Taking Down The Christmas Tree, And Hating Myself For Doing It

No way around it: today we are taking down the Christmas tree. It took over eight hours to decorate it, but that’s not why I always hate this annual task. Taking down the tree has always seemed to me like a symbolic rejection of all the ethical instincts and interactions of the season that the tree symbolizes. It is easier, somehow, to keep those ethics alarms tuned when this big, garish, lighted thing is dominating the living room, and shining out through the window into the street. One year, I managed to delay the Great Un-Christmasing until mid-February. There is something especially wrong and disrespectful about leaving this symbol of love, family, peace, generosity, continuity, community, kindness and more lying on its side, by the outgoing trash. This years Frasier Fir was a good tree that did it’s job well, and deserves better. Another year, I hated the idea of leaving our tree by the curb so much that I threw it down the bamboo-covered hill behind our home.

I wish I had the courage and resolve of the woman profiled in the Charlotte Observer on December 26, 1999. I adapted it in 2008 for the original script of “An American Century Christmas,” a musical revue recalling old-style TV Christmas specials as well as songs Christmas literature and movies.
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Comment Of The Day (1): The Transgender Secret: Was I Right Then, Or Am I Right Now?

Many, many excellent comments followed this post. The issue, covered here before but long ago, was when a transgender individual is ethically obligated to reveal that fact to a romantic target, or partner. The Ethics Alarms poll on the question reached these results:

Here is the first of two Comments of the Day from The Transgender Secret: Was I Right Then, Or Am I Right Now?; this one is by Rich in CT.

I voted “before having sex” and/or “when the relationship becomes serious”; as these were the earliest stages on the list. I also included “when marriage becomes a possibility” as the latest possible time to reveal. (I did not include “first kiss”, as this is too vague a time period)

My take would be as soon as practical (including at soon as the overt risk of a violent reaction is ruled out). The current consensus is that gender and orientation are spectrums, not binary absolutes. Within this logic, we have a duty to understand and respect our romantic partner’s place on the spectrum. One (of ant orientation) might be exclusively attracted to the extreme end of the female gender spectrum, for instance. This might preclude attraction someone with a surgically transitioned body. Since gender and orientation are considered persistent traits, it is not necessarily bias alone that dictates this exclusive attraction.

One must also consider cultural values of a partner. Any relationship I’ve been in, I’ve made known early on that kids (naturally conceived) are a long term goal of mine. On this basis alone, I might decline to pursue any women with known infertility. Were such detail withheld, I would feel extremely hurt and betrayed. Continue reading

The Transgender Secret: Was I Right Then, Or Am I Right Now?

I recently wrote here that I have been pleasantly surprised when looking back on old posts to find that I am almost always in agreement with them. Naturally, I have immmediately been confronted with an issue where I now question Past Jack’s verdict.

Ebony has a “confession’ article—it may be fake, but the issue isn’t—by a trans woman who writes in part regarding her husband,

We were months into dating and contemplating sex before it ever occurred to me that Carlos might need to know… It was wrong, but I chose to keep the secret rather than risk losing him. Now, four years later, Carlos and I are happy and madly in love! It has been a roller coaster, but we couldn’t be happier. But it’s this happiness that is causing me such pain because Carlos feels that it is time to add to our happy family. He is excited to be a father and his face lights up at the very thought. So how do I break his heart? How do I tell him that all of our trying has been in vain because, despite my best efforts to be the person I always felt I was, I’m still not who he thinks I am?

My answer: Suck it up and tell him the truth. Maybe have him watch “The Crying Game” a few times. The relationship has already been built on a material lie, and now adding to the dishonesty by concocting a reason why children are not an option just damages the relationship further.

I do think that transgendered individuals have a difficult choice regarding the timing of this revelation as they enter a relationship, but that’s a different issue (There’s a poll on that one coming up.)

In 2012, however, I did post following an Emily Yoffe advice column (“Dear Prudence”) , and came to the opposite conclusion, in contrast to Yoffe. Then I wrote, Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/5/18: Dinosaurs, Savages, And Censors

Good Morning!

1. Jurassic World II. I can’t honestly call this ethics, but as I posted about the film’s bad reviews earlier, I feel obligated to close the loop. I saw the movie last night, and as I knew I would, enjoyed it thoroughly, beginning to end. To those who did, I feel a bit the way I do about people who don’t like baseball, Westerns, Gilbert & Sullivan, and the United States of America: I’m sorry for you. This one even has a moment that seems to be written for those who don’t to help explain those who do, when Bryce Dallas Howard talks about her sense of wonder the first time she saw a dinosaur. Of course, the original movie better expressed the same sense of wonder in the iconic scene where Sam Neill is struck dumb by his first sight of  the brachiosaurus (and the lawyer’s only reaction is “We’re going to make a fortune with this place!”), but the Howard’s speech is no less an accurate description of how we dinosaur-lovers feel when we see these creatures on-screen.

