Thursday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/24/2020: It’s “Supreme Court Day”!

Literally!

On this day in 1789, The Judiciary Act of 1789 was passed by Congress and signed into law by President George Washington, thus establishing the Supreme Court of the United States. Notably, it was then designed as a tribunal made up of only six justices—an even number! (The Horror!)  President Washington quickly nominated John Jay to preside as Chief Justice, and John Rutledge, William Cushing, John Blair, Robert Harrison and James Wilson to be Associate Justices.  You should know Rutledge: he sings that cool song about slavery and the Triangle Trade  in “1776.”  You also should recall Wilson from that show—he’s the one slandered by being portrayed as a total weenie, which he most assuredly was not.  Two days later, the six appointments were confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Nobody thought it was a big deal.

1. We knew the New York Times’ “1619 Project” was flagrant Black Lives Matter-inspired propaganda and based on lies, correct? Ethics Alarms discussed this when the Pulitzers honored the thing’s Liar in Chief, Nikole Hannah-Jones, who even admitted that it was really more about creating a useful “narrative” than accurately presenting history. Ben Crump, the serial race-hustler who gets huge damage settlements for family members of black victims of various tragedies by proclaiming the police and America as racist, cited  the “1619” project’s narrative yesterday while helping to incite riots. See? It works!

But the project is used in many school systems as “history,” and the central dishonesty was a problem, so the Times, without announcement or explanation, erased the central claim of the 1619 Project, which was that the year the first slaves were brought to Colonial Virginia was the “true founding” of the United States.

The  initial introduction to the Project, when it was rolled out in August 2019, stated that

The 1619 Project is a major initiative from the New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.

Sometime this year, the text became,

The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.

The change was discovered after Hannah-Jones denied  last week that the project’s core thesis was what she and the Times  had said it was. It “does not argue that 1619 is our true founding,” she said. Well, not any more. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/20/2020: Tales Of The Great Stupid [Updated and Corrected]

1. Yes, these are the people who want to have power over our lives. Imagine: this woman isn’t mourning the death of a human being, she’s angry because that human being can no longer serve her interests. The human being in question continued to work for the public long after she could have retired with dignity and comfort, and this woman is furious that she wasn’t physically able to do so “until 2021.” Not only that, she posted this repulsive video with no apparent comprehension that it exposes her as a horrible human being. She just assumes that most who share her political persuasion are just as  incapable of empathy and compassion as she is. Maybe she’s right.

Again I must ask, “How do people get like this?”

***

Okay, I just stumbled on some timely satire. I generally hate memes, but this is genuinely funny. Forgive me.

2.  Speaking of memes and The Great Stupid, what can you say about an adult who would post this on Facebook in all seriousness, as if it was profound or true?

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

Sunday Ethics Reflections, 9/13/2020: “Hold On To Your Butts!”

1. Our aspiring leaders:

  • A 31-year-old female deputy and 24-year-old male deputy were shot while sitting in their patrol car at a Metro rail station in Compton, California. Protesters gathered outside the emergency room at the hospital where they were treated. The sheriff’s department found it necessary to tweet:  “To the protesters blocking the entrance & exit of the HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM yelling “We hope they die” referring to 2 LA Sheriff’s ambushed today in #Compton: DO NOT BLOCK EMERGENCY ENTRIES & EXITS TO THE HOSPITAL,. People’s lives are at stake when ambulances can’t get through.” President Trump tweeted in response to the shooting:

Incredible: flat learning curve. After all the uproar about calling people “animals.” And if the shooters are minorities…The only one who can lose this election for President Trump is President Trump.

  • The Times of Israel reports, based on a recording of a virtual fundraiser, that Joe Biden said that the recent development of Arab states normalizing relations with Israel was “something positive” President Trump is doing “accidentally.”

Stay classy, Joe. To be fair, that has been the narrative of the Democratic Party/”resistance”/news media alliance for four years: if something goes wrong, it is the President’s fault; if something goes right, it’s either wrong anyway because Trump is responsible, or it’s just luck or an accident.

2. And now, from the world of sports! Continue reading

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/5/2020: Welcome To The No Nervous Breakdown Zone!

Apropos to this morning’s post: I just read a thread on Facebook entirely populated by people I knew, some of whom have befriended me. They are mostly lawyers, and after reading what was written, I could only comment that their conversation was deranged. I didn’t feel like arguing with people who could really write that if the Democrats didn’t win in November, Americans would lose their civil rights (when it is the ideological compatriots of these individuals who are stripping away the rights of free speech and association, championing race-based policies, and condemning the President for insisting that universities observe due process when a student is accused of sexual misconduct. How can they write that? What happened to them? Then there was the section of the thread in which they discussed that the President was certain to refuse to leave office if he is defeated, and my personal favorite, the assertion that those defending Kyle Rittenhouse are racists.

