Observations (And A Poll!) On The Lizzo-Jillian Michaels Bodyshaming Controversy

“The Biggest Loser” trainer Jillian Michaels was being interviewed on the Buzzfeed series “AM to DM” when she opined, “We should always be inclusive, but, you cannot glorify obesity. It’s dangerous. It kills people.”

Well, of course she believes that. She’s a trainer. Her business is fitness, so it would be hypocritical if she said that it didn’t matter if people aren’t fit.

Interviewer Alex Berg , however, cited the  example of African American singer Lizzo, who is unquestionably obese and who flaunts her fat.  Michaels was unimpressed, saying,

“Why are we celebrating her body? Why does it matter? Why aren’t we celebrating her music? ‘Cause it isn’t going to be awesome if she gets diabetes,” Michaels said. “I’m just being honest. I love her music, like my kid loves her music, but there’s never a moment when I’m like, ‘I’m so glad she’s overweight.’ Why do I even care? Why is it my job to care about her weight?”

Berg later tweeted,

What I was going to say here is that Lizzo has been incredibly important in giving so many of us a possibility model for accepting our bodies as we are and celebrating bodies that are normally ridiculed. Had to restrain myself from defending Lizzo’s honor!

Now Michaels is being flamed on social media as a fat-shaming bigot. Oh–and a racist of course, because she is white and Lizzo is black. I’m not even going to address that, as there is no question in my mind that if Berg had mentioned an overweight white singer like Wynonna Judd or Adele, Michaels would have said the same thing.

I will observe, however… Continue reading

The War On Dollar Stores

The problem–well, one of them—with trying to control how other people choose to live their lives is that nobody’s smart enough to do it without making things worse. Still,a lot of sociologists and politicians think they are smart enough.

Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Fort Worth, Birmingham, and Georgia’s DeKalb County have passed restrictions on dollar stores, and other communities are debating whether to follow their example, where laws and zoning regulations limit how many of these small stores can open within a particular area. Other laws dictate what they can and can’t sell, most notably fresh food. You see, the antipathy to dollar stores is based on the narrative pushed by activists that they saturate poor neighborhoods with cheap, over-processed food, squeezing out other retailers and lowering the quality of nutrition in poor communities. An analyst for the Center for Science in the Public Interest makes the argument, “When you have so many dollar stores in one neighborhood, there’s no incentive for a full-service grocery store to come in.” Dollar stores, like Dollar Tree and Dollar General, the researchers say, make neighborhoods seem poor, and scare away better stores,  “locking in poverty rather than reducing it,” as one told the Washington Post.

Ah! Poor nutrition  is the fault of dollar stores!

Oops! Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/7/2020: Oh, Great, A Red Sox Ethics Scandal….

Bad Morning.

1. Fire this copy writer: Boll and Branch sheets informed me this morning that their product is “loved by THREE American Presidents.” Well, that settles it: I’m running right out and buying these sheets if Presidents—well, three, anyway, love them. Actually, I’m making the sheets an early target of my new rule to personally boycott any product that insults my intelligence with their ads or packaging.

So much for Chex-Mix.

2. I just realized what climate change hype is like. I’m slow, I guess. I was reading a typical Paul Krugman column about how we are doomed by climate change and only the mean, stupid Republicans refuse to accept it. (The runaway brush fires in Australia, he said, can’t be proven to have come about by climate change, the brilliant economist said, but everybody knows its climate change. All Democrats, anyway.) It then hit me: climate change is like all the reflex explanations for bad things that primitive civilizations, cults and Machiavellian leaders have used to relieve public fears of  random misfortune since the beginning of time. The devil, angry gods, witches, Jews…anything to be able to rationalize events that otherwise have no explanation.  If you sacrifice people to the gods, hang the witches or exterminate the Jews, you’ll feel better—you’re doing something by addressing the cause of all your pain. Of course, these imaginary “causes” aren’t really responsible for what’s happening, but its comforting to “do something.” In the case of climate change, the proxy trouble-makers are capitalism, personal liberty and democracy. Just get rid of them, and everything will be all right again.

I don’t know why it too so long for me to figure this out. I think it’s because I persist in the romantic notion that we all get smarter over time. I certainly don’t. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Round-Up, 1/5/2020: “Day After Cosmic Justice Eliminates The Patriots From The NFL Play-Offs” Edition

Greetings!

