Fick Sighting In Advice Column Land

leroy-fick

Leroy Fick died in June, but not before gaining a small measure of ethics immortality by giving his name to an Ethics Alarms term of art. In 2011, Leroy happily admitted that he had continued to collect public assistance after winning $2 million dollars in the Michigan lottery because a loophole in the law allowed him to do so. Thus his name was originally attached to those guilty of especially despicable, anti-social conduct. Eventually, the definition was refined to mean “unethical people who openly and blatantly violates social norms of responsibility, honesty or fairness without shame or remorse.”

That’s Leroy in the photo above. Ficks lack ethics alarms, so it will not surprise you to learn that many of them end up in jail. Leroy did.

Now comes Bennett Madison, writing on the repeatedly ethically inert site Gawker, boasting about deceiving advice columnists and their trusting reader in an article titled, “Help! I Couldn’t Stop Writing Fake Dear Prudence Letters That Got Published.” Fick.

He writes,

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Someone Please Explain What’s Going On Here Before This Question Kills Me

jackheadexplosion

Once again, I have read something in print that I don’t understand at all, and I’m concerned that, like comedian Lewis Black’s routine about over-hearing someone say, “if it wasn’t for that horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college” and obsessing over what it could possibly mean, the statement will fester in my brain until, like an aneurysm, it explodes and kills me.

This time the potentially deadly passage came from Phillip Gallane’s New York Times advice column, “Social Q’s.” I stopped caring what Gallanes thought after he revealed himself to be a standard-issue left-biased, Trump Deranged social justice warrior, but a Times Sunday Styles section was just sitting there next to the toilet, and now my life is endangered.

Here is what I read as the first question in his column: “Wife” wrote,

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The Name Game

It’s “racist” to get someone’s name wrong now?  What will the grievance bullies think of next?

The latest irritating aspect of life that has been appropriated to serve as a “microaggression” and proof of the U.S.’s “systemic racism” is people mispronouncing names. The complaint has gotten a boost from mispronunciations of Kamala Harris’s name, although I’ve never heard one. (I just call her “that phony” or “the jerk” and largely avoid the problem.) This is a continuation of the current trick: if something bad happens to a “POC,” like, say, getting shot while resisting arrest, it’s racism; if the exact same thing happens to a white person, that’s just bad luck, or the dude deserved it, or “Who cares?”

Admittedly, I am especially unsympathetic to the name game. My parents both were terrible at pronouncing names; it was a running joke between my sister and  me. It wasn’t just people’s names either. There was an ice cream store on Cape Cod called “Emack and Bolio,” and we used to ask Mom about it just to hear her say “E-MACK-a-Bowlee.” Because my mother was Greek, all ethnic names magically became Greek names to her. A Boston Red Sox infielder named Gutierrez became “Gouttarras.” My father mispronounced names like he mispronounced many words, and it didn’t matter how many times he was corrected. He thought, for example, that the words “fiasco” and “fiesta” were the same word, “fiesca.”

But in the New York Times weekly column “Work Friend,” this phenomenon was used for race-baiting, aided by the new narcicsism in which everyone’s name is some kind of badge of honor. “Call me what you want, just don’t call me late for dinner!” Dad would say when the misnaming issue came up. Of course, that Jack Marshall, like this one, went through life being called “John” and seeing his name spelled with only one “L.” He didn’t take it personally. He knew that what matters in life is what you do, not what you are called while doing it. 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

Ethics Quiz And Poll: The Nurse Practitioner’s Dilemma

Sure.

It is seldom that I strongly disagree with NYU philosophy professor Kwame Anthony Appiah, “The Ethicist” of the New York Times Magazine’s long-running advice column. A month ago I did, and emphatically so.

The question posed to him involved a professional ethics dilemma, and “The Ethicist” was so certain he had the correct answer that he was uncharacteristically terse about it. I’m pretty certain about the answer too, except that my certainty is that he’s wrong. But I have some doubts, based on my ethical positions in related situations.

The inquirer was a a nurse practitioner working at a primary care clinic for low-income patients. She said that a 16-year-old patient told her that she had stopped coming by the clinic to have her birth control pills replenished because she and her partner were trying to have a baby together. She had been having unprotected sex for  a while, and she was concerned that she might have some physical problem preventing her from conceiving. The nurse practitioner asked,  “Would it be ethical for me to steer her away from trying to get pregnant? …Or, as her health care provider, do I have an ethical duty to try to help her conceive?”

Appiah doesn’t see any wiggle room. He says,

“You’re her health care provider. You should certainly tell her about the medical consequences of pregnancy. But the social and economic consequences don’t fall within your professional competence. An intervention about her life choices may seem moralizing and intrusive to her, and it could drive her away; and then she’d be losing your guidance on the things you are trained to help her with.”

Really? Continue reading

Wuhan Virus Ethics Updates, Part 1

1. Why keep calling it the Wuhan virus? Because the largely successful news media and political correctness assault on the completely legitimate (and non-racist) label continues to bolster Chinese Communist propaganda and blame-shifting, and because the effort emerged as yet another use of Big Lie #4: “Trump Is A Racist/White Supremacist.”

As for me personally, I will keep using the term because I resent being told that what cannot possibly be racist is racist, especially when my capitulation enables similar political correctness bullying. See the Third Niggardly Principle.

2. Because it’s so darn difficult to maintain social distancing while playing tennis... About  200 yards from my home in Alexandria, Virginia, the public tennis courts have their nets removed by another proto-fascist. Yesterday, I saw two people playing on one of the courts using a self-rigged net.  Good for them.

3. The problem is, you can’t force bank employees to come to work. Our bank, a large national chain, has all of its offices closed in this area, Banking is certainly an essential  service, but the fact is that you can’t do banking completely remotely, though the bank is pretending you can. Its website asks for a social security number at the same time as scammers are sending out fake emails that lead you to an authentic-looking clone of the bank’s site so they can steal your personal data. Try to call to clarify or address any problem, and you get a message about how wait times are longer than usual. I’ll say they are: to try to get a fraudulent $4000 charge to our account cancelled, I had to wait for an hour and 40 minutes, then be transferred to wait another 35 minutes, then be cut off when a transfer failed.

Meanwhile, the bank’s on-hold music is played at an unbearable volume, and is an endless loop of some hellish arrangement of a melody that would have been rejected for a theme park ride. I am certain that the recording is designed to make you hang up, or, in the alternative, go crazy and run into the street naked.  It is exactly like the deliberately uncomfortable seats and garish color schemes fast food outlets use to ensure you vacate the premises the second you finish eating. I swear that there cannot be a single person on the globe who would find this music anything but torture. The genre is “loud, abrasive, repetitious semi-music,” and there is no market for that. It makes hip-hop seem like Chopin.

Banks are essential, and rather than stopping stores from selling “non-essential” items, the government ought to require really essential services to have open outlets to serve depositors and bank customers experiencing their own emergencies. If a 7-11 clerk can come to work, so can a bank employee. Banks have my property within their control, and in exchange for the privilege, they are obligated to respond when I need service related to that money. Continue reading