The Vegan Parents: No, They Haven’t “Suffered Enough”

Review: “I don’t recommend this formula. It killed my baby.”

The vegan parents of a baby girl they condemned to a lifetime of brain damage pleaded guilty to negligently causing serious injury, thus avoiding jail time. They will  have to perform 12 months of community service, and will also have to undergo mental observation and treatment.

Talk about locking the barn door after the horse has escaped.

Having ignored all legitimate health advice regarding the nutritional needs of infants for a full year, the parents took their 12-month-old baby girl to an emergency clinic in August 2018 with her suffering from extreme malnutrition, open wounds, rashes, bruises, discoloration of her skin, internal bleeding and blood in her stool. Her condition, doctors said,  resembled those of babies being raised in countries during famines.

A week before, the father had sought the help of an online vegan website, writing,

“Hi my 1-year-old has stopped wanting to drink/eat and when she does, it’s not staying down or she starts to cough,” he reportedly wrote in the email. “What can I do to help her keep it down and allow her to drink? She doesn’t have a temp. She is on a fruit diet. Please help asap.”

The recommended solution: “stomach tea.” The parents had decided that they didn’t trust doctors after being told  told that their baby required more than the coconut water and health store powders that they began feeding her after she stopped breast-feeding. Continue reading

Now I’ve Actually SEEN “Cuties,”So I know What I’m Writing About…

What does Barbara Streisand have to do with “Cuties,” you ask?

And, from my perspective, I have been taught, once again, that I should not rely on the opinions of others. Why is that such a difficult lesson to process? I bet I’ve “learned” it a thousand times, and yet here we are.

I initially wrote about pundit Rod Dreher’s angry assessment of the Netflix hit (it is one of the most streamed productions in its history) in this post. I think it was clear that I hadn’t seen “Cuties” myself, but I should not have written that he was disgusted “with good reason.” Veteran commenter Humble Talent provided Ethics Alarms with his critical assessment of “Cuties” in his Comment of the Day; it was negative as well. Having now watched the film with my wife last night (I regarded the session as work, not recreation), I understand what Dreher’s perspective was, and  I cannot say that Humble’s critique is “wrong.”

I disagree with both of them, however.

My thoughts on “Cuties”:

1.  I did not enjoy the movie. I would not watch it again. I would watch “1918,” “Parasite,”The Circle“…even “JFK,” “Ghost” and “La La Land,’  all movies I felt were at best disappointing and at worst ridiculously over-hyped, before I would sit through “Cuties” again. (I would rather watch “Cuties” than revisit “The Deer Hunter,” but then I would rather have my fingernails  pulled out than revisit “The Deer Hunter.”)

2. That doesn’t not mean I think “Cuties” is a bad movie. It’s a very good movie, for the audience it was made for. (“Ghost” is not a good movie, and anyone who thinks so is a tasteless sap.) This isn’t just a “chick flick,” it is a flick that men should be warned not to see, and possibly banned from trying.

3. As a man, I felt like a voyeur watching these semi-pubescent girls try to navigate their emerging sexuality and the corrosive influence of the culture. It’s not that I’m uninterested in this aspect of a reality I didn’t experience, it’s just that…ick. My wife, on the other hand, who grew up with three sisters, kept asking, “So what was supposed to be so objectionable about this?”

4. If art is supposed to convey truth, “Cuties” succeeds, I suspect. Of course, just because a story is true or embodies truth doesn’t mean it needs to be made into a movie. This precise topic has been dealt with before, but never so directly, at least in any movie that has been widely publicized.

5. I agree with Humble’s complaint that the director—a woman, of course—focused the camera on the girl’s bodies as they gyrated and twerked to the verge of salaciousness. I’m sure she would have a good answer for why she made this choice, and why it was artistically valid, but it was still a troubling choice.

