Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 3/6/2019: Evil On The Web

Hi-

–just had to change the title from “morning” to “afternoon..

1. Pro sports team owners behaving badly. In the span of a week, one NFL owner, the Patriots’ Bob Kraft, was embarrassed by an arrest while seeking “happy endings” in massage parlor dabbling in illegal prostitution, and the President and CEO of baseball’s San Francisco Giants, Larry Baer, was videoed having a public battle with his wife over possession of his cell phone that ended with her screaming and on the floor of a restaurant. Kraft is being charged with solicitation, and Baer is taking a leave of absence after apologizing to fans.

Should private misconduct unrelated to team affairs warrant league discipline in cases like this? Absolutely. Pro sports sell heroes to the culture, and the leaders of any organization sets the ethical tone and molds the culture. If you aren’t equipped to be an ethical exemplar for your players and its fans, especially its young fans, then don’t buy a team.

2. In the “Hoisted by their own petard” files: Constantly woke Google, seeking to burnish its social justice credentials,  conducted a pay equity analysis for 2018 to make sure it was paying women equal pay for equal work. Surprise!  The study found that the company was underpaying men for doing similar work as their female counterparts. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) The company emphasized in a blog post that despite this pay discrepancy, deeper structural issues can continue to lead to pay disparities between men and women.

Elephant? What elephant?

3.  To be fair, Google did retire its “Don’t be evil” motto. Google will reportedly reject  calls from US lawmakers and human rights activists to remove a Saudi government app that allows men to control where women travel. The ap offers alerts if and when women leave the country. Saudi law says every woman must have a male guardian. The app, called Absher, has been condemned members of Congress and human rights groups.

4. ‘The solution to discrimination and prejuduce is more discrimination and prejudice…’ Bumble, the feminist dating site, is launching a women-only filter for its professional networking tool, Bumble Bizz. The new Women in Bizz feature, which can be turned on or off in app settings, excludes men from a user’s pool of potential connections. The idea is to help a traditionally underrepresented workforce connect and build support systems outside the office. Bumble is claiming that this is just an extension of Bumble’s core women-first mission. The  dating app lets women make the first move and message their romantic matches first. Now, Bumble claims,  it’s helping traditionally outnumbered female employees build a women-only network.

The problem with this analogy is that there is nothing unethical against women asking out men. Exclusion from job and career opportunities on the basis of gender (and race, age, ethnicity…) endorses discrimination in order to oppose it.

5. Saw this coming a mile away… On the same day Christian baker Jack Phillips won his 7-2 decision in the U.S. Supreme Court, overturning his conviction for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding, a lawyer targeted his Masterpiece Cakeshop by demanding that he  bake a gender transition cake that was pink on the inside and blue on the outside.

Then, when he refused as the lawyer knew he would, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s decision again found probable cause that state law required him to bake and design the cake when doing so would go against his religious beliefs. Phillips responded by filing a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. I considered writing about this at the time, but decided to wait until the Commission again got slapped down, or it withdrew its complaint. Yesterday it withdrew its complaint, and Phillips dropped his law suit.

The first time around, I found Jack to be a Jerk by refusing to bake the wedding cake, though I felt he had a plausible case that he couldn’t be forced to do so. This time, however, he was targeted by a far bigger jerk, and I salute him for being willing to go back onto the battlefield. Too many advocates for LGBT causes have become the intolerant bullies they once opposed, seeking to punish and destroy anyone who doesn’t think as they do, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission proved that it has become an agent of such bullying. Like most bullies, however, it backed down when confronted with the prospect of losing.

6. And speaking of the frightening totalitarian tilt of today’s Left...Or, if you prefer, the way big tech companies are illicitly using their power to favor the interests of progressive-favored groups by stifling dissent, Amazon is now in the business of viewpoint censorship and deciding which books are fit for public perusal. The online retailer owned by the publisher of the Washington Post—you know, “Democracy dies in darkness”?  has just dropped the book “Mohammed’s Koran” by the controversial British activist Tommy Robinson and Peter McLoughlin.

Coauthor Peter McLoughlin states:

[T]his is the twenty-first century equivalent of the Nazis taking out the books from university libraries and burning them. Can you think of another scholarly book on Islam that has been banned by Amazon? “Mein Kampf” is for sale on Amazon. As are books like the terrorist manual called “The Anarchist Cookbook.”…[They] refuse to reinstate the book and refuse to explain why it has been banned. So they have banned the No.1 best-selling exegesis of the Koran. I can’t get my head round it. Every few weeks for the past 18 months they had emailed me asking to put it into special sales programmes, as it was selling so well. For 18 months they sought to profit even more from the sales. As dark as my vision is. I thought we were 10 to 20 years away from dissenting books from being banned.”

