“What Is Wrong Is That We Do Not Ask What Is Right.”

Guest post by E2

[Introduction: G. K. Chesterton (1874–1936) is one of the greatest of all English language writers and thinker, as well as one of the most entertaining. He wrote about literary and visual art, history, religion, politics, economics, science, and ethics, and if this is his first appearance on Ethics Alarms as I suspect, I am awash with shame. E2, in this guest post, does us all a great service by presenting this example of his thinking regarding the ethical problem of deciding how to construct better cultures and societies. The title is taken from the conclusion of the Chesterton quote offered—JM]

I have known about G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) for a long time, as a brilliant British philosopher and social critic (and the author of the witty and wry and silly “Father Brown” stories – though obviously not of the TV version), but I never bothered to actually read him. I admit that it was only recent chance and a cheap Kindle book that finally allowed me to do so.

The first chapter of his 1910 book “What’s Wrong With The World” was a ‘bright-light’ experience for me. Though hopelessly outdated in some 21st century factual respects, it is interesting because Chesterton takes the time to examine the thought process and how it affects the outcomes of different kinds of thinking, reminiscent of the “observer effect.” (Though he was, in 1910, much more trusting of science and medicine than we are now, e.g., and did not address 21st century thought process issues like the scientists’ dilemma about doing something simply because they can, without considering if they should.)

Herewith a short sample of G.K. Chesterton’s “What’s Wrong With The World,” now in the public domain in the US and considered to be one of his more interesting works. (So why did I pay anything at all for the book when I could have downloaded it for free? Because I wouldn’t have thought that day to google him or it and so have had this happy accident.) If you check the internet today you will find articles as recent as Christmas Eve 2021 about GKC and Santa Claus… Final note: succeeding chapters are just as fun.

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Ethics Alarms Encore: “Christmas Music Blues”

[The previous post reminded me of this one, from 2015. Here it is again, slightly updated and edited. It’s as accurate now as it was then, unfortunately.]

At the rate things are going, I am certain that before long no pop vocal interpretations of traditional Christmas music will be easily accessible on the radio. This is a cultural loss—it’s a large body of beautiful and evocative music—and someone should have, one would think, the obligation of preventing it. But I have no idea who.

I realized this when I felt myself getting nostalgic and sad as I listened to a series of “Christmas classics.” For one thing, they all reminded me of my parents, whose absence beginning in 2011 permanently kicked my enjoyment of the season in the groin. For another, all the artists were dead. Bing: dead. Frank: dead. Elvis: probably dead. Andy Williams, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Judy Garland, Burl Ives, Gene Autry, The Andrews Sisters, Perry Como, Elvis, Karen Carpenter, John Denver–dead. Long dead, in most cases. Christmas has become a serenade of dead artists. Except for the narrow range of country music stars for those who enjoy “O Holy Night” with a twang, living pop artists don’t sing these songs. OK, Mariah Carey, Josh Groban and Michael Bublé. Not many others. A few years ago, Sirius-XM was so desperate to find living artists that it was playing the Seth McFarland Christmas album. Seth can sing, but I’m sorry, but it’s hard to enjoy “Silent Night” while picturing “The Family Guy.”

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Ethics Quiz: The “Expose Your Kids To LGBTQ Kinkiness” Op-Ed

kink

The Washington Post, where “democracy dies in darkness” most days, published a fascinating op-ed a week ago called “Yes, kink belongs at Pride. And I want my kids to see it.” The author, Lauren Rowello, is a former prostitute and self-identifies as “gendervague.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) She brought her pre-teen children, including a toddler, to a Philadelphia Pride parade and had them march in it along with her and her trans wife. [Ethics Foul! Her children were too young to meaningfully consent to being used as props this way, which is what Rowello was doing.] She tells us,

When our children grew tired of marching, we plopped onto a nearby curb. Just as we got settled, our elementary-schooler pointed in the direction of oncoming floats, raising an eyebrow at a bare-chested man in dark sunglasses whose black suspenders clipped into a leather thong. The man paused to be spanked playfully by a partner with a flog. “What are they doing?” my curious kid asked as our toddler cheered them on. The pair was the first of a few dozen kinksters who danced down the street, laughing together as they twirled their whips and batons, some leading companions by leashes. At the time, my children were too young to understand the nuance of the situation, but I told them the truth: That these folks were members of our community celebrating who they are and what they like to do.”

