Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 3/6/2019: Evil On The Web

Hi-

–just had to change the title from “morning” to “afternoon..

1. Pro sports team owners behaving badly. In the span of a week, one NFL owner, the Patriots’ Bob Kraft, was embarrassed by an arrest while seeking “happy endings” in massage parlor dabbling in illegal prostitution, and the President and CEO of baseball’s San Francisco Giants, Larry Baer, was videoed having a public battle with his wife over possession of his cell phone that ended with her screaming and on the floor of a restaurant. Kraft is being charged with solicitation, and Baer is taking a leave of absence after apologizing to fans.

Should private misconduct unrelated to team affairs warrant league discipline in cases like this? Absolutely. Pro sports sell heroes to the culture, and the leaders of any organization sets the ethical tone and molds the culture. If you aren’t equipped to be an ethical exemplar for your players and its fans, especially its young fans, then don’t buy a team.

2. In the “Hoisted by their own petard” files: Constantly woke Google, seeking to burnish its social justice credentials,  conducted a pay equity analysis for 2018 to make sure it was paying women equal pay for equal work. Surprise!  The study found that the company was underpaying men for doing similar work as their female counterparts. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) The company emphasized in a blog post that despite this pay discrepancy, deeper structural issues can continue to lead to pay disparities between men and women.

Elephant? What elephant?

3.  To be fair, Google did retire its “Don’t be evil” motto. Google will reportedly reject  calls from US lawmakers and human rights activists to remove a Saudi government app that allows men to control where women travel. The ap offers alerts if and when women leave the country. Saudi law says every woman must have a male guardian. The app, called Absher, has been condemned members of Congress and human rights groups.

4. ‘The solution to discrimination and prejuduce is more discrimination and prejudice…’ Bumble, the feminist dating site, is launching a women-only filter for its professional networking tool, Bumble Bizz. The new Women in Bizz feature, which can be turned on or off in app settings, excludes men from a user’s pool of potential connections. The idea is to help a traditionally underrepresented workforce connect and build support systems outside the office. Bumble is claiming that this is just an extension of Bumble’s core women-first mission. The  dating app lets women make the first move and message their romantic matches first. Now, Bumble claims,  it’s helping traditionally outnumbered female employees build a women-only network.

The problem with this analogy is that there is nothing unethical against women asking out men. Exclusion from job and career opportunities on the basis of gender (and race, age, ethnicity…) endorses discrimination in order to oppose it.

5. Saw this coming a mile away… On the same day Christian baker Jack Phillips won his 7-2 decision in the U.S. Supreme Court, overturning his conviction for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding, a lawyer targeted his Masterpiece Cakeshop by demanding that he  bake a gender transition cake that was pink on the inside and blue on the outside.

Then, when he refused as the lawyer knew he would, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s decision again found probable cause that state law required him to bake and design the cake when doing so would go against his religious beliefs. Phillips responded by filing a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. I considered writing about this at the time, but decided to wait until the Commission again got slapped down, or it withdrew its complaint. Yesterday it withdrew its complaint, and Phillips dropped his law suit.

The first time around, I found Jack to be a Jerk by refusing to bake the wedding cake, though I felt he had a plausible case that he couldn’t be forced to do so. This time, however, he was targeted by a far bigger jerk, and I salute him for being willing to go back onto the battlefield. Too many advocates for LGBT causes have become the intolerant bullies they once opposed, seeking to punish and destroy anyone who doesn’t think as they do, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission proved that it has become an agent of such bullying. Like most bullies, however, it backed down when confronted with the prospect of losing.

6. And speaking of the frightening totalitarian tilt of today’s Left...Or, if you prefer, the way big tech companies are illicitly using their power to favor the interests of progressive-favored groups by stifling dissent, Amazon is now in the business of viewpoint censorship and deciding which books are fit for public perusal. The online retailer owned by the publisher of the Washington Post—you know, “Democracy dies in darkness”?  has just dropped the book “Mohammed’s Koran” by the controversial British activist Tommy Robinson and Peter McLoughlin.

