I Don’t Know Exactly What This Story Signifies, But I’m Going To Write About It Anyway…

Actress Jamie Lee Curtis posted about her chairs on Instagram for some strange reason, and in so doing, revealed the creepy photograph she has hanging in her home. Conservatives, who have been in an art critic mood thanks to “The Embrace” were triggered. “Why does Jamie Lee Curtis have a picture of a naked child stuffed inside a suitcase on her wall,” said rightish broadcaster Stew Peters. “Strong Epstein vibes.” Right-wing activist Rogan O’Handley tweeted in part, “Hollywood has-been Jamie Lee Curtis posted …an extremely disturbing picture she has in her home of a child stuffed in a suitcase. We have serious questions.”

Curtis then took down the post and photo, explaining,

What’s going on here?

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Dead Body Ethics: Why Is “Mind Your Own Damn Business!” Such A Difficult Principle To Grasp?

This post was almost titled “Stop Making Me Defend Governor Hochul!” Conservative pundits, bloggers and busybodies are freaking out over Governor Kathy Hochul (D-NY) signing into law legislation that makes New York the sixth state to legalize the composting human remains. The law adds “natural organic reduction” to cremation and entombment as legal ways to dispose of bodies. The new law defines the practice as the “contained, accelerated conversion of human remains to soil” in a “structure, room, or other space” in which decomposition can occur.

To all of which I say, “Fine.” Any time government increases individual autonomy and the liberty to do as citizens please as long as it doesn’t harm society or other individuals, or infringe on their rights, that’s an ethics win. It is especially encouraging to see a Democratic governor move in this direction, since her party has lately embraced a philosophy of seeking more restrictions on core American rights—like, say, freedom of speech— rather than fewer.

Never mind, though: some on the right are eager to bash Hochul anyway.

Here’s “Not the Bee”s” John Knox:

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/7/2022: Neil, Sam, Kwame, Mehmet And More

I took a wild guess that Neil had to have done this parody of his biggest hit because it was so obvious, and sure enough, I was right!

It’s not exactly an ethics story, but it does involve my home town of Arlington, Massachusetts: on September 7, 1813, a local newspaper in Troy, New York wrote about how Troy’s Samuel Wilson, a meat packer who supplied barrels of beef to the United States Army during the War of 1812, was being facetiously called “Uncle Sam” by soldiers because he stamped the barrels of meat “U.S.” The trivial story caught on and the nickname persisted. Decades later, brilliant 19th Century political cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902) began using a character called Uncle Sam as the personification of the nation, giving Sam the white beard and stars-and-stripes suit that he still wears today. Troy, quite reasonably, later dubbed itself “The Home of Uncle Sam.” But Wilson was born in Arlington, Mass., and the town management, frustrated with its relative obscurity despite being in the midst of other Greater Boston tourist destinations like Concord, Lexington and Cambridge, decided a few decades ago to promote Arlington as “The Birthplace of Uncle Sam,” essentially horning in on Troy’s historical territory (Troy was not pleased). Arlington even paid to have a statue of Nast’s Sam designed, cast and erected.

Nobody cared.

1. More on “quiet quitting”:  Gallup estimates that at least half the workforce is “quiet quitting,” meaning that it does the bare minimum required to keep jobs rather than working to do their best. Gallup’s analysis blames management, which is certainly part of the problem. It does not address the serious cultural ethics issue of workers seeking to be excellent because it is beneficial for society as a whole and an embodiment of the Golden Rule, as well as a life habit that develops good character and justifies trust. Quiet quitters are just a few degrees better than freeloaders, an anchor on the nation, the economy and the quality of life. Continue reading

Icky Or Unethical? Alexa Is Learning A New Trick

From Ars Technica:

Amazon is figuring out how to make its Alexa voice assistant deepfake the voice of anyone, dead or alive, with just a short recording. The company demoed the feature at its re:Mars conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday, using the emotional trauma of the ongoing pandemic and grief to sell interest.

