Monday Morning Warm-Up, 5/4/2020: Six Reasons To Be Cynical [Corrected]

“May The Forthe be with you!”

As Daffy Duck would thay…

1. Following a familiar unethical pattern...Eva Murry’s allegation about Joe Biden making a remark about her breasts at a political even when  she was 14 seems to have been decisively debunked. Biden’s schedule shows he didn’t attend the event, and the chair at the time confirms he wasn’t there.

What would possess someone like Murry to be so vocal and self-righteous about something that didn’t happen? As with the Kavanaugh mess, subsequent fake stories undermine the main one. Even though they have nothing to do with each other, Murry’s fiction, if Biden really didn’t attend the event, increases cynicism about Tara Reade’s account.

2. What a surprise…Harvard’s dedication to feminism stops at the bank vault. Harvard, while it was violating the constitutional rights of male students by punishing them if they belonged to men-only clubs off-campus, was also giving aid and comfort to convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. The regime of first female Harvard President Drew Faust was full of dubious and virtue-signaling measures to ensure the esteemed university was sufficiently woke, including discriminating against one ethnic group (Asian-Americans) to elevate another ethnic group (African-Americans). Yet when it came to its attitude toward an infamous sexual predator, what mattered to Faust and Friends was, you guessed it, money.

Epstein, who was provided his own office at the school following his 2008 sweetheart plea deal that incredibly allowed him a quick release from prison to continue his <cough!> hobby, visited the campus more than 40 times between 2010 and 2018 often accompanied by young women who acted as his assistants, according to a report on the Harvard-Epstein alliance released last week. Apparently Epstein’s primary value to Harvard was connecting academics and scholars with financiers, VIPs and other sources of contributions, including Wall Street wheeler-dealer Leon Black, the founder and chief executive officer of Apollo Global Management Inc., one of the world’s largest private equity funds. Epstein also provided access to his pal Bill Clinton and retail billionaire Leslie Wexner. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/8/2020: “Procrastinating To Delay Writing About Another Debate” Edition [CORRECTED]

Good morning.

Way, way too much ethics-related politics this past week. I keep getting complaints about all the political content, and it annoys me too, but I don’t know what kind of alternatives I have. Back in the sane days, the idea of a House Speaker planning on tearing up the official copy of the State of the Union speech would have been the stuff of Saturday Night Live…when SNL would make fun of Democrats, anyway. I’m trying to keep the politics to a minimum. I swear.

1.  The Astros cheating scandal, cont. Would you wonder about this answer? A.J. Hinch, the ex-Houston Astros manager who was fired and suspended by Major League Baseball for allowing an illegal sign-stealing scheme to be used by his players for the entire 2017 World Champion Astros season, finally sat down for an interview.   When he was asked whether Houston players had utilized buzzers in their uniforms to receive signsduring the 2019 season as some have claimed based on inconclusive evidence and rumors, Hinch only would answer, “The Commissioner’s Office did as thorough of an investigation as anyone could imagine was possible.”

Why not “No”? That was what reporters term a “non-denial denial.”

2. If they advised her to run her sick child through the washing machine and he drowned,  would that be their fault too? The death of a four-year-old boy named Najee is being blamed on an anti-vaxx Facebook group.

The boy had been diagnosed with the flu and the doctor had  prescribed Tamiflu. His mother sought advice from the Facebook group “Stop Mandatory Vaccination” on how to treat her son’s’ illness. The members told her to give the boy vitamins, botanicals, zinc, fruits and vegetables, and to skip the medicine.

“Ok perfect I’ll try that,” she responded. Later that night, Najee had a seizure and died. Continue reading

After School Ethics Special, 1/6/2020: Stupidity On Parade

 

“Help?”

A grateful pointer to Althouse for finding this photo, which raises automatic ethics questions. I am viscerally opposed to putting sweater, clothes and costumes on dogs, in part because all of our dogs have hated it, and one, our feisty Jack Russell Dickens, would twist himself like a contortionist to get out of any garb, whereupon he would rip it to shreds. Several of her commenters make a great point, however: it is unethical to force dogs bred for warm and dry climates to live in wet, cold ones. I have dog-lover friends who insist that dogs are humiliated by being dressed up, like Ralphie in his bunny pajamas. That, I think, is a stretch.

