Groundhog Day Ethics Warm-Up: 2/2/2019

Happy Groundhog Day!

1. Gov. Northam ethics Updates  a)There are reports that Virginia’s beleaguered governor will resign tomorrow. b) Then again, maybe not. The Times has this amazing story:

Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, facing intense pressure to resign from fellow Democrats after admitting that he posed for a photo in a racist costume as a medical student more than 30 years ago, was calling state Democrats on Saturday to say he did not think it was him in the picture and that he would not resign… in phone calls on Saturday morning he said he had no recollection of the yearbook image of two men, one in blackface and the other in Ku Klux Klan robes….

In addition to calling state Democratic officials, Mr. Northam has been calling former classmates at Eastern Virginia Medical School in an effort to determine more information about the picture — and to survive a crisis that is threatening his year-old governorship, according to a Democrat familiar with Mr. Northam’s calls.

This Democrat said the governor was determined to prove it was not him in the photograph and was even considering using facial recognition software. The governor, the Democrat said, had wanted to take responsibility on Friday night, which was why he apologized for appearing in the picture without acknowledging which person he was in the image.

Now he has to resign because he has proven that he’s an idiot. He began by admitting that he was definitely one of the two men in the photo and apologizing. If he wasn’t, does that mean that there’s another photo of Northam in a Klan get-up or in blackface? Why would he admit to dressing up in blackface or as a Klansman if he never did so? Was this so routine for him that he wouldn’t remember if he did it or not that particular time? Was he lying when he admitted that he was in the photo–and why would he do that?—-or lying now in a desperate attempt to save his career? Ugh. Show some dignity, man.

c) Conservative bloggers and pundits are enjoying this revolting spectacle way too much. Allahpundit: “Killing babies on the table is one thing, but an old blackface photo is where America draws the line.” Charlie Kirk:

David Bernstein: “The standards on past indiscretions confuse me. If we had had a picture of Ted Kennedy driving a car off a bridge and leaving his passenger to die while he planned a cover up, would he have had to resign?”  And when Planned Parenthood demanded that Northam resign, we got this…

d) Ann Althouse, as I assumed she would, is dubious about the fairness of condemning Northam for an unexplained use of blackface 35 years ago. “Here‘s the Wikipedia list of celebrities who’ve done blackface, ” she writes. ” Would those who want to exile Gov. Northam agree that all of these people should be shunned retrospectively (even the dead ones)? Fred Armisen, Fred Astaire, Dan Aykroyd, Jack Benny, Fanny Brice, George Burns, Johnny Carson, Joan Crawford, Billy Crystal, Robert Downey Jr., Judy Garland, Alec Guinness, Rex Harrison, Jimmy Kimmel, Dean Martin, The Marx Brothers, The Lone Ranger, Carroll O’Connor, Frank Sinatra, Red Skelton, Grace Slick, The Three Stooges, Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley Temple, John Wayne, Gene Wilder.

Of course, as Ann must recognize, all of those individuals, unlike Northam, were or are performers whose use of dark make-up was related to a particular role, skit or musical number. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 1/27/2019: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Good Morning!

1. Covington Catholic Students Ethics Train Wreck update. I’ve decided to cover this topic in the Warm-Ups because it will be repetitive if I don’t: this, like the Kavanaugh debacle, has signature significance. Attention must be paid and the American public’s dangerously short attention span has to be overcome. Imagine: pundits, elected officials, academics journalists and celebrities from the Left—and don’t quibble over that label, because that’s where they are, and from that source oozes the increasingly unethical values that are driving them—are deliberately denigrating and attacking a teenager by name for doing absolutely nothing wrong by any objective standard. The non-objective standards—bigotry and racism—that are being applied, however, find him guilty of supporting a President the Left hates and a cause, the rights of the unborn, they find inconvenient to think seriously about; not retreating when an obnoxious  activist began beating a drum in his face; being caught smiling in a manner they chose to link to all manner of subconscious and malign motives, being male, and being white. And, incredibly, these vicious, vicious people are being defended, when they should be, and must be, shamed and shunned. This is not a partisan or an ideological position Ethics Alarms is taking here. It is a civilized, non-partisan and ethical mandate, if we want to live in a free, decent and civil society.

