Monday Ethics Musings, 10/7/2019: Questions, Questions…

Thinking…

Wait, where are my clothes???

1. When will Mrs. Q make her debut as a regular contributor to Ethics Alarms? I’m working out the details. She’s ready, I’m behind, we’ll get it done. Very excited.

2. If everything is going to be done online, is it reasonable to expect those companies who force us to interact that way to be competent? Case Study: The Boston Globe just offered me a 6 month digital subscription for a buck. But an old password connected to my email address prevented me from entering the new one necessary to accept the deal. All links went to current subscription or subscribing at the regular price. It took 40 minutes of online chats with robots and a human being (who disconnected me one) to fix the problem, which was in how the Globe set up the offer acceptance page. I ended up using a password made up by “Sherry” because I couldn’t reset my password myself. This kind of thing happens all the time. I wouldn’t have a clue how to set up a website response system, but if that was my job, I would be obligated to do better than this.

3. What good are movie critics whose opinions and tastes aren’t shared by their readers? My view: not much. The job of a critic is to let readers know if readers would appreciate the movie or not. A critic who can’t or won’t do that, and most don’t, is useless. I was thinking about this when I encountered this article in The Guardian listing the films for which audience ratings and critical ratings diverged the most.

Much of the disparity today is caused by critics who allow their ideological biases to dominate their judgment: yes, bias makes them stupid. Another problem, harder to over-come, is that the judgment of people who see hundreds of movies a year and who are often steeped in the art of film-making often has no relevance to the movie average audience member at all. Yet another is the unavoidable fact that few critics are equally qualified to review all genres. Horror movies are especially frequent victims of this problem.

Incidentally, yesterday I watched a new horror movie, “A.M.I.” that exploited the inherent creepiness of online personal assistants like Siri and Alexa. It was pretty bad, but the final scene was so ridiculous (and predictable) that it almost justified the film. Almost. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Notables. 5/18/2019: More Social Media Partisan Censorship, A-Rod’s Potty And Ian’s Potty Mouth…

Why, I asked, on such a beautiful May day, am I inside writing about ethics? And my wife turned into Hymen Roth…

1. PLEASE stop making me defend Alex Rodriguez, who is one of my least favorite human beings, never mind former athletes, on the planet, and yet…this is a strict Golden Rule issue. The ex-Yankees (also Texas and Seattle) slugger  was photographed sitting on his toilet in his luxury apartment’s bathroom. The shot was apparently taken by a rogue photographer in a high rise office building next to the apartment building where A-Rod shares a  $17.5 million apartment with Jennifer Lopez, whose movies are now beneath those of Adam Sandler and Tom Arnold on my playlist.

Legal precedent in New York suggests than  Rodriquez has no case, because in 2015, an appeals court ruled that a gallery show of images snapped through less famous New Yorkers’ windows by an “artist” was not a privacy violation. (I wrote about that photographer here; perhaps the title gives you a sense of where I came out on my analysis: “Why Photographer Arne Svensen Is An Unethical Creep”]

Fine, I see the legal point. If you don’t want people taking photos of you, then keep your window blinds down. However,just because you can do something crappy to another human being doesn’t make it right.

Even if it’s a crappy human being. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/10/2019: Ethics Savings Time Edition!

It’s still morning according to MY watch…

1. When ethics alarms don’t ring...How could Philadelphia’s retailers and stores not have seen this problem? The city of Philadelphia has passed a law that will requiring retailers to accept cash, responding to increasing numbers that have gone “cashless.”The new law was signed by Mayor Jim Kenney last week and takes effect on July 1 . Violations could bring  fines of up to $2,000.

City Councilman Bill Greenlee co-sponsored  the bill. “It just seemed to me unfair that I could walk into a coffee shop right across from City Hall, and I had a credit card and could get a cup of coffee. And the person behind me, who had United States currency, could not,” he explained.

Good. Serving only people with credit cards is obviously discriminatory.

