Monday Ethics Madness, 9/14/2020: Accusations, Crimes And Punishment

On this day, September 14, in 1814, Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the poem that was eventually set to music and, by act of Congress in 1931, became America’s official National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The poem, originally titled “The Defence of Fort M’Henry,” was written after Key witnessed the Maryland fort standing up to furious bombardment by the British during the War of 1812. A lone, tattered  U.S. flag was still flying over Fort McHenry at daybreak, giving rise to the anthem’s most bracing line, “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”

I’ve listened to the Anthem being attacked more or less my whole life—it’s bellicose, it’s too hard to sing, it’s set to the music of a drinking song, it was written by a slave-holder. What matters is that the Anthem, unlike so many others nations’ anthems, has a authentic historical origin linked to an existtential  crisis in our history, and that it eloquently represents the American character and its dedication to hope, perseverance, and resilience. The Star Spangled Banner may be hard to sing, but when a crowd sings it with  passion, or when a singer knocks it out of the park like the late, great Whitney Houston, only France’s Marseillaise can equal it for sheer chills.

The current assault on the Anthem, and the use of it for cheap political theatrics by refusing to stand and convey proper respect for what it represents, is an attack on American history, values and culture. Nothing less.

1. It’s called “paying one’s debt to society.” I have no intense objection to allowing convicted felons to vote once they have served their sentences. I also have no intense objection to banning convicted felons from voting for life. In 2018, Florida’s voters decided to end the disenfranchisement of those convicted of felonies, except for murder and sexual offenses. Then the battle became whether convicted felons should be required to pay all the fines related to their crimes before they became eligible to vote again.

Well, of course. Isn’t that intrinsically obvious? You can vote when you have paid society’s requirements as a punishment for the felony: whether that is time in prison, or time on probation, or a cash fine, it’s all part of the “debt to society.” Pay that debt, and then you can vote.

But Democrats are expert in representing legitimate requirements and safeguards for voting as sinister voting suppression schemes, so in May  a Florida court ruled that requiring convicted felons, many of whom are indigent, to pay court-ordered fines before they could regain the vote was unlawful discrimination, by imposing an unconstitutional “pay-to-vote system.”

What an astoundingly deceitful and dishonest argument! Is requiring people to pay for their groceries a vicious “pay not to starve to death” system? The fines have nothing to do with voting. The fines have to do with completing the punishment for the felonies. Calling the fines the equivalent of a poll tax is clever but deliberately misleading, yet a court bought it. Fortunately, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta overturned that decision, and ruled that the 2019 Florida law requiring ex-felons to pay their fines before being re-enfranchised was indeed constitutional.

And it is. Continue reading

Google Is Making It Extra-Easy To Discriminate On The Basis of Race! Thanks, Google! [CORRECTED!]

[I was so upset about this that I rushed to get it up, with the usual skipped words and missed typos. I think they are all fixed now. I’m sorry for the sloppiness]

Well, isn’t that ducky! Google pledged last month to support the black community in its battle for “initiatives and product ideas that support long-term solutions  to systemic racism, and has come up with a nifty way to do it that will assist racists of all colors everywhere. Continue reading

Ethics Batting Practice, 7/21/ 2020: Baseball Zoom Hangover Edition.

Isn’t that only TWO feet??

Last night’s Smithsonian Associates presentation on baseball and American culture went well, I guess. Presenting on Zoom is like acting in a closet: no connection to the audience, no way to gauge what is working and what isn’t, or whether the invisible viewers are engaged. It did give me  a chance, during the section on baseball cheating, to read one of my favorite passages from Philip Roth’s baseball allegory/satire,”The Great American Novel.” Roth’s narrator, mad sportswriter Word Smith, tells the sad tale of the legendary “Spit” Baal, a master of the spitball, the mucous-ball and other trick pitches aided by surreptitiously applied substances. After such adulterations of the ball were banned in 1920, Baal found his career in tatters, since he could no longer use his signature pitch. (In the real world, the National league and American league allowed acknowledged spitball specialists to continue to throw the pitch legally under a grandfather clause, but Roth’s fantasy  is about a third major league, wiped from history and record books in the Fifties following the discovery that it had been infiltrated by Communists.) One day, again seeing his dry pitches clobbered and realizing that he could no longer get batters out legally, “Spit” has a psychotic break on the mound that ends his career in spectacular if unsanitary fashion:

And so before twenty thousand shocked customers  including innocent children — and his own wide-eyed teammates, the once great pitcher, who was  washed up anyway, did the unthinkable, the unpardonable, the inexpiable. He dropped the flannel  trousers of his uniform to his knees, and proceeded  to urinate on the ball, turning it slowly in his hands  so as to dampen the entire surface. Then he hitched  his trousers back up, and in the way of pitchers,  pawed at the ground around the mound with his  spikes, churning up then smoothing down the dirt  where he had inadvertently dribbled upon it. To the  batter, as frozen in his position as anyone in that  ball park, he called, “Here comes the pissball, shithead — get ready!”

For years afterward they talked about the route that ball took before it passed over the plate. Not  only did it make the hairpin turns and somersaults  expected of a Baal spitter, but legend has it that it  shifted gears four times, halving, then doubling its  velocity each fifteen feet it traveled. And in the end,  the catcher, in his squat, did not even have to move  his glove from where it too was frozen as a target .Gagging, he caught the ball with a squish, right in  the center of the strike zone…

1. So this graph would seem to indicate that the news media is scare mongering, right? Continue reading

“Mini-Mike” Height Ethics

When President Trump tweeted that Michael Bloomberg was a  “5’4” mass of dead energy,”this instantly was seized upon by “the resistance” and the news media (like NPR) as one more Trump “lie” to add to the list. Why, all you have to do is google Bloomberg’s height to learn that the ex-NYC mayor and media mogul currently trying to buy the Democratic  nomination for President is a full 5’8″ tall, and also to be informed that 5’8″ is average for an American male!

The tweet was, of course, as infantile as it was Trump-like, redolent of candidate Trump’s mockery of Marco Rubio as “Little Marco.” It was also a lot closer to accurate than Google’s bias-driven mythology. Heck, I knew that Bloomberg was short—anyone who has seen him in a group does—and 5’8″ isn’t short. Edward Welsch, who worked for Bloomberg, writes in Commentary,

As a former Bloomberg News employee, I heard this and shook my head in disbelief. Google is lying. I’ve seen the man in person, and he’s strikingly short. My colleagues and I estimated him at 5’5”. Reviewing morning news reports, I note that Google isn’t the only one that inflates Bloomberg’s height. The Daily Caller and NBC News give him 5’7”, the Washington Free Beacon 5’6”. Apparently Bloomberg himself has said 5’7”,  but then he’s also claimed to be 5’10”, which is taller than I am and contrary to my memory of having to tilt my head downward when I stood near him on one occasion several years ago.

Continue reading

“Authentic Frontier Gibberish” Ethics

On Ethics Alarms, the term “Authentic Frontier Gibberish” is used to describe “intentionally (or sometimes just incompetently) incoherent double-talk used by politicians, advocates, lawyers, doctors, celebrities, scientists, academics ,con artists and wrong-doers to deceive, obfuscate, confuse, bore, or otherwise avoid transparency, admitting fault, accepting accountability or admitting uncomfortable truths. The term comes from “Blazing Saddles,” in this memorable scene.

It sometimes arises from incompetent communication skills, which are unethical for anyone in the public eye to employ. Sometimes it is more sinister than that, and occurs when someone chooses to create a vague word cloud that obscures the speaker’s or writer’s real purpose…and sometimes the fact that they are frauds. Sometimes AFG is designed to convey a feeling while avoiding sufficient substance to really explain what he or she means.

Sometimes, it feels like gaslighting.

