1. Well, you can’t accuse satellite radio of being politically correct…the Comedy Legend Sirius channel is a welcome oasis in the woke era humor desert, with routines old enough to remind one what it was like when comedians only had to worry about being funny to the audience at hand—and yet there are limits. At least, there should be. Today I heard an old Louis C.K. routine about his childhood. You recall how C.K. became a #MeToo arch-villain, costing him his show, bookings, and essentially his career, don’t you? He set a new low for celebrity sexual harassment by masturbating in front of non-consenting female visitors to his hotel room, and on more than one occasion. Ick. Also sick. In the routine featured on Sirius-XM, the comedian was reminiscing, to audience hilarity, how he showed his penis to a girl with Down Syndrome when he was nine. I don’t know that I would have ever found that story funny, but hearing C.K. tell it in light of his later revealed proclivities was an experience I could have lived my whole life without having. Since it is now clear to me that whoever programs that channel can’t be trusted to apply any discretion or common sense at all, I’m not sure it is safe for me to drive with it playing…
Boy, as a kid, would I have loved the diorama “Lion Attacking a Dromedary” at The Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh! Things like that—by “like that” I mean cool, stimulating exhibits that fired my curiosity—got me interested in all sorts of subjects growing up: paleontology, zoology, history. The creation of French naturalist and taxidermist Edouard Verreaux and his brother was made for the Paris Exposition of 1867 and has been at the Pittsburgh museum since 1899. I wish it had been lodged at the Peabody Museum in Cambridge, Mass., where I used to spend long, leisurely Saturdays with my best friend, Peter Bena.
But now, fully in the grip of what I call “The Great Stupid,” the Carnegie Museum’s interim director says the exhibit is being “reconsidered,” because the exciting scene has disturbed “some.” After all, it depicts violence against a man described as an Arab courier. Also, the victim’s garb has been determined to be “derived from” at least five separate North African cultures. So that’s bad. I’m not sure why, but it’s bad. I’m sure PETA thinks the scene encourages cruelty to camels.
From a recent New York Times story:
When Linda Spangler asked her mother, in a video chat, what she would like as gift for her 92nd birthday, the response came promptly.
“I’d like a dog,” Charlene Spangler said. “Is Wolfgang dead?” Wolfgang, a family dachshund, had indeed died long ago; so had all his successors. Ms. Spangler, who lives in a dementia care facility in Oakland, Calif., has trouble recalling such history.
So Linda, who is a doctor, got her mother a dog.
Well, Mom thought it was a dog, anyway. It was a robot dog. Sensors allow it to pant, woof, wag its tail, nap and awaken, and users can feel a simulated heartbeat.
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:
Was this ethical?
I have a long-time friend whose spouse has the above Facebook meme as a social media avatar. As a result, I have serious reservations about having any further interaction with either of them.
Once again, I am bedeviled by the phenomenon of public virtue-signaling, a non-virus epidemic that mostly manifests itself among smug progressives. There is no question in my mind that such ostentatious declarations are obnoxious and nausea-inducing, and thus offensive. But are they unethical?
The last time I addressed this issue was when these signs, mercifully short-lived, starting popping up on my neighbors’ lawns.
It’s a glorious Sunday in Alexandria!
I hope you have the same good fortune wherever you are…
1. What a fun season the Astros are facing...Yesterday, in their first Spring Training game, the Houston Astros were booed by their own “home” fans in West Palm Beach, Florida. They will have an overhwelming amount of pressure on them this year in addition to being pariahs in every ballpark in te American League. If they don’t win their division again, or approach the 100+ wins the team has amassed ever season since 2017, the narrative will be that tis proves that it was the team’s cheating, not its superior talent, that had made them champions. Of course that will be a false conclusion, since there are many factors that could diminish the Astros in 2020, such as the loss of their best pitcher, Gerrit Cole, to free agency.
There were other ethically dubious moves by the Astros yesterday. Although teams are required by an MLB directive to include at least some team regulars in Spring Training games, since spectators are paying substantial amounts to attend, manager Dusty Baker had only minor leaguers in the line-up, apparently wanting to delay and minimize the fan abuse heaped on his team. Thus a line-up of players who had absolutly nothing to do with the sign-stealing that marred the Astros’ 2017 season and World Series victory absorbed the anger of the fans intended for the no-shows.
Meanwhile, ball park personnel confiscated signs brought by some fans to express their disapproval. The signs weren’t obscene or vulgar, just critical, like “Houston” with an asterisk, implying that the Astros’ 2017 World Series title would be forever blemished by the team’s cheating. That sign is telling the undeniable truth.
Can’t have that.
2. Now here’s an old tradition that does not need to be revived...
An ABC News story from 2009 turned up on my ethics radar.
Tim Browne, a retired teacher and musician from Wiltshire, England, was diagnosed with colon cancer. He was operated on a week before his daughter’s wedding, but the cancer had spread to his liver and lymph nodes. Doctors said it was terminal.
While he was undergoing chemotherapy, his daughter suggested an unconventional treatment: her breast milk. She had seen a TV report about an American man who had made a miraculous recovery from prostate cancer by drinking it. Soon Tim was having his morning cereal with daughter Georgia’s milk.
Georgia was nursing her 8-month-old son Monty and offered to set aside a few ounces of milk every day for Browne. Browne started calling Monty his “milk brother.” “If I have a lactating daughter, why not take advantage of her? As long as Monty didn’t mind,” Browne said.
There’s no evidence that breast milk really does treat cancer, but doctors said that as long as Browne believed it did, the succor might have a genuine placebo effect.
