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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, October 10, 2018: Incompetence Special

Good morning, and I mean it this time…!

1. My only Red Sox-related note: One reason I know that the news media can’t be trusted is that when I have first hand knowledge of a topic or event reported in the paper, I often find the reporting lazily, inexplicably, factually wrong. Here’s a trivial but illustrative example: this amazing play (It’s at 1:04 on the video) ended last night’s decisive Boston 4-3 victory over the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series:

Here’s how the Times described it:

“Kimbrel then got Gleyber Torres to hit a dribbler to third. Eduardo Nunez, a former Yankee, gathered it and threw slightly wide of first base, but another former Yankee, Steve Pearce, stretched to glove it an instant before Torres touched the bag.”

What? “Slightly wide”? A millimeter wider and the ball would have been in the dugout! If journalists can’t get little things right, why should be trust them to convey the important stuff?

2. Institutional incompetence  The historical airbrushing continues. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Washington and Lee University has decided to make changes to the names of some campus buildings after concerns from students and faculty.

On Tuesday, the Board of Trustees announced that it will rename Robinson Hall as Chavis Hall, in honor of John Chavis, the first African-American to receive a college education in the United States. He graduated from Washington Academy, the predecessor of W&L, in 1799. Also, Lee-Jackson House will be renamed Simpson Hall in honor of Pamela Hemenway Simpson, who served as an associate dean of the college and helped move to a co-ed environment in the 1980s.

The board also announced that effective immediately, it will replace portraits of Robert E. Lee and George Washington in military uniforms inside Lee Chapel with portraits of the two men in civilian clothing.

An educational institution that thinks it is appropriate to airbrush its own history can’t be trusted to teach anyone. Robinson Hall is named after the man who established the college, John Robinson. Yup, he was a slaveholder, but he established the school, and deserves prominent recognition for that. The decision to strip Washington and Lee of their uniforms is particularly ominous, hinting of several obnoxious biases. Soldiers are taboo now? Or is this a strike against “toxic masculinity”?  If the idea is to pretend that Robert E. Lee  is only notable for his post-military career as president of the university, that’s absurd and dishonest: if Lee had never worn the Confederate uniform, he would never have led the school, and nobody would know who he was today. Washington’s military brilliance  supersedes  his civilian achievements in significance and historical impact, for without General Washington there would be no United States of America.

My position is that it is negligent for parents to entrust their children’s minds to stupid people and incompetent schools. Washington and Lee and its administrators now qualify for that category.

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“Authentic Frontier Gibberish” Of The Year: Stevie Wonder

“This thing I just feel that all these various diseases that we have and all these things that are happening in the world in part is because there are those who don’t believe in global warming, don’t believe that what we do affects the world. what we eat affects the world. and affects us.And I just hope that people will grow up and grow out of the foolishness and know that we all by how we think how we do how we treat others we will never unlock the key until we truly let go the hatred the bigotry the evilness the selfishness when we do that then we can unlock some of those things that keep us in this place.”

—Pop legend Stevie Wonder, explaining why Aretha Franklin died, or something, on “CBS This Morning”

Why is this unethical? It’s irresponsible for celebrities with the education of prunes and the critical thinking facility of  baby ocelots to make their fans and anyone else afflicted with the delusion that being famous equates  to being wise dumber than they already are. Shut up and sing, Stevie. Aretha died of pancreatic cancer, and if you can prove that this deadly disease is linked to global warming, let’s see your research data.

It is also unethical for any TV news host who listens to a guest utter incoherent nonsense like this not to respond, “What the hell are you babbling about?” or words to that effect. Opinions are fine, and, withing limits, can be endured without rebuttal. Non-factual crap, like global warming causing cancer—actually, Stevie literally said that people not believing in global warming causes cancer, like not believing in fairies kills Tinkerbell.—has to be fixed, on the air, immediately. If you have dolts like Wonder on camera, you better be prepared to clean up the messes they leave.

Sad to say, Gabby Johnson made more sense than Stevie Wonder.