A New York Times article was ostensibly about “Dealing with Bias in Artificial Intelligence.” This was, obviously, click-bait for me, as the topic is a developing field of ethics. The introduction stated in part, “[S]ocial bias can be reflected and amplified by artificial intelligence in dangerous ways, whether it be in deciding who gets a bank loan or who gets surveilled. The New York Times spoke with three prominent women in A.I. to hear how they approach bias in this powerful technology.” The statements of the first two women—I see no reason why only female experts on the topic were deemed qualified to comment—were useful and provocative.

Last, however, was Timnit Gebru “a research scientist at Google on the ethical A.I. team and a co-founder of Black in AI, which promotes people of color in the field, [who] talked about the foundational origins of bias and the larger challenge of changing the scientific culture.”

Here’s what she said (Imagine, the Times said this was “edited and condensed”! ). The bolding is mine.. Continue reading

Sunday Before Christmas Ethics Ornaments, 12/22/19: Googling Ethics, “Cats,” Goldman Sachs, De Niro, Trump Derangement

Here’s hoping that the the next three days rescue the Spirit of Christmas…

…because the last few weeks have been a downer, man.

1. Googling ethics:  Phillip Galanes, at Social Q’s was consulted by a woman who had bad vibes about her girlfriend’s new love, so she googled him, and found out, as she suspected, that he had some serious red flags in his past. She told her friend, who had discovered the bad news herself, but who was hurt and angry that the inquirer did a background check on her boyfriend. “Was I wrong?” she asked. In his answer, Gallanes implies that she was, although “everybody does it.” I’d like a nice, succinct, substantive explanation of by what ethical theory it can ever be wrong to access publicly available information about anyone. This isn’t an issue of privacy, because the information isn’t private. There was nothing wrong with the inquirer’s motives, because she was concerned about her friend.

I’d call this the Ick Factor at work. It seems unethical because the fact that anyone can check our lives out online is creepy. The research itself, however, is ethically neutral. The ethics comes in with how the information is used.

2. I guess I have to mention “Cats”…since it is getting the most spectacular negative and cruel reviews since “Showgirls,” and maybe before that. “Exorcist II, The Heretic” perhaps. Oddly, the usually hyper-critical New York Times is not one of the worst defilers, but here was what the reviewer really found objectionable :

“It’s too bad that no one seems to have thought through the semiotics of Victoria’s chalky white cat face, given that Hayward is of mixed race and that the heavy is Idris Elba’s predatory Macavity. Elba seems to be having a fine time, but come on!”

Ah! The old “mixed-race actress in whiteface being menaced by a black actor playing a cat” racist imagery!

I can’t wait for them to write down these rules. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/4/19: Trump Derangement And The Bad Guys

 

Good Morning!

1. Quote of the Day: David Bernstein on Instapundit: “What do you call a candidate pool with too women, a gay man, a jew, a half-Jew, and a Catholic?  If you’ve drank a certain type of Kool-Aid, you can this “not diverse”–even though there has been only one Catholic president, and no gay, Jewish, or woman presidents. The obsession with arbitrary and artificial “official” minority status may be the single worse feature of the modern chattering classes.”

Well, of course the problem is “white”: the Democratic party has been demonizing whites for years, and anti-white bigotry is accepted and even cheered. I also disagree  that the “obsession with arbitrary and artificial “official” minority status may be the single worse feature of the modern chattering classes.”  I can think of worse features, but it’s certainly a bad one.

2. Now THIS is Trump Derangement!Long time Leftist wacko Amanda Marcotte persuaded the fast-sinking Salon tp publish her screed headlined, “How Donald Trump ruined Christmas: I won’t celebrate this year, and he’s why: My enthusiasm for the Christmas season was always weak. Amid the ugliness of Trump’s America, it’s disappeared.”