What do we properly call a father consuming his daughter’s breast milk? Is that too close to incest for comfort?Does it matter if it’s close, as long as it isn’t quite? Continue reading
Is shooting a big, beautiful male lion who was minding his own business ethical?
The two lovebirds are Canadians Darren and Carolyn Carter, who like killing big, beautiful wild animals. They also are in the taxidermy business, so they create the “art” of preserved beautiful dead animals for those who also either enjoy killing them or who like having the stuffed dead creatures, or just their heads, as trophies or decoration.
It is fair to say that at this time in human culture in North America, simply killing big game for the thrill of it is considered cruel and wrong. The fact that the Carters are taxidermists gives them a little more ballast in a utilitarian argument. In general, killing anything just to kill it is unethical: it ends a life, and life has positive value. Killing an animal to eat it helps balance out the ethical considerations, as we regard human life as having higher value than animal or plant life. Killing a lion to save a human life—as in the situation where a lion is deliberately stalking and killing people, like the two “Tsavo Man-Eaters” responsible for the deaths of construction workers on the Kenya-Uganda Railway between March and December 1898 (dramatized in the film, “The Ghost and the Darkness”) would also be ethical.(Those lions are stuffed and on display in the Marshall Fields Museum in Chicago.)
If one doesn’t deny the value of taxidermy as art, furnishings or as museum exhibits for historical or educational purposes, then maybe the practice has sufficient value to human life to sustain the argument that killing even a harmless lion to stuff it is ethically defensible. Personally and professionally, I find that to be a weak and rationalization-stuffed argument, but let’s give the Carters the benefit of the doubt for now.
The killing was legal. It was, however, the result also a so-called “canned hunt” in South Africa, where a company called Legelela Safaris arranges opportunities to shoot magnificent wild animals for a fee. If it’s sport, it’s barely sport, and, of course, there are many, many sports that do not require killing anything. If one can do something without causing harm (like killing a living creature), it is unethical to deliberately do it while causing harm. Yes, the circumstances surrounding the kill are ethically dubious at best.
What about that kiss? Continue reading
A New York judge ruled that the parents of West Point cadet Peter Zhu, 21, who was declared brain-dead after a skiing accident, can take sperm harvested from his body with “no restriction.” The parents say they want to fulfill their son’s lifelong desire to have children and continue the family name.
Lauren Sydney Flicker, a bioethicist and expert in post-mortem sperm retrieval at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx [there is such a thing as being an expert in post-mortem sperm retrieval?] told the New York Times,
“Here is the ethical debate, and it will be different for different people: Is it a greater ethical burden to prevent someone from having the opportunity to be a father by passing along their genetic material? Or is it a greater ethical burden to have a man father a child, without his consent, that he wouldn’t be around to raise?”
Huh? I’d say the burden of not living pretty much wipes out the burden of not being a father, and renders it moot. Absent explicit instructions that the young man wanted his sperm used to spawn a child after he died, the cadet’s desires regarding a family while he was planning on being alive are rendered moot by his death. Continue reading
A report from El Tiempo, a Colombian news outlet, states that former President Barack Obama will recieve “2 mil millones de pesos” for delivering a speech engaging in an on-stage discussion about leadership strategies at the EXMA Conference in Bogota. Obama’s fee is the equivalent of $594,000 in U.S. dollars
The Colombian news website Publicmetro.co, further reports that conference attendees who want to attend the event and take a photo with Obama will pay 11 million Colombian pesos, or about $3,267.
Ethics Observations: Continue reading
1. Today’s source of maximum irritation. Remember those California wildfires at the end of last year that the news media kept reporting as proof of climate change and that prompted Democrats and talking heads to sneer in disdain at anyone, especially President Trump, who suggested that electrical equipment just might have been the cause? From NPR:
Pacific Gas and Electric says it’s “probable” that its equipment caused the Camp Fire in Northern California, the deadliest and most destructive in the state’s history.
California has not finished its investigation into PG&E’s culpability in last November’s fire that killed at least 85 people, destroyed about 14,000 structures, displacing tens of thousands of people and destroying the town of Paradise. However, the state’s largest utility, which filed for bankruptcy last month, said Thursday it expects the investigation will find that its damaged infrastructure sparked the fire.
Please let Ethics Alarms know how many of the news shows this morning mention this development.
2. Spring Training ethics note: Good news! Ethics Alarms has been campaigning for robo-umps at home plate to call balls and strikes for several years. Now MLB announces that it has finalized a three-year deal with the independent Atlantic League to have the league test rules innovations and equipment for the Show. This will include computer calling of pitches. Not so good news: it will also reportedly include moving the mound back, which is heresy.
3. Concern for Popehat’s Ken White. There is not a smarter, more passionate, better blogger on the planet than lawyer Ken White, and while we have had our disagreements, his commentary on law and justice especially is a blessing for all Americans, even though most don’t have the sense to benefit from it. One of many reasons I admire Ken is that he has been candid about his battle with depression, a killer illness that too many people don’t understand. That malady runs in my family (or as Mortimer Brewster says in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Runs? It practically gallups!”), and has been responsible for more than one suicide. Popehat once was a collective, but now it’s almost entirely Ken, with occasional drop-ins from the acerbic Mark Randazza. The blog’s last entry was January 4, almost two months. I’m worried, as are most of Ken’s fans I’m sure, and I am officially sending Ethics Alarms best wishes and love to one of the really good people in multiple roles: lawyer, blogger, public educator. Get back as soon as you can, Ken. We need you. Continue reading