Regarding KFC’s Cheesy Chicken Kristallnacht Promotion…In Germany!

Oopsie!

On the anniversary of Kristallnacht (“Reichspogromnacht” in Germany), the Nazi-organized attack on synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses in 1938 that marked the beginning of the Holocaust, the German app users of the international restaurant chain KFC received the message above, which translates to “It’s memorial day for Kristallnacht! Treat yourself with more tender cheese on your crispy chicken. Now at KFCheese!”

In the next message, KFC apologized for the “system error.” It was not the system’s fault, however, but the fault of the humans who put the task of sending out automated promotional messages entirely in the metaphorical hands of a machine, without human oversight. No human being, especially in Germany, would come up with the idea of celebrating a tragedy on the scale of Kristallnacht with a “cheesy chicken” promotion. What happened was that the system was programed to send out a promotion coordinated with every holiday and memorial on the calendar, and nobody bothered to make sure that such promotions would be appropriate for all of them.

Quick! Somebody check with KFC Japan to see if a fried chicken promotion is scheduled to commemorate the atom bomb falling on Hiroshima!

Fortunately, this episode of technology incompetence was only embarrassing and offensive. The next example of humans carelessly entrusting tasks and decisions to computers may not be so easy to fix. Technology is a monster if it is not tamed, trained, watched carefully and used with meticulous care. Not only that, the harm it can do if employed recklessly or cavalierly, or if supervised by those without the foresight and judgment to do so competently, is the stuff of science fiction horror movies. This is a cautionary tale, and attention must be paid.

If enough people pay attention and heed the lesson, KFC may have performed a great service in its incompetence.

That is a big if, however.

The News About Pope Benedict And The Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Scandal: Not A Quiz, Just A Question…

What rationalization will be employed to excuse this?

The German law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl has concluded its detailed investigation and report on sexual abuse in Germany’s Munich diocese between 1945-2019. Among its revelations is that the now-retired previous Pope, the former Joseph Ratzinger, was responsible for enabling four cases of sexual abuse by priests in the 1970s and 1980s when he was an archbishop. The report was commissioned by the archdiocese to investigate sexual abuse.  Continue reading

Thank God It’s The Friday Ethics Warm-Up For The Weekend, 10/8/2021, Dedicated To Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow

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Mrs. O’Leary’s cow may be the most unethically maligned animal in U.S. history. On October 8, 1871, something caused flames to spark in the Chicago barn of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary. The resulting two-day conflagration killed 200-300 people, destroyed 17,450 buildings, left 100,000 homeless and caused about $4 billion of damage in today’s dollars. While the fire was still raging, The Chicago Evening Journal reported that it all started “on the corner of DeKoven and Twelfth Streets, at about 9 o’clock on Sunday evening, being caused by a cow kicking over a lamp in a stable in which a woman was milking.” Then a verse to a popular song was added; pretty soon it was the only verse anyone remembered:

Late one night, when we were all in bed,
Mrs. O’Leary lit a lantern in the shed.
Her cow kicked it over,
Then winked her eye and said,
‘There’ll be a hot time in the old town tonight!’

There was never any convincing evidence that a cow started the blaze. The O’Learys had five cows, and they didn’t have names. It’s not even a sure thing that the fire started in the barn, but Mrs. O’Leary was a Catholic woman and an Irish immigrant, and Chicagoans were eager to have a scapegoat, or rather scapecow. One prominent historian who has studied the inquest transcripts believes that the true culprit was an O’Leary neighbor named Daniel ‘Pegleg’ Sullivan, who hobbled into the O’Leary barn to smoke a pipe, which then fell into a pile of wood shavings and subsequently started the fire. Nonetheless, Catherine O’Leary was ostracized, and became a recluse. In 1997, the Chicago City Council officially exonerated Mrs. O’Leary and her cow, which did just about as much good for Mrs. O’Leary as for the cow.

