Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/13/2019: I Throw Down The Gauntlet, Alexa Betrays Us, A Chinese Restaurant Isn’t Chinese Enough, And Thus Must Die [UPDATED]

Good morning!

1. Basically, to hell with them. Yesterday I was ostentatiously snubbed by two old friends at an event. It hurt, and more than that, it pissed me off.  Since I have not been directly involved with either of them for over a year, it was pretty clear what their justification was: I refuse to join “the resistance,” and also regularly call out Facebook garbage that is simply the unthinking regurgitation of Trump Derangement talking points. I don’t engage in political debates at social events unless someone makes an objectively false or offensive statement in my presence. The conduct I was subjected to was a political statement, however, and fascist in style. Shunning and marginalizing non-conforming views is increasingly the Left’s favored tool of gaining power, because it works. It works because most people will go along to get along. The next step is to try to shun and marginalize  people  who associate with the target, in this case, me.  Well, shame on them, and bring it on, baby. That kind of peer pressure has never worked on me, or anyone in my family,  my entire life.

What I have noticed on Facebook, and on Ethics Alarms, of course, is that the Angry Left and the “resistance” are mostly made up of cowards.  I actually got push back yesterday on a summary of the Boston Globe story, and the dissent consisted of “Yeah, but Orange Man Bad!” and “We’ll have to agree to disagree.” NO! The first response is a deflection, not a rebuttal, and the second is pure cowardice. (Simple “I disagree” comments don’t make it through moderation here.) What those responses mean is “I don’t like the facts and analysis you are presenting, because they interfere with my preferred narrative, so I’m rejecting them while impugning you, though I in fact have no arguments whatsoever to challenge your assertions. The day before, when I posted about the discriminatory  audition notice, I was accused of making the story up.

“The resistance”  has reached the point where it refuses to argue, because it can’t win arguments on the merits. One of the  Facebook commenters yesterday of the “Orange Man Bad” persuasion mouthed one of my favorite canards, the “he [President Trump] violates norms” argument. “What norms?” I asked. See, I know my Presidential norms, and my democratic norms, and this argument, pushed by the dishonest history professor wing of “the resistance,” is demonstrably crap, and I’m someone who can demonstrate it. I also can point to vital norms at the core of our democracy that Democrats and “the resistance” have breached, with serious, perhaps permanent consequences. What norm has the President breached that comes within a thousand miles, for example, of Democrats and progressives encouraging harassment and violence against the other party and its supporters?

Yesterday tears it for me. I’m taking off the velvet gloves. These are uncivil people who are relying on my civility, and cowardly advocates whose duty, if they had any integrity at all, would be to accept  that they can’t argue their case persuasively and reluctantly conclude that it’s time to admit that their case stinks. From now on, I’m telling them so. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Tales Of The Slippery Slope: Amazon And Censorship”

Autism “cures”, aka “Snake oil.”

Ethics Alarms is blessed with several commenters with specific expertise in areas that arise here often. Alexander Cheezem is our authority on autism and the various misconceptions and unethical practices surrounding it, and he contributed  valuable perspective on why Amazon was under pressure to stop offering two books about the topic. I carelessly assumed that the problem was the further circulation of the dangerous myth that vaccinations cause autism, since that is the autism-related issue we hear about most often from the media. There’s a lot more to autism misinformation than that, and Alexander graciously enlightens us.

As he acknowledges, the thrust of the post is not dependent on why the two books have been pulled The remedy to bad information is good information, not censorship–like the useful information in Alexander Cheezem’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Tales Of The Slippery Slope: Amazon And Censorship”:

Okay. I’m actually quite familiar with one of the books in question — I even spent about five years dealing (over and over and over again) with its author and her brand of bullshit (yes, that’s actually the technical term)… and I have to say that your analysis is flat-out wrong on one major point and significantly off in another respect.

Of course, whether that impacts the rest of the analysis is another matter.

The major problem with your analysis is that what sets those books apart is not that they’re anti-vaccine… but don’t take my word for it. As I write this, I’m paging through my first-edition copy of Rivera’s Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism (my second-edition copy is somewhere), so I’ll use it to illustrate. Let me give you just a small sample of what the book actually contains.

