Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/6/2019: Snowflakes, Catnip, Coups And Fake Bills

Good Morning!

[Here’s a Warm-Up warm-up that has nothing to do with ethics. In “Ben-Hur,” which I watched again last week, Charlton Heston’s character is know by three completely different names. One, of course, is Judah Ben-Hur. What are the other two?]

1. Virtue signaling and pandering are both inadequate to describe this. If only it were a joke—but it appears to be proof of institutional  brain rot.  The British army is reaching out to “selfie addicts,” “snowflakes,” “me me me millennials”—remember, I’m not making this up!—“class clowns”, “binge gamers”,and  “phone zombies”  celebrating the alleged virtues these juvenile behaviors demonstrate, such as self-belief, spirit, drive, focus, compassion and confidence. Here are two examples of the new posters:

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/20/18: Out Of Bounds

Good Morning!

1. Here is the level of logic and ethical reasoning the public is subjected to by the media: Here is NBC Sports blogger Bill Baer on why it is misguided for the Milwaukee Brewers not to punish relief pitcher Josh Hader—whose career crisis I discussed here–for tweets he authored when he was in high school seven years ago:

The “he was 17” defense rings hollow. At 17 years old, one is able to join the military, get a full driver’s license (in many states), apply for student loans, and get married (in some states). Additionally, one is not far off from being able to legally buy cigarettes and guns. Given all of these other responsibilities we give to teenagers, asking them not to use racial and homophobic slurs is not unreasonable. Punishing them when they do so is also not unreasonable.

A study from several years ago found that black boys are viewed as older and less innocent than white boys. A similar study from last year found that black girls are viewed as less innocent than white girls. Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Cameron Tillman, among many others, never got the benefit of the doubt that Hader and countless other white kids have gotten and continue to get in our society. When we start giving the same benefit of the doubt to members of marginalized groups, then we can break out the “but he was only 17” defense for Hader.

How many repeatedly debunked false rationalizations and equivalencies are there in that blather? It’s not even worth rebutting: if you can’t see what’s wrong with it…if your reaction is, “Hey! Good point! Why is it OK for a cop to shoot a teenager for charging him after resisting arrest, but not OK to suspend a ball player for dumb social media posts he made in high school?”…I am wasting my time. And NBC pays Baer as an expert commentator. It might as well pay Zippy the Pinhead.

2. Is this offensive, or funny? Or both? Increasingly, we are reaching the point where anything that is funny is offensive, thus nothing can be funny. The Montgomery Biscuits, the Tampa Bay Rays’ Double-A affiliates, will be hosting a “Millennial Night” this weekend, being promoted with announcements like this one: “Want free things without doing much work? Well you’re in luck! Riverwalk Stadium will be millennial friendly on Saturday, July 21, with a participation ribbon giveaway just for showing up, napping and selfie stations, along with lots of avocados.”

Apparently there has been a substantial negative reaction from millennials, and the indefinable group that is routinely offended on behalf of just about anyone.

Nonetheless, I agree with the critics. I think the promotion goes beyond good-natured to insulting. It’s like announcing a Seniors Night by guaranteeing free Depends and promising extra-loud public address announcements that will be repeated for the dementia-afflicted who forget what they just heard. [Pointer: Bad Bob] Continue reading

Note To The Over-Forty Crowd: The Obligation To Be Culturally Literate Has No Age Limit, And The Duty To Be Aware Is Forever

ignoranceIn the Washington Post’s weekly crank section “Free For All,” a reader chastised the paper for not quoting more extensively from Bob Dylan’s works in its piece about his Nobel Prize, writing:

“It may come as a shock to the young people who now write and edit the paper, but there are many of us who are not familiar with the lyrics of “popular” music.”

Granted, in respect to Dylan, the complaint makes no sense. “Blowin’ in the Wind” was written in 1963; I’d expect “young people” to be more unfamiliar with Dylan than seniors. How old IS this guy? Still, the letter raised a crucial ethics point related to life competence, an ethical obligation for all of us. Being willfully ignorant of current popular culture is as much of an ethical lapse, and as great a threat to societal cohesion, as young people not bothering to learn about “Moby-Dick,” minstrel shows, Will Rogers, Stephen Foster, Babe Ruth, Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire or Lee Harvey Oswald.

In 1987, University of Virginia English professor  E.D. Hirsch wrote “Cultural Literacy,” making the argument that nations require common cultural reference points for generations to communicate with each other. He argued—correctly— that teaching this cultural vocabulary was a primary duty of the schools, in part because cultural literacy is an inextricable element of individual autonomy and power. Since then, the problem of the fracturing of society and the breakdown in communications between segments of the population has worsened considerably, its deterioration propelled by the loss of common information sources and the rise of the internet. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On Talia Jane’s “Open Letter” To Yelp

Talia Jane. Get used to seeing this face over the next 15 minutes or so...