Coauthor Peter McLoughlin states:

[T]his is the twenty-first century equivalent of the Nazis taking out the books from university libraries and burning them. Can you think of another scholarly book on Islam that has been banned by Amazon? “Mein Kampf” is for sale on Amazon. As are books like the terrorist manual called “The Anarchist Cookbook.”…[They] refuse to reinstate the book and refuse to explain why it has been banned. So they have banned the No.1 best-selling exegesis of the Koran. I can’t get my head round it. Every few weeks for the past 18 months they had emailed me asking to put it into special sales programmes, as it was selling so well. For 18 months they sought to profit even more from the sales. As dark as my vision is. I thought we were 10 to 20 years away from dissenting books from being banned.”

In related news, Facebook still won’t allow Ethics Alarms posts…

 

 

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/11/18: More On De Niro, A Censored Valedictorian, A Heroic Pit Bull, And A Popeye

Good Morning.

1. Still angry... Here are some prime comments from Ann Althouse’s blog (she posted on DeNiro before 6 AM, beating me to it.) I should have posted last night; it might have let me get some sleep:

  • I think the Democrats have just found their 2020 Presidential Candidate…and his campaign slogan. Speaking as a Republican I am quaking in my boots…

  • Well, no more Robert DeNiro movies or shows for us then. The magic of the screen, the verisimilitude, is shattered. You can no longer look at the actor playing a character and forget that he HATES you in real life. He has no longer any status as Actor since he decided to play on the Political Stage. Why can’t they just STFU? Are you an entertainer [actor/singer] or are you a Politician? Pick one. Choose wisely.

  • I’ve been around people in the arts, including actors, most of my life, and there are two things I’ve found that are true about them: (1) except for their craft and whatever arts they’re involved in, they tend to be fairly uneducated, and woefully ignorant about history and economics; and (2), although they see themselves as free spirits and rebels, they’re usually brainwashed tools of the “liberal” Hive, and fall in lockstep like so many Eloi when the Hive calls. The whole evening, from what I saw, was one big anti-Trump rally. Strangest to me were the Gays who were reacting as if Trump were loading them onto box cars and shipping them off to death camps. And yet as members of the Hive, almost certainly falling into line with the Hive’s goal of a bigger and more powerful State. Bad news, artistes: if you think you can have full freedom of expression where the State is omnipotent, think again. Maybe actually open a history book every once in a while.

  • On my way down to NYC today with my wife. I thought we might try to see a play if I can get some cheap tickets. Last night she was watching the Tonys in our hotel room. I was reading about the history of disease but could not avoid seeing/hearing some of it. I was reminded why THEATRE!!! has no interest at all for me. What a bunch of pretentious dreck. I’ve always liked Robert DeNiro as an actor. But FUCK HIM!!! as a person.

  • In 1936, the New Yorker ran a cartoon about some old rich white people. We know they’re elites because there is a butler hovering in the background. The caption: “Come along. We’re going to the Trans-Lux to hiss Roosevelt.” Our betters didn’t use the f-word so often in those days.

  • I’m calling my shot: Trump wins 40 states. My liberal friends seem resigned to the fact that he will get reelected, that is unless, how did one guy put it, “overwhelming evidence is presented.” They take it for granted that Trump must be guilty of something. He simply has to be. Trump’s ascendance to the presidency is an offense against their worldview. Its rather amusing because Trump isn’t really all that conservative. Hell, Bernie Sanders campaigned on controlling illegal immigration and reworking trade agreements in order to improve job prospects for Americans. I don’t bring that up with my liberal friends though. I just ignore their comments about Trump and change the subject. They probably think I can’t refute them, but I just don’t want to piss them off. 

  • Life imitates “A Fish Called Wanda”:

Archie: You are a vulgarian, aren’t you?
Otto: You’re the vulgarian, you fuck!

Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Masterpiece Cake Shop Decision

The Supreme Court ruled today in favor of Jack Phillips, the Christian baker in Colorado who refused to bake a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The Court  found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission infringed on Phillips’s rights in ruling that he violated the Colorado anti-discrimination law barring merchants from refusing service based on race, sex, marital status, or sexual orientation. The ruling is narrow; it does not empower merchants to deny service based on sexual orientation.  It is based entirely on  the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s  hostility toward Phillips’s religious views in ruling against him.

Observations:

1. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor were the only dissenting votes, meaning that the decision was 7-2, and not a “conservative vs liberal” outcome. Even the dissent is based on narrow legal and factual distinctions rather than ideological ones.