  • On Friday’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” on HBO, Maher, an alleged adult operating under the protection of the First Amendment, with a weekly platform and an audience of knee-jerk hooting fools, called the randomly selected child victim of Native American activist Nathan Phillips, student Nick Sandmann,  a “prick” and a “smirkface” with a “shit-eating grin” :

I don’t blame the kid — the smirking kid. I blame lead poisoning and bad parenting, and, oh yeah, I blame that fucking kid. What a little prick — smirkface. Smirkfaces. Please, I mean, like that’s not a dick move, stick your face in this elderly man’s (face).

As anyone who watched the video knows, Sandmann didn’t “stick his face” anywhere. He left it where it was when Phillips stuck his drum in the students’ face, but then Big Lies and repeating false narratives is one of the partisan tactics on ugly display. Classy as ever,  Maher ended his attack with, “I don’t spend a lot of time — I must tell you — around Catholic school children, but I do not get what Catholic priests see in these kids.”

Here’s a definition of “punching down”: A nationally known comedian using a cable show to call a high school student names in public. I cancelled my HBO subscription in part because I refuse to support a company that tolerates conduct like that from a prominent employee. Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/30/18: Gay Bashing, A Stupid Social Experiment, And The Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck Keeps Rolling Along…

Good Morning!

It’s the last day of the regular season for baseball, or should be: there could be two tie-breakers tomorrow, and they are officially considered part of the season. There were more baseball ethics posts this year than ever before. You can review them here.

1. And now for something completely stupid. I was temped to make this a free-standing post, but it triggered my stupid alarm, and doesn’t deserve it.

In Los Angeles, Boguslaw Matlak  and Laura Quijano decided to stage a “social experiment” to determine whether bystanders would act to protect an  endangered child. As their hidden cameras ran, they stuffed their 3-year-old son Leo into the trunk of their car. In truth, the back of the trunk had been rigged so Leo could climb into the back seat. He was in no danger.

“I was thinking maybe I should do a video to show people that they should do something about it when they see something wrong, to get involved,” Matlak said.  They got involved, all right. Witnesses called the cops, who arrested the couple and took Leo into protective custody.  The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services  placed the child with a relative. For the last three weeks, the couple has been trying to get him back.

“They are hurting my son emotionally at this point,” Quijano told reporters. “He’s not home with his parents who love him very much and what else do they want from us? I just don’t understand at this point.”

The agency recently informed the parents that it would would be returning Leo to their custody. Matlak  now faces one count of misdemeanor child endangerment.

Observations:

  • Ethics lesson #1: Don’t use human beings as props.
  • Ethics lesson #2: Three-year-olds can’t consent to such treatment.
  • Ethics lesson #3: Police have enough to do dealing with real crimes. Staging fake ones to see what will happen should be illegal, if it isn’t already.
  • What’s there to complain about? The social experiment was a success!
  • Is proof that parents of a small child are idiots sufficient to remove him? No, I suppose not.
  • The problem with this episode is that the child, who was innocent of wrong doing, is the primary one being punished.

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/9/2018: Searching For Something Positive In The Ethics News, Failing

Good morning.

1. Is it unethical to never be satisfied, or just human? Or just American? The Boston Red Sox are winning too much, and I don’t recognize my team.  Over the weekend, literally for the first time in my life, I found myself feeling sorry for an opposing team and its fans. The poor Kansas City Royals (who are, I know, in the process of tanking) looked hopeless as the Red Sox swept a three game series. KC, not long ago a World Series champion, looks like it will lose 105 games or more. My team has always been the underdog. I don’t want to root for crypto-Yankees.

2. Yeah, I wish the President would just announce his SCOTUS pick and not make it into a circus.

3. Another Ethics Alarms Lost Post…A Carolyn Hax advice column from March missed  getting the post I intended at the time, and I just stumbled across the old file. A woman who had planned a huge wedding was jilted by her fiance shortly before the big date, as he ran off with an old flame. She asked Carolyn if she was wrong to be angry at invited friends and relatives who wanted her to reimburse them for non-refundable airline tickets, and to never want to have any contact with them again. Hax said that such people don’t deserve anything better, and ought to be written off in perpetuity.

That was an easy call for the relationship columnist, but I found  myself reflecting on other matters, like whether I have any friends and relatives who could be expected to behave that atrociously, venally and compassionlessly (relatives yes, friends, no, I think). Another question: what’s the matter with people, and how do they get this way? Someone you care about is slammed with a life catastrophe, and your first reaction is to demand that she pay for your inconvenience?

