Early Memorial Day Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 5/24/19: Movies And Women, Real And Imagined

Good Morning!

My father loved Sousa marches. So do I. Sousa was a genius in a very narrow range, but a genius he was. The Liberty Bell was one of my dad’s favorites. Here is a great website to familiarize yourself with the great march-master’s creations; it has instant links to each march.

1. Since it has done such a superb job ensuring world peace, the U.N. moves on to the important stuff… Unesco has issued a report claiming that having female voices in machines like GPS’s, smartphones and personal assistant devices reinforces gender stereotypes and enables the oppression of women. From the Times:

“Obedient and obliging machines that pretend to be women are entering our homes, cars and offices,” Saniye Gulser Corat, Unesco’s director for gender equality, said in a statement. “The world needs to pay much closer attention to how, when and whether A.I. technologies are gendered and, crucially, who is gendering them.”One particularly worrying reflection of this is the “deflecting, lackluster or apologetic responses” that these assistants give to insults. The report borrows its title — “I’d Blush if I Could” — from a standard response from Siri, the Apple voice assistant, when a user hurled a gendered expletive at it. When a user tells Alexa, “You’re hot,” her typical response has been a cheery, “That’s nice of you to say!” Siri’s response was recently altered to a more flattened “I don’t know how to respond to that,” but the report suggests that the technology remains gender biased, arguing that the problem starts with engineering teams that are staffed overwhelmingly by men. “Siri’s ‘female’ obsequiousness — and the servility expressed by so many other digital assistants projected as young women — provides a powerful illustration of gender biases coded into technology products,” the report found.

Gee, that’s funny: I thought the reason a woman’s dulcet tones were used in such devices is because they were easier on the ear than, say, HAL. Nor would it occur to me that a woman was being subservient or submissive when the female voice was coming from a lump of metal and plastic on a table.

FACT: Yes, a consumer should have the option of having a device speak in a male or female voice.

FACT: If the owner of such a device wants to insult it, make sexual comments to it, or crush it with a hammer, that’s none of the U.N.’s business.

FACT:  Programming AI to be adversarial to its owner, whatever voice the device is using, is unethical, and, obviously, bad business.

Unesco’s report is the epitome of manufactured offense. Continue reading

Wow—Is This The Most Contrived Feminist Complaint Ever Put Into Print?

Actress Lindsay Crouse has an op-ed in the New York Times called Why Don’t Women Get Comebacks Like Tiger Woods?” (Thanks to Althouse for pointing me to it: I tend to avoid the Sunday Times Review section since it became a repetitious Trump-bashing fest week after week.) I like and admire Lindsay, whom I knew in college; she was two years ahead of me. She’s one of my favorite actresses, quirky and versatile.  I also think it’s cool that she’s the daughter of famed Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright/producer Russell Crouse, who named her after his partner, Howard Lindsey. It’s as if George S. Kaufman named his son “Hart,” or Fred Ebb named his daughter “Kander.”  But I don’t know what she was thinking to write this long, illogical whine about an imaginary variety of gender bias.

Here’s Crouse’s argument, condensed, in her own words: Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/23/19: “Spring Training Games Have Started, So NOTHING Can Upset Me Today” Edition [UPDATED]

1. This belongs in the “Bias Makes You Stupid” Hall Of Fame. [ Note of Correction: the story is two years old, dating from March, 2017. It was represented by my source as current, and I didn’t check the date on the link. My error. It changes nothing in the ethics commentary, however. ]

Three Oklahoma teenagers broke into a home last week and were greeted by a homeowner with an AR-15. He mowed them down, as he had every legal right to do, and may I say, “Good!” This is the perfect reason why someone might want to have the security of a semi-automatic weapon like the AR-15. This is a good example of why the “nobody needs a semi-automatic” is such a fatuous anti-gun argument. This homeowner needed one when three people tried to invade his home.

But I digress. The grandfather of one of the dead teenagers is protesting that it wasn’t a fair fight, telling  KTUL-TV:

“What these three boys did was stupid. They knew they could be punished for it but they did not deserve to die…Brass knuckles against an AR-15? C’mon. Who was afraid for their life? There’s got to be a limit to that law, I mean he shot all three of them — there was no need for that.”