These are lawyers. They were taught about the requirement that every individual has a right to a fair trial, which means that he or she must not be pronounced guilty in the court of public opinion before all the facts are known, and proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. They should know, as I do, D.C. Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2 (b), which says, “A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social, or moral views or activities.” Moreover, it is very likely that Rittenhouse, if he is ever tried, will be found not guilty. Did these deranged lawyer watch the video? I hope not, or they have really lost it. Rittenhouse acted in self-defense, and appears to be in the process of being railroaded by a racially biased justice system in Wisconsin, driven by the media and uninformed public opinion. I’ve seen the video. I’ve also been a prosecutor. I would not charge him, just as would not charge the officer who shot Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta. I’ve also been a defense attorney, and  I would take on Rittenhouse’s defense confident that I had a winning case.

I also was struck by the snide comment about those who object to “Black Lives Matter” signs being obvious racists. I flagged that group as being a racist hate group when it first raised its ugly, divisive head, and damn right I object to seeing signs extolling a group responsible for riots, arson, and terrorizing diners in D.C. by demanding that they raise their fists.

Finally, these formerly rational professionals—who were once even as you or I! —-had the gall to talk about how Republicans and conservatives were promoting violence and a civil war. Yes, the end of the spectrum that includes the antifa, the rioters, and a party that has worked for four years to undermine our democratic processes, is really accusing others of seeking division and violence. This warrants FOUR standard Ethics alarms clips: This one,

…this one, of course,

…I have to use this one, though these people one were not morons…

And finally,

Get well quick, friends. Please. Continue reading

The Daughter Of KellyAnne Conway And George Conway Is A Monster, And Of Course It’s Their Fault

The rebellion of 15-yeqr-old Claudia Conway against her politically prominent parents, Trump Counsellor KellyAnne Conway and NeverTrump jerk George Conway (when one devotes one’s time to publicly attacking one’s spouse’s employer, one is, by the Ethics Alarm definition, a jerk. Also an asshole.) qualifies for the famous George Kaufmann reaction, which has been quoted here frequently, when crooner Eddie Fisher (husband of Debbie Reynold and Elizabeth Taylor, father of Princess Leia) visited  ’50s TV panel show and complained about his  love life:

Mr. Fisher, on Mount Wilson there is a telescope that can magnify the most distant stars to twenty-four times the magnification of any previous telescope. This remarkable instrument was unsurpassed in the world of astronomy until the development and construction of the Mount Palomar telescope.The Mount Palomar telescope is an even more remarkable instrument of magnification. Owing to advances and improvements in optical technology, it is capable of magnifying the stars to four times the magnification and resolution of the Mount Wilson telescope.Mr. Fisher, if you could somehow put the Mount Wilson telescope inside the Mount Palomar telescope, you still wouldn’t be able to see my interest in your problem.

Why am I writing about it, then? Claudia is an unusually spoiled teen, but a teenager rebelling against her parents is neither news nor intrinsically interesting. However, her rebellion is publicly embarrassing her parents while turning her into a celebrity,  That shouldn’t happen, and it is the result of multiple  instances of unethical conduct that it has happened.

Claudia has been assailing her parents on social media all summer, and her insulting  attacks, notably on Tik Tok where one of her videos referred to her mother as “Smelly Kelly,” have “gone viral’ much to the joy of Trump Haters everywhere. (Nobody cares  about George Conway, except as a resistance tool.)  Now she has announced that she’s seeking emancipation from her parents because co-existing with two conservatives who love her and who have provided the very essence of privilege is  just too, too horrible to bear.

Observations:

  • Two career-focused and neglectful parents weren’t sufficiently attentive to the basic duties of parenthood to convey to their daughter minimal ethical values, including one’s obligations to  family.

KellyAnne Conway has publicly encouraged her daughter to have “independent” views. That’s self-serving cover. Her daughter has watched her father attack her mother’s job and employer in public, and has seen her mother shrug it off as if her husband was a just another Trum- deranged stranger. That is the respect for family, love and loyalty that has been modeled for her. Claudia’s conduct is the natural and predictable result.

  • I don’t know what kind of ideological indoctrination Claudia has undergone in the high-priced private schools she attended, but it’s an easy wager that she has been subjected to constant progressive brain-washing away from home, and limited influence by her parents in it. My wife and I briefly sent our son to one of those schools, and Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” was presented as part of the science curriculum. For decades, parents have naively and negligently trusted our education system, because it saved them time and anxiety to do so.  The United States is now reaping the whirlwind as a consequence.

It is clear, or should be, that parents must not trust teachers, public schools, private schools, colleges, universities,or the administration of those schools, to keep politics out of education. That is the revelation that the riots around the nation  engineered by anti-American revolutionaries should be bringing home.

  • Social media has the capacity to make our children monsters. It gives them power they are neither mature, responsible, experienced nor wise enough to handle. Claudia could be the poster girl for this phenomenon.

She is the victim here.

In one of her whiny tweets, Claudia writes that her parents have ruined her life. I think she’s right, but not for the reason she thinks.

Friday Ethics Round-Up, 8/21/2020: Democratic National Convention Hangover Edition

No, John Wayne doesn’t speak Spanish in “Red River,” but this was the only clip I could find of its iconic “Yahoo!” sequence. This may be the best Western ever; I don’t know, I go back and forth on it. Amazingly, Howard Hawks never won an Oscar…but then neither did Orson Wells, Alfred Hitchcock, or Cecil B. De Mille.

1. Now this is uncivil and unethical political speech (Pointer: Tim Levier):

No, it’s not justified by “tit for tat,” but the ugly, ad hominem abuse heaped on President Trump by the Democrats this week was hardly better.

2. Oh, it’s Friday; why not check in with Paige Spiranac? You remember Paige, right? I posted about her here. She’s not much of a professional golfer, but she is now a “social influencer.” She has power and influence because, let’s be frank, she looks like this, and makes sure everyone knows it:

Now she has a viral ethics tweet about slow golfers:

That’s slowLY, Paige. Mustn’t enable those “dumb blonde” jokes.

This has actually sparked a controversy in social media, though there shouldn’t be any question that excessively pokey golfers are being rude and inconsiderate. The rationalizations being offered by defenders of slow play are, sadly, illustrative of the ethics skills of too much of the public. For example:

That’s a dumb comment. Golf is a leisure sport. You are meant to enjoy the sport with friends and family and take time while doing it. Especially if you’re not playing for millions.”

Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Apparitions, 8/16/2020: Triceratops? What Triceratops? What IS A Triceratops?

1. From the Ethics Alarms cultural literacy files. I remember this re- tweet by acclaimed novelist Joyce Carol Oates from 2015; I can’t believe I didn’t post on it then. (Pointer to Ann Althouse for reminding me of it today):

Now,  I would like to believe that Oates was joking (I’m not sure about Tilley), but she is not known for madcap humor. Apparently “Jurassic Park,” Steven Spielberg  and popular culture are beneath her, and she was so focused on literature in school that dinosaurs completely missed her attention. I regard this as being estranged from one’s culture, and I regard that as irresponsible.

2. Question: If Twitter is taking down tweets involving hate speech, why is unequivocal hate like this permitted? Robert Trump, the President’s younger brother, died yesterday. The President wrote,

“It is with heavy heart I share that my wonderful brother, Robert, peacefully passed away tonight. He was not just my brother, he was my best friend. He will be greatly missed, but we will meet again. His memory will live on in my heart forever. Robert, I love you. Rest in peace.”

Yet the hateful, vicious “resistance” couldn’t rise to a moment of bipartisan decency. The hashtag #wrongtrump, is the second highest trending on Twitter, with more than 80,000  tweets last I checked. Among the the ghouls were journalist David Leavitt., ” who tweeted, “What did he promise the devil for the Grim Reaper to take the #wrongtrump ???” (5.7 thousand people “loved” the sentiment), and Bishop Talbert Swan, president of the Springfield, Massachusetts, branch of the NAACP (and a pastor, which will perhaps help illuminate my attitudes toward organized religion), who wrote “Dear Grim Reaper, You took the #wrongtrump.” That one got 10,000 hearts.

These are mean, bad people with dead ethics alarms. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/13/2020: Kamala Harris Selection Hangover Edition [UPDATED]

Hi!

In the 1945 drama “The Lost Weekend,” Ray Milland (above) played alcoholic Don Birnam, and won  the Oscar for Best Actor. The film also won the Oscar for Best Picture. Have you ever seen it? The film is virtually never shown on TV. Milland is another one of the once major Hollywood stars who are almost completely forgotten today, a fascinating group that includes Claire Trevor, Fredric March, Irene Dunne, John Garfield, and Norma Shearer, among others. If their major works were in black and white, they weren’t lucky enough to star in a film regarded as a classic, and they didn’t have a popular TV show when their movie career waned, the culture just forgets about them….and loses as a result. How many non-film nerd Americans under the age of 40 could recognize any of those actors, never mind all of them?

1. Nothing to see here: move along! Yesterday it was reported that the Democratic Party purchased the Antifa.com domain, and that clicks on the link went directly to the Biden campaign site. I checked: it did. Then, by 5:30 pm, the Biden redirect was eliminated. Res ipsa loquitur!

UPDATE: I’m putting an official question mark on this one. It is true that the Antifa.com went to Biden’s site, but that could have been a partisan dirty trick.  Of course, if true, this is the kind of story that the mainstream media would bury. If it was a set-up, it’s the kind of story the right-leaning media would credulously report as proof of Democratic de facto embrace of violence.