4. Yes, “enemy of the people” is accurate…From Glenn Greenwald (via Althouse): Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms “These Really Are Terrible Human Beings” Files: Unethical Quote Of The Month: Bill Maher

“One way you get rid of Trump is a crashing economy, so please bring on the recession. Sorry if that hurts people, but it’s either root for a recession or lose your democracy.”

—-HBO’s Bill Maher, on his show “Real Time”…as his audience applauded, as usual.

Did any conservative, Republican or pundit root for the nation’s failure under Obama? The closest would be Rush Limbaugh’s infamous declaration that he wanted the new President to fail, which was more unpatriotic than I could tolerate, but even Rush didn’t go so far as to wish for the nation itself to be thrown into crisis. Maher is a repulsive individual, but he is not alone. We already discussed here how many members of the media appear to be rooting for the North Korean talks to fail. Other progressives openly wish for the President’s death: I could name some right here who have told me that in person. Lawyers. Professionals. Wishing for the death of not just another human being, but the President of the United States.

The attendant hysteria, fear-mongering, monomania and values distortion that have spawned the “resistance” have also apparently created a human mutation with lethal potential. Never before have there been mainstream American citizens who not only wished ill on the nation and neighbors, but who got cheered for it. The mutants are a threat to society and to sanity. Do not pretend they aren’t.

They may not be traitors, but they think like traitors. Continue reading

Just Trying To Get The Rules Straight…[Updated]

(That’s me on the right…)

Pardon me for being obtuse, America, but I want to make sure I understand this.

Samantha Bee, the comic who called Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt” yesterday on her TBS show “Full Frontal,” apologized today, saying on Twitter,

“I would like to sincerely apologize to Ivanka Trump and to my viewers for using an expletive on my show to describe her last night. It was inappropriate and inexcusable. I crossed a line, and I deeply regret it.”

No repudiation of her words were forthcoming from TBS, or Turner Broadcasting, which owns that network as well as CNN. [UPDATE: After this was posted, TBS stated that Bee’s words were “vile” and “inappropriate,” and that it was their “mistake” as well as Bee’s.]

Now, Roseanne apologized for her tweet connecting Obama-whisperer Valerie Jarrett to the Planet of the Apes, yet was not only fired, but had her show, and its entire cast and crew, tossed as well. ABC, which did the tossing, explained that her tweet, which was on Roseanne’s personal Twitter account, did not comport with the network’s values. Well, did anyone think for a nanosecond that Roseanne was speaking for ABC with her obviously spontaneous, not-very-well-thought-out slur? Of course not. In contrast, Bee’s line that was “inappropriate and inexcusable” was  scripted, vetted by the network, and prerecorded, as well as previewed by network personnel . So it is fair to assume that calling the President’s daughter a ‘feckless cunt” is consistent with the network’s values. Right? Am I missing something?

Now this is confusing to me. Roseanne’s line was obviously intended as a joke, and supposedly comics need to have wide tolerance when jokes misfire. Bee’s statement wasn’t even a joke; it was just a vulgar insult. Moreover, a pre-taped, scripted TV show is obviously a more consequential forum than a single tweet, and a personal tweet is viewed as less of a representation of a network than a show on that network. Correct?

I don’t get it. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/6/ 2018: “Remember the Alamo” Edition

1 Remember the Alamo! On this date in 1836, before dawn, the Alamo fell. From the official Alamo website:

While the Alamo was under siege, the provisional Texas government organized at Washington-on-the-Brazos. On March 2, the convention declared independence and the Republic of Texas was born, at least on paper. The Alamo’s garrison showed its support for independence from Mexico by sending its own delegates to the convention.While they were unaware that Texas had declared independence, the roughly 200 Alamo defenders stayed at their post waiting on help from the settlements. Among them were lawyers, doctors, farmers and a former congressman and famous frontiersman from Tennessee named David Crockett. While the youngest was 16 and the oldest defender was Gordon C. Jennings, age 56, most defenders were in their twenties. Most were Anglo, but there were a handful of native Tejano defenders as well. Legendary knife fighter and land speculator James Bowie was in command before falling ill and sharing duties with Travis. Several women and children were inside the Alamo, including 15-month-old Angelina Dickinson. Just before the final battle, Travis placed his ring around her neck, knowing she would likely be spared. One of the last messages from the Alamo was a note from Travis asking friends to take care of his young son Charles.

