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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/2/17: Keith Olbermann Tweet, The Rifleman On The Melting Pot, and What The Editors Of the New York Sun REALLY Wanted to Tell Little Virginia…

GOOOOOD MORNING!

1. For some strange reason AMC and the Sundance movie channel alternate showing multiple episodes of “The Rifleman” every Saturday morning. Like most of the old TV Westerns, but even more than the rest, the Chuck Connors half-hour drama about a single-father rancher who doubled as part-time lawman was about ethics, despite the fact that Chuck as Lucas McCain killed over almost tw0-hundred men over the course of the show. In one of today’s episodes, young Mark, Rifleman Jr., played by the excellent child star Johnny Crawford, fought off some bullies who were abusing a young Chinese boy who was dressed in his native clothes and wearing long hair. As the boy’s father thanked Lucas and  Mark, the Rifelman pointed out that the boy would be tormented as long as he wore his hair “like that.” “His hair is worn in the manner accepted in my country,” the father replied.

“Yes, but you’re not living in China, you’re living in the United States,” Chuck said, wrinkling his brow.

That message was not a controversial one in 1880, or in 1960, but it would be today. Still, The Rifleman was right. There is cultural pressure on immigrants to accept and adapt to U.S. culture and values, and that is for the benefit of everyone involved.  Mark made it clear that he would keep fighting for the right of the young Chinese boy to wear his hair as he chose and Chuck endorsed that, because it’s another American core value. Still, being an American citizen should mean more than just an address. Our culture used to send that message powerfully and regularly, in TV dramas and elsewhere. Now it sends the opposite message most of the time. That’s a tragic change, and the results are becoming apparent.

2. Now THIS is an uncivil tweet: The degree to which the unhinging of the Trump-hating left has reached frightening proportions was illustrated last week by a tweetstorm meltdown by onetime MSNBC star Keith Olbermann, who is still anchoring a public affairs commentary show somewhere, I think. It reached its apotheosis with this masterpiece or reason, nuance, and civility:

 

Olbermann finally took down the tweet, but the rest remained:

I don’t think Olbermann is significantly more addled by blind rage at Trump’s election than a large number of prominent journalists, editors, academics, professionals and others, or more emotional in his hate.  He  just has less restraint than most in giving vent to it, that’s all. Continue reading

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“Racial Wealth Gap Persists Despite Degree, Study Says”…Now What?

The story ran as the front page lead in the New York Times more than a week ago, and was promptly ignored as the more pressing matter of criticism Donald Trump’s erudition in condemning the violence in Charlottesville obsessed the media:

“The long-term trend is shockingly clear,” said William R. Emmons, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and one of the authors of the report. “White and Asian college grads do much better than their counterparts without college, while college-grad Hispanics and blacks do much worse proportionately.”

A college degree has long been recognized as a great equalizer, a path for minorities to help bridge the economic chasm that separates them from whites. But the report, scheduled to be released on Monday, raises troubling questions about the ability of a college education to narrow the racial and ethnic wealth gap.

“Higher education alone cannot level the playing field,” the report concludes.

Great. What will level the playing field, and if the only solutions are ethically flawed, can the nation ethically accept that the playing field cannot be leveled? Is it necessary that all races achieve identical levels of success? Does the fact that a race, or an ethnic group, either exceeds or falls short of statistical parity signal that draconian measures must be undertaken by the government? Are we really committed to results based policies, or opportunity-based policies?

In the Times print version, there was a chart that labelled, among other things, Asian families as “over-represented” among wealthyl households headed by a college grad. “Over-represented” is a provocative word, suggesting that something is wrong with Asian American achieving beyond what pure statistical analysis would predict. Is it so unimaginable that the group itself may have something to do with its success—that its culture and values may allow it to be “over-represented”?