The thing is essentially a protocol book, dedicated to “teaching” parents a complicated pseudoscientific and ritualistic protocol centered around having the parents feed industrial bleach (chlorine dioxide) to their children, bathe their children in a solution of industrial bleach, and give their children bleach enemas. Continue reading

Tales Of The Slippery Slope: Amazon And Censorship

From the New York Times:

Amazon has removed the online listings for two books that claim to contain cures for autism, a move that follows recent efforts by several social media sites to limit the availability of anti-vaccination and other pseudoscientific material. The books, “Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism” and “Fight Autism and Win,” which had previously been listed for sale in Amazon’s marketplace, were not available on Wednesday. The company confirmed that the listings had been removed, but declined to discuss why or whether similar books would be taken down in the future.

And what does “similar books” mean?

Based on what I’ve seen from our tech giants, “similar books” could soon include a scientist’s arguments against climate change, a hagiography of President Trump, or an expose of the  misconduct of the Obama Administration. Amazon has decided that anti-vax arguments are dangerous and wrong, and though I happen to agree with them, it is not Amazon’s job to decide what ideas, positions, opinions and theories are worthy of public consumption. Amazon dominated the book retail business (and many other businesses as well). Its censorship policies constrain debate, the free expression of ideas, and the expression of dissent from the majority.

Defenders of civil liberties and freedom of speech must express their disapproval of Amazon’s Big Brother act, even if it has the “right” to abuse its power, and even if it isn’t the government choosing which citizens to muzzle. Conduct like this places me squarely on the side of Elizabeth Warren, who is advocating breaking up companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook. When we start allowing speech labeled “dangerous” or “untrue” to be blocked, no matter who is doing the blocking, then we are damaging our democracy and the free circulation of ideas, as well as abetting elite attempts at thought control.

 

Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 3/6/2019: Evil On The Web

Hi-

–just had to change the title from “morning” to “afternoon..

1. Pro sports team owners behaving badly. In the span of a week, one NFL owner, the Patriots’ Bob Kraft, was embarrassed by an arrest while seeking “happy endings” in massage parlor dabbling in illegal prostitution, and the President and CEO of baseball’s San Francisco Giants, Larry Baer, was videoed having a public battle with his wife over possession of his cell phone that ended with her screaming and on the floor of a restaurant. Kraft is being charged with solicitation, and Baer is taking a leave of absence after apologizing to fans.

Should private misconduct unrelated to team affairs warrant league discipline in cases like this? Absolutely. Pro sports sell heroes to the culture, and the leaders of any organization sets the ethical tone and molds the culture. If you aren’t equipped to be an ethical exemplar for your players and its fans, especially its young fans, then don’t buy a team.

2. In the “Hoisted by their own petard” files: Constantly woke Google, seeking to burnish its social justice credentials,  conducted a pay equity analysis for 2018 to make sure it was paying women equal pay for equal work. Surprise!  The study found that the company was underpaying men for doing similar work as their female counterparts. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) The company emphasized in a blog post that despite this pay discrepancy, deeper structural issues can continue to lead to pay disparities between men and women.

Elephant? What elephant?

3.  To be fair, Google did retire its “Don’t be evil” motto. Google will reportedly reject  calls from US lawmakers and human rights activists to remove a Saudi government app that allows men to control where women travel. The ap offers alerts if and when women leave the country. Saudi law says every woman must have a male guardian. The app, called Absher, has been condemned members of Congress and human rights groups.

4. ‘The solution to discrimination and prejuduce is more discrimination and prejudice…’ Bumble, the feminist dating site, is launching a women-only filter for its professional networking tool, Bumble Bizz. The new Women in Bizz feature, which can be turned on or off in app settings, excludes men from a user’s pool of potential connections. The idea is to help a traditionally underrepresented workforce connect and build support systems outside the office. Bumble is claiming that this is just an extension of Bumble’s core women-first mission. The  dating app lets women make the first move and message their romantic matches first. Now, Bumble claims,  it’s helping traditionally outnumbered female employees build a women-only network.

The problem with this analogy is that there is nothing unethical against women asking out men. Exclusion from job and career opportunities on the basis of gender (and race, age, ethnicity…) endorses discrimination in order to oppose it.

5. Saw this coming a mile away… On the same day Christian baker Jack Phillips won his 7-2 decision in the U.S. Supreme Court, overturning his conviction for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding, a lawyer targeted his Masterpiece Cakeshop by demanding that he  bake a gender transition cake that was pink on the inside and blue on the outside.