The final attack came before dawn on March 6, 1836. As Mexican troops charged toward the Alamo in the pre-dawn darkness, defenders rushed to the walls and fired into the darkness. Travis raced to the north wall but was soon killed. Bowie was most likely killed in his bed, while reports differ as to Crockett’s death. Many believe Crockett survived the initial attack but was put to death by Mexican soldiers soon afterward.

Mexican soldiers breached the north wall and flooded into the compound. The fierce battle centered on the old church, where defenders made a last stand.

The battle lasted about 90 minutes.

From the San Antonio Express News:

BEXAR, Texas, March 6, 1836 — Alas, alas! Forever more, the name of the Alamo shall stand alongside that of Thermopylae in the annals of history as a tale of unmatched bravery to be handed down from generation to generation.

The bastion of Texas Liberty has fallen, and to a man, Lt. Col. William Travis and his fellow defenders — like the immortal 300 Spartans — have been martyred.

After withstanding an unrelenting siege of twelve days’ duration by one of the mightiest armies ever assembled on this continent, the walls of the old mission that had housed Travis (a man as brave as the fabled King Leonidas), Col. James Bowie, the Hon. David Crockett and some 200 other defenders were breached before the sun rose to-day.

Savagery was unleashed therein as a juggernaut orchestrated by the modern-day Xerxes, Mexican Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna, swept over the Alamo….

Since I was a small boy, this episode in American history moved me more than any other. It still does.  I first learned about the Alamo when I watched Fess Parker as Davy Crocket, swinging his rifle like a baseball bat at Mexiacn skulls, the last man standing as behind him we could see more of Santa Anna’s soldiers pouring over the wall. We never saw Davy fall—my dad explained that this was appropriate, since nobody is sure how or when he died, unlike Travis and Bowie, and the last verse of the Ballad of Davy Crocket played…

His land is biggest an’ his land is best
from grassy plains to the mountain crest
He’s ahead of us all meetin’ the test
followin’ his legend into the West
Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier!

The politics and complexities of the Texas war of independence don’t alter the essential facts: a group of men of different backgrounds, under the command of three prototypical American figures—the pioneer (Crocket), the settler (Bowie), and the law-maker (Travis), all of whom were trying to recover from dark periods in their lives—chose to make the ultimate sacrifice for a cause they believed in fervently enough to die for, in the company of others who felt the same. It was, after all, the perfect ethical dilemma, the choice between an ethical act for the benefit of  society and a non-ethical consideration, the most basic one of all: staying alive. They all had the same choice, and rejected life for a principle.

That’s what I remember about the Alamo.

2. There is hope. Once again, I gave a 90 minute presentation to a Boy Scout troop and parents last night, and challenged them this time with several hypotheticals that Ethics Alarms readers would recognize, such as this one, the plight of Ryan Seacrest and those who snubbed him on the red carpet,  the “Mrs. Miniver” flower show, and this one, from personal experience, which set off the most lively debate of all:

The Option

Your professional theater company has limited funds, so it offers its actors an option. They may choose a flat fee for their roles, or get a percentage of the show’s profits, if there are any, on top of a much smaller base fee.

The company just completed an extremely profitable production, the biggest hit your theater has ever had. Nine of the show’s ten cast members chose the percentage of profits option, a gamble, because most of the shows lose money. One, the star, who you know could not afford to gamble, took the flat fee for the role. After the accounting for the production is complete, you realize that every member of the cast will make $1000 more than the star, because of the show’s profits.

Question 1: What do you do?

  1. Give him the extra $1000. It’s only fair.
  2. Pay him the flat fee. A deal’s a deal.

You can weigh in:

Question 2: You remount the production, and the exact same thing happens. The actor chooses the flat fee, the show is again a huge money-maker,,and the rest of the cast will make much more than him because they chose the percentage. Do you give him the extra amount again?

  1. No. Now he’s taking advantage of me.
  2. Yes. Nothing has changed.

As before, the approximately 50 11- and 12-year old boys were astute, serious, thoughtful, and gutsy, and their ethical instincts were superb. Continue reading