Ethics Comes In Like A Lion Warm-Up, 3/1/2020: Dead Ethics Alarms In New York, London, And Washington, D.C.

That’s my father’s favorite March!

Mine too.

For some reason there has been a breakdown of civility in the comments lately. This has happened from time to time; something in the air or too many social media rants or something; I don’t really care. You all know where the lines are; you cross them intentionally when you cross them. I appreciate the use of a vulgar word or harsh phrase as much as anyone; “asshole” is particularly tempting, because there is no non-vulgar term that quite captures the essence of its meaning. I also prefer to keep moderation light here, and for the most part, the select commenters who have passed my standards and answered the three questions at the bridge correctly usually make me proud, especially when I see what crawls onto other sites’ comment sections.  The would-be Ethics Alarms participants who send in entries like “Your a Trump-loving fuckface LOL!are all stacked up in the spam vault, and you would not believe how many of those I have to read to maintain the high level of participants here. I do not care to read that kind of gutter residue on the blog itself.

I just trashed a full comment by a regular commenter here, something I have not done in over ten years, and I’m not happy about it. Let’s keep that lapse the anomaly that it is.

1. From the “When ethics alarms don’t ring” file. Pop Quiz! If you were on the staff of a fashion show about to begin at what the New York Times calls “New York’s famed Fashion Institute of Technology”—which I have never heard of—and several of the models appeared backstage preparing to go out looking like this…

…what would you do?

The answer is that no matter how high or low you were on the metaphorical totem pole, you would be obligated to throw a fit, phone the brass, tell everyone in sight that they are out of their minds, and do everything short of calling in a bomb threat to halt what you know without a shadow of a doubt will result in a public relations disaster.

Incredibly, not a single person raised the obvious objection except an African-American model-who refused to don the giant lips and monkey ears. After the predictable uproar, two F.I.T. administrators were suspended, and  the school’s president, Dr. Joyce Brown (who is African-American) issued a public statement admitting that the Feb. 7 show, intended to demonstrate the work of recent graduates of the school’s M.F.A. program, “failed to recognize or anticipate the racist references and cultural insensitivities that were obvious to almost everybody else.”

Wait—if they were obvious to almost everybody else, why were they not obvious to anyone involved in the show? Continue reading

Noonish Ethics Round-Up, 2/19/2020: That Other Day That Will Live In Infamy…

Hi!

1. On this day in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, empowering the Army to issue orders emptying parts of California, Oregon, Washington and Arizona of immigrants from Japan, who were precluded from U.S. citizenship by law, and nisei, their children, who were U.S. citizens by birth. After the order, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court including future liberal icon William O. Douglas, the Japanese-Americans  were first warehoused at “assembly centers,” which could be racetrack barns or on fairgrounds, then shipped to ten detendtion camps in Western states and Arkansas. Armed guards and barbed wire, plus morning roll call were part of the degrading and punitive experience.

It is fair to say this treatment was substantially rooted in racism, for there was no mass incarceration of U.S. residents with ties to Germany or Italy. Once the U.S. appeared to be on the way to victory along with its Allies in December 1944, the Executive Order was  rescinded. By then the Army was enlisting Japanese American soldiers to fight in Africa and Europe. President Harry Truman told the all Japanese-America 442nd Regimental Combat Team: “You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice—and you have won.”

California is now preparing to formally apologize to the families of those interned.State Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) introduced a resolution that will formally apologize for California’s “failure to support and defend the civil rights” of Japanese Americans during that period,” and it is expected to pass today.

It’s naked grandstanding and virtue signaling, of course. The federal government apologized for the unconstitutional imprisonment and granted financial redress to survivors with the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, and the Supreme Court overruled its decision  upholding internment in 2018. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, Feb. 1, 2020: A New Month, Post Fake News Shame, And Impeachment Failure Freakout Edition

The good news: Other Bill’s get well bouquet (above) from the Commentariat to the fallen “Mrs. Ethics Alarms” is still thriving!

1. Humbly grateful...for all the gracious notes of forgiveness for the “Unethical Quote Of The Century” fiasco, explicated here in the early morning hours. Imagine: with all the hysterical, dishonest, apocalyptic declarations flying around the airwaves, news media and  web, I managed to write about one that was never said.

2. Ann Althouse on “rigged.” The politically neutral bloggress gave me a much needed laugh with this: Responding to the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank’s unhingery in “The Senate impeachment trial was rigged!,” Ann wrote,

Yeah, it was rigged. Everything is rigged. The election was rigged. Trump isn’t really President. The impeachment trial was rigged. The acquittal won’t count as an acquittal. If Trump wins reelection, it will be because it was rigged. It’s all rigged. The Constitution itself is rigged. What’s with that 2/3 vote requirement? Rigged. Electoral college? Rigged! Life itself is rigged!…