6. I thought the girls were all excellent, and several were remarkable. That does not mitigate one of my ethical objections to the film, which is that juveniles were given this kind of material to absorb and experience. It doesn’t matter that they performed it well, and it doesn’t matter that the movie could only be made with pre-teen actresses. Nor will it change my view if they all grow up to be well-adjusted and happy adults: that’s moral luck. The actresses were below the age of consent, and should not be asked to/ compelled to perform such material. The parents who consented for them are irresponsible and unethical, just as Dakota Fanning’s parents were unethical to allow her to be in a  graphic rape scene in “Hounddog,” just as Brooke Shields’ parents were unethical to allow her to appear as a pre-teen prostitute in “Pretty Baby,” just as Linda Blair’s parents were unethical to allow her to play the possessed girl in “The Exorcist.” I  may ask child performer advocate Paul Peterson to author a guest column on his view of “Cuties.” I think I know what he will say.

7. One of the major complaints about the film is that it will appeal to pedophiles. That’s an unfair reason to criticize a movie: the fact that sick people will like it for the wrong reasons. I refuse to believe that pedophiles are the intended audience, nor that either the director or Netflix were seeking to entertain men who have a sexual fixation on little girls. I’m sure “Seabiscuit” titillated some people who fantasize about having sex with horses.

8. The runaway success of “Cuties” is as fine an example of “The Streisand Effect” as we are likely to find. The only reason a film like this, focusing on a Muslim pre-teen coping with her family stresses by becoming obsessed with sexually provocative dancing that is rampant among girls just slightly older, becomes an cultural phenomenon is if it is controversial. Critics like Dreher guaranteed that many more people would watch “Cuties” than the subject matter would normally draw. It’s not titillating or enjoyable to watch 11-year-olds get into sexually provocative costumes and make-up and act like go-go dancers in a cage. It’s creepy, and it’s supposed to be creepy. But Dreher and the other would-be conservative cultural gate-keepers made sure that the pervs would find “Cuties” and settle down to watch with their lotion handy. Good job, everybody!

Regarding “Athlete A”….[Corrected!]

“Athlete A,” the Netflix documentary that tells the awful story of USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s decades of sexually abusing young female gymnasts—perhaps as many as 500 of them—, how he was allowed to continue his crimes after complaints from parents and others, and the young women who finally sent him to prison with their testimony, is both disturbing and depressing. I watched it last night with my wife, who was horrified that she didn’t know the Nassar story.

Ethics Alarms wasn’t as much help as it should have been. Its first full post about the scandal was this one, which, in grand Ethics Alarms tradition, slammed the ethics of the judge who sentenced Nasser to 60 years in prison, essentially a “Stop making me defend Dr. Nasser!” post. I’ll stand by that post forever, but it didn’t help readers who are link averse to know the full extent of Nasser’s sick hobby of plunging his fingers and hands into the vaginas and anuses of trusting young girls while telling them that it was “therapy.”

The second full post, in August of last year,  was more informative regarding Nasser, but again, it was about the aftermath of his crimes, not the crimes themselves. That post  focused on the the Senate hearings following the July 30 release of the report of an 18-month Senate investigation  that found that the U.S. Olympic Committee and others failed to protect young female athletes from Nasser’s probing hands, detailing “widespread failure by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (the “Committee”) and other institutions to keep athletes safe.”  Then there was this: Continue reading

Naming Ethics: The Gaylord Affair

My short summary of this ethics controversy is: This mother is nuts.

A woman, 24, is due to have her first child in August, and, she says,  the first born son of everyone from her side of the family has been named Gaylord since the early 19th Century. She is determined to carry on the  tradition, though her husband is horrified, maintaining that to name any boy “Gaylord” is child abuse.

That’s probably overstating it, but just a bit. Gaylord is not a common name (it’s from the Old French gaillard meaning “joyful” or “high-spirited”), but Wikipedia lists 25 famous or accomplished Gaylords, only one of which I had ever heard of, the baseball player on the list (of course). That’s Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry, who won over 300 games during a 21 year career in which he was famous for throwing spitballs, an illegal pitch.  Perry is one of the three Gaylords on the list who is still alive, including a French long-distance runner named Gaylord Silly.

Now that’s child abuse..

But I digress. The mother says she offered her husband a compromise, agreeing that young Gaylord would go by “Gail” in school “so that he doesn’t have to deal with bullies.”

What? Continue reading

There Are Many Ethics Villains In This Story, But The Boys Put In Handcuffs Aren’t Among Them.

