Tag Archives: jerks

The Controversial Birthday Toast: If Artists Have An Obligation To Avoid Harming Their Art By Being Jerks (Or Worse) In Public, Does The Same Principle Apply To Scientists?

The title refers to this post, which preceded the surprising development of iconic movie mensch Morgan Freeman being exposed as a workplace harasser (alleged, that is) and suddenly seeing his image degraded to Dirty Old Man, and his movies devalued as “Ew!”  Now even his voice-over work is in peril.

A famous scientist is a different kettle of fish, however.

At a genomics meeting at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York,  the attendees gathered to listen to the keynote speech in an auditorium, where a large painted portrait of  scientist James Watson–who lives in Cold Spring Harbor— hung. It was also Watson’s 90th birthday. Eric Lander, the director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, lifted a glass of champagne in hand to toast the famous co-discoverer of the DNA molecule.  Watson has “inspired all of us to push the frontiers of science to benefit humankind,” he said in part.

You would think, would you not, that simply recognizing a giant of science and a crucial and transformative figure in these scientists’ field would be able to escape political correctness and social media controversy, wouldn’t you? Nah, why would you think that, silly? This is 21st century America.

Watson, to catch you up quickly, began tarnishing his reputation years ago with a series of gaffes. Notably, he opined that there was no way to avoid the conclusion that African-Americans weren’t as intelligent, on average, as whites. The furious public backlash sent him into retirement. But he still couldn’t avoid inserting his foot in his mouth: speaking before he was to receive an  Honorary Doctorate from University College Cork (in Ireland) in 2010, Watson told journalists that cancer research was being unnecessarily held back by an obsession with ethics.

So the man has some theories in common with Josef Mengele and David Duke. He also has made some jaw-droppingly sexist comments in his dotage….some that even Morgan Freeman might blanch at.

After the meeting, Caltech’s Lior Pachter  led a furious repudiation of Eric Lander’s toast with a series of tweets documenting various sexist and racist comments by Watson. He later told industry reporters, “That people are willing to celebrate this individual in public was a moment of truth for me of what things actually look like in our community and what might be then happening in nonpublic venues behind closed doors when hiring and other important decisions are being made.”

Lander, since scientists have no more backbone than actors, politicians, comedians and bakery owners, immediately capitulated and grovelled for forgiveness. In an email addressed to the Broad Institute community, Lander wrote that  his brief  comment about Watson being ‘flawed”  to introduce the toast “did not go nearly far enough.”

“I reject his views as despicable,” he wrote. “They have no place in science, which must welcome everyone.”

An article about the foofaraw in the The Scientist amply demonstrates why scientists are no more adept at drawing ethics lines than junior high school students. In the various accounts and arguments, Watson’s legitimately offensive statements are conflated without distinction with more ambiguous ones. For example, he once said, “Should you be allowed to make an anti-Semitic remark? Yes, because some anti-Semitism is justified. Just like some anti-Irish feeling is justified. If you can’t be criticized, that’s very dangerous. You lose the concept of a free society.” What is that? Is he talking about criticism of Israel’s policies, or is he supporting the First Amendment? As I reviewed the debate over Watson along with his own statements, one conclusion was unavoidable. A lot of scientists, including Watson, don’t communicate very clearly. Is that a surprise? They didn’t major in Literature and English for a reason. They are about as skilled at clear, unambiguous expression as I am at quantum physics. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Character, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Professions, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology, Workplace

What Is Fairness, Justice And Proportion For Aaron Schlossberg?

“He’s a jerk. Let’s squash him like a bug…”

Surely by now you know of Aaron Schlossberg, the latest cultural villain.

He was the star and author of a bizarre incident at a restaurant in Manhattan. Schlossberg, who is a midtown Manhattan lawyer, freaked out beyond all reason when a customer began conversing in Spanish with employees at the restaurant. “Your staff is speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking English,” he protested. “Every person I listen to — he spoke it, he spoke it, she’s speaking it. This is America! “My guess is they’re not documented, so my next call is to ICE to have each one of them kicked out of my country.If they have the balls to come here and live off of my money — I pay for their welfare, I pay for their ability to be here — the least they can do is speak English…I’m calling ICE.”

Naturally, this was captured on a phone video. Naturally, it was posted to social media. Once upon a time a person could behave like a jackass and only have the immediate witnesses to his conduct know about it. No more. Now, thanks to omnipresent cell phones, everyone is under more or less constant surveillance, and a bad moment, a sudden outburst or an ill-considered word can and will be wielded by steely-eyed social justice enforcers to destroy a miscreant’s life to the maximum extent possible.

Is that the kind of society you want to live in? It would be wise to consider the fate of Aaron Schlossberg.

Somehow his name became known. The news media picked up his tantrum: the Daily News put it on its front page! The New York Post reported that he has been evicted from his office by Corporate Suites, the company that held his law office lease.  His firm’s associate quit, with a nice virtue-signaling tweet. A petition demanding that he be disbarred has more than 10,000 signatures, and there is a GoFundMe effort to a  hire a mariachi band to follow him around New York.

That’s kind of funny, I have to admit. Continue reading

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“Gotcha!” Ethics (Or The Absence There-Of): The Solicitor General Misspeaks

“Boy, what an idiot!”