No, it isn’t unimaginable, but it is inconvenient and politically explosive. If culture and values can explain over-achievement, it will be difficult to avoid the conclusion that culture and values also play a part in under-achievement as well. The Times report (I haven’t read the whole study)  doesn’t hint at such a conclusion, while citing many other potential causes:

Researchers have repeatedly found discrimination in the job market. When two nearly identical résumés are sent out, for example, it has been documented that the candidate with a white-sounding name receives more callbacks than the applicant with a black-sounding name.

Discrimination like this and other factors contribute to the persistent and substantial pay gap between whites and minorities. Blacks, for instance, hold a disproportionate share of government jobs — a sector that has shrunk in recent years and provides fewer opportunities for big wage gains. Blacks have fewer advanced degrees, and the ones who do are more often in lower-paying fields or graduates of colleges with lesser reputations.

“Blacks and Latinos at all education levels, including college and advanced degrees, earn less than their white counterparts, which means lower lifetime earnings” and less ability to save, said John Schmitt, research director at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, who reviewed an advance copy of the report.

Blacks and Hispanics are also less likely than whites to inherit money or receive help from their parents to cover a tuition bill or a down payment on a house.

William A. Darity Jr., a professor of public policy at the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University, points out that a family headed by a black college graduate has less wealth on average than a family headed by a white high school dropout.

That last fact is especially discouraging.

The relative disinterest of the news media in the implications of the report is troubling, or perhaps I should say its disinterest in pursuing an open and honest discussion of what the implications are, and what new policies should be considered. The status quo, with historically oppressed and disadvantaged groups perpetually lagging behind and perpetually blaming white society for their persistent plight, is a recipe for chaos, generating shrill and divisive prescriptions like this one, from Chanelle Helm,  a Black Lives Matters leader in Louisville:

Some things I’m thinking about that should change (in that Southern, black grandmama voice):

1. White people, if you don’t have any descendants, will your property to a black or brown family. Preferably one that lives in generational poverty.

2. White people, if you’re inheriting property you intend to sell upon acceptance, give it to a black or brown family. You’re bound to make that money in some other white privileged way.

3. If you are a developer or realty owner of multi-family housing, build a sustainable complex in a black or brown blighted neighborhood and let black and brown people live in it for free.

4. White people, if you can afford to downsize, give up the home you own to a black or brown family. Preferably a family from generational poverty.

5. White people, if any of the people you intend to leave your property to are racists assholes, change the will, and will your property to a black or brown family. Preferably a family from generational poverty.

6. White people, re-budget your monthly so you can donate to black funds for land purchasing.

7. White people, especially white women (because this is yaw specialty — Nosey Jenny and Meddling Kathy), get a racist fired. Yaw know what the fuck they be saying. You are complicit when you ignore them. Get your boss fired cause they racist too.

8. Backing up No. 7, this should be easy but all those sheetless Klan, Nazi’s and Other lil’ dick-white men will all be returning to work. Get they ass fired. Call the police even: they look suspicious.

9. OK, backing up No. 8, if any white person at your work, or as you enter in spaces and you overhear a white person praising the actions from yesterday, first, get a pic. Get their name and more info. Hell, find out where they work — Get Them Fired. But certainly address them, and, if you need to, you got hands: use them.

10. Commit to two things: Fighting white supremacy where and how you can (this doesn’t mean taking up knitting, unless you’re making scarves for black and brown kids in need), and funding black and brown people and their work.

I read this, and find myself wondering if one of the reasons for that discouraging study’s results is the increasing influence of voices like Chanelle Helm’s.

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Filed under Citizenship, Finance, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Race, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

Ten Further Thoughts On The “The Taunting Girls Softball Team”

Well! I returned from my seminar to find an excellent discussion underway regarding this Morning’s Ethics Warm-up, wholly devoted to the Virginia girls softball team that was hammered mercilessly for the raised middle fingers of six teammates to send off their vanquished foes in the semi-finals. Here are some further thoughts after reading the comments:

1. There is no question that the conduct of the girls concerned the game, the sport, and the League. They were in uniform. The message directed the “up yours” gesture to the other team. This is not a case where personal expression via social media was punished by an outside authority. Ethics Alarms has been profuse in its rejections of efforts by schools to punish students for their language, ideas or other expression on platforms like Facebook and Snapchat. Those are clearly, in my view, abuses of power, parental authority and free expression. This is not like such cases in any way. If a cheerleader squad, wearing the uniforms, colors and emblems of a school, behaved like these girls, punishment by the school would be appropriate, right up to the “death sentence” of dissolving the squad.