1. Don’t blame Disney. Emerson Elementary School in Berkeley, California decided to raise money for the PTA by selling tickets to a screening of  The Lion King. CNN explains,

“One of the dads bought the movie at Best Buy,” PTA president David Rose told CNN. “He owned it. We literally had no idea we were breaking any rules.” While the school doesn’t know how exactly the company discovered the movie was played, Rose said the school’s PTA will “somewhat begrudgingly” cover the cost of the screening. An email sent to the school by Movie Licensing USA informed Emerson faculty that the company had “received an alert” that “The Lion King” was screened during an event on November 15. Movie Licensing USA manages licensing for Disney and other major studios. And since the school does not have a license with the company, it’s been asked to pay $250 for the screening — and $250 per showing of the movie at any future events at the school.”

What? “Somewhat grudgingly”? They had “no idea” charging for tickets to see copyrighted material broke any rules? Those rules are well-displayed on any DVD, and any duty of reasonable intelligence should be able to figure out what’s illegal about doing what they did. There weren’t any lawyers among the organizers and attendees?

In its story about this episode, Boing Boing, an entertaining site with an annoyingly “woke” staff, implies that Disney is being an greedy old meanie, and that the PTA was an innocent victim of another evil corporation.  Wrong, and stupid. If companies don’t protect their copyrights and trademarks, they can lose them. Disney has been overzealous in this area, but not on this occasion.

2. KABOOM! Chris Matthews suggested yesterday that the Democrats should consider nominating Adam Schiff for President. Continue reading

Ethics Catch-Up 11/14/2009: Better Late Than Never

Good morning!

Good Afternoon!

Good Night!

I started this post at about 10 am, and again, and again, and each time another post topic intervened, pushing the daily Warm-Up from the beginning of the day to the end of it…

1. Yet another shield becomes a sword…Add caller ID to the list of useful developments ruined by unscrupulous technology. I was recently tricked by what my phone said was a call by the Social Security Administration, and it included a phone number that I had recently received a legitimate call from, via an agent. This call was a scam. Investigating, I found that there are inexpensive apps available at the Android and Apple app stores with no limitations on who can purchase them that have few if any legal of legitimate purpose. SpoofCard, TraceBust, Fake Call Plus and more  allow a caller to enter any ID they choose, and any number. They also offer menus of background sounds, various voice pitches and other features to facilitate fraud.

When ethics fail, the law must step in, and these apps should be illegal.

2. Mona Lisa Ethics. “Leonardo’s painting is a security hazard, an educational obstacle and not even a satisfying bucket-list item. It’s time the Louvre moved it out of the way” shouted a New York Times sub-headline.” It’s hard to argue with the article’s conclusion….or its author’s contempt.  Here’s a photo of the typical crowd in the Louvre’s room where the Va Vinci painting is exhibited:

The Times observes…

Content in the 20th century to be merely famous, she has become, in this age of mass tourism and digital narcissism, a black hole of anti-art who has turned the museum inside out…Relocated to the Richelieu painting wing, the Mona Lisa reduced the museum’s Flemish collection into wallpaper for a cattle pen, where guards shooed along irritated, sweaty selfie-snappers who’d endured a half-hour line. The overcrowding was so bad, the museum had to shut its doors on several days. “The Louvre is suffocating,” said a statement from the union of the museum’s security staff, who went on strike…[The author] went up with the crowds recently. Things were no better. Now, you must line up in a hideous, T.S.A.-style snake of retractable barriers that ends about 12 feet from the Leonardo — which, for a painting that’s just two and a half feet tall, is too far for looking… visitors…could hardly see the thing, and we were shunted off in less than a minute. …Pathetic new signs [read]: “The Mona Lisa is surrounded by other masterpieces — take a look around the room.”

