Distracted Ethics Warm-Up, 11/24/2020: “A Website, Two Governors And An Actress Walk Into A Bar…”

distracted

I’m writing this while simultaneously watching an Ethics Rock Extreme Zoom replay and answering typed-in questions from participants. Boy, I hate watching and listening to myself….

1. Unethical website? www.everylegalvote.com is labeled by the New York Times as “promoting claims of fraud, built on fantasy.” I’d call the big map showing Biden with 214 Electoral votes and the President with 232 misleading. I also find the Times’ constant refrain in headlines and stories that the President is “trying to subvert a free and fair election with false claims of fraud” an outright lie.” The 2020 election was not “fair” because of biased and manipulated reporting by the Times and most of the media, and there is no question that many of the allegations of fraud are accurate, with legitimate reasons to suspect broader corruption.

The site is also serving valid purpose since the news media isn’t reporting the current controversies objectively.

2. And this is why most celebrities and actors should shut up, because they make people stupid. Here is actress Kristen Stewart’s response to a interviewers question on how she feels about gay activists demanding that only gay actors should be allowed to play gay characters (Stewart decided she was gay mid-career. Whether she stays gay —think Ann Heche—is an open question. It’s all about branding…) :

I would never want to tell a story that really should be told by somebody who’s lived that experience. Having said that, it’s a slippery slope conversation because that means I could never play another straight character if I’m going to hold everyone to the letter of this particular law. I think it’s such a gray area. There are ways for men to tell women’s stories, or ways for women to tell men’s stories. But we need to have our finger on the pulse and actually have to care. You kind of know where you’re allowed. I mean, if you’re telling a story about a community and they’re not welcoming to you, then fuck off. But if they are, and you’re becoming an ally and a part of it and there’s something that drove you there in the first place that makes you uniquely endowed with a perspective that might be worthwhile, there’s nothing wrong with learning about each other. And therefore helping each other tell stories. So I don’t have a sure-shot answer for that….Sometimes, artfully speaking, you’re just drawn to a certain group of people. I could defend that, but I’m sure that somebody with a different perspective could make me feel bad about that — and then make me renege on everything I’ve just said. I acknowledge the world that we live in. And I absolutely would never want to traipse on someone else’s opportunity to do that — I would feel terrible about that. So my answer is fucking think about what you’re doing! And don’t be an asshole.

Thanks for that clarification, Kristen..

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Nicely Timed Ethics Quote Of The Month: John Cleese

Screen-Shot-2020-11-22-at-10.39.25-AM

Monty Python legend John Cleese apparently has decided that to hell with it, he’s going to get himself canceled, and he doesn’t give a damn if he is. The tweet above was part of a long string of them tweaking transgender activists, J.K. Rowling haters and more, but his “woke joke” was especially apt.

The Australian singer Sia (never heard of her—you?) wrote and directed an soon-to-be released movie titled “Music” about a young woman with autism. Music is played by actress Maddie Ziegler, who is apparently not on the autistic spectrum.

The Horror.

The cyber-mob, almost all of which have never directed or cast anything, were outraged, with reactions like this from Irish actress Bronagh Waugh:

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Saturday Ethics Respite Before Holiday Madness, 11/21/2020: The Justice, The Pope, The Scouts, And The Chickens

This is annually the last day before everything goes bananas in Marshall World. From now until New Years, its like the Nantucket Sleigh ride, not quite as dangerous, but not as much fun either. November 22 is the anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination, my generation’s 9-11. It changed everything. The 23rd is my anniversary, #40, which my son is sure to forget and my wife, for various reasons, doesn’t like to celebrate. Next is Thanksgiving, always depressing now because what was once a vibrant table of 7-15 relatives and friends is now at most four and a lot of wistfulness. My birthday comes on December 1, forever tainted because my perverse father chose the date to die on, and fate chose me to find his body. Then it’s the anxious run-up to the Christmas holidays, which always follows in the deadest period for ProEthics, meaning that we are counting pennies at the one time of the year we don’t want to be. (There is also the annual tree drama, since both my family and Grace’s were addicted to real, meticulously decorated trees, and we have a 20 foot ceiling which makes any tree less than 8 feet look silly. The thing takes about 2500 lights, which I have the responsibility of hanging, and then over a hundred mostly unique ornaments, beginning with the yarn Santa my mother made for Jack Sr. and Eleanor’s first scraggly tree in their new Cape Cod-style home in Arlington, Massachusetts. It was 1948. Getting our tree up and decorated to family standards takes about twelve hours and multiple First Degree prickle wounds. I can’t wait.