Bingo. Do all the people screaming about the decision not to allow witnesses remember that the Clinton impeachment trial has no  witnesses, and neither Republican nor Democrats complained?  The ones who do are hypocrites, the ones who don’t. most. I think, are inexcusably ignorant. I’m not certain the Democrats really wanted witnesses, since their alleged “bombshell” witness, John Bolton, was not going to testify that he knew the reason Trump was pushing for a Ukrainian investigation was to “rig” the election, and the GOP was going to demand to question Biden and son. as well as the “whistleblower.” I suspect that the Democrats assumed that calling witnesses would be voted down, giving them a theme that Republicans were covering up for Trump. Or maybe not. Nothing about the Plan S impeachment sham makes sense. However, the screaming at the sky over a result that was inevitable and widely known to be so years ago was also inevitable, and, one would think, embarrassing. Continue reading

Urgent Notice Of Correction: Chuck Schumer’s Apparently Non-Existent “Unethical Quote Of The Century,” And My Abject Apology Because Bias Made Me Stupid

Last evening, I posted an Unethical Quote allegedly made by Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer that “Donald Trump’s impeachment acquittal will be meaningless because we never accepted the results of the 2016 election in the first place. Anyone who accepts an acquittal is a danger to our democracy.” I originally titled it the Unethical Quote of the Day, and later, as I read it again while responding to the predictable shocked comments, I upgraded the comment to Unethical Quote of the Century, a designation I was prepared to defend.

This morning, momentarily awake and planning to go back to sleep, I decided to check the Ethics Alarms comments, and saw this, from frequent commenter Here’s Johnny.

Re: Unethical quote:
I would think that, for the unethical quote of the century, I would be able to find a few references to it in the news media. My best Google search efforts have turned up reports from Ethics Alarms and The Sacramento Brie. The Brie does not appear to be a legitimate news site, and their reference to this quote appears to show a Fox News screen grab. Searching at Fox News did not turn up the quote. The quote does not appear in the Senate Democrats text of Schumer’s comments at the press conference where he supposedly made the comment.
So, what is going on here? Is there evidence that Schumer actually said what is in the quote? I could not find it.

This was disturbing. The post had no link, which is unusual, and I couldn’t tracj down where I got it from, though I believe the pointer came from a Trump Deranged friend on Facebook who quoted it approvingly. I’ve checked my browser history to no avail. After reading HJ’s comment, I listened to every YouTube clip I could find from Schumer yesterday. He made a number of disingenuous and hyperbolic statements about a trial with no witnesses not being a trial (The Clinton impeachment had no witnesses, and Democrats seemed to be happy with that), but nothing as outrageous as the alleged quote I posted.

Like Johnny, I cannot believe that if Schumer said something that irresponsible, it wouldn’t have been widely reported. Thus I am suspending the post pending verification, and as of this moment, assume that it was false. I also deleted the tweet that the blog generates for every post. I will continue to  look for the quote and the source, and to identify exactly how this happened.

To some extent I know the latter: the news media and other Democrats have been foaming at the mouth for days, and many of the quotes are no less head-exploding than Schumer’s, except that they were not made by the leader of the party in the Senate. Assuming that there was no such Schumer quote, I was bitten by fake news that triggered confirmation bias. I have written for years that the Democrats/”resistance”/ mainstream media alliance have denied the legitimacy of President Trump’s election, and that conclusion is objectively unavoidable. Though I was stunned to see Schumer say so out loud, it was not as if what the quote indicated was out of line with reality. The second part, about “the danger to democracy,” echoed many of the irresponsible statements made by Rep. Schiff and others during the House impeachment managers’ presentation, and similar rhetoric by pundits and other Democrats. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), for example, tweeted yesterday,

“The Senate’s abdication of responsibility to the rule of law represents a much deeper threat to our democracy, our institutions, and our republic. The GOP knows that its agenda is incompatible with democracy, so their larger project is to dismantle it.”

That statement is as inflammatory and absurd as the alleged Schumer tweet, but not as shocking because OAC is, after all, an idiot. Schumer, however, is not.

I cannot apologize sufficiently for this. My attention has been even more divided than usual this past week—that’s not an excuse, but a partial explanation—and I’ve been bouncing around two computers and two many news sources to count, and, apparently, keep proper track of. I should never post a story or commentary with out verified links to the source, and, frankly, I don’t know why I didn’t this time.

Facebook is unreliable; I know that. There were plenty of aspects of the quote that should have set off my own ethics alarms, but I let my emotions take over: the quote really infuriated me, because as I suggested by noting the Schumer was “playing with fire,” that kind of rhetoric—and there has been a lot of it— rips at the connective tissue that holds this republic together. However, publishing unverified inflammatory rhetoric is just as wrong as saying such things.

Readers here have to be able to trust me; an ethics blog without trust is like a—oh, you can make up your own metaphor, I’m too upset to be clever—and this time I failed their, your, trust by not following my own procedures, and apparently being fooled  because I didn’t heed my most important rule, to avoid bias making me stupid. I apologize to everyone reading this, everyone who passed along what appears to be Ethics Alarms fake news, and everyone who might have been misled by the fact that the invalid quote was passed along. I apologize to the commenters whose reactions are vanishing with the essay: I’m so sorry. I wasted your time. I also apologize to Senator Schumer.

