Tag Archives: jerks

Mid-Day Ethics Warm-Up, 10/16/18: The Jerk Squad

Good whatever it is by the time I post this; big time computer problems, and every keystroke may be my last..

1. Baseball Ethics, Jerk Divison. Should baseball reward or punish its jerks? Last night in the Brewers-Dodgers NLCS game, LA’s jerks were out in force. Free-agent slugger to be Manny Machado was penalized for one dirty slide, much like the one that helped put Red Sox second-baseman Dustin Pedroia on the sidelines for the entire 2018 season,  a night after loafing to first base. Are teams really going to break the bank to try sign this guy? Then, in the ninth inning, Dodger mega-jerk Yasiel Puig mocked the Brewers closer for not throwing him a strike. Said MLB analyst Harold Reynolds, “I would have hit him with the next pitch. You can’t let an opposing player disrespect you like that.” Old school nonsense  or cultural enforcement?

Driving home from this morning’s ethics seminar, I heard two commentators on the Sirius-XM baseball channel talking about Houston Astros star Alex Bregman’s sending out a derisive social media message about Boston Red Sox pitcher Nathan Eovaldi in advance of tonight’s play-off game. They agreed that it was “good for the game” and appealed to kids for the athletes to show “personality” and “edge.”

This is “A Nation of Assholes.”  Being a jerk isn’t showing “personality.” It’s just being a jerk. No part of the culture should be extolling “edge.”

2. When in a hole, stop digging. If all goes well, Elizabeth Warren’s triumphant discovery that she is 99.9% white and therefore was justified in representing herself as a “person of color” for institutional diversity purposes will sink her career aspirations as deep as they deserve to be sunk. The fact that so much of the mainstream media is willing to have their credibility brought down with her is indicative of how stupid bias will make people. The Daily Beast, for example, writes in a headline, “Warren revealed results show Native American heritage Monday.”

Keep it up, guys. Pretty soon the jig will be up for identify politics, since  if 1/1,024th Native American means “Native American heritage,” then everyone is “of color” somehow. In that case, perhaps we’ll owe Warren a debt of gratitude. As for the news media, I am pretty sure all but the most reality-resistant progressive warriors recognize how absurd it is to call a distant, distant outlying contributor to the family gene pool sufficient to bestow “Native American ancestry,” especially when Native Americans themselves cry “hogwash.” Why are journalists so eager to rationalize Warren’s transparent distortion of fairness, science and logic? What could make them behave like that? Why should we trust people who take such manifestly ridiculous positions? Why should we respect a profession that treats us like idiots?

The news media appears to think they can keep getting further and further away from the boundaries of legitimate reportage and commentary without a critical mass of people asking these questions. Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: Glenn Weiss

Awww! YECCHHH!

Director Glenn Weiss made a surprise proposal to his longtime girlfriend Jan Svendsen during his Emmy Awards acceptance speech.

The Ethics Alarms rule, hinted at in other posts, is that anyone who issues a marriage proposal in public, putting unethical pressure on his or her loved one to accept, should be rejected on the spot. The act is unfair, disrespectful, and signature significance for a jerk and a bully who is unlikely to be a pleasant life partner. This goes for sports stadium TV screen proposals, but Weiss’s version is especially bad: the coast-to-coast live TV proposal.

It was unethical in other respects as well. The Emmys aren’t license for any winner to hijack the show  and divert it for his or her own  personal objectives.  Making an acceptance speech into political rant is wrong, but the recent culture of award shows has ratified the obnoxious practice: that’s why the ratings for awards shows are falling like ripe apples in October. In Weiss’s case, there was also the hypocrisy factor. He has produced and directed 18 Tonys telecasts for CBS, and is known “as an unforgiving stickler when it comes to keeping acceptance speeches to the allotted 45 seconds.” One theater exec told Page Six that “every year, Glenn gives this pompous speech to all the nominees, lecturing everyone about how the clock starts the second your name is called and that going long is unfair to your fellow nominees because it eats time for everyone whose categories come later in the evening. Leave it to him to completely flout his own rule in order to grab as much attention as humanly possible for him and his girlfriend.”

Good luck, Jan.

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Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/4/18: Baseball And Bisons And Jerks, Oh My!

Good Morning, Fenway!

Going to make sure the Sox beat the Yankees again today?

