Ethics Batting Practice, 7/21/ 2020: Baseball Zoom Hangover Edition.

Isn’t that only TWO feet??

Last night’s Smithsonian Associates presentation on baseball and American culture went well, I guess. Presenting on Zoom is like acting in a closet: no connection to the audience, no way to gauge what is working and what isn’t, or whether the invisible viewers are engaged. It did give me  a chance, during the section on baseball cheating, to read one of my favorite passages from Philip Roth’s baseball allegory/satire,”The Great American Novel.” Roth’s narrator, mad sportswriter Word Smith, tells the sad tale of the legendary “Spit” Baal, a master of the spitball, the mucous-ball and other trick pitches aided by surreptitiously applied substances. After such adulterations of the ball were banned in 1920, Baal found his career in tatters, since he could no longer use his signature pitch. (In the real world, the National league and American league allowed acknowledged spitball specialists to continue to throw the pitch legally under a grandfather clause, but Roth’s fantasy  is about a third major league, wiped from history and record books in the Fifties following the discovery that it had been infiltrated by Communists.) One day, again seeing his dry pitches clobbered and realizing that he could no longer get batters out legally, “Spit” has a psychotic break on the mound that ends his career in spectacular if unsanitary fashion:

And so before twenty thousand shocked customers  including innocent children — and his own wide-eyed teammates, the once great pitcher, who was  washed up anyway, did the unthinkable, the unpardonable, the inexpiable. He dropped the flannel  trousers of his uniform to his knees, and proceeded  to urinate on the ball, turning it slowly in his hands  so as to dampen the entire surface. Then he hitched  his trousers back up, and in the way of pitchers,  pawed at the ground around the mound with his  spikes, churning up then smoothing down the dirt  where he had inadvertently dribbled upon it. To the  batter, as frozen in his position as anyone in that  ball park, he called, “Here comes the pissball, shithead — get ready!”

For years afterward they talked about the route that ball took before it passed over the plate. Not  only did it make the hairpin turns and somersaults  expected of a Baal spitter, but legend has it that it  shifted gears four times, halving, then doubling its  velocity each fifteen feet it traveled. And in the end,  the catcher, in his squat, did not even have to move  his glove from where it too was frozen as a target .Gagging, he caught the ball with a squish, right in  the center of the strike zone…

1. So this graph would seem to indicate that the news media is scare mongering, right? Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Agony, 7/9/2020: I See Awful People…

Hi!

I am feeling stressed because there are a lot of Ethics Alarms projects  and commitments that are languishing: I’m trying to work out the logistics of a Zoom symposium for commenters; I have to compile the many submissions for the corporate and organizational grovels to the George Floyd mobs so we can vote on the best and worst; I am finishing the Ethics Alarms glossary of fake news categories, and I still owe Michael  West his prize from an Ethics Alarms contest he won a couple of years ago—and that’s still not all of them. The best I can say is: please be patient, because I’m not.

1. Is this a good sign, or something else? I turned on Sirius-XM’s “Comedy Greats” channel while driving to pick up some prescription and heard a segment of a Nick DiPaulo routine that was unbelievably politically incorrect, or, as many would say today, racist, misogynist and anti-trans. The audience was in hysterics; several of the jokes were so extreme—but funny!—that I nearly lost control of the car. I had to check: no, he hasn’t been assassinated yet. Neverthless, I felt like I had fallen into a parallel universe. DiPaulo makes Dave Chappelle seem like Art Buchwald.

2. How about “Lady Asshole”? Several readers sent me links to this story, telling us that the Grammy-winning vocal group  formerly known as Lady Antebellum, having decided to ditch the second half of their name to grandstand and show that they support tearing down statues, are now suing Anita White, a blues singer who has called herself “Lady A” for decades, because she wouldn’t sell  the rights to that name to them for a price the group found reasonable.

I can’t imagine anyone being sympathetic with the group, especially a jury. Nobody made them change their name, and choosing “Lady A” without doing sufficient research was negligent. The group is using wealth and fame as a cudgel, with three rich white jerks trying to bully a local (and black) artist into bending to the their will. I hope someone has started a GoFundMe page to help Anita with her legal fees.

