Saturday Ethics Smorgasbord, 6/8/2019: Yes, Double Standards Are Really Bugging Me Today

Goddagens!

1. I’ve been trying to find away to fit Reps. Ocasio-Cortez. Tlaib and Omar into a parody of Abraham, Martin and John. “AOC, Omar and Tlaib” almost works... An investigation by Minnesota’s Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board into Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has determined  she violated campaign finance laws dating back to when she served a single term in the State House of Representatives from 2016-2018. The report also reveals that Omar filed joint tax returns in 2014 and 2015 with Ahmed Hirsi, even though she was married to Ahmed Nur Said Elmi from 2009-2017.

Nice.

Let me know if you hear about this from any mainstream media outlet.

2. Individually, there are a lot of wonderful, funny, brilliant and admirable theater people. As a group, however, it is a cowardly, biased, intellectually lazy herd with the political sophistication of third graders.

I wrote on Facebook about the Ethics Alarms post on D.C.’s Studio Theater cancelling a production that reveals the text messages between the “FBI Lovebirds” who dished about how the Deep State would sabotage Donald Trump. The majority of my more than 400 Facebook friends are involved in theater. None of them commented on the issue. The apparent reasons are apathy, hypocrisy, or fear of being labelled a “Trump supporter” because they don’t applaud active censorship of the truth when it is inconvenient to the plots of “the resistance.” I don’t care which it is: the response is disgraceful…and typical.

Hollywood writer Christian Toto contacted 14 theaters across the country to ask their response to Studio’s actions. None of them responded. Among the fourteen were New Neighborhood and Slightly Altered States,  theatrical groups which took part in the  dramatic readings of the Mueller Report (the attending of which is a reliable indication of late stage Trump Derangement–I presume the theaters will follow up with readings of the phone book). Christian Toto writes,

“Imagine if unseen forces threatened violence against that Mueller Report reading, an event framed as critical of President Trump. Does anyone think those same 14 theatre groups would have remained silent?”

Should I ask my Facebook friends? Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 5/12/2019: The Tricky Edition

Well, the news from Harvard has me half-headed and depressed, so I think I need to hear Winston Churchill’s favorite hymn…and my Dad’s, too.

1. I think this is known as “a drop in the bucket.”James Bennet, the editorial page editor of The New York Times, announced that he would recuse himself from any involvement in opinion coverage of the 2020 presidential election, after his brother, Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination. I suppose this is admirable, as it is a standard conflicts of interest move, but I’m sorely tempted to call it grandstanding, and maybe even a diversion. Bennet’s brother candidacy is hardly the only blatant conflict of interest on the times staff that makes its news coverage and punditry suspect. Virtually all of them are Democrats, for example, and progressives. What’s so special about an editor’s brother making a completely futile run for the Presidency? (Quick: if you’re not in Colorado, can you picture his face? Name anything he has accomplished?)

This note from 2017 (in RealClearPolitics) puts the Times editor’s decision in proper perspective:

There is a pretty substantial symbiotic relationship between the political left in Washington and the media. While a few people went from the media to the Bush Administration, it was never like it was with Obama.

Jay Carney went from Time to the White House press secretary’s office. Shailagh Murray went from the Washington Post to the Veep’s office while married to Neil King at the Wall Street Journal. Neil King has left the Wall Street Journal to work for Fusion GPS. Linda Douglass went from ABC News to the White House and then the Atlantic. Jill Zuckman went from the Chicago Tribune to the Obama Administration’s Transportation Department. Douglas Frantz went from the Washington Post to the State Department and Stephen Barr went from the Post to the Labor Department.

Ruth Marcus, who heads the Washington Post Editorial Board, is married to the Obama Administration’s former Federal Trade Commission Chairman. Jonathan Allen had been at the Politico before going to work for Debbie Wasserman Schultz, then back to Politico before going to the left leaning Vox. Now he is at NBC News. Andy Barr worked for the Politico before leaving for Democrat politics. Michael Scherer was at both Salon and Mother Jones before going to Time. Laura Rozen was at Mother Jones and the American Prospect before Foreign Policy magazine. Even Nate Silver had started out at Daily Kos. Then, of course, there is Matthew Dowd, who worked for scores of Democrats before working for George Bush. That, though he later washed his hands of Bush, bought him street credibility with ABC News to become its senior politically analyst alongside George Stephanopoulos, formerly of the Clinton Administration.