“Kink embodies the freedom that Pride stands for,” Rowello proselytizes, “reminding attendees to unapologetically take up space as an act of resistance and celebration — refusing to bend to social pressure that asks us to be presentable.”

But society, and community ethics, ask us all to be “presentable.” Public displays of kinkiness show disrespect for everyone watching and basic manners. What ‘resistance” is there in a gay pride parade today, unless it’s the demonstration of the unethical principle, “Since you don’t respect us, we won’t respect you”? Rowello is teaching her children that complete social chaos and deliberate defiance of social norms is not just tolerable but desirable. Hippies in the lamentable Sixties called this ” letting it all hang” out, which sometimes they did literally. I thought most cognizant Americans figured out the flaw in that approach. Guess not.

Here’s Rowello’s justification for exposing her children to adult sexual fetishes:

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Baseball Has A Cheating Problem That Is Old, Was Supposedly Addressed Decades Ago, And Is Strangling The Game. It Is Relevant To More Than Baseball (Part 1: Introduction)

Baseball sticky

Since about four other readers pay any attention to my baseball ethics posts, let me say right up front why this a mistake. Baseball’s current pitchers using foreign substances on the ball problem is, ethically, exactly the same as our nation’s election cheating scandal, or the illegal immigration crisis. It arises from the same dead-headed rationalizations, intellectual laziness, and self-serving deception. We can and should learn from it. But we won’t.

If you want to ignore the latest baseball ethics scandal as a niche problem unrelated to greater ethics principles, be my guest. You will be missing an important and still developing lesson.

Baseball’s hitting is way down this year, and pitching is more dominant than it has been since the mid-1960s. There is a reason: almost every pitcher is using some kind of sticky substance on the ball. This increases “spin rate,” which before computers and other technology was impossible to see, much less measure. The faster a pitcher can make a ball spin, the more it moves, curves and dives at higher speeds. Sticky substances allow a pitcher to do that. Using them is against the rules; it’s cheating. But for years now, the same kind of ethics-addled fools who allowed Barry Bonds and other cheats to use illegal steroids and wreck the game’s home run records as long as they lied about it have let pitchers illegally doctor the ball.

This week, the whole, completely avoidable ethics train wreck became an engine of destruction for the National Pastime.

Unfortunately, one has to understand the context to comprehend what is going on now, and that means looking backwards, in this case, to 2014. Here, with some edits, are two Ethics Alarms essays that provide the context. The first was titled “The Abysmal Quality of Ethical Reasoning in Baseball: A Depressing Case Study.” The second, Pineda-Pine Tar, Part II: Baseball Clarifies Its Bizarro Ethics Culture, appeared 13 days later. Yes, what is happening now was foretold by conditions that were evident seven years ago. The remaining parts of this series will bring you, and the train wreck, up to date.

***

What happened was this: During last night’s Red Sox-Yankee game in Yankee Stadium, the Boston broadcasting team of Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy noticed a glossy brown substance on New York starting pitcher Michael Pineda’s pitching hand. It was very obvious, especially once the NESN cameras started zooming in on it.   “There’s that substance, that absolutely looks like pine tar,” play-by-play man Don Orsillo said. “Yeah, that’s not legal,” color commentator and former player Jerry Remy replied.

Indeed it isn’t.  According to rule 8.02(a)(2), (4) and (5), the pitcher shall not expectorate on the ball, either hand or his glove; apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball; [or]  deface the ball in any manner.

