Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/2/18: Talking Rabbits, Giant Ants, And California Progressives

Good Morning!

1. I may start banning commenters who keep saying this. A new, articulate and agenda-driven commenter, Ross Grazier, writes, “But your writing on this blog seems to be all about politics and much less about ethics.” I don’t want to drive Ross off, since the position of Ethics Alarms Knee-jerk Progressive Ratioanalizer And Denier of Mainstream Media Bias seems to be vacant at the moment, but I’m really, really sick of this common smear of my work (Ross’s comment also reminded me that I need to add the “s0 called ethicist” and “self-anointed ethicist” to the magic phrases that can get a commenter banned). Not for the first time, I decided to categorize every topic I wrote about here in the past week as political, non-political, or “mixed,” meaning that the article included substantive relevance to political figures or controversies but that the ethical issues involved were not solely political in scope or relevance. There were 42 distinct topics discussed (I did not include the Comments of the Day). Of these, 26 were non-political. Ten were “mixed.” Exactly six were  “about politics.”

I was surprised, frankly. I expected a bit more emphasis on politics.

I regard Ross’s accusation and others like it as an either an effort to undermine my credibility and the reputation of Ethics Alarms, or as an example of confirmation bias at work. Easily debunked claims that are asserted anyway in print are unethical.

2. Movie Ethics Potpourri! A. I finally saw “Peter Rabbit,” which was the subject of a (Non political, Ross!) post here. You may recall that Sony was pressured into grovelling an apology for a scene in which the animated rabbits shot blackberries into Mr. McGregor’s mouth using sling-shots, provoking an allergic reaction. Seeking its 15 minutes of cheap publicity and social media outrage mongering, Kenneth Mendez, president and chief executive of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, said, “Making light of this condition hurts our members because it encourages the public not to take the risk of allergic reactions seriously, and this cavalier attitude may make them act in ways that could put an allergic person in danger.” Naturally, there was a Change.org petition demanding that the offending sequence be removed. Now that I’ve seen the film—which is pretty good, not quite “Babe” good, but well-done and fun—I can appreciate the full insanity of the complaints.  B. The British film “Calibre,” now playing on Netflix, is a “Deliverance” style ethics movie, in which two reasonable good guys go on a hunting trip in Scotland and are hurled by bad luck and panic into a series of ethical dilemmas, managing to make exactly the wrong decision at every turn. In the end, three people are dead, multiple crimes have been committed, and the lessons are murky. This is an excellent “what would you do?” film for group discussion, though the ultimate answer is “Don’t go hunting, in Scotland or anywhere else.” C. Finally, in the rarified category of giant ant movie ethics, there is “Them!” It is a justly admired 50’s Sci-Fi flick about an alien invasion of giant ants, featuring a surprisingly accomplished and diverse cast including pre-“Gunsmoke” Jim Arness, James Whitmore, ol’ Santa Clause himself, Edmund Gwenn, ubiquitous Western character actor Dub Taylor, and Sigourney Weaver’s wacky uncle, Doodles Weaver. I hadn’t seen it for a while, and forgot that it included one of the most blatant examples of Rationalization #58. The Universal Trump, or “Think of the children!” on film.

Scientists and the military have determined that the giant ants—We’re talking THIS big:

—have invaded California (from outer space, in ant-shaped space ships!), that they pose a threat to LA, the state, and entire country, and that there may be hundreds of thousands of them. California has declared martial law. A military commander announces that the best strategy is to gas underground passages where the ants are presumably gathering, and then kill the ones who escape to the surface. No, says Big Jim. It seems that there are two small children missing that were taken by the ants from their now thoroughly masticated and dead father. As long as there’s a chance they may still be alive,  Jim says, we can’t take the chance of harming them. The man is gob-smacked. “You mean you’d risk all of Los Angeles for two kids who are probably already dead?” he asks, in a fair framing of the issue. “Why don’t you ask their mother?” says Arness. “She’s right over there.”

Well all righty then! How can you argue with that? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/8/2017: TV Comics, Law Deans, Sports And California…Everything Is Seemingly Spinning Out Of Control!

Good Morning!

