Sunday Ethics Review, 12/I/50: Birthday/Finding Dad Dead In His Chair Anniversary Edition

[Yesterday I was just about to post the following when I felt a recurrence of the dizziness that sent me to the floor on Thanksgiving,  This sent me to the emergency room, where I spent  the second worst birthday of my life. I just got home, now just about 24 hours later, after three blood tests, about ten stroke tests, lots of other tests and quizzes, four doctors and a miserable night, culminating in the conclusion that whatever this was, it wasn’t related to my heart or circulation. 54% of fainting incidents, I learned remain mysteries. Swell.]

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Hi.

Ten years ago today, I went over to my parent’s condo to check on my dad, since my mother, then recovering from knee surgery, was concerned that she hadn’t heard from him. Jack A. Marshall Sr. was also going to take me out for dinner, since it was my birthday, but that pleasure was not to be. He had died, quietly during a nap, a few months short of his 90th year. I miss my father’s inspiration, guidance and unflagging support constantly, and December first has been a matter of serious dissonance for me ever since. I did take comfort, while everyone was telling me that I was a fool not to go to the emergency room after my fainting episode on Thanksgiving, that the odds of anyone dropping dead not only on the anniversary of his father’s death, but also on his own birthday, seems extremely remote. Kind of cool, though.

I took my birthday off of my Facebook page because those reflex happy birthday messages—I send them myself—are meaningless and  faintly obligatory. Two years ago I received almost 200 of them, then last year I got the message when the number fell by about two-thirds. I had made it clear by then that I was rebelling against the Facebook Borg aka “the resistance,” and so I had been told that I did NOT deserve a happy birthday. Fine. Bite me.

1 “The Crown” Ethics. A. The Pretend Sister-in-Law Of The King’s Pass! While waiting to see if I was going to pass out again, I began watching Season 3 of Netflix’s “The Crown.” Like the first two seasons, the series is uniformly excellent and largely accurate, but I am annoyed at Helena Bonham Carter’s turn as the middle-aged Princess Margaret. Carter is an excellent actress as well as one of the biggest stars the series has featured, but to be blunt, she’s too fat to play Margaret, who at that point in her life was  still vain winning the battle against middle-aged spread (at 5’1, it could not have been easy.) For a production that mostly aims for near perfect look-alike casting (young Charles, Princess Anne and Prince Phillip are especially uncanny), why would the producers allow Carter to appear on screen like this? Mostly, I’m annoyed at her: actors gain and lose weight all the time for roles, and a mere 10-15 pounds would have made Carter a credible and flattering Margaret. She could have hit the gym and laid off the kidney pie; obviously the actress didn’t care, and the producer and director let her get away with it, because she’s a star. Yet all the lines about how glamorous Margaret is make no sense as a result. Carter’s a beautiful woman, but she’s a mighty frumpy Princess Margaret.

B. A perfect future episode for Season 4, or maybe 5, is going on right now.  Prince Andrew, the younger brother of Prince Charles, has long been mentioned a party pal of billionaire sex-slaver Jeffrey Epstein, and thanks to a car crash  of a BBC interview in which he couldn’t have seemed more guilty and less remorseful, the Duke of York is reportedly being removed from all royal duties and may have his allowance cut off, meaning that his two princess daughters will no longer be supported by taxpayers, among other nasty consequences. Charleshas ordered a crisis meeting with his scandal-scarred brother before Monday night’s dreaded BBC special with key accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who accuses Andrew of raping her while she was under Epstein’s control.

The news media has been ostentatiously uninterested in Prince Andrew’s travails, in marked contrast to its coverage of the various Charles-Diana scandals in days of yore. One reason, I think, is that Epstein’s OTHER celebrity playmate was Bill Clinton, and it will be hard to expose one without drawing attention to the other. After all, the objective now is to get Trump, not remind the public about Bill (or Harvey.) Media bias is exhibited as much by what isn’t reported as by what is. Continue reading

In California, A Black Lives Matter Ethics Mess

Here’s the story, and then we’ll look at the ethics miscreants who made an ethics  mess of it….

At Del Paso Manor Elementary, near Sacramento, a parent volunteer in a sixth grade class asked the teacher if she could teach an art lesson about diversity. The male teacher told her in front of the class that “his lessons would contain lessons with ‘a bunch of old white guys’ so her content may not fit.” The volunteer  was confused and “a bit concerned” by the statement, but went ahead with the project she had envisioned. She asked the students to each make  a poster that focused on something “they wanted to see changed at the school.”  Four students created Black Lives Matter posters.

The next day, the teacher told the parent volunteer that he had thrown the four posters away because they were “inappropriate and political.” The teacher asked the volunteer “whether students were getting shot at the school and demanded answers regarding why a presentation on Black Lives Matter was relevant” to the school.