3. Find my 2011 post on Donald Trump running for President, substitute Kanye West’s name for his, and you’ll have the Ethics Alarms position on Mr. Kardashian’s candidacy. I know a lot of celebrities and too many members of the public don’t comprehend this, having the civic literacy of gerbils, but our democracy is not a game. Running for President as an exercise in ego-massage and branding is wildly irresponsible, and threatens to distort voting and results. West is not a serious candidate, but he’ll attract attention and the support of those who vote purely on the basis of group biases.  But the news media will give him more attention than he deserves, which is none, and he could easily take votes away from Democrats.

The good news is that since Kanye has approximately the attention span of a mayfly, it’s a good bet that this impulse will be fleeting, just as Trump’s was in 2011. Continue reading

There Are Worse Things Than Racism, Part I: The Tina Fey Dilemma

The Kennedy Center embarrassed itself in 2010, giving an affirmative action (gender division) honor to Tina Fey. She received its Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, which the Center has awarded every year since 1998 to individuals who have “had an impact on American society in ways similar to” Twain…you know, like Tina Fey.

The Center realized that it was short on female honorees (because humor, historically and now, is a field dominated by men), and because it can only give the award to the living, so it settled on Fey as a weaker than weak addition to the pantheon. I compared the award at the time to Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize and added,

If she vanished tomorrow, Tina Fey would at best be a footnote in the history of American comedy. Her qualifications for the Mark Twain Prize in 2010 appear to be 1) she is a woman, and there aren’t many women in comedy 2) she is a comedian, though not an especially funny one, 3) she is a writer, though neither of the screenplays she has authored would be called deathless classics, unless you think “Mean Girls” is on par with “Adam’s Rib,” and 4) she looks like Sarah Palin, which allowed her to do a popular impression mocking Palin during the 2008 campaign, and the people who give out the award really, really dislike Sarah Palin.

In short, she didn’t deserve the award in the first place, and the Mark Twain Prize lost its integrity and credibility by her receiving it. Thus there is some condign justice in that decision coming back to bite the Kennedy Center now, along with a second bad decision eight years later.

That year, the Kennedy Center decided to rescind Bill Cosby’s Mark Twain Prize, which the Cos had more than earned in 2009. Cosby did have impact on culture and humor comparable to Twain, and his achievements dwarf those of Fey like “War and Peace” dwarfs “Valley of the Dolls.” Again virtue-signaling to feminists, the Kennedy Center revoked Cosby’s honor after his conviction for sexual assault (which was just accepted for appeal this week).

I didn’t write about it at the time, I guess because there was nothing new to say that I hadn’t said in this post, where I observed,

[L]ast I heard Bill Cosby was still recognized as a major trailblazer in stand-up, TV comedy, and television integration (remember “I Spy”?), an important positive cultural force for race relations and black community self esteem, and a spectacularly talented comedian with a unique voice and presence. None of that has changed. Those were the achievements that prompted Cosby’s bust’s inclusion in Disney’s Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame Plaza, along with celebrities such as Lucille Ball and Oprah Winfrey who, like the Cos, have been inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. O.J. Simpson is still honored in the College Football Hall of Fame, because he was one of the greatest college stars ever. His post-career hobby as a murderer, like Bill’s extra-curricular activities as a serial rapist, have nothing to do with the honor, just as Cosby earned and still deserves, his honor for what he achieved on stage and screen.

That still applied in 2018, and it is true today.

But Bill was deemed unworthy nonetheless. Now, in the midst of the George Floyd Freakout, the frenzied statue-toppling, cancelling-happy, race-offense vengeance-obsessed mob has targeted Tina Fey. During her acclaimed NBC show “30 Rock,” which she created, often wrote, and appeared in, blackface was used for comic effect four times. This week, always seeking to follow the crowd, Fey said her mea culpas and had Hulu pull the shows from circulation, thus putting herself in the cross hairs. (I must note that this censorship, like all censorship, impedes knowledge and reflection, since it is impossible to assess what the use of blackface was. I never watched the show because mega-ass Alec Baldwin was a regular, and I would prefer chewing off my fingers than supporting anything he’s involved in.) Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/22/2020: Let’s Stop Moping Around! Get Up! Get Out! Attack The Day! [Now With Leonard Bernstein!]