Morons. These are the fruits of celebrity culture and the spread of the sick addiction to self-celebration. Taking selfies of an art masterpiece only has the objective of proving an idiot was there, for other idiots who are impressed. Meanwhile, those who might really appreciate the painting are  prevented from doing so. Continue reading

Disney’s Sinister Threat And The Danger Of Partisan Corporate Boycotts To Democracy

The official position of Ethics Alarms is that organized boycotts are a form of unethical coercion that pose a direct threat to democracy and personal liberty. Recent developments on the corporate front only reinforce that conviction. Several states have chosen this moment to try to persuade a conservative majority on the Supreme Court to either amend or overturn Roe v. Wade, either with so-called “heartbeat” bills, defining a fetus with a detectable heartbeat distinct from the mother’s as a person within the range of Constitutional protection, or in the case of Alabama, a direct challenge to Roe with a bill outlawing abortion entirely except in special circumstances.

My personal assessment is that these efforts are doomed to fail, and that conservative justices, in part because they advocate conservative jurisprudence, will not accept the invitation to overturn Roe regardless of their objections to the holding. It is a major decision of long-standing asserting an individual right, and the epitome of the kind of decision that requires the practice of stare decisus. I cannot think of another example where the Court eliminated a right after a previous Court had protected it, certainly not one with such wide-ranging social and legal implications. Even though abortion is only ethically defensible by applying the most brutal variety of utilitarian balancing,  and requires disingenuous, bootstrapping reasoning in the process, I do not advocate overturning Roe. We have a system, though. The system should be allowed to work. It has generally served us well as a nation and a society. Continue reading

“Avengers: End Game” Ethics

I should begin by noting that there is no way I’m going to see this movie, unless I’m in the hospital, it’s on TV and my best alternatives are “Ellen” and Don Lemon.  I’m sick of CGI movies, sick of super-hero movies, and  have never been enamored of the genre since Christopher Reeve took Margot Kidder flying. As for this particular super-hero movie, the fact that it is 3-hours  is a minor problem, overwhelmed by the fact that I would have to watch the previous long Avengers movie, “Infinity War” to have a prayer of knowing what the hell’s going on.

However, many fans of such films are annoyed by the fact that “End Game” is so long yet has no intermission. They should be. One should be able to see the entertainment one has paid for without having to miss a chunk because nature calls. Movies don’t have intermissions any more, but that doesn’t mean there’s a good reason for them not to. Continue reading

This Is An Ethics Story. More Than That, It’s Hard To Say…

Read this story, please.

Then consider the 10 questions below.

A summary of the main points…

  • Luke Gibbs’ wife, Rachel, mother of two,  was rendered permanently vegetative after a go-kart accident at a Michigan amusement park, the Family Fun Center, near Grand Rapids.  A long scarf she was wearing got caught in one of the go-kart’s axles, snapping her windpipe.

  • She is now in a long-term care center southwest of London. Her husband is certain that this would never have occurred in England, because the country has more regulations. “There’s no agency in the United States that can say to my children, who are American citizens, this is the way in which we worked to protect your mother and keep her safe,” he said. “I’m confident that accident would not have happened here, part because I think we have more stringent regulation,” he added.

  • Parks are exempted from federal regulation, leaving supervision to the vagaries of the states, and six have no oversight: Alabama, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming and Utah. In the early 1980s, park operators successfully lobbied to shield amusement parks from federal oversight by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Starting in 1999,  Senator Edward J. Markey sought to mandate federal oversight, but Disney successfully lobbied against it, along with its competitors.

They argued that the federal regulation was not necessary.  Industry studies say there is only a one in 17 million chance of injury at fixed-site parks. The safety commission estimates there were 29,400 amusement ride injuries requiring emergency treatment last year at all types of parks, including  inflatable attractions and even coin-operated rides at shopping malls.

Mobile parks with rides that can be moved, like carnivals and state fairs, are not exempted from federal regulation.