The Red Sox, who probably knew about the gunk on Pineda’s hand, didn’t complain to the umpires, and just went about their merry way, losing the game. Asked about the stuff on his hand, Pineda demonstrated the full range of body language indicating that he was lying his head off. “It was dirt,’ he said. Later, when the ick appeared to be gone,  Pineda explained, he had just sweated his hand clean. Right. Whatever was on his hand—beef gravy, crankcase oil, chocolate syrup…the majority of pundits think pine tar—it wasn’t “dirt.” Pineda’s manager, Joe Girardi, was brazenly evasive.

The Yankee pitcher was cheating. This isn’t a major scandal, but cheating is cheating: sports shouldn’t allow cheating of any kind, because if a sport allows some cheating, however minor, it will encourage cynical, unscrupulous and unethical individuals on the field, in the stands, and behind keyboard to excuse all other forms of cheating, from corked bats to performance enhancing drugs. Cheating is wrong. Cheating unfairly warps the results of games, and rewards dishonesty rather than skill. Cheating undermines the enjoyment of any game among serious fans who devote energy and passion to it. Any cheating is a form of rigging, a variety of lying.

And yet, this clear instance of cheating, caught on video, primarily sparked the sports commentariat, including most fans, to cite one rationalization and logical fallacy after another to justify doing nothing, and not just doing nothing, but accepting the form of cheating as “part of the game.” I’ve been reading columns and listening to the MLB channel on Sirius-XM and watch the MLB channel on Direct TV since this episode occurred. Here are the reactions:

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HBO Max Adds A Disclaimer For Morons Onto “Blazing Saddles”

You know: morons.

HBO Max thinks people are so stupid and shallow that they must have  “Blazing Saddles” explained to them, lest someone—one will do–think it’s intended to advance “systemic racism” rather than to ridicule it. I do not believe in hating people, but it takes every bit of principle and energy I can muster not to hate both the political correctness dictators who  believe in “trigger warnings,” and the hoards of dim bulbs and sheep-human hybrids who appreciate them. I’m still looking for the complete text of the introduction HBO Max has slapped on Mel Brooks’ masterpiece, but I know enough.

It is intoned  by University of Chicago professor of cinema studies and TCM host Jacqueline Stewart, who also delivered the disclaimer added to “Gone with the Wind.” I like Stewart, who is smart and knowledgeable, but I would have liked her better if she refused to participate in this insulting exercise.

“This movie is an overt and audacious spoof on classic Westerns,'” Stewart says. This, writes Kyle Smith in the New York Post, is to “set things up for anyone who might be clicking on the Mel Brooks comedy thinking they’re in for Swedish drama about the lingonberry harvest.” “It’s as provocative today as it was when it premiered back in 1974,” she says. No, tragically, it is more provocative. Thanks to the racial politics of censorship and ruthless power-seeking that has metastasized on the Left in the George Floyd Freakout, professors are losing their jobs and being “cancelled” for mentioning the word that Blazing Saddles uses repeatedly as a punchline. Any professor who analyzed the use of racist language in “Blazing Saddles” would risk being called a racist by the student body. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/13/2020: Kamala Harris Selection Hangover Edition [UPDATED]

Hi!

In the 1945 drama “The Lost Weekend,” Ray Milland (above) played alcoholic Don Birnam, and won  the Oscar for Best Actor. The film also won the Oscar for Best Picture. Have you ever seen it? The film is virtually never shown on TV. Milland is another one of the once major Hollywood stars who are almost completely forgotten today, a fascinating group that includes Claire Trevor, Fredric March, Irene Dunne, John Garfield, and Norma Shearer, among others. If their major works were in black and white, they weren’t lucky enough to star in a film regarded as a classic, and they didn’t have a popular TV show when their movie career waned, the culture just forgets about them….and loses as a result. How many non-film nerd Americans under the age of 40 could recognize any of those actors, never mind all of them?

1. Nothing to see here: move along! Yesterday it was reported that the Democratic Party purchased the Antifa.com domain, and that clicks on the link went directly to the Biden campaign site. I checked: it did. Then, by 5:30 pm, the Biden redirect was eliminated. Res ipsa loquitur!

