The Vital Concept Of Culture, Part I: Ignore It At Civilization’s Peril

Its is amazing to me how dismissive many supposedly astute people are regarding the importance of a single, strong and accepted culture to any group or organization, large or small. Even though toxic culture-based catastrophes occur at a  constant rate, the message never seems to get through sufficiently for metaphorical lightbulbs to switch on in millions of brains illuminating the thought, “Ah! Of course! Consistent, proven  values and common belief systems plus the societal enforcement of them are essential to our nation’s success, coherence and survival!”  It is amazing.

The unethical, ruthless, quid pro quo culture of Hollywood creates Harvey Weinstein, everybody makes inspiring speeches,, and  yet the core lesson that he was a predictable product of a industry sick culture never seems to sink it. It’s men’s fault. It’s a failure to believe accusers. No, it’s a failure to give proper priority to building and maintaining an ethical and healthy culture.

Baseball’s Houston Astros suddenly are found to have permitted widespread cheating by electronic sign-stealing, and their manager and general manager are fired for not detecting and stopping the problem.  However, the team had already indicated that it was working in a self-engineered “ends justify the means” culture when, in need of a relief pitcher, it signed one who was facing a trial for domestic violence even as the Astros had announced a “no tolerance” policy toward that very same activity.  The sign-stealing wasn’t the scandal; the gradual acceptance and nurturing of a corrupt culture was the scandal.

There are many other examples, but this an introduction, after all. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/13/2020: Oh Oh! The Oscars Are Racist And Sexist Again!

 

“I love the smell of napalm in the morning!”

1. Thoughts on the announced Oscar nominations. Well, very few African Americans made it, and no female director despite all the blatant lobbying for “Little Women” director Greta Gerwig.  Thus I have to conclude that the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences DOES have a measure of integrity after all,  because it will catch all sorts of hell for this. Even after adding many voters “of color” and kicking out some ancient, unwoke voters members, it’s still a mostly white field, maybe because the most deserving candidates happened to be the wrong color this year. It doesn’t matter: the Academy will be beseiged again for implicit racism. Watch. And it will seek “reforms.” The problem is that race-based categories looks like apartheid. The only other alternative is to have secret quotas, which is what I thought were already in effect.

It doesn’t help that both Al Pacino and Joe Pesci were nominated as Best Supporting Actors for, in Pacino’s case, standard issue Al, and in Pesci’s case, an embarrassingly  flat performance. If the Academy is going to give out legacy nominations, why not some token nominations for minorities? I bet there were 50 “of color” performances this year objectively superior to these two from the dead-fish “The Irishman.”

2. It amazes me that so many Americans defend Meghan Markle’s “Megxit.” I know, I already wrote about this, but her conduct appears to be a continuation of the Obama phenomenon, where a prominent individual exploits her race to declare all criticism as based on racial bias. “Black Britons” as the New York Times calls them, are lining up to support Markel because they allege she was “savaged” by the British tabloids because of her race. Similarly, the Times finds dark implications in the fact that the Royal Family didn’t rally to her side when she came under fire: they must be racists too. All the evidence I’ve seen suggests that they didn’t support Markel because she’s an annoying jerk: Occam’s Razor applies.

If she really married into the Royal Family and didn’t know that the tabloids would be dissecting her every word and move, she was negligent and foolish. Did she consider chatting with Sarah Ferguson, or did Markle think the Duchess of York was attacked because of media bias against redheads?

For once I agree with ex-CNN talking head Piers Morgan, who wrote, “I’ve seen some disgraceful royal antics in my time, but for pure arrogance, entitlement, greed and willful disrespect, nothing has ever quite matched the behavior of the ‘Duke and Duchess of Sussex.’

She has provoked a crisis in the monarchy to further her own goals of unearned mega-celebrity. I have a Facebook friend who argues that since royalty is unethical, Meghan should be praised for setting out to bring it down in England. (Yes, he’s a Communist.) The real Markle is already becoming more apparent. She has said that she will only move back to the U.S. after President Trump is out of office, already pandering to the Angry Woke. Disney announced that it had a voice-over deal with her, with her compensation to be donated to a charity….but she made that deal as a Royal, not a rebel. Disney has the right, but not the guts, to void the arrangement. Continue reading

“Megxit,” A Royal Ethics Mess That The Brits Should Have Seen Coming

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have essentially resigned from their duties as British Royals . The Duke and Duchess of Sussex—remember, Harry is one of Price William’s backups,  likely to become King, if ever, in his dotage, if at all, and only if some catastrophe befalls his his brother’s offspring.   The couple announced  on Instagram yesterday,

“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen. It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.”