No, it’s not the equal of the first “Jurassic World,” but it is excellent for the sequel, and better, I think, than either sequel to “Jurassic Park.” A vicious mutant raptor chasing a child through Victorian mansion is the stuff of nightmares, and a new concept; the dinosaur auction to a bunch of international bad-guys was a weird cross between “Goldfinger” and “Taken,” and several scenes, including the dinosaur stampede away from the erupting volcano, were worth seeing the film all by themselves. There were also more “Awww!” scenes than in all of the previous films combined: Chris Pratt’s home movies of bonding with the raptor babies; a mother triceratops and her adorable little one, and a haunting evocation of on of Charles Addams. best, but least funny, cartoons. I’ll leave it at that.

My biggest complaints would be that there was not enough of a role for the T-Rex, some of the deliberate homages to the earlier films were ham-handed and predictable, and that there was a fatal decision by one of the villains that made no sense to me at all. These flaws were more than compensated for by the star turn of the Pachycephalosaurus,  a species that had only cameos in “The Lost World” and “Jurassic World,” a terrific fight between a new species in the series, a Carnotaurus, and a Styracosaurus, (one of my mother’s best ceramic models in my collection) and several laugh-out loud moments authored by the dinosaurs. The film’s ending also sets up a final installment that should conclude the series, unless a “Jurassic Planet” is in the cards.

There are some ethics issues in the film, as in all of the films: respect for life, cloning, betrayal, and accountability for unforeseeable consequences. Michael Crichton had no qualms in his original novel with solving the problem of living dinosaurs by nuking the whole park, but Spielberg’s ending was better.

2. An Ethics Quiz That Is Too Minor To Justify A Whole Post. Do you find anything wrong with Donald Trump Jr. parading his new girlfriend in front of cameras at the White House before he is even divorced from his current wife? Writes Ann Althouse, “He and his wife have 5 children. He should be more discreet. Which, I know, obviously doesn’t sound like a Trump concept.” Let’s have a poll!

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/18/2018: Moral Luck, Non-Hypocrisy, Hypocrisy, Thomas Jefferson And WKRP

Good morning, Monticello, everyone…

1 The Inspector General’s Report and Tales of Moral Luck:  Stop me if you’ve heard this one: FBI staffer Peter Strzok, working on both the Hillary Clinton email investigation and the Russian collusion investigation, received a text from Lisa Page, Strzok’s co-worker and adulterous lover, that read, “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok replied, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”

 September of 2016, the FBI discovered that Clinton’s illicit emails had somehow ended up on the laptop of disgraced former Congressman. Anthony Weiner, who is married to Hillary’s top aide and confidante, Huma Abedin.  Strzok, we learn in Michael Horowitz’s report, was instrumental in  the decision not to pursue the lead, arguing that the Russia investigation was a “higher priority” at the time.”We found this explanation unpersuasive and concerning,” the report concluded. The laptop was available from September 29 until October 27, when “people outside the FBI” finally forced  the FBI to act on the evidence. “The FBI had all the information it needed on September 29 to obtain the search warrant that it did not seek until more than a month later,” the IG report stated. “The FBI’s neglect had potentially far-reaching consequences.”

“Comey told the OIG that, had he known about the laptop in the beginning of October and thought the email review could have been completed before the election, it may have affected his decision to notify Congress,” the IG report says, and also states,

“Under these circumstances, we did not have confidence that Strzok’s decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over follow up on the [Clinton] investigative lead discovered on the Weiner laptop was free from bias.”

Got that? The IG believes that anti-Trump, pro-Hillary bias led Strzok to delay the Weiner laptop investigation, and it may have backfired, helping Trump and hurting Clinton rather than the reverse. But the fact that moral luck took a hand and foiled his intent doesn’t change the fact that this is strong evidence that partisan bias DID infect the Clinton investigation, and probably the Russian inquiry as well. This makes the media’s spin that the IG report dispels accusations of bias even more unconscionable.

That Strzok’s biased and unethical tactics to help Hillary intimately failed spectacularly doesn’t change or mitigate the fact that a prime FBI staff member was intentionally trying yo manipulate the investigation for partisan reasons.

2. The Web thinks you’re an awful person.  A tease from a “sponsored site” in the margins of my NBC Sports baseball feed  says, “Jan Smithers starred in hit sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati.” Try not to smile when you see what she looks like now!” Wait…what’s that’s supposed to mean? Is she a circus clown? No, these and similar come-ons apparently assume that normal people love mocking formerly beautiful young stars when they no longer look young. “Heh, heh..well, Jan Smithers, I guess you’re not so hot now, are you? What kind of person takes pleasure in the physical decay of others just because they were once gorgeous?

