Ethics Quiz: Alternate History Ethics

In 2017, “Game of Thrones” creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss announced that HBO  would carry their new original series “Confederate,” an alternate history show taking place in  an alternate reality where the South won the Civil War, creating a new nation in which slavery remains legal and continues as a modern institution. (yes, presumably they knew this was unlikely, bordering on impossible. )Their release added, “The story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone — freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall.”

While I generally dislike alternate history fiction (unless it involves extravagant revenge on unequivocal villains, like in “Inglorious Basterds” or “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood,)” the genre, done well, has the potential to be enlightening and provocative, like Amazon’s The Man in the High Tower,” a series based on Philip K. Dick’s novel about a world in which Germany and Japan defeated the U.S. in World War II.

Now, however,  we learn:

…. HBO president Casey Bloys officially confirms to TVLine that the…long-gestating, controversial slavery drama Confederate will not be moving forward.

The 2017 announcement was greeted by the same people who want to see all statues of slave-holders and Confederate soldiers melted down (and the Confederate flag regarded with the same revulsion as the Nazi swastika) as a dangerous white supremacy plot. Benioff and Weiss even felt they had to make it clear in interviews that they knew “slavery was wrong.” Here’s an example of the social media brickbats the announcement of the series spawned in 2017: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/14/2020: And The Ethics Beat Goes On…

Good morning.

That’s a perfunctory good morning, to be transparent. Mourning would be more accurate. Yesterday’s news that Red Sox manager Alex Cora, a man who had impressed me with his leadership ability, personality and, yes, ethical values, was exposed by an investigation as the primary instigator of cheating schemes that involved two baseball teams and World Series champions (the Astros and the Red Sox), disillusioned two fan bases, harmed his sport, and led, so far, to the fall of two of the games most successful and admired management figures. Cora is also the first minority manager the Red Sox have had, and was regarded as a transformational figure for the team and the city, both of which have long and troubled histories of prejudice and discrimination. Smart, articulate, creative, funny, brave, knowledgeable—all of his positive qualities, rendered useless by the lack of functioning ethics alarms.

1. Congratulations to Ann Althouse…on this, the 16th anniversary of her blog. With the demise of Popehat, she supplanted Ken White as my most admired blogger, and most quoted by far. The fact that her fiercely non-partisan analysis of ethics issues so frequently tracks with my own is a constant source of comfort for me , particularly during these difficult times. Ann has an advantage that I don’t—“I only write about what interests me” is her description of her field of commentary— because this blog is limited to ethics and leadership. Fortunately, Ann is interested in ethics, though she seldom says so explicitly.

2. Bernie vs Liz. Feeling that Bernie Sanders was pulling away as the standard-bearer of the Leftest of the Democratic base as her own support appears to be waning, Elizabeth Warren went low, and had her aides reveal the content of what was supposed to be two-hour a private summit between the fake Native American and the Communist sympathizer in December 2018. According to them, Bernie told Warren that he disagreed with her assertion that a woman could win the 2020 election. Bernie denies it. Observations:

  • This kind of thing stinks, though it is kind of fun to see Democrats dirtied by it instead of President Trump. Anonymous accounts of what was said in phone conversations and private meetings in which the participants reasonably believed they could speak freely are unreliable, untrustworthy and unethical.
  • The Warren camp’s spin on Bernie’s alleged statement is that it shows he’s a sexist. That makes no sense. If I say that I can’t win the election in 2020, does that mean I’m biased against myself? There is no logical reason to assume an opinion like “A woman can’t win is 2020” represents bias, though it could. I will state here and now that a gay man can’t be elected President in 2020, even if that man weren’t a pandering asshole like Pete Buttigieg, but I am not anti-LGBTQ is any way. The statement reflects my objective analysis of the state of the culture.
  • I suspect that Sanders meant, “YOU can’t win in 2020, nor can Kamala Harris nor any of the other equally weak announced female candidates.” The truth may hurts, but that doesn’t make it biased
  • (Psst! Bernie! A delusional septuagenarian socialist who honeymooned in the Soviet Union can’t win either!)