1. A new book shows that I have not lived in vain! Yesterday, a line from a depressing movie called “Kodachrome” sent me into one of my funks. During one of the many arguments between a dying artist and his middle aged son who hates him, the father (Ed Harris) sneers that he may have been a neglectful father, but at least he would leave something of importance when he died, unlike his son, a failed rock band recruiter for a record label. By purest luck, today I received a complimentary copy of “Reginald Rose and the Journey of 12 Angry Men,” a fascinating and thoroughly researched account of how the TV screenplay and the film came to be the iconic works they are. Author Phil Rosenweig also tells the weird story of how Rose lost control of the stage version of his work, and how for years the only script one could legally perform was a hack adaptation of the movie by a writer who didn’t understand it. Well, I’m part of that weird story, as is my old theater company, “The American Century Theater,” which became the first professional theater in the U.S. to present the screenplay on stage. Many were involved in the success of that production, including my wife,Grace, who produced the script by meticulously typing the screenplay from a recording of the movie (this was before the internet), and NPR critic Bob Mondello, who traveled by bus, in the rain, to a converted school auditorium to see the production, which he gave a sensational and much circulated review. There were many twists and turns after that, but eventually Rose’s version of “12 Angry Men” became the play most theaters produce. He got the respect he deserved, the endurance of the play, which is a genuine classic (I directed it four times) is assured, and yes, I was part of the reason why. Rosenweig, who interviewed me, accurately relates my role in the off-stage drama. You can find the book on Amazon, and here.

Now I can die in peace.

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Wednesday Ethics Wind-Down / Thursday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/14-15/2020: The Unmasking Of News Media And Social Media Bias Continues…[UPDATED!]

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1. Notes from The Great Stupid. Here is a passage from a New York Times book review of “The Tragedy of Heterosexuality”:

In examining the pressure to partner with the opposite gender we find the extortions of capitalism, the misogyny of violence against women, the racist and xenophobic erasure of nonwhite families, and the homophobic hatreds that pervade so much of everyday life.”

Well, that and the biological imperative to continue the species. This brilliance is the work of Haley Mlotek,  a senior editor for SSENSE. Imagine: this is the quality of thought among our intellectual class.

No wonder the political class is so idiotic.

2. So this is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, is it? Nikole  Hannah-Jones, faced with a careful and accurate fisking of her fraudulent “1619 project” by Times columnist Bret Stephens (covered by Ethics Alarms here) did not try to rebut him, or make a civil, reasoned argument. She did what her entire generation of prominent African Americans have been conditioned to do, because it works so well. She accused Stephens and the Times of racism, with a dash of sexism for flavor. Hannah-Jones tweeted,

“In 1894, the NYT called Ida B. Wells a ‘slanderous and nasty-minded mulattress’ for daring to tell the truth about lynching. 100 years later she earned the Pulitzer Prize. These efforts to discredit my work simply put me in a long tradition of [black women] who failed to know their places.”

(It is satisfying to watch the Washington Post pounce on the Times over this fiasco. The rivalry between the papers is one of the few factors that ever pushed one of them into practicing actual journalism these days.)

As for Nikole Hannah-Jones, she is a child. Her tantrum was irresponsible and an embarrassment to the Times, and she should, by rights, be fired. She won’t be, because of black privilege, now enhanced in the wake of the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck. The embarrassment for the Times, however, will linger. This woman was given leave by the paper to create and promote a false historical narrative that was not designed to enlighten but to further a political agenda. In truth, the Times deserves the embarrassment even more than Hannah-Jones deserves to be fired.

Continue reading

Women’s History Month Ethics: Should We Remember Hanna Reitsch? [Corrected]

Note: the photo originally included in this post was not Hanna Reitch. Thanks for the correction is due to author Clare Mulley, whose book, “The Women Who Flew For Hitler,” is well worth reading.

If Women’s History Month is truly intended to honor remarkable women whose stories have been neglected over time, shouldn’t we spend a bit of it learning about Hanna Reitsch?

Born in 1912, she was intrepid, irrepressible, bold and brave, and few women—indeed, few men— of her generation could claim the kind of exploits she had completed by the time of her death in 1979. Yet I’ll wager you never heard of her.

There was one teeny little problem with Hanna, though. She was a Nazi.

Hanna Reitsch was the first female test pilot in world history. She left medical school  in Germany to take up flying full time, and quickly became superb glider pilot. The Germans built gliders because they  fit through a loophole in the Treaty of Versailles, which forbade the defeated nation from  building “war planes.” Reitsch also did stunt flying in movies. At the age of 21 she broke the world’s flying altitude record for women (9,184 feet). More records and firsts were to follow after she became a test pilot in 1935: the women’s gliding distance record, the first woman in the world to be promoted to flight captain,  the first woman to fly a helicopter, the  world distance record in a helicopter, the first pilot  to fly a helicopter inside an enclosed space, and the women’s world record in gliding for point-to-point flight, among others.