On the day that the Boston Red Sox will begin their stunning comeback against the Houston Astros …

 

1 Speaking of baseball, a poll shows that the NFL fell from the most popular major sport in the nation last year to the least favorite last month, while baseball regained its traditional but usually treated as fictional “National Pastime” status. The NFL also dragged down the popularity of college football. Not all of this can be blamed on Colin Kaepernick, Black Lives Matters, and incoherent protests that aren’t against the National Anthem, well, maybe its third verse, but take place during the National Anthem, well, because. Ethics Alarms isn’t the only voice that has declared football to be callous and barbaric, now that the game’s unavoidable concussions are being shown to cause a deadly brain disease. Too many helmeted heroes beat their spouses and lovers, and commit felonies. The biggest star in the NFL, Tom Brady, is a smug, cheating jerk. It never helps when the President of the United States, even one like Trump, attacks an institution from the bully pulpit. Still, the timing certainly suggest that the NFL’s botched handling of The Knee is the catalyst for its current nosedive in popularity. Just think how many brains will be saved if this is permanent.

Meanwhile,  Major League Baseball is benefiting from staying true to its traditional national role of unifying the country rather than dividing it. No on-field protests mar the National Anthem. The sport is entertainment, celebrating American themes like individualism, the triumph of the underdog, and grace under pressure. In 1942, FDR urged Major League Baseball to keep playing, even though the remaining players were unfit for military service, leaving the teams stocked with older players and a collection of misfits, like Pete Gray, the one-armed outfielder.  After Baseball Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis wrote President Roosevelt in January, FDR replied with this letter the same day:

It is not, however, in the best interest of the country to keep the NFL “going.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/25/17

Good Morning!

1. The National Review began its story on this topic thusly:

“California and New York will become the first states to allow illegal immigrants to practice law and be sworn in as lawyers. In so doing, they will grant the privilege of upholding the law and defending the U.S. Constitution to people who have intentionally violated the rules, and who have no right whatsoever to be here.”

This is a fair and objective description. I detest conservative radio talk show host Micheal Savage, who wrote a right wing attack tome called “Liberalism is a Mental Disorder” just as I detest that title, and the approach to civil discourse and political disagreements that goes with it. (Ann Coulter preaches the same message, but is funnier when she does it.) However, when I read about things like this, I feel a magnetic pull to the position. In 2013, Governor Brown  signed into law a provision allowing illegal immigrants to be awarded licenses to practice law in the state California. At the same time as he vetoed nother bill passed by his reliably wacko legislature that would have allowed those who would not obey the nation’s immigration laws to be eligible to serve on juries, and thus pass judgment on the alleged crimes of U.S. citizens. Ponder that contrast for a minute, and see if your head explodes. Brown had a convoluted explanation for the seeming contradiction, but what he was doing was obvious: he was pandering to illegals and their supporters. Serving on juries is an obligation of citizenship that citizens find onerous: telling illegals that they didn’t have to meet this obligation while still harvesting citizenship benefits was a welcome decision.

At the time I wrote,

“I am not surprised by this turn of events, just made nauseous by it. I almost closed comments for this post. If I really have to explain to someone why those who have never taken affirmative steps to become citizens in this country should not be allowed to practice its laws after years of being in defiance of its laws, I’m not sure its worth the effort.”

Continue reading

California “Ethics”

California is not only rapidly exiting mainstream U.S. culture, it is forging its own distorted and unethical version of right and wrong.

Three alarming examples:

1. Forging ahead with single payer, and reality be damned.

The Sacramento Bee  pointed out that by replacing current state-run health programs with a single-payer system, the state would still need to come up with an additional $200 billion annually.This year’s state budget in California is about $180 billion. Yes, implementing a single-payer health care system would require doubling California’s current tax burden.

Oh, never mind! The state Senate voted 23 to 14 this month in favor of SB 562, a single-payer proposal that would guarantee universal health care to all Californians. “What we did today was really approve the concept of a single-payer system in California,” declared state Senator Ricardo Lara following the vote.

No, what they did was reaffirm the fact that progressive cant refuses to yield in the face of cold, hard facts, math, reason and common sense. The cheerleading from the Left is mind-numbing. Writes the Nation: If health care is a right—and it is—the only honest response to the current crisis is the single-payer “Medicare for All” reform that would bring the United States in line with humane and responsible countries worldwide.”

Well, let’s see: health care is NOT a right except in Left-Wing Fantasyland, and all of those “humane and responsible countries” have crushing tax burdens, reduced liberty, economic instability, crushing debt and completely different values, priorities and responsibilities than those of the United States.

Ethics is only ethical when it is practical and practicable in the real world. The ethical response to the fact that single-payer doubles the state budget is to say, “Oh. Well, obviously we can’t do that, then. On to plan B.”

2. That minimum wage increase that Gov. Brown said was based on principle rather than economics? Yeah, about that…

Continue reading

Ethics Heroes: The California State Legislature And Gov. Jerry Brown

governor-brown

Usually, when Ethics Alarms headlines California’s lawmakers, it is because they have done something irresponsible, like in this postthis one,  and my personal favorite, this one, in which Governor Jerry Brown signed a minimum wage law that he admitted might not make economic sense, because it was consistent with partisan fantasies.