Trustworthy, objective journalists would be nice…

2. The vise tightens...Yesterday I noted that colleges and universities were increasingly cancelling their acceptances of students based on revelations of their past social media posts. In one case, Liberty Woodley, 17, the 2020 valedictorian of her high school class in Cape Coral, Florida., had accepted an offer to attend the University of Florida. Then a self-righteous and vicious  actress and “influencer” named Skai Jackson last month asked her more than 500,000 Twitter followers to send her screenshots of  “hateful” social media posts, so she could wrck lives and inflict pain on strangers. Someone sent in one of Woodley’s old Instagram posts in which she wrote when she was 16.

“I really try so hard not to be a racist person, but I most definitely am, there’s no denying it,” it said. Based on that, her acceptance was revoked.

 In an interview with The Gainesville Sun,  Liberty explained that had written the post out of anger at a time when she was being constantly bullied by some black classmates. “I am not racist at all, and I am not full of hate,” she said.  Well, there’s a Catch-22 for you! Oprah Winfrey and others are haranguing whites to admit their inherent racism as a first step to addressing “systemic racism,” but if they do what is asked, it means they are hateful and must be cancelled.

What do you want to bet that Liberty will vote for all Democrats in November? Continue reading

Lunchtime Ethics Warm-Up, 8/11/2020: The “Preparing To Welcome A New Dog” Edition

My wife and I will finally be welcoming a new dog into the family tomorrow. It’s been more than a year since we lost Rugby, and it was time–for me, way past time. We met “Spuds” yesterday, who was being cared for by a wonderful woman who rescues and fosters abused and neglected dogs. Poor Spuds was given up to one rescue organization by his owner as a puppy, then adopted by a horrible woman who kept him in a tiny room and seldom fed him. A month ago, when he was removed from this monster’s home, he was about 20 pound underweight and suffering from malnutrition. You wouldn’t know it to meet him. Spuds is all white with a brown spot over one eye and flip-over ears, obviously some kind of pitbull-terrier mix.  He’s 2 and a half year’s old, and, incredibly, trusting and eager to make friends with all dogs and people. He still has some rehabilitation to go through, but he’s a lively, athletic, loving dog with a sweet temperament, almost Rugby-like, but twice the size. Perfect.

1. “Nah, teachers aren’t out to indoctrinate children!”  Matthew Kay, who teaches English at Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy, wrote on Twitter that he is concerned about parents over-hearing their children’s Zoomed instruction from teachers like him:

“So, this fall, virtual class discussion will have many potential spectators — parents, siblings, etc. — in the same room. We’ll never be quite sure who is overhearing the discourse. What does this do for our equity/inclusion work? How much have students depended on the (somewhat) secure barriers of our physical classrooms to encourage vulnerability? How many of us have installed some version of ‘what happens here stays here’ to help this? While conversations about race are in my wheelhouse, and remain a concern in this no-walls environment — I am most intrigued by the damage that ‘helicopter/snowplow’ parents can do in the host conversations about gender/sexuality.” And while ‘conservative’ parents are my chief concern — I know that the damage can come from the left too. If we are engaged in the messy work of destabilizing a kid’s racism or homophobia or transphobia — how much do we want their classmates’ parents piling on?”

I have long advocated parents auditing their child’s classes just to prevent the kind of “teaching” Kay apparently engages in. It’s a basic tenet of practical ethics that if someone is a afraid of conduct becoming known, they know what the are doing is wrong, or may be viewed as wrong. Teachers have no justification for hiding the content of their classes from parents.

When Kay’s sinister comments prompted what should have been predictable criticism, he made his Twitter account private. Of course he did.

2. I saw this, thought it was too silly for words, then reader Michael sent me a link, and now I have to flag it.   I’ve seen “Kindergarten Cop” several times; it’s one of my wife’s favorites, and one of “Ahnold’s” best. The unlikely story of a huge police detective with an Austrian accent going undercover as a kindergarten teacher to catch a criminal before he can  kidnap and harm his estranged wife and their child, it’s funny and sweet, and intermittently exciting. However police-o-phobia is rampant during The Great Stupid, especially among hysterics and anarchists. So now that benign film has been declared dangerous.

Willamette Week reported that the movie was pulled from its slot at the Northwest Film Center’s drive-in summer cinema series in Portland after it was called offensive by deranged local author Lois Leveen. “There’s nothing entertaining about the presence of police in schools, which feeds the school-to-prison pipeline” she tweeted. Yes, that’s all it takes now for spineless administrators to cancel people, art, entertainment, anything.

Leveen even provided a perfect opening to shut her down with a curt, “You need help, Lois. Really. Trust us on this. This is pathetic” when, in an email, she compared “Kindergarten Cop” to “The Birth of a Nation.”

Right, Lois. And “Toy Story” is like “Triumph of the Will.” Continue reading