The volunteer complained to the principal, who backed up the teacher and his decision, agreeing that Black Lives Matter posters are political statements and off limits for public display in the school. Then someone, perhaps the volunteer but maybe a parent, took the matter to the ACLU. The group then contacted the  school district, and argued that  Black Lives Matter posters were protected speech under the California Education Code because they “convey a student’s thoughts, ideas and beliefs in the support of black lives,” and were also protected under the California Constitution.

Ugh.

Now the ethics verdicts: Continue reading

Now We Know Who Simpson College Is Named For, I Guess.

It must be Homer, because that appears to be the level of cognition being  taught to its students, by equally dunder-headed faculty.

I’ll try to make this short, because we’ve had the same discussion recently. I have made a vow, however, to remark with disgust on such idiocy every time it raises its hole-riddled Homer-shaped head.

John Bolen, a retired professor of religion working part-time at  Simpson College, uttered the dreaded shibboleth “nigger”  during a class. He used the word to discuss the word, of course, and not as a racial epithet, but Homer and similarly handicapped students can’t make such nuanced distinctions. Bolen was using the word to make the hackneyed, stale and simplistic analogy with the Washington, D.C. pro football team’s nickname “The Redskins,” but he triggered mass outage by not using baby-talk (“N-word”) or Pig Latin (“Iggernay”) instead of English as if his audience consisted of  adults and could hear a word used to describe itself without having a psychotic episode because of the color of the speaker. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/13/2019: Protests, Insults, Complaints And Threats

Started this at 3:15 am.

To be honest, I’m going back to bed as soon I  post it…

1. Today’s sample of Trump Derangement: Someone calling himself “Morgan Kilgore” (not hi s real name, however) just submitted a comment in all caps, to this post from May. It reads: TRUMP IS A CROOK AND ROBINSON SAID IT VERY PLAIN SIMPLE, UNLKE THE MUELLER REPORT..YOU TRUMP SUPPORTERS ARE A BUNCH OF FOOLS,LEAD BY A FOOL AND CONMAN.IF TRUMP TOOK A DUMP ON YOUR TURKEY DINNER,YOU WOULD STILL MAKE AN EXCUSE FOR HIM AND IT’S
SAD PEOPLE,VERY SAD. HEY MAYBE YOUR CHILDREN WILL GROWN UP AND HAVE TRUMP. VALUES.

The comment makes no substantive arguments and does not attempt to rebut the post, which is pretty air tight, frankly. I get a lot of these. (“Morgan” will not be joining our discussions.) The comment is also pretty typical of what the average Trump-obsessed Facebook user posts or “likes” on a daily basis.

2.  Freedom of speech watch: Jonathan Turley, who deserves praise for relentlessly flagging and criticizing the alarming increase in anti-speech advocacy from the Left, notes,

“The doublespeak used to justify the denial of free speech is particularly chilling. The students [at Stanford] insisted that allowing people to hear [ conservative pundit Ben Shapiro]  put them at risk: “WE are tired of Stanford Administration’s complicity in putting Black, Brown, Trans, Queer, and Muslim students at risk by allowing SCR to bring Ben Shapiro to campus”…The students declared their commitment not “to allow Shapiro’s talk to go uninterrupted.” In other words, we will not allow other students and faculty listen and have a discourse with Shapiro. What is striking is how these students believe that denying free speech is a noble act — a view fueled by many faculty members who treat speech as violence or a tool of oppression. That makes being a censor sound like being a civil libertarian. You simply declare, as did the Stanford students, that this is a “harmful event” with “harmful people.” Done.

Continue reading

Observations On The Washington Post Op-Ed, “Why America Needs A Hate Speech Law”

Richard Stengel, a frequent contributor on MSNBC, a former editor of Time magazine, and the  State Department’s undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs in the Obama administration from 2013 to 2016 wrote this embarrassing, anti-free speech screed.

Observations:

1. In the past I have criticized newspapers and other publications for publishing irresponsible opinion pieces. This time, I want to thank and praise the Washington Post. Either intentionally or inadvertently, it has performed a public service by using its op-ed pages to expose the hypocrisy, intellectual bankruptcy, ethics ignorance and relentless totalitarian rot of their own ideological compatriots.

2. I might say the same about  Stengal, but he really seems to think that he is making a persuasive case. Imagine: a man whom President Obama  and his Democratic administration trusted as a high level State Department official  can make an argument like this…

Why shouldn’t the states experiment with their own version of hate speech statutes to penalize speech that deliberately insults people based on religion, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation?

Why, Richard? Oh, gee, I don’t know…maybe because “insult” is a completely subjective standard? Perhaps because Massachusetts, Vermont,California, and Oregon might decide that arguments against climate change cant is hate speech, like Holocaust denial? Maybe  because the 14th Amendment prohibits states from abridging the Bill of Rights? Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/27/2019: The Grant Viktor Bowen Marshall Birthday Edition

Samara Orphanage #2, where we found our son,

It’s a good day.