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Review: Ethics Alarms Concepts And Special Terms

Recently updating the Ethics Alarms list of concepts and frequently used terms reminded me that I had been meaning to post them for review and assistance to those relatively new here. Of course, the link has always been right there at the top of the home page, but I have this sneaking suspicion that it isn’t visited very often.  Here, then, is the up-to-date list.

CONCEPTS

Non-Ethical Considerations: Defined above, non-ethical considerations are important because they are often the powerful impediments to ethical conduct, and the cause of many conflicts of interest. Non-ethical considerations are many and diverse, and include:

  • The need and desire for shelter, health, wealth, fame, security, self-esteem, reputation, power, professional advancement, comfort, love, sex, praise, credit, appreciation, affection, or satisfaction
  • The desire for the health, comfort, safety, welfare and happiness for one’s family, loved ones, friends, colleagues, an co-workers
  • The pursuit of vengeance or retribution
  • Hunger, lust, pain, ambition, prejudice, bias, hatred, laziness, fatigue, disgust, anger, fear
  • …and many more

Ethical Dilemma: This is an ethical problem in which the ethical choice involves ignoring a powerful non-ethical consideration. Do the right thing, but lose your job, a friend, a lover, or an opportunity for advancement. A non-ethical consideration can be powerful and important enough to justify choosing it over the strict ethical action.

Ethical Conflict: When two ethical principles demand opposite results in the same situation, this is an ethical conflict. Solving ethical conflicts may require establishing a hierarchy or priority of ethical principles, or examining the situation through another ethical system.

Ethical Gray Area: Gray areas are situations and problems that don’t fit neatly into any existing mode of ethical analysis. In some cases, there may even be a dispute regarding whether ethics is involved.

Reciprocity: The ethical system embodied by The Golden Rule, and given slightly different form in other religions and philosophies. It is a straight-forward way of judging conduct affecting others by putting oneself in the position of those affected. Reciprocity should always be available in any ethical analysis, but it is frequently too simple to be helpful in complex ethical situations with multiple competing interests.

Absolutism: Absolutist systems do not permit any exception to certain ethical principles. The champion of all absolutists, philosopher Immanuel Kant, declared that the ethical act was one that the actor was willing to have stand as a universal principle.

One principle of absolutism is that human beings can never be harmed for any objective, no matter how otherwise worthwhile. Absolutism has the advantage of making tough ethical calls seem easy, and the disadvantage of making debate impossible. One sees absolutism reflected today in the controversies over war, torture, abortion, cloning, and capital punishment.

Utilitarianism: Utilitarianism accepts the existence of ethical conflicts and the legitimacy of some ethical dilemmas, and proposes ethical analysis based on the question, “Which act will result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people?’ It entails the balancing of greater and lesser goods, and is useful for unraveling complex ethical problems. Its drawback, or trap, is that utilitarianism can slide into “The ends justify the means” without some application of absolutist and reciprocity principles.

Consequentialism: In formal ethics, utilitarian schools of philosophy are sometimes lumped together as “consequentialism,” in that the ethical decision-making is based on seeking the best result. Here we just uses the above term, utilitarianism.  Consequentialsm, in contrast, is the flawed belief that the rightness or wrongness, or even wisdom, of chosen conduct is measures by its actual results rather than its intended results. If “if all worked out for the best,” in other words, the conduct that created the desirable result most have been ethical, whatever its intent or however the conduct was determined to be necessary or desirable. This is a fallacy.

Cognitive Dissonance:
Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon first identified by Leon Festinger. It occurs when there is a discrepancy between what a person believes, knows and values, and persuasive information that calls these into question. The discrepancy causes psychological discomfort, and the mind adjusts to reduce the discrepancy. In ethics, cognitive dissonance is important in its ability to alter values, such as when an admired celebrity embraces behavior that his or her admirers deplore. Their dissonance will often result in changing their attitudes toward the behavior. Dissonance also leads to rationalizations of unethical conduct, as when the appeal and potential benefits of a large amount of money makes unethical actions to acquire it seem less objectionable than if they were applied to smaller amounts.

