High Noon Ethics Shoot-Out, 10/21/2020: Religious Bigotry Vs Anti-Gay Bigotry! “Whitewashing” Vs Anti-Semitism! Google Vs Trust!

As you may (and should) know, the classic Western “High Noon” was and is regarded by some conservatives as anti-American. I think it is, as excellent as it is. The ending, where the heroic law man (played by Gary Cooper in an Academy Award-winning performance) throws his star in the dirt in disgust (imitated by “Dirty Harry” for very different reasons in that conservative film years later), is widely seen as a rejection of American society as hypocritical. (The fact that the screenwriter, Carl Foreman, was a Communist doesn’t help.)

My favorite scene in the movie, where Cooper begs the church congregation to help, plays like a “Twilight Zone” episode, with the whole town rationalizing furiously to avoid helping the desperate law man minutes away from having to face, alone, vengeful thugs determined to kill him. (The whole scene is not on YouTube; I searched.) “Rio Bravo,” one of the best John Wayne Westerns and a personal favorite, was devised by director Howard Hawks as a direct rebuke of the selfish and craven America “High Noon” posits. In the Duke’s movie, the lawman, Wayne, constantly rejects the offers of help he receives, though he knows hired killers are massing to free his prisoner. Yet people go out of their way, at great personal risk, to help him anyway, time after time. “High Noon” is a better movie (maybe), but “Rio Bravo” is a fairer depiction of American values and history.

1. This is why I tell lawyers and government employees that it’s unethical to use Google for professional communication and client matters. Mac programmer Jeff Johnson has discovered that if you set Google Chrome to eliminate all website cookies and site data when you close the browser, the data remains un-erased for YouTube and Google itself.

What a coinkydink!

“Perhaps this is just a Google Chrome bug, not intentional behavior, but the question is why it only affects Google sites, not non-Google sites,” Johnson says. “I’ve tested using the latest Google Chrome version 86.0.4240.75 for macOS, but this behavior was also happening in the previous version of Chrome. I don’t know when it started.”

Bottom line: Don’t trust Google. Like I’ve been saying….

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OK, I Just Have To Do An Afternoon Ethics Potpourri So I Can Write About The Jeffrey Toobin Exposing Himself On Zoom Story…..

 

Toobin

I wake up from a nap and have to think about this???

1. Zoom ethics?  I don’t understand this story at all.

The New Yorker suspended legal reporter Jeffrey Toobin because he—wait, WHAT?—exposed himself during a Zoom call last week between members of the staff and WNYC radio.

Huh? Toobin has long been one of Ethics Alarms’ least favorite legal commentators dating back to his excuse-making for Bill Clinton during the Monica madness, but I thought he was just despicably biased, not insane. What’s going on here?

Toobin said in a statement: “I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera. I apologize to my wife, family, friends and co-workers. I believed I was not visible on Zoom. I thought no one on the Zoom call could see me. I thought I had muted the Zoom video.”.

See you doing what, and why??? Was it a bathroom Zoom call? The New Yorker says: “Jeffrey Toobin has been suspended while we investigate the matter.” What’s there to investigate? If he exposed himself accidentally, it’s a Zoom mistake, and it should have been ignored and forgotten, because Zoom is evil. EVIL!!!! On the other hand—okay, bad choice of metaphors—If he whipped it out and ran around the room on camera singing “My Ding-a-Ling,” Toobin needs to be hospitalized.

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Comment Of The Day: “WordPress Is Unethical, But It’s Not Just Them”

User unfriendly

I just had another run-in with WordPress over its “improved” system that makes me want to get hair plugs so I can tear my hair out, so this Comment of The Day by first time commenter Null Pointer is timely. This time, I was asking why I could no longer embed a CrowdSignal poll with a few clicks, and was forced to use the default WordPress poll feature which prevents a voter from checking the polling results without voting repeatedly. “Oh, it’s easy!” I was told by the cheery customer service agent. First, I have to register on the CrowdSignal site, and set up an account, and..and ..and…

I cut off the chat after writing that apparently WordPress doesn’t comprehend that my time is valuable, and that adding multiple steps, not to mention the need for constant assistance deciphering inadequate instructions and explanations, to accomplish what was once quick and straightforward is neither an improvement nor appreciated.

Usually first-time comments who score Comments of the Day are single issue participants, and are never heard from again. I hope Null Pointer is an exception.

Here is his or her Comment of the Day on the post, WordPress Is Unethical, But It’s Not Just Them:

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WordPress Is Unethical, But It’s Not Just Them

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but the American mania for complicating processes and systems that are just fine as they are is a cultural sickness. It is also obviously unethical under the category of irresponsibility, with a dash of arrogance. It is an American mania.

