Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 3/20/20: Seven Items, Five Pandemic Related, Plus Boston Sports And New York City Schools

…feeling like the last living cell in a dead body…

1. I don’t know about you, but I’m just reaching out to random friends to see how they are doing. Some aren’t doing that well, but they appreciate the contact.

2. More of the name game: From a PR release from two members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Gail Heriot and Peter N. Kirsanow…

The Commission makes the ill-advised suggestion that referring to COVID-19 with terms like “Chinese coronavirus” is somehow fueling “[t]his latest wave of xenophobic animosity toward Asian Americans.” It is common to refer to infectious diseases by their geographic origin. Examples include Asian flu, Bolivian hemorrhagic fever, Brazilian hemorrhagic fever, Ebola, German measles, Japanese encephalitis, Lyme disease, Marburg virus, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), Pontiac fever, Rift Valley fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Spanish flu, Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever, and West Nile virus…It is counter-productive to hector the American people (or its leaders) about describing the COVID-19 as “Chinese” or as having originated in China. It did originate there. Ordinary Americans—of all races and ethnicities—who harbor no ill will toward anyone don’t like to have the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights imply that that they are fueling the flames of xenophobic animosity.   We can’t blame them. It is insulting.

Our colleagues on the Commission close their statement by writing under the current circumstances no American should be “ostracized solely because of their race or national origin.” That is certainly sensible enough. We would add that Americans should not be ostracized on account of false accusations that their conduct has been racist, xenophobic and hateful. The promiscuous use of those terms needs to stop.

That’s fine and well stated. My position is even more basic. I refuse to participate in mind-control based on the assertion that a factual statement is “racist,” or that someone is the cause of unethical conduct because others choose to behave unethically. Any more Alyssa Milano comments or complaints about Kung Flu jokes, and I’ll be calling the damn thing the Wuhan Virus from the Capital of the Hubai Province in That Big Asian Nation Called China That Endangered The Entire World By The  Dishonest, Paranoid Manner In Which It Withheld Crucial Information.

Back off. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On This Hilarious Trolling Competition

  • The President  wins, obviously. It does not demonstrate good judgment to challenge a master at his own game, on his home turf.

The ethics values at issue: hubris, competence.

  • It’s good to see that Mike Bloomberg is determined to elevate the level of campaign discourse, isn’t it?

Of course, Trump’s trademarked person insults about adversaries’ appearance are unpresidential and infantile, but they are his unapologetic style. Did Bloomberg not watch the 2016 GOP debates, when Marco Rubio lowered himself to Trump’s level with return personal insults only to see his support erode as a result? Did Bloomberg’s advisors?

Running against a President on the basis that he is a boor and an asshole and behaving like a boor and an asshole to do it is both hypocritical and stupid. Moreover, Rubio’s blunder is a matter of record. Bloomberg isn’t doing his homework.

Ethics values: Honesty, integrity, competence, diligence. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “The Hypocrisy Of Politically Correct Casting Mandates: Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ Virtue-Signaling Debunked”

This was a nice surprise! Just as I began discussions about doing a special presentation for the Smithsonian Associates on West Side Story to coincide with the movie’s release (or maybe the Broadway revival’s opening this summer, mplo issued this timely Comment of the Day on a year old post, “The Hypocrisy Of Politically Correct Casting Mandates: Spielberg’s “West Side Story” Virtue-Signaling Debunked.”

Here it is;  I’ll have one comment at the end:

In my opinion, it would’ve been better if Spielberg had just left the original 1961 film version of West Side Story alone and created his own film with a similar theme, an homage  to WSS, instead of trying to update and remake it.

I have seen pictures of the cast, examples of Justin Peck’s choreography of the dancing, and the scenery settings, and how colorful they all are. I don’t like what I’ve seen, at all.The backdrop scenes look far more like wealthier, tonier parts of the city, as opposed to the impoverished, rough-and-rundown parts of the city that served as a backdrop in the original. The colors are too jarring.