Moral Luck: The common situation where an unethical act is only discovered, noticed, or deemed worthy of condemnation due to unpredictable occurrences that come as a result of the act or that affect its consequences. Moral luck is the difference, for example, between two mildly intoxicated drivers, one of whom arrives home without incident, while the other has an unwary child dash in front of his automobile, leading to a fatal accident that he couldn’t have avoided if completely sober. Yet the unlucky driver will be a pariah in the community, while the more fortunate driver goes on with his life.

SPECIAL TERMS USED ON ETHICS ALARMS

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/1/18: Bias Makes You Stupid, But “The Big Stupid” REALLY Makes You Stupid..

Gooooooooood Morning!

1 The Big Stupid. There is a regular flow of ideas and theories from academia and politics that I categorize as “The Big Stupid”: irrational, ideologically-loaded, often dangerous assertions that are seductive to the weak-minded and easily-duped. The problem is that to keep these bad ideas from taking root, one has to actively engage in debunking them, which ironically gives their advocates staying power and credibility. One of the most popular of the current crop of Big Stupid positions is the attacks against “cultural appropriation,” which is a deceptive phrase designed to make something unequivocally good sound sinister. In this case, the completely positive and benign cultural process at the heart of the American experiment, the process of diverse people and cultures becoming one by sharing and adopting the best of what each has to offer, is being scorned as a tool of white supremacy, privilege, oppression and capitalism.

The latest screed in this particular Big Stupid is “Yoga and the Roots of Cultural Appropriation,” co-authored by Michigan State University professor Shreena Gandhi andantiracist white Jewish organizer, facilitator, and healer”  Lillie Wolff. Wolff got her degree from Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and the article is published in a Kalamazoo College publication.  The river, Michigan city and College take their name from a Potawatomi Indian Tribe word, but that kind of “cultural appropriatiion” doesn’t matter to the authors, or something.

Don’t expect consistency in the Big Stupid.That would be stupid.

The article is full of Authentic Frontier Gibberish, Academic Division, of the sort that used to send me screaming out of late night bull sessions in college, like,

“Yoga, like so many other colonized systems of practice and knowledge, did not appear in the American spiritual landscape by coincidence; rather, its popularity was a direct consequence of a larger system of cultural appropriation that capitalism engenders and reifies. While the (mis)appropriation of yoga may not be a life-threatening racism, it is a part of systemic racism nonetheless, and it is important to ask, what are the impetuses for this cultural “grabbing”?”

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As Expected, The Golden Globes Were Ethically Incoherent

It is not surprising that last night’s Golden Globes award, pre-hyped as some kind of virtuous purging of the old, bad Hollywood culture where men used their power to sexually abuse women, and women submitted–and stayed silent—to achieve power and wealth of their own, was self-contradictory, hypocritical and incoherent.

What, for example, did the all-black outfits mean? Here is B-list actress Amber Tamblyn trying to explain in the New York Times:

“We actresses are not just modeling clothing when we walk a red carpet on award show night. We are modeling a kind of behavior. We are speaking in a coded language to other women — even young girls — that says: The way I look and what I wear and how I wear it is the standard for women. What is being worn is not an exception. It is the rule. You must dress a certain way and look a certain way if you want to be valued as a woman, no matter what you do for a living or who you are. We never intend for this to be the message we are sending with what we wear, but often it is the perceived one, whether we like it or not…Tonight, you will see just such an experiment as myself and hundreds of women from the Time’s Up movement will reject colorful gowns for black ones on the Golden Globes’ red carpet and at related events across the country. Wearing black is not all we will be doing. We will be doing away with the old spoken codes in favor of communicating boldly and directly: What we are wearing is not a statement of fashion. It is a statement of action. It is a direct message of resistance. Black because we are powerful when we stand together with all women across industry lines. Black because we’re starting over, resetting the standard. Black because we’re done being silenced and we’re done with the silencers. Tonight is not a mourning. Tonight is an awakening.”

