Unethical Quote Of The Month: “A New Deal For Broadway”

“[N]ever assemble an all-white creative team on a production again, regardless of the subject matter of the show…”

——A provision in the “New Deal for Broadway,”  an agreement signed by Broadway “power-brokers” pledging to strengthen the industry’s diversity practices as theaters reopen following the nearly 18-month pandemic shutdown.

A New Deal for Broadway,” was developed by Black Theater United, one of several organizations established last year, the Times story tells us, “as an outgrowth of the anger Black theater artists felt over the police killings” of George Floyd in Minnesota and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. “Black Theater United’s founding members include some of the most celebrated performers working in the American theater, including Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, Wendell Pierce, Norm Lewis and LaChanze.”

The pledge was signed by the owners and operators of all 41 Broadway theaters as well as the Broadway League, the trade organization representing producers, and Actors’ Equity Association, which represents actors and stage managers.

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Comment Of The Day: “The Classical Music Critic Of The New York Times Thinks That Symphony Orchestras Should Choose Members According To Race, Gender, And ‘Other Factors’ That Have Nothing To Do With Music”

The Comment of the Day that follows by David Rohde is welcome for many reasons. First, he is a professional musician, and a skilled one. Second, he defends the author of piece I criticized vociferously (and will continue to). Third, I think this is an important issue. Fourth,, a new voice here is always welcome, and we haven’t been getting as many as I would like of late. Finally,, as required for COTD, it is well written and worthy of considerations and debate.

Not that I agree with it, but that has never been a criteria for Comment of the Day honors. Here’s David Rohde’s Comment of the Day. on the post,The Classical Music Critic Of The New York Times Thinks That Symphony Orchestras Should Choose Members According To Race, Gender, And “Other Factors” That Have Nothing To Do With Music.”(I’ll be back with my reaction at the end.)

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It may be that using blind auditions has elevated the performance level of symphony orchestras. Or it may be serious overkill in an era of a supply-demand imbalance for classical musical talent. But either way, simply rolling this issue into what I know is this blog’s current obsession with – in other words, against – identity issues misses a lot that’s going on here.

First of all, you have to admit that hiring people without knowing who they are in ANY field is kind of strange. In particular, you certainly wouldn’t use blind auditions to cast people in a show, now would you? I know I know, different genres, different requirements. Roles in theater are individual, while 30 or 40 violinists in a symphony orchestra are doing much the same thing.

But I would argue that live classical music IS showbiz, and the sooner that people in that field realize it, the better. If the product is just “the music,” and many people assert that the overall technical performance level is higher than ever, then why is classical music struggling at all?

Second, I think you have to remember what the main impetus of blind auditions was in the first place. While I’m oversimplifying, the essential problem was (or shortly became) the inability of women to secure places in symphony orchestras. A quick check on YouTube of recent orchestra performances now versus 30 or 40 years ago will demonstrate the resulting change. Part of Tommasini’s argument is not to let solutions to problems become so institutionalized that they run past their sell-by date while different problems fester.

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The Classical Music Critic Of The New York Times Thinks That Symphony Orchestras Should Choose Members According To Race, Gender, And “Other Factors” That Have Nothing To Do With Music

Just what we need: another area of society where progressives are clamoring for illegal discrimination.

Anthony Tommasini, the New York Times senior classical music critic, argues in an essay whose thesis would have been laughed out of the paper just a few years ago—you know, before the dawn of the Great Stupid—that…

“…ensembles must be able to take proactive steps to address the appalling racial imbalance that remains in their ranks. Blind auditions are no longer tenable….now more than ever, the spectacle of a lone Black musician on a huge, packed stage at Lincoln Center is unbearably depressing. Slow and steady change is no longer fast enough.”