1. Nice. The Democratic National Committee declined to play the Republican National Committee in their annual softball game this year.

You know, I now actively search for examples of Republicans behaving like divisive, snotty assholes, because I’m really sick of being accused of favoring that hollowed out, irresponsible. principle-free party. But when it comes to demonizing the opposition and bottom-of-the-barrel civility, the Democrats always seem to lap the field. Of course, this latest insult is pure virtue-signaling to the “resistance” base. Where a responsible party would be trying to lead its members and followers in the direction of comity and respectful disagreement, the DNC is taking a stand in favor of ideological apartheid.

2. This is great: I get to criticize the New York Yankees! Do say a little prayer, or something, for poor Chance Adams, the New York Yankee farmhand summoned to pitch today’s game against the Boston Red Sox with the Yankee season on the line.

The Yankees have the second best record in baseball, but also have the misfortune to play in the same division as the team with the best record, the Boston Red Sox. If the Yanks finish second, their play-off, and thus World Series chances, will rest on a single game between them and the other  American League Wild Card team, who will almost certianly have a better starting pitcher on the mound. New York has lost the first two games of a four game series in Boston, dropping them from 5 and a half games behind the Sox (not too bad, with 50 games to go) to 7 and a half games ( scary, when chasing a team with a current winning percentage of just under .700). If the team falls 8 and a half games behind, especially with its best player injured, gargantuan slugger Aaron Judge, that one game crap shoot will become the most likely scenario.

Thanks to some bad luck and some miserable management of the pitching staff, the assignment of navigating the Good Ship Yankee away from the shoals of ignominious defeat has been shifted to the shoulders of Adams, who 1) has never pitched in a major league game before, 2) will be facing the top offense in baseball, 3) in front of the famously rabid Fenway Park faithful, and 4) isn’t all that good. This is profoundly unfair. It almost seems as if Yankee management wants to use the rookie as an excuse for failure.

Meanwhile, he will become an infamous answer to a trivia question, like ill-fated Booby Sprowl, a Boston rookie pitcher who was thrust into a similar crisis by Boston manager Don Zimmer when the position of the two teams was reversed in 1978. Like Zimmer, Yankee manager Aaron Boone had other options that didn’t involve over-burdening a green young athlete of uncertain skills. For example, he could resort to a “bullpen game,” like the Tampa Bay Rays have been doing, with surprising success, all season. After all, the Yankees have the best and deepest bullpen in the universe.

Of course, baseball being baseball, anything can happen. Maybe Chance Adams will shock the baseball word with a pitching gem, and become a Yankee legend. Stranger things have happened. That, however, will be pure moral luck, and will not change the fact that Adams should not be put in this position.

Now what I really want to know is whether Chance was named after John Wayne’s character in one of my favorite Westerns. “Rio Bravo”… Continue reading

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Of Nicki Menaj, Punching Down, Social Media Mobs, And The Burgeoning Culture Of Intimidation

Let’s hear it for Nicki Minaj, everyone! Such a profound insight on the nature of character!  And what an idiot!

Somewhere, somehow, even before Maxine Waters decided to sic every frustrated progressive on Trump officials who just want to enjoy every citizen’s right to the pursuit of happiness, the unethical concept that it is acceptable, indeed virtuous, to harass, harm and and attempt to destroy people because you don’t agree with them took root. Social media has been a prime carrier of this uncivilized and undemocratic plague, and this was a recent, and frightening, example.

Wanna Thompson is a freelance writer based in Toronto whose personal website and social media accounts give her a platform as a cultural critic. Last month  she posted a tweet  about recording and concert artist Nicki Minaj, whose nasal voice is among the most irritating sounds in all of hip-hop. Thompson was trying to prompt a discussion–you know, like I do on Ethics Alarms.

“You know how dope it would be if Nicki put out mature content?” she wrote to her then 14,000 or so Twitter followers. “No silly” stuff, she added, “Just reflecting on past relationships, being a boss, hardships, etc. She’s touching 40 soon, a new direction is needed.”

In an epic instance of punching down and abusing celebrity power, the thin-skinned Minaj attacked the woman on social media, and triggered her many fans to do the same. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/9/2018: Searching For Something Positive In The Ethics News, Failing

Good morning.

