s called “not caving to peer pressure.” Remember when that was a good thing? In the 75% black NBA—that means black supremacy, right?—any white player who doesn’t grovel before that Black Lives Matter idol, which has its name emblazoned on the NBA courts—is asking to have his home firebombed. Thus the only player with the guts and integrity to stand for the National Anthem—not standing is the position of the Democratic Party, remember—is black. Orlando Magic forward, Jonathan Issac,  became the first NBA player to demonstrate proper respect for the symbol of the nation that my father risked his life for, as the NBA resumed its season after a 20-week hiatus. All the other players and coaches from both teams, as well as referees, “took a knee” during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, as the 22-year-old not only stood, but was not wearing a “Black Lives Matter” shirt.

Here was a typical reaction on social media:

Got that? Not caving to the mob is weak, and Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.

5. And while we’re on the topic of the National Anthem, I refuse to believe a majority of Americans will vote for the side that encourages this insanity. Last month, The USSSA Pride and Scrap Yard Fast Pitch, two independent professional softball teams that feature some of the top players in the world, began a seven-game series in Melbourne, Fla., facing little competition from other live sports. However, after the organization’s  general manager tweeted  to President Trump during the game that the teams were standing during the national anthem, all the players quit, vowing never to play for the organization again.

6. In case you wondered, the New York Times is still romanticizing and sentimentalizing illegal immigration.  So is Netflix. In its new documentary “Immigration Nation”—that gets an immediate ding from me, because it’s about illegal immigration, a crime, not immigration, an honorable, essential process—

Part of that effect comes from seeing agents push the boundaries of legality — most strikingly, how they routinely enter apartments when “invited” by cowed, uncomprehending immigrants, in a way that’s surprisingly similar to what you’d see in a TV cop drama. (Maybe that’s where they learned it.) Once inside the home of the target, probably an immigrant accused of a crime, they frequently find “collaterals,” additional people who can be rounded up simply because they’re undocumented.

That last clause is a classic. It’s not “simply because they are undocumented,” it is entirely because they are in the country illegally, violating our borders and laws, and if they left on their own, the wouldn’t have to be “rounded up.” Here’s another quote from the review,

But the real impact of the show’s early episodes isn’t the outrage you may feel over the thuggish tactics. It’s the wearying, demoralizing depiction of a self-perpetuating bureaucracy, one that churns through the lives of people it takes little notice of — as if your trip to the D.M.V. meant not just standing in an endless line, but then being shackled and put on a plane to Central America.

The lives of illegal immigrants are not the concern of ICE—they are the responsibility of their own countries. “Self-perpetuating bureaucracy” is meaningless pejorative rhetoric: what perpetuates  ICE is the continued breaching of our borders, encouraged and enabled by people like Hale. and, incidentally, the late John Lewis.

7. Here’s a revealing article that will blow your mindThese Girls Are Leading Black Lives Matter Protests.

The Times interviews several self-involved, self-righteous, passionate and completely ignorant young women who demonstrate that they are motivated entirely by free-flowing emotion without any concern for reality. Of course, the Times reporter feeds their narcissism, never challenging their certitude. If you wonder why so much of the George Floyd Freakout looks like it was organized by children, here is your answer: it is. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Observations On A Tender, Obnoxious, Unethical Screed”

Bill Weir’s nauseating open letter to his newborn son River—GACK! ICK! BLECHHH! —- was so unethical in so many ways that I almost needed a ventilator to finish reading it. When I had finished posting on the monstrosity, I was awash with regret that I hadn’t the space nor the time to write the letter Weir should write, and was hopeful that one of the many acid-penned bards among the talented  commentariate here would take up the challenge. I was not disappointed.

Here is Steve-O-In-NJ’s Comment of the Day, one of his finest, on the post, “Observations On A Tender, Obnoxious, Unethical Screed”:

The article is utter garbage, written by someone untrained in science, but trained in making up stories. One day when River is grown up, assuming he makes it there and isn’t driven off the deep end by constant teasing, I hope he reads this article and asks him, just like Greta, “how dare you?” How dare you use my birth to push your own agenda and your employers’ agenda? How dare you plaster pictures of me as a newborn infant all over the internet where anyone can see them? How dare you reveal the circumstances of my conception to the world? I’m an individual. I am not an accessory to flash around like a new pair of sustainable dockers. I am not a prop for your causes. I am not an illustration to make a point next to pictures you cherry-picked to tell the story you wanted.

I’m not a half bad storyteller myself, and I’d tell quite a different story if a son were born to me. I always said if I had a son I’d name him Charles James, after my grandfather and father (ironically also now after two heroes of my own writing). So, if he were born, I’d say this: Continue reading

Observations On A Tender, Obnoxious, Unethical Screed

My original impulse was to post  this as an ethics quiz, with a heading like, “Is Bill Weir’s essay as bad as I think it is?”

Bill Weir is CNN’s climate correspondent. His wife just gave birth to a son, for which Ethics Alarms gives him a hardy congratulations and will wait for its metaphorical cigar. However, Weir chose to use this life event for an astoundingly long, self-indulgent, and in several ways unethical post on CNN’s site headlined, “To my son, born in the time of coronavirus and climate change.”