Reitsch was made an honorary flight captain by Adolf Hitler, and  in 1937 she became a test pilot for the Luftwaffe, as she completely embraced National Socialism.  She  flew  German troops along the Maginot Line  during the Germans’ 1940 invasion of France; later in the war, she earned  an Iron Cross, Second Class, for risking her life trying to cut British barrage-balloon cables. Among the warplanes she tested was the Messerschmitt 163, a rocket-powered interceptor that she flew at 500 mph. Hitler awarded her an Iron Cross, First Class, after she crashed while testing the ME 163 and managed to record everything that had happened before she passed out. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/2/18: Democratic Dinners, TV Weatherman Edicts, Truth As Racism, And More

Good Morning!

I see that the October jobs report this morning is spectacularly good, with 250,000 jobs added. It is amazing that so many Americans are going to vote against Republicans in the midst of such a strong economic surge following the end of Obama’s recovery-strangling policies. The lesson for future leaders, perhaps, is that the public cares more about a President constantly acting like an asshole than they do about what he accomplishes. From an ethics point of view, I would see that as a positive development, if I didn’t strongly suspect that the real reasons for apparent votes against self-interest are 1) that the news media isn’t reporting the economic news with anything like the enthusiasm it would if this were a Democratic administration, 2) that people really believe the ridiculous spin that this is somehow an Obama recovery, and 3) that so many young Americans have been indoctrinated into socialism that even as Venezuela crumbles, they are still buying the fantasy.

1. Next try: The Oprah-Jennifer Lawrence Dinner. This is pretty funny. Following the lead of other Democratic state organizations, The New Hampshire Democrats insulted the party’s two founders, Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, also two of the nation’s greatest leaders, by removing their names from the annual party dinner.  For 2017, the event was renamed…wait for it!…the Kennedy-Clinton Dinner! Yup, two serial sexual assaulting misogynists, assuming it’s Jack and not Teddy being honored, in which case it’s a negligent killer, for the Party of Women. What a brilliant choice! How can anyone not vote for a party capable of a decision like that? But for some reason, as the Harvey Weinstein Train Wreck rolled along, the new name came under criticism. Who could have foreseen that? So the dinner has been renamed again; now it’s called the Eleanor Roosevelt Dinner, after the cruelly-treated wife of another Democratic icon.

2. Who makes these rules? Why, Al Roker, that’s who! After he was called a hypocrite on social media for dressing up as “Doc Brown,” the Christopher Lloyd character in the “Back to the Future” films—Al, you will recall, helped get Megyn Kelly fired for saying that a white person could impersonate a black character using dark make-up without engaging in racially offensive conduct—tweeted,

“I’m going to say this one last time, but the folks who get it, understand and the ones who DON’T, won’t. I can be Doc Brown, and I wear the outfit and wig and not change my skin color if you’re white , you can be President Obama if you want. Just don’t color your skin!”

Wait: what about hair, Al? I’ve read that it’s racially offensive for a white person to wear a black-hair wig, like an Afro or Bob Marley hair. But it’s okay for you to wear a crazy old white guy wig?

Why, Al? For that matter, why isn’t wearing make-up that allows someone to actually look like the person or character he or she is portraying acceptable? Who makes these rules? Oh! Right! You do!

When I first saw that picture, I didn’t know who the hell Al was playing. I thought it might be Michael Jackson if he had lived, let himself go, and grew his nose back. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/21/18: Road Trip Edition

Good Morning!

We’re just about to hit the road and return home, with a 6 hour drive ahead and a car that periodically flashed “TRANS FAIL PROG.” at  us before the engine stops. Gotta get that checked! Thanks for bearing with me during the past few days. Now that I have my little laptop charged, I have less than a n hour of access to the hotel internet. I hate road trips…

1. What exactly are the #MeToo rules? Obviously they are too complicated for me. I’m going to devote a whole post to this soon, but I wouldn’t mind some advance feedback. Pretty clearly, whatever the rules are, they are ripe with double standards. How can the Democrats and feminists justify standing behind DNC co-chair Keith Ellison, for example, who has been credibly accused of domestic violence? How can feminists and scholars still support Avitell Ronell, whose situation I wrote about here? 

It seems pretty clear, does it not, that race, gender, and political orientation change the rules, right? Of course, the King’s Pass is also in play, as it usually is. I wonder how Al Franken feels right now. Will Bill Clinton be “in” again? Is the new standard that women should be believed when they accuse men of sexual assault as long as their alleged abuser is white, Christian or Jewish, or a Republican? It is particularly peculiar that Ellison’s denials are being taken seriously, since his record of candor is shaky at best. Senator Gillibrand, who led the charge to run Franken out of office, hasn’t exhibited any similar indignation regarding Ellison. Why is that?