Then, when he refused as the lawyer knew he would, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s decision again found probable cause that state law required him to bake and design the cake when doing so would go against his religious beliefs. Phillips responded by filing a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. I considered writing about this at the time, but decided to wait until the Commission again got slapped down, or it withdrew its complaint. Yesterday it withdrew its complaint, and Phillips dropped his law suit.

The first time around, I found Jack to be a Jerk by refusing to bake the wedding cake, though I felt he had a plausible case that he couldn’t be forced to do so. This time, however, he was targeted by a far bigger jerk, and I salute him for being willing to go back onto the battlefield. Too many advocates for LGBT causes have become the intolerant bullies they once opposed, seeking to punish and destroy anyone who doesn’t think as they do, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission proved that it has become an agent of such bullying. Like most bullies, however, it backed down when confronted with the prospect of losing.

6. And speaking of the frightening totalitarian tilt of today’s Left...Or, if you prefer, the way big tech companies are illicitly using their power to favor the interests of progressive-favored groups by stifling dissent, Amazon is now in the business of viewpoint censorship and deciding which books are fit for public perusal. The online retailer owned by the publisher of the Washington Post—you know, “Democracy dies in darkness”?  has just dropped the book “Mohammed’s Koran” by the controversial British activist Tommy Robinson and Peter McLoughlin.

Coauthor Peter McLoughlin states:

[T]his is the twenty-first century equivalent of the Nazis taking out the books from university libraries and burning them. Can you think of another scholarly book on Islam that has been banned by Amazon? “Mein Kampf” is for sale on Amazon. As are books like the terrorist manual called “The Anarchist Cookbook.”…[They] refuse to reinstate the book and refuse to explain why it has been banned. So they have banned the No.1 best-selling exegesis of the Koran. I can’t get my head round it. Every few weeks for the past 18 months they had emailed me asking to put it into special sales programmes, as it was selling so well. For 18 months they sought to profit even more from the sales. As dark as my vision is. I thought we were 10 to 20 years away from dissenting books from being banned.”

In related news, Facebook still won’t allow Ethics Alarms posts…

 

 

Ethics Observations On The Amazon-NYC Blow-Up

Amazon shocked the Big Apple yesterday by announcing that it was cancelling plans for a corporate “campus,” aka.headquarters, in Queens. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio had promoted the deal, which would have given Amazon $3 billion in tax breaks in exchange for bringing Big Tech to the city and creating an estimated 25,000 jobs, among other benefits.  Anti-corporate and neighborhood activists, however, including elected officials like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, led opposition to the arrangement, based substantially on the objection to “corporate welfare” to one of the richest companies on Earth. Now Democrats are pointing fingers at each other, and everyone’s mad at Amazon.

At its core, this fiasco is an ethics conflict, with the absolutist ideals of rigid ideology opposing the ethics of the real world.

Amazon: The company is both popular and flush. It can literally take its business anywhere, and many communities will pay for the privilege. The company did nothing unethical in seeking the most advantageous deal it could get. Large employers help a community’s economy. Because they have many choices, it makes sense for them to shop around. It is not unethical to ask for a tax break to choose a city like New York, and it is not even unethical to demand such a break. It is certainly not unethical to accept one, and similarly, not unethical to reject such a deal because, as an Amazon spokesperson said yesterday, Looking at the opposition and the timeline we decided we don’t want to work in this environment in the long term.” Amazon “became increasingly concerned that the backlash in New York showed no sign of abating and was tarnishing its image beyond the city,” J. David Goodman wrote in the New York Times.

It’s their money, their business, their decision. Amazon is not a public charity, nor is it obligated to behave like one. Continue reading

Thanksgiving Week Launch Ethics Warm-Up, 11/19/18: Turkeys

Good Morning.

1. This is weird. The Florida Supreme Court released a long-awaited decision concerning whether a judge’s Facebook friendship with an attorney should be  grounds for disqualification if the attorney is arguing a case before that judge. The 4-3 opinion holds that:

In some circumstances, the relationship between a judge and a litigant, lawyer, or other person involved in a case will be a basis for disqualification of the judge. Particular friendship relationships may present such circumstances requiring disqualification. But our case law clearly establishes that not every relationship characterized as a friendship provides a basis for disqualification. And there is no reason that Facebook “friendships”—which regularly involve strangers—should be singled out and subjected to a per se rule of disqualification. 