3. No, the fact that there are no more African-Americans running for President doesn’t mean an African-American can’t win. It means weak African-American candidates like Cory Booker, who just dropped out, and Kamala Harris, who is long gone, can’t win, not because of their race, but because they can’t convince voters that they could do the job. Continue reading

Why Almost Nobody Is Interested In Ethics…

Kudos to Ann Althouse for finding this monstrosity: “3D Printing and the Murky Ethics of Replicating Bones.” Ann quips, “The murkiness in getting to the point of what’s murky in the ethics is evidence of what a sensitive problem it is.”

The forum, ironically enough, is RealClear Science, and the author is Sarah Wild, a South African science journalist and author. It may help to know that she hails from Undark, an e-mag that purports to to “explore science in both light and shadow, and to bring that exploration to a broad, international audience.” Should I be suspicious of the magazine because Charles M. Blow is on its board? No…but I am.

The article is incompetent structurally because it doesn’t begin to explain exactly what the “murky ethics issues” are until about  half way through a very long article, and it’s hard to read when one is asleep. Even after the issues are drip-drip-dripped out, it is never made clear by the author what established ethical principles are involved. The ethics issue of scientists taking bones of unidentified people from burial sites in other nations has always been, for me, an ick vs. ethics controversy. The original owners of the bones are not harmed in any way, and if those individuals’ families aren’t aware of the whereabouts of the remains and have taken no steps to assert control over them, they are not harmed either. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 1/12/2020: Broken Ethics Alarms, An Ethics Conflict, And “Who Are You Going To Believe, Me Or Your Own Eyes?”

Well, Hel-LO!

“Seinfeld” fans remember Jerry’s Uncle Leo, whose trademark was an over-enthusiastic, “Hel-LO!” The recurring character was played by the late Len Lesser, an obscure Hollywood bit player until the “Seinfeld” gig made him a familiar face. Well, I was watching “Bells Are Ringing, the 1960 film version of the hit Broadway musical known for the standards “Just in Time” and “The Party’s Over” (one of my Mom’s favorite songs), on TCM. The film is a reminder of just how luminous Judy Holliday was; she had won the Tony for playing the musical’s starring role on Broadway, and attention should be paid. Tragically, his was her last movie—during filming she was fighting the cancer that eventually killed her —-and I don’t know if there has ever been a female musical comedy star of greater range and presence. Anyway, there’s a number in the film where Judy tells Dean Martin that New York’s grim mass of humanity during rush hours will thaw if strangers only say “hello” to each other. Dean is skeptical, but he tries it on a dour-looking man waiting in the mob, whose face instantly breaks into a brilliant smile at the greeting. “Hel-LO!” the man responds to a surprised Dino, and soon everyone is happily saying hello to each other. You guessed it: the dour-looking man was played by “Uncle Leo” himself, Len Lesser. His catch phrase in “Seinfeld” was a deliberate reference to that bit, one of the very few memorable moments in the elderly actor’s career.

This is really a long introduction to a different point: I get a lot of ethics ideas from watching old movies. For example, I watched 1967’s “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, one of schlockmeister Roger Corman’s few films with an A-list cast and a big budget. The film’s solemn narrator is uncredited, but he is obviously meant to make the casual audience member think it’s Orson Welles. It wasn’t Welles, however: it was master vocal artist Paul Frees, who had a great, and often used, Welles impression. I assume he was uncredited so no one would realize that the narrator wasn’t the weighty Welles, but the voice of Boris Badinov from “Rocky and Bullwinkle.”

I don’t know how Corman got away with this.

1. Ah, the accurate, trustworthy news media. Reuters reports, “A South African military plane crash-landed on Thursday at the Goma airport in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a U.N. spokesman said….two sources at the airport, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there did not appear to be major damage to the plane.”

