NOOOOOO! “The Ethicist” Just Endorsed The Golden Rationalization As Justification For Deception.

It isn’t quite head-exploding, because the New York Times “The Ethicist” column has seen its columnist—there have been five of them, I think—promote unethical conduct all too frequently over the years. But the current ethics advice maven, Kwame Anthony Appiah, is a real ethicist, unlike the others, and I expect better of him. Because of his credentials and assumed authority, his unethical advice this week is particularly damaging. And to clarify my statement I quote one of many memorable exchanges during the testimony of Miss Mona Lisa Vitto (Marissa Tomei) in the climax of “My Cousin Vinny”:

D.A. Jim Trotter (Lane Smith): Objection, Your Honor! Can we clarify to the court whether the witness is stating opinion or fact?

Judge Chamberlain Haller (Fred Gwynne) : [to Lisa] This is your opinion?

Mona Lisa Vito: It’s a fact.

The inquirer asked whether it was unethical for him to list a fake publisher on the title page of his self-published book that he created on Amazon, apparently a common practice that Amazon permits. He also asked whether it would be unethical to tell a bookstore owner who agreed to sell the book on consignment that the book was published by his made-up book company.

“The Ethicst” answers the first query this way:

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Icky Or Unethical? Alexa Is Learning A New Trick

From Ars Technica:

Amazon is figuring out how to make its Alexa voice assistant deepfake the voice of anyone, dead or alive, with just a short recording. The company demoed the feature at its re:Mars conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday, using the emotional trauma of the ongoing pandemic and grief to sell interest.

Amazon’s re:Mars focuses on artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and other emerging technologies, with technical experts and industry leaders taking the stage. During the second-day keynote, Rohit Prasad, senior vice president and head scientist of Alexa AI at Amazon, showed off a feature being developed for Alexa.

After noting the large amount of lives lost during the pandemic, Prasad played a video demo, where a child asks Alexa, “Can grandma finish reading me Wizard of Oz?” Alexa responds, “Okay,” in her typical effeminate, robotic voice. But next, the voice of the child’s grandma comes out of the speaker to read L. Frank Baum’s tale.

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Anatomy Of An Ethics Train Wreck: The Amazon Warehouse “Nooses”

Amazon noose

Warning: reading this story is likely to make you feel hopeless. For this is what the hyper-racialization and resulting division of American society breeds, and it can only go in one direction from here. Hint: it will not be a direction that will lead anywhere good.

A brief summary:

  • In Windsor, Connecticut—I once spent a summer there!—Amazon contracted to have a warehouse built, with the promise of jobs and economic revitalization.
  • Over the past three months, workers building the Amazon warehouse claimed to have found nooses, or ropes that looked like nooses, or “noose-like” ropes at the construction site.
  • Protests have been organized by activists who have never seen the alleged nooses. Demands are being made for police to find and charge the noosemakers. The presence of the nooses, if they are nooses, is being called a “hate crime” by the local NAACP.
  • Local community activists have organized several demonstrations to demand that Amazon take stronger action to ensure the safety of Black construction workers. One such demonstration included members from the Huey P. Newton Gun Club and the New Black Panthers, who showed up at the construction site carrying guns. The armed activists said they were there to defend the Black workers and make them feel empowered to speak their mind.
  • Amazon and the other companies involved claim they have done everything they can. They have delayed construction twice, adding security (to protect workers from the nooses, apparently) and cameras at the site and putting up $100,000 in award money for anyone who can provide information about the nooses.
  • The police say their investigation has determined that there were only two nooses, with six others being  ropes with the kind of loop often used in construction projects.