  • When Rachel Gibbs wife was injured, the park appeared unprepared for an emergency. The ride’s operators panicked, and momentarily couldn’t recall the park’s address so emergency vehicles could be called, and could not provide the injured woman with a defibrillator

A 2007 internal memorandum from the park admonished employees to “never admit fault for accidents,” adding, “our common phrase is ‘AJ’s is an at your own risk Fun Park.’” Continue reading

The Signature Significance Of The Left’s Endorsement Of Sarah Jeong (Part I)

Hi, White America! I want you dead! And now, the technology news…

Are you already sick of the controversy over the New York Times hiring Sarah Jeong? Don’t be. The mainstream media and the now officially-derailed progressive establishment want you to move on, as in Move-On.Org’s definition, meaning …

… but there is a lot to see, and it is important to see it clearly.

Are these…

…racist tweets? Of course they are. Denying that they are is Orwellian, but progressives have been tending to 1984 for quite a while now, and denying it all the while. Would any journalist tweeting the equivalent sentiments about any other race have a career left in anything but wreckage? No. Rosanne Barr, a comic, not a journalist, was fired, branded a pariah and non-person, and had her hit ABC show cancelled for a single racist tweet about one woman. These are but a sample of many tweets from Jeong about an entire race (and often an entire gender). Not only is her career not in tatters, it is advancing.

What this means is that the Left, including the mainstream news media that is represented by the New York Times, the traditional exemplar, the role model, the standard-setter, now unapologetically and openly endorses an unethical, dangerous and divisive double standard. Non-whites can engage in hateful, racist speech against whites, and women can use sexist, misandrous rhetoric against men, and that’s not only acceptable, but deserved. Continue reading

“McCarthy And Witch Hunts And Fear, Oh My!” PART I: Director James Gunn

I don’t care to live in a culture where law-abiding citizens can have their reputations and careers destroyed by people maliciously publicizing old or private communications to make them hated or distrusted, or worse, a culture where doing this to people is deemed virtuous. Such a culture is one based on perpetual fear, where individuals cannot express an opinion that they may change later, or make a joke to a select audience, or have a conversation expressing strong but spontaneous and transient feelings without risking personal destruction at the hands of someone who wishes them ill.

That is the U.S. culture, however, that extremists on both ends of the political spectrum are successfully constructing,  unles we stop them. Their tools are political correctness, invasions of privacy, abuse of technology, social media and its attendant mobs, and an utter disregard of fairness, decency and ethics.

Two recent example illustrate how serious the problem is. This post is about one of them.

Talented writer-director James Gunn, the creative force behind the  delightful  Guardians of the Galaxy movies was fired by Disney after his old tweets containing offensive jokes were uncovered and circulated on social media and the web. The tweets were deliberately sought by conservative blogger and activist Mike Cernovich,  to intentionally wreck Gunn’s career. Gunn’s real offense was that he has been a vocal “resistance” recruit and a prominent conservative-hater, so once Cernovich had the goods on him, the Right was happy to use them.

No doubt, Gunn’s old tweets included jokes that many would consider worthy of Roseanne Barr on a careless day, like

  • “Laughter is the best medicine. That’s why I laugh at people with AIDS.”
  • “I like when little boys touch me in my silly place.”
  • “The best thing about being raped is when you’re done being raped and it’s like ‘whew this feels great, not being raped!’”

Gunn, realizing that joking about pederasty, rape and AIDS was sufficient to get him Kevin Spaceyed for life, tried to explain:

Many people who have followed my career know when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo. As I have discussed publicly many times, as I’ve developed as a person, so has my work and my humor. It’s not to say I’m better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it’s shocking and trying to get a reaction are over. In the past, I have apologized for humor of mine that hurt people. I truly felt sorry and meant every word of my apologies. For the record, when I made these shocking jokes, I wasn’t living them out. I know this is a weird statement to make, and seems obvious, but, still, here I am, saying it. Anyway, that’s the completely honest truth: I used to make a lot of offensive jokes. I don’t anymore. I don’t blame my past self for this, but I like myself more and feel like a more full human being and creator today. Love you to you all.