Orchestras now have blind auditions, with those seeking employment playing behind a screen. In the epitome of results-based reasoning, Tommasini believes that auditions must allow unscreened auditions so “diversity” can be achieved, and ensembles “reflect the communities they serve.” In other words, quotas. In other words, hiring lesser musicians because they are the “right” color or gender. This, in an institution that has only one goal and aspiration: to play beautiful music as well as possible. The clear meaning of Tommasini’s conclusion is that it is more important that an ensemble be made up of the right kind of people than it be able to serve the function for which it was created. It is better to have a worse orchestra that ticks off the right EEOC boxes than to have one that sounds good.

Oddly, nobody has ever made this argument regarding, say, NBA basketball teams. Hop-hop music groups. Heart surgery teams. In fact, if I had to pick the perfect example of a field in which requiring racial and gender diversity is self-evidently bats, a symphony orchestra might be it.

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The Rest Of The Story, From The Ethics Alarms “What An Idiot!” Files: Mayor Lighfoot’s Justification For Her Racial Discrimination

That was Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s “defense” of her action yesterday announcing that she would only do interviews with black and other non-white colored reporters. Once again, I am tempted to leave this letter from Chicago Mayor Lightfoot free of any further commentary from me, since what makes it not just unethical but a stunning demonstration of so many other deficits on her part should be screamingly, stenchingly, head-explodingly obvious. Maybe I should, in my respect for readers here who I assume can recognize the trail of a toxic dolt when they see one, just let what is res ipsa loquitur “speak for itself.” I feel like the Duke, trying to stay calm when provoked in “McClintock!” and reaching the same moment of surrender:

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Ethics Hero: Chicago Tribune Reporter Gregory Pratt

Gregg Pratt

This was a pleasant surprise. Right before taking Spuds out for his afternoon jaunt, I read the jaw-dropping story that Chicago’s Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot had announced via a spokewoman that she would now grant interviews only to “journalists of color.” This was such flagrant bias and racism by Lightfoot that journalists were reluctant to believe it. But it was and is true.

As I strolled with my over-enthusiastic dog, trying to keep him from leaping to greet strangers, eating cicadas and pulling me over in his joy in being alive, I mused, “Now, if Hispanic and black reporters have any integrity at all—which is in question, since journalists in general lack integrity today—they will reject Lightfoot’s blatant discrimination, and make it clear that she will either grant interviews irrespective of race and ethnicity, or Chicago’s reporters will not interview her or anyone speaking for her at all.”

All news organizations, local and national, also have an ethical obligation to emphatically condemn Lightfoot’s divisive and un-American policy. I also wondered, as I tried to stop Spuds from rolling in the grass like Teri Garr rolling in the hay in “Young Frankenstein” (“Roll, roll, roll…”), how did the United States end up with so many unethical, incompetent mayors? New York City, Portland, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta—it’s like a horror movie.”

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The Democratic Party Has Announced That Discrimination Against Asian-Americans Can Be Justified

It can’t.

This was a significant and revealing vote in the Senate last week in many ways.

Senate Democrats united to vote down an amendment from Senate Republicans designed to bar “Federal funding for any institution of higher education that discriminates against Asian Americans in recruitment, applicant review, or admissions.” The addition was proposed for the grandstanding Senate legislation called the “COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act” that would require “expedited review of hate crimes” by the Department of Justice with “online reporting of hate crimes or incidents” and “expand public education campaigns aimed at raising awareness of hate crimes and reaching victims.”

This unnecessary legislation, sponsored by Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono, passed the Senate 94-1, because nobody is against “hate crimes.” Yet oddly, the Democratic Party, at least in the Senate, appears to be in favor of discrimination against Asian Americans. Why is that? The Yea-Nay vote was 49 – 48, with no Republican voting against the amendment, and not a single Democrat voting for it.