2.  More on the robocalling experiment. I previously noted that MLB is using the independent Atlantic League to try out some new rules, innovations, and suggested “fixes” for baseball. Only one is of obvious ethics interest: the electronic calling of pitches, which is a matter of integrity. Games should not be warped by crucial decisions that are obviously erroneous and that the game now has the technological tools to prevent. The rest of the measures being tested raise issues of their own:

  • The mound will be moved back two feet to 62’6″. Comment: I assume this is an effort to make hitting easier and pitching harder. I find it difficult to believe that anything this radical has a chance of being adopted.
  • Larger bases will be used (18″ instead of 15″). Comment: Okaaaay…
  • Defensive shifts will be banned. Comment: A terrible idea, constraining defensive creativity and the constant back-and forth change-and-response that has kept baseball dynamic. Let batters figure out how to beat shifts. They have the ability to do it.
  • A radar-enabled strike zone will be employed. Comment: It’s about damned time!
  • Time between innings and pitching changes reduced from 2:05 to 1:45. Comment: Good.
  • Three batter minimum for pitchers entering a game. Comment: This is to eliminate the single pitcher-per-batter trend in late innings that slows down the game with minimal benefits. I see no reason not to do it; there are similar rules already, such as requirements that a pitcher must pitch to at least one batter.
  • There will be no mound visits unless a pitcher is removed from the game or for medical issues. Comment: NO visits is draconian. All this will do is speed the intrusion of electronic communications between catcher and pitcher and pitcher and manager. Yechhh!

3. When lawyers should just shut-up. ABA Model Rule Of Professional Conduct 3.6 says in part:

a) A lawyer who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of public communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter.

It also says,

c) Notwithstanding paragraph (a), a lawyer may make a statement that a reasonable lawyer would believe is required to protect a client from the substantial undue prejudicial effect of recent publicity not initiated by the lawyer or the lawyer’s client. A statement made pursuant to this paragraph shall be limited to such information as is necessary to mitigate the recent adverse publicity.

The rule, which has substantially identical versions in all jurisdictions, needs to be enforced more stringently. It isn’t, I assume, because the bar associations are worried about a court striking down the rule as a First Amendment violation.

Here’s Jussie Smollett’s lawyer, media hound Mark Geragos, on the charges against his client.:

“This redundant and vindictive indictment is nothing more than a desperate attempt to make headlines in order to distract from the internal investigation launched to investigate the outrageous leaking of false information by the Chicago Police Department and the shameless and illegal invasion of Jussie’s privacy in tampering with his medical records. Jussie adamantly maintains his innocence even if law enforcement has robbed him of that presumption.”

ALL the publicity was initiated by Gallegos’s client! His crime was designed to get publicity!

Shut up, Mark. This is the kind of statement that does your client no good, and adds to the public’s distrust of lawyers.

I do give him credit for one thing, though: note that he says, “Jussie adamantly maintains his innocence,” and not “Jussie is innocent,” which he knows is a lie.

4. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!

  • Headline (NYT):Border at ‘Breaking Point’ as More Than 76,000 Unauthorized Migrants Cross in a Month.” Quote:”More than 76,000 migrants crossed the border without authorization in February, an 11-year high and a strong sign that stepped-up prosecutions, new controls on asylum and harsher detention policies have not reversed what remains a powerful lure for thousands of families fleeing violence and poverty.”

Gee, sounds like a national emergency to me! Nope: it’s Trump’s fault: “the Trump administration’s aggressive policies have not discouraged new migration to the United States.”

  • Because the Democrat’s watered down “anti-hate” resolution did nothing to condemn the anti-Semitic statements by Rep. Omar, some Republicans withheld their votes for it in protest. Here was how Politico spun it: “Republican leadership splits, and party splinters over hate resolution.”

5. I suppose this should be a stand-alone post, but I don’t want to write about Michel Jackson any more than I have to. It is now official [Pointer: JutGory]: “The Simpsons” is airbrushing away the classic 1991 episode “Stark Raving Dad,” because a key character was voiced by Michael Jackson. James L. Brooks, co-creator of the show, says that the 1991 episode guest-starring Michael Jackson will be pulled out of its archives, permanently, and will be removed from all platforms including DVD sets and streaming services. “It feels clearly the only choice to make,” Brooks says. “The guys I work with—where we spend our lives arguing over jokes—were of one mind on this.”  He added, “I’m against book burning of any kind. But this is our book, and we’re allowed to take out a chapter.”