I could not disagree more. A friend request from a judge is inherently coercive, and creates pressure on the lawyer to accept. Who wants to tell a judge that he doesn’t want to be his friend? Other bar associations and courts have held that it is improper for judges and lawyers to “friend” each other if there is any chance that the judge will be presiding over the lawyer’s cases, and that is the wiser rule. My own preference would be for judges to stay off social media entirely, except for close friends and family. They can only get in trouble there.

2. And this is much weirder…Apparently an app, ‘Santa Call New 2018,’ briefly available for download at the Amazon Children’s Store, would place a call to “Santa”when kids pressed the ‘call’ button, and Jolly Saint Nick would reply, “Hello there. Can you hear me, children? In five nights, if you’re free, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”

Amazon is investigating.

Happy Holidays! Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/24/18: Democratic Censorship, Republican Idiocy, Trump Tweets And Baseball Ethics

Good Morning!

1. Good norms, bad norms, good President, bad President…Good: the announcement that the President is “considering” terminating the security clearances of former Obama officials John Brennan, Jim Clapper, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Michael Hayden, and Susan Rice. Well, mostly good; the message that the President is “looking into it” feels suspiciously like a “Shut up or else” threat. The President should just pull the clearances immediately.

How many of you never realized that people like Comey and Brennan kept their clearances after leaving their jobs? I didn’t, and what a dumb and irresponsible rule that is. Apparently Senator Rand Paul sparked the move by tweeting that Brennan’s ridiculous “treason” accusation warranted a loss of clearance. I’d go further: the demonstrable determination of all of the named former official to assist “the resistance” and oppose the policies and very existence of the Trump administration makes ending their access to classified information mandatory.

If someone has a non-partisan, reasonable argument why the President shouldn’t just do this immediately, I’d love to hear it, especially as it applies to Comey and McCabe, who were fired.

Unequivocally bad, as in irresponsible, incompetent, undignified, unprofessional  and self-destructive, was Trump’s all-caps tweet threatening Iran after another one of that nation’s “mother of all wars” statements. Diplomacy by tweet is per se ridiculous and reckless, so saber-rattling by tweet is obviously worse. If there is a serious message to be sent, then the President should send it formally and in a professional manner. Since all-caps communications are annoying and offensive no matter where they appear, they are doubly so coming from a nation’s leadership. There is no way to interpret that Trump tweet in a way that is complimentary to the President.

2. This is one more reason my wife just told a GOP Congressional Committee fund-raising caller to never darken our phone-lines again: I really thought this story was a hoax, but unfortunately it is not. In the second episode of Showtime’s Who Is America?, Sacha Baron Cohen’s unethical “let’s humiliate people Democrats don’t like by tricking them” TV show, Cohen persuaded Jason Spencer, a Republican state representative from Georgia who apparently has the IQ of a sea sponge, to pull down his pants and scream “Nigger!” on camera.

Georgians must be so proud.

Cohen claimed to be an Israeli terrorism expert named Col. Erran Morad, and recruited Spencer for a training video on how elected officials can protect themselves from terrorists. Cohen as Morad asked Spencer to act like a Chinese tourist in order to take selfie-stick photos up a suspected terrorist’s burka, so he did.  Cohen asked  Spencer to scream the “N-word” because using the “forbidden” word would help ward off terrorists, so the idiot legislator did, and with alarming gusto. (Then Baron Cohen said, “Are you crazy? The ‘N-word’ is “noony,” not this word, this word is disgusting!”)  Morad told Spencer that terrorists are so afraid of gay people that they think they will become homosexual if you touch them with  bare buttocks, so Spencer obediently took off his pants and pressed his hindquarters against his Israeli trainer, shouting, “‘Murica!”

Not surprisingly, there are calls for Spencer to resign; he has already lost his primary. Of course he should resign; an idiot like him should never have been allowed to run as a Republican in the first place, nor should such dolts have won an election, and he won two. What Cohen does is unethical, but it does have its compensations. Spencer, for his part, whined that “It is clear the makers of this film intended to deceive me in an attempt to undermine the American conservative political movement.”

No, you irredeemable fool, idiots like you undermine the American conservative political movement, and always have. Continue reading