Oh. What? This is Authentic Frontier Gibberish. I sincerely doubt that what actresses wear on the red carpet has as much influence, or even close to it, on young women as what the actresses wear in films and TV. The black is a statement of action? What action? Resistance to what? Anyone who thinks that now, suddenly, a hundred years of a corrupt culture has been erased, and that if a message is sent by a male director, producer or star that an ambitious young actress can prevail over her competition by acceding to a date, a grope, or a night of sex, that won’t get essentially the same results it always has is naive. Tamblyn doesn’t think that, and I guarantee that  Meryl Streep doesn’t think that. This means that the all-black stunt was just grandstanding, and a mass deception upon the public.

If this was genuinely turning the page, why didn’t any of the actors—not one–mention Harvey Weinstein? They didn’t because they are afraid that he might come back, that’s why. Mel Gibson came back. David Begelman came back. Hollywood has a cruel, venal, ethics free,culture, and all of these women and actors know it. They won’t burn bridges, not completely. This is why Rose McGowan, who was the most vocal and audacious of the abused actresses, one who took grave personal risks to accuse Weinstein of raping her and then paying her off, as well as Ashley Judd and Salma Hayek, who both went public with the abuse before other stars felt secure enough to come forward–Hayek wrote that Weinstein threatened to have her killed —were completely ignored during the ceremony. Nobody saluted them. Nobody thanked them. Harvey might take it personally.

When host Seth Meyers, in his opening monologue, mentioned Weinstein, it was with this  jibe “Harvey Weinstein can’t be here tonight because, well, I’ve heard rumors that he’s crazy and difficult to work with.”  (That was an anti-Trump shot, of course) “But don’t worry — he’ll be back in 20 years when he becomes the first person ever booed during the ‘In Memoriam’ segment.”

The crowd, supposedly there explicitly rejecting the Weinstein culture,  moaned and booed. What bad taste for Myers! Imagine, being mean to a rapist! (“See Harvey? I didn’t laugh! Can I read for that part?”) Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/21/2017: Shut Up And Act, Tom…

GOOD MORNING!

Finally! I get to hang the collected history of three families that are our tree ornaments. You know, the fun part…

1 And this is why actors speak from scripts. Tom Hanks, pimping for the mainstream news media-extolling Washington Post movie, the one with Harvey Weinstein enabler Meryl Streep playing Katherine Graham, actually uttered this Authentic Frontier Gibberish:

“It is relatively obvious, I think, what is trying to go forward, when you tear down these institutions to a level of, so you can’t believe anything that is in any of them. That raises the stock of those agenda-filled other institutions and whatnot, so that if you can’t believe them, well, that means you get to believe some of the other stuff that is in these.”

I have generally thought Hanks unusually thoughtful for an actor, but this is disgraceful. First, whatever diminishment journalism has suffered in credibility is 100% the fault of journalists, their arrogance, their incompetence, their bias, and their deliberate abandonment of their own stated ethics principles. 100%. Second, Hanks needs a primer on trust, and to read B.F. Skinner’s work on the effects of intermittent negative reinforcement on rats. (Quick summary: it drives them nuts.) If news sources are sometimes telling the truth and sometimes spinning, sometimes lying and sometimes hiding the ball, and major, revered “institutions” like the New York Times announce mid-Presidential campaign that their mission is no longer to report facts but to stop a particular candidate, then those news sources cannot be trusted, as in “believed.”

Third,  anyone, in light of, oh, the past 20 years, who does not believe that the mainstream media organizations have “agendas” is certifiably stupid. I don’t believe Hanks is stupid, despite the fact that his statement easily makes the Garbled Syntax and Logic Hall of Blather. What he is arguing, however, is that other sources of information have agendas, while those he follows are just Undeniably Correct. Continue reading

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Welcome To The Slippery Slope! Fordham’s Coffee Shop Bigotry

A recent episode at Fordham illustrates quite effectively the way American society could unravel as a result of a Supreme Court decision supporting the Masterpeice Cakeshop’s claim that its faith-based objection to same sex marriage should justify restricting service to some customers.

Rodrigue’s Coffee House is an off-campus coffee shop run by a student club at Fordham University.

The shop has a “Safer Space Policy” that reads…

“Rodrigue’s strives to be a safer space on Fordham’s campus. For these reasons, consider the following:

Do not make assumptions about someone’s gender, sexuality, race, class, or experiences. Be aware of your own identity, while being considerate of the personhood of your peers. Be mindful of the ways in which your words and actions impact others. Be aware of the boundaries of other’s space, physical or otherwise, and respect their consent. No racism – No sexism – No homophobia. If you feel that someone has transgressed this policy, we want you to feel comfortable confronting them or approaching a member behind the counter, who is available as a resource to assist you.”

This is Authentic Frontier Gibberish and first degree virtue signalling, and could be fairly translated as “We are pompous and oppressive social justice warriors who are intolerant of the views, statements, or opinions of anyone who does not share our rigid and undeniably correct ideology. We hereby declare our right to ostracize such non-conforming individuals on the basis of what we, in our sole discretion, consider hate speech. Fear us.”

Fordham College Republicans visited the coffee shop wearing MAGA hats. Sure, they did this to provoke a response, knowing what the likely reaction would be, much like a gay couple deliberately asking for a wedding cake at a Christian bakery.  Memorialized in the video above, the president of the club didn’t disappoint, and angrily ordered the College Republicans to leave the premises.

“This is a community standard—you are wearing hats that completely violate safe space policy. You have to take it off or you have to go…I am protecting my customers,” the president said. Note that she was “protecting” his customers from exposure to the thrice-removed (initials, the phrase “Make America Great Again” which is benign on its face, and its association with the Trump campaign) message on a cap.

“We are your customers, we bought something,” one of the young Republicans replied.

“I don’t want people like you supporting this club… no one here wants people like you supporting our club,” the president answered. “I am giving you five minutes….You are threatening the integrity of our club. This is a community standard—you are wearing hats that completely violate safe space policy. You have to take it off or you have to go.”

When one of the students then asked her to explain what she thinks the MAGA hat stands for, to which she shouted, “Fascism, Nazis! You have three minutes.”

Legally, of course, this conduct is distinguishable from the conduct of the same-sex marriage decrying cakeshop owner. There is no law prohibiting a proprietor from behaving like a vile, intolerant, rude, bigoted asshole, just basic standards of decency.  Nor is there a law protecting conservatives from invidious discrimination in public accommodations based on passively displayed political beliefs, although if this kind of thing starts proliferating, there will be.

However, the toxic effects on the culture by the two examples of intolerance and disdain for other citizens and human beings is exactly the same. Each is similarly mean-spirited, each is based on excessive self-righteousness, and each equally harms society, and the nation by elevating tribalism to standard practice. The theory of the coffee shop proprietor, I suppose—that the mere presence of a hat with initials on it is “unsafe” —-is marginally more outrageous and idiotic than the baker’s claim that selling a cake for a wedding he will not attend, is not invited to, that will never impose on his consciousness once the customers walk out the door unless his cake turns out to be poisoned, and that will take place whether he provides the cake or not,  is a burden on his religious faith. Marginally. They both constitute  unethical mistreatment of other human beings who deserve better, and breaches of the Golden Rule. That in both cases the victims of the unethical conduct may have intentionally presented themselves to be abused does not mitigate the abuse.

I might as well state the obvious, that the members of the intolerant club operating the shop are 100% behind the cause of forcing the cakemaker to sell the gay couple a wedding cake, but believe it is fair and just to refuse to sell Republicans a muffin.

Sometimes I am embarrassed that I even have to write a post. This is one of those times.

If higher education is manufacturing future citizens who think and act like the club president running the coffee shop, then higher education is doing the nation more harm than good.

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