Actually, the photo of Jan Smithers did make me smile, because unlike, say, Jane Fonda,

…who at 80 has allowed plastic surgeons to make her look like one of the fragile immortal female ghouls who shatter into pieces at the end of “Death Becomes Her,” Smithers (who is younger than me and a decade and a half younger than Hanoi Jane) has allowed herself to age naturally, and by my admittedly biased lights, is lovely still: Continue reading

Chaos, Kindness, Vivian Landis, and Me

Yesterday I attended the funeral of Vivian Landis, mother of my long-time friend Lise Landis. Vivian was 98 years old when she died, and by all accounts had a wonderful and rewarding life. She also played a big part in mine, by doing what she apparently did routinely: being kind.

Mrs. Landis, along with her late husband Paul, were, by sheer chance, placed in the position of being the Chaos Theory butterfly in the Amazon jungle that causes a momentous chain of events by flapping its wings. They exemplify to me why it is vital for all of us to strive to live using ethical values. We have often no idea what the results will be, but the odds are they will be more good than bad.

In 1972, I had been rejected by all of my choices for law school, though I had been wait-listed at Georgetown. However, it was August, the fall semester was looming, and no word from Washington, D.C. had reached me. Discouraged but resigned, I said the hell with it, and resolved to take a year off, perhaps to craft my thesis on character and the American Presidency into a book. In the meantime, I decided to join my parents and sister on what bid fair to be our last family vacation. Dad had planned one of his typical forced marches, this one through Reno, Sequoia National Park, Yosemite, San Francisco, and Seattle.

I was having a great time, relaxing, enjoying the sights, when a ranger tracked us down on the Yosemite canyon floor. Our next-door neighbors in Arlington Mass. had sent a telegram forwarding a Georgetown telegram to the Marshall homestead: a slot for me had just opened up in the 1975 Class, but to claim it, I had to be at the Law Center to register Monday morning—and it was Sunday. And I was in California.

I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go to law school at that point, but my dad was determined that I should take the opportunity. We cut short our Yosemite visit and drove to San Francisco, where I was deposited on a red-eye to Dulles. I had few clothes, and knew nobody in the District of Columbia or anywhere near it. Somehow, I was assured, my family would have a plan for me by the time I arrived. I was to call their hotel in Frisco once I had registered. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Barbra’s Cloned Dogs

Singing legend Barbra Streisand said a lot of questionable things in a recent interview with Variety. Things like…

  • She says she felt she was miscast in Gene Kelly’s bomb of an adaptation of “Hello Dolly!” for the screen. (As everyone noticed, anyone but Carol Channing would have been miscast.) She says “she tried to get out of it,” thus absolving herself from responsibility from the film some believe  killed the big-budget movie musical.

Nobody put a gun to her head: stars say “no” to projects all the time.

  • “By the way, who was called the father of film?” she asks. “D.W. Griffith. He made his first film in 1908. But a secretary named Alice Guy in 1896 started making films because she worked for Gaumont studios. She made the first film, and she’s not given credit.”

Google is your friend, Babs. The first commercial films are generally credited to the Lumière brothers‘ who had their short films screened in Paris in 1895 . Nobody has ever claimed Griffith made the first film; some credit him with making the first film with any art to it. But Barbra likes narratives better than facts.

  • She thinks Hillary won.

“I really believe she won the election,” Streisand says. “I’ve talked to senators from Michigan and Wisconsin. I do believe, like I believed during Bush, they were playing with those voter machines.”

Yes, Barbra’s a politics-addled idiot these days.

  • She blames Trump for the Parkland shooting.

“I think even that shooter was affected because Trump brings out the violence in people. He says, ‘It’s OK — rally, lock her up.’”

None of these cretinous and irresponsible statements bothered anyone too much, though–Barbra has been taking like this most of her life. She also said that she was never sexually harassed in Hollywood. Amazing! This revelation, however, set off ethics alarms: Two of her three Coton de Tulear dogs were cloned from cells taken from the mouth and stomach of her beloved 14-year-old dog Samantha, who died in 2017. The third dog is a distant cousin. The two clones cost $50,000.

PETA immediately protested:

“We all want our beloved dogs to live forever, but while it may sound like a good idea, cloning doesn’t achieve that—instead, it creates a new and different dog who has only the physical characteristics of the original. Animals’ personalities, quirks, and very ‘essence’ simply cannot be replicated, and when you consider that millions of wonderful adoptable dogs are languishing in animal shelters every year or dying in terrifying ways when abandoned, you realize that cloning adds to the homeless-animal population crisis. And because cloning has a high failure rate, many dogs are caged and tormented for every birth that actually occurs—so that’s not fair to them, despite the best intentions. We feel Barbra’s grief at losing her beloved dog but would also love to have talked her out of cloning.”

Hey, as long as they don’t clone Barbra…but I digress.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz as the week runs out is this…

Is Streisand cloning her dogs unethical, or just stupid?

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