Observations:

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Waning Wednesday Ethics Wonders, 6/2/2021…

What’s the ethical reaction to this story? Angelia Mia Vargas, 24, has been charged with deadly conduct with a firearm after she accidentally shot her 5-year-old son while trying to shoot an over-enthusiastic 6-month-old boxer puppy that got loose from a neighbor and was running through her yard. Neither the dog nor the boy were seriously injured. My reflex reaction, I confess, was, “HA! That should teach this idiot something about gun safety!” and then I instantly regretted it. The child was innocent: what really would have been condign justice was if her shot hit her car’s gas tank and it blew up. Shooting herself in the foot would have been good. “She could have handled it differently,” said Bruno the puppy’s owner. Ya think? Here’s the terrifying beast that Angelia thought justified deadly force:

Bruno

Should this woman have custody of a child? [Pointer: valkygrrl]

1. The rest of the story….There were a record number of Tulsa Race Massacre demonstrations on Memorial Day, as one might expect with “hate whitey” being the current fad. What was supposed to be the biggest one, in Tulsa of course, was cancelled after three survivors demanded $1 million each to appear. The May 31st Remember & Rise event was also supposed to feature John Legend and Stacey Abrams—boy, if only my sock drawer hadn’t been in such bad shape!– but it was called off because Viola Fletcher, 107, her brother Hughes Van Ellis, 100 and Lessie Benningfield Randle, 106, increased their appearance fee from $100,000 each to $1 million each. Their lawyers also demanded that a reparations fund be increased from the agreed-upon $2 million to $10 million. What does this tell us about how reparations would turn out if the U.S. were ever so unhinged as to agree to them?

I did learn that the young African-American, Dick Rowland, whose arrest after a white woman accused him of rape (or something) during an encounter in an elevator was the fuse for the violence wasn’t prosecuted. He was released, left Tulsa, and never returned.

I wonder why…

2. Here I go, obsessing about group identity again...In New York, the “Career Opportunities in the Accounting Profession” program, sponsored by the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants and the Moynihan Scholarship Fund, will introduce 250 “promising underrepresented high school students” to the accounting profession. The program will include virtual sessions about forensic accounting, interviewing skills, public speaking, networking, and an “accounting profession overview” featuring a panel discussion with experts in the profession. What a great idea! Nine institutions, including Ithaca College, Medgar Evers College, Rochester Institute of Technology, St. John’s University, Siena College, SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Oswego, the University at Buffalo, and Westchester Community College co-host the program, which is free of charge for students.

Oh—white students may not apply. The online application for the program includes options for Hispanic, Black, Asian, and Native American students, but no option for white students. When confronted about the apparent discrimination involved, SUNY Oswego Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Scott Furlong huminahumina-ed that “SUNY Oswego participates in supporting the program and sees this as a beneficial service to the profession, but we strongly believe that all disadvantaged students would benefit from the COAP program.While we do not participate in recruiting the student participants in COAP or in the setting of policy for student membership, SUNY Oswego would prefer a more inclusive perspective regarding membership in COAP and the NYSSCPA policy…[which would] “align with SUNY Oswego’s ethos that is rooted in diversity of thought and people, equitable practices and policies, and inclusive experiences.” Furlong said that the matter “merits much future discussion for the purposes of having SUNY Oswego reassess our involvement and reconsider our sponsorship.”

Meanwhile, his institution will continue to participate in a program that discriminates against white students.

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Ethics Observations On “Prayers Of A Weary Black Woman”

Nice.

Wait: what is this junk?

This is an essay in a “devotional” titled “A Rhythm of Prayer” by Sarah Bessey. Containing pieces by many authors, it is available on Amazon. Target sells it online for $14.87 in its “Religion + Beliefs” section and “Christian Life” subsection. It is selling well, I hear. The anti-white screed above was authored by Professor of Theology Chinequa Walker-Barnes of Mercer University.

Observations:

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For The “Scared Yet?” Files: Glenn Greenwald On Parler’s Take-Down

List of apps

Greenwald, who lost his own organization for insisting on fair reporting on the Hunter Biden scandal deliberately hidden from the public by the partisan media, has delivered an excellent account of what was done to Parler. This is why Ethics Alarms subscribes to his new platform, substack. He is one of that nearly extinct species, a journalist who reports the facts, wherever they may lead.