2. Read the opinion, and the dissent. Also, if you really want to impress your friends, access the resources available here.

3. These statements from Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion, cited by Justice Ginsberg, help clarify matters in the right legal and ethical direction:

  • “[I]t is a general rule that [religious and philosophical] objections do not allow business owners and other actors in the economy and in society to deny protected persons equal access to goods and services under a neutral and generally applicable public accommodations law.”
  • “Colorado law can protect gay persons, just as it can protect other classes of individuals, in acquiring whatever products and services they choose on the same terms and conditions as are offered to other members of the public.”
  • “[P]urveyors of goods and services who object to gay marriages for moral and religious reasons [may not] put up signs saying ‘no goods or services will be sold if they will be used for gay marriages.’ ”

The ruling could have hardly been less of a ringing endorsement of either “side.”

4. To which I say, “Good.” As I wrote the last time this case was discussed here,
Continue reading

It’s A Comment Of The Day Weekend! First Up…Comment Of The Day (3): “An Ethics Alarms Holiday Challenge! Identify The Rationalizations, Logical Fallacies, Falsehoods And Outright Errors In This Essay…” AND, In Related News, Another Bakery Gets Slammed In Oregon

I’m not exaggerating: I have at least four Comments of the Day stacked up on the Ethics alarms runway after this one, and there are usually COTDs arriving on Saturdays. I can’t promise to get all of them up today, especially since I’m hacking away at the 2017 Ethics Alarms Awards, and this is a long working weekend at ProEthics. Still, I will get a lot of them to you, and it’s a provocative group, as you will soon see.

But first, a prelude and some context.

An Oregon appellate court this week upheld a ruling against the owners of the since-closed Sweetcakes by Melissa,  Aaron and Melissa Klein, forcing them to pay emotional-distress damages of $135,000 to Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, a lesbian couple for whom they refused to design and sell a wedding cake almost five years ago. The Klein’s argued that state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian violated state and federal laws and their rights as artists to free speech, their rights to religious freedom and their rights as defendants to  due process.

The Oregon court ruled that the Kleins’ argument that their cakes entail an artistic expression is “entitled to be taken seriously,” but it’s not enough for the couple to assert their cakes are pieces of art:

“Although we accept that the Kleins imbue each wedding cake with their own aesthetic choices, they have made no showing that other people will necessarily experience any wedding cake that the Kleins create predominantly as ‘expression’ rather than as food.”

This mess commenced  when Rachel Bowman-Cryer went to the suburban Portland bakery with her mother in January of 2013. When Aaron Klein was told that the wedding did not involve a male partner,  he said that the bakery did not make cakes for same-sex weddings. They left, but soon the mother returned to argue with Klein as Rachel sat in the car, weeping. her mother went in to speak with Klein. The mother told Klein she had once thought like him, but having two gay children forced her to see the error of her ways.  Klein retorted with Leviticus: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”

The complaint and action by Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries followed. You can read the opinion here.

Ugh.

This case is even worse than the one currently before the Supreme Court, discussed here. Continue reading

Back To The Bigoted Baker: It’s Complicated…More Than I Thought

The last time (in July) I dealt with the apparently thornier-than-I-thought issue of the Colorado baker who refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple, I assumed that the Supreme Court would treat this as a pure public accommodations case, and side with Colorado and the couple. I was wrong. Now it is beginning to look like baker Jack Phillips may even prevail, based on the justices’ comments during oral argument.

Then I wrote, quoting my post when this case first surfaced…

“The court’s conclusion  is impossible to rebut. The cake the baker was asked to bake for the gay wedding differed not at all from one he would normally sell a straight couple. In truth, this had nothing to do with expression. He was just refusing to serve a gay couple because of their sexual orientation. Selling them a standard cake would neither constitute, nor would it be recognized as a “message” in support of gay marriage.

The Court agreed that a wedding cake with a customized message celebrating a same-sex marriage as such might implicate First Amendment speech issues, but “we need not reach this issue,” the court said. “We note, again, that Phillips denied Craig’s and Mullins’ request without any discussion regarding the wedding cake’s design or any possible written inscriptions.”

