Sunday Ethics Reflections, 6/28/2020: For The Defense….

Greetings from the Ethics Alarms bunker…

1. I’m current reflecting on a personal and professional ethics conflict. A colleague and long-time professional competitor—I would never call him a friend—has been ousted from his leadership position in the very successful organization he founded as a result of unproven allegations of sexual harassment and assault. It was a “believe all victims” situation, as well as what feels like a successful coordinated effort to “get” someone who had accumulated a lot of enemies, resentment and envy in a notoriously nasty industry once his power was waning.

On one hand, I feel like I should reach out to him and offer my guidance and support (as an ethicist and sexual harassment trainer, not a lawyer, and gratis, of course). On the other, I am pretty certain that he is guilty of at least some of what has been alleged, based on confidential accounts I have recently heard from reliable sources. Ethically, however, his ousting (it appears that he was given the option of “retiring”) lacked due process and fairness, and the organization was guided by public relations motives rather than legal or ethical ones.

Whose side should I be on?

2. Stop making me defend Facebook! As if there wasn’t enough to worry about, the aggressive pandering mode of corporations right now is being exploited by would-be censors of political speech. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced updated election policies and stricter “hate speech” rules in response to employee protests and pressure from activists, whose transparent objective is to silence or constrict any political views antithetical progressive positions and goals. In a message last week, Zuckerberg  outlined plans to police disinformation relating to voting and elections, to flag certain content that risked triggering violence (I wonder what  that standard is like today?) and concluded,

Continue reading

The Ethicist Apparently Endorses Discrimination As Ethical

, the New York Times Magazine’s ethics columnist, just opened a can of metaphorical worms, and I’m going to spread them around a little. It may get messy.

A woman—actually, now that I re-read the post, we don’t know it’s a woman— wrote to be reassured that he or she wasn’t a bad person for wanting to dump a man she had engaged in a nascent romantic relationship after discovering that he had Crohn’s Disease. “I know I’m being selfish, but is it unethical to not date him because of it?” she wrote. ” I don’t know what to do to support him, and I am worried about the future. He said it’s very likely his intestinal issues could get worse, and his life expectancy may be shorter. I want to shield myself from the pain, but I also feel like a terrible person for even thinking about it.”

Hey, don’t feel bad,  sayeth “The Ethicist”:

“Once someone is truly a friend or a lover, you have all kinds of responsibilities to them that you didn’t have before. So for example, it would be deplorable to abandon a spouse because he or she has become seriously ill. That’s part of what’s meant by saying a marriage is to endure “in sickness and in health.” Of course, this can turn out to be a promise someone can’t keep. But precisely because a partnership is for the long term, you can appropriately consider what your lives together would be like before you enter into one. When a potential partner is already seriously ill, committing to this person may be committing to a life as a caregiver. (The specific condition you mention has a wide range of severity; it can be mild and well controlled or genuinely debilitating.) You don’t owe it to anyone to accept that burden; indeed, if you think you don’t want such a life, you have a good reason not to enter into the relationship. It doesn’t make you a terrible person to think about the issue. The terrible thing would be to make the commitment and then to be unable to keep it.”

Oddly for “The Ethicist,” he ducked the main question that was asked, and instead answered what he thought was an easier one.   The questions he answered were ” Is it wrong to reject a commitment to someone because that commitment may be too burdensome?,” and “Is it wrong to think about the issue?” (It isn’t wrong to think about anything, regardless of what Black Lives Matter says. They should see what I think about them.)

What the inquirer was asking, however, is whether she should end a casual relationship—she had only known the guy through Zoom, after all—because he had Crone’s Disease, before she could form an attachment to him and might decide that he was worth the trouble…make that  potential trouble.

I see no distinction between what she wants to do and invidious discrimination in any other relationship, like employment. Discrimination is when you treat someone worse than someone else because of who they are and  features they have no control over, rather than what they do, have done, or “the content of their character.” It is also discrimination to make judgments about someone based on assumptions about people “like” them—profiling, essentially. “I don’t want to date him, even though I really like him, because he has a handicap” is,  as I see it, indistinguishable from saying, “I don’t want to hire her because she has a handicap/ is likely to become pregnant/ is old/ is black.”

That’s discrimination, and that’s wrong. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/22/2020: Let’s Stop Moping Around! Get Up! Get Out! Attack The Day! [Now With Leonard Bernstein!]

 

Update: I decided we needed a less pokey version, so now we have Leonard Bernstein’s, and the whole thing. THAT should cheer you up…

Boy, am I sick of everyone telling me how depressed they are.

1. Translation: “I’m an idiot.”  Now Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is saying  that the city will close the so-called “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.” It turned out to be exactly what anyone with any sense predicted it would be, with three shootings so far and a rape, along with a leader ( war lord?) who had the gall to complain when the Seattle EMTs didn’t immediately respond when shots rang out. The mayor  had said that the anarchist outpost would lead to a “summer of love,” marking her as a Sixties-romanticizing dolt, but now she says she was obviously joking-–yes, the Joke Excuse. She never said it was “in jest” before the completely predictable violence broke out.

I apologize for not highlighting her as an Incompetent Elected Official of the Month, but she was competing with Bill De Blasio.

2. Fearmongering. It should be apparent by now that the news media does not want the country to re-open, does not want the economy to begin recovering before the election, and is pushing its anti-reopening goal through fearmongering, in part by focusing on isolated cases of individuals getting hit by the Wuhan virus particularly hard.

This morning HLN kept repeating a long feature about a thirtyish Broadway star who has been disabled by the virus for 80 days, and another man not in a high-risk group who has been suffering for 100 days. The Times and the Washington Post are full of apocalyptic reports about the number of cases rising. Another news outlet said, “The U.S. reported more than 33,000 new coronavirus cases on Saturday – the highest total since May 1 – while the surge of infections in several states is outpacing growth in coronavirus testing.”  ARRRGH! We;re DOOOMED!

One commentator called this “needless” frightening the public. Wrong. It is  needed because it is a part of the ongoing effort to defeat President Trump.

The Centers for Disease Control predicted that cases would increase as the country reopened, not that it has much credibility at this point. Remember? The lock down was never intended to stop the spread of the disease, but to slow it down,  flatten the curve, stock up on supplies, fix the CDC’s testing botch, and find treatments. That was mostly accomplished. The nation cannot continue to let the economy deteriorate: depressions kill people too.

Meanwhile, the death rate is declining even as the number of cases spike, and there’s a reason for that. In all outbreaks, a disease claims the most vulnerable first. This is known as Farr’s Law, named after William Farr,  a British epidemiologist and early statistician  who recognized the importance of death statistics and identifying causation. Not only has the current epidemic claimed many of the most vulnerable in the U.S., thanks in great part to the catastrophic decision of states like New York to send infected seniors to nursing homes, millions of Americans have antibodies.

The combination means that even if there are lots of new cases going forward, the death toll is likely to be far less severe than it has been. Do not hold your breath waiting for the media to explain this.

Just for fun,  check and see how many news organizations have mentioned Farr’s Law. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Scary Tales Of The George Floyd Freakout: The Mission On The Bay Fiasco”

Arthur in Maine accepted the challenge of answering my query that began the Mission on the Bay story: “What is it about restaurants that generate so many ethics messes?” I had never considered the reasons he cites, but they are sound. I was thinking about all the various restaurant ethics blow-ups I have posted on in the past, as well as the many I have left undiscussed. I was especially thinking about this one from seven years ago, about an Applebees waitress who posted online a receipt from an obnoxious customer, a pastor to shame her. That controversy prompted two additional posts, here and here. Yet as unethical as the waitress in that episode was, the eavesdropping bartender in Swampscott was worse.

Arthur argues persuasively that the culture of the restaurant business makes it a breeding ground for unethical conduct. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Scary Tales Of The George Floyd Freakout: The Mission On The Bay Fiasco”:

Jack, your header asks why so many ethics problems arise in restaurants. Having spent some time in the field, I offer the following in answer.

  • High end restaurants tend not to have this type of issue. They usually hire highly competent kitchen and front-of-house staff, and management is usually diligent in training and supervision.

The ethical problems are more common in mid-level houses and chains.

  •  In such houses, staffing is a never-ending challenge, for the simple reason that restaurant work is essentially one of the few fields that actually rewards vagrancy. Servers and kitchen personnel might work a given house for a year or two and move on to something else – either a gig where they think they can make more money, or a different place altogether. Serving and cooking skills are easily transferable; if you leave one location for whatever reason (family, problems with the law, just a desire to see another part of the country, you name it) – it’s pretty easy to find another gig doing exactly the same thing.

In mid-level houses, actual loyalty to the organization tends to be the exception, rather than the rule.

  • The nature of restaurant staff. Senior-level positions – chef or sous chef (or kitchen manager) and the front-of-house manager generally require a fair amount of training and experience. These tend to be genuinely skilled positions. But servers and line cooks… candidly, these are mostly semi-skilled positions. The work is fairly physically demanding but really isn’t particularly mentally taxing most of the time. And with regard to service personnel: very few people in the United States actually work as restaurant servers because that’s their chosen field. Yes, you find true professionals in the high-end places. But for pretty much everyone else, it’s a way to pay the bills while waiting for your screenplay to be picked up, or finishing school, or whatever.

And in fairness, there are servers who really don’t have other options available to them based upon their skills and where they live. But for many, the number of hours required to make a decent amount of money are comparatively short. Continue reading

Scary Tales Of The George Floyd Freakout: The Mission On The Bay Fiasco

The “mission” appears to be to enforce conformity of thought.

In my native state of Massachusetts, in the coastal town of Swampscott, home of Boston Red Sox tragic hero, the late Tony Conigliaro, comes a story where every element represents an ethics breach. The victim is being made the villain, the villain the hero. As I tell the tale, the faint refrain of “The World Turned Upside-Down,” the song the band played when General Cornwallis surrendered to General Washington, should  echo in the background.

What is it about restaurants that generate so many ethics messes? This one occurred at Mission on the Bay, an upscale waterside eatery that serves food with a Brazilian and Asian influence. Selectman Donald Hause was dining with a friend in the outdoor dining area, and bartender Erik Heilman was eavesdropping, what people are doing when they say later, “I couldn’t help but overhear.” Heilman heard Hause criticize Black Lives Matter, allegedly saying that the group was “liberal bullshit,” and making the case that white privilege was a myth.

What the Selectman said, short of planning a crime, was none of Heilman’s business; nonetheless, the bartender says he was “distraught” at the comments, and so he posted what he heard or thought he heard to a local website,  because he wanted to “inform” the community about the thoughts of an elected official.  Hause disputes his account, but it doesn’t matter, and I don’t care what he said.  Heilman’s conduct was unethical no matter what was said, or whether his post was accurate or not. Customers at a restaurant should, indeed must, be able to depend on the discretion and confidentiality of the staff. The bartender’s actions were a betrayal of his duties to the restaurant and its patrons.

We know Heilman’s rationalization for doing what he did springs from the totalitarian strain in what Commentary Magazine has called “the great unraveling.” Dissent from the Black Lives Matter and its supporters’ anti-American narrative will not be tolerated, and those resisting the mob, the movement’s mission dictates, must be exposed and destroyed. Continue reading

Addendum To Item #5 Of “Wednesday Ethics Jolts, 6/17/2020: I Think We Have Our Answer To Question 13….”

I saw this shortly after posting today’s potpourri, which ended with…

This is part of what appears to be the proposed answer to my Question 13, What is the “systemic reform regarding race in America” that the George Floyd protests purport to be seeking?” That answer: special accommodations and benefits for African Americans in all things. Affirmative action in employment, promotions, salaries and school admissions; preference in grading, contracting and hiring; elimination of any standards that African Americans continue to lag in meeting. Reparations, of course; race-based leniency in law-enforcement and sentencing; plus  culture wide discrimination in favor of blacks and against whites in all things, all instituted by the intimidation, punishment and “cancelling” of anyone who dissents.

This happened to me, too, and it altered the course of my life. Continue reading

Oh Joy! A Baseball Ethics Story! Alex Cora Finally Speaks Out!

While the players union and Major league Baseball bicker over the terms under which the American Pastime will have a limited season in 2020, the specter of the ugly ethics scandal that closed out the off-season came out to say “Boo!” Alex Cora, fingered in the Commissioner’s report as the mastermind behind the Houston Astros 2017 sign-stealing scheme, which apparently extended into the play-offs and World Series (which the cheating Astros won), finally talked about the episode, which promises to haunt the Astros, baseball and him for a long time. Cora was suspended for a year and lost his job as manager of the Boston Red Sox. Carlos Beltran, the Astros player who was found to be Cora’s partner in crime, was fired from his new position as manager of the New York Mets, and both the manager and the general manager of the Astros were suspended and fired.

Cora, to my surprise, was cleared in an investigation of the allegations that his Red Sox team in 2018 was also stealing signs. The MLB report faulted a single coach and determined that the sign-stealing was sporadic and relatively minor. I fully expected Cora to be found as the culprit in a second major cheating scandal, and to perhaps be banned from baseball entirely. Well, good: I’m relieved. he’s not the Bad Seed I feared he was.

Back when I was certain Cora was facing the end of his baseball career—and he still might be—I proposed a 12 Step Program for him to regain the trust of fans and his sport. The steps, which are described in detail here, were… Continue reading

The New McCarthyism Of The Left And The Destruction Of Hartley Sawyer

Hartley Sawyer is, or was, a Hollywood actor. 35 years old with many credits, he had hit the big time, and big money, with a regular role on the CW series “The Flash.” He played the superhero “The Elongated Man.” Today he’s unemployed, and likely to remain so. He was fired from the series yesterday.

Was he hard to work with? No. Did he harass cast members? No.  Did he come to the set drunk, or masturbate in front of  female crew members, or attack a writer, like Thomas Gibson did on “Criminal Minds”?  No, no and no. Sawyer wasn’t fired for doing anything illegal, disruptive or even recent. He was fired because someone searched his social media record, and released tweets he made between 2009 and 2014. All the stories about his firing reference “racist tweets,” but the only ones published have been…

  •  “The only thing keeping me from doing mildly racist tweets is the knowledge that Al Sharpton would never stop complaining about me.”
  • “Enjoyed a secret boob viewing at an audition today.”
  • “Date rape myself so I don’t have to masturbate.”

The first isn’t racist, or even legitimately offensive. To claim the second would be taboo in Hollywood is so ridiculous it boggles the mind. The third, described in various accounts as being about sexual assault, is an obvious joke. Saying you “date rape” yourself is not advocating sexual assault.

Never mind. In the crazed grip of George Floyd mania, people with empty lives and cruel dispositions are itching to show their power to destroy others by crying “Witch!,” knowing that most of those in authority, any authority, lack backbone, integrity or a working knowledge of the Golden Rule. Continue reading

The Cronkite School Of Journalism Decides That White Lives Are Too Risky To Be Deans

Arizona State University rescinded its offer to Sonya Forte Duhé be its new dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and CEO of Arizona PBS. Her un-appointment was based on less than two dozen past students’ complaints that she frequently encouraged them to, among other things, dress appropriately, wear conservative hair styles, use makeup while on the air, and use using standard broadcast speech. Duhé, a communications professor at Loyola University New Orleans who was set to take over as dean on July 1, also came under fire last week for tweeting a photo of black and white hands intertwined along with the message “For the family of George Floyd, the good police officers who keep us safe, my students, faculty and staff. Praying for peace on this #BlackOutTuesday.”

Oooh, “good police officers.” Can’t have that. She took down the tweet after it was attacked by a Twitter mob, but to no avail, and it was the catalyst for a petition to have her rejected as dean.

Another letter signed by about two dozen members of the school’s faculty relied on the  Loyola students’ (unverified) claims, saying that Cronkite students are “rightly questioning” their “safety” and whether they would “have a voice” if Duhé became dean. Her alleged behavior “flies in the face” of the school’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, they wrote, and would “cost the students, faculty and staff and reputational damage.”

The faculty letter claims “several key donors” have told faculty members they were “questioning their commitment to the school” because of the concerns raised by students and the publicity around them.

Sounds like “anonymous sources” to me. Are rumors and innuendo as important to journalism and verified facts?

I can’t believe I just wrote that…. Continue reading

A Whole Lot Of Resigning Going On

There have been a lot of interesting resignations in the last couple of days, all with ethics implications.

1. Reddit Co-founder Alexis Ohanian  announced his resignation from the company’s board. This was an apparent capitulation to  critics who claimed Reddit didn’t do enough opinion censorship, the new rage among tech companies and social media platforms.

Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao, who lost her position under fire for being censorship-minded, criticized the tech company earlier last week after it published its mandatory George Floyd letter. Pao responded by accusing the social network knowingly of profiting from hate. “You don’t get to say BLM when reddit nurtures and monetizes white supremacy and hate all day long,” Pao tweeted. Smart–she knew that in the throes of mass virtue-signaling and white flagellation, nobody would have the guts to ask her, “Who gets to define hate, Ellen? You?”

Lacking the fortitude to make an argument, Ohanian, who is married to professional tennis player Serena Williams, said he would commit to using future gains from his Reddit stock to serve the black community and focus on curbing racial hate, because, as we all know, throwing money around has been so effective at that.  Ohanian said he would donate $1 million to former NFL player and activist Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp. Then he said that he wanted his replacement to be black, Not experienced, fair, wise, savvy or effective. Black. That’s what matters. Continue reading