Wait…ONLY Black People?

black people tweet

That’s a tweet that has been going around social media, as fatuous tweets often do.

My questions in response:

  • Why only black people? I try to smile at all people I encounter. Yesterday I waved at a black neighbor I have never met while walking Spuds—but not because he was black. He waved back.
  • Solidarity with what? The reason you smile at strangers is to express solidarity with the community, the nation, the human race. If my smile is supposed to mean “I believe you are an oppressed victim of this rotten racist nation and white people like me, and I’m with you, bro!” then to hell with it.
  • If you smile only at the blacks in a crowd, what are you saying to everyone else? Isn’t that pandering? Isn’t that insulting and condescending to the black being grinned at?
  • What if the response to your smile is a snub? How should you take that? [Relevant: this post.]

Presenting The Complete Fake Voice Ethics Verdicts

Voiceprint

In Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, filmaker Morgan Neville,examines the life and death of the famous TV chef Bourdain. In the process of doing so, he introduced a new documentary device: using Artificial Intelligence to simulate Bourdain’s voice.

In a recent interview with the New Yorker, Neville explained that he used AI to synthetically create a voiceover reading of a Bourdain email that sounded like Bourdain was the reader. He engaged a software company and provided about a dozen hours of recordings, allowing them to create a convincing electronic version model of Bourdain’s voice. That voice reads three lines in the film, including an email sent to a friend by Bourdain: “My life is sort of shit now. You are successful, and I am successful, and I’m wondering: Are you happy?” But Bourdain, of course, never read that or any of the other three lines, to which Neville’s message to viewers is “Nyah, nyah, nyah!” “If you watch the film … you probably don’t know what the other lines are that were spoken by the AI, and you’re not going to know,” he said.

Well, critics, including Ottavia Bourdain, the chef’s former wife, objected to the ethics of an unannounced use of a “deepfake” voice to say sentences that Bourdain never spoke.

I was going to make this an Ethics Quiz, and then after thinking about for a few seconds, decided that the issue doesn’t rate a quiz, because I’m not in nay doubt over the answer. Is what Neville did unethical?

Yes, of course it is. It is unethical because it deliberately deceives listeners into believing that they are hearing the man talking when he never said the words they are hearing. It doesn’t mitigate the deception, as Neville and his defenders seem to think, that Fake Bourdain is reading the actual unspoken words in an email. It’s still deception. Is the creation and use of a zombie voice for this purpose also unethical, like the creation of CGO versions of famous actors to manipulate in movies they never made, discussed (and condemned) here?

That’s a tougher call, but I come down on the side of the dead celebrity who is being made into an unwilling ventriloquist’s dummy by emerging technology.

This would be a propitious time to point out what is ethical and what isn’t when it comes to using a dead celebrity’s voice, real or fake, in various forms of communications and education:

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Everyday Ethics: The Pizza Mess

ha-ha-nelson

Once again, we encounter the gratuitously hostile stranger phenomenon.

I was running a quick groceries errand today, and a young man right in front of me dropped a cardboard carton containing a hot slice of pizza on the floor. Naturally, it landed top down, and the pizza was smeared all over the linoleum. I was right beside him as he froze briefly, looking down at the mess forlornly.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I said, my Golden Rule reflex kicking in. I hate dropping food, especially ice cream cones and pizza; it brings back many childhood traumas. I genuinely empathized with the guy. And you know what? He completely blew me off. He didn’t look at me, acknowledge my expression of sympathy, or even grunt. He just left the dead pizza slice there, turned on his heels, and walked quickly off to call a staffer.

No, he didn’t have ear buds. He was just another rude SOB who has no interest in contributing to a congenial, mutually supportive society. Can you devise any excuse for this behavior? I don’t think there is an excuse. I think this is evidence that he is a member of the growing and thriving jerk component of American society. Why do so many bystanders refuse to demonstrate care for strangers in peril or stress? Reactions like I got is one of the reasons.