I believe him. I believe him, though something nasty in me would love to know if he was telling friends that the Milwaukee Brewers should punish Josh Hader for the racist tweets he made in high school, because this whole phenomenon is a Golden Rule matter. That has been the Ethics Alarms position forever, including during the 2014 Donald Sterling Ethics Train Wreck, in which an NBA owner lost his team, millions in fines, and his reputation after his mistress taped an ugly conversation they had in his bedroom and circulated it. I reiterated this position most recently in May of this year:

The position of Ethics Alarms on these incidents, which also includes spurned lovers sharing private emails to the world in order to humiliate a correspondent, the Democratic Senators who leaked the President’s coarse rhetoric about “shithole” countries that took place during a meeting that was supposed to be private and confidential, and Donald Trump’s infamous “pussy-grabbing” statements, is simple. Once the embarrassing words are unethically made public, they can’t be ignored, Once the embarrassing words have unethically made public, they can’t be ignored. Neither should the circumstances of their making, or the unethical nature of their subsequent use was weapons of personal destruction.

There is not a human being alive who has not made statements in private meetings or conversations, whether  those statements be jokes, insults, rueful observations or deliberate hyperbole, that would be horribly inappropriate as public utterances. Thus the feigned horror at such statements by others is the rankest kind of Golden Rule hypocrisy. In addition, the opprobrium and public disgrace brought down on the heads of those whose mean/ugly/politically incorrect/vulgar/ nasty/insulting words are made public by a treacherous friend, associate or colleague erodes every American’s freedom of thought, association and expression, as well as their privacy.

And yes, to anticipate the objection, I do not regard social media posts by non-public persons who later become celebrities to be truly public communications. They are, in the minds of the foolish individuals who send them, personal messages aimed at friendly audiences, and not intended for public circulation. In reaching this position I am influenced by the legal ethics and judicial rule regarding what is public knowledge regarding a former client that can be used by a lawyer . Simply because information is included in a public document that anyone can access doesn’t mean it is considered public enough for a lawyer to reveal it if the information involves a client. Most people don’t know about those facts because they don’t know how to find them, where to look, or whether the information even exists. Information doesn’t become truly public until it is widely accessible and disseminated. Once Gunn (and Hader) became celebrities, their social media presence was public, but not before. True, both Gunn and Hader should have realized that what they posted when they were nobody special had suddenly become a matter of public interest, and true, people need to start thinking that way, but most of our newly famous just don’t. Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/10/18: Tony, Bob, Woody, And Charles

Good morning!

1. Tonys Ethics. I’ll be skipping the Tonys again this year, and if I wasn’t already in the habit of doing so, the fact that Robert De Niro was being promoted as a presenter would have done the trick. Inviting De Niro is one more example of show business anti-Trump aggression. The actor has been unrestrained in making ugly, profane, vulgar attacks on the President in inappropriate venues. True, he hasn’t called the President a cock-holster or a cunt  yet, but that’s about the only mitigation.

Here was his public rant  in January at another awards event:

“This fucking idiot is the President. It’s The Emperor’s New Clothes – the guy is a fucking fool. The publication of the Pentagon Papers was a proud moment for American journalism. The Times and the Post challenged the government over critical First Amendment issues. And the press prevailed. Our government today, with the propping-up of our baby-in-chief – the jerkoff-in-chief I call him – has put the press under siege, trying to discredit it through outrageous attacks and lies.’

Here is De Niro just last week at a student writing award ceremony:

“Our country is lead by a president who believes he can make up his own truth. And we have a word for that — bull shit!  So what about the truth? What does the truth even mean today? I mean, if you’re Donald Trump it doesn’t mean anything,”

If you invite Robert De Niro, you are deliberately announcing that your event is going to be politically divisive and include an attack, probably uncivil, on the President—and while he will be engaged in crucial international negotiations. The President has nothing to do with the Tonys, nor does politics—the main contenders for top musicals are “SpongeBob” and “Mean Girls,” for heaven’s sakes—nor does De Niro, who is just one more movie star being used by Broadway to attract a larger TV audience.