Last night the New England Patriots and their habitually unethical coach and star quarterback were eliminated from the NFL play-offs in the first round by the Tennessee Titans. Good. I say this despite being from Boston, where my Dad and I once routed for the AFL Pats of Gino Capelletti, Babe Parilli, Nick Buoniconti and Jim Nance. The modern day Patriots made me embarrassed to be a New Englander, even before I realized what a sociopathic organization the NFL was.

1. Noted with amusement: A while back there was a kerfuffle over some conservative publication using a photo of Rep Elijah Cummings (D-Md) when the story was about Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga), or vice-versa. This was, of course, attributed to racism of the “all those people look the same” variety.

I pointed out that while it was of course the kind of mistake that a publication shouldn’t make, the two House members were about eh same age, both heavy-set, both African-Americans, and both hyper-partisan Democrat race-baiters whose careers rested on civil rights protest creds many decades old. Thus it was satisfying to see that “CBS Evening News” accidentally used a picture of the now deceased  Rep. Elijah Cummings while reporting on Lewis’ recent cancer diagnosis.

2. Signature significance. If you want definitive proof that an elected official or a pundit is untrustworthy pond scum, mark those who claim that President Trump  ordered the hit against Iranian terror master Qasem Soleimani in order to distract from Trump’s impeachment trial. The latest self-identified hack: Elizabeth Warren, who today said on CNN’s “State of the Union,”

“Next week, the President of the United States could be facing an impeachment trial in the Senate. We know he’s deeply upset about that, and I think people are reasonably asking why this moment…Why does he pick now to pick this highly inflammatory and highly dangerous action that moves us closer to war? I think people are reasonably asking about the timing, and why it is that the administration seems to have all kinds of different answers.”

This “Wag the Dog” theory made some sense when it was first applied to Bill Clinton, who launched a failed strike against Osama bin Laden in the middle of his impeachment drama, since Clinton was guilty and knew it. Trump’s impeachment has raised his poll numbers and further exposed Democrats as abusing the impeachment process: there is no reason for him to try to distract from it.

Warren’s question about timing is also absurd. Why now? Gee, do you think it might be that the murderer of many Americans who had just engineered an attack on our embassy and who was planning more deadly attacks happened to be in Iraq, where the U.S. has an approved military presence, and was virtually asking to be brought down?

Warren’s poll numbers and fundraising are sinking fast (Good!), so her demagoguery is shifting into high gear. Once again, her likely fate proves Lincoln right: you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Or enough of them. Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms Archives: “Integrity Surrender For The U.S. Marines”

Frequent commenter Steve (not to be confused with Steve-O-in-NJ or Steve Withspoon, also veteran combatants here) asked my opinion about an article titled “Marines’ Obsession with Pull-Ups May Be Hurting the Corps, Study Finds.”

To begin with, it’s a  misleading headline. The real subject of the piece, in Military.com, is the alleged hostility being fostered toward female recruits because of their disparate and less demanding physical requirements, including pull-ups. I was sure that I had written about the Marine pull-up controversy before, and sure enough I had, in 2013, (My, how time flies.) Re-reading it now, I felt that the Ethics Alarms post was relevant background to evaluating the article, which includes this…

The idea that female Marines can do fewer pull-ups than their male counterparts and get an equal score “did not sit well” with men, researchers wrote. “Are [women] required to meet equal physical standards? No, it doesn’t take a scientist to study that,” one gunnery sergeant said. “They need to do this many pull-ups, and I need to do this many. Is that equal? No. Four and four is equal. 20 and 20 is equal. That’s equal. So either we’re equal, or we’re not.”

Somehow, the author spins the findings into a rationalization for allowing the unequal standards to continue, writing at the beginning of the article,

Marines are putting an “extreme emphasis” on the number of pull-ups leathernecks can do, a recently published internal study found. And that, some fear, could result in other important qualities that are vital to the Corps’ mission being overlooked. Participants in a study on Marine Corps culture were often focused on pull-ups as a best measure of a person’s value and worth, researchers found. Marines’ ability to lift their own body weight on a pull-up bar was “routinely what Marines referenced when discussing physical standards, a Marine’s value, and physical readiness,” the report’s authors wrote.

I hadn’t checked the name of the author until after I read the article and was struck by how the title and first paragraphs attempted to ignore the ethics issue involved. Guess the writer’s gender. Yup, you’re right.

Here was my article in 2013, (and I wouldn’t change a word); I’ll have some final comments at the end: Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 11/23/2019: Sitting Around In Airports Edition

Personally, I’d prefer the Baby Shark Dance.

I have been in the Las Vegas airport for more than an hour now, and the only music continuously playing has been Wayne Newton, circa 1965. You know, “Red Roses for a Blue Lady,” and “Danke Schoen.” No wonder Millennials think we’re lame.

