Noonish Ethics Warm-Up: Everyone’s Gone To The Moon, But They Aren’t Going To Zoom

Hello?

The Jonathan King hit from 1965 (most people think was originally sung by Chad and Jermy, who covered it) sounds profound but it’s not; King, who wrote the song in college, later admitted that he was satirizing Dylanesque lyrics intended to have great portent, but in fact he meant nothing in particular. The song sounds timely now, doesn’t it? Yesterday, while taking a walk, my whole Alexandria neighborhood was eerily empty and silent. I started singing loudly as I walked as my own small rebellion, but I didn’t think of King’s song until I got home.

1. The ethics breach is “incompetence.” Imagine having a niche business, waiting for your big break, then you get the break, and botch it. That’s Zoom. When schools, colleges and other organizations were forced to resort to online conferencing platforms, Zoom was a ready-made solution: easy to download, single click-access.

It was, as the saying goes, not ready for prime time. The easy access allowed easy hacking and the new phenomenon of “Zoombombing,” where anonymous assholes—yes, this is another time when the term is fair, apt, and necessary—entered conferences and classes uninvited with with pornography or worse. Zoom was  also caught sending user’s analytics data to Facebook, even if the user didn’t have a Facebook account. There were other privacy issues. Many school districts have suspended classes using Zoom.  Google just banned  the use of the Zoom teleconferencing platform for employees, citing security concerns. [UPDATE: So has the U.S. Senate.] Now many potential users, including me, are looking elsewhere.

The  company’s CEO and founder now says he’ll make his product harder to use to improve Zoom’s safety and security. Good luck with that. I suspect this is a Barn Door Fallacy situation. Business competence requires you be ready for that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and if it arrives and you’re not, you not only might not get a second chance, you don’t deserve one. Continue reading

Pre-Memorial Day Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 5/23/2019: Here, There, And Everywhere, With Hugs

Good morning…

Reflections: In D.C., today is being treated like a Friday, as it is assumed that everyone is taking off tomorrow for an extended 4-day weekend. It is irrelevant to ProEthics since we don’t take vacations, and ethics never sleeps, but impactful to Ethics Alarms, which means that I will be blogging for a handful of stalwarts—thank you all—and otherwise talking to myself.

This has me already thinking about Memorial Day, which in turn causes me to think about my father, who will be spending the holiday, now and forever, with my mother at Arlington National Cemetery. Being a World War II veteran was second only to being a father and husband in my father’s view of his life’s priorities. In his final years, he often drove down to the Mall and the World War II Memorial, wearing his vest with his medals, and served as kind of a volunteer exhibit himself, a real, live Word War II veteran for visitors, especially students and your tourist, to take photos with and interview. Many of his encounters that began with, “Excuse me, are you a real soldier from the war?” ended with him being hugged and even getting gifts. Now I regret I never accompanied him in some of those weekly excursions into old memories and personal pride. I only found out about them after his death in 2009.

A about a week after my dad died, I was at my parent’s condo with my mother. A knock on the door brought another resident of Fairlington South ( an Arlington, VA development converted from Army barracks during World War II) into the room. He was an active Vietnam vet, about my age, who had engaged my father to speak to his veterans’ group a few times, and who obviously admired Dad a great deal. He entered cheerily and asked, “Where’s Jack?” When I told him that Dad had died, the expression on his face melted into abject shock and grief so quickly and vividly that the image haunts me to this day.

I don’t think I fully appreciated how much my father was respected and loved by even casual acquaintances who knew about his service and character until that moment.

1. Theory: If you can’t win under the rules, change the rules. Nevada has joined the states attempting to by-pass the Constitution with the scheme of directing its electors to vote for the winner of the popular vote regardless of which candidate the state’s residents favored. I think that means 15 states, all with Democratric Party-dominated legislatures, are trying this stunt so far in frustration over Al Gore and Hillary Clinton joining Andrew Jackson, Samuel Tilden and Grover Cleveland on the list of Presidential candidates defeated by the Electoral College.

This is grandstanding: the device is unconstitutional on its face, and sinister mischief: the idea is to pander to civic ignorance (“Of course the popular vote winner should become President!” is an easy call if you don’t know anything about history or why the Electoral College was installed) and almost guarantees a Constitutional crisis and maybe violence in the streets the next time a Democrat loses despite a popular vote edge. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Pardons For War Criminals?

Reports are circulating that the President may be planning on issuing pardons to several high-profile servicemen accused of various war crimes during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has requested expedited paper work and files on several cases, presumably aiming for announcements on Memorial Day.

From the New York Times:

One request is for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of the Navy SEALs, who is scheduled to stand trial in the coming weeks on charges of shooting unarmed civilians and killing an enemy captive with a knife while deployed in Iraq.

The others are believed to include the case of a former Blackwater security contractor recently found guilty in the deadly 2007 shooting of dozens of unarmed Iraqis; the case of Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, the Army Green Beret accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010; and the case of a group of Marine Corps snipers charged with urinating on the corpses of dead Taliban fighters.

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/13/2018: The All-Segue Edition

Good Morning!

(Though any day that begins with the legal gossip scandal-sheet website Above the Law sending me a “media inquiry” as they dig for dirt is not a good day.)

1. In brief. Well I have now received the appellant’s brief in a certain lingering law suit regarding Ethics Alarms. What fun. Anyone who wants to read it is welcome; those who have dealt with pro se submissions will immediately recognize the syndrome, lawyers may be amused, and non-lawyers may be edified. I expect to knock out the reply brief today, which won’t have to be more than a few pages. It’s not like I have better things to do or anything…

2. Speaking of cases that should have been thrown out of court…Reason reports:

In June, an Oakland County sheriff’s deputy pulled Dejuante Franklin over in front of a gas station for a traffic violation. While handing Franklin his ticket, NWA’s “Fuck tha Police” began to play in the background. As it turns out, James Webb, who did not know Franklin, witnessed the stop. He decided on his own accord to turn the song up louder before walking into the gas station store. When he exited, the officer slapped him with a ticket for misdemeanor noise violation, citing that Webb played the song at an “extremely high volume.”

It took 9 minutes of deliberation for a jury to bring in a verdict of  not guilty. This was an obvious attempted end-around the First Amendment by the officer, and the judge shouldn’t have let it get to a jury at all.

3. And speaking of abusing First Amendment rights…as well as “A Nation of Assholes,” MSNBC’s “Morning Joe’s” co-host and wife-to-be (don’t get me started on THAT) Mika Brzezinski,  called Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a “butt-boy” during yesterday’s show.  Why not? After all, CBS lets its on-air personalities call the President a “cock-holster.” Mika wouldn’t have had her filters down, of course, if the culture around MSNBC wasn’t rife with such hate, but she realized mid-show that this wasn’t exactly professional or civil news reporting, and babbled an apology. Too late!

An ethical, professional news station would suspend her, but this is MSNBC, and there are no ethical, professional news stations.

4. Meanwhile, speaking of media bias and unprofessional reporting...A New York Times “fact check” on the contentious meeting among Trump, Pence, Pelosi and Schumer had this amusing note:

“Mr. Trump has long charged that Democrats want open borders, slinging accusations at a higher clip in the waning days of the midterm elections campaign in November. Democrats do not want open borders, evidenced in part by border security legislation that Democrats have supported. What Democrats do not want is Mr. Trump’s costly border wall.”

Oh, that’s a fact, is it? No, Democrats, at least a great many of them, DO want open borders, evidenced in part by their wilful refusal to distinguish between illegal immigrants and legal immigrants, their insistence on signalling through their support for “Dreamers” that bringing children across the border illegally is a virtuous act, their position that illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the U.S. as longs as they don’t break any more laws, their constant demonization of necessary border enforcement efforts, and their proposals to abolish ICE. Continue reading

Clarence Darrow’s Reflections On His Birthday

Today I’m going to indulge myself here, as it is Cognitive Dissonance Day, December First, my birthday and the 9th anniversary of my biggest birthday surprise, finding my 89-year-old father, Jack Sr., dead in his favorite chair when I arrived to pick him up to go out for dinner. Even though I know, and knew then, that the end was well timed, exactly as Dad would have wanted, and perhaps even self-willed, it’s a tough day for me, added to the only periodically dawning realization that I’m not going to be around forever myself. Dad was a lifelong iconoclast, loner, idealist, joker, cynic, optimist, hero and seeker of truth, and the best role model any son ever had. After he died, his doctor told me that normal men would have been in bed for months. “All sorts of things were killing him, and he was in a lot of pain,” he told me. “His attitude was ‘Just keep going, and nobody wants to hear old people complaining.'”

But I digress. Here’s today’s first installment of Ethics Alarms self-indulgence, frequent guest here Clarence Darrow’s reflections on his birthday. The SOB called himself an old man at 61. He was a kid!

I have always yearned for peace, but have lived a life of war. I do not know why, excepting that it is the law of my being. I have lived a life in front trenches, looking for trouble.

If I had known just what I was to run into here I would have worn a gas mask. A man is never painted as he is. One is either better or worse than the picture that is drawn. This is the first time that I have felt that I was worse. No one ever gave me a dinner like this before, and I really do not know how my friends happened to take into their heads to do it this time. I am sure it has been pleasant, although in spots more or less embarrassing; still on the whole I prefer the embarrassments incident to this dinner, rather than the ones I often get.

Like most others who reach the modest age of sixty-one, I have hardly noticed it. Still this morning for the first time in more than twenty yeas I felt a twinge of rheumatism, a gentle reminder on this birthday that I am no longer a “spring chicken.” On the whole the years have passed rapidly. Some of them, it is true, have dragged, but mainly they have hurried as if anxious to finish the job as soon as they possibly could. So quickly have they sped that I hardly realize that so many have been checked off, in fact I have scarcely thought about it as they went by.

I have been congratulated a good many times today, no doubt on the fact that I am so nearly done with it all. One scarcely feels as they go along that they are getting–well older. Of course I know my intellect is just as good as it ever was; I am sure of that. Everyone tells me that I am looking younger. I had my hair cut about a month ago; a friend remarked, “It makes you look ten years younger,” so I had it cut again. Perhaps I shall keep on getting it cut. Of course, one more or less doubts the truthfulness of thee old friends, when they say you are getting younger, but at the same time you try to believe them and do not contradict.

Perhaps it would be proper at a time like this to reminisce more or less, but I am always afraid to do it. I am never quite sure whether I might not have said the same things before . Neither am I certain that I shall not say something I had better leave unsaid. If one has lived an active life, as he grows old he finds that he has gathered a large fund of facts and fictions that he should keep to himself; and yet he always feels an urge to tell. Then I have had Tolstoy’s frightful example before me all my days. You know he lived a busy, useful life, getting about all there was out of it, and then after he got–well, past sixty-one, he grew good and began to moralize I presume Tolstoy did not know just what was the matter with him. Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/27/18: On Bullies, Dogs, Signs, Cheats, And The Worst WWII Movie Ever

Good morning.

1. BOY, is that a lazy and inaccurate movie! As usual, they are playing every war movie they can dig up on Memorial Day weekend. I just watched the tail end of  “The Battle of the Bulge,” the 1965 Cinerama Hollywood portrayal of the decisive 1944 WWII battle in the Ardennes that reminds me of my dad, buried in Arlington National Cemetery, more than any other war film, and not because it was in that battle that my father earned his Silver Star. No, the film reminds me of Dad because he hated it so much. He regarded it as an insult to the veterans who fought the battle, and  a cretinous distortion of history in every way. His name for the movie was “How Henry Fonda Won the Second World War.”

The most striking of the endless misrepresentations in the movie is the absence of snow. The battle’s major feature was that it was fought in freezing, winter conditions, on snow covered terrain sometimes up to two feet deep. Some battle scenes are shown being fought on flat and bare plain, about as distinct from the mountainous, thickly forested territory where the actual battle took place as one could imagine. My father also started complaining during the film, loudly, about the use of modern American tanks to portray the German Tiger tanks.

Former President (and, of course, former Allied Commander) Eisenhower came out of retirement to hold a press conference to denouncing “The Battle of the Bulge” for  its gross  inaccuracies. THAT made my father happy.

2. Funny! But…no, it’s just funny. Scott Campbell, the owner of the Pell City Fitness gym in Pell City, Alabama,  put up a sign that says “tired of being fat and ugly? Just be ugly!” City officials told him to take down the sign or be fined, saying it is too big and needs a permit, but other business owners told the local news media that they have never heard of the ordinance the city is citing being enforced. The suspicion is that Campbell is being singled out because some have complained that the sign is “insensitive.” No, it’s just funny…

This is the ethical problem with excessively restrictive laws, rules and regulations that are not consistently enforced. Prosecution can be used for ideological and partisan discrimination. Not only is the sign benign, it is not even original: that same language is on fitness company ads all over the country. So far, it looks like the community is supporting Pell and that the city will back down, but this is Alabama. Call me pessimistic, but I doubt the sign would be allowed to stand for long in Washington State or California if an ordinance could be found to justify pulling it down.

The First Amendment dies in increments. Continue reading

Farewell To The Boy Scouts

I’m leading off the day with this topic. My Dad, who would have turned 98 yesterday had he survived that long, would have wanted me to, I think.

The Boy Scouts, he made clear, taught him much of what he learned about being a man, an American, and an honorable citizen. The organization gave a young, physically unimpressive, lonely kid whose father had abandoned him and whose mother was moving between jobs and apartments during the Depression a place to meet the life-long friends who supported each other for more than 70 years, and most of all, to learn basic ethical values. Dad was certain that he might have ended up in jail without the Scouts: he was suspicious of authority, headstrong, and kept his own counsel. He definitely would not have had a family, as he was bitter about his own father’s betrayal. Thanks in great part to scouting, Jack A. Marshall, Sr. was a war hero, a Harvard grad, a lawyer, but most important of all to himself and to me, a loving, supportive, dedicated father.

So, in a way, I owe my life to the Boy Scouts as well. I joined the organization for a while, but outside of having the Boy Scout Law [“A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.”] engraved on my brain for life, it wasn’t my thing. My son never wanted to get involved at all. Yet through my father, scouting was massively influential on the course of my life, and the development of my character.

As you may have heard by now, the Boy Scouts of America is striking “boys” from the name of its flagship program for 11-to 17-year-olds, and beginning in February 2019, will accept girls into its troops. This was the dropping of the other shoe following last year’s announcement that girls could join the younger Cub Scout units. Now young women will be eligible to reach the Eagle Scout rank, the highest achievement of the organization.

Mike Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive, told the AP, “[W]e’re trying to find the right way to say we’re here for both young men and young women.” Translation: “We’re trying to survive.” The ethical problem such a strategy involves is that when an organization abandons its mission just to stay in business, it has lost its integrity, and should probably just dissolve.  The mission of the Boy Scouts since it was founded in 1910 has been to prepare boys “to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.” Preparing boys to be men and girls to be women are both worthy missions, but they are not the same mission, much as radical feminists and cultural revolutionaries would have us believe. Where does a young boy like my father go now to find a male peer group and the guidance of responsible male role models? Your guess is as good as mine, but the answer isn’t the Scouts.
Continue reading

The Bikers vs. The Bullies

I need an uplifting ethics story about now. How about you?

Fort Wayne, Indiana sixth grader Phil Mick’s was dreading his his first day of sixth grade last week. The 11-year old was routinely a target of bullies at DeKalb Middle School. Family friend Brent Warfield of KDZ Motorcycle Sales & Service learned about the child’s problem over the Christmas holidays last year, and vowed to help him solve the problem…a solution that did not involve, as it so often does with bullying, a slippery slope-courting suppression of free speech principles.

Warfield used his connections in the biker community to promote a motorcade for Phil that would show any ill-wishers that he had friends that could reform bullies in a memorable and emphatic manner if so required. Getting the word out on Facebook and elsewhere on the web ( there is a non-profit organization called Bikers Against Bullies), Warfield attracted about 50 bikers from around the state. They gathered at a local restaurant for the motorcade, and the roaring throng took a thrilled Phil Mick to his first day of school. School principal Matt Vince said that the sound reverberated off the exterior brick walls.

Vince told reporters that he commended the motorcyclists for supporting Phil while making a statement against bullying “in a positive way.”

My father, who had to change schools often during the Depression as his single mother sought work and affordable lodging, told me that as a chubby, unethletic-looking, quiet kid who refused to be submissive to anyone he was bullied at every single new school he attended. It was a ritual of his childhood, and Jack Sr.’s only available response was to fight his larger tormentors using his fists.

“Oh, I always lost,” he told me. “But I got some good shots in, and that was enough. Bullies don’t like to keep bothering the kids who fight back;’ it’s too much trouble.”

“Plus they were afraid of my dog [a big Airedale named Bumbo].”

Phil Mick’s method is even better.

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/7/17”

Hamburg, post allied bombing, WWII

Ethics Alarms doesn’t have many discussions of foreign policy, in part because policy is usually less about ethics and more about practical realities, theory and policy. What discussion we do have involves leadership, a secondary passion here. Warfare, in contrast, is an ethics category, but also a grand, meta-ethics morass that isn’t a safe space for ethics generally. I regard war as the ultimate ethical anomaly where the rules and theories break down. We cannot avoid encountering mobius strip sequences like..

War is inherently unethical.

Sometimes war is an  unavoidable and utilitarian necessity.

In such cases, it is essential to end such a war as quickly as possible.

The quickest and the most ethical way to end such a war as quickly as possible is by overwhelming and uncompromising force.

Uncompromising force inevitably involves the maximum loss of innocent life, and is unethical.

Half-measures prolong the damage of war and are also unethical.

Wait…where were we again?

My father—the kindest man I ever knew, a grievously wounded war hero and a natural leader who hated guns, detested war (but hated what he saw at the death camp he helped liberate more), would have devoted his life to the military service of his country if he could have and who told his son that if he chose to duck the draft during the Vietnam War that he had his full support—would repeatedly rail against modern surgical tactics designed to avoid civilian deaths at all costs as madness, and a symptom of weak resolve and cowardly leadership. His reasoning: “We could not have won World War II if the news services had been allowed to publicize what war does to civilian populations. It is as simple as that. We would have lost, and Hitler would have won, killed millions more, and divided up the world between Germany, Japan and the Soviet Union. The public had no concept about the horrible things we had to do, and that I participated in, to win that war. If one side is ruthless and the other side is more concerned about collateral damage than winning…and the ruthless side knows it, then ruthless wins.

He died after only a year of Barack Obama’s Presidency, but believed him to be a dangerously deluded and ignorant man regarding the use of power and military force.

I thought about all of this as I read texagg04’s Comment of the Day on the final item of yesterday’s Morning Warm-up. which began,

5.An ethics  question about the North Korea crisis: do common sense ethics apply to foreign affairs? Listening and reading various experts and authorities, I am struck by how many seem to argue that negotiation with the North Korean regime is the only palatable option. The fact that this is simply and unquestionably agreeing to international blackmail by a resolute evil-doer seems to be either unrecognized or ignored.

Here is his Comment of the Day, which Dad would have admired, on the post. “Morning Ethics Warm-up 7/7/17”: Continue reading

Scouting Ethics: The Cookie Thief And The Loathsome Left

1. Now THIS is an unethical troop leader!

Law enforcement authorities in Kentucky are are currently looking Leah Ann Vick, 26, a Girl Scout troop leader who appears to be on the lam after picking up a large order of yummy Girl Scout cookies for her Wilderness Road chapter as well as, it is believed, orders belonging to other troops in Pikesville, Kentucky.

Vick was supposed to pay for the cookies once they had been sold—their value is $15,000— but she never returned, nor did she drop off her troop’s cookies with her scouts. She has disappeared, apparently taking the cookies with her. She has been indicted by a Pike County grand jury on a charge of “felony theft by unlawful taking.” Vick faces up to ten years in prison if convicted

This will not end well. I fear that she will finally be caught, weighing 300 pounds with incipient diabetes, wedged in a revolving door as she desperately stuffs the last Thin Mints into her mouth….

2. The Insufferable Arrogance of “The Resistance”

The New York Times gleefully described a satirical one-night-only “documentary drama” assembled from edited transcripts of the Senate confirmation hearings for members of President Trump’s cabinet. Titled “All the President’s Men?,” produced by the Public Theater and London’s National Theater, it featured such actors as the politically objective Alec Baldwin as Rex Tillerson and Academy Award Winner Ellen Burstyn as that heroic figure, Elizabeth Warren. This event was, of course, progressive Trump-hater masturbation, and the Times reports that the “liberal audience laughed and groaned and occasionally whooped…then rose for a standing ovation.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. However, the fact that David Remnick, editor in chief of The New Yorker, was one of the performers tells us all we need to know about that alleged journalistic enterprise’s ability to be fair and objective about the President, as well as how blatantly journalists now proclaim their anti-Trump bias as virtue-signalling.

The Times also observed this:

“It’s unlikely that the real Mr. Tillerson paused for a laugh after championing his honesty by saying, “You are aware of my longstanding involvement with the Boy Scouts of America.”

This is signature significance, showing us the utter loathsomeness of Mr. Baldwin and also the audience this production pandered to. Tillerson deserves nothing but praise for his work with the Boy Scouts of America. Continue reading