I am going to have to do better, and I will.

I could say that I hope I can find that the quote was accurate after all, but I don’t. I am relieved that it appears to have been fabricated. I felt, when I read it, and foolishly believed it, that this was a tipping point, and a dangerous one.

Now, before I go back to bed and dream of self-flagellation,  I am going to add the portion of the banned post that I know was accurate, because it had value. Indeed, another reason I accepted the quote impulsively, I think, is that it gave me a pwoerful lead-in to content I had already written. That will teach me.

I hope.

Here’s the remaining section of the now zapped post, and one more time, I am so sorry: Continue reading

Six Ethics Lessons As Bill James Falls Into His Own Research Trap

Baseball philosopher, iconoclast and analyst Bill James is one of my heroes for his amazing ability to look past conventional wisdom with an open mind. Beginning as essentially a self-published pamphleteer writing out of his basement, James’ counter-traditional explorations of baseball statistics eventually changed how baseball was watched, assessed, scouted and played, simply on the strength of Bill’s  ideas and his facility in explaining them.

His talents could be used in many other fields–James has recently branched out into examining famous unsolved murders—but it is also true that many of the ideas he has developed in relation to baseball have wider applications. For example, James was the source of the concept of “signature significance,” which is a staple here at Ethics Alarms.

His writing also taught me that bias makes us stupid, and about the insidious power of rationalizations.  Many of James’s observations seemed intrinsically obvious once he made and explained them, and the fact that  baseball executives, writers and players could have been so wrong about their own game for so long seemed incomprehensible. But the reasons were what they always are, in all fields. People are biased toward what they have always believed —confirmation bias–and the “It’s always been this way” variation on the most powerful rationalization of them all, “Everybody does it”  breeds blindness and  intellectual laziness. Continue reading

To Paraphrase George M. Cohan: “My Wife Thanks You, My Blog Thanks You, And I Thank You.”

To our surprise and delight, we just had delivered to our door, fresh from Conklyn’s Florists, a beautiful  mixed bouquet in a lovely glass vase. The card attached reads,

“Dear Mrs. Marshall, Get well absolutely as soon as possible.

[Other Bill] and the rest of the Ethics Alarms Commentariat

This was so kind and unexpected. None of my 420 Facebook friends (and relatives!) were so moved (then again, most of them hate me.) My wife was stunned, and is very grateful. (She would have applauded, but she only has one functioning arm.)

She says:  “This is very much appreciated. It cheers me up a little, something Jack has failed at completely. It is also a relief to be able to look at the beautiful flowers instead of my black-and blue face. And the vase is especially welcome, as a one armed flower arranger is like a one -armed paper-hanger, and Jack is no help at all.”

The ethics value here is generosity and kindness.

Thanks, Bill, and thanks everyone.

Ethics Warm-Up On What I Fear Is The Start Of An Unethical Week, 1/27/2020

Just a sinking feeling I have …

…perhaps exacerbated by the fact that I am trying to keep all the plates spinning at home and office despite caring for my temporarily disabled wife and business partner, the urgent need to disassemble the driest Christmas tree in Alexandria (still looks spectacular with the lights on, though!), the sudden breakdown of two crucial appliances, and the fact that I’m incompetent at a lot of the small and crucial tasks that Grace does well.

By the by, the spinning plates act is my favorite metaphor for leadership, management and life…

1. Trump tweets…“Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man. He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!” tweeted our Chief Executive yesterday. What grade level does that one rise to? 6th? 7th? Surely reasonable people are inured to these embarrassing (for him, for us) outbursts after all these years and thousands of stupid tweets. And yet here are Schiff and the Democrats, bellowing that Trump “threatened” him. This, from a shameless demagogue who recently yalked about putting Republican Senators’ heads on pikes.

Essentially Trump’s “threat” consists of “he’ll be sorry!” That’s not even a veiled threat. It isn’t actionable, it isn’t clear. It may refer to karma, or a sudden attack of conscience. Stipulated: It’s wrong for a President to express such sentiments. The knee-jerk impulse of the “resistance” to react to everything the President does like it was proof of treason is self-indicting.

2. The alleged hypocrisy of jet-setting climate change activist celebrities is often overplayed by conservatives, but this is ridiculous. Not to be outdone by whatever she is these days semi-royal Megan Markle and her submissive hubby, Prince Charles polished his climate change alarmist  creds by taking three flights on private jets and a helicopter to hang out with Joan of Arc wannabe  Greta Thunberg. Then, after being blessed by the teenaged saint and making  an impassioned speech, the Man Who Has Been Waiting To  Be King  took a fourth private jet from Switzerland to Israel, making his flight total over 16,000 miles in less than two weeks. His carbon footprint for this odyssey was estimates as being more than 18 times that of the average British citizen’s output for a calendar year.

Here’s a helpful chart, courtesy of the Daily Mail:
Continue reading