Las Vegas is depressing. Everywhere you go, there are lonely, aging, shabbily-dressed people sitting around looking lost, or chain smoking while they roboticly lose their money at garishly flashing gambling machines. It occured to me that the same addiction processes might be at work here as hwatever causes people today to stare at their smart phones rather than interact with the people around them. I saw a lot of that in Vegas too.

Today is my wedding anniversary, and I’m spending most of it in airplanes and airports. We chose November 23, changing the date by one day, because I didn’t want our anniversary to coincide with JFK’s assassination. ( Then my father, perverse as always, chose to die on my birthday…). Yesterday I had dinner with seven lively, intelligent people ranging in age from 25 to 45, and asked them if they knew the significance of the date, November 22.  None did.

1. What IS this? The band Coldplay made news yesterday when it announced that it would no longer tour because of climate change. Presumably they are trying to avoid the hypocrite label being affixed to celebrity climate hysterics whose carbon footprint is approximately that of whole towns, as they jet around the world to tell everyone that they are doomed. Or were they just sick of touring, which is, I say mid-ethics tour, no fun after the novelty wears off, and wanted virtue points through grandstanding? This we do know: whether Coldplay tours or just hangs out in recording studios will have no impact on climate change whatsoever. I assume they know that.

2. Virginia counties are discussing becoming “gun sanctuaries, in anticipation of the Democrat majority legislature and governor enacting gun-hostile legislation. Whether it is guns or illegal aliens, this is a dangerous and unethical trend. States, cities and counties must not be able to just defy the law. There needs to be a set of legal penalties established for this conduct.

3. More from the Old Dominion State! Historical airbrushing and statue-toppling continues in Charlottesville, which proved that it’s not just Robert E. Lee and Confederate generals that it wants erased from history. The City Council voted to remove a statue depicting Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Sacagawea, their Shoshone interpreter, because the latter isn’t represented in a posture that activists approve of. Continue reading

Veteran’s Day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/11/19: Wishing My Dad Hadn’t Died Before He Figured Out How To Comment On Ethics Alarms…[CORRECTED]

Pop Quiz:

How many military veterans are currently running for President in 2020?

Answer: Two…Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

[Correction notice: I forgot about Pete in the first version of the post. Thanks to Jutgory for the catch, and thanks to Mayor Buttigieg for his service.]

1.  Here’s that “violating democratic norms” Big Lie again. This one was flagged by Ann Althouse (Thanks, Ann!)

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman,  an appointee of President Bill Clinton,  said in a speech at  the annual Thomas A. Flannery Lecture in Washington, D.C. last week, “We are in unchartered territory. We are witnessing a chief executive who criticizes virtually every judicial decision that doesn’t go his way and denigrates judges who rule against him, sometimes in very personal terms. He seems to view the courts and the justice system as obstacles to be attacked and undermined, not as a coequal branch to be respected even when he disagrees with its decisions.'”

Althouse comments,

How do you get to be a federal judge and think the expression is “unchartered territory”? That’s a written speech too (presumably). Did he visualize some entity that issues charters authorizing people to speak about the courts in a particular way? You don’t need a license to speak in the United States, and to require one would, ironically, violate our norms. The expression is “uncharted territory,” which would simply mean that Trump is venturing into a new area of speech that we haven’t previously explored and therefore have not mapped…Now, I agree with the idea that Trump’s speech about law is unconventional, but what determines that he has violated all recognized democratic norms? It’s often said that the judiciary is the least democratic part of the government, that it’s countermajoritarian. So what are the norms of democracy that say a President should not criticize the courts?! You might just as well call this purported norm a norm of anti-democracy.

Anyway… the weasel word is “recognized.” It takes all the oomph out of “all.” Trump’s speech about judges violates “all recognized democratic norms.” Who are the recognizers? The judges? Judges certainly have a role talking about democratic norms, which are often part of the determination of the scope of the judicial role: Judges refrain from doing what is left to the processes of democracy. But part of democracy is speech about government — which includes the judges — and that speech is not limited to flattering and deferring to them. It does not violate the norms of democracy to criticize and attack judges.

Bingo. And it is because of judges whot say these sorts of things that the President is not unreasonable to accuse the judiciary of  bias. Ann chose not to mention that this was also a “norm” breached by Barack Obama, more than once, but I will, the point not being “everybody does it,” but that to this judge and others, what Obama did was apparently only objectionable when Trump did it too—a common theme in the anti-Trump propaganda of the last three years. Continue reading