The Jets, the Sharks and their girls in Spielberg’s reboot/remake of the film “West Side Story” look far more like wealthy suburban prep-school kids who are dressed to the nines for partying all over town than two street gangs who are at war with each other. The Jets, the Sharks and their girls in the original 1961 film version of “West Side Story” look way rougher and tougher than the ones in Spielberg’s  movie.

Justin Peck’s choreography looks too hyper, and more like hip-hop or rap dancing. I’ve seen pictures of that. Simon Oakland’s Lt. Schrank, William Bramley’s Officer Krupke, and the late Ned Glass’s Candy Store owner, Doc, also look  rougher  than Spielberg’s Lt. Schrank, Officer Krupke and “Doc,’ who has been given a sex change in the new script. [JAM: This was a gimmick to get Rita Moreno, the original film Anita, into the movie] Continue reading

Six Ethics Lessons As Bill James Falls Into His Own Research Trap

Baseball philosopher, iconoclast and analyst Bill James is one of my heroes for his amazing ability to look past conventional wisdom with an open mind. Beginning as essentially a self-published pamphleteer writing out of his basement, James’ counter-traditional explorations of baseball statistics eventually changed how baseball was watched, assessed, scouted and played, simply on the strength of Bill’s  ideas and his facility in explaining them.

His talents could be used in many other fields–James has recently branched out into examining famous unsolved murders—but it is also true that many of the ideas he has developed in relation to baseball have wider applications. For example, James was the source of the concept of “signature significance,” which is a staple here at Ethics Alarms.

His writing also taught me that bias makes us stupid, and about the insidious power of rationalizations.  Many of James’s observations seemed intrinsically obvious once he made and explained them, and the fact that  baseball executives, writers and players could have been so wrong about their own game for so long seemed incomprehensible. But the reasons were what they always are, in all fields. People are biased toward what they have always believed —confirmation bias–and the “It’s always been this way” variation on the most powerful rationalization of them all, “Everybody does it”  breeds blindness and  intellectual laziness. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month: GretaThunberg

“World leaders are still trying to run away from their responsibilities but we have to make sure they cannot do that. We will make sure that we put them against the wall and they will have to do their job to protect our futures.”

—Climate change demagogue Greta Thunberg to cheering protesters somewhere or other; it doesn’t matter, and I don’t care.

Maybe the hubris-poisoned Swedish teen doesn’t know that “against the wall” is a violent and threatening allusion, but then she has forfeited the normal leave I would grant a high-schooler by going around the world pretending to know more than one. She doesn’t of course. She has just been programmed to lecture adults as a surrogate for adult activists, as they use her as a human shield against critics, kind of like when Curly of The Three Stooges would don glasses and shout “Can’t a man with glasses!”  Can’t be mean to a teenaged girl!

Greta  might as well be a Muppet, like Kermit or Miss Piggy, except I have a hard time believing that a Muppet would every threaten to line up world leaders against a wall.

World leaders have many responsibilities, among them being the duty not to pay any attention to indoctrinated children with a false sense of their own wisdom. For Time to make this obnoxious kid its “Person of the Year” is the height of pandering and unseriousness, which, com to think of it, pretty much decribes what Henry Luce’s baby has grown into in its twilight years.

Thunberg makes Cindy Sheehan look like Gandhi. As for anyone who cheers Greta’s rants, they are enabling a slow-motion tragedy. She’s a female Marjoe Gortner now, and likely to end up angry, bitter, emotionally disturbed, a drug addict, a hustler, dead before her time, or worse, a reality show star.

Saturday Ethics Pitch, 10/26/2019: Calvin Coolidge Was Right, Baseball is Wrong, And Other Revelations

Here it comes!

1. Oh-oh...I was worried about this. Early in the baseball post-season there were rumors flying that MLB had deadened its baseballs after a 2019 season that saw records shattered for homer frequency. I wrote (somewhere this month: I can’t find it) that if the sport really did mess with the balls at this point it would be a massive breach of ethics, changing the conditions of the game when the games mattered most.