On the plus side, I’ll finally finish the Ethics Alarms Ethics Guide to “Miracle on 42nd Street”…

1. No, I’m not surprised that the Catholic Church sexual abuse cover-up went straight to the top. Are you? I’m not even disappointed. This is what organizations and institutions do: they protect themselves, and sacrifice the victims of their misconduct.

The Vatican this month released a report that showed Pope John Paul’s role blame in allowing the disgraced former prelate Theodore E. McCarrick to continue in the Church’s hierarchy.

The investigation, commissioned by Pope Francis, who canonized John Paul in 2014, reveals how the Pope ignored a wave of accusations of sexual abuse and pedophilia against McCarrick. Three popes participated in the cover-up, but one of them, John Paul, has been canonized. So Catholic saints are now accessories to rape.

A reversal of the canonization, which may never have happened, is unlikely, but it may slow the rush to canonize future popes.

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Wednesday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/18/2020: The Betraying Friend, The Abusive Model, The Grandstanding Lawyer, And The Partisan CEO

Several of these items could support stand-alone posts, I suppose, but I have bigger metaphorical fish to fry. I’ve also figured out that traffic would look better if I broke some of these 800-1000 word posts into multiple 400-500 word bites, but to hell with it: a post should be as long as it has to to make the points I want to make. Traffic has also been excellent lately: from Election Day through yesterday EA has had the best extended streak since 2017. As usual with such surges, this has involved some quirks. For example, the post about Margaret Thatcher’s favorite poem has been leading all posts in clicks for three days. I didn’t see that coming…

1. Ethics Quiz: Which is more unethical, the creep who offers such tales out of school, or the publication that gives her a platform?

The entire genre of former school mates coming forward with unflattering and ancient anecdotes about political figures is unethical. Now that Ivanka Trump’s father is likely to be out of the White House next year, her seventh grade friend Lysandra Ohrstrom decided it was a safe to reveal what a creep the First Daughter was as a 13-year-old, because so few of us lacked a functioning ethics compass at that age. She also decided that she would enjoy being interviewed on various Trump-hating TV shows, I assume.

Why the woman continued to stay friends with someone she now says was an elitist snot is a mystery; yes, some of Lysandra’s tales impugn adult Ivanka as well as the child version.

One of her earliest memories of Ivanka is her blaming a fart on a less popular classmate. The monster! In their twenties, Ivanka asked Ohrstrom for a book suggestion and when her friend suggested “Empire Falls,” replied, “Why would you tell me to read a book about fucking poor people?” Ohrstrom also recalls Ivanka once telling her “You’ve really turned into a Marxist” during a discussion about affordable housing in Manhattan.

Is there anyone who has ever lived who doesn’t have embarrassing incidents that occurred early their lives and that they trust that the family and friends who witnessed them have the decency and loyalty not to inform the world? Ohstrom’s ignorance of the Golden Rule and her pathetic lunge for 15 minutes of fame tell us more about her character than reveal anything relevant about Ivanka Trump.

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Saturday Ethics Aftermath, 11/14/2020: Art And Ethics

Brussels statue

1. Movie plot ethics. It’s clear that I have watched far too many movie and TV programs. I am now at the point where certain routine plot and directorial devices not only annoy me, they insult me. I regard these now as disrespectful and incompetent, and in that sense, unethical. I’m not talking about the cliches that still work with the young and uninitiated, like how the apparently dead/injured/ betrayed/ rejected or abandoned character you forgot about is always the one who shows up to save the day. (Among the reasons I love the “Magnificent Seven” so much is that when the one member of the team who had quit shows up to rescue his pals in the final gun battle, he is shot and killed immediately.) I’m referring to tropes that are self-evidently stupid and should seem so for any viewer over the age of 12.