What this means is a matter of great debate, but whatever it means, it’s unethical.

Prince Harry and Meghan are members of the Royal family, who are ridiculously compensated by British taxpayers to be living flags and cultural icons of Great Britain’s days of glory long past. That’s what they are. Being members of the Royal Family are their only claim to celebrity and significance, and, to Americans and anyone else who isn’t confused, that’s one wan claim at best. The Windsors are neither especially bright nor accomplished, though Harry’s great grandfather, the last King George, did play a part in helping to defeat Hitler in World War II, and his grandmother, the apparently immortal Queen Elizabeth II has done a respectable job assisting in Great Britain’s decline from a world  power to nation whose status outweighs its power and influence.

For senior members of British royalty to declare that they will be “progressive” royals is like a Pope announcing that he’s going to be a swinger. The Royal Family isn’t progressive by definition; it’s anachronistic.  It can’t be progressive, because the only progressive approach to the Royals is to jettison them, say goodby and thanks for fish and chips, and add their vast wealth to the national treasury to pay for national health care for a few years. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Round-Up, 1/5/2020: “Day After Cosmic Justice Eliminates The Patriots From The NFL Play-Offs” Edition

Greetings!

Last night the New England Patriots and their habitually unethical coach and star quarterback were eliminated from the NFL play-offs in the first round by the Tennessee Titans. Good. I say this despite being from Boston, where my Dad and I once routed for the AFL Pats of Gino Capelletti, Babe Parilli, Nick Buoniconti and Jim Nance. The modern day Patriots made me embarrassed to be a New Englander, even before I realized what a sociopathic organization the NFL was.

1. Noted with amusement: A while back there was a kerfuffle over some conservative publication using a photo of Rep Elijah Cummings (D-Md) when the story was about Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga), or vice-versa. This was, of course, attributed to racism of the “all those people look the same” variety.

I pointed out that while it was of course the kind of mistake that a publication shouldn’t make, the two House members were about eh same age, both heavy-set, both African-Americans, and both hyper-partisan Democrat race-baiters whose careers rested on civil rights protest creds many decades old. Thus it was satisfying to see that “CBS Evening News” accidentally used a picture of the now deceased  Rep. Elijah Cummings while reporting on Lewis’ recent cancer diagnosis.

2. Signature significance. If you want definitive proof that an elected official or a pundit is untrustworthy pond scum, mark those who claim that President Trump  ordered the hit against Iranian terror master Qasem Soleimani in order to distract from Trump’s impeachment trial. The latest self-identified hack: Elizabeth Warren, who today said on CNN’s “State of the Union,”

“Next week, the President of the United States could be facing an impeachment trial in the Senate. We know he’s deeply upset about that, and I think people are reasonably asking why this moment…Why does he pick now to pick this highly inflammatory and highly dangerous action that moves us closer to war? I think people are reasonably asking about the timing, and why it is that the administration seems to have all kinds of different answers.”

This “Wag the Dog” theory made some sense when it was first applied to Bill Clinton, who launched a failed strike against Osama bin Laden in the middle of his impeachment drama, since Clinton was guilty and knew it. Trump’s impeachment has raised his poll numbers and further exposed Democrats as abusing the impeachment process: there is no reason for him to try to distract from it.

Warren’s question about timing is also absurd. Why now? Gee, do you think it might be that the murderer of many Americans who had just engineered an attack on our embassy and who was planning more deadly attacks happened to be in Iraq, where the U.S. has an approved military presence, and was virtually asking to be brought down?

Warren’s poll numbers and fundraising are sinking fast (Good!), so her demagoguery is shifting into high gear. Once again, her likely fate proves Lincoln right: you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Or enough of them. Continue reading

Friday Ethics Sigh, 12/20/2019: Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Rowling, And An Idiot.

Tomorrow the dreaded tree lights hanging begins….

I’m not a big Sinatra fan, but I’ve always thought it a shame that the two Christmas songs he “owns” are both mediocre: “The Christmas Waltz” and “Mistletoe and Holly (which he co-wrote.) Frank sang the whole canon, of course, and well, but still, Judy Garland owns “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” Nat King Cole owns “The Christmas Song” (even though Mel Torme wrote it), Bing has “White Christmas” (and others,), Gene Autry has “Rudolph…” and “Here Comes Santa Claus” even after Bruce Springstein stole “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” away from him, but Ol’ Blue Eyes is second or third best to lesser singers on the really great songs, leaving him with those two wan ditties to call his own. It’s unfair.