Here’s the plane:

2. Apparently the Democratic Party’s strategy regarding the economy is to just flagrantly lie about it. “The U.S. economy is working just fine for people like me. But it is badly broken for the vast majority of Americans,” Mike Bloomberg said this week. That counter-factual statement echoes Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders…pretty much the Democratic field, and it is demonstrably false.

The Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank’s monthly Wage Growth Tracker shows that Americans in the lower wage brackets are making more money, and at a better rate than they have for a very long time. Here’s a graph: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/9/2020: As Fact Begins To Imitate Outrageous Fiction, For Some Reason

Be careful out there…

People appear to be going nuts….in many cases, the exact same people who have, in the recent past, pressed Impeachment/Removal Plan E, ”Trump is mentally ill so this should trigger the 25th Amendment.” Ironic.

This week I stumbled across a comedy now playing on Netflix starring Stephen Yeun, most memorably seen on “The Walking Dead” with half his head caved in and his eyeball hanging out. The movie is called “Mayhem,” and is about a kind of flu that removes people’s impulse control, causing them to do and say whatever they feel like doing or saying, no matter how inappropriate or illegal. The illness strikes a BIgLaw firm, which is quarantined and locked down while its employees go bananas. It’s an excellent metaphor for what is going on right now, but much funnier.

And so far, at least, bloodier.

So far.

1. And now for something completely stupid...Even after being warned at the Golen Globes by Ricky Gervais that they know nothing about the real world and should avoid making political pronouncements, Best Actor winner Joaquin Phoenix announced after the award show that in order to help save the planet from climate change, he would wear the same tux to all the awards shows this year. He really said that. No, seriously, he really did, and he was not engaging in satire (but if the Babylon Bee used that as a story, everyone would assume it was satire.) Then designer Stella McCartney company, also apparently seriously, tweeted (because that tux the actor will be wearing is one of theirs), “This man is a winner… wearing custom Stella because he chooses to make choices for the future of the planet. He has also chosen to wear this same Tux for the entire award season to reduce waste. I am proud to join forces with you.”

I’ve worn the same tux for ten years. Phoenix doesn’t even pay for his tuxes (I pay for mine!), like his female colleagues who get their designer gowns free. There have been some funny jokes about the actor’s ridiculous virtue signaling, many involving underwear, but never mind: what I want to know is, how can anyone take people who think like this seriously, or respect anyone who solemnly nods when they hear about such pompous nonsense, “Hey, right on, man. Save the planet”? Yet a substantial chunk of an entire political party appears to be this far gone.

2.  Wait—are they trying to make our heads explode like those robots and computers that Captian Kirk would destroy by making them think about a contradictory statement? Is that their plan? I admit: I don’t understand this at all. A “Saved by the Bell” reboot, sequel, whatever you want to call it, is on the way. Starring original stars Mario Lopez (who now hosts celebrity gossip shows) and Elizabeth Berkley (whose career never recovered from her starring in the camp classic “Showgirls,” the plot sounds nauseatingly ‘woke,” as it involves now California Govetnor Zack Morris (the gown up character in the original played then by Mark Gosselaar, who actually has a career and doesn’t need to stoop this low) being criticized for closing too many low-income high schools, so he announces that the affected students will be sent to the highest-performing schools in the state, including  his old stomping grounds, Bayside High. Hilarious! I smell a hit! But here’s the beauty part: playing the role of the cutest, most popular cheerleader at Bayside, the role originally played by Tiffany Amber Thiessen, will be played by Josie Totah, a transgender female ( transgender male? I’m still unsure of the right terminology. She began life as a male). Isn’t this just a stunt? On one hand, I’ll fight to the death for the right of any actor to play any role, wear any make-up, use any device, as long as the vehicle itself doesn’t suffer. On the other hand, by casting a transgender actress who has made a point of publicizing her biological origins, the production guarantees that nobody will be able to watch “Lexi” without thinking about things that have nothing to do with “Saved by the Bell.” Continue reading

Now THIS Is Pathological Race Obsession.

