Tag Archives: ethics alarms

Open Forum Ethics

I’m off to an early morning ethics training session, so let’s try the experiment we discussed over the weekend. Talk about and debate any ethics topics you like, from current events to cultural controversies. Please keep it civil, please, and, of course, fascinating.

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Cold Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/10/18: You’ve Got Ethics To Keep You Warm!

Brrrrr!

Maybe this will help...

1. Starting with the important stuff: Baseball’s badly-named Today’s Game Era Committee announced that long-time right-fielder/designated hitter Harold Baines and towering closer Lee Smith had been voted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Smith, who retired as the all-time saves leader and is now third behind two Hall of Famers, was a defensible pick, but not Baines. The Committee’s job is to look back on players who were rejected in the regular Hall of Fame voting process and see if some of them fell through the cracks who were Hall caliber. There are only 16 members of the committee, and an ex-player needs 12 votes to enter Cooperstown. The sixteen members included at least four with strong ties to Baines, and they  presumably argued eight more members into letting him squeak by.  Bias made them stupid. Those four, which included Baines’ former manager and the owner of the Chicago White Sox, which retired his number, should have had to recuse themselves because of conflicts of interest.

Baines led the league in an offensive category, once, when he had the best slugging percentage in the American League. He never finished high in the Most Valuable Player voting. Most of the players who compare most closely to him are not in the Hall. The big thing Baines had going for his candidacy as a very good but not great player was that everybody liked him. He’s sort of the opposite of Curt Schilling, who is clearly Hall-worthy but whom most sportswriters hate—too religious, too conservative, too mouthy.

Now the argument for admitting other good but not great players will be, “But he was better than Harold Baines!” This is how conflicts of interest undermine the integrity of institutions.

2. When Naked Teachers have no excuses.  The Naked Teacher Principle holds that when a teacher allows a nude photo of herself or himself to circulate on the web where it can be seen by students, that teacher cannot complain when and if it leads to their dismissal.  A teacher really can’t complain if she sends the photo to a student intentionally, which is what Ramsey Bearse, 28, a former Miss Kentucky now teaching at Andrew Jackson Middle School in Cross Lanes, West Virginia, did with a 15-year-old former student , according to the sheriff’s office. She faces four felony counts of distributing or displaying obscene matter to a minor.

3. Pondering whether to include an open Ethics Alarms forum as a regular feature. Many of the blogs I frequent for story ideas do this late at night. Ethics Alarms has done it once when I was forced to be away from a keyboard for most of the day, and I was impressed with the results. Those forums on the other blogs often devolve into silliness, bad jokes, memes and worse, and I would insist that an “open forum” on Ethics Alarms be restricted to raising and discussing ethics and ethical topics. Continue reading

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When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring: The Racist Christmas Tree

As a holiday prank, two Minneapolis police officers decorated a  Christmas tree inside a Minneapolis Police Department precinct in a primarily African-American area with  half-crushed cans of malt liquor, crumpled bags of Takis chips and Funyuns, a cup from Popeyes and two packs of Newport cigarettes, all highlighted by a strip of yellow crime-scene tape.

Merry Christmas.

Naturally, a photo of the tree made it to social media. The officers responsible were placed on leave after the local African American community and public officials expressed anger and outrage, including Mayor Jacob Frey, who described the tree as “racist, despicable, and well beneath the standards of any person who serves the city of Minneapolis.” Continue reading

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Monday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/3/2018: Christmas Song Banned! Ethics Alarms De-Faced! Sharpton Cashes In!

Good afternoon!

1. Well, is it good to be a patrician President or isn’t it? It depends, obviously, on who you want to bash. Simultaneously with sidelong sneers from the peasant-shirted left about the Bush family’s wealth and isolated status as rich, privileged, white, WASPS for generations, there have been multiple salutes to the same family, and the late George H.W. Bush in particular, for his grace, class, and dignity in office. These things go hand in hand, you know: wealth, privilege, prep schools, “breeding,” and impeccable manners. John Adams, Andrew Jackson, Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Grant, Truman, LBJ, Clinton, and now Trump, all from “lesser” stock, all had their moments when their behavior was attacked as beneath the office they held. Well, all of them were middle class or lower (you can’t get any lower than Andrew Johnson). Ideally, we want our Presidents to arise from the common clay, but to act like aristocrats in all things public.

Of course, many of our “aristocrats” were low-lives of the soul, but adept at keeping their worst conduct hidden from view. Aristocrats have bad habits too, especially as they relate to women. (See: “David Cop-A-Feel.” I’m sorry, I’ll never get over that…)

2. The President will not eulogize George H.W. Bush. Good. If he reads a nice eulogy written by someone else, it will be flat and awkward. If he extemporizes, God knows what he might say. If he extemporizes and is brilliant, witty, moving and inspiring, it will be attacked anyway.