In other words, Phillips was gratuitously and unnecessarily being a cruel jerk. An alleged Christian who is unable to detect the basic Golden Rule application in treating fellow citizens with the minimal level of respect inherent in allowing them to buy a standard wedding cake requiring no “Yay Gay!” or “Charlie and David Forever!” messages in pink frosting deserves no sympathy or quarter from the law. Could the couple have just shrugged and found another bakery? Sure, they could have. Linda Brown could also have just shrugged and found an all-black school to attend, too.

The gay couple are not the villains here. Jack Phillips broke the social contract, as well as the law.”

Recent articles about the SCOTUS appeal have added some facts that I had missed, or not given sufficient weight. For example, Continue reading

Dear Idiots: Please Stop Making Me Defend The Bigoted Baker

I am pleased that the Supreme Court will be taking the case of Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker who refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple because, he said, they wanted it to be customized, and doing so would offend his faith.  His claim is based on the First Amendment, which prevents the government from making you say what you don’t want to say as much as it prevents the government from stopping you from saying what you want to.

Colorado’s courts denied that Phillips was doing anything but saying that he doesn’t like or respect gays sufficiently to make the exact same cake for them that he would make for non-gays.  I agree with their holding that his actions violated the public accommodations laws. I wrote when this case first reared its frosted head…

“The court’s conclusion  is impossible to rebut. The cake the baker was asked to bake for the gay wedding differed not at all from one he would normally sell a straight couple. In truth, this had nothing to do with expression. He was just refusing to serve a gay couple because of their sexual orientation. Selling them a standard cake would neither constitute, nor would it be recognized as a “message” in support of gay marriage.

The Court agreed that a wedding cake with a customized message celebrating a same-sex marriage as such might implicate First Amendment speech issues, but “we need not reach this issue,” the court said. “We note, again, that Phillips denied Craig’s and Mullins’ request without any discussion regarding the wedding cake’s design or any possible written inscriptions.”

In other words, Phillips was gratuitously and unnecessarily being a cruel jerk. An alleged Christian who is unable to detect the basic Golden Rule application in treating fellow citizens with the minimal level of respect inherent in allowing them to buy a standard wedding cake requiring no “Yay Gay!” or “Charlie and David Forever!” messages in pink frosting deserves no sympathy or quarter from the law. Could the couple have just shrugged and found another bakery? Sure, they could have. Linda Brown could also have just shrugged and found an all-black school to attend, too.

The gay couple are not the villains here. Jack Phillips broke the social contract, as well as the law.”

Now that SCOTUS has decided, by agreeing to review the case,  that he has perhaps a scrawny, shaky legal leg to stand on before they kick it out from under him, Phillips and his lawyer are taking a premature victory lap, as if making it quite clear that you think gays are second class citizens is something to be proud of (and, sadly, too many still think it is.) Their publicity campaign took them all the way to The View, a wise choice. After all, nothing can make an unethical position seem more persuasive than when it is being attacked by idiots, and idiots of the left-wing persuasion are pretty much what ABC’s “Six Opinionated Female B and C List Celebrities Sitting Around Slamming Conservatives”  daytime show has to offer. (To be fair, the show usually has one even dumber right-wing idiot on hand to make the left-wing idiots seem astute by comparison.) Continue reading

The Cake And The Clerk: If Living In A Pluralistic And Democratic Society Offends You, It May Be Time To Find Another One

Davis Protest

The kicking and screaming of the anti-gay marriage bitter-enders is becoming a national embarrassment, especially since some of the Republican Presidential candidates can’t seem to resist pandering to them. The social contract in a democracy involves accepting where the system decides to go and following along to the extent the law requires. If we don’t like a law, or a war or a government program, we are free to complain and to try to get them changed, or to pay the price for defying the law as part of the contract. We may not unilaterally declare that the law doesn’t apply to us. No, not even if we think God agrees. He’s not a party to the contract.

This is straightforward and clear. The ethics of citizenship requires it. Two current situations that have had significant developments in recent days illustrate the principle in the breach of it.

The Cake.

Jack Phillips, who is yet another Christian cake baker, lost an appeal that asserted that he had a First Amendment right to refuse to provide a cake for a gay couple to celebrate their wedding. Continue reading