UPDATE: I’m putting an official question mark on this one. It is true that the Antifa.com went to Biden’s site, but that could have been a partisan dirty trick.  Of course, if true, this is the kind of story that the mainstream media would bury. If it was a set-up, it’s the kind of story the right-leaning media would credulously report as proof of Democratic de facto embrace of violence.

Trustworthy, objective journalists would be nice…

2. The vise tightens...Yesterday I noted that colleges and universities were increasingly cancelling their acceptances of students based on revelations of their past social media posts. In one case, Liberty Woodley, 17, the 2020 valedictorian of her high school class in Cape Coral, Florida., had accepted an offer to attend the University of Florida. Then a self-righteous and vicious  actress and “influencer” named Skai Jackson last month asked her more than 500,000 Twitter followers to send her screenshots of  “hateful” social media posts, so she could wrck lives and inflict pain on strangers. Someone sent in one of Woodley’s old Instagram posts in which she wrote when she was 16.

“I really try so hard not to be a racist person, but I most definitely am, there’s no denying it,” it said. Based on that, her acceptance was revoked.

 In an interview with The Gainesville Sun,  Liberty explained that had written the post out of anger at a time when she was being constantly bullied by some black classmates. “I am not racist at all, and I am not full of hate,” she said.  Well, there’s a Catch-22 for you! Oprah Winfrey and others are haranguing whites to admit their inherent racism as a first step to addressing “systemic racism,” but if they do what is asked, it means they are hateful and must be cancelled.

What do you want to bet that Liberty will vote for all Democrats in November? Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/1/2020: I See Bad People And Penis-Talkers

1. This may not be the most trustworthy advocate for the President’s favorite Wuhan virus medicine…President  Trump’s supporters among the punditry and conservative bloggers briefly celebrated the endorsement of  hydroxychloroquine, despite recent studies questioning its effectiveness and safety, by Dr. Stella Immanuel. Support for her was redoubled after her posts were taken down by both Facebook and Twitter as “misinformation.” That’s censorship, of course, and arguably partisan.  Immanuel has an opinion. However, her response to the censoring of her posts does not enhance her credibility. She tweeted,

2.  I see…he shouldn’t be honored because he was white, right? I have reached the point where I have to conclude that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez just isn’t very bright, and those who support her passionate—but stupid!—pronouncements have a similar basic competence problem. Take this example: AOC complained in a video,

Even when we select figures to tell the stories of colonized places, it is the colonizers and settlers whose stories are told — and virtually no one else. Check out Hawaii’s statue. It’s not Queen Lili’uokalani of Hawaii, the only Queen Regnant of Hawaii, who is immortalized and whose story is told. It is Father Damien. This isn’t to litigate each and every individual statue, but to point out the patterns that have emerged among the totality of them in who we are taught to deify in our nation’s Capitol: virtually all men, all white, and mostly both. This is what patriarchy and white supremacist culture looks like! It’s not radical or crazy to understand the influence white supremacist culture has historically had in our overall culture & how it impacts the present day.

I’ll have to do a full post on the entire “white supremacy” canard, which is basically linguistic game-playing. Culture, everywhere, is primarily determined by the majority.  In a majority white population, white people, their habits, preferences, interests and values, have the strongest effect on the culture. Because there are more of the majority than other groups, they also will tend to have the greatest visibility and participation in that area’s history. Framing this rather obvious and universal situation as something sinister is silly as an argument, and evidence of impaired critical thinking skills if one is persuaded by it. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Unethical Quote Of The Month: Joe Biden”

I bet Michael, when he submitted this Comment of the Day, had a feeling I’d groove on it. After all, it’s about a President, I’m a Presidents nut,  and he ends up agreeing with me, which is always welcome.

He also raises and interesting question that was not considered in the post. If we judged Presidents on a racism scale that weighted their attitudes according to how they compared to the culture and predominant beliefs of the day, which Presidents would come out looking best? That’s how baseball stat analysts judge players across eras, and it makes sense: players are compared to league averages while they were playing, and then the stats are adjusted accordingly.  For example, Carl Yastrzemski’s .301 average in 1968 was more impressive, and represented better hitting  in his offensive context, than Lou Gehrig’s .354 mark in 1936, when ten players hit at least .350.