And by the way, I like the red trees.

Anyone who says that the same decorations put up by Michelle Obama or Jackie Kennedy (EVERYONE had weird colored trees in the early Sixties) wouldn’t be hailed as bold, dashing examples of a modern First Lady’s impeccable sense of style is lying, or hasn’t been paying attention the past two years.

3. Nah, there’s no social media platform bias! Apparently Facebook is now censoring Ethics Alarms posts. Over the weekend I heard from several readers whose links to EA posts were taken down because they didn’t comply with “community standards.” None of the posts were extreme, and all employed consistent ethics analysis, but then the “community” on Facebook, including a majority of my Facebook Friends, is politically intolerant, narrow-minded, ideologically rigid and intent upon driving down that nail that sticks out.

4. From the Ethics Alarms “Appearance of Impropriety” Files. Rev. Al Sharpton sold the rights to his life story to his own charity. From the New York Post:

The National Action Network agreed to pay the activist preacher $531,000 for his “life story rights for a 10-year period,” according to the non-profit’s latest tax filing,…NAN can apparently turn around and sell those rights to Hollywood or other takers at a profit, but neither the reverend nor the charity would identify what producers are waiting for such Sharpton content.

The document does not indicate when Sharpton, who is president of NAN, gets the cash, which is above and beyond the $244,661 he already pulled down in compensation from the group in 2017.

This is clever–slimy, but clever. Why didn’t the Clintons think of it?

5. Baby, It’s Stupid Outside.”   WDOK Christmas 102.1 in Cleveland, Ohio pulled “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”  from its 24-hour Christmas rotation this week, citing listener complaints. #MeToo, you know.

Morons.

I wrote about the complaints last year, and I’m not a fan of the song:

Here is an article protesting the movement to “ban” (figuratively, not literally), the seasonal duet “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”  for “being insufficiently PC in the sexual assault/harassment realm.” Ethics Alarms called the song “date-rapey” two years ago, so while I don’t exactly want to ban the thing, I am sick of hearing it on Christmas playlists. On Sirius-XM’s “Holly” station, I’d estimate that over 50% of the “Holiday songs” have to do with sex (none have to do with the religious holiday, by design), and I blame “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which on the alternative Christmas channel, “Traditions” “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is played every hour, sometimes more than once. …Writes the blogger,

“But if you actually look at the lyrics, it’s clear that the woman wants to stay, and that her protests are merely for the sake of propriety, and that the whole thing is a flirtatious little game of seduction. In her objections she keeps mentioning what other people will think, not her own feelings. So you might say she’s striking a blow for autonomy and throwing off fusty old custom when she acquiesces at the end.”

It depends on how the song is sung, of course. Dean Martin’s version sounds like a seduction, but then, that was Dean. Actually banning the song, however, with so much far more blatant sexual innuendo infecting Christmas music and other aspects of the holiday, is bats.

Related: Last night I saw the 1949 Christmas film “Holiday Affair,” starring Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh. It’s low key but fun and well acted. It also has a scene where Mitchum walks into the kitchen as single mother Leigh is doing dishes, grabs her without warning or consent and gives her a long, hard kiss on the mouth as her arms flail helplessly.

Sexual assault.

6. Related to that: Boy, studios had no scruples and no shame back then! The story is about as chaste a romance as you could imagine, with Leigh, who was a true sex-bomb when she wanted to be, playing a devoted mother who dressed and acted like a mother should. Yet here was the original poster:

…which misrepresents the movie entirely, especially Leigh, who is never seen in such a pose. That’s nothin’, though. When the movie was a box-office bomb, they decided that it was because nobody wanted to see film noir tough guy Mitchum being nice, charming and polite (his character resembles John Payne in “Miracle on 24th Street”). So they put out this poster, which is outright misrepresentation:

Now THAT’S an unethical movie poster!

 

 

 

 

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Mid-day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/28/18: Thanks, Twitter, A Properly Derisive Label Needed, And More Mainstream Media Bias That Is All In My Mind

Having a nice day?

1. A tardy recognition of things to be thankful for. Several of the regular readers here, notably Other Bill, valkygirrl, Pennagain, Michael West, Neil Dorr and Zoltar, but also others, have been flagging ethics stories for possible Ethics Alarms coverage. This has been especially helpful during my recent bronchitis battle, but I can always use tips, especially since my amazingly productive ethics scout of many years, Fred, had to take his talents elsewhere. The best way to send me your links and recommendation is at jamproethics@verizon.net.

2. This explains a lot. Pollster Frank Luntz says that 67% of Democrats believe it is “definitely true” or “probably true” that “Russia tampered with vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected.” There is no evidence, none, that Russia tampered with vote tallies. There isn’t even evidence that Russian-planted “fake news” in social media and other meddling had any measurable effect on the election. Never mind: two-thirds of Democrats are convinced that Hillary Clinton couldn’t possibly have lost to a creep/Nazi/ lunatic/ moron/racist  like  Donald Trump without sinister forces making it so.