Amazon’s re:Mars focuses on artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and other emerging technologies, with technical experts and industry leaders taking the stage. During the second-day keynote, Rohit Prasad, senior vice president and head scientist of Alexa AI at Amazon, showed off a feature being developed for Alexa.

After noting the large amount of lives lost during the pandemic, Prasad played a video demo, where a child asks Alexa, “Can grandma finish reading me Wizard of Oz?” Alexa responds, “Okay,” in her typical effeminate, robotic voice. But next, the voice of the child’s grandma comes out of the speaker to read L. Frank Baum’s tale.

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A “I Must Be Missing Something” Ethics Quiz: Arizona’s Execution Option [Corrected]

gas chamber

Usually ethics quizzes on Ethics Alarms involve borderline ethics conflicts or dilemmas that I can’t make up my own mind about. Not this one: on this one: my mind is virtually made up. The arguments that the Arizona plan to use cyanide gas in future executions is an ethics outrage because of previous uses of cyanide gas seem contrived, emotional, and, frankly, weird, with no ethical validity whatsoever. But the intensity of these arguments make me wonder if I’m missing something, and Voilà! An Ethics Quiz!

The state of Arizona allows condemned inmates to choose the gas chamber, rather than lethal injection, if they committed a capital offense before November 23, 1992. Arizona’s attorney general, Mark Brnovich, is seeking to complete the execution of two men who committed murders before that date, and Arizona officials are reconditioning the state’s mothballed gas chamber in case they pick gas over a shot. Arizona authorities plan to use, if it comes to that, hydrogen cyanide to concoct the fatal agent of death. Cyanide gas is a particular gruesome way to die. It takes almost 20 minutes, in some cases, and this is a problem for some people.

Not for me: I find the obsession with making sure executions of the upper tier monsters who earn capitol punishment as pleasant as a spring day to be incomprehensible, and always have. We’re killing someone. It might hurt a little, and it won’t be pretty. An 18 minute judicially sanctioned death isn’t “cruel and unusual,” especially if the subject chose it. What I find cruel and unusual is the way our endless system of appeals dangles executions over the heads of Death Row inmates like a Sword of Damocles from Hell.

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PM Ethics Medley, 5/26/2021: It’s A Strange, Strange World

Pastiche

1. Priorities! Major League Baseball has placed Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway on its ineligible list through at least the 2022 season, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced. The league made the decision after investigating Callaway for sexual sexual harassment allegations reaching back several years, with several female sporstwriters among the alelged victims. The Angels fired Callaway this afternoon. Opines a major baseball news site: “Callaway is facing a year-plus ban, and it seems hard to believe any MLB team will hire him when he’s eligible to return.”

Hmmmm…

Alex Cora was suspended and fired as manager by the Boston Red Sox after a one-year suspension, then immediately hired back by the team. All he did was play a major role in devising a cheating scheme for one team, the Houston Astros, that extended through the play-offs and World Series, then oversaw a second team, Boston, that was found to have engaged in cheating, though less extensively, the next season. Cora’s cheating scheme with Astros was unprecedented, and cost two other professionals their jobs and the Astros millions in fines,while seriously scarring the integrity of the game. The conduct Callaway engaged in has been routine among professional athletes for decades, though in his case it was apparently 1) a bit more extreme than the norm and 2) “unwelcome.” After all, he was just a coach. So far, nobody has accused a player making more than $10 million a year of making sexual advances that were “unwelcome.’

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End Of Day Ethics, 4/7/2021: “Ick,” Ethics, And Law

And as we bid farewell to April 7 and good morning to April 8, I want to wish my wonderful, kind, talented and tolerant wife of 40 years a happy birthday. I owe everything to her.

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…

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Ick or Ethics? The Cool Diorama Controversy

Lion_Attacking_a_Dromedary

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.

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Ethics Quiz: The Robot Dog

Robot seals work too, apparently…

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.

Hmmm.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Was this ethical?

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Ick Or Ethics? The Nauseating Social Media Meme

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.

Then, I see that I was adamant, writing in part, Continue reading