Herman Kahn used to tell the story about how American jet fighters were equipped with multi-million dollar systems to prevent the aircraft from stalling, triggering alarms and lights and other automated reactions. “The Soviet equivalent was a little dial that had an arrow that went into a red zone,” he said,”and the whole system costs about five bucks. It works just as well as ours.”

Right now, I am struggling to write blog posts because the WordPress “upgrade” has become mandatory, and the thing is infuriatingly complicated and clumsy. Naturally, the company’s “explanation” of how to use it is also incompetent, using terms without defining them, telling me how easy and versatile the new system is while ensuring that it is neither by inflicting instructions that will take me hours and hours to absorb and master, if I ever can.

In one of many recent online chats with WordPress customer service agents, I was asking how I could stop having to repeatedly select the same “block” (this jargon means, I finally figured out, one of I-don’t-know-how-many shiny new packages of composition and format features a section of text could be managed with) I wanted to use, and just have a permanent, familiar formatting system for all posts, all the time—you know, like I used to have before WordPress gave me all these floating options I don’t want or need.

The answer? No! The new way was better, see, because I could shift into a new package mid post! But I don’t want or need to shift anything mid-post, and this “improvement” is costing me time and causing frustration. Frankly, it’s making me want to chuck the whole blog.

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Ethics Dunce: “Streiff”

William B. Crews, an official at the National Institutes of Health, announced his retirement  this week after he was outed as surreptitiously attacking the NIH and particularly Dr. Anthony Fauci  in  posts on Twitter and on the right-wing website RedState using the screen name “Streiff.”

Crews worked for and promoted the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases while simultaneously undermining  the agency’s work with his posts since March. His deception and betrayal was exposed by The Daily Beast.

A representative comment Crews wrote on RedState in June read, “We’re at the point where it is safe to say that the entire Wuhan virus scare was nothing more or less than a massive fraud perpetrated upon the American people by ‘experts’ who were determined to fundamentally change the way the country lives and is organized and governed.”

This is a perfect Ethics Dunce performance, because what Crews did was both unethical and dumb. Screen names tend to get discovered, and something like this is a career-breaker. It’s also a cowardly and ineffective way to make an impact, if the objective is to actually accomplish something. Secret whistle blowing only works these days if your objective is to take down the President.

The ethical way to have an effect on policy and public opinion is to make objections like “Streiff’s” public and under one’s real name. It also helps if you can prove your claims. Continue reading

From The “Life Competence” Files: Death By Licorice

The current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine describes the odd case of  a middle-aged construction worker who died from eating one or two large bags of black licorice daily over a three week period. A naturally occurring compound, glycyrrhizic acid, found in black licorice can have adverse health effects if you gorge on it: in 2017, the FDA warned on its website, “If you’re 40 or older, eating 2 ounces of black licorice a day for at least two weeks could land you in the hospital with an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia.” If you have muscle weakness or an irregular heartbeat, you should stop eating it and call your doctor, who should also advise you possible  about interactions it may have with your other medications.

The construction worker’s sudden addiction to the candy  caused his heart to stop, and he collapsed at mid-day at a fast-food restaurant. Emergency responders performed  CPR and revived him,  but he died the next day. Dr. Neel Butala, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital who was one of the authors of the case study, pronounced the lesson of the episode:

“The key message here for the general public is that food containing licorice can potentially be hazardous to your health if eaten in large quantities. I don’t think people realize it. It’s not labeled that way.”

It shouldn’t have to be labelled, should it? What isn’t potentially deadly in asbsurdly large quantities? Water can kill you. Of course candy can kill you. It’s interesting to know why, and that  licorice root extract can cause dangerously low potassium and imbalances in bodily electrolytes, but honestly: who wouldn’t do a little checking if they suddenly started eating huge amounts of something that normal people only consume occasionally, if at all? Continue reading

Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias! But Why Is Fox Almost The Only News Source Reporting This Story?

This seems such egregious negligence by the mainstream media that it’s almost defiant.

Records from the Justice Department show that at least several dozen phones belonging to members of Mueller’s Russian collusion investigation team were wiped of information. The reasons are supposedly forgotten passcodes,  screen damage, loss of the devices and other explanations, including intentional deletion. All of this occurred before the Justice Department inspector general’s office could review the devices and, obviously, the information they contained.