So far, the conspiracy theorists have been bolstered by the statistics.

 Baseball researcher Rob Arthur revealed in a Baseball Prospectus report on October10 that after nearly 20 postseason games, home runs were occurring at at half the rate the 2019 season’s homer frequency would predict. Arthur allowed for the fact that better pitchers and hitters  made up  playoff teams, and still  concluded that the ball was not flying as far as it did during the regular season. “The probability that a random selection of games from the rest of the regular season would feature as much air resistance as we’ve seen so far in the postseason,” he wrote, “is about one in one thousand.” A follow-up report by Arthur again found significant variation in the flight of the ball this postseason.

This isn’t good.

2. It’s not even 2020, and the New York Times isn’t even pretending  to be objective. Two examples from today’s Times:

  • In a story about Tulsi Gabbard announcing that she would not run for re-election to the House, the Times spun for Hillary Clinton, writing, “Last Friday, Hillary Clinton suggested that Republicans were “grooming” her for “a third party run”, though Ms. Gabbard has denied any such plans.” What was notable about Clinton’s smear was that she said that Gabbard was “a favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far.”  This is a variety of “fake news” that the Times excels at, telling only part of the story to manipulate public perception.
  • Headline (Print edition) : “Speaking at Black College, Trump Ridicules Obama For Effort on Racial Equity.”  Wow, what a racist! Attacking efforts at racial equity! In fact, the President criticized the paltry results of Obama’s efforts to advance racial equity. He in no way ridiculed Obama for making those efforts.  Again, the Times is now a master at playing to its anti-Trump readers confirmation bias.

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Drill, 5/7/19: Unethical Headlines, A Missing Coffee Cup, And A Comment Of The Day

A morning that begins with a trip to the dentist and a referral to an oral surgeon can’t be good. Sorry.

And now I see that without warning or explanation, WordPress has removed its spellcheck feature. I’m sure those of you who are sick of my typos will appreciate THAT…

1. Stop making me defend Anderson Cooper, sort of! Here’s a cheap shot Fox News headline:

Anderson Cooper denies he’s ‘on the left,’ then rips Trump for tweeting about Kentucky Derby

Well, I’m also not on “the left” (Cooper is, of course), and I’m going to rip the President for tweeting his opinion on the Kentucky Derby, without even getting into the fact that his opinion was ill-informed and stupid.

As I wrote more than once during the Obama administration, the President is not the national arbiter of everything, and should keep his opinion to himself unless it directly and clearly involves the national interest. President Obama had a proclivity for injecting himself into controversies large and small, from the Trayvon Martin shooting to picking brackets for the NCAA college basketball tournament.  I wrote in this post,

This can no longer be called a rookie mistake, like the Prof. Gates arrest affair. President Obama has now had plenty of time to absorb the fact that the President does not have a blank check to insert himself into every local controversy and use his office to sway public opinion and the conduct of others regarding matters outside his responsibilities. Still, he continues to do it. It may seem trivial at first: the President gave an interview on TNT in which he pointedly suggested that NBA superstar LeBron James consider the Chicago Bulls as he faces free agency.  After weighing in on the most important things for James to seek from his current team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, if he was going to stay there, the President said, “You know, like I said, I don’t want to meddle. I will say this: (Derrick) Rose, Joakim Noah it’s a pretty good core. You know, you could see LeBron fitting in pretty well there.”

Now, I don’t care what Cooper thinks of Trump’s meddling in matters that don’t concern him if the CNN anchor didn’t have the integrity to knock Obama for doing the same thing, and repeatedly. Still, Anderson was on the right track—finally—to say, as he did,

“The president of the United States seems to have a lot of time on his hands And he can’t even stand some horses getting uninterrupted airtime. He’s got to be a part of every frickin news cycle. He can’t help himself!”

(I guess “frickin” is now considered professional lexicon at CNN. Stay classy, Anderson!)

Less defensible was this comment: Continue reading