In related news, Facebook still won’t allow Ethics Alarms posts…

 

 

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/10/2019: Rabbits, Time Lords, Elephants And Fools

Good morning.

This a reluctant warm-up, and I was tempted not to create distractions from the previous post, which is important, especially so because there is a near complete media embargo on what the Times did. Has anyone seen a mention of it anywhere besides here and in the conservative media? I haven’t. Yet a more convincing example of  what the news media has become could not be imagined, and the public has the right to know. I want people to be outraged about this. I want people to shake the story in the face of their biased journalism-defending friends. I want to see the cowards who fled the discussions here accusing me of bias return and explain how this could happen innocently, or try to justify it, or continue to insist that there is no organized effort to destroy the Trump Presidency and with it our democratic institutions.

I admit it: this episode makes me as angry as I am disgusted and worried.

1. In a lighter vein, on the topic of life competence…In  Yala National Park in Sri Lanka, a 41-year-old man was reportedly trying to impress other tourists by getting out of his car (which is illegal) and attempting to hypnotize an elephant. The man’s name has not been released, but now they call him Matt, because the unimpressed elephant trampled him flat. Now watch them blame the elephant. Says Professor Turley, who found this story, ” some at the scene suggested that alcohol may have played a role.”

Ya think?

What is the ethical response to someone who gets himself killed like this?

2. It looks like we have at least two ethically-challenged new Congresswomen...Rep. Tlaib of “impeach the motherfucker fame” unreeled a combination of Authentic Frontier Gibberish (AFG) AND ethical ignorance as she continued to dig her hole following the outburst. Tlaib told CNN on this week that she’s “very unapologetically me” [Rationalization #41 A. Popeye’s Excuse, or “I am what I am.”] and her constituents “are kind of used to my realness, used to this passion that I have” [Excuse me a second…Gag! Uck! Gack! Yecch! Ptuii!…This is #44, The Unethical Precedent, or “It’s Not The First Time.”

“And I know for many people, it did — it did get the best of me at that moment and for many people it might have been very much a distraction…”what I want to do is not allow women like myself that have every right to be angry and upset and mad and to curse — that somehow they’re not allowed to do it in some sort of public forum.”

Ah! She’s an idiot. Women and everyone else have a right to be vulgar, uncivil, insulting, obscene, undignified and generally rude in public. The fact that they have the right to act badly doesn’t mean it is right. Most relatively educated 12-year-olds understand this, and Tlaib, who is in Congress, doesn’t. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/30/2018: A Petition, A Career-Killing Joke, And Priestley’s Play [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1. One more time...I’m really going to try to get a year-end ethics review up for 2018. In both of the last two years, I failed miserably, and The Ethics Alarms Best and Worst of Ethics Awards never posted. It is a very time-intensive exercise, and the traffic for the posts have never been substantially more than an average entry that is a tenth as long.

We shall see.

2. The Bad Guys, Redux. It’s a problem: one wants to curb the trend of demonizing political adversaries, and yet we keep seeing escalating examples of unequivocally despicable behavior that deserves to be demonized, because it is constant, self-righteous, and indefensible.

Over at GoFundMe, someone named Brian Kolfage, has posted a petition and a crowd-funding effort to pay for “the wall” if Congress won’t. He writes, “I have a verified blue check Facebook page as a public figure and I’m a Purple Heart Recipient triple amputee veteran.”

This is not encouraging. [Correction notice: I originally wrote “Facebook does not use a “blue check,” though Twitter and Instagram do, (and abuse it.)” I checked this, but my source was wrong. Facebook does give public figures “blue checks.”] I guess Kolfage is sort of a public figure. He is also a controversial one who has pushed extreme right-wing conspiracy theories. When asked why he doesn’t mention any of his controversial crusades and advocacy in promoting his crowdfunding effort, he has responded, “My personal issues have nothing to do with building the wall.” Fine: what do his war wounds have to do with building a wall?