Hey, what’s newsworthy about that? When I first read about this  days ago, I assumed it would be a major scandal. The mainstream media didn’t even treat it as news. Leaving the reporting to Fox, the story is now pigeonholed as a right wing conspiracy theory. But it’s not a theory! Destroying evidence is a crime, and a lot of evidence related to the investigation was destroyed. Why? Shouldn’t all legitimate news sources be asking why? Continue reading

Observations On “The Circle” (2017)

The best thing about “The Circle,” the dystopian social media-on-steroids drama starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, is that you now can watch it as part of a double feature with Netflix’s new “The Social Dilemma,” and consider how much of the movie is coming horribly true. Without offering too many spoilers, the film is the story of a young woman (Watson) who believes she has found her dream job working for an Amazon/Facebook-like Big Tech company run by creepily a slick and charismatic Tom Hanks. He is the prophet of over-sharing, developing and peddling products that will feed every aspect of everyone’s life into Big Data-storing and manipulating computers and banish privacy forever, all for the Greater Good, of course. The young woman, Mae, is quickly corrupted, and soon a force within “The Circle,” as Tom’s creation calls itself, to expand and use the company’s power to facilitate universal, indeed mandatory voting, for example. Law enforcement! Social control!

Mae’s epiphany is that secrets are bad, the equivalent of lies. She decides to become the first person to share every waking moment—except three minutes to use the toilet—with Hanks’ ubiquitous social network.

The movie, which is basically a long “Dark Mirror” episode, was panned by critics for its predictability, lack of originality and unambiguous ethical issues. They were right. (The movie was a box office success anyway, because apparently fans of Harry Potter will watch anything with Emma Watson in it. Watson has even less screen presence as an adult actress than fellow ex-child star Natalie Portman, something I wouldn’t have believed possible.) Continue reading

Shut Up And Sing, Joan. OK, You Can Paint If You Want To…

Joan Baez, the iconic folksinger, painted that, posted it, and wrote,  “Dr. Fauci continues to be disrespected & marginalized by the administration’s lack of commitment to science. My painting offers the message to TRUST FAUCI. We can put our faith in science & truth, not lies, smoke screens & snake oil.”

It is amazing to me that so many people who continue to blame President Trump for the  results of the Wuhan virus simultaneously exonerate and extol Dr. Fauci, whose advice the administration has almost completely followed, who has frequently contradicted himself, who was saying in March that there wasn’t much to worry about, who initially said not to wear masks and then admitted that was intentional disinformation, and did this:

Moreover, the argument that policymakers should blindly follow the opinions of scientists is ignorant,  and indeed infantile. All a doctor is going to care about is the disease; he will not consider the practical aspects of his advice in other areas, like wrecking education, strangling the arts, crashing the economy, and indeed, that is something to which his expertise does not extend. Dyed in the DNA  liberals like Baez want a virtual dictatorship by scientists because of climate change, which Baez almost certainly knows nothing about other than what people like Al Gore have told her. Continue reading

Ethics Escape, 8/24/2020: The “Not Watching The GOP Convention” Edition

The fact that Bill Clinton was going to speak at the Democratic National Convention was sufficient to justify my personal boycott of that event, and the fact that Scott Baio (“Happy Days,” “Charles in Charge,” “Joanie Loves Chachi”) is speaking at this convention is enough to to keep me away from the Republicans. I assumed that Scott was a speaker the last time because the Republicans were shunning Trump, forcing the nominee to scrape the bottom of the barrel, but he’s the President now. I refuse to accept that there aren’t better choices than Scott Baio available. He’s not only a washed up actor, he’s a washed up actor whom other actors never liked when he wasn’t washed up. He couldn’t even get along with Dick Van Dyke! Baio starred in one of the most degrading reality shows yet—that’s saying something—in which he visited all of his old girlfriends who he had abused when he was a star, admitted how horribly he had treated them and begged for forgiveness, resulting in about half of the women excoriating him on camera. Baio also has been accused of sexually assaulting one of the teenage girls Charles was supposed to be in charge of. Nice.

“the best people…”

1. I don’t understand this story at all, but I do know that the people who run the Susan B. Anthony museum are grandstanding jerks.  Last week President Trump pardoned suffragist Susan B. Anthony, who died in 1906, for her conviction in 1872 for voting before it was legal for women to do so. I wrote about it and rated the pardon a cynical move even for Trump, and a transparent sop for  feminists. Then, based partly on the completely unproven theory that  Anthony would not have wanted to be pardoned, and partly on the now familiar efforts of “the resistance” to deny the President the opportunity to engage in the most benign uses of his legitimate power without being attacked for it,  the leaders of the Susan B. Anthony Museum declined the pardon on her behalf, and the news media dutifully reported that the order had been declined.

The museum has no more power to decline a Presidential pardon for Anthony than I do. Continue reading