Her lament fits squarely into Big Lie #5 (“Everything is terrible.”) What is amusing and telling is that even though Salon’s readership is as hard left as the site, virtually every comment on her piece is negative. Here is the first one to come up, but the rest pretty much echo it:

Summary: The author is an atheist who doesn’t even believe in the central premise of Christmas, doesn’t have a great relationship with her family, and never really put forward an effort to celebrate the holiday in the past, but somehow Trump has ruined Christmas. She still likes Thanksgiving, however, because it has fewer cultural attachments.

Reaction: How in the world something this mind-bendingly stupid managed to get published by a major company is beyond me, and it’s an example of how the fanatical left has adopted a rhetoric of self-perpetuating trauma around this presidency. “How dare you vote for Trump because it makes me sad! Yes, linoleum makes me sad too, but especially Trump!” It is as if, somehow, they consider the rest of the country responsible for making sure that no part of their eggshell-tranquility is maintained, regardless of the fact that their fragility is entirely of their own making. News flash: No one cares.

Continue reading

Friday Night Ethics Lights, 10/25/2019: Signs Of The Coming Apocalypse?

Good Evening!

1. More evidence of ethics rot and educational malpractice at Harvard. The Harvard Crimson covered an “Abolish ICE” protest on its campus last month. The fact that the supposedly most prestigious college in the nation would have something as idiotic as an anti-ICE protest attended by more than a few unfortunates with closed head injuries is troubling enough, but behold:   student activists attacked  the daily student-run paper  for “cultural insensitivity” and of “blatantly endangering undocumented students on campus.” because it contacted the immigration enforcement agency for comment after the protest had ended.

The Horror.

Now hundreds of America’s alleged best and brightest have signed a petition demanding that the newspaper operate as if ICE didn’t exist.

 Crimson editors Angela N. Fu and Kristine E. Guillaume defended its practices  in the paper this week, protesting that asking for comment is a standard journalism device, arguing in part, “We seek to follow a commonly accepted set of journalistic standards, similar to those followed by professional news organizations big and small. Foremost among those standards is the belief that every party named in a story has a right to comment or contest criticism leveled against them.”

Forget it, Angela and Kristine. You’re supposed to be partisan activists, like the mainstream media.

Ethics experts from the Student Press Law Center and the Society of Professional Journalists supported the Crimson, citing the  SPJ’s Code of Ethics. That’s nice, although I would call the gesture “lip service.”

2. SkyNet is listening. Because of loopholes in their security software, hackers can use  Amazon Alexa and Google Home virtual assistants to eavesdrop on user conversations without their knowledge, and even trick users into handing over sensitive information.

Gee-what-a-surprise….

For once, the American Bar Association got comparatively ahead of looming legal ethics risks created by developing technology by issuing a resolution in August urging bar associations and the legal profession to develop guidelines addressing the risks posed by attorney use of artificial intelligence. It’s a long document, undoubtedly missing many issues on the horizon, and regarding those personal assistants, it lacks an essential sentence: “Don’t let those things get within ten miles of your legal work.” Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Catch-Up, 8/11/2019: Cape Cod Dreams And Nightmare Jerks

Sigh.

This would be the week that my dad typically took his vacation. At this moment, when I was 10, I would be on a beach in Dennisport on the Cape, sampling the sandwiches my mother packed,  sitting in bathing trunks on my father’s army blanket that he carried all over Europe during the war, and listening to Curt Gowdy describe the Red Sox game on mt transistor radio  . Nothing could have been farther from my mind than ethics. Those were the days…

1. Once again, 7-11 ethics in Alexandria, VA.. I’ve written about several ethics encounters at my  local convenience store. This time I was patiently waiting for a space to open up (eventually I am going to tell one of the jerks who have finished their errands and sit in the space texting and surfing on their smart phones while others are desperately seeking parking spaces that he or she is an antisocial blight on the community) when a car backed out almost in front of my vehicle. before I could slide in around him from the right, an SUV that just entered the parking lost quickly moved into the space. The driver had seen me; he just did it because he could. As the young black male moved toward  the store, I got out of my car and shouted: “Classy. You knew I was waiting for the space, and you jumped in ahead of me anyway. You’re an asshole.”