This delusion does explain a lot. As a foundation for false beliefs, it is strong impetus to confirmation bias, which Democratic officials and the news media have aggressively and cynically—and successfully—courted. I thought Republicans should hide their heads in bags after polls showed that about 40% of them as recently as 2016 believe that Barack Obama probably wasn’t born in the U.S. Two-thirds of Democrats believing Russians hijacked the election is, if possible, worse. Of course, Republicans didn’t force an endless investigation over Obama’s qualifications to be elected President, so that’s in their favor.

We do need a name for the Left’s conspiracy theorists regarding the 2016 election, though, since the group appears to comprise the majority of Democrats. “Truthers”…”Birthers”…and?

Submissions welcome. Here’s the poll data (more here): Continue reading

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Monday Ethics Musings, 11/26/18: Surprise! I’m Not Going To Discuss The Border Mess Here.

Good Morning!

Well, the combination of the holidays and my extended illness, plus some lost days due to travel and speaking engagements, just resulted in the worst 9 days of traffic in recent Ethics Alarms history. As Robert E. Lee said after Pickett’s Charge, “It’s all my fault,” and I want to express my gratitude and appreciation to the readers and loyalists here who continued to visit, read and comment despite my failure to keep up on content.

1. I WAS going to cover the “caravan’s” travails...but when I started it was clear that the topic would be too long for the Warm-Up. Reflecting my disgust as the dishonest and hysterical punditry on the matter, low-lighted by the “They’re gassing women and children!” narrative, I was also going to title the post, “Morning Ethics Throw-Up.”

2. Yesterday’s post about Bill “Bojangles” Robinson has garnered an unusual response so far: far more links to social media than comments. This essay is a good example of why I miss the self-exiled progressives here. I really would love to read an argument of why Fred Astaire’s homage to his friend and teacher is nonetheless racist, because it’s “blackface.” I don’t expect good or persuasive arguments, mind you, because I doubt there are any. But we all benefit from the process of debate when both sides are intelligent and arguing in good faith. Even the most doctrinaire ideologue’s per-programmed talking points can be valuable, if only to help us understand how the hive-mind is buzzing.

An aside: I wonder how many Americans under 50 know what The Kingston Trio was, or have any idea how influential they were on music and the culture in the Fifties and Sixties?

3. Yeah, I guess this is bias. Still...A Nassau County (New York) judge, Thomas Rademaker, had ordered the jailing of a dead-beat dad, Michael Berg, in November 2016 and said he could win his release by paying nearly $518,000 to satisfy his obligations. Rademaker also told Berg that he “symbolizes everything that’s wrong with the world today.” He called Berg “selfish,” “self-interested,” “lazy,” “arrogant,” and said Berg was the last guy he would “want to be in a foxhole with” because he would “fold like a cheap suit.”

The appeals court decided that the judge’s comments had crossed the line and constituted sufficient evidence of bias to mandate a new judge to be appointed to consider whether Berg had willfully failed to pay child support. Berg had not moved for a recusal, which meant the bias issue was not preserved for appellate review. The court said it was nonetheless considering the issue of bias “in the interest of justice.”

I’d love to see how Berg argues that he unintentionally neglected to pay a half-million in child support. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/9/2018: Twitter Revelations

Good Morning!

I know I’ve been belly-aching about the decline in views on Ethics Alarms this year. There are a lot of theories, but one certainty: I’ve written fewer posts.  Beginning in July, I’ve had an unavoidable two-hour commitment during the work week that has compressed my schedule, and removed crucial time that would normally be used, in part, to create one or two additional blog commentaries. The task also left me fatigued and frequently caused time crunches with other projects. That commitment finally ends after today. I would celebrate, but I don’t have the energy.

1. Twitter bites Bill James. James, the free-thinking, courageous baseball iconoclast often credited with creating the discipline of sabermetrics, has been an inspiration to me for decades in his relentless commitment to banishing bias, majority beliefs and conventional wisdom from his analysis. (“Signature significance,” often mentioned here, is Bill’s term.) Yesterday, I learned that Bill was once again the target of fury within the baseball establishment (it doesn’t “get” Bill, and never will), this time because of a series of tweets he issued in discussing baseball with some followers.  Inspired by Washington Nationals free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper’s rejection of a 300 million dollar offer from his club, Bill was musing about the conventional wisdom that players. especially stars, are the reason people watch baseball. Among other tweets, he wrote,

“If the players all retired tomorrow, we would replace them, the game would go on; in three years it would make no difference whatsoever. The players are NOT the game, any more than the beer vendors are…The entire GAME is the product…We’re all replaceable, the players as much as the beer vendors. If they’re unhappy about that, talk to God about it; I don’t make these rules.”