2. Tales of  #MeToo. What would you do with John Lasseter? Disney just fired him, thus risking  diminished  brilliance of future Pixar projects, meaning less happiness, less enjoyment, fewer immortal film classics, and, of course, fewer profits. He was jettisoned because—I can’t believe I’m writing this—he has a habit of hugging people, it was unwelcome, and the hugging became alleged sexual harassment because it was unappreciated by some or many female employees.

Lasseter is a Disney-style genius, the creative force behind “Toy Story,” “Cars,”  “Frozen,” “Saving Nemo” and many other wonderful works of art and popular entertainment. He was the chief creative officer of Pixar Animation Studios, which he helped found, and the separate Walt Disney Animation studio.  This appears to be his problem, from the Times story:

“A self-described Peter Pan, Mr. Lasseter has long been known for his jolly public persona and tendency to greet anyone in his proximity — subordinates, stars, fans, reporters — with lengthy bear hugs. In 2011, The Wall Street Journal published a photo slide show of his frequent squeezes, saying he had handed out at least 48 of them in one day at the office.”

On one ethics hand, it certainly seems like a waste to lose a major artist over innocent hugging (if it was innocent, as some accounts maintain)  and the sexual harassment is still officially “alleged.” On the other hand, as someone who hates hugging and always has, I regard Lasseter’s “innocent” habit as something that could easily create a hostile work environment.

It is unconsented touching, pure and simple. If an employee was made to think that the only way he or she could work at Pixar, he or she had to be prepared to be hugged daily, then that’s workplace abuse. No, it’s not as abusive as what Bill Clinton, Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, James Levine, Kevin Spacey or Charlie Rose subjected subordinates to, but that’s  just Rationalization #22 talking: “It’s not the worst thing.” As to the natural inclination, expressed by my wife this morning, to lament, “The man’s a genius and they are willing to lose his talents over hugging?,” there is no getting around it: that’s the King’s Pass.

I do not understand why this was not addressed before it got to this stage, unless Lasseter really has a screw loose. What could be so hard about, “John, stop hugging people at work. A lot of people don’t like it. Do it again, and you’re gone”?

In the end, Lasseter has nobody to blame but himself.

3. Krauthammer’s farewell. As you may have already read, Fox News pundit and longtime conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer penned a graceful and dignified public letter to announce that his death is imminent. He wrote,

I have been uncharacteristically silent these past 10 months. I had thought that silence would soon be coming to an end, but I’m afraid I must tell you now that fate has decided on a different course for me.

In August of last year, I underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in my abdomen. That operation was thought to have been a success, but it caused a cascade of secondary complications — which I have been fighting in hospital ever since. It was a long and hard fight with many setbacks, but I was steadily, if slowly, overcoming each obstacle along the way and gradually making my way back to health.

However, recent tests have revealed that the cancer has returned. There was no sign of it as recently as a month ago, which means it is aggressive and spreading rapidly. My doctors tell me their best estimate is that I have only a few weeks left to live. This is the final verdict. My fight is over.

I wish to thank my doctors and caregivers, whose efforts have been magnificent. My dear friends, who have given me a lifetime of memories and whose support has sustained me through these difficult months. And all of my partners at The Washington Post, Fox News, and Crown Publishing.

Lastly, I thank my colleagues, my readers, and my viewers, who have made my career possible and given consequence to my life’s work. I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking. I am grateful to have played a small role in the conversations that have helped guide this extraordinary nation’s destiny.

I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.

Observations:

  • The final line is as ethical an attitude to aspire to at the end of one’s like as I can imagine. It is also a remarkable thing for Krauthammer to say, as someone who was put in a wheelchair permanently by an accident in his twenties.
  • “I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking.”  Perfectly stated.
  • The last thing I remember about Krauthammer was his commentary after the first GOP candidates debate in 2015. He was disgusted with Donald Trump, and proclaimed that his candidacy had been exposed as a fraud and “not ready for prime time.”  Trump’s hopes of winning the nomination were dead, he said—and I heartily agreed.