Never mind: the appeal has raised over 18 million dollars to date, although the contributions have slowed considerably. It’s a futile effort; I suppose it has some value to show public support for enforcing immigration laws. If people want to donate their money to such a cause, it’s their money to give, though they might as well be making little green paper airplanes out of hundred dollar bills and sailing them into the wind.

Megan Fox reports, however, that someone who wants to punish anyone who doesn’t support open borders is taking names and doxxing contributors. She writes,

Did you donate money to the GoFundMe page to build the border wall? If you did, there’s a good chance this guy/gal or otherkin has doxxed your Facebook profile to millions of other nasty trolls who will now make it their business to harass and punish you with anonymous online mobs. Get ready, because your life is about to get more interesting. Based on my personal experience, once these monsters get your information and the directive to destroy you, the death threats, vandalism, obscene pornography, and harassment at work are not far behind. And the worst part is, no one will help you — not the police or the FBI or anyone else whose job it should be to stop intimidation and harassment.

Nice. Continue reading

Casting Ethics: Color-Blind vs Color Conscious in “All My Sons”

Director Gregory Mosher quit the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” (scheduled to open in the Spring) when Miller’s estate, run by his daughter Rebecca Miller,  blocked him from casting a black actor  to play George Deever, one of the main characters in the classic.  Miller objected to the director’s choice of making the Deever family black when the play’s other central family, the Kellers, had already been cast as white. If the Deevers were black, it would introduce the concept of an interracial relationship in the 1940s.

“My concern was that to cast the Deevers as black puts a burden on the play to justify the relationship in the historical context,”  Miller said “I was worried that it would whitewash the racism that really was in existence in that period by creating this pretend-Valhalla-special family where no one would mention this.”

Nice attempt to put her position in a politically correct context, I have to admit. The objection really is that the play is a period piece, firmly and unavoidably set in the post-World War II era. It will have period costumes, sets and props, and the audience seeing the story unfold in the proper historical time period is essential to the play’s success. An inter-racial romance shatters that illusion, and unnecessarily so. The play is not about race, so race should not be injected into the plot by reckless casting. Miller had previously approved of a production in which both families were black.

Interestingly, she also was willing to approve the casting of a black actor if his sister were cast as white. You see, then the casting would be “color blind,” meaning that it was just a black actor playing a white character (without white make-up, which would be “white-face,” which would suggest blackface, and—oh, never mind…), and that his family wasn’t really “black.” Got that? Otherwise, it would be “color-conscious” casting, in which the race of the performer necessarily requires a different approach to the material. Continue reading

“Miracle On 34th Street”…An Ethics Companion, Chapter One: “Meet Kris Kringle!”

The Introduction us here.

The movie tells us right at the start that 1) the charming old man in the white beard can’t possibly be Santa Claus, and 2) that he’s nuts. That is, he tells adults who are paying attention this as soon as he starts complaining to a New York City storekeeper that his window display has the reindeer mixed up: “You’ve got Cupid where Blitzen should be. And Dasher should be on my right-hand side. And another thing…Donner’s antlers have got four points instead of three!”

Let’s see:

  • No Christmas display has ever distinguished between Santa’s reindeer (except for Rudolph), because the individual reindeer have never had any identifying characteristics in reality or myth. Are we to assume that there are name-tags on the models? If so, why wouldn’t Kris be complaining about the features of all of them, not just “Donner’s” antlers?
  • The names of the reindeer, even if there are flying reindeer, were 100% the invention of the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” or “The Night Before Christmas,” originally published in 1823.  No one has ever claimed that the author had some kind of special info on the actual names of the reindeer when he wrote,

    More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
    And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

    “Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!
    On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DUNDER and BLIXEN!

    …and anyway, if he did, those were their names 120 years before the movie takes place. Nobody has ever claimed the reindeer were immortal, either. I suppose Santa Claus, in a nod to the poem’s popularity (it has been called the most famous poem of all time), could have adopted the practice of always having the reindeer named after the poem’s versions, and when one Vixen dropped of old age, the young reindeer that took her place became the new Vixen.

I suppose. Continue reading

Lost Tuesday Ethics Scraps, 12/11/18: Statues, Tucker Carlson And “To Kill A Mockingbird”

Good whatever it is.

I guess I’m not as recovered as I thought: one high energy ethics presentation to a sluggish audience today and I was fried. This better not be encroaching old age, or I’ll be pissed.

1. Thank you for making the open forum this morning active: I wish you all had been in my audience today. I haven’t read any of it yet (I did finally get your excellent comment out of moderation, Michael R!); I’m trying to get my own posts up.