In July of 2019, 10-year-old Gavin Carpenter and a friend were playing outside with toy weapons near a Fort Carson, Colorado intersection, acting out a favorite video game scenario. One of the weapons was an an orange Nerf bow that apparently didn’t work.  Gavin had a toy gun with an orange tip. It was also broken. The boys might as well have been using their fingers, or sticks.

As part of the game, they pretended to shoot at passing cars. One driver stopped, and was furious, shouting at the boys, who ran  to a grandparents’ house. The man called the police.  The County Sheriff’s deputies arrived and arrested both Gavin and his friend. They were  handcuffed and taken to the Colorado Springs Police Department for mugshots and fingerprinting.

For pretending to shoot at cars with obvious toys that couldn’t shoot anything. And they were ten.

Gavin was finally released into his parent custody at10:30 p.m. They  hired an attorney to help get the charge expunged from Gavin’s record, but the District Attorney was intent on prosecuting.  The boys were moved into a diversion program requiring community service,writing an essay, and other hoops to jump through. 216 days later, what was charged as Felony Menacing was finally expunged from their records

Now the rogues gallery inhabiting this revolting episode: Continue reading

“Miracle On 34th Street,”An Ethics Companion, Continued….Chapter 2: The Story Unfolds…

The Introduction is here.

Chapter I is here.

Let’s get this out of the way up front: Kris is not really Santa Clause. The sooner you understand that, the more sense the movie will make.

Now onward:

2. The bad mother and the sneaky lawyer.

While Kris is enjoying his starring role in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, we meet Susan Walker, Doris’s young daughter, and Attorney Fred Gailey,  who lives in the apartment next door. Susan has been raised  to be a joyless little cynic, the victim of an arrogant and misguided single mother who needed to read more Bruno Bettelheim ( except that Bruno didn’t write The Uses of Enchantment  until 1976).  Doris, as we soon surmise, has allowed a bad marriage to make her suspicious of dreams, hope, and wonder, and she is passing her own disappointment in life off to her daughter at the tender age of nine. Nice.

Lots of parents do this, I suppose, but that doesn’t mitigate how cruel and damaging it is. I remember how horrified I was at Susan’s brainwashing when I first saw the film at about the same age as Natalie Wood was in the movie. My parents, particularly my mother, surrounded my sister and I with fantasy and whimsy. They went to elaborate measures to make Santa Claus seem real, and the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. At one point my sister, having read a story about a lollypop tree, planted a lollypop stick in the back yard. My mother pooh-poohed the idea, telling my sister that this was just a fantastic story she was believing, and that she was  going to disappointed.  Then, three days later, my father exclaimed as he looked out the kitchen window,  “I don’t believe it! Look at that!” And there, about four feet height and covered with lolly pops of all  the colors of the rainbow, was the lollypop tree.

My sister and I weren’t idiots; we knew that our parents had made the tree. But we played along, and the lesson was taught.  Life is more fun and bearable if you believe in the unbelievable, and are open to a little magic in the world. Our parents gave my sister and me a gift that made us love music, literature, humor, mystery, and surprises. Doris Walker, out of ignorance, grief or anger, was an incompetent and selfish parent. ” We should be realistic  and completely truthful with our children  and not have them growing up believing in  a lot of legends and myths like Santa Claus, for example,” she says.

And your authority for this proposition is what, Doris? Generations of children have grown to healthy, happy maturity being raised on myths, legends and fairy tales, and you, with your invaluable perspective as a department store employee, are confident in your certitude that their parents were wrong, and you are right. Wow. Continue reading

Sunday Before Christmas Ethics Ornaments, 12/22/19: Googling Ethics, “Cats,” Goldman Sachs, De Niro, Trump Derangement

Here’s hoping that the the next three days rescue the Spirit of Christmas…

…because the last few weeks have been a downer, man.

1. Googling ethics:  Phillip Galanes, at Social Q’s was consulted by a woman who had bad vibes about her girlfriend’s new love, so she googled him, and found out, as she suspected, that he had some serious red flags in his past. She told her friend, who had discovered the bad news herself, but who was hurt and angry that the inquirer did a background check on her boyfriend. “Was I wrong?” she asked. In his answer, Gallanes implies that she was, although “everybody does it.” I’d like a nice, succinct, substantive explanation of by what ethical theory it can ever be wrong to access publicly available information about anyone. This isn’t an issue of privacy, because the information isn’t private. There was nothing wrong with the inquirer’s motives, because she was concerned about her friend.