It goes on and on in a feedback loop of incestuous politics and worldview shaping. In the Obama Era, it was all about protecting their precious. Now it is about undermining the President.

2.  Puerto Rico Ethics. OK, explain to me, if you can,  why this isn’t incredibly unethical:

From the Times:

The government oversight board leading Puerto Rico through its $123 billion debt crisis sued dozens of banks and financial firms on Thursday, saying that they had helped the island issue $9 billion of debt illegally, and that the people of Puerto Rico should not have to repay it.

The board said the debt should be voided because it exceeded the territory’s constitutional debt limit, and it added that Puerto Rico would try to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in interest and principal payments that it has already made.

The board was joined in the litigation by the official committee representing Puerto Rico’s unsecured creditors in the territory’s bankruptcy-like legal proceedings. Both plaintiffs said they understood they were making an unusual request, but asserted that no other approach would be legal or fair.

“The laws of Puerto Rico limit government borrowing authority for a reason: to prevent the government and its financiers from hitching the Commonwealth and its instrumentalities, as well as taxpayers and legitimate creditors, to a level of debt that cannot be repaid without sacrificing services necessary to maintain the health, safety and welfare of Puerto Rico and its people,” the plaintiffs said in one of several complaints…

What a great theory! The government of Puerto Rico has managed its finances irresponsibly and needs more money. “Hey!” says a brilliant staffer. “There’s a law that limits how much debt we can run up. Let’s borrow billions from banks illegally, then later sue them saying that the debt is invalid because they abetted our illegal act!”

3.  Candidate for the Rationalization #22 Hall of Fame. Rationalization #22 is one of the most cited entries on the Rationalization List, and in my opinion, the worst of them all:

22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”

If “Everybody does it” is the Golden Rationalization, this is the bottom of the barrel. Yet amazingly, this excuse is popular in high places: witness the “Abu Ghraib was bad, but our soldiers would never cut off Nick Berg’s head” argument that was common during the height of the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal. It is true that for most ethical misconduct, there are indeed “worse things.” Lying to your boss in order to goof off at the golf course isn’t as bad as stealing a ham, and stealing a ham is nothing compared selling military secrets to North Korea. So what? We judge human conduct against ideals of good behavior that we aspire to, not by the bad behavior of others. One’s objective is to be the best human being that we can be, not to just avoid being the worst rotter anyone has ever met.

Behavior has to be assessed on its own terms, not according to some imaginary comparative scale. The fact that someone’s act is more or less ethical than yours has no effect on the ethical nature of your conduct. “There are worse things” is not an argument; it’s the desperate cry of someone who has run out of rationalizations.

Now outgoing Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel has boasted in the  New York Times about his success at  introducing  police reform and reducing crime.Emanuel  makes his case in part by comparing Chicago’s crime numbers over the last two years with those of  Baltimore, one of America’s most dangerous, murder-prone, mismanaged cities. He omitted mentioning New York orLos Angeles, perhaps because his city had more murders in 2018 than New York and L.A. combined, though Chicago is smaller then either.

I wonder if the Chamber of Commerce is considering “Less dangerous than Baltimore!” as a promotional slogan. [Pointer: City-journal]

Sunday Ethics Reflections, 5/5/2019: Whew! Barely Got Three Items In Before My Head Exploded…

 

I’m writing this bleary-eyed, in large part because our 15-year-old Jack Russell Terrier chose 3 am  to demand that we play what we call “The Bisky Game” –I don’t know what he calls it—a diversion of his own invention that involves tossing or nosing a dog biscuit at the nearest human, barking sharply two to four times, and demanding that the treat be flipped back to him, whereupon he will reject it by growling, barking, and tossing it back, until some mysterious force tells him that the game is over, whereupon he eats the damn thing. Usually this takes between five and ten tosses, but last night Rugby went for a record, and rejected his biscuit at least 15 times. Finally he ate it, licked my arm for about five minutes–a pre-bedtime tradition— and  went to sleep.  I did not.

1.  Live by bigotry, die by bigotry. “Captain Marvel” star Brie Larson, who got her big break in part because Marvel decided to turn a traditionally male superhero into a female, has pandered to social justice warriors and progressive bigotry in just about every way possible.  During the promotion of the hit film,  she said wanted more people of color to review her films, not white men. [ The ethical position would be to want competent reviewers to review the film, recognizing the competence is color-blind.) She that she doesn’t care what old white men thought of films that weren’t made for  them. She has said that we need more gay superheroes. Funny: as long as I’m being rescued and the world is being saved, I don’t care what the color, gender or sexual orientation of my hero is. How old white man of me.