2. Stolen art ethics. No doubt: the looting of art from the Old World by American tycoons and museums is a long-time ethics scandal, and the international court battles settling the disputes will continue for a long, long time. The argument over a 2000-year-old bronze statue, known as “Victorious Youth between the Getty Villa and Italy, however, is not as clear as most. Italy’s highest court has ordered that the sculpture should be returned to Italy. Currently, it is on display at the villa on the outskirts of Los Angeles, which is part of the J. Paul Getty Museum. It was retrieved from Adriatic waters by Italian fishermen in 1964, and sold to successive collectors and dealers. After a decade-long legal battle, Italy’s Court of Cassation ruled  that the statue should be confiscated and brought back to Italy, rejecting the Getty’s appeal. Getty is not giving in.

The ethics as well as the law is murky. This is not a case like King Tut, where Indiana Jones-style archeologists and adventurers, just uncovered foreign cultural treasures and took them home. Before acquiring the prized artifact, the Getty undertook a comprehensive, five-year study of whether the statue could be purchased legally and in good faith. Their due diligence extensive analysis of international, Italian, American and California law and of Italian court decisions pertaining to the work.

In 1968, Italy’s Court of Cassation ruled that there was no evidence that the statue belonged to the Italian state; after all, it is Greek. Although the fishermen took the statue onto Italian soil, the court did not find that its brief presence in Italy transformed the sculpture into a component of Italian cultural heritage. Eventually the statue made its way to a German art dealer who put the statue up for sale. According to the Getty, in 1973, acting on a request from Italy, German police initiated an investigation into whether the German dealer had received stolen goods. The investigation was dropped for lack of evidence of wrongdoing. In 1977, the Getty purchased the bronze in Britain for almost $4 million from a gallery affiliated with the German dealer. The bronze has now been publicly exhibited, studied and cared for at the Getty for 40 years. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/4/18: The Red Sox Do The Right Thing, France Does The Wrong Thing, The News Media Does Their Usual Thing, And All Sorts Of Stuff In Between…

Good Morning!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

1. The sad part is that this is newsworthy. The Boston Red Sox accepted their invitation to visit the White House and be honored for their World Series victory. In doing so, they buck the trend of the past couple years of championship teams “boycotting” what should be a unifying, purely ceremonial event of national pride (and fun, since that’s what sports are supposed to be about) in order to make some kind of incoherent statement of disapproval  regarding President Trump. Of course, this is all virtue-signalling, as if being expressly unpatriotic, disrespectful and divisive while insulting the President is a virtue. (Sportswriter love the boycotts.)

Boston manager Alex Cora is Puerto Rican, and had criticized the national response to the island’s hurricane emergency. Some thought that he would lead his team to snub the White House, but Cora is a smarter, wiser, stronger leader than that, as he showed all season long.

2. Great. France accepts government by mob rule. President Emmanuel Macron’s administration today suspended planned increases to fuel taxes for at least six months in response to weeks of  violent protests. The fuel taxes, which most heavily burden  French citizens least able to endure them, were expressly aimed at curbing climate change, though there isno evidence whatsoever that they would accomplish that. So it was a bad policy, but even bad policies should not be vetoed by mob rule. Macron’s capitulation to violent protests is cowardly—though so, so French—and undermines the rule of law, not just in France, but worldwide.

These are the times even the most hardened-Trump-hater should be grateful that the U.S. has a leader who cannot be extorted in this manner.

Should be, but, of course, won’t.

3. If they didn’t have double standards…well, you know the rest. Human rights groups say China has detained up to 2 million Uighurs, a Muslim minority in the country, to promote “ethnic unity” in the country’s far west. This week over 270 scholars from 26 countries released a statement drawing attention to “mass human rights abuses and deliberate attacks on indigenous cultures” taking place in China. “In the camps, these detainees, most of whom are Uighur, are subjected to deeply invasive forms of surveillance and psychological stress as they are forced to abandon their native language, religious beliefs and cultural practices,” the statement said.

Never mind. The news media is just thrilled that the President has called a temporary truce in the trade war with China, is meeting with its leader, and that the two countries may soon again be working together, creating jobs and wealth on both sides of the Pacific. Meanwhile, the same people cheering our efforts to accommodate China have pronounced the President a monster for not risking relations with the Saudi’s over the murder of a single journalist. Continue reading