Ah, yes, that word “need” again. I guess he should have knee-capped one, winged another in the shoulder, and counted on the third to surrender in tears. How was the homeowner supposed to know the kids “only” had brass knuckles with them—which are a potentially deadly weapon anyway? Yeah, the old man is just blathering away in grief, but then most anti-gun rhetoric comes out of emotion rather than logic. I’m sure the grandfather would also argue that it would have been preferable for the homeowner to get beaten to death rather than for three young men with their whole lives ahead of them to be killed.

Side note:  Getaway driver, 21-year-old Elizabeth Rodriguez was  arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree murder, along with one count of first-degree burglary and one count of second-degree burglary. That’s how felony murder works. No, I don’t feel sorry for her, either.

2. Today’s Jussie Smollett hoax item. Stop making me defend Van Jones! CNN’s dapper race-baiter  is getting criticized for calling Jussie an icon in this quote:

“This is the fall of an icon and I don’t think people understand how important he has been in the black community. ‘Empire’ as a show, to have him as a beloved character, I think did a great deal to knock back homophobia in the black community. The fact that he has been celebrated and you see homophobia in the black community through his eyes on the show, this is a Jackie Robinson against homophobia.”

Writes Hollywood conservative columnist Christian Toto: “Jones just served up arguably the worst “take” on the Jussie Smollett hoax story…You almost have to read it twice to appreciate the absurdity of the comparison. If Jones, brighter than the average pundit, can sink this low, it speaks poorly of the pundit class in toto.”

I think Jones is generally a blight on TV punditry, but there is nothing inappropriate about his observation. There is a lot of homophobia in the black culture, and Smollett had begun to loosen its grip by playing a popular, likable, admirable gay character on a one of the most popular TV shows with gay audiences. Sure, the Jackie Robinson comparison is excessive, but I get his meaning. The implication of what Jones is says is that as a figure who was more than just another actor because of his symbolic effect, Smollett had an obligation to protect his status and image. Jones wasn’t excusing Smollett at all. Continue reading

Ethics Run-Down, 2/5/2019: Neeson And Nipples

I’m calling it a run-down because I’m run down.

1. THANK YOU…Ethics Alarms readers who contributed—by tuning in to the Puppy Bowl or something, anything— to the NFL’s worst ratings for a Super Bowl in a decade, and by some metrics (percentage of homes) the worst ratings ever. True, nobody knows exactly what kept viewers away—the looming Kaepernick controversy, the blah game, LA being sick of getting beaten by Boston, the prospect of being preached to by virtue-signaling corporations, the uninspiring half-time show, families being smart enough to try to steer their kids away from football—but progress is progress. Someone will have to explain to me the “boring game” theory: who does someone know the game is going to be boring without watching it?

2. Oh, Great—thanks to Liam Neeson, we are one step closer to punishing thought crimes. What possessed the often thoughtful actor to expound on a period in his life when he hated blacks?

In an interview, published by The Independent,  Neeson, who specializes in revenge fantasy action movies, that 40 years ago he walked the streets with a weapon looking for black men to attack because friend of his had been raped by a man she identified as African American. The actor said he “went out deliberately into black areas in the city looking to be set upon so that I could unleash physical violence”.

Now he is being attacked as a racist. And he’s surprised? The governor of Virginia is being attacked as a racist for dressing up as Michael Jackson when he was a student, and he wasn’t even trying to hurt anybody. Liam, Liam, Liam. Asked what he wanted people to learn from his experience, he told ABC’s Robin Roberts today, “To talk. To open up…We all pretend we’re all politically correct in this country…in mine, too. You sometimes just scratch the surface and you discover this racism and bigotry and it’s there. ”

Fine. Everyone has unethical, even evil thoughts and impulses on occasion. If we are normal, ethical, rational and reasonable, we deal with them in a healthy way. There is nothing unethical about thoughts. Unfortunately, we are plagued in the culture right now with those who want to dictate our thoughts and punish those who do not conform in order to control our liberties, expression and conduct. Neeson just gave those people, and Hollywood, where he works, is crawling with them, an opening to punish thoughts, specifically his.

Next time, Liam, talk to a priest, a psychiatrist, a spouse, a trusted friend, anyone but a journalist. If there is a next time: I fully expect Neeson to be effectively blackballed in his profession.