1. Is it unethical to never be satisfied, or just human? Or just American? The Boston Red Sox are winning too much, and I don’t recognize my team.  Over the weekend, literally for the first time in my life, I found myself feeling sorry for an opposing team and its fans. The poor Kansas City Royals (who are, I know, in the process of tanking) looked hopeless as the Red Sox swept a three game series. KC, not long ago a World Series champion, looks like it will lose 105 games or more. My team has always been the underdog. I don’t want to root for crypto-Yankees.

2. Yeah, I wish the President would just announce his SCOTUS pick and not make it into a circus.

3. Another Ethics Alarms Lost Post…A Carolyn Hax advice column from March missed  getting the post I intended at the time, and I just stumbled across the old file. A woman who had planned a huge wedding was jilted by her fiance shortly before the big date, as he ran off with an old flame. She asked Carolyn if she was wrong to be angry at invited friends and relatives who wanted her to reimburse them for non-refundable airline tickets, and to never want to have any contact with them again. Hax said that such people don’t deserve anything better, and ought to be written off in perpetuity.

That was an easy call for the relationship columnist, but I found  myself reflecting on other matters, like whether I have any friends and relatives who could be expected to behave that atrociously, venally and compassionlessly (relatives yes, friends, no, I think). Another question: what’s the matter with people, and how do they get this way? Someone you care about is slammed with a life catastrophe, and your first reaction is to demand that she pay for your inconvenience?

4. Yes, “enemy of the people” is accurate…From Glenn Greenwald (via Althouse): Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/3/2018: Remember Pickett’s Charge! Edition [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1. “General, I have no division!” At about 2:00 pm, , July 3, 1863, by the little Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee launched his last, desperate and audacious stratagem to win the pivotal battle of the American Civil War, a massed Napoleonic assault on the entrenched Union position on Cemetary Ridge, with a “copse of trees” at its center. The doomed march into artillery and rifle fire, across an open field and over fences, lasted less than an hour. The Union forces suffered 1,500 casualties,, while at least 1,123 Confederates were killed on the battlefield, 4,019 were wounded, and nearly 4000 Rebel soldiers were captured. Lee’s bold stroke had failed spectacularly, and would go down in history as one of the worst military blunders of all time.

That verdict is debatable, but this is not: Pickett’s Charge, as the attack came to be called, holds as many fascinating ethics lessons as any event in American history, and this blog has returned to it for enlightenment time and time again.

There is the matter of the duty to prevent a disaster that you know is going to occur, the whistleblower’s duty, and the theme of Barbara Tuchman’s work, “The March of Folly.” There was Robert E. Lee’s noble and unequivocal acceptance of accountability for the disaster, telling the returning and defeated warriors that “It is all my fault.” The defeat also turned on moral luck, with many unpredictable factors, such as the intervention of a brave and intrepid Union cavalry officer named George Armstrong Custer, who also teaches that our greatest strengths and most deadly flaws are often the same thing, and that the Seven Enabling Virtues can be employed for both good and wrongful objectives.  Pickett’s Charge shows how, as Bill James explained, nature conspires to make us unethical.

Pickett’s Charge also teaches that leadership requires pro-active decision-making, and the willingness to fail, to be excoriated, to be blamed, as an essential element of succeeding. Most of all, perhaps, it illustrates the peril’s of hindsight bias, for without a few random turns of fate, Robert E. Lee’s gamble might have worked.

2. Funny how if you continually denigrate someone based on his color and gender, he will eventually stop respecting you. Stanford University has established a Men and Masculinities Project  that aims to help men develop “healthy and inclusive male identities”—because they obviously don’t have those now.  “We acknowledge that male identity is a social privilege, and the aim for this project is to provide the education and support needed to better the actions of the male community rather than marginalize others,” anti-man-splains Stanford’s gurus. Stanford, of course, is not alone in pushing the ubiquitous progressive narrative that men are toxic, along with whites, making white men the worst of all. Perhaps this might explain why support for Democrats among young white men is falling fast.

Nah, it must be because they are sexist and racist…

3. But..but…settled science! The Economist estimates that as many as 400,000 papers published in supposedly peer-reviewed journals were not peer-reviewed at all. Scientists, scholars and academics are no more trustworthy or alien to unethical conduct than anyone else, but because most of the public (and journalists) don’t  understand what they write about and have to accept what they claim on faith, they are presumed to be trustworthy.

Think of them as the equivalent of auto mechanics. Continue reading

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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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