Yes, It’s Bizarro World—But The Mainstream Media Anti-Trump Bias Is Still Ridiculous

The President’s master-trolling display before Thanksgiving plunged us squarely into Bizarro World Ethics territory. I cannot imagine any previous President of the United States pulling a public stunt even close to as juvenile and silly as tweeting the photo above out to his followers and, inevitably, the world. I can’t imagine another President even considering it. The leader of the free world, the dignified occupant of the White House, the leader and role model of millions just doesn’t do something like that. He just…just..doesn’t, that’s all!

Yet there it was , just before 11:00 am on November 27. And like so many other seemingly vulgar and impetuous acts and statements that President Trump has authored, the deranged foes of the President managed to make it look like a brilliant stratagem. First the Washington Post—surely there must be some perceptive people working there, wouldn’t you think?—sent out this hurrumphing tweet:

Oh, it’s doctored! Good sleuthing, Post! Quick, add this to your recent list of Trump mendacities: he tried to make the public think that he’s built like Rocky under those blue suits, the liar!

And “unclear why”!!! Unclear why? How bone-headedly biased does someone have to be to not understand why Trump would tweet out a photo of himself as “Rocky” (in “Rocky 3”, to be accurate)? Has anyone on the Post staff seen “Rocky,” or is so stuffed with culturally ignorant naifs whose idea of an ancient inspirational movie is the ten-year-old “The Blind Side” that “Rocky” (1976) and its descendants are buried in their “Irrelevant films my grandparents watched” files? Continue reading

End-Of-Week Ethics Inventory, 11/24/19: Really, Really Bad Mood Edition

Worst…Ethics Alarms…Week…Ever!

Or so it seems, anyway. Have people already started ignoring life for Thanksgiving? Or am I being punished for not being able to squeeze enough posts out while driving, flying, typing in crowds and moving in and out of various abodes while trying to work? To make it worse, there was a lot going on that required some time and solitude to research and analyze, and I just didn’t have it. I also managed to make myself sick. Tuesday and Wednesday had the worst non-holiday mid-week traffic of 2019, and Saturday had the lowest number of visits for that day in three years.

Well, as Andy Kinkaid, my late, cynic-philosopher college roommate, a ruined Vietnam veteran,  used to respond several times each day to every argument, disappointment, tragedy, catastrophe, and piece of bad news as he smiled and retreated to his darkened room to get stoned, “Fuck it, right?

1. Apparently there is a copyright battle over the obnoxious catch-phrase “OK, Boomer!,” the viral dismissive insult being hurled at Baby Boomers who dare to question the wisdom, passion, and hive-mind beliefs of Gen. Z-ers and Millenials. It looks like all such efforts to “own” the phrase are doomed, because it has rapidly become so ubiquitous as a put-down so quickly that nobody can prove it originated with them.

Has it occurred to any of the smug little snots brushing aside their elders that this is nothing but a personal ad hominem attack without substance, no more fair or valid, and just as rude and bigoted, as “Shut up, bitch,” “Go home to your mother, Pee-Wee,” or “Get a job, Pedro”? As a Baby Boomer, I think we ought to agree on a standard retort to “OK, Boomer” of equal substance and wit, and I hereby nominate “Keep flailing, Dumb-Ass!”

2. Speaking of Millennials, a New York Times social columnist informs me that they have decreed that on-line the term “OK” or “Okay” is now considered rude, and the proper term is “k-k,” which sound to me like a Klan chapter short of members, or someone with a stutter. Just because you want to create ugly and pointless new conventions to metaphorically mark your cyber-territory doesn’t mean I have to assent.

And no, I never have and never will use LOL or LMAO. They’ll have to shoot me first. Continue reading

Thoughts Upon Reading The Comments To The Recent “Conscience Clause” Post

The comments on the recent post regarding the so-called conscience rule being voided in court generated the comments the topic always does. What follows is a relatively short, general post to frame the issues as clearly as possible.  Admittedly, when a post is titled “When Law and Ethics Converge,” perhaps I shouldn’t have to explicate with a post focusing on the difference between law and ethics. I strongly believe that conscience clauses undermine the law, and are unethical, as you will see.