Immediately, the shameless agents of “the resistance” in the blogosphere, cyberspace and the mainstream media leaped on the gaffe with the enthusiasm of jackals encountering  fresh carrion. Here is a typical example, from ThinkProgress:

“In Francisco’s defense, this is probably a slip-up. He probably meant to say that Trump has praised Islam as one of the greatest religions of the world. But still, it’s a slip-up that seems more likely to happen if you truly believe that Muslims are all the same. “

Now the accusation is that Francisco thinks “all Muslims are the same”? Morons! The Solicitor General doesn’t argue his personal beliefs or positions, but the government’s. Moreover, Francisco isn’t “Trump’s lawyer” as this consistently dishonest and rapidly partisan cyber-rag claims, but the United States of America’s lawyer. This is ThinkProgress taking the typical, current, Angry Left position that anyone who works for the Administration must also hold the parody of its alleged beliefs the “resistance” claims in its propaganda and fearmongering. ThinkProgress has no idea what Noel Francisco thinks about Muslims or Islam. Lawyers are not their clients, Francisco isn’t Trump, and Trump never said that Islam is “one of the greatest countries of the world.” What he said, in a 2017 speech in Saudi Arabia that was intentionally conciliatory to Islam,

“The Middle East is rich with natural beauty, vibrant cultures, and massive amounts of historic treasures. It should increasingly become one of the great global centers of commerce and opportunity.This region should not be a place from which refugees flee, but to which newcomers flock. Saudi Arabia is home to the holiest sites in one of the world’s great faiths…”

Francisco’s mistake in oral argument was absolutely meaningless, trivial, and without consequence. No Justice corrected it, because they all knew what Francisco meant to say, and also because most of them have probably done worse.  The actual quote he referred to was probably in his brief. Yet this arrogant and vicious cabal of progressive scolds nonetheless piled on, to embarrass Francisco, to attack the President, to throw their petty tantrum because they are going to lose on this issue, as they should , as they always should have. Now they will move on to their next effort to make governing as difficult as possible for the elected President, and as painful as possible for those who serve the nation along with him.

As I just wrote to a commenter on Ethics Alarms who debased himself by raising Francisco’s slip of the tongue, an oral argument before the nation’s highest court is incredibly stressful. The most brilliant, most prepared, most composed lawyers frequently stumble and stutter when they are under that microscope. Anyone who mocks a lawyer who makes a mere verbal miscue while broiling under a harsh professional spotlight with such massive stakes—as all Supreme Court cases have–is displaying ignorance, being a jerk, or both. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

The Unknown Ethics Dunce And The Date Refund Invoice

Indianapolis  resident Amanda Burnett, 23, had a dinner date with a man she didn’t relate to very well. What she ate is pictured above: it’s not exactly Le Cirq, but he paid the tab.

She decided to stop answering his texts, cutting off contact with him. A few weeks later, he sent her this, an invoice for the cost of her meal and drinks…

…followed by this text… Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: Durham District Attorney Roger Echols

This is how a society erodes respect for the rule of law. It is a good way to pander to political correctness and social justice warrior jerks, though.

At the height of the mad fervor to tear down Confederate hero memorials and statues over the summer,  Takiyah Thompson, 22, Dante Strobino, 35, Ngoc Loan Tran, 24, and Peter Gilbert, 39. pulled down a century-old statue of a generic Confederate soldier in Durham, North Carolina. This was done in front in front of news cameras and during the day.

Thompson  is a student at North Carolina Central University, a black institution.  The three men belong to the Workers World Party, which  organized a Durham protest to piggy-back onto the Charlottesville, Virginia protests around the removal of a Statue of general Lee.

Notably, police spotted Tran at the court hearing for Thompson when a deputy asked him to help identify two people . Tran refused and he was arrested.

Tran explained the justification for the vandalism thusly:  “Monday night hundreds of people gathered in front of the statue, and it was the will of everyone there that that statue come down knowing that in the state of North Carolina there is no legal route for removing Confederate statues.”

Of course there is a legal route for removing statues. Continue reading

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At The Winter Olympics, U.S. Speedskater Shani Davis Goes For The Gold In The “Biggest Jerk” Event

African-American speed skater Shani Davis tied luge athlete Erin Hamlin in the voting among the athletes to carry the flag for the U.S. Winter Olympics team in last night’s opening ceremonies. The  team rules dictated that a coin toss should break the tie, and  Hamlin won. Davis threw a Twitter tantrum:

Particularly obnoxious is the Black History Month reference, a direct allusion to the fact that Hamlin is white. I must have missed it: does Black History Month require that all African-Americans get special advantages, privileges and thumbs on the scale in every walk of life, or just black Olympic athletes, or just Davis? Perhaps Davis was subtly claiming that the coin flip was somehow racially biased, or perhaps that the coin was.

That’s not all, though. To make sure he wrapped up the gold medal for toxic jerkism, Davis also.. Continue reading

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Question: Is There Any Justification For A State Censoring Vanity Plates? (And What’s Wrong With “KAIJUU”?)

My answer to the first question? Absolutely not.(  My answer to the second is, “I have no idea.” ) If a driver can put a sign in his rear view mirror or a bumper sticker on her bumper without state sanctions, then a driver should be able to have whatever he or she chooses on a vanity plate.

Utah, for examples, bans vanity plates with profanity, “derogatory language,”  drug references,  sex talk, references to bodily functions, “hate speech,” targeting a particular group, or advocating violence advocates, as well as alcohol references and the number combo “69.” Ethics verdict: None of their business. These are words and numbers, and the state is declaring content and intent impermissible. When I see a car with an obnoxious vanity plate, I’m grateful. This is useful information. Racist or vulgar plates translate into “I am an asshole, and want you to know it!”

Thank you, sir! I appreciate the heads up.

Below are the plates banned by Utah over the past five years. Most of them fly right over my head. If you have to be a cryptographer to figure out why a plate is offensive, then it’s not offensive.

The less our governments interfere with freedom of expression, the safer we are.

Here’s the list (the  pointer marks indicate spaces): Continue reading

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