Sure it’s book burning, and  “the guys Brooks works with” are probably all in favor of tearing down the statues of Confederate generals and monuments to slave-holding Founders, too. Brooks’ ideological clones are suddenly fans of censorship and hiding history when it becomes uncomfortable. There is so much wrong with this decision, it boggles the mind, but a few will suffice…

  • Why now? Oh, right: a documentary made a decade after Jackson’s death suddenly proves what couldn’t be proved in court, is that the theory?
  • Is Brooks really asserting that any artist who releases his or her art to the public is justified in unilaterally destroying it because of a personal motive? The artist has the right, yes. It’s also unethical. The work is no longer the artist’s, it belongs to the culture. This is why Stephen Spielberg has regretted and reversed his politically correctness-addled decision to change the guns carried by the federal agents in “E.T.” to walkie-talkies.
  • This is a time for Kant’s Categorical Imperative. If this is the right thing to do because of Jackson’s alleged misconduct,  then it must be absolute, an unconditional requirement to be observed in all circumstances and justified as an end in itself. That means that no work by Woody Allen, Bing Crosby, Bill Cosby, Errol Flynn, Richard Pryor, John Lennon (and by extension, The Beatles), Peter, Paul and Mary, Charlie Chaplin, Jerry Lee Lewis, and too many others to list, should ever again be available for the public to view, hear, or enjoy.
  • Presumably any film that O.J. Simpson appeared in must be vaporized as well, including “The Naked Gun” films and the greatest disaster movie ever made, “The Towering Inferno.”

The main thing is that “Stark Raving Dad” is a terrific episode.

This is flagrant narcissism, virtue-signaling and grandstanding by Brooks and his colleagues.

OK, Facebook Friends, Let’s Pretend It Isn’t Kavanaugh…Let’s Pretend It’s ME.

I’ve had this post composed in my head for some time, and have hesitated to complete it. I really don’t like upsetting people I care about, much as some might think otherwise.

However, there has been such escalating fanaticism on Facebook (and elsewhere, of course), ringing through the echo chamber, about how Dr. Ford must be “believed” and how the judge is a “serial rapist,” I have to ask: would you all treat me this way? Would you react to seeing my career and reputation derailed by the sudden appearance of a high school acquaintance who announces that she has only recently come to realize that I had sexually assaulted her at a party? After hearing my denials, would you decided to determine that her account, with no verification by any witnesses, with the large amount of time past and with absolutely nothing in my record, professional or private life, to suggest any such proclivities, should be sufficient to have me labelled as untrustworthy?

Don’t resort to the “but he’s going to sit on the Supreme Court” trick. I’m a professional ethicist: an accusation that is widely metastasized into doubts about my character, including using it to tar me a liar, would be just as ruinous to me as the late hit on Kavanaugh is disastrous to him. There is no “well, this is wrong UNLESS its a Supreme Court nominee” principle: that’s a pure rationalization. No, if the Ford accusation, with all of its flaws, its basis in fading and rediscovered memories, the fact that it involved juveniles, all of that, and the objective professional observations by Rachel Mitchell that found several reasons why Ford’s testimony was incredible, is still enough to allow you to condemn Judge Kavanaugh, then it must be enough for you to condemn me too.

But I’ll make it easier for you: let’s say its me that is the current Supreme Court nominee, and me that your favorite party has condemned as a threat to civilization. (And lets assume that you haven’t read any of my judicial decisions either.) 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

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/19/2018: Thinking About Things That Matter While Ignoring The Royal Wedding Hype Edition

I can’t say it’s a good morning..

…since it’s been raining for three days already, with no end in sight..

1. I wonder how long before he’s fired? Instead of renewing his earlier call to repeal the Second Amendment, resurgent lone conservative New York Times op-ed columnist Bret Stephens spoke truth to abused power by condemning the news media in today’s column. He writes in part,

When Donald Trump takes his swipes at the “disgusting and corrupt media” and tens of millions of Americans agree, it’s not as if they don’t have examples in mind. Consider this week’s implication by major news organizations that the president described all illegal immigrants as “animals” during a White House roundtable with California officials. That would indeed be a wretched thing for him to say — had he said it. He did not. The Associated Press admitted as much when it deleted a tweet about the remark, noting “it wasn’t made clear that he was speaking after a comment about gang members.” Specifically, he was speaking after a comment about members of the Salvadoran MS-13 gang, infamous for its ultraviolent methods and quasi-satanic rituals. To call MS-13 “animals” is wrong only because it is unfair to animals….We have a president adept at goading his opponents into unwittingly doing his bidding. They did so again this week. Those who despise him for his deceits should endeavor to give no impression of being deceitful in turn.