I’d call this the Ick Factor at work. It seems unethical because the fact that anyone can check our lives out online is creepy. The research itself, however, is ethically neutral. The ethics comes in with how the information is used.

2. I guess I have to mention “Cats”…since it is getting the most spectacular negative and cruel reviews since “Showgirls,” and maybe before that. “Exorcist II, The Heretic” perhaps. Oddly, the usually hyper-critical New York Times is not one of the worst defilers, but here was what the reviewer really found objectionable :

“It’s too bad that no one seems to have thought through the semiotics of Victoria’s chalky white cat face, given that Hayward is of mixed race and that the heavy is Idris Elba’s predatory Macavity. Elba seems to be having a fine time, but come on!”

Ah! The old “mixed-race actress in whiteface being menaced by a black actor playing a cat” racist imagery!

I can’t wait for them to write down these rules. Continue reading

Now THIS Is Child Abuse—So Why Is A Texas Jury Enabling It?

That’s James’ father with him on the left, and his mother, after dressing James as “Luna,” on the right.

A jury in Dallas, Texas jjust ruled against Jeffrey Younger,  who is trying to stop his son’s’ mother, Dr. Anne Georgulas,  from “transitioning” him—his current name is James–into “Luna,” a female. Dr. Geogulas now can start the boy on puberty blockers and eventually cross-sex hormones.

Eleven of the twelve  jurors rejected James’ fathers petition to be granted sole conservatorship over his two sons. In this bitter custody fight, he argued that his ex-wife is “transitioning” James against the boy’s will.

I neglected to mention that James is seven years old. He cannot meaningfully consent to being chemically and eventually surgically transformed into a female at that age. It is astounding that this is legal in Texas or anywhere else. It is child abuse. It is an abuse of parental power. It is abuse that political agendas and cheerleading from the popular culture is inflicting on innocent children without adequate research or cause. Continue reading

Ethics Cool-Down, 9/25/19: Democracy On The Rocks

Ahhhhh…

I wish I had a martini, but since I don’t keep alcohol in the house, this will do…

1. More from the Ethics Alarms “res Ipsa loquitur” files:

The story is here.

I remember kindergarten classmates, boys and girls, frequently going on kissing sprees. Adults knew it was nothing decades ago. Had #MeToo really made people this unable to make obvious distinctions? Proportion is an ethical value.

2. Regarding today’s earlier post from the same files...Yes, I think that the transcript of the President’s call to the Ukraine, on its face, should make Democratic claims of an impeachable offense look as silly and contrived as they are. This does not, however, allow for confirmation bias, which is at fever pitch in “the resistance” with some toxic frustration and desperation mixed in. This is one reason the mainstream media keeps calling the transcript a “summary,” which implies that something material is missing, and your Deranged friends keep raising Nixon’s edited versions of White House meetings on Watergate matters, as if this has any similarity to that at all.

Calls with foreign leaders are typically not recorded, so this was a reconstructed transcript, which is as close to an exact one as we are going to get. For those who presume that everything this President does is impeachable, that’s a problem. For those who accept that he was elected President and should have the same opportunity to do his job as all the others, it isn’t, and there are too many like that in the public for this latest manufactured offense to work.

I guess this is Plan S.

I’m so, so sick of this.

3. I guess it’s time for another update:

The Complete Presidential Impeachment or Removal Plans A-S (Updated 9/25/2019)

Plan A: Reverse the election by hijacking the Electoral College.

Plan B: Pre-emptive impeachment. 

Plan C : The Emoluments Clause.

Plan D: “Collusion with Russia”

Plan E : ”Trump is mentally ill so this should trigger the 25th Amendment.”

Plan F: The Maxine Waters Plan, which  is to just impeach the President because Democrats want to, because they can.

Plan G : “The President obstructed justice by firing incompetent subordinates, and that’s impeachable.”