Talia Jane. Get used to seeing this face over the next 15 minutes or so…

The story: A 25-year-old entry level Yelp (at Eat24, which is owned by Yelp) customer service agent named Talia Jane posted an article to the social media site Medium titled, An Open Letter To My CEO.  Addressed to “Jeremy,” Yelp Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Stoppleman, Jane’s epistle was a long. angry, often sad, more often snarky lament about her low compensation, current poverty, and lack of satisfaction with her job;  her personal hardship as she struggled with Bay Area living expenses like rent, food, electricity, internet, transportation; and her criticism of company policies and Stoppleman’s millions (Yelp was his creation.) The letter quickly went viral, especially among Bernie-files and on left-leaning websites, as the post was a rant against the lack of a living wage and greedy corporations generally. A couple hours later, Talia posted an update that she had been fired, and Stoppleman responded to some of her concerns on Twitter, protesting that he and his company were not as callous as she claimed. Stoppleman also tweeted that he was uninvolved in her firing and it was unrelated to the Medium post.

Observations:

1. Of course, Yelp had to fire her. Any company, large or small, would and should fire a low level employee who intentionally attacks her employer and the company’s CEO in a public forum. That the letter was read far and wide just sped up the process. The Bernie Brats, being so ignorant of the way of the world that they actually believe Sanders’ Socialist fantasies, naturally faulted Yelp for her fate. In Bernie World, you see, everyone is guaranteed a job, even after they go out of their way to embarrass the people who write their paychecks, or so they appear to believe.

2. Jane wrote that her firing was “unplanned” but not unexpected. I don’t believe that for a second; in fact, the statement is contradictory. She wrote a 2500 word attack on her employer and posted it online, and says she “expected’ to be fired. When you take deliberate action that you know will have a specific result, that’s a plan. The plan is to get out of a job she hates and that doesn’t advance her desired career—apparently to be a highly paid web commentator and wit—by making herself into a sympathetic celebrity long enough to exploit her fame and re-boot her ambitions. Isn’t that obvious? I’m sure that Talia is being booked on radio and TV shows as I write this. For her plan to work, however, she has to lie about her intentions in writing the letter. To some extent, I admire her audacity, and the plan may work. But this is The Saint’s Excuse: she made a deal with Yelp; they held up their end of it; she miscalculated, she was dissatisfied, so she made Yelp a public target for her own benefit.  Unethical. It is also the rationalization called Ethical Vigilantism: she thinks this is right because she deserves better, and is justified betraying her benefactor.

3. I wouldn’t trust Talia Jane to run my lemonade stand. Continue reading

The Dissing Of Judy Carne: Wait, Aren’t Newspapers Supposed To Make Us BETTER Informed?

CarneWitness this bit of “information,” courtesy of Washington Post writer Justin Wm. Moyer on the occasion of the death of Judy Carne, Rowen and Martin’s Laugh-In’s “Sock it to me” girl:

“The joke now seems as cruel — and as difficult to explain to millennials — as it seemed hilarious in the 1960s: A young, lithe woman, often in a miniskirt or less, stands onstage. She announces that it’s “sock-it-to-me time.” Then, she is hit with a bucket of water, or dropped through the floor, or otherwise clobbered in some form or fashion.

Is the Post now recruiting its feature writers from Jupiter? Are editors extinct? Has the paper decided that political correctness, hyper-sensitivity, gender-obsession dementia is both mandatory and universal?

What happened to Judy Carne is called slapstick. It is funny. It has always been funny. What happened to Judy Carne is no more cruel—that is, not cruel at all—than what repeatedly happened to Lucy,  Laverne, Wile. E. Coyoteand Raven, Tina Fay…Katy Perry….

Anyone writing about history and culture in a national publication—about anything, really—has has an obligation to actually know what he or she is writing about, and not make stuff up. There was definitely a lot of stuff that was on Laugh-in that will look weird today to anyone under the age of 50 or so; after all, the show is a half-century old, and the Sixties were weird even in the Sixties. Goldie Hahn dancing in a bikini with words written all over her body, for example. People laughing at every mention of the word “bippy.”  Nehru jackets. NOT women and men having staged catastrophes befalling them for laughs. Continue reading

Esurance Wants You To Know That Old People Are Ignorant And Pathetic

It was the Candy Crush commercial that did it. I nearly red-flagged Esurance for its commercial earlier this year showing “Lucille,” an elderly, technologically clueless auto insurance consumer whose version of a Facebook wall consisted of posting photographs on an actual wall in her home, but decided, “OK, maybe that’s just Lucille. After all, the ad shows another senior trying to put her straight.”  The recent Esurance ad featuring an elderly idiot who plays “Candy Crush” by hitting hard candies with a hammer was too much, though.

The dirty little secret of the political correctness culture is that the groups most associated with political conservatism—males, seniors, whites and Christians—are acceptable targets for bigotry, denigration and ridicule. Add to that the overweight, who are always fair game for derision today, and the double standard in mockery is clear. Continue reading

Dana Milbank’s Weird and Un-American Concept of Loyalty

blind followers

This happens now and then—I consider posting on a topic, decide, “Nah, I must be the only one who sees it this way,” and then another commentator—one people actually pay attention to—flags exactly the same issue I decided nobody would notice or care about. This time it was James Taranto, one of my favorites, who saw the same disturbing sensibilities that I did in Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank’s bizarre column today.

Titled “Why millennials have abandoned Obama,” the Post’s flakiest liberal accuses young voters of disloