Lost Tuesday Ethics Scraps, 12/11/18: Statues, Tucker Carlson And “To Kill A Mockingbird”

Good whatever it is.

I guess I’m not as recovered as I thought: one high energy ethics presentation to a sluggish audience today and I was fried. This better not be encroaching old age, or I’ll be pissed.

1. Thank you for making the open forum this morning active: I wish you all had been in my audience today. I haven’t read any of it yet (I did finally get your excellent comment out of moderation, Michael R!); I’m trying to get my own posts up.

2. Stolen art ethics. No doubt: the looting of art from the Old World by American tycoons and museums is a long-time ethics scandal, and the international court battles settling the disputes will continue for a long, long time. The argument over a 2000-year-old bronze statue, known as “Victorious Youth between the Getty Villa and Italy, however, is not as clear as most. Italy’s highest court has ordered that the sculpture should be returned to Italy. Currently, it is on display at the villa on the outskirts of Los Angeles, which is part of the J. Paul Getty Museum. It was retrieved from Adriatic waters by Italian fishermen in 1964, and sold to successive collectors and dealers. After a decade-long legal battle, Italy’s Court of Cassation ruled  that the statue should be confiscated and brought back to Italy, rejecting the Getty’s appeal. Getty is not giving in.

The ethics as well as the law is murky. This is not a case like King Tut, where Indiana Jones-style archeologists and adventurers, just uncovered foreign cultural treasures and took them home. Before acquiring the prized artifact, the Getty undertook a comprehensive, five-year study of whether the statue could be purchased legally and in good faith. Their due diligence extensive analysis of international, Italian, American and California law and of Italian court decisions pertaining to the work.

In 1968, Italy’s Court of Cassation ruled that there was no evidence that the statue belonged to the Italian state; after all, it is Greek. Although the fishermen took the statue onto Italian soil, the court did not find that its brief presence in Italy transformed the sculpture into a component of Italian cultural heritage. Eventually the statue made its way to a German art dealer who put the statue up for sale. According to the Getty, in 1973, acting on a request from Italy, German police initiated an investigation into whether the German dealer had received stolen goods. The investigation was dropped for lack of evidence of wrongdoing. In 1977, the Getty purchased the bronze in Britain for almost $4 million from a gallery affiliated with the German dealer. The bronze has now been publicly exhibited, studied and cared for at the Getty for 40 years. Continue reading

Screwing Over Mexico In The World Baseball Classic: Now THAT’S A Stupid Rule…

Rationalization #30. The Prospective Repeal: “It’s a bad law/stupid rule,” is a widely employed ethics dodge, used by everyone from drug dealers to tax cheats. It doesn’t mean that many rules are not bad and stupid however. The World Baseball Classic just demonstrated its management’s incompetence with one of them. As is often the case when bad rules and laws prevail, injustice is the result.

Sixteen national teams are competing in the World Baseball Classic, a relatively new baseball tournament played during MLB’s  Spring Training. There are five pools of teams in an elimination tournament. The competitors this year (the tournament is held every four years, sometimes three—never mind, they are still working it out) are Japan, Taiwan, China, SOUTH Korea (the first version of this post erroneously said “North”—wishful thinking on my part), Mexico, Cuba, Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, the U.S., of course, and…Israel. Pool competition just ended (the US is moving on to the next round) and Mexico, Venezuela and Italy all finished with records of 1-2 in their pool games. The tournament doesn’t have time for extended play-off games, so a tie-breaker was triggered.

Under Classic tiebreaker rules, the two teams with the fewest runs allowed per defensive inning in games played between the teams tied during the tournament play an elimination game, and the other is eliminated. The calculation of runs allowed per inning includes “partial innings.” (Hold that thought.) Major League Baseball announced that Venezuela (1.11 runs allowed per defensive inning) and Italy (1.05 runs allowed) will play an elimination game, with Mexico (1.12) out of the tournament. Here is how it stacked up: Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Italy’s New Strategy To Fight The Mafia

corleone-family

Anyone who has seen “The Godfather” I or II has a sense of the mafia culture in Italy. That wasn’t fiction; indeed, it was probably understated, and is strong as ever. Now legislators are experimenting with a radical new approach to fighting organized crime in the country, a deep-rooted pathology that has persisted for centuries.The strategy is draconian: separating children from their mob families and moving them to a different part of Italy to end a generational cycle of crime. Families are the heart of organized crime: the “Godfather” films’ portrayal was absolutely accurate on that score.

Italian magistrate Roberto Di Bella began taking children away from their criminal families after seeing children as young as 11 or 12 serving as lookouts during murders, participating in drug deals and mob strategy sessions, and learning how to shoot an assault rifle. “Sons follow their fathers,” he told New York Times reporter Gaia Piani Giani. “The state can’t allow that children are educated to be criminals.”

Di Bella began taking children away from parents convicted of mob ties five years ago,  separating about 40 boys and girls, ages 12 to 16, from their families. Sometimes the children’s mothers accompany them to the new locales. The rest of the embryonic mafiosi  go into foster care.Di Bella says that none of the children he has taken away from their families have committed a crime since, and impressed with his results,  Italy recently passed statutes that legalize the strategy as a way to destroy crime families.

Of course the program is controversial.  Di Bella, however, believes that it is a utilitarian necessity. He told the Times that mafia fathers have written to him to thank him for for giving their children a chance at a normal life, their children have told him they feel liberated, and mothers ask if he will do it for their children.

Your Ethics Alarms Italian Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is the policy of removing children from organized crime families ethical?

Continue reading

Ethic Quiz: The Jean Valjean Rule

There are no good pictures of Jean stealing a loaf of bread, but here's Yogi Bear stealing a picnic basket...

There are no good pictures of Jean stealing a loaf of bread, but here’s Yogi Bear stealing a picnic basket…

News from Italy, via the BBC:

Judges overturned a theft conviction against Roman Ostriakov after he stole cheese and sausages worth €4.07 (£3; $4.50) from a supermarket.Mr Ostriakov, a homeless man of Ukrainian background, had taken the food “in the face of the immediate and essential need for nourishment”, the court of cassation decided.

Therefore it was not a crime, it said.

A fellow customer informed the store’s security in 2011, when Mr Ostriakov attempted to leave a Genoa supermarket with two pieces of cheese and a packet of sausages in his pocket but paid only for breadsticks.

In 2015, Mr Ostriakov was convicted of theft and sentenced to six months in jail and a €100 fine.

For the judges, the “right to survival prevails over property”, said an op-ed in La Stampa newspaper (in Italian).

In times of economic hardship, the court of cassation’s judgement “reminds everyone that in a civilised country not even the worst of men should starve”.

An opinion piece in Corriere Della Sera says statistics suggest 615 people are added to the ranks of the poor in Italy every day – it was “unthinkable that the law should not take note of reality”.

It criticised the fact that a case concerning the taking of goods worth under €5 went through three rounds in the courts before being thrown out.

The “historic” ruling is “right and pertinent”, said Italiaglobale.it – and derives from a concept that “informed the Western world for centuries – it is called humanity”.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for today, involving  the eternal confusion between law and ethics::

Never mind legal: was this an ethical ruling?

Continue reading

The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 4 of 4)

mamoru-samuragochi2

Outrageous Hoax Of The Year

Mamoru Samuragochi, the composer sometimes known as “The Japanese Beethoven” because he composed critically acclaimed works despite being deaf, was exposed as double fraud: he didn’t compose the works that made him Japan’s most popular classical composer, and he isn’t even really deaf!  Samuragochi hired a musical ghostwriter named Takashi Niigaki to compose more than twenty compositions for Samuragochi since 1996.

Funniest Outrageous Hoax

Fake Panda

This.

Unethical Artist Of The Year

Performance artist Maximo Caminero, who  walked into the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, entered a special exhibit of sixteen ancient Chinese vases painted over in bright colors by celebrated Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, picked up one of them, and immediately after a security guard instructed him not to touch the exhibit, allowed the vase to fall from his hands, shattering into bits. Caminero admitted that smashing the pottery, which was valued at a million dollars,  was intentional, and was his protest against in support of local artists like himself whose work is not exhibited at the museum while the art of international artists like Weiwei is.

Unethical Veterinarian Of The Year

Fort Worth, Texas veterinarian Lou Tierce lost his license for five years as a result of, among other transgressions, his telling the owners of a Leonburger (it’s a very big dog) that their pet was terminally ill and had to be euthanized, then secretly keeping the dog alive in a small cage so he could use Sid’s blood for transfusions to Dr. Tierce’s other canine patients. Eventually an assistant at the clinic blew the whistle and alerted Sid’s owners, who rescued their dog and sicced the law on the worst veterinarian since Dean Jones menaced Beethoven.

Unethical Doctor Of The Year

Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s medical expert, endangered the public by defying a voluntary quarantine for possible Ebola exposure,  because she just couldn’t bear to be without her favorite soup.

Scam of the Year

Jonathan-Gruber-1

The Affordable Care Act.

 Unethical Federal Agency Of The Year

The Secret Service. Lots of competition in this category: the Veterans Administration, the I.R.S., the CDC, the Justice Department, NSA…but when you essentially have one job to do and do it badly, sloppily carelessly and dangerously, there’s really not much more to say Continue reading

Unethical—But FUNNY!: The Under-Age Italian-Hungarian Fake Pandas

sad_panda_in_christmas_hat

[ Lots of ethics matters to write about, and little time to do it, as my wife keeps bugging me to help prepare the homestead for the holiday festivities, as brim as they are likely to be. Let’s see how much I can cover, and how many typos I’ll be able to avoid writing these posts in five minute increments. May your Dec. 24th be less stressful than mine is going to be!]

Because nothing says “Old Fashioned American Christmas” like an Italian circus fake panda story, Ethics Alarms offers this:

A circus in northern Italy charged a fee for children to have their photos taken with two rare pandas, or what the kids thought were pandas. Sharp-eyed Italian police, however, moved in and confiscated the beasts, which were really painted chow chow dogs.

Fake Panda

The owners have been charged with animal cruelty, and—get this—using false passports to import the dogs from Hungary, since they were six months younger than the documents. Charging the circus with fraud has somehow slipped the mind of the police, but I’m sure they’ll figure it out eventually.

Italian Merry Christmas

________________________

Pointer: Fark

Graphic: Deviant Art

 

Five Ethics Lessons from Jerome Cardano (“Who?”), and One More

Remember his name?

A chance reference in a book I was perusing yesterday reminded me of a fascinating historical figure whom I hadn’t thought about in decades—which still gives me an edge over most people, who have never thought about him at all. He is Jerome Cardano, or, in the Italian version of his name, Gerolamo Cardano, an archetypical Renaissance man from Italy who walked the earth between 1501 and 1576. When I first learned about him those many years ago, his remarkable life didn’t give me any ethical insights because I wasn’t thinking about ethics then. Now, reviewing the facts of his remarkable life, I find that it carries at least five lessons with value for anyone who strives to live in a more ethical culture, and to have his or her own life contribute to making the world a better place.

Lesson 1 : DiligencePlay the hand you are dealt the best you can.

Cardano’s mother attempted to abort him by taking various poisons, but succeeded only in making him unhealthy. He stuttered; he was incapable of sexual relations, and had chronic insomnia, supposedly resulting in an “annual period” where he got little or no sleep for two to three months. He was afflicted at various times with the plague, cancer, dysentery, and many lesser ailments, yet he led a life full of extraordinary accomplishments and adventures, and continued to be active and breathing for 75 years, when most of his class and era died before they reached 45. Continue reading