“We have major universities in this country that are discriminating in admissions against Asian-Americans,” Louisiana Republican Senator John Kennedy (R-La) said. “Discrimination is discrimination…This is wrong, it is contemptible, it is odious.” Yes, yes it is. But the current ideology of the political Left now holds that discrimination against whites is good discrimination (they have it coming, after all, the racist bastards!) and discrimination against Asian-Americans is necessary discrimination. The argument is vile, and indefensible in law or ethics, which is why, so far at least, the mainstream news media is burying the story and the vote. The passage of the pandemic hate crimes act is being trumpeted everywhere, perhaps because the news media is complicit in the wildly inflated public belief in the extent of the problem it addresses, but the Democratic rejection of S.Amdt. 1456 is barely mentioned at all. Regarding this, I will repeat the same rhetorical question I asked once already here: “Why is that?”

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Morning Ethics Warm-up, 4/9/21: You Know, Caring About Ethics Is Not A Psychologically Healthy Place To Be Right Now…

1. I can’t mount the intestinal fortitude to even visit Facebook lately. I’m afraid I’ll snap and write something like, “You people are all such hypocritical assholes, at least 90% of you! For four years, you barfed out post after post mocking the President of the United States, attracting boats of “likes” and “loves” for every misspelled word, every exaggeration, every off-the-cuff dumb remark, and when the mentally-failing President you elected completely blows all trust and credibility in less that three months with material lie after lie, deliberate racially inflammatory statements, and outright stupidity “on steroids,” as he would say, your response is ‘Yeah, but what about Trump?’ You’re all a disgrace to your nation, your society, your various institutions of higher education, and basic principles of logic. To hell with you.”

This week, making a case for a fake infrastructure repair bill that appears to be just another pork-laden giveaway to favored Democratic constituencies, Biden said, among other things, “We’re going to talk about commercial aircraft flying at subsonic speeds, supersonic speeds, be able to figuratively, if you may, if we decide to do it, be able to traverse the world in an hour, travel at 21,000 miles an hour…Imagine a world where you and your family can travel coast to coast without a single tank of gas or in a high-speed train, close to as fast as you can go across the country in a plane!”

The speed of 21,000 miles an hour is about Mach 28, or 28 times the speed of sound. The fastest commercial airplane flies at less than Mach 1. Remember the Concorde? A single fatal accident at that plane’s high speed was enough to kill its commercial use. All it would take is one crash of Biden’s miracle plane, where every soul on board was vaporized, and no one would buy another ticket. Think Hindenburg.

As for Joe’s magic train, it’s ridiculous. The Central Japan Railway Company is testing a train that can go a top speed of 374 miles per hour. The “bullet trains” in Japan operate at about 200 miles per hour. France has a train that has hit a top speed of 357 miles per hour. Biden’s train would go across the continental U.S. at an average speed that is 47 percent faster than the top speed of the fastest prototype trains that exist today—if there were no curves. But, of course, there would be As the New Yorker explained eight years ago:

To cope with centrifugal force, train tracks tilt on curves; the problem is that the train can only tilt so much before either it or the passengers inside tip over, so the curve must get larger and more gradual to safely carry a super-fast train. “Tracks rated for fifty miles per hour need almost no banking and can have a curve radius of fifteen hundred feet, while a train traveling at a hundred and twenty miles per hour needs a track with significant banking, and a minimum curve radius of more than a mile and a half.” A train track designed for a train going 550 miles per hour would have to have an absolutely gargantuan curve radius. Our current system and routes of train tracks would be completely unsafe for a train moving at that speed; it would fly off the tracks at the first curve.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up I Expected Not To Get Posted In The Morning, 3/26/2021: “Ouch!” Edition