2. Wait, I thought President Trump was a Nazi…Jakiw Palij, who claimed he was working on a farm and in a factory during World War II when he applied for U.S. citizenship, had that citizenship revoked in 2003 by a federal judge, and he was ordered to be deported a year later. His appeal was denied in 2005. But he stayed..and stayed…. in the United States until now, because, as we know, the Obama Administration didn’t think deporting people who have no business being here should be a major priority, and the Bush administration, as was often the case, wasn’t paying attention. The  problem was, we are told, that no nation would take Palij, even Germany, which has the ethical obligation to be accountable for all Nazis, living and dead. It appears that Germany relented because this President was willing to go to the mat on the principle.

Trump deserves credit for pushing to do what the previous administrations didn’t care enough about to do. He’ won’t get it, except on Fox News, the hacks. Continue reading

How Does Any Administration Or Federal Agency Allow Someone This Incompetent To Represent It In Public?

I am both puzzled and aghast, if not necessarily surprised.

From the moment candidate Trump pledged that his theoretical administration would employ “the best people,”  he has periodically shown that he or his subordinates mistake “the best people” with “mouth-breathing idiots,  fools, and irredeemable slime-balls” with disturbing regularity. There was Omarosa. There was Anthony Scaramucci. There was Steve Bannon, and pathetic Reince Priebus. There was, of course, Michael Flynn, and is Scott Pruitt. And that is before we even start thinking about Michael Cohen.

I really don’t understand this. For all his flaws…and as Lorenz Hart said in “Pal Joey”…

…one would assume that a successful businessman whose hit reality show was about hiring “the best people” would have some acumen in at least not hiring the worst people. And yet we still get examples like this…. Continue reading

Weekend Comment of the Day #2: “The VW Scandal: Huge Consequences, Simple Ethics Lessons, Ominous Implications”

GermanFlagVWThe second Comment of the Day, from prolific commenter Michael R, explores how the Volkswagen plot may have been nourished by industry-crushing over-regulation.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “The VW Scandal: Huge Consequences, Simple Ethics Lessons, Ominous Implications”:

This scandal is worse that you present it. When you look at it, our government encourages such conduct. When you look at what happened, it sure looks like our wonderful Democrats hate the United States and the companies and working Americans. In 1998, the government went after US diesel manufacturers for a less-devious defeat device (it seems that it worked only when the engine was under strain and the emission controls worked at least some of the time during normal operation). They were fined and had to pay for environmental remediation to the tune of $1 billion. The software was not as essential to the running of the engines as VW’s, as the companies were able to make the engines compliant with a software fix.

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Ethics Mystery: What Was So Wrong With Curt Schilling’s Muslim Tweet?

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ESPN pulled former baseball pitching star Curt Schilling from its Little League broadcast team yesterday after becoming aware of his tweet above, saying in a statement:

“Curt’s tweet was completely unacceptable, and in no way represents our company’s perspective. We made that point very strongly to Curt and have removed him from his current Little League assignment pending further consideration.”

Schilling then tweeted this apology: “I understand and accept my suspension. 100% my fault. Bad choices have bad consequences and this was a bad decision in every way on my part.” This appears to be a #1 on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale...“An apology motivated by the realization that one’s past conduct was unjust, unfair, and wrong, constituting an unequivocal admission of wrongdoing as well as regret, remorse and contrition, as part of a sincere effort to make amends and seek forgiveness.” 

If I had delivered it, however, it might have been a #7: “A forced or compelled version of 1-4, in which the individual (or organization) apologizing may not sincerely believe that an apology is appropriate, but chooses to show the victim or victims of the act inspiring it that the individual responsible is humbling himself and being forced to admit wrongdoing by the society, the culture, legal authority, or an organization or group that the individual’s actions reflect upon or represent.”

What was it exactly that Schilling’s tweet showed, implied, suggested or stated that was” completely unacceptable,  in no way represent ESPN’s  perspective, and that justified his employer’s action? Curt Schilling is an inquisitive, politically active and opinionated man, and has always annoyed sportswriters because 1) he’s openly conservative 2) he’s a devout Christian, and isn’t shy about talking about it, 3) he can write and speak coherently and was capable, while playing, of challenging their criticism, and 4) he’s a lot smarter than most of them. I am assuming in this inquiry that nothing in Schilling’s contract or agreement with ESPN restricted his right to express non-sports opinions on his own time.

Here are some possibilities: Continue reading