Of the attack on Parler, the surging alternative to Twitter, Greenwald writes in part,

If one were looking for evidence to demonstrate that these tech behemoths are, in fact, monopolies that engage in anti-competitive behavior in violation of antitrust laws, and will obliterate any attempt to compete with them in the marketplace, it would be difficult to imagine anything more compelling than how they just used their unconstrained power to utterly destroy a rising competitor…In October, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law issued a 425-page report concluding that Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google all possess monopoly power and are using that power anti-competitively. For Apple, they emphasized the company’s control over iPhones through its control of access to the App Store….Parler learned that Google, without warning, had also “suspended” it from its Play Store, severely limiting the ability of users to download Parler onto Android phones. Google’s actions also meant that those using Parler on their Android phones would no longer receive necessary functionality and security updates….

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A Brief Note To Commenters…

I am so proud of you all, and Ethics Alarms,  today. The quality of discussion on multiple posts and threads is outstanding, as varied, eloquent and and thoughtful as I have ever seen it. I offer my sincere thanks and appreciation to all participants.

And since I’m here, I might as well note that July 16 is Ethics Ambivalence Day, or perhaps Watch Out For Moral Luck Day. Which of these events that occured on July 16th can be confidently and uncontroversially  designated in retrospect as “good”?

  • In 1790, Congress declared Washington, D.C. the new capital.

The new Congress chose a swampy, humid, muddy and mosquito-infested site on the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia to be the nation’s permanent capital. Brilliant!

  • In 1918, the Romanov family was executed.

This ended a 300-year imperial dynasty,  and sent Russia down the road of Communism.  But they got rid of those damn Czars!

  • In 1935,  the world’s first parking meter was installed.

The world’s first parking meter, known as Park-O-Meter No. 1, was installed on the southeast corner of what was then First Street and Robinson Avenue in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, eventually helping municipalities to balance their budgets nation wide.

  • In 1951, “Catcher in the Rye” was published.

J.D. Salinger’s only full-length novel, about a confused and nihilistic teenager would be taught in high schools for half a century. Why, I will never know.

  • In 1995, Amazon opened for business.

No comment.

  • In 1945, at 5:29:45 a.m., the Manhattan Project resulted in the first atom bomb successfully exploding in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Happy Ending, Ominous Plot

Former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson, a prominent critic of the Wuhan virus lockdowns, submitted his booklet, “Unreported Truths about COVID-19 and Lockdowns” for sale on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing site, where he has had other works published. Ten minutes after he tweeted that his manuscript had been submitted, he added, “I can’t believe it. They censored it,” to this message:

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“Colorism” Ethics

“Colorism” isn’t racism, at least not exactly. It describes the bias towards light-skin rather than dark skin, and that bias is prominent among African Americans, as well as South Americans

Dark-skinned women around the world are targeted by advertising for skin-lightening products telling them that lighter is better. It doesn’t help that prominent black celebrities have sometimes engaged in skin lightening, notably Michael Jackson. Another is formerChicago Cubs star Sammy Sosa:

(Sammy’s response to questions about his radically changed appearance have been pure “Jumbo”: “Lighter? What do you mean my skin is lighter?”)

The Beautywell Project, is a non-profit group. Its  mission: “eliminate biases against dark-skinned people and lift the self-esteem of those who have been harmed by the discrimination.” The Project is claiming a major victory after it delivered  a petition with 23,000 signatures in late last month  to Amazon , demanding that the retail giant remove skin-bleaching products  rom its online platform. Amazon did, too, but those products already violated the site’s guidelines, and were also illegal due to excessive amounts of mercury.  The group, says the New York Times, is still saying this was a successful strike against dark-skin bias.

That’s spin verging on a lie. It was a successful strike against dangerous consumer items, and Amazon did not pull the products because they enabled skin-lightening.  Amazon still offers skin-lightening creams without mercury, and as long as consumers want such products, it should keep offering them.