Now, taking the grandstanding, virtue-signaling actress at her word—almost always an unwise thing to do when dealing with performers, someone has launched a  petition demanding,  “We need Brie Larson to step down from her role to prove she is an ally of social justice and ensure a gay woman of color plays the role.”

As of this writing, the petition currently has nearly tripled  its 3,000 signature goal. Good. Heck, I might sign it . Everyone should be required to abide by their publicly proclaimed principles, though such a rule would mean that Joe Biden would vanish from the face of the Earth. [Pointer: RedState ]

2. From the Ethics Alarms “Denial” and ” What is this ‘Accountability’ thing of which you speak?” files: professors Ethan Porter of George Washington University and Thomas J. Wood of Ohio State University have determined that when comedian Jon Stewart departed “The Daily Show,” its ratings fell, and this, they say, “spurred a 1.1% increase in Trump’s county-level vote share.” This from what passes today for a scholarly  paper, “Did Jon Stewart Elect Donald Trump? Evidence From Television Ratings Data” published in the journal Electoral Studies.

Kyle Smith of “The National Review” points out what should be obvious about this junk science… Continue reading

Ethics Observations On Actress Emma Thompson’s Resignation Letter

British acting grande dame Emma Thompson dropped out of the voice cast of Skydance Animation’s upcoming film “Luck.” The reason was  ex-Pixar creative force John Lasseter being hired to lead animation at David Ellison’s studio; Ethics Alarms wrote about his new job here. A quote from that post…

The hire, Time’s Up added in a statement, “endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence.”

Got it. Women, at least these women, want to see men ruined, shunned and reduced to living by crowdfunding and begging on the street if possible, without the certainly of due process and regardless of circumstances. How does someone like Lasseter show “true remorse”? They get to decide. What work do they have to do to reform their behavior? That’s the activists’ call too, I suppose. Meanwhile, absent a trial, what is restitution? If the women involved have a lawsuit, let them bring it. What is the cost of an unwanted workplace hug?

Thompson’s reps released her letter on last week, first published in the Los Angeles Times, that Thompson had sent to Skydance management. Here it is:

As you know, I have pulled out of the production of “Luck” — to be directed by the very wonderful Alessandro Carloni. It feels very odd to me that you and your company would consider hiring someone with Mr. Lasseter’s pattern of misconduct given the present climate in which people with the kind of power that you have can reasonably be expected to step up to the plate.

I realise that the situation — involving as it does many human beings — is complicated. However these are the questions I would like to ask:

If a man has been touching women inappropriately for decades, why would a woman want to work for him if the only reason he’s not touching them inappropriately now is that it says in his contract that he must behave “professionally”?

If a man has made women at his companies feel undervalued and disrespected for decades, why should the women at his new company think that any respect he shows them is anything other than an act that he’s required to perform by his coach, his therapist and his employment agreement? The message seems to be, “I am learning to feel respect for women so please be patient while I work on it. It’s not easy.”

Much has been said about giving John Lasseter a “second chance.” But he is presumably being paid millions of dollars to receive that second chance. How much money are the employees at Skydance being paid to GIVE him that second chance?

If John Lasseter started his own company, then every employee would have been given the opportunity to choose whether or not to give him a second chance. But any Skydance employees who don’t want to give him a second chance have to stay and be uncomfortable or lose their jobs. Shouldn’t it be John Lasseter who has to lose HIS job if the employees don’t want to give him a second chance?

Skydance has revealed that no women received settlements from Pixar or Disney as a result of being harassed by John Lasseter. But given all the abuse that’s been heaped on women who have come forward to make accusations against powerful men, do we really think that no settlements means that there was no harassment or no hostile work environment? Are we supposed to feel comforted that women who feel that their careers were derailed by working for Lasseter DIDN’T receive money?

I hope these queries make the level of my discomfort understandable. I regret having to step away because I love Alessandro so much and think he is an incredibly creative director. But I can only do what feels right during these difficult times of transition and collective consciousness raising.

I am well aware that centuries of entitlement to women’s bodies whether they like it or not is not going to change overnight. Or in a year. But I am also aware that if people who have spoken out — like me — do not take this sort of a stand then things are very unlikely to change at anything like the pace required to protect my daughter’s generation.