On this date in 1994, my son Grant was born in Russia. His mother, who was unmarried, did not abort him as many women in her position might have and do, but chose to give him up to be cared for the state, as she declared under oath that she could not. For six months, he lived in one of the packed and underfunded orphanages in Samara, near Moscow. Samara is among the most depressing places I have ever visited, only slightly edged out on my list  by Lorton Penitentiary in Northern Virginia, now shuttered, and Lagos, Nigeria.

Our adventure adopting Grant is too long and involved to record today, but I need to do that. Boris Yeltsin was closing down international adoptions, and we were in a group of four American couples racing to rescue some kids before the gates closed for an unknown period. Children were (and are) seldom adopted in Russia by Russians, and usually they end up warehoused until they reach 18, when they are released to the street. Samara was, it is fair to say, a true hell-hole, lacking drinkable water, businesses, and basic infrastructure. The nurses and administrators running the orphanages were kind, caring and dedicated, but they were also desperate. They tried every tactic imaginable to persuade Americans to adopt multiple children. I am still haunted by the faces of the kids that were introduced to us, and who we left behind. I don’t want to think about.

After a week of being shuttled and raced around the Russian bureaucracy, bribing officials with clocks and silverware, Grace and I made it to the U.S. Embassy with our new son and the necessary papers. The documents falsely stated that he was suffering from multiple maladies, the only way an infant could be adopted by foreign parents under the existing laws. In fact, he had been the healthiest baby in Orphanage #2, a trait he has continued into adulthood. He is almost never sick.

Just like Damien in “The Omen.”

We flew back to the U.S. on the “orphan plane,” a regular Moscow-to-New York flight routinely filled with U.S. parents and their adopted Russian children. The sound of crying infants and chattering toddlers was constant the whole flight. It was glorious.

I look at Grant today, a healthy, defiantly independent, iconoclastic young man with a life of opportunities and challenges before him , and reflect upon the kind of life he would be facing in Samara had a series of accidents and random events not brought our family together.

When Grant was 6, he asked me why he was born in Russia (the little sneak had surreptitiously broken into our documents box and read his adoption papers. I told him that sometimes a loving couple’s child would be born in the wrong place, and then his or her parents had to retrieve him. That was what happened with him, I explained. Grant liked that story so much he told all his friends.

The funny thing is, although I made it up at the time, I believe that with all my heart.

Happy Birthday, son.

[It’s also a good day because on this date in 2004, the Boston Red Sox ended 86 years of frustration and won their first World Series since 1918. Grant said at the time that finally he was certain that I would never forget his birthday.]

2. How’s that minimum wage increase working out for everyone? I was in a Taco Bell last night. The chain has added computer ordering, and there was one person behind the counter. Minimum wage increases cost jobs and makes automation cost-effective. It drives small businesses to ruin, and moves low-skilled Americans from work to public assistance. All of this has been well-understood and known for decades, yet the Democratic Party and all of the current Presidential candidates still pander to organized labor the economically-challenged by making minimum wage hikes a rich-vs-poor rallying cry. Given that the increases don’t affect the rich at all and hurt the poor, I judge the advocacy and disinformation awfully close to evil. If that’s too harsh, It is certainly unforgivably unethical. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/28/2019: The Search For Inspiration

I need inspiration today…

1. No, this isn’t it…The Idiot Air Traveler. At a certain point, extreme stupidity is unethical. In China, a Xiamen Airlines passenger opened the emergency exit door of the aircraft as the plane was preparing to take off because she  felt the cabin was “too stuffy” and wanted “a breath of fresh air.”  She was arrested, and the incident caused the flight to be delayed an hour. How stupid and ignorant does someone have to be to do this? Wouldn’t you say this is signature significance indicating idiocy? Would you hire someone who did this even once? Allow her to take care of your children? Trust her with sharp objects? Allow her to buy a ticket for another plane trip?

2. Nor this.. New York City intentionally violates the Constitution. It is now against the law in New York City to threaten to call  immigration authorities on someone or refer to them as an “illegal alien” when “motivated by hate.”  A 29-page directive released by City Hall’s Commission on Human Rights announces fines of up to $250,000 per offense for, among other things, “the use of certain language, including ‘illegal alien’ and ‘illegals,’ with the intent to demean, humiliate, or offend a person.”  Mocking people because of their accents or grasp of English is also a crime now in the Big Apple. So is threatening to call ICE.

“In the face of increasingly hostile national rhetoric, we will do everything in our power to make sure our treasured immigrant communities are able to live with dignity and respect, free of harassment and bias,” said Carmelyn Malalis, the agency’s commissioner.

Maybe the whole set of new regulations isn’t unconstitutional, but the ones focused on “hate speech” certainly are. The city is simply declaring its contempt for the First Amendment with this stunt.

3. I guess this is kind of inspiring...When it pays to be trans. The old Saturday Evening Post used to have a feature called “The Perfect Squelch,” regaling its readers with a witty comeback or rejoinder that left an adversary defeated and demoralized. It wouldn’t have printed this one, but I can’t imagine a better example of the genre. This is Faye Kinley… Continue reading