Two thirty-something African American women exited the car in the space next to the one I have just lost. “Sir?” one said. “My girl friend just said exactly what you did. He is an asshole. Some black men just don’t care abut anybody, and I can say that, because I’m black. It really pisses me off. Look—take my space. I can park across the street. Please.” I told her that really wasn’t necessary, but she insisted.

My wife came back to the car after she had purchased the items we came for, and as we drove away, I could see the Good Samaritan giving hell to the young man who had snatched my space.

2. Hollywood ethics, confused as usual. Universal is temporarily cancelling the release of “The Hunt,” an R-rated satire in which progressive elites hunt “deplorables” for fun.  The film was scheduled to open in September. The reason for the cancellation was apparently the recent mass shootings. “While Universal Pictures had already paused the marketing campaign for “The Hunt,” after thoughtful consideration, the studio has decided to cancel our plans to release the film,” the studio said in yesterday’s statement. “We stand by our filmmakers and will continue to distribute films in partnership with bold and visionary creators, like those associated with this satirical social thriller, but we understand that now is not the right time to release this film.”

Interesting question: what is the “right time” to release a film like that? The answer, I would think is either “never,” or “now is as good a time as any.” It’s an ugly, tasteless, offensive idea for a film, but Ethics Alarms will defend to the death Hollywood’s right to make ugly, tasteless, offensive films. On the other hand, maybe releasing this film while the antifa is roaming the fruited plains and Democrats are encouraging people to harass and attack anyone wearing a MAGA cap is a tiny bit irresponsible. On the other hand—there I am with three hands again—if we are going to go down the road of speculating what bad behavior movies and TV might trigger, we’ll end up with Care Bears, Smurfs, and not much else. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/26/19: Preoccupied Edition

Good morning.

I’m somber these days. Our beloved Jack Russell, Rugby, now approaching 16, suddenly went from remarkably immune to aging to feeling his age, seemingly overnight. He doesn’t seem sick, and it’s true that he has bounced back before, but Rugby’s unalloyed joy at the prospect of a walk has always been a source of great entertainment in our home, and last night, literally for the first time, he was unenthusiastic, slow and grudging, so much so that I cut our excursion short.  14-15 is pretty much the expiration date for this hardy breed; based on Rugby’s predecessor, they go full-speed until they suddenly stop. I’m trying to find my way to rationally and compassionately prepare myself and my family for the inevitable, which we were able to ignore just a week ago. So far, I’m not finding it.

1. Gee, I wonder who’s censoring me now? The last couple days have witnessed another inexplicable drop in Ethics Alarms traffic, and I find myself wondering, especially in light of Project Veritas’s recording of the Google exec, wondering if another social media platform is out to bury Ethics Alarms.

The Google tape is alarming, and should alarm progressives and conservatives alike.

The target,  Google’s head of innovation, is spinning and rationalizaing—and, it seems, lying,  at Medium. she complaining that she was duped by Project Veritas (Yes, we all know that) deflecting the real issue by playing victim, claiming that  “an enormous collection of threatening calls, voicemails, text messages and emails, from people I’d never met” have been coming her way. That’s regrettable, but subsequent unethical conduct in response to one’s revelations of unethical conduct do not excuse the latter.

The victims of Project Veritas stings literally say the same thing every time. Here is Jen Gennai’s version:

[T]hese people lied about their true identities, filmed me without my consent, selectively edited and spliced the video to distort my words and the actions of my employer, and published it widely online.

Watch the video. (YouTube, which is owned by Google, took it down almost immediately, even though Democracy Dies In Darkness, or perhaps because it does). The statements that suggest something sinister are not “spliced,” and Gennai can’t explain what the words mean if they don’t mean what they sound like they mean, statements like… Continue reading