2. Would the reaction to the photo be different if it were a boy’s team? I just don’t think so.

3. The comparison has been made to the earlier post about Matt Joyce, a major league player, being suspended by the league for a comment made to one fan during a game in a heated exchange. For the life of me, I cannot figure out what anyone would think is similar about the two episodes, the primary difference being the fact that in one case, an adult was disciplined for professional misconduct on the field of play, and in the other, children were disciplined for breaching conduct their sport and organization exists in part to teach, reinforce and convey. The punishment of the player was $60,000 in lost income for a single word, not broadcast via social media. The team was not punished except to have to play without his services for two games, but then it was not colorably a team offense by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t even want to think about what an MLB team would do to six players who, in uniform, made the same gesture the girls did to “our fans.” They might all get released. Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: “13 Reasons Why”

“13 Reasons Why” is a Netflix  television series based on the 2007 novel “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher. A high school student receives a box containing 13 cassette tapes recorded by his friend Hannah Baker, before she committed  suicide. The show has been a critical and popular success (although the Times didn’t like it much) , and a second season is planned.

But Researcher John Ayers of San Diego State University has studied the results of the show on the culture by monitoring discussions of suicide on the internet following the debut of “13 Reasons Why.” The phrases “how to commit suicide” and “commit suicide”  have experienced a 26% and 18% increase in searches. Ayers sees no other explanation for this other than the show.  Searches for the phrase “suicide hotline number” also jumped, by 21%

Ayers now says, “Our worst fears were confirmed That is, thousands of people, thousands more, are searching online about ways to kill themselves.”

Ayers wants the first season to be re-edited to discourage suicidal behavior, and argues that the second season should be postponed. “Psychiatrists have expressed grave concerns because the show ignores the World Health Organization’s validated media guidelines for preventing suicide. The show’s staff instead continue to prefer their gut instincts,” Ayers says.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is this head-scratcher…

Is it ethical for Netflix to continue running the series in light of Ayers’ research and recommendations?

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/4/17

Good Morning!

1. An update to the Michelle Carter fiasco from Taunton, Mass., where the judge in the case discussed here sentenced the young woman to 15 months in jail for her supposedly deadly words, which “made” her boyfriend commit suicide. This classic example of the axiom “hard cases make bad law” provides the censorious camel’s nose access to the tent for advocates of  the criminalization of “hate speech,” opposition to climate change propaganda, and the gradual castration of freedom of speech. Carter should have never been charged or tried; doing so was an abuse of process, prosecutorial ethics and judicial ethics. I strongly suspect that the judge knows the case will be reversed on appeal as unconstitutional, hence his decision to stay the sentence, allowing Carter to remain free while her case winds its way to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, her life will be stalled, and completely absorbed by the consequences of her texts urging teen Conrad Roy III to act on his expressed desire to kill himself, which he did. This is her real punishment, because the sentence will not and must not stand.

It is unethical to use the legal system this way. When the government takes it upon itself to punish citizens despite the absence of applicable laws, it is treading over the line dividing democracy from totalitarianism.

2. What is to be done about California? States have always maintained their own unique cultures, and that is a national strength. When a state’s culture becomes wholly estranged from and hostile to the values and principles of the nation it belongs to, however, it becomes a danger to that nation and perhaps to its citizens. What, if anything, is the responsibility of the federal government when this happens? What is the duty of the state’s elected officials?