Law and Ethics are not the buddies people think they are, or wish they were. If you look around Ethics Alarms, you see why. Ethics, as the  process by which we decide and learn what is good and right conduct, evolves with time and experience. A predictable cut of a society’s ethics are always going to be a matter of intense debate. Ethics are self-enforcing, for the most part and by nature, because being ethical should make us feel good.  Once an authority or power starts demanding conduct and enforcing  conformity, we are mostly out of the realm of ethics and into morality, where conduct is dictated by a central overseer that, if it is to have genuine authority, must be voluntarily accepted by those subject to its power.

Society cannot function on ethics alone. Without laws, chaos and anarchy result. Because chaos and anarchy are bad for everyone, no individual who has accepted the social compact may decide which laws he or she will follow and which he or she will defy—at least, not without paying a price, which is society’s punishment. In ethical terms, this is a utilitarian calculation: we accept laws that individually we may find repugnant, because allowing citizens to pick and choose which laws they will obey as a matter of “conscience” doesn’t work and has never worked. Ethics pays attention to history.

Thus it is ethical to obey the law, and unethical not to,  even if good arguments can be made that particular laws are themselves unethical. This is where civil disobedience comes in: if a citizen chooses to violate a law on a the basis of that citizen’s conscience or principle, the citizen also has to accept the legal consequences of doing so as an obligation of citizenship. Continue reading

The Cheerleader Awards

What would EVER possess someone to give out body part awards to cheerleaders?

This astounding, depressing story, out of Wisconsin, not only makes me wonder about the ethics alarms of everyone involved. It makes me wonder about whether such alarms exist in out species.

Kenosha’s Tremper High School  cheerleading squad held its annual banquet last March,  and handed out some “gag awards” to members of the squad. Among them:

  • The Big Boobie Award. for the girl with the biggest breasts. The coach giving the award joked that the girl  concussions when she ran because  her “enormous boobs” might flip-up and knock her out.
  • The Big Booty Award.  The coach presenting that one said: “We love her butt. Everybody loves her butt.”
  • The String Bean Award, given to a  freshman who “was so light and skinny.”
  • The previous year, a blonde wig was awarded to a cheerleader for being a “ditzy girl.”

The one hundred guests at the event included many parents. Apparently the coaches were surprised that many of them had problems with the tenor of the “awards.”  As this tear’s awards approached, and after the school and its coaches had brushed aside the complaints, arguing that it was all in good fun, the ACLU interjected itself for some reason. (A parent sicced the civil rights group on the school.) From the Times story: Continue reading

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

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/2/2018: The Unreliable Authorities Edition

Good morning!

1.  Another baseball ethics dispute! This is an exciting time of changes in the traditional wisdom of how to play Major League Baseball, all sparked by that new ethics bugaboo, Big Data. Now that so many aspects of the game can be measured and analyzed, tradition and assumptions rarely challenged are now under fire. One massive shift is, ironically, in the matter of shifts, radical defensive alignments in which players are not fielding their normal positions, but rather are places where computer spray charts for each batter suggest that the likelihood of fielding a ball is highest.  This can mean anything from one lonely fielder on the left side of the infield, or four outfielders.

Shifts are not new, but they used to be used on a handful of super-sluggers with dead-pull propensities, notably Ted Williams, who famously refused to bunt for easy hits to the unoccupied side of the field, and instead usually tried to hit through or over the shift. It has been estimated that the Williams Shift, combined with the player’s infamous stubbornness, cost him many points off of his lifetime batting average, especially since Williams defeating the shift by bunting might have discouraged its use.

But he was Ted Williams, the second greatest hitter of all time.  The question of whether lesser batters should bunt against shifts, for now many teams shift against everyone, has an easy answer: Of course they should.