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Dress Code Ethics (Again) From The “Oh, Come ON!” Files: The Immodest Fitness Model

bodybuilder-1

Two days ago, American Airlines denied boarding for Deniz Saypinar, a Turkish-born fitness model traveling from Dallas-Fort Worth to Miami because, the carrier explained to her, its conditions of carriage require all customers to dress “appropriately,” and her outfit wasn’t appropriate.

Ya think? That photo above shows how she presented herself at the gate.

“The customer was advised of our policy and was rebooked on a subsequent flight. The customer has since arrived in Miami,” the airline’s rep said.

Deniz is in great shape; I wonder why, if she was going to grandstand like this, she didn’t just wear a g-string and pasties and go all the way with it. I do not believe for a second that she expected to be allowed on the plane dressed like that. She wanted to set off a controversy and win herself Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame, while giving feminists something to shout about.

“You will never believe what happened to me at Texas Airport,” first non-American citizen to win the US National Bikini Fitness Competition in 2021 wailed to her 1 million followers on Instagram as she posted her attire.

Oh yes I will!

“I am an athlete, and now I have to wait here until the morning,” she wrote. “I like to wear feminine clothes that reveal my femininity, but I never dress in a way that will offend anyone. I’m mature and civilized enough to know what I can and cannot wear. I don’t deserve to be treated like the worst person in the world for wearing denim shorts What separates us from animals if humans can’t control even their most primitive impulses? I feel insulted. They wouldn’t let me on the plane because I wore these shorts in the United States.”

Uh, I wouldn’t call that an exactly fair description of what happened. She wasn’t treated “like the worst person in the world,” although she should have been treated as a narcissist and ruthless self-promoter who deliberately wasted the time of airline staff and caused a pointless controversy just to get her name and figure publicized. And she wasn’t rejected as a passenger for “wearing denim shorts.”

” What separates us from animals if humans can’t control even their most primitive impulses? ” has to win an irony award: it is the model who can’t control her primitive impulse to display herself in places where such displays are rude and disruptive. Decorum and manners in public also separate us from animals. Wearing reasonably modest clothing in public is basic civility, showing respect for others.

What do you want to bet that she wears that kind of outfit and then, when some little fat guy stares at her, gets indignant?

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An Everyday Ethics Conundrum: Free Air

air pump

Help me out with this one, if you can.

Our car has a slow leak in my right front tire. It get about seven pounds low every three days or so, and it has not been convenient for me to spend the time to go to the dealer and have the thing plugged. For several months now I have just filled the tire at the closest filling station, which has two air pumps (one is perpetually broken) that require six quarters to start the air coming.

About a week ago, both of the air dispensers—including the busted one— began sporting signs announcing that air would now be $2.00 for five minutes rather than $1.50. At the time, that caused me additional annoyance since I only had six quarters, and had to get change at the 7-11 to acquire the additional fifty cents. But when I put in the coins, the air turned on after only six quarters, as it always had. I finished filling the tire in about a minute, wasting the other four minutes of potential air, assuming the change in price had just occurred and the owner hadn’t yet adjusted the machine. But today when I went to fill up the once-again underinflated tire, it still only took $1.50 to start the air flowing.

The question: Am I ethically obligated to inform the owner of this? Do I owe him a buck for the last two air purchases?

Ethics Nightmares, 6/23-24/21

I’m up at 3:30 am writing an ethics post because a nightmare woke me up. I don’t want to talk about it…

1. Breaking! American citizens are not as stupid as progressives think they are! At least in this instance…the first wave in the Democratic Party’s unethical push to eliminate safeguards agaiants fraudulent voting was the campaign during the Obama administration to label voter ID requirements as “racist’ and “voter suppression.” The argument that it made sense not to require voters to present the same level of identification necessary to rent a car, cash a check or get on an airplane when the integrity of our elections is involved was intellectually dishonest, but the with the degree to which the news media carried the message for their favorite party, I assumed this particular brainwashing exercise was a success. But in the wake of the failure of that party’s attempted take-down of election security last week, the Monmouth University Poll revealed that 80% of the public, approve of voter ID. I know, polls. But that’s a pretty convincing margin:

Even Democrats favor ID, though not by a large enough margin to generate any respect. The big surprise was that Monmouth shows whites splitting 77/21 in favor of ID and nonwhites favoring the measure even more strongly, at 84/13.