For example,  if there’s a vicious, murdering psychopath chasing you, and you knock him cold with a steel pipe or incapacitate him in other ways, you don’t assume he/she/it is dead and leave the killer there to revive and slaughter you. You make sure the manic/monster is dead. Beat his head to a pulp; heck, cut it off.  This is often paired with another idiotic scene, the ill-timed hug. The world is going to blow in seconds, zombies are coming, crazies are beating down the door: save that passionate embrace for later, you morons! The same applies to long, emotional conversations in the midst of disasters when every second counts. Which is worse, I wonder: the long debate in “Armageddon” between Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck when they have literally seconds to save the Earth from an asteroid apocalypse, or the even longer argument among three fire fighters in the middle of a burning building?  That was in “Backdraft,” and I never quite felt the same about director Ron Howard after that.

2. Statue ethics again.  A new London  sculpture dedicated to Mary Wollstonecraft, the 18th-century writer and feminist hero (and the mother of Mary Shelley) is attracting much hate from art critics and the public.

MW memorial

The work by the British artist Maggi Hambling features a small, naked woman standing on a pillar silvered bronze, set on a cube of dark granite. The overall form is just larger than an average person, and sits well with the park: “Why is Mary naked?” critics are demanding. One Twitter user said: “I had no idea Mary had shredded abs.”

Morons. Read the statue’s base: “For Mary Wollstonecraft, 1759-1797.”  This is not intended to be a likeness of, but a tribute to,Wollstonecraft, whose most famous quotation from her “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,” published in 1792, appears on the other side of the base:  “I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.”

Before one starts criticizing anything, it is essential, fair and responsible to know what one is talking about. Every day I send to Spam Hell comments from Ethics Alarms critics who obviously didn’t read the post they are commenting on. I once went to great lengths to get a local theater critic fired who reviewed a show I directed after I saw her walk out before the second act.

On the other side, as a stage director who made being clear my prime directive, I hold the artist partially responsible when a large proportion of viewers don’t understand what is being communicated.

3. Then there is this:

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One More Time: SCOTUS Must Decide Between Freedom Of Religion And Gay Rights in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia

In Fulton v. City of Philadelphia the U.S. Supreme Court will decide yet another legal controversy that should not have occurred at all. Like the various cake-designing law suits, two parties that easily could have come to a mutually agreeable compromise decided, as the old saw goes, “to make a federal case of it.” Now, with the decision bound to abridge somebody’s constitutional right, we will have yet another example of how “Hard cases make bad law.”

This week the Justices heard arguments testing its 2015 decision establishing a right to same-sex marriage with Philadelphia’s decision to bar a Catholic agency that it had hired to screen potential foster parents because the agency refused to screen same-sex couples and approve them, since the position of the Church is that same-sex marriage is a sin. Hence the question: Is Philadelphia discriminating on the basis of religion by refusing to continue using the agency based on its religious mandates? The Church’s lawyer, Lori Windham, says that the agency only wants to continue work that it has been doing for centuries. Besides, she argued, gay couple had ever applied to the agency. If one had, she said, the couple would have been referred to another agency.

What’s the beef, then? Justice Alito says that like the bakery cases (my comparison, not his), LBGT activists want to bend the Church to its will, resulting in Philadelphia acting based on hostility to the Catholic agency’s views.

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Day After The Day After Updates And Observations On The 2020 Election

Thanksgiving hangover

1. I had written some time ago that the best possible outcome ethically would be a Trump landslide, and the worst would be a Trump win in the Electoral College while losing the popular vote. Somehow I missed the obvious worst scenario, which is what we are getting: a mega-2000 mess, with multiple states in doubt for various questionable factors, resulting in litigation by both sides, stretching on into December.