In yesterday’s Twins-Orioles game, Twins starter Jose Berrios had  a one-hit shutout in the ninth inning. leading with one out and no runners on base. O’s rookie catcher Chance Sisco came to the plate—he has my favorite baseball name this season–and the Twins put on a shift like the one Ted Williams despised:

So, knowing he wasn’t Ted Williams and also knowing that in baseball even seven run leads aren’t a sure thing, Chance dropped down a bunt to the left side for a single. Berrios then walked two batter Davis and Manny Machado to load the bases, but finished his shutout by getting the next two outs without further disruptions.

After the game, the Twins players questioned the ethics of Sisco’s hit. Berrios said, “I just know it’s not good for baseball [to bunt] in that situation. That’s it.” Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario said, “Nobody liked that. No, no, no. That’s not a good play.” Second baseman Brian Dozier added, “Obviously, we’re not a fan of it. He’s a young kid. I could’ve said something at second base but they have tremendous veteran leadership over there. I’m sure they’ll address that. It’s all about learning. You learn up here.”

When do you “learn” not to try to win the game and get on base? For Sisco, a rookie, sending the message that shifting against him is a bad risk also is a wise career move. There is a long-standing, and stupid, unwritten rule in baseball that it is “bush league” to try to break up a no-hitter with a bunt, but extending that dubious logic to a mere shutout breaks the Stupid Meter.

2. Coffee is good for you, but be worried when you drink it. Continuing its rapid devolution into Bizarro World, just as increasing scientific evidence suggest that coffee is good for you, California is demanding that it carry a tobacco-like warning label. Last week a judge ruled that Starbucks and  other coffee companies in California must carry a cancer warning label because of a chemical produced while beans roast has been shown to cause cancer in high doses. California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act  requires companies with more than 10 employees to warn their customers about the presence of carcinogenic and toxic chemicals in their products, even in tiny amounts. Acrylamide, a chemical compound that is produced naturally during the roasting of coffee beans, is on the state’s list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. The judge ruled that the coffee company had the burden of proof  to show that acrylamide posed no significant health risk to coffee drinkers, even though there is no evidence that coffee does pose a risk. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/8/2017: TV Comics, Law Deans, Sports And California…Everything Is Seemingly Spinning Out Of Control!

Good Morning!

On the day that the Boston Red Sox will begin their stunning comeback against the Houston Astros …

 

1 Speaking of baseball, a poll shows that the NFL fell from the most popular major sport in the nation last year to the least favorite last month, while baseball regained its traditional but usually treated as fictional “National Pastime” status. The NFL also dragged down the popularity of college football. Not all of this can be blamed on Colin Kaepernick, Black Lives Matters, and incoherent protests that aren’t against the National Anthem, well, maybe its third verse, but take place during the National Anthem, well, because. Ethics Alarms isn’t the only voice that has declared football to be callous and barbaric, now that the game’s unavoidable concussions are being shown to cause a deadly brain disease. Too many helmeted heroes beat their spouses and lovers, and commit felonies. The biggest star in the NFL, Tom Brady, is a smug, cheating jerk. It never helps when the President of the United States, even one like Trump, attacks an institution from the bully pulpit. Still, the timing certainly suggest that the NFL’s botched handling of The Knee is the catalyst for its current nosedive in popularity. Just think how many brains will be saved if this is permanent.

Meanwhile,  Major League Baseball is benefiting from staying true to its traditional national role of unifying the country rather than dividing it. No on-field protests mar the National Anthem. The sport is entertainment, celebrating American themes like individualism, the triumph of the underdog, and grace under pressure. In 1942, FDR urged Major League Baseball to keep playing, even though the remaining players were unfit for military service, leaving the teams stocked with older players and a collection of misfits, like Pete Gray, the one-armed outfielder.  After Baseball Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis wrote President Roosevelt in January, FDR replied with this letter the same day:

It is not, however, in the best interest of the country to keep the NFL “going.” Continue reading