But a blind pig might find a truffle, every dog has its day, and even a stopped clock is right occasionally. California just passed a desperately needed law that no other state has had the courage to pass. Its purpose: take serious measures to stop prosecutorial misconduct that sends innocent people to jail, a problem that is rampant everywhere in the U.S., but particularly bad in the Golden State.

Brown just signed into law a new statute making it a felony for prosecutors to alter or intentionally withhold evidence that could be used to exonerate defendants. Violators could be sentenced to up to three years in prison. That’s not nearly enough punishment when the crime often robs innocent citizens of decades of their lives, but it sends an important, and one hopes an effective, warning…with teeth. Continue reading

California Decides It’s The Government’s Function To Help Actors Pretend They Are Younger Than They Really Are

picture-of-a-birthday-cake-with-lots-of-candles

California increasingly appears to be hell bent on serving as the cautionary example of how the belief that government has an unlimited brief to meddle in everything leads to abuse and derangement.

Gov. Jerry Brown last week signed legislation that prevents  entertainment websites such as the Internet Movie Database (IMDb),from posting an actor’s age or birthday if the actor doesn’t want anyone to know how old he or she is.

The law, which becomes effective January 1, applies to entertainment database sites that allow paid subscribers to post resumes, headshots or other information for prospective employers. Only a paying subscriber can make a removal or non-publication request. The beneficial end that supposedly justifies  this unconstitutional and suppressive means is that age discrimination is allegedly rampant in show business.

“Even though it is against both federal and state law, age discrimination persists in the entertainment industry,” Golden State legislature Majority Leader Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, said in a statement. “AB 1687 provides the necessary tools to remove age information from online profiles on employment referral websites to help prevent this type of discrimination.”

Naturally the actor unions are all for this form of government censorship. “Gov. Jerry Brown today stood with thousands of film and television professionals and concerned Californians who urged him to sign AB 1687, a California law that will help prevent age discrimination in film and television casting and hiring,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. You remember Gabby, don’t you? She was the brainy, non-sexy teen in the original “Beverly Hills 90210.” I’m sure she thinks the reason her career tanked as she edged into middle age was “discrimination.”

I’ve seen you act, Gabrielle. It wasn’t. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month—But Awfully Revelatory, If You Have The Integrity To Accept What It Means—California Gov. Jerry Brown

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“Economically, minimum wages may not make sense. But morally, socially, and politically they make every sense because it binds the community together to make sure parents can take care of their kids.”

—–Governor Jerry Brown on April 4, as he signed into law a phased state-wide increase in the minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour.

As Commentary wrote in reaction to this jaw-dropping admission following an irresponsible act, “Good intentions have always inoculated the left against criticisms of the consequences of their policy preferences.” This has become a culture-wide, self-destructive malady during the Obama administration, led by the President. Lately, Obama has become increasingly open about it, as when the President killed the Keystone pipeline citing climate change concerns while admitting that doing so would have no likely effect on climate change, but most of his “signature policies” are similar. The Iran deal bids fair to leave Israel as a smoldering wasteland, and the Iranian government has gone out of its way to demonstrate that it cannot be trusted while already violating, as even Obama admits, the “spirit” of the deal, but God Bless Obama for trying to restrain its nuclear ambitions.

The Affordable Care Act is failing in virtually every respect, fulfilling most of the dire predictions of its opponents, but this is still an “achievement” because, and it’s true, more Americans are insured than before. Obama’s Education Department’s sincere—I’ve no doubt about it—effort to make women feel supported and safe on college campuses seeded extensive due process abuse and discrimination against male students, and the most-gender divided campus community since the Seventies. His civil rights policies and rhetoric have created the worst racial divide since the early 1960’s. The intentions in all of these cases were, at least arguably, impeccable and admirable, and apparently for committed progressives, it is that, and not that the policies in pursuit of Panglossian goals have been societally disastrous, that matters.

The mass insanity of raising the minimum wage is the apotheosis of this mania. Note that I am trying to attribute the best possible motives with this: I have read many conservative writers who believe that the left knows the policy will be catastrophic economically, but because it will be politically useful in the short-term, they don’t care about the long-range consequences. Admittedly, statements like Brown’s makes this difficult for me not to agree with them, except that it is usually considered stupid to tell voters that what you are doing makes no sense.

To state what should be obvious, if  large minimum wage increases don’t make sense economically, that means they are bad policy, incompetent, and thus unethical. And we know–know—that they do not make sense economically.

Here’s economist Robert Samuelson: Continue reading