 

Update: I decided we needed a less pokey version, so now we have Leonard Bernstein’s, and the whole thing. THAT should cheer you up…

Boy, am I sick of everyone telling me how depressed they are.

1. Translation: “I’m an idiot.”  Now Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is saying  that the city will close the so-called “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.” It turned out to be exactly what anyone with any sense predicted it would be, with three shootings so far and a rape, along with a leader ( war lord?) who had the gall to complain when the Seattle EMTs didn’t immediately respond when shots rang out. The mayor  had said that the anarchist outpost would lead to a “summer of love,” marking her as a Sixties-romanticizing dolt, but now she says she was obviously joking-–yes, the Joke Excuse. She never said it was “in jest” before the completely predictable violence broke out.

I apologize for not highlighting her as an Incompetent Elected Official of the Month, but she was competing with Bill De Blasio.

2. Fearmongering. It should be apparent by now that the news media does not want the country to re-open, does not want the economy to begin recovering before the election, and is pushing its anti-reopening goal through fearmongering, in part by focusing on isolated cases of individuals getting hit by the Wuhan virus particularly hard.

This morning HLN kept repeating a long feature about a thirtyish Broadway star who has been disabled by the virus for 80 days, and another man not in a high-risk group who has been suffering for 100 days. The Times and the Washington Post are full of apocalyptic reports about the number of cases rising. Another news outlet said, “The U.S. reported more than 33,000 new coronavirus cases on Saturday – the highest total since May 1 – while the surge of infections in several states is outpacing growth in coronavirus testing.”  ARRRGH! We;re DOOOMED!

One commentator called this “needless” frightening the public. Wrong. It is  needed because it is a part of the ongoing effort to defeat President Trump.

The Centers for Disease Control predicted that cases would increase as the country reopened, not that it has much credibility at this point. Remember? The lock down was never intended to stop the spread of the disease, but to slow it down,  flatten the curve, stock up on supplies, fix the CDC’s testing botch, and find treatments. That was mostly accomplished. The nation cannot continue to let the economy deteriorate: depressions kill people too.

Meanwhile, the death rate is declining even as the number of cases spike, and there’s a reason for that. In all outbreaks, a disease claims the most vulnerable first. This is known as Farr’s Law, named after William Farr,  a British epidemiologist and early statistician  who recognized the importance of death statistics and identifying causation. Not only has the current epidemic claimed many of the most vulnerable in the U.S., thanks in great part to the catastrophic decision of states like New York to send infected seniors to nursing homes, millions of Americans have antibodies.

The combination means that even if there are lots of new cases going forward, the death toll is likely to be far less severe than it has been. Do not hold your breath waiting for the media to explain this.

Just for fun,  check and see how many news organizations have mentioned Farr’s Law. Continue reading

A Poe’s Law Spectacular: These People Are Silly and Incompetent. Why Is Seattle Tolerating Them?

Seattle’s CHAZ—no, wait, it’s CHOP now—police-free zone occupiers, who are giving me flashbacks to the gibberish-spouting SDS campus radicals who took over Harvard’s administration building in the spring of 1969, released their conflict resolution plans, being anarchists and all:

We will form a unique system called the Conflict Resolution Advisory Council.

  1. We hold a community democratic vote to appoint three people to the Council. To eliminate prejudice, we elect one Black man, one Black woman, and one white woman. Each person should undergo at least one 45 minute sensitivity and political training session which we can help organize.

  2. Whenever there is an internal conflict in the Zone, it will be put to the Council. Both people will have an opportunity to present their side of the story to the Council to review.

  3. The Council members will decide on a fair resolution and provide it as advice. Initially the Council will be advisory only. In the future the system could evolve to become more mature with binding resolutions, impositions, retribution, enforcement, and imprisonment.

The appointed people will hear out and settle any internal disputes within the Zone. We’re not suggesting that this Council members become leaders or judges, only referees in case of internal conflicts.

I’d love to ask them to explain how having a black man, a black woman and a white woman will eliminate prejudice, but never mind. Oh, wait! All prejudice and injustice is caused by white men! Got it.