Tucker Carlson’s creepy interview on Fox with a leader of the California secession movement,Shankar Singam, raised these questions and more. Among Singam’s jaw-dropping positions was that the documented exodus of middle class Californians and small businesses from the state was a good thing. “If everyone in the middle class is leaving, that’s actually a good thing. We need these spots opened up for the new wave of immigrants to come up. It’s what we do,” Singam told Carlson. He also told Carlson that “This is California. We’re not the United States.”

At least that settles the question of whether Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.

An ethical, responsible, loyal American governor would recognize the danger inherent in allowing his state to see itself as separate from the rest of the country, and actively work to reverse that dangerous trend and attitude. That governor is not Jerry Brown. Continue reading

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Al Luplow And The Duty To Remember

 

A culture is defined by what it chooses to remember and what it chooses to forget. Ideally, a culture would remember everything, because knowing the past, as Santayana famously observed, was insurance against repeating its mistakes.  But time is a huge eraser, as Shelley told us:

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
This is why historians have such a crucial role to play in preserving our culture, by preserving stories, lives and memories along with the inspiration and wisdom they can provide.Sometimes a lost memory is rescued from neglect. Today we remember Colonel Joshua Chamberlain as one of the central heroes of the Battle of Gettysburg for his desperate stand with the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment at Little Round Top, culminating in his using his knowledge of military history (he was a college professor) to improvise the bayonet charge that held his position and turned defeat into victory. That was not the case for almost a century, however, until the historical novel “The Killer Angels” retold the story so vividly that Chamberlain’s entire career became the object of new scholarship and admiration. This was truth emerging, but it was also justice. Chamberlain deserved to be remembered.

Unfortunately, Chamberlain is an exception. Once a life, a deed, a remarkable moment is forgotten, it is usually gone. That is a tragedy for the culture. The duty to remember, which I have discussed here before, is the duty to protect the culture and its riches. It is also based on the Golden Rule. We all would like our lives to be remembered as long as possible, especially when we accomplished something that future generations could and would appreciate or benefit from recalling.

This brings us to Al Luplow.

Two nights ago, in an outrageously antic and entertaining game between the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox, Indians outfielder Austin Jackson robbed Hanley Ramirez of a home run by leaping in the air at the right centerfield bullpen fence reaching over it mid-air to catch the ball, and tumbling over it. He still held on to the ball—he could have easily broken his neck—and the home run became an out.

Although outfielders have fallen over that fence from time to time, notably in the 2013 play-offs…

Continue reading

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A White House Of Assholes?* This Post Has Everything: An Ethics Dunce, An Unethical Quote Of The Month, An Incompetent Elected Official And, Of Course, KABOOM!

I wouldn’t have thought that a Trump Administration employee’s unethical conduct could make my head explode. I thought I was safe. After all, my hopes may be too high, but my expectations are so low. But there are my brains, dripping off the ceiling.

President Trump has a ludicrous burning crisis of chaotic management, undisciplined leadership, incompetent subordinates and mass competition for the National Foot-Shooting Championship. I suggested that months ago that this could only be addressed by the President appointing an experienced political professional with proven management skills and leadership ability to whip the White House into shape. President Trump had a better solution to the burning crisis: throw the human gasoline named Anthony Scaramucci  on it!

Brilliant!

What an idiot.

Yes, the Incompetent Elected Official of this post is President Donald J. Trump.

But the rest is all Scaramucci, the new White House Communications Director with no experience or acumen in the field of communications and public relations. This was immediately evident from his first substantial communication with the news media,  a vulgar, unprofessioal, undignified, embrrassing and vicious phone interview with the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza unlike any interview by any White House figure ever.

Highlights, or rather points of signature significance, each showing that a) the man is an arrogant asshole and 2) President Trump possesses no judgment in his choices of staff whatsoever. Negative judgment.

1. He said, “I’m not [Trump advisor] Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock … I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.”

2. After Lizza asked Scaramucci about a private dinner that he had with President Trump,  Scaramucci boasted: “I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I’ll fire tomorrow. I’ll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus—if you want to leak something—he’ll be asked to resign very shortly.” Continue reading

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