This attracted the ire of the Players Association, which deliberately or  foolishly misconstrued what James was trying to convey. As a long-time reader of James’ work, I have seen this theme before. It’s a simple (but too complex for most players and broadcasters, essentially) proposition: even if the over-all quality of the players was reduced, the game being played would look and feel the same, its thrills, strange bounces and dramatic turns would be unchanged, the new, lesser players would yield new stars, and the popularity of the sport would not be significantly diminished. James makes such observations to jolt people out of comfortable assumptions, and force them to think. Too many people in baseball don’t want to think, or don’t know how. James also suggested that for a baseball player who was paid $3,000,000 a year to feel underpaid was ridiculous in some respects. Of course the Players Association and the players themselves couldn’t let that go without objection.

James is a consultant to the Boston Red Sox, and the team felt it had to reject James’ theories in this matter…mustn’t make the union mad, after all. The team wrote:

“Bill James is a consultant to the Red Sox. He is not an employee, nor does he speak for the club. His comments on Twitter were inappropriate and do not reflect the opinions of the Red Sox front office or its ownership group. Our Championships (sic) would not have been possible without our incredibly talented players — they are the backbone of our franchise and our industry. To insinuate otherwise is absurd.”

Of course, James never said that the game could be played without players.

To his credit, and typical of him, James took full responsibility for the mess. “I understand that the Red Sox are not in business to offend people, and certainly regret that I gave offense to anyone,” he wrote. That was clearly not an apology, nor was it intended as one. James has not retracted his statements. He has said that he should have been clearer. Speaking of his rebuke from the Red Sox, he said,

“I’m not offended. None of us in the organization — or, like me, sort of attached to the organization although not exactly in the organization — none of us should give offense unnecessarily. If I did that — and obviously I must have — it isn’t their fault; it’s mine. I do think that my remarks, taken in context, could not be misunderstood in the way that they have been. But it is pathetic for a writer to say ‘I’ve been misunderstood.’ Our job is to make ourselves understood.”

Yesterday, I heard one of the Sirius-XM Major League Baseball hosts ridicule the idea that a millionaire player shouldn’t feel underpaid, citing the salaries move and TV stars get. But James point, if anything, is more valid in reference to that industry. In my tiny corner of professional theater, I have encountered literally dozens of actors, actresses and artists who are as talented and accomplished as many, indeed most, of the stars who get paid multiple millions for their performances. If every film actor alive decided to emigrate to Denmark, it would take less than three years to replenish the talent pool. It would not even take one.  For the most part, he public goes to see good movies, not stars. Movies, not actors, are the product.

2. Just so you know that I’m a nice guy...A lawyer representing someone I criticized in a post from several years ago contacted me and asked if I would take the post down. His client, he told me, has been periodically contacted on social media by individuals who have read my post, and she is embarrassed by the episode I was writing about. The lawyer did not demand that I remove the post. He did not claim that I had defamed anyone; he conceded that I had published an opinion within my range of expertise, and that he had no grounds to force me to do anything. He just said that his client would be very grateful if I took down the post.

I checked the statistics. I rather liked the essay, but it had attracted few comments, no more than a hundred or so people had read it, and the topic was now moot. I took it down.

3. The Bad Guys (cont.) Matt Yglesias is an infamous left-wing pundit, and not a very bright one, in my experience. Naturally, he writes for Vox. In the wake of another leftist mob setting out to intimidate those with whom they disagree (Note: I will NOT take down a post if a mob outside my house demands it) Yglesias tweeted,

I think the idea behind terrorizing his family, like it or not as a strategy, is to make them feel some of the fear that the victims of MAGA-inspired violence feel thanks to the non-stop racial incitement coming from Tucker, Trump, etc….I agree that this is probably not tactically sound but if your instinct is to empathize with the fear of the Carlson family rather than with the fear of his victims then you should take a moment to reflect on why that is….I met a woman who didn’t leave the house for months because she was afraid of being picked up by ICE and never seeing her US citizen kids and husband again. What sense was there in terrorizing her family?…I honestly cannot empathize with Tucker Carlson’s wife at all — I agree that protesting at her house was tactically unwise and shouldn’t be done — but I am utterly unable to identify with her plight on any level.

The entire series is signature significance for someone with no ethical comprehension or bearings whatsoever. There is nothing here but bias and rationalizations, and no news  organization who employs such an ethically-handicapped writer can be trusted or taken seriously. Because an illegal immigrant is frightened of the fair and legal consequences of her own actions and choices, it is legitimate for a mob to terrify the family of conservative news commentator. Allow me to add intellectual bankruptcy to Yglesias’s undeniable maladies.

Now he’s deleted all of his tweets. Too late! We know you’re a vicious, biased idiot, Matt.

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