Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/14/2019: Climate Change, Cuba, Con-Artists And More

Good Morning!

Why can I almost never can find a lot of encouraging ethics stories on a Sunday?

1. Climate change thought. I just watched a PBS round table consisting of non-stop doom-sayng and Trump-bashing on climate change policy. I don’t know if these scientists/pundits/activists are using climate change as a ploy to eliminate democracy and install a Leftist totalitarian (benign, of course) world government, or if they really believe that such a system is the only way to save the Earth. Either way, however, it is impossible to listen to them objectively and not think, “Huh. The only way the draconian [that’s a word named after a despot, you know] solutions that you claim are our sole chance at survival can be implemented is with a massive dictatorship. And after the solution has “worked,” if it works, that totalitarian government will of course dissolve itself and go back to supporting liberty and democracy.  Sure it will. How stupid do you think we are?”

If the only way to save the Earth is to forfeit liberty, I, for one, stand with Patrick Henry. The climate change radicals are good matches to the anti-war and anti-nuke activists in the late Fifties and early Sixties who chanted, “Better Red than dead!”, and who thought “Eve of Destruction” was profound prophesy.

2.  Cuba, Obama, Trump and Baseball. I don’t know what to make of this one.: it’s a fascinating utilitarian question.

President Trump cancelled an agreement negotiated by the Obama administration that allowed Major League Baseball teams to pay the Cuban Baseball Federation for Cuban players who would then join MLB teams. Under the previous system, only players who defected to the United States, often at great peril and sometimes using human traffickers, could ply their baseball talents in the U.S. and be paid accordingly.

The Trump administration saysthat the deal constitutes a violation of trade laws because the Cuban federation is part of the Cuban government. In other words, the Obama deal allowed the Cuban government to sell human beings to U.S. companies—baseball teams. “The U.S. does not support actions that would institutionalize a system by which a Cuban government entity garnishes the wages of hard-working athletes who simply seek to live and compete in a free society,” said Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the National Security Council. “The administration looks forward to working with M.L.B. to identify ways for Cuban players to have the individual freedom to benefit from their talents, and not as property of the Cuban state.”

The cancelled deal was always suspect as one of several concessions President Obama gave to Cuba without Cuba instituting any human rights reforms in exchange.  And why were baseball players the only Cuban citizens allowed to escape to freedom this way? Why not doctors, scholars, and scientists? Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, Memorial Day, 5/28/18: Things That Don’t Mix

1. Let’s start with some non-traditional casting hypocrisy.

  • Example A: In “The Gentleman Caller,” an Off-Broadway drama by Phillip Dawkins, an imagined romantic interlude between famously gay Fifties playwrights Tennessee Williams and William Inge has been cast with a Hispanic, and Hispanic-looking, actor as the very un-Hispanic Williams, and an Asian-American actor as the quite Caucasian Inge. This is self-indulgent grandstanding by the director that doesn’t serve the play—that’s the director’s duty, to serve the play—and the playwright was a fool to allow it. If the drama was just about two gay playwrights, it wouldn’t matter who was cast to portray them, or what the actors looked like. The identity of the writers is important to this  drama, however. You don’t cast a short, bald man as Abraham Lincoln, and you don’t cast a fat, flat-chested woman as Marilyn Monroe unless you are actively trying to sabotage the play. The New York Times critic didn’t have the integrity to point out the reverse-whitewashing casting-–mustn’t criticize fellow social justice warriors, you know!—but the stunt is both incompetent and discriminatory.

If a director cast an Irish-American and an Italian-American as James Baldwin and Richard Wright in a similar play, he would be excoriated, and rightly so.

  • Example B. Jim Parsons, best known as aging nerd Sheldon in “Big Bang Theory” and now starring on Broadway in the ensemble revival of “The Boys in the Band,” told the New York Times in an interview that the producer insisted that everyone in the cast be gay. Nice. Gay actors have been insisting forever that their sexuality was no bar to their playing straight characters—this is true, if they are any good as actors—but apparently reverse discrimination is fine.  It’s not fine. It’s bigotry.

When my late, lamented theater company revived that play almost 20 years ago, the director, John Moran, himself gay, insisted that the sexual orientation of the actors who auditioned would play no part in his casting decisions, and it did not. I think most of the all-male cast was not gay, but all of them were (and are) excellent.

One of my favorite Clarence Darrow quotes is, “I’m for the underdog. He needs friends a damn sight more than the other fellow. The best fun in life is to fight for the underdog…If the underdog got on top he would probably be just as rotten as the upper dog, but in the meantime I am for him.”

Things that don’t mix: Anti-discrimination rhetoric and discrimination

2. Another “good illegal immigrant” story. Guatemalan woman Gomez Gonzalez was shot to death in a border incident as she tried to enter the U.S. illegally. The episode is under investigation, and the facts are murky: the border patrol claims that she was in a crowd of people trying to cross the border illegally that became threatening and violent.  Here is how CNN begins its account of the controversy:

“Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez traveled 1,500 miles to the United States, hoping to find a job and a better future. Shortly after she set foot in Texas, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed her.”

No bias there! It is absolutely irrelevant to the legal and ethical issues here why Gonzalez was entering the country illegally. She did not deserve to be shot under any circumstances, and she was no more justified in violating our immigration laws whether her objective was to find a “better future” or to open a meth lab. The news media insists on sentimentalizing what is a black and white issue of sovereignty, law-breaking and enforcement, with the intent of confusing the public and demonizing opponents of illegal immigration.

Things that don’t mix: Lawbreaking and status as a virtuous martyr

Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Life Competence, Social Media, And Crisis Situations”

Night commenter Zanshin—he is one of the participants whose commentary frequently greets me in the morning–delivered a fascinating exercise expanding on my post about students in crisis situations defaulting to texting and social media rather than actively considering survival and defense alternatives.  He was responding to yeoman commentator Chris, a teacher, who appeared to take deep offense at my suggestion that the texts of the Stoneman High School students reflected an unhealthy obsession with electronic devices rather than a healthy acculturation in self-reliance and fortitude in the face of danger.

I’ll mention here what I have said in the relevant comment thread: I know the issue flagged by commenter (and also a teacher)  Andrew Myette was not the one I wrote about based on the link he sent me, but my job is to get everyone thinking about values and ethics even when it hurts, and I knew this angle would be especially uncomfortable to explore.

Here is Zanshin’s Comment of the Day on the post, Life Competence, Social Media, And Crisis Situations:

I can’t speak for Jack, but I sure can come up with,

a specific action the students could have taken that had a strong likelihood of being a better alternative than staying where they were.

Disclaimer 1. The text below is a possible scenario for a fictitious class involved in a school shooting. This is in no way intended to criticize schools, teachers, students and others who have been confronted with real school shootings.

One specific action could be … Oh, this is so good; this one is for you Chris … Haven’t you seen MacGyver? I believe he was part of (y)our generation. He would be so proud of this fictitious class who by relying on their unconventional problem-solving skills saved not only theirs but also other lives.

The teacher and about 5 of the strongest kids, may be members of the wrestling club, and yes, someone like Mack Beggs, who was born female and is transitioning to male while taking steroids, can also participate.

The entrance, the closed door is the one spot where one can get very close to the shooter if he/she tries to get in. That’s his/her vulnerable spot.
So, the other kids hide in the safest spot. But the ‘welcoming committee’ stands on both sides of the door. With all the weapons and shields they can garner. Sticks and stones, a sharpened pencil, a can with hot water, pepper spray may be, certainly some chairs and tables. [I am here assuming the door opens to the outside.] On one side of the door you stack a few tables with one of the smaller kids on top with the can of hot water or a bag with the content of the waste bucket or what-ever one can throw on him from above (and that will not endanger the attackers on the ground).

On the other side of the entrance one of the kids has a broom. Continue reading

From The “When Ethics Alarms Don’t Work” Files: The 9-11 Mattress Sale Ad

How many people were involved with this ad for Miracle Mattress?? How did it get on the air without someone with a brain cell twitching pointing out that it was so offensive that it would spark significant, indeed company-threatening backlash on social media? The company owner has apologized abjectly, but this is a serious management botch. Unless he is lying in his apology and didn’t know about the ad or see it before it was launched, he has hired a bunch of incompetent who are given far too much power.

The woman who starred in the commercial is the San Antonio store’s manager. She, at very least, has proven herself to be an incompetent fool. It might help business recover if in addition to her being fired, her head was placed on a pike outside the store…but that would be wrong.

On the bright side, maybe Colin Kaepernick  will buy a mattress there.

Dishonest Headline and Story Of The Month: Breitbart And Reporter John Nolte

"Trump Telling The Truth" is about as believable...

“Trump Telling The Truth” is about as believable…

When Andrew Breibart died, the conservative punditry world befouled it self with weepy odes to his bravery and dedication to right’s mission, whatever it is. In fact, he was a sloppy and unethical ideologically biased pseudo journalist, who made Fox News really look fair and balanced and MSNBC seem like the epitome of professionalism. Journalism with an agenda isn’t journalism, and Breitbart’s website never let nuances like facts get in the way of a good smear or a dubious accusation.

Earlier this week I read for the first time—since I avoid Breitbart like I avoid centipedes—that there were rumors that The Donald was sending favors the way of the website, and in return, it had grabbed the niche of pro-Trump media mouthpiece, thus setting itself up to run the Ministry of Truth when he gains power and begins rounding up the Unsuitables. THere’s no proof of this, but it could explain articles like this one today, titled Trump 100% Vindicated: CBS Reports ‘Swarm’ On Rooftops Celebrating 9/11.

To cut to the chase, nothing in the article vindicates  or supports Trump in any way, and certainly not “100%.” That’s pure linkbait, though the disgraceful story holds on to the like like grim death, tossing excuses, equivocations, deceits and logical fallacies at it as if this junk can turn lead into gold. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “An Ethics Mystery: Why Can’t Democrats Be Honest Or Responsible Regarding The Syrian Refugees?”

No risk too small...

No risk too small…

I asked for a single reasonable, rational explanation of Democratic/progressive enthusiasm for allowing Syrian refugees, including an unknown number of potential terrorists, to enter and reside in the United States. I cited the pathetic attempts at such arguments made by various officials, candidates for President, and journalists. What has come in from comments so far does not meet my standard of reasonable or persuasive, and frankly deepens the mystery of why liberal leanings force people to take such positions. One of the most revealing articles of the liberal mindset came from extreme-left journalist Kevin Drum, writing on the web site of the “by any means necessary” leftist publication Mother Jones. He wrote:

“Here’s the thing: to the average person, it seems perfectly reasonable to be suspicious of admitting Syrian refugees to the country. We know that ISIS would like to attack the US. We know that ISIS probably has the wherewithal to infiltrate a few of its people into the flood of refugees. And most voters have no idea how easy it is to get past US screening. They probably figure it’s pretty easy.

So to them it doesn’t seem xenophobic or crazy to call for an end to accepting Syrian refugees. It seems like simple common sense. After all, things changed after Paris.

Mocking Republicans over this—as liberals spent much of yesterday doing on my Twitter stream—seems absurdly out of touch to a lot of people. Not just wingnut tea partiers, either, but plenty of ordinary centrists too. It makes them wonder if Democrats seriously see no problem here. Do they care at all about national security? Are they really that detached from reality?

The liberal response to this should be far more measured. We should support tight screening. Never mind that screening is already pretty tight. We should highlight the fact that we’re accepting a pretty modest number of refugees. In general, we should act like this is a legitimate thing to be concerned about and then work from there….”

How damning and obnoxious. Drum never actually explains why the concern aren’t legitimate; he just condescendingly assumes that his compatriots understand they just are, because…why? Obama, who has been wrong about just about everything, says so, I suppose. Or because progressives are just enlightened. Maybe because Democrats believe open borders are a great thing, because the minority migrants, legal or illegal, mean more votes. I have no idea why he is so smugly superior, but he gives only one substantive argument: “Never mind that screening is already pretty tight.”

Oh is it now? From that far-right conservative, Republican wacko xenophobic newspaper, the Washington Post:

While they say U.S. security measures are much better than in the past, vetting Syrian refugees poses a quandary: How do you screen people from a war-torn country that has few criminal and terrorist databases to check?

The United States has resettled more than 3 million refugees since the mid-1970s, and the screening system in the post-9/11 era includes multiple background checks, screenings against FBI and other databases and an in-person interview. Debate over the program has intensified since the deadly terrorist strikes in Paris blamed on the Islamic State, though each attacker identified so far whose nationality has been confirmed has been found to be a European national, not part of the wave of refugees from Syria.

“I don’t, obviously, put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees, so that’s a huge concern of ours,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said at a security industry conference in September, using another name for the Islamic State. He added that the government has “a pretty aggressive program” for screening refugees but that he is less confident about European nations.

FBI Director James Comey added in congressional testimony last month that “a number of people who were of serious concern” slipped through the screening of Iraq War refugees, including two arrested on terrorism-related charges. “There’s no doubt that was the product of a less than excellent vetting,” he said.

Although Comey said the process has since “improved dramatically,” Syrian refugees will be even harder to check because, unlike in Iraq, U.S. soldiers have not been on the ground collecting information on the local population. “If we don’t know much about somebody, there won’t be anything in our data,” he said. “I can’t sit here and offer anybody an absolute assurance that there’s no risk associated with this.”

Then the story follows with an extensive description of what screening is supposed to be, an was with Iraqi refugees—none of which appears to be relevant to the reality of screening the Syrian. The story concludes:

But one of the senior administration officials at Tuesday’s briefing acknowledged the limitations inherent in screening refugees from Syria, where it’s very difficult to determine something as basic as an applicant’s criminal history.

“We do the best with what we have,” the official said. “We talk to people about what their criminal histories are, and we hear about that. That’s pretty much where we are.”

Talk to people about what their criminal histories are. Yup, nothing to worry about. Only xenophobes and racists would see any deficiencies or risks here. Let’s just pretend to respect what they say; they can’t stop it anyway.

Here is Beth’s Comment of the Day on the post, An Ethics Mystery: Why Can’t Democrats Be Honest Or Responsible Regarding The Syrian Refugees??

Yes, I’ll be back at the end.

And still ticked off. Continue reading

Help! Hillary Clinton And Her Media Apologists Are Trying To Kill Me!

exploding-head5

You know, my head can only explode so many times. It is already a callenge chore getting through the day without a ceiling clean-up when I have to listen to otherwise smart and reasonable friends and relatives justify their defense of Hillary Clinton’s corruption and dishonesty by resorting to rationalizations and selective memory, but the cranial pressure becomes unbearable when Hillary herself provides another example of her ethics corruption wizardry and reporters applaud.

As has been thoroughly explained here and elsewhere, Clinton decided to duck Bernie Sanders’ accusation that her Wall Street contributors expect something in return and that her pose as a tough Wall Street reformer was inherently incredible by changing the subject and playing the 9-11 card. Her entire explanation for why Wall Street firms were throwing millions her way:

“So, I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country.”

Somehow, I missed what happened next, which is why I didn’t mention it in the two debate posts. Maybe I was stricken with a merciful moment of deafness. Maybe Clinton’s answer caused me to black out temporarily. Or maybe that was the moment I was screaming at my sister, “THAT’S WHO YOU THINK SHOULD BE PRESIDENT??? WHAT THE HELL’S WRONG WITH YOU???” For whatever reason, I just learned about this now.

After Clinton’s 9-11 spin, a rueful tweet from a law professor arrived during the debate: “I’ve never seen a candidate invoke 9/11 to justify millions of Wall Street donations until now,” wrote Andy Grewal, a law professor at the University of Iowa.

CBS passed it on to Hillary.  “And Secretary Clinton, one of the tweets we saw said this,” said CBS’s tweet-mistress Nancy Cordes.  “I’ve never seen a candidate invoke 9/11 to justify millions of Wall Street donations until now.” The idea being, yes, you were a champion of the community after 9/11, but what does that have to do with taking big donations?”

Hillary’s answer—Let me strap down my head after wrapping it in duct tape—there— “Well, I’m sorry that whoever tweeted that had that impression because I worked closely with New Yorkers after 9/11 for my entire first term to rebuild.”

KABOOM!

Continue reading