Analyzed that way, Woodrow Wilson comes out as the most racist President, more than the slaveholders. Jefferson, despite being a slaveholder, looks relatively good in the context of his times. So, I think, does Teddy Roosevelt, unapologetic white supremacist that he undoubtedly was.

Here’s Michael’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Unethical Quote Of The Month: Joe Biden”: Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “KABOOM! Anti-White Stereotyping At The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture”

This is a historic moment for Ethics Alarms. Glenn Logan has scored three (3) Comments of the Day in a row, and has a fourth that will not be consecutive idling on the runway.  Today is is particularly well-timed, as it prepares us for the horrors to come today on this space. Be warned.

The “plaint above” that he refers to at the outset is this, Glenn’s earlier COTD on the same post.

Here is the follow-up to that comment, and Glenn Logan’s Comment of the Day on the post, “KABOOM! Anti-White Stereotyping At The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture”:

You know, after I wrote the plaint above, I forgot once again to consider the ethics of this matter. As this is an ethics blog and not a political site or repository for polemics against … whatever insult heaped upon our collective sensibilities today (and cranial detonations are certainly polemic-worthy), I guess I need to offer whatever my meager brain can conjure regarding the subject matter of Jack’s home on the Internet.

I wonder what ethical principle allows non-whites to hold the descendants of this country’s founders in contempt for the practices, language, and culture they adopted and adapted for their own? I know the New York Times wants to argue that black people founded and built this country under the whips of white masters, but the objective, historical truth is far different from their bizarre, revisionist perspective.

When did it become the ethical duty of white people to learn other languages, change their culture to fit the sensibilities of minority immigrants and former slaves, reject the founding principles of the country founded by majority white Anglo-Saxon descendants? Is this true of just the USA, or are all former slave-holding countries bound to do this? Or does this apply only to majority white countries. What guiding ethical principle provides for this self-immolation? Continue reading

Tuesday Ethics, 6/2/2020: Stunts, Looting, Bad Great Movies, And “Understanding.”

Happy?

What the hell’s the matter with you?

1. On the President’s stunt visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church. I refuse to second-guess the President’s decision to walk across the street to  St. John’s Episcopal Church in D.C. to make an anti-riot statement, Bible in hand, since I do not believe it matters what he does right now. He will be criticized for it, and I refuse to participate in the gratuitous and destructive effort to make it impossible for him to lead and govern.

The immediate focus was on the fact that his way though Lafayette Park was cleared by police using rubber bullets and tear gas. The President was defying the protesters, and whether it was wise to do so, it was also his right to do so. If the President believes posing outside a riot damaged church is to the nation’s benefit, and that he should walk through protesters to do it, then he gets to make that call. If protesters are in the way or threatening his safety, they have to move. If they won’t move voluntarily, then some degree of force has to be used.

The news media has avoided mentioning it, but the protest was illegal: demonstrations in Lafayette Park require permits, and this mob had none. Moreover, the description of the group as “peaceful protesters” by the news media has to be viewed with skepticism. The past week has shown that “peaceful protesters” suddenly become violent rioters without warning, and even when they do, the news media is still likely to call them “peaceful.”

Other complaints about the episode involved the President’s use of the Bible. Yup, he used it as a prop! That doesn’t offend me particularly, since the Bible is used as a prop so often that I regard that as one of its major cultural functions. Presidents, in particular, have used it as a prop; I would argue that when they are sworn into office using the Bible, it’s a prop. I particularly remember Bill Clinton holding a Bible in photo ops when he was supposedly undergoing “spiritual instruction” during Monica Madness. Trump’s Bible was standard Presidential PR. but this President isn’t allowed to use the same tools available to his predecessors.

2. If you wonder why police appear to have no idea what to do about looters, wonder no more. Read this incomprehensible print version of humming from the Police website, circa 2005. Continue reading