The American Left, wherein the One-Worlders dwell, always like to cite the United States’ failure to emulate European governments—which the U.S. decided at its origin not to follow by design—as an argument for various measures like banning capital punishment, nanny states, , and gun ownership restrictions, but have been adamantly mute on the fact that 46 of 47 European countries require government-issued photo ID to vote. The one exception has been Great Britain (although not Northern Ireland), and last month Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government said it would make photo IDs mandatory in response to a Royal Commission report.

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Unethical Email Of The Month: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Lightfoot email

That obnoxious, bullying, uncivil and unprofessional memo from Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, is signature significance. Competent and effective managers don’t write and send memos like that, not even once. As a subordinate, I would resign after receiving such an email. As a supervisor, I would place a staffer who sent that memo on probation after requiring her to apologize to the recipient.

Chicago is one of the most difficult American cities to govern. Lightfoot is currently facing legal problems as a consequence of her discriminatory announcement that she would only do interviews with “journalists of color.” The email, just another of many pieces of evidence showing Lightfoot’s arrogance and incompetence.

This is what happens when voters elect officials based not on their management experience and revealed leadership skills, but on their gender and skin shade.

[Instapundit’s Ed Driscoll had a funny line about the email: “CHICAGO’S MAYOR MORPHED INTO JACK TORRANCE SO SLOWLY, I HARDLY EVEN NOTICED…”

Friday Ethics Dry-Off, 6/11/2021: Apple Pie, The Duke, “Lillibet,” The “Only If You’re The Right Kind Of Black Caucus” And Shut Up, Donald

It’s raining like crazy here, so…

1. And now for something completely stupid…Poe’s Law is getting a workout as The Great Stupid heads into its final stage, and I have to discipline myself not to write about too many episodes like this one, which once would have been regarded as parody because it would have been parody. Raj Patel, an apparent communist, explains in this unhinged piece by The Guardian about “food injustice,” that the apple pie is a symbol of American imperialism and white supremacy, like this…

Not that apples are particularly American….Apples traveled to the western hemisphere with Spanish colonists in the 1500s in what.. is now better understood as a vast and ongoing genocide of Indigenous people….

Not that the recipe for apple pie is uniquely American….By the time the English colonized the new world, apple trees had become markers of civilization, which is to say property….John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, took these markers of colonized property to the frontiers of US expansion where his trees stood as symbols that Indigenous communities had been extirpated.

Not that the gingham on which our apple pie rests is uniquely American….this war capitalism enslaved and committed acts of genocide against millions of Indigenous people in North America, and millions of Africans and their descendants through the transatlantic slave trade. In the process, cotton laid the basis of finance, police and government that made the United States.

Since this is quite a lot to acknowledge, it is easier to misremember. In the drama of nationalist culture, the bloody and international origins of the apple pie are subject to a collective amnesia.

This, though extreme, is the weaponization of the cognitive dissonance scale that has become a prime part of the strategy to unmake the United States, cancel its freedoms, and turn its values inside out. Consistent with Critical Race Theory, literally everything in our culture, including the best and most innocent of it, must be traced to something evil.

Even apple pie. Conservative websites are having fun mocking this article. They are foolish. Patel is deadly serious, and our children will be taught this perspective unless there is relentless resistance.

2. John Wayne died on this date in 1979. “The Duke” had the biggest impact on American culture and ethics of any performer; there really isn’t anyone close. And it was a positive impact; John Wayne (really Marion Morrison) the man is an interesting subject, but what mattered was his art. He dedicated his career to portraying the independent American male individualist with all his virtues and flaws, aided by some of the greatest film-makers in Hollywood history, notably John Ford and Howard Hawks. Even before Hollywood took its disastrous turn to the hard Left, Wayne suffered because of the enmity liberals and the academic elite held (and hold) toward the core American values that Wayne’s characters, often incompletely, tried to embody. Pauline Kael, much idolized as a film critic (I detested her), refused to do anything but ridicule Wayne’s performances out of pure political bias. For me, especially as I became more experienced as a stage director, Wayne’s acting impressed me more the more I watched him, and I have watched him more than I have watched anyone.