Read the thing, if you can stand it. Commenter Other Bill sent it to me with the query, “Is it ethical for this guy to have a child?” He was engaging in hyperbole, but the thrust of the question is valid. Here’s how the essay begins:

Against all odds you were conceived in a lighthouse, born during a pandemic and will taste just enough of Life as We Knew It to resent us when it’s gone. I’m sorry. I’m sorry we broke your sea and your sky and shortened the wings of the nightingale. I’m sorry that the Great Barrier Reef is no longer great, that we value Amazon more than the Amazon and that the waterfront neighborhood where you burble in my arms could be condemned by rising seas before you’re old enough for a mortgage.
The scent of your downy crown makes my heart explode. The curl in your Tic Tac toes fills me with enough love to power New York City.

Gack! I’m sorry, I have to take a break. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: The U.S. Congress. Again

Actor Mark Ruffalo (he plays the Hulk in The Avengers  movies, but it wasn’t because of that role) was invited to testify before Congress last year on public policy involving  public health, chemistry, toxicology, and epidemiology. He has no expertise in these areas at all. The reason was that he starred in “Dark Waters,” which I wrote about here.

Ruffalo is a 9/11 truther, believing  that the U.S. government helped destroy the World Trade Center. That would be enough for me to ding him as an authority on anything, but he has embraced other conspiracy theories as well, like this one.

Never mind: he was presented to the public as an authority on pollution whose opinions on environmental matters have weight. The don’t, and they shouldn’t.

This is a repeat offense. Members of Congress are addicted to the unprofessional and insulting stunt of inviting actors and performers to testify as substantive witnesses on topics that they acted about in movies. As a professional director, I can state with absolute certainty that if an actor is really an expert in something their character was supposed to experience or know something about, 1) that actor is very unusual, and 2) there will still be thousands of real authorities who know a lot more.

Nevertheless, Congress keeps doing this, apparently believing that the public is so naive and gullible that they really believe that because a performer credibly pretends to know what a script-writer prepares to make them sound like the know, they really are experts. Sadly, a lot of the public does believe that. (More sadly, a lot of actors do too) Continue reading

“Dark Waters”

“Dark Waters” is another ethics movie, and a very good one. Like all ethics movies involving real events, it is also educational—disturbingly so.

The film, which was released late last year, dramatizes the story of attorney Robert Bilott and his nearly two decades of battling DuPont over its deliberate (okay, “negligent”) poisoning of citizens and the entire nation with the chemicals used to manufacture Teflon. Yes, “the entire nation”: that’s not hyperbole. It is believed that the unregulated and toxic chemical called PFOA is in the system of everyone living in the U.S. as a result of DuPont’s conduct.

The movie has not been a prominent success, perhaps because is treads along the well-worn path of earlier movies about similar corporate scandals and class action law suits, like  Julia Roberts’ “Erin Brockovich” ( Pacific Gas and Electric Company ) and  John Travolta’s “A Civil Action” (Beatrice Foods and W. R. Grace and Company). The star (and producer) of “Dark Water,” Mark Ruffalo, isn’t quite in the same star category as Travolta and Roberts, but an A-list cast was assembled to back him, including Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins,  Victor Garber, Mare Winningham, and Bill Pullman.

“Dark Waters,” horrifying to say, is mostly accurate. It was also one of those films where I was left wondering, “How did I miss this? Was it me, or was the story under-reported? If it was the latter, why was it under-reported?” The film was based on the 2016 New York Times Magazine article “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” as well as that lawyer’s memoir. Exposure,” giving  Bilott’s perspective on his 20-year legal battle against DuPont. In the end, the company paid over $600 million  in a settlement, which was far less than they should have paid; I’m sure the company regards this as a victory. (Its stock went up after the announcement.)

Imagine: Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ick Or Ethics? The Nauseating Social Media Meme”

Not for the first time, a commenter has done a more thorough job fisking a problematical statement that I have. Actually, I didn’t even try to dissect the memed screed below…

…I  asked whether it was truly unethical, or just signature significance for an arrogant political correctness junkie.  Ryan Harkins took on the greater challenge, and as usual, did a superb job.

Here is Ryan’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ick Or Ethics? The Nauseating Social Media Meme…

Today I am wearing a shirt that reads:

Inconceivable. Adj.
1. Not capable of being imagined or grasped.
2. Not what you think it means.

The problem with memes like the above is that it is disingenuous. What do you mean by love? Do you mean philia? Eros? Caritas? Squishy feel-goodness, for which I don’t know a Latin equivalent? In general, especially given what I’ve observed of the people who post such memes, I don’t think “love” means what they think it means. I certainly don’t think they see love as selflessly willing the good of the other, but maybe that’s because I’m cynical and see this meme as not willing the good of someone else, but trying to proclaim one’s own virtue.

What is meant by inclusion? Is there nothing someone could ever do to warrant exclusion? Or is there a little asterisk pointing one to the fine print, where we don’t include the scum of the earth, like religious white men, sex offenders, and Trump supporters?

I don’t have much to say about empathy or compassion. Equality always begs the question: “Equal how?” Because again, people keep using that word, and I do not think it means what they think it means. Equal before the law? Equal in dignity? Equal in socioeconomic status? Equal in success? Or how about created equally, and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, including (but not limited to) life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

I have no problem with dignity, but what about diversity and community? There is unavoidable tension in the community when there is diversity. We might not like that fact, but it is there. As soon as you have two people of different opinions in the room, there is tension, and by and large what we’ve seen is that people are less and less tolerant of tension. I wouldn’t say they are less tolerant of differences of opinion, as long as those opinions keep to themselves and don’t bother other people. It is the tension that people are finding unbearable. Maybe it is because we are no longer equipped to have our opinions or viewpoints challenged. But I also have a hard time believing anyone believes in community, when so many are nose down I electronics (as I am as I write this) and all my friends belong to the same echo chamber as myself. Continue reading