How does someone get like this?

Track with me ,if you will, the fevered discourse of some poor social justice warrior named Stephen Galloway, who authored what apparently is intended as a serious critique in the Hollywood Reporter titled, “The Whiteness of ‘Toy Story 4.”

He begins,

Was there any movie this past year as exuberantly entertaining, as creatively conceived as Toy Story 4? Ever since the franchise was launched in 1995, it’s been a cornucopia of riches, from its indelible characters to its unparalleled animation…The picture … left me in awe.

Well, that’s the end of the matter, isn’t it? It should be. This was, the the other three films, a vehicle of entertainment. Virtually everyone who saw it was entertained, even me, and I found it the least of its three predecessors and annoying for its blatant pandering to feminists (Bo Peep suddenly morphed into Lara Croft).

But alas, no..

So why did a slightly bitter taste linger, a sense that something was naggingly wrong? Because in many ways TS4′s worldview seems like an Eisenhower-era fantasy, a vision of America that might have come from the most die-hard reactionary: lovely if you’re wealthy and white, but alarming if you’re black or brown or gay or a member of any other minority — in other words, more than half the U.S. population.

Oh, bite me. The characters are toys. Toys don’t have races. They don’t have sex. I wonder if a single child saw this film and spent one second wondering about why there wasn’t a gay or Hispanic toy, or thought about whether the Potato Heads are “of color,’ being brown, or if “Bunny,” voiced by African-American actor Jordan Peele, is “of color” because he’s blue. Nobody normal, of any age, thinks like that, unless they have been brain-washed into a miserable world view….like the author, who really complains that one of the new characters is “a very white fork.” Oh! Right! The second I saw “Forkie,” I thought, “Another white guy!” Continue reading

Poll: The Worst Responses To The Killing Of Suleimani

 

Nobody seriously disputes the fact that Iran has been waging an undeclared war against the U.S. for many years, depending on American aversion to the short and long term results of a military response, particularly among the Left’s permanent anti-military lobby in the U.S. The apotheosis of this strategy was Obama’s virtual capitulation in 2015, in which Iran received seized assets  and secret “pallets full of cash,” while the U.S. received hostages illegally held by Iran and a dubious promise not to prepare to nuke Israel for a while.  Iran has been playing the role of a small child abusing a larger, stronger rival, confident that any retaliation would be seen as bullying.

The United States and the world is always safest when the man in the White House is deemed capable of using the arsenal within his command as the deterrent it was built to be. This is one reason why Ronald Reagan was able to win the Cold War. For all the Left’s criticism of the war in Afghanistan, the alternative to forcefully retaliating for the attacks of 2001 would have been confirmation that the United States was a “toothless tiger,” weak, and cowardly, unwilling to defend itself and its citizens. Such a perception would have been dangerous, encouraging more terrorism, and more attacks.

As General Petraeus explained,

“Suleimani was …responsible for providing explosives, projectiles, and arms and other munitions that killed well over 600 American soldiers and many more of our coalition and Iraqi partners just in Iraq, as well as in many other countries such as Syria…. [Trump’s] reasoning seems to be to show in the most significant way possible that the U.S. is just not going to allow the continued violence—the rocketing of our bases, the killing of an American contractor, the attacks on shipping, on unarmed drones—without a very significant response.”

Why yes, I’d say that’s a reasonable interpretation of what happened, and hallelulia for that! Iran has responded in a manner that reveals its essential madness and barbarism, putting a bounty on President Trump’s head, and doing its familiar “American Satan” routine that we have been treated to since President Jimmy Carter cowered inertly in the White House after Iran kidnapped 52 of our diplomats and embassy personnel more than 40 years ago. Continue reading