Plan H: “Tweeting stupid stuff is impeachable”

Plan I:  “Let’s relentlessly harass him and insult him and obstruct his efforts to do his job so he snaps and does something really impeachable.”

Plan J : Force Trump’s resignation based on alleged sexual misconduct that predated his candidacy.

Plan K: Election law violations in pay-offs to old sex-partners

Plan L: The perjury trap: get Trump to testify under oath, then prove something he said was a lie.

Plan M: Guilt by association. Prove close associates or family members violated laws.

Plan N: Claim that Trump’s comments at his press conference with Putin were “treasonous.”

Plan O: The Mueller Report proves the Trump is unfit for office even if it did not conclude that he committed any impeachable offenses. 

Plan P: Summarized here as “We have to impeach him because he’s daring us to and if we don’t, we let him win, but we can’t, but then he’ll win!”.”

Plan Q: Impeach Trump to justify getting his taxes, and then use the presumed evidence in his taxes to impeach him.

Plan R: Rep. Adam Schiff announced on July 24 that President Trump should be impeached because he is “disloyal” to the country. This desperate response to the fizzle of the Mueller Report was ignored and forgotten the second it came out of Schiff’s mouth, but it confirmed what the list above already proved: the Democrats don’t want to impeach the President for something he did; they want to find something he did to justify impeaching him.

Plan S: Trump should be impeached because his call to Ukrainian President Zelensky was really an effort to shake down the Ukraine and force it to find dirt on Joe Biden, thus “interfering” in the 2020 election even though Biden hasn’t been nominated (and won’t be), even though a President has every justification to seek evidence of a prior administration’s wrongdoing in foreign relations, and even though there isn’t a whiff of a threat of quid pro quo in the only transcript of the call.

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/23/2019: Post Emmys Edition [UPDATED]

I’m kidding; I  didn’t watch the Emmys, have not watched a second of the Emmys in decades, and can’t imaging a greater waste of time than watching the Emmys, and that includes the time I spent watching “Tusk,” the Kevin Smith black comedy in which a madman played by Michael Parks traps a jerk podcaster played by Justin Long and surgically transforms him into a human walrus. I kind of liked it, to be honest.

That’s Billy Porter above, by the way, the first openly gay actor to win a performing Emmy, after the many, many non-openly gay actors who have won over all these years. Making a big deal out of this diminishes his honor, since it suggests that his sexual orientation had something to do with his winning the award. I don’t see any reason why who an actor chooses to have sex with should have any relevance to an acting honor.

[UPDATE: Not that it matters, but the Emmy broadcast ratings hit an all-time low. What? People voluntarily passed up a chance to see actresses use their podium time to lecture about acceptance of trans individuals, and basing industry pay levels on gender  equity rather than value?]

1. Country music’s Jackie Robinson. Ken Burns’ documentary “Country Music,” on PBS now, convinced me that Charlie Pride, the first black country music star, deserves more accolades than he has received, as do the white producers and allies, like Chet Akins, Jack D. Johnson, and Louis Allen “Al” Donohue, who made it possible for him to break that culture’s color barrier.

Inspired by Robinson, Pride resolved as a teen to escape the cotton fields. He played minor league baseball, and sang in bars to make extra cash. Then he was “discovered” by two country music figures and advised to go to Nashville.

It’s an amazing story (why Pride’s life hasn’t been made into a movie, I don’t know). Apparently at the beginning of his career, stations played his records without noting his race. In the documentary, Pride describes a Detroit concert where he was introduced to an all-white audience of nearly 20,000 that roared and applauded when he walked out, and then suddenly became silent when they saw his skin color. Do you think that scene might have inspired Richard Pryor to write this one?

2.  Jerk of the Year? Just being the NFL Jerk of the Year is an achievement (there is so much competition), but Antonio Brown, the star receiver signed by the New England Patriots (in their own bid for NFL Jerks of the Year) after he had jerked his way off his previous two teams, then released after two sexual misconduct allegations against him surfaced, went out in a blaze of jerkness.

Immediately after being ditched by the embarrassed Pats, Brown unleashed a torrent of attack tweets, attempting to position himself as a victim. Continue reading