Posted on Reddit were the following amendments to the council plan. Nobody is quite sure if they are real, or a Monty Python-caliber spoof. How would one tell? The Seattle occupiers are silly, uneducated and incompetent, and they are obsessed with progressive, inclusivity, and diversity cant. What follows, if it’s genuine, makes the Green New Deal seem like the Magna Carta. If it isn’t (which i fervently hope), then the People’s Front of Judea (PFJ) from “The Life of Brian” is still doing marvelous work.

I’m pretty certain that by Edits 8 and 9, the brilliant wag who wrote this is revealing the gag…but I’m still not sure. That’s how ridiculous this group is that Seattle now indulges to the disruption of its city and the affront to its saner citizens. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Fortunately, The Ethics Argument Regarding The Riots Is A Slam Dunk. Unfortunately, An Astounding Number Of People Don’t Care Enough About Ethics To Acknowledge This.”

This looks like a job for…The Team Robbery Stoppage Unit!!!

This is a rare Comment Of The Day species for Ethics Alarms, the entirely satirical post. Satire is, of course, on of the most venerable and effective way of making arguments; unfortunately, few are skilled at the craft, and fewer still in the public are smart enough to appreciate satire, especially in 2020, when aversion to hurt feelings and offense has almost blotted out the sun of enlightenment and the twinkling stars of humor.

This masterpiece was inspired by the thread discussing the bonkers proposals to replace local police forces with social workers and community organizers, a development which I view as signature significance for a political and social movement that has jumped the shark.

Here is johnburger2013’s Comment Of The Day on the post, “Fortunately, The Ethics Argument Regarding The Riots Is A Slam Dunk. Unfortunately, An Astounding Number Of People Don’t Care Enough About Ethics To Acknowledge This.”

Can you imagine the conversation?

Setting:A nondescript convenience store on the corner of Huntington and Vine. 9:23 a.m. on a partly sunny Tuesday, with 30% chance of rain some time that day. Store Clerk is restocking the Little Debbie Moon Pies, when an agitated person enters the store brandishing a firearm.

Robber: “This is a robbery!”
Store Clerk: “Hands up! Don’t shoot!”
Robber: “Give me all your cash!”
Store Clerk: “Sure! Don’t shoot.” (Presses the emergency call button under the counter.)
Robber: “C’mon! Why are you dawdling?!”
Store Clerk: “My boss changed the password on the cash register and didn’t tell me the new one. I am trying to reset the password so that I can give the money to you but the WIFI is down and it’s taking longer than it should. Give me a second.”
Robber: “WHAT?! Smash the damn thing and give me the cash!”
Store Clerk: “Hey! Don’t be so pushy! And don’t use that kind of language. This is family-oriented business and there might be children around. Besides, we all have problems. Why, this very morning my cat escaped and I am heartsick she is lonely, so give me a break.” Continue reading

Hollywood Ethics: The Top Eleven Movie Clips Used On Ethics Alarms [Updated 6/18/20]

My back is out, I’m feeling sick, and I’m not up to any complicated analysis right now. For some time I’ve wanted to put all of the iconic movie clips that I turn to when the circumstances demand, so it’s time.

1. To illustrate the folly of suspending or violating the rule of law, the Constitution, or due process for “the greater good” as it appears to some to be at the time:

 

2. To comment on a strikingly incompetent argument, theory or proposal:

 

3. When I feel I should resist the impulse to attack an ethics miscreant with special vigor, but decide to go ahead anyway…

 

4.  To explain the conduct of some individuals or organizations that cannot be justified by facts, principles of logic, or any other valid motivation:

 

5.  To illustrate the impulse to respond to injustice and the abuse of power by resorting to symbolic acts of pure defiance, even when they are likely to fail…

 

6. When a individual abandons integrity or other ethical values for a non-ethical consideration…

 

7. When an individual feigns indignation and disapproval of conduct that he or she has either participated in or enabled:

 

8. Used to signal that a politician, journalist or scholar has intentionally or negligently used such impenetrable rhetoric as to be completely incomprehensible [Forgot this one: thanks to Phlinn for catching the omission]:

 

9. When an incident or argument makes no sense whatsoever, or that drives me to the edge of insanity:

 

10. When a politician, a pundit or someone else  uses a term or word incorrectly to support an unethical action or argument:

 

11. Commenting on a particularly incompetent, irresponsible, or otherwise unethical decision with disastrous consequences:

 

The Ethics Alarms Directory Of “Fake News”: Prelude

The first use of the tag “fake news” on this website was on March 4, 2015. That’s more than three months before Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President on June 16, 2015; the oft-published claim that Trump launched the term “fake news” to deride the news media for criticizing him and his Presidency is, ironically enough, fake news.

The 2015 piece was about CNBC publishing as legitimate news a press release by an anti-vaxx group, a category of fake news called “Hearsay news” in today’s directory to come. I posted three more articles tagged “fake news” before Trump was elected. One of them was the Mother of All Fake News episodes, when the Boston Globe hit the news stands and front walks on April 10, 2016 featuring a satirical front page with headlines about a fictional, dystopian Donald Trump Presidency. “This is Donald Trump’s America. What you read on this page is what might happen if the GOP frontrunner can put his ideas into practice, his words into action,” went the introduction. I wrote in part

This is a spectacular  failure of professionalism and a journalistic disgrace. A newspaper is pledged to report the news, not imagine it. It is not ethically entitled to morph into Saturday Night Live or the Onion because it really, really, really feels strongly about an issue….No paper published such a “future news” piece about the world under Nazi rule, or the race war if civil rights laws didn’t change. No respectable publication predicted a similar dystopian future under President Huey Long, or Joe McCarthy, or what a U.S. with open borders would look like, or what a Ron Paul style US with heroin for sale off drug store counters would lead to. That is because this means of political advocacy and commentary is reserved for the features and entertainment sections, not where facts are supposed to be, and where readers must be able to expect a reasonable attempt at truth, not a showboating effort to distort it.

The episode marked, as it turned out, the beginning of an epidemic of metaphorical canaries dying in the poisoned mine of American journalism. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/25/2020: The Quiet Before The Storm

Something’s coming.

(I’d have the West Side Story song up, but for some reason WordPress hasn’t been letting me embed videos lately.) Do you feel it? I sure do…

1. Our incompetent leaders, Part 645, 991. The proper anti-virus conduct as modeled by Nancy Pelosi on TV last week: take off your mask, wipe your nose with your hand,

…and touch the podium. Members of both parties demonstrated similar Wuhan virus safety awareness:

2.  Meme Wars…

[Pointer: Steve Witherspoon (not Other Bill, as I erroneously stated originally. Sorry, Steve)]

…and this (from the Babylon Bee):

3. You know, I really don’t care what someone like this thinks about illegal immigration. In a review of a pro-illegal immigration book by illegal immigrant (OK, she’s a “Dreamer”)

Quick diversion: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that “Dreamers”—people brought to the U.S. illegally as children—cannot access emergency funding set aside for college students who are enduring disruptions in their education because of the pandemic, because grants may only be given to students who are eligible for federal aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act,  meaning U.S. citizens. Naturally, she is being attacked as cruel and racist.

It is the correct, responsible, legal and ethical decision.

So she is laboring under emotional difficulties, a law-breaker herself, and a liar. That’s some expert you got there. She’s also not very bright, based on this statement from her book: Continue reading

A Diversion….

A friend on mine from the Gilbert and Sullivan crowd issued a challenge to write a parody of Koko’s “I’ve Got A Little List” from “The Mikado.” Well, I couldn’t pass that up: I wrote my first parody of the song when I was 16 and played The Lord High Executioner in high school. I wrote another one years later when I played the part again in my 20’s, and yet again, several times, when I wrote and directed a political satire revue that played at a D.C. hotel for several months.It’s also a very easy song to write new lyrics to, which was by Gilbert’s design.

This took me only a bit longer to write than it took to type it. It’s not an ethics post, but hell, if I can’t post something on my own blog just because I feel like it, what’s the point?

I promise not to abuse the privilege.

Here’s the Wuhan virus version of Koko’s list…

Continue reading