The Beautywell Project isn’t just in all likelihood futile, it is totalitarian in spirit.  If someone wants to look lighter, darker, or like a Smurf, they should be able to follow their dreams.  But…but…the Message! Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Review, 12/I/50: Birthday/Finding Dad Dead In His Chair Anniversary Edition

[Yesterday I was just about to post the following when I felt a recurrence of the dizziness that sent me to the floor on Thanksgiving,  This sent me to the emergency room, where I spent  the second worst birthday of my life. I just got home, now just about 24 hours later, after three blood tests, about ten stroke tests, lots of other tests and quizzes, four doctors and a miserable night, culminating in the conclusion that whatever this was, it wasn’t related to my heart or circulation. 54% of fainting incidents, I learned remain mysteries. Swell.]

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Hi.

Ten years ago today, I went over to my parent’s condo to check on my dad, since my mother, then recovering from knee surgery, was concerned that she hadn’t heard from him. Jack A. Marshall Sr. was also going to take me out for dinner, since it was my birthday, but that pleasure was not to be. He had died, quietly during a nap, a few months short of his 90th year. I miss my father’s inspiration, guidance and unflagging support constantly, and December first has been a matter of serious dissonance for me ever since. I did take comfort, while everyone was telling me that I was a fool not to go to the emergency room after my fainting episode on Thanksgiving, that the odds of anyone dropping dead not only on the anniversary of his father’s death, but also on his own birthday, seems extremely remote. Kind of cool, though.

I took my birthday off of my Facebook page because those reflex happy birthday messages—I send them myself—are meaningless and  faintly obligatory. Two years ago I received almost 200 of them, then last year I got the message when the number fell by about two-thirds. I had made it clear by then that I was rebelling against the Facebook Borg aka “the resistance,” and so I had been told that I did NOT deserve a happy birthday. Fine. Bite me.

1 “The Crown” Ethics. A. The Pretend Sister-in-Law Of The King’s Pass! While waiting to see if I was going to pass out again, I began watching Season 3 of Netflix’s “The Crown.” Like the first two seasons, the series is uniformly excellent and largely accurate, but I am annoyed at Helena Bonham Carter’s turn as the middle-aged Princess Margaret. Carter is an excellent actress as well as one of the biggest stars the series has featured, but to be blunt, she’s too fat to play Margaret, who at that point in her life was  still vain winning the battle against middle-aged spread (at 5’1, it could not have been easy.) For a production that mostly aims for near perfect look-alike casting (young Charles, Princess Anne and Prince Phillip are especially uncanny), why would the producers allow Carter to appear on screen like this? Mostly, I’m annoyed at her: actors gain and lose weight all the time for roles, and a mere 10-15 pounds would have made Carter a credible and flattering Margaret. She could have hit the gym and laid off the kidney pie; obviously the actress didn’t care, and the producer and director let her get away with it, because she’s a star. Yet all the lines about how glamorous Margaret is make no sense as a result. Carter’s a beautiful woman, but she’s a mighty frumpy Princess Margaret.

B. A perfect future episode for Season 4, or maybe 5, is going on right now.  Prince Andrew, the younger brother of Prince Charles, has long been mentioned a party pal of billionaire sex-slaver Jeffrey Epstein, and thanks to a car crash  of a BBC interview in which he couldn’t have seemed more guilty and less remorseful, the Duke of York is reportedly being removed from all royal duties and may have his allowance cut off, meaning that his two princess daughters will no longer be supported by taxpayers, among other nasty consequences. Charleshas ordered a crisis meeting with his scandal-scarred brother before Monday night’s dreaded BBC special with key accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who accuses Andrew of raping her while she was under Epstein’s control.

The news media has been ostentatiously uninterested in Prince Andrew’s travails, in marked contrast to its coverage of the various Charles-Diana scandals in days of yore. One reason, I think, is that Epstein’s OTHER celebrity playmate was Bill Clinton, and it will be hard to expose one without drawing attention to the other. After all, the objective now is to get Trump, not remind the public about Bill (or Harvey.) Media bias is exhibited as much by what isn’t reported as by what is. Continue reading