1. The social media mobs are after J.K Rowling. Her offense? British Researcher Maya Forstater was fired last year by a London think tank for her “gender critical” views, including the position that “it is impossible to change sex.” Forstater filed a lawsuit earlier this year alleging discrimination, but an employment tribunal in London ruled against her this week, holding that her views were “not a philosophical belief protected” by British law but were instead “incompatible with human dignity and fundamental rights of others. It is also a slight of hand to suggest that the claimant merely does not hold the belief that trans women are women. She positively believes that they are men and will say so whenever she wishes.” The court  added that Forsater held beliefs that are “not worthy of respect in a democratic society.”

No, they don’t believe in freedom of speech or thought in the UK. Remind people of this when they make one of those fatuous “the U.S. is the only developed country in the world that doesn’t do X” arguments. We are special.

Harry Potter’s mom criticized that ruling and said she supported  Forstater: “Dress however you please,”  Rowling  tweeted  to her more than 14 million followers (this makes me want to hurl myself into a shredder, as I desperately try to recover the lost Ethic Alarms followers since 2016). “Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya.”

Oh, sex, gender, whatever. I know that to trans individuals the distinctions are a matter of honor, identity and self-esteem, and as far as I’m concerned, if an XY individual has changed everything but her chromosomes and wants to be regarded as, treated as and referred to as a woman, I will accommodate her in the interests of comity, kindness, and the Golden Rule. However, if someone as a matter of linguistic or biological rigor (or pedantry) wants to insist that such an individual is still technically female, that’s a legitimate, if unpopular, position.  This is a dispute about manners and definitions, not facts.

The researcher should not have been fired, and Rowling’s tweet was not “transphobic.” 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

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/6/2019: Fan Ethics, Hospital Ethics, Vandalism Ethics, And Diplomatic Immunity

Well, I woke up…

…and as my father was fond of saying, that should be enough. Of course, he adopted that philosophy during combat in World War II…

1. I have been asked, “With your beloved Red Sox out of the post-season, are you paying attention to the play-offs?” The answer is, “Oh, sure.” I’m not like Yankee fans, what my dad called “summer soldiers.” In fact, the post-season is a more enjoyable, less anxious, purer experience for a fan when his or her team is absent. I can just enjoy the beauty, suspense and constant surprises of baseball without being distracted by my emotions, conflicts of interest, and bias. Post-season baseball is the best of the game; when I am trying to introduce baseball to neophytes, this is the best time to do it. Yes, the dumbed-down broadcasting by the networks is annoying, but it’s always been that way. And yes, I still have some rooting biases: most of my friends  are Washington Nationals fans, do a piece of me is supporting them. I like underdogs, so the Twins, Rays, and every National League team but the Dodgers have my sympathies. The Yankees have had such a courageous, astounding season, winning over a hundred games despite having more significant injuries than any MLB team in history, that I even find myself rooting for them, because if any team deserves a championship, the 2019 New York Yankees do.

2. First, do no harm. Second, don’t be an asshole...This is incredible. Employees at a St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, Maine  created a “wall of shame” where they displayed confidential medical records of disabled patients in 2016, the state Human Rights Commission has found.

The records posted on the wall concerned sexual activity, photos and descriptions of  body parts and bodily functions of patients. St. Mary’s told CNN that it is “fully committed to ensuring this doesn’t happen again.”

Gee, that’s comforting. How did this happen in the first place?

The Shame Wall was revealed as part of a harassment complaint. MyKayla McCann, an employee who had been treated at the hospital, said that the existence of the “wall of shame” constituted an “abusive environment” where hospital staff displayed open hostility to those with disabilities.

“Coworkers constructed a workplace display ridiculing patients with disabilities. [McCann] encountered the display every day as part of her regular environment, making harassment pervasive,” the investigation said. “The information posted on Shame Wall was intended to demean and humiliate and included supposed ‘jokes’ about the hospital’s physically and mentally disabled patients.”

One employee was fired and another was given a warning in response to the incident. It took the hospital  four months after McCann’s complaint to take the Shame Wall down, according to the report. How caring. How efficient.

Continue reading