Dentist

Therein lies a tale

I arrived at the appointed time for my triple tooth extraction to be told that I would be required to pay the entire cost of my surgery on the spot, and the amount was a cool $4000. This, despite the fact that I had been told (by the doctor) that I could wait before deciding on the various treatment options, and having not received clear (to me, at least) information that the office took no general medical coverage at all, just dental insurance, and my dental insurance was not among the blessed. (Raising the related issue of why my dentist would refer me to an oral surgeon who did not accept the insurance that the dentist did, without alerting me in advance. “We tried to call you,” the snotty desk staff said. Really? I had no messages on my home or office lines. “We only call our patients on their cell phones,” I was told. Then why do you ask for the other numbers? If you have essential information to convey, and you can’t reach a patient by cell, why wouldn’t you try the other contact options? Where on the form does it say that the only number you will use is the cell phone? I only included the cell number because it was asked for: I use cell phones when traveling, period, and during the lockdown it is usually uncharged. If I am going to be expected to hand over 4 grand on the spot, I need to be told, and the information I provided gave an easy means to tell me. What I suspect is that the 20-somethings behind the desk, living on their smart phones themselves, would never dream that anyone wouldn’t do the same. It wasn’t a policy, it was an unwarranted and incompetent assumption.

I informed the staff that its conduct was unethical and unprofessional, and that its attitude was arrogant and obnoxious. Then I walked out. I don’t care if the next oral surgeon costs as much or more: I don’t trust people who treat me like this. Screw ’em.

1. It’s a banner day in the history of “the ends justifies the means” medical ethics! On this date in 1953, American medical researcher Dr. Jonas Salk announced on national radio that he had successfully tested a vaccine against poliomyelitis, the virus that causes polio. Salk had conducted the first human trials of his vaccine on former polio patients, on himself, and his family. The general consensus among ethicists is that self-experimentation is ethical: as one scholarly paper put it, “Organizational uncertainty over the ethical and regulatory status of self-experimentation, and resulting fear of consequences is unjustified and may be blocking a route to human experiments that practicing scientists widely consider appropriate, and which historical precedent has shown is valuable.” But using one’s family as guinea pigs? Unethical, absolutely. The researcher, in this case Salk, has undue influence over such subjects, and consent cannot be said to be voluntary.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: Snap Out Of It!

This morning, instead of the usual grainy 1930’s movies TCM usually shows before noon, it was featuring “Casablanca” for some reason. It’s a good thing, because the recent news had me heading for the bridge. As usual, the legendary singing duel at Ric’s between the Nazis and the French put me in a defiant mood, so I decided it was a good time to bring back the incredible Mirielle Mathiue and one of her signature performances of “La Marseillaise.” I’m a big fan of “The Star Spangled Banner,” but as inspiring national anthems go, this is the gold standard.

Now I feel better, and will at least until I finish this post.

1. You want racial conflict? This is how you get racial conflict. One benefit of the warm-up format is that I can write as little as possible about things that would make me up-chuck if I had to compose full posts about them. Following on the “systemic racism” myth, Oakland, California is launching a guaranteed income experiment called Oakland Resilient Families. 600 families in the city will receive $500-a-month payments over the next 18 months “to eliminate racial wealth inequalities.” Oakland’s guaranteed income program is only for low-income black, indigenous, and people of color, or BIPOC, families.

Whites cannot apply. If Oakland’s whites are poor, they have no excuses. They are just lazy, useless losers, I guess.

Families must apply online in the coming weeks and months in order to enter a pool of potential recipients, from which eligible families will be randomly selected to receive the cash payments.

I don’t have to explain what’s unethical about this, do I? Or what’s stupid about it? Or irresponsible?

In related news, a Kentucky mother is in custody on murder charges after her 2-year-old son overdosed on fentanyl while she slept. She had bought the drug with her stimulus money.

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Coke Commands Its Lawyers To Discriminate: Can’t Do That, And The Law Firms Should Refuse (But I Bet They Won’t)

Coke Coercion

This is a major development with narrow implications in the field of legal ethics, but potentially wide-ranging importance in the society as a whole.

We are just now learning—after all, you wouldn’t expect the news media to report this kind of sinister, reverse-racism bullying, would you?—that the general counsel of Coca Cola issued an open letter to the law firms representing it. [Full disclosure: I have taught legal ethics seminars for one of them] The letter decreed that these firms “commit that at least 30% of each of billed associate and partner time will be from diverse attorneys, and of such amounts at least half will be from Black attorneys.” You can read the letter here. Here are the edicts:

Coke demands

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