Yours most sincerely,

Emma Thompson

Observations: Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “The Gillette Ad”

As Ethics Alarms struggles to regain even the wan level of traffic it had before the holidays hit with their deplorable priorities of family and reflection over ethics commentary, let us hail today’s Comment of the Day creator, Tim LeVier, as well as Glenn Logan and, for he still surfaces now and then, King Kool, all of whom have remained steadfast not only from the beginning of Ethics Alarms in 2010, but on The Ethics Scoreboard, its less active predecessor, before that.

Here is Tim’s Comment of the Day on the post, The Gillette Ad:

We live in interesting times. I see both sides of it. Part of my wants to say that this is no different than when a man tells a woman to smile. This is women saying “calm down” or “be more sensitive and peaceable”.

I don’t believe for a second that this message wasn’t crafted by people I don’t want the message to come from…but that’s just negative confirmation bias, right?

In fairness, it’s not a bad message, if taken as honest, straight forward, with no ulterior motives….but there’s the rub. We’re convinced there’s bad intent here. Continue reading

The Gillette Ad

“Everyone” is talking about the new Gillette ad above. It is cynical, manipulative in sinister ways, unfair, insincere, divisive, unfair, and wrong. Over at Reason, the usually rational Robby Soave was sucked in (as was Ann Althouse, who said the little boys at the end moved her to tears—Awwwww!) defending the ad:

But the ad never said that all men are bad. It never argued that masculinity is always and everywhere a dangerous ideal. It made a very modest statement—treat people better—in hopes of selling more razors to people who agree. Again, why is this bad?…Young guys need to learn from men who treat women well and act as protectors rather than victimizers, which…is exactly what the Gillette ad called on men to do. People are free to associate with whatever brand they want, so if Gillette’s so-called virtue signaling bothers someone that much, that person may go ahead and buy razors elsewhere. But it would be a shame if the right started boycotting companies for taking the position that maybe hurting people is bad. Is owning the libs really that important?

Sucker! I am heartened that the ad has generated overwhelmingly negative responses, and while I would never call for a boycott (I use electric razors, thanks), I would still love to see Gillette suffer for this naked virtue-signaling and insulting stereotype mongering, all while pretending to “care,” when in fact it is just a cynical tactic to create buzz. I hope the eventual buzz is the sound of Remington electric razors.

Jon Gabriel’s reaction was similar to mine:

Gillette has had a rough few years. The former shaving hegemon has seen its market share plummet due to a resurgence in classic “wet shaving,” online razor subscription services, and the popularity of beards. Gillette’s obvious options are to lower their artificially high price or drastically improve their quality. Instead, they’ve decided to make their remaining customers feel bad about themselves through an expensive new ad campaign…. “You’re a very bad person, give us money” is an odd marketing pitch, especially from a company that’s used sex to sell its product for decades…Gillette has now declared war on its customer base. [Quoting the Wall Street Journal]

Gillette parent Procter & Gamble Co. is among companies that in recent years have used advertising as a platform to promote their stance on social issues such as gender equality, and polarizing political topics such as immigration and gun control. P&G is perhaps best known for its lauded “Like a Girl” ad campaign for feminine-care brand Always and “Stress test” for deodorant brand Secret.

Promoting social issues can be effective marketing, but notice the difference. P&G’s female-directed ads make women feel better about themselves. The company tells women “you’re great just as you are” and tells men “you’re bad and need to change.”

“Why is this bad?” asks sensitive Robby. Ah, let me count the ways: Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/6/2019: Snowflakes, Catnip, Coups And Fake Bills

Good Morning!

[Here’s a Warm-Up warm-up that has nothing to do with ethics. In “Ben-Hur,” which I watched again last week, Charlton Heston’s character is know by three completely different names. One, of course, is Judah Ben-Hur. What are the other two?]

1. Virtue signaling and pandering are both inadequate to describe this. If only it were a joke—but it appears to be proof of institutional  brain rot.  The British army is reaching out to “selfie addicts,” “snowflakes,” “me me me millennials”—remember, I’m not making this up!—“class clowns”, “binge gamers”,and  “phone zombies”  celebrating the alleged virtues these juvenile behaviors demonstrate, such as self-belief, spirit, drive, focus, compassion and confidence. Here are two examples of the new posters:

Continue reading