3. KABOOM! The stupidest Super Bowl ethics controversy ever! Actress Abigail Breslin—you may recall her fondly  in “Little Miss Sunshine,” not so fondly as “Baby” in the beyond horrible live TV version of “Dirty Dancing”— doesn’t understand why why Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine was allowed to go topless during his Super Bowl performance when Janet Jackson was so heavily criticized for her contrived nipple flashing during the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show. “Nipplegate” got CBS a $550,000 fine.

Levine removed his shirt to show off his heavily tattooed body as he performed, and a number of social media users, including celebrities, questioned why it was OK to see his top half and not Janet’s. You know. Morons.

“I have nothing against Adam Levine whatsoever and actually am a huge fan but it’s messed up that society seems it acceptable for him to be shirtless during the halftime show and Janet Jackson was chastised because her top half was accidentally exposed at the same event. #doublestandards,” Breslin tweeted. “It’s unfair that she was ridiculed for an accident that wasn’t even her fault but a man can take his shirt off on stage and it’s no problem….I’m saying neither should be fined. Or both should be fined. It’s not fair an accidental slip is cause for a fine but a man ripping his shirt off on stage is chill. It should be a fine for both or a fine for none.”

Actress Rosie Perez—is she more or less of a hasbeen than Breslin?— tweeted “Okay. Hold up. Are they going to go in and penalize # AdamLevine for showing his t*ts like they did @JanetJackson ? Just asking.”

Ugh. As Ethics Alarms has explained before, there was nothing accidental about Jackson’s flashing, and the risible claim that poor Janet had a “costume malfunction” (wink-wink) has entered the realm of fake history, less annoying but equally as false as “Hands Up! Don’t shoot!” But never mind that: have these actresses never been to a beach? A volleyball tournament? Do they live in nudist colony? Civilized society permits some parts of the male anatomy to be exposed in public, while some parts of the female anatomy are not considered appropriate for public display. The system has worked pretty well. Are feminists really going to try to label this a form of sexism?

On multiple fronts, it is beginning to appear that progressive cant is spinning into self-parody.

Here’s Adam, by the way:

 

I don’t know about you, but I had a hard time finding his nipples.

 

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/25/18: Kavanaugh-Free Zone

Good morning!

Regrettably, I’ll have to be writing about the Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck at length,  since it is deteriorating further has clearly merged with the  Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck AND the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck (the most dangerous of them all). To begin this day without a primal scream , however, let’s speak of other things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings, and why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings.

You know. Ethics.

1.Sentencing ethics and the Coz. The judge in the Bill Cosby case signaled that the comic-turned-serial rapist would probably get less than three years behind bars for raping Andrea Costand in 2004, by announcing that the defense and prosecution had come to an agreement to merge the counts. Looking at the state sentencing guidelines, the judge said,  and that the actor has no prior history (heads exploding all over the courtroom, but though 60 or so of Bill’s other victims have come forward, in the eys of Lady Justice, they don’t exist), he declared that once Dr. Huxtable was looking at a total jail time of 22 to 36 months.

Ah, the things lawyers have to say while defending their horrible clients! Defense team leader Joseph Green argued that Cosby’s poor upbringing and battles against discrimination in his climb to success should be mitigating factors in sentencing him. This is an old Sixties argument that was dumb then and dumb now, a non sequitur. Millions of men who grew up poor and who experienced discrimination don’t take up drugging women and molesting them as a hobby. “Eighty-one year old blind men are not dangerous,” he added, apparently forgetting the fact that Bill has the assets and the enablers—like his complicit wife, Camille–do continue his avocation should he choose.

Countering all of these desperate arguments was this observation, from D.A. Kevin Steele:  “He seemingly doesn’t think he has done anything wrong. No remorse.”

Cosby deserves to die in prison, and any less of a sentence is just one more unethical nod to “The King’s Pass.”

2. Oh, great, Murphy Brown is back. Don’t these two look like fun folks to spend some light-hearted family TV time with?

That’s Candace Bergen, aka Murphy Brown, and series creator Diane English. As the New York Times explains it, the show’s creator and star feels the resurrection of the insufferably smug, liberal  broadcast media-cheering sitcom from the 90’s was needed, so someone could be bashing President Trump on TV. After all, nobody else is…just all Saturday Night Live, the late night shows, about six cable shows, and the real news media.  And there are all those shows that mock the senile House Minority leader, the pathetic angry Presidential election loser, the socialist documentary-maker who abuses his employees, the Senator who claims to be Spartacus, the other Senator who says she’s a Native American, and people who wear pussy hats. Wait–there aren’t any of those, are there? Never mind: English says that the “resistance” needs more support on TV. As for the other half of the country, “They’re not going to watch us anyway,” she says, referring to American who think an elected President has the right to govern. “I don’t think we’re looking to bring them into the tent.”