There has been an effort of late to “cancel” the Duke, but they’ll have more luck with apple pie. The John Wayne character remains strong, inspiring, and complex. Over 40 years after his death, Wayne’s movies are still featured on TV regularly; no actor made more great ones, and the good ones are still entertaining. My favorites? “Stagecoach” (of course), “Red River,” “Rio Bravo”, “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon,” “The Searchers,” “Hondo,” “True Grit”, “The Quiet Man,” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence,” with Hawks’ “Hatari!” as a special guilty pleasure.

I miss him. America misses him.

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Ethics Quiz: The Image-Shattering Werewolf Novel

werewolf transformation

I was going to include this in the Morning Warm-Up, which was already weird, but then realized that I wasn’t sure what the ethics verdict should be. Thus it became an ethics quiz.

Which American novelist would seem like the most unlikely to author a werewolf story? I wouldn’t put him at the top of my list, but John Steinbeck, a Nobel laureate known for somber Depression-era literary classics, would certainly be in the top ten. Yet the lionized author of “Of Mice and Men,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Cannery Row” and “Travels With Charley” did write a werewolf novel, in 1930, when he was a struggling writer. Completed under the pseudonym of Peter Pym, “Murder at Full Moon” was never published. A single copy sits in an archive in Texas, including drawings by Steinbeck himself.

Gavin Jones, scholar of American literature at Stanford University, has read the book, and pronounced it fascinating, complete and publishable. The agents for Steinbeck’s estate, however, have so far rejected his entreaties. “It’s a potboiler, but it’s also the caldron of central themes we see throughout Steinbeck’s later work,” Jones insists, and argues that the public should be able to read it. The author’s literary agents, the guardians of Steinbeck’s legacy, demur, saying,

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Baseball Ethics Notes, Because I Know Baseball And I Know Ethics, And If You’re Not Interested, You Don’t Have To Read it

Pillar

1. As predicted, Major League Baseball announced that Twins reliever Tyler Duffey has been suspended for three games and fined an undisclosed amount for “intentionally throwing a pitch behind Yermín Mercedes of the Chicago White Sox during the top of the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s game at Target Field.” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli was suspended for one game and fined for the incident. This all came out of the weird “unwritten rules” incident I wrote about here. Throwing at or near a player who breached an “unwritten rule” was how such rules were once enforced, and umpires allowed it. Now throwing at players deliberately is treated as the dangerous practice it always was, as the game was reminded of this week when Mets outfielder Kevin Pillar (above) was hit in the face by a fastball. Beanballs were once considered part of the game, and in fact an essential tool of the successful pitcher, and long before batters wore helmets.

2. Still more on the Mercedes incident: White Sox manager Tony LaRussa, who has been generally ridiculed for his insistence that his player should not have hit a home run on a softball league pitch when his team was ahead by 11 runs, keeps insisting that he is right and everyone else is wrong. “If you’re going to tell me that sportsmanship and respect for the game of baseball and respect for your opponent is not an important priority, then I can’t disagree with you more . . . Do you think you need more [runs] to win, you keep pushing. If you think you have enough, respect the game and opposition. Sportsmanship,” he told reporters. Well, in baseball, you never know how much you need to win. Eleven is pretty tough, but the Boston Red Sox scored 17 runs in one inning against the Detroit Tigers on June 18, 1953. You never know. It’s also sportsmanship not to cheat the fans by trying to pitch or hit as well as possible, every time, all the time. That means bad sportsmanship includes a team letting a position player pitch, which is the equivalent of a white flag. That’s how this whole thing started.

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