This was one more example of how the false and biased polls interfered with legitimate analysis.

2. I have frequently praised Richard Nixon for passing on the opportunity to challenge the results in Illinois, Texas and other states after the 1960 election, and saying that it was more important to respect the process and not throw an election into turmoil. Of course, based on what we know about Nixon. That may have been a ploy and virtue signaling: while there was certainly some voting shenanigans, notably in Richard Daley’s notoriously corrupt Chicago, Nixon maybe have been told that he would lose anyway, and that challenging the results would make it harder for him to come back and win in ’64 or ’68. Nonetheless, Nixon set the norm, and Al Gore broke it in 2000. Now it seems insane for a party to not to challenge a close election if there seems to be any question about the legitimacy of the result.

That shift is also a reflection of the widening chasm between the two parties. There wasn’t much difference philosophically between the Democrats and Republicans in 1960, nor between Nixon and Kennedy. (There wasn’t much difference between their ethical instincts either, but we didn’t know that at the time.) Today there is every reason to believe that for a party to just shrug off the possibility that a Presidency has been stolen in the best interests of the nation is a breach of duty and a betrayal of the public trust.

However, a party (like the Democrats since 2016) or a candidate (like Hillary Clinton) continuing to deny the results after they have been validated is unforgivable and destructive.

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Mid-Day Ethics Tidbits, 11/4/2020: Sort-Of Post-Election Edition, With Yummy NONE Election-Related Items!

1. Ay Caramba! Does anyone think that former Playboy model Eva Marie has a legitimate complaint because she was kicked off a Southwest flight along with her seven-year-old son for wearing this outfit on board?

Eva Marie

I don’t. She said she was “humiliated and embarrassed” when a Southwest Airlines flight attendant told her she couldn’t board looking like that. I don’t believe it for a second. She was seeking publicity. “When they threatened to remove me off the plane if I didn’t have a change of clothes, I felt completely humiliated, embarrassed and highly offended,” the Instagram influencer said of the incident. “I’m an A list member for SWA and have a credit card with the airline and I have perks that allow any person traveling with me to fly free because of my high status with the airline. So even as being a loyal customer with them, I felt like the other women on the plane were judging me based on my attire and they were saying my breasts are too large,” she added. “Well, that’s something I can’t help.”

No, you shameless jerk, they were judging you because you won’t observe even minimal social conventions, like not going out in public looking like a stripper mid-routine. If she is a “high status” member of the airline, then she is presumably aware that it has a dress code. It is overwhelmingly likely that she pulled this as a stunt to gain Instagram users  to “influence,” and exploited Southwest to do so.

The airline would be fair and reasonable to ban her from flying.

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Social Q’s Ethics: The Good, The Bad, And The Stupid

I mentioned earlier that I had stopped checking New York Times  Sunday advice column “Social Q’s” because its author, Phillip Gallanes, had apparently received the memo from Times brass so his advice and choice of queries were now primarily “woke” propaganda. However, reading material in our bathroom was recently in short supply, forcing me to peruse two recent Gallanes columns in which there was one interesting ethics issue raised, and two others that were a perfect examples of where Gallanes’ biases make him an untrustworthy advice columnist.

1. The photograph: The interesting issue regarded a daughter whose parents had recently died, and who was shocked that a valuable photograph was not directed her way in the distribution of the estate. It was, she said, second only to the parents’ home in value, and had appreciated in value greatly in the decades since it was given. Didn’t she have a right to get the photo, since she had given it in the first place? Wasn’t it unethical for the parents to treat it like the rest of their estate?

Gallanes properly pointed out that there was no basis for her assumptions in law or ethics. There are no strings attached to transfers of property unless they are made explicit at the time of the gift. What a cumbersome societal norm that would be: an estate is obligated to figure out the original source of every object of value and make sure they return to the original giver! What Gallanes didn’t say, and I would have, is “Who are you kidding? You want the valuable item, and have concocted a phony justification for claiming it.”

2. The vote. Another Social Q’s questioner wrote,

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