Yes. let’s divide the nation further. That should be fun. Here is my favorite quote, from the show’s producer: “If Hillary Clinton was elected there’d be no artistic reason for this show to be on the air.” Discuss, if you like. Personally, I think that one is too easy.

The hypocrisy and dishonesty of the original show seems like it will be intact. Oh, goody. My wife and I bailed permanently on “Murphy Brown” after the star “bravely” had her  fatherless baby (thus encouraging non-millionaire, real single women to do so), and the child literally disappeared except for brief moments when Murphy returned home to check in with her live-in male nanny. Amazingly, being a single mother didn’t affect Murphy’s schedule or career at all!

In the new show, we are told, Murphy will embrace #MeToo. Meanwhile, Bergen is defending Les Moonves, who was just jettisoned from CBS after many women revealed that he had Weinsteined them. Says Bergen, “I think Les’s behavior was — it was a different time. He was a different man. Is it behavior unbecoming? Yeah. But I go back with CBS, with the first ‘Murphy.’ I have great respect for Les. I would really hate to see Les go.”

Oddly, I have no respect at all for men who abuse their power and position to harm women, yet I was called a misogynist a couple of days ago, and Candace is a feminist hero.

“Murphy Brown” deserves to bomb. Where’s Charlie McCarthy when you need him? Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: “The Handmaiden’s Tale” Halloween Costume

It’s never too early to have a stupid Halloween costume controversy.

Online retailer Yandy revealed a “Brave Red Maiden” Halloween costume for sale, evoking the garb women forced into sexual surrogacy wear in Hulu’s series “The Handmaid’s Tale.” “An upsetting dystopian future has emerged where women no longer have a say,” the description reads. “However, we say be bold and speak your mind in this exclusive Brave Red Maiden costume.”

Predictably, the social media mobs attacked, so Yandy pulled the merchandise and grovelled,

“Over the last few hours, it has become obvious that our “Yandy Brave Red Maiden Costume” is being seen as a symbol of women’s oppression, rather than an expression of women’s empowerment. This is unfortunate, as it was not our intention on any level. Given the sincere, heartfelt response, supported by numerous personal stories we’ve received, we are removing the costume from our site.”

In other words, “We, like almost every other company, will restrict the right of other Americans to express themselves if enough people complain loudly enough that those expressions from others don’t matter as much as who is offended by them.”

Of course, the original hype that the outfit would be “inspiring” was ridiculous, as is the contention that this science fiction show has any real relevance to anything in current United States culture. Women no longer have a say? That’s rich.

However, there is a dystopian future looming if the fascist of the Left are able to censor ideas, art, recreation and any other activities they find objectionable. Aiding them greatly are craven companies like Yandy. “Is being seen as a symbol of women’s oppression” by whom, exactly? It’s a Halloween costume! If you don’t like a costume, don’t wear it. The CNBC article says,

“The iconic red cloak from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” has become a feminist symbol of protest against women’s oppression around the world. Recently, demonstrators donned the costume outside Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination hearing.”

Now THAT was offensive. I can see the costume as satire, then, of the brain-addled delusions and delusions of such protesters. Maybe I want to dress up as one of the maidens. I guarantee that won’t look sexy. Would that be offensive? A sexy Handmaiden’s Tale costume is silly, but so is a sexy Hester Prynne costume, and sexy witch costumes (Is this disrespectful to the women unjustly hanged in Salem?) Is a sexy Little Red Riding Hood costume…

…offensive? Why not? I think it makes light of pedophilia. Red was a little girl. You shouldn’t be allowed to sell such a costume. You shouldn’t be allowed to wear one. You shouldn’t be allowed to smile at one. You shouldn’t be allowed to think such a get-up is funny.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Day While I Struggle With A Legal Ethics Opinion That Is Driving Me Nuts:

Should Yandy have removed the Handmaiden’s Tale costume from its site?

My view, in case you couldn’t guess, is that if enough people want to buy the stupid thing, they should be able to. Doing far more societal harm than any Halloween costume in dubious taste is the complicity of the private sector in political correctness bullying and restrictions on freedom of expression.