Bingo.

2. Briefly noted…Today’s Times editorial is a graphic about how “Congress has dithered as the innocent get shot,” despite the fact that no “sensible gun control measures” would have prevented yesterday’s shooting in Texas…just gun confiscation, if that were possible, which it isn’t. Two letters in the letters section make the same contradictory, yet probably sincere, point. “Another day with the reality that sane gun control is a national emergency.” Continue reading

A Kevin Spacey Update, The Sexual Harassment Feeding Frenzy, And A Guide To Sexual Harassers In The Workplace

This photo seemed appropriate somehow…

Kevin Spacey, it is now fair to say, has been a habitual sexual harasser.

We did not know that when Anthony Rapp made his accusation against the actor in a Buzzfeed interview. I would be very interested in knowing whether Rapp knew that. The posts here (this, and this) began with the assumption that Rapp’s motivations were as he stated them, and he did not say or suggest that Spacey was, like Harvey Weinstein, an active predator.

But in the ensuing days,  the pattern typical of accused harassers who really are harassers has emerged regarding Spacey. Other alleged victims came forward with their accounts.  Next  the employees on Spacey’s hit Netflix series “House of Cards” expanded the narrative…from CNNMoney:

Spacey made the set of Netflix’s “House of Cards” into a “toxic” work environment through a pattern of sexual harassment, eight people who currently work on the show or worked on it in the past tell CNN. One former employee told CNN that Spacey sexually assaulted him.

That, as they say, is the ball game for Spacey. He has even followed the hackneyed script for so many celebrities caught in misconduct: he’s getting “treatment.” Well, he doesn’t have many options. His show has been cancelled; his agency has dropped him. Spacey is very talented, but it will take him a long, long time to even partially recover from this, if he can.

I am going to write this anyway even though it won’t register on most people: the fact that Spacey turned out to be a lot more than a guy who got drunk and treated a 14-year old actor inappropriately at a party three decades ago doesn’t retroactively make the way Rapp’s ambush accusation fair or right. If he knew that Spacey was a present day harasser and made the accusation to break the dam, that’s something else, but again, he didn’t suggest that.

I’d guess that he’ll say that now, whether it is true or not.

Since Spacey was accused, several other celebrities, including Dustin Hoffman, have been fingered. The latest development is that several female members of Congress have said that they have been sexually harassed by their male colleagues, and of that I have no doubts whatsoever. Nonetheless, we are still in the witch hunt yellow zone, creeping into the red.

Here is part of a cautionary LA Times op-ed  by Cathy Young:

The fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandals and the ripples from the “#MeToo” movement are having indubitably positive effects — above all, exposing and bringing to account predators who have enjoyed impunity due to their power and status. But there are some pitfalls. Many people — not just men with skeletons in the closet — fear that careers may be destroyed over minor misconduct and ambiguous transgressions. Troubling rhetoric abounds, condemning all sexually tinged dynamics in the workplace, stereotyping men as abusers and women as perpetual victims in need of quasi-Victorian protections.…Concerns that the post-Weinstein climate may lead to witch hunts against any man who flirts with a female colleague have been met with angry comments along the lines of “flirting in the workplace IS HARASSMENT.” A tweet by singer/songwriter Marian Call that got more than 2,000 retweets and nearly 6,500 “likes” asked, “dudes are you aware how happy women would be if strangers & coworkers never ‘flirted’ with us again … this is the world we want.”

But is it? It’s certainly not the world I want: Except in college, nearly every man I have ever dated was either a co-worker or, once I switched entirely to free-lancing, someone I met through work. This is not unusual, even in the age of dating websites and apps.

This has always been the aspect of sexual harassment law that renders it inherently unfair and to many, incomprehensible. In many cases the exact same conduct is harassment if unwelcome, and successful mating strategy if welcome.  Don’t bite my head off, but this was what Donal Trump was alluding to in his repulsive conversation with Billy Bush. He was claiming  that women like being sexually assaulted by the rich and powerful. In many cases, he may be right. Legally, when he’s right, it may not be sexual harassment. Ethically, it is still wrong. If the women feels compelled not to object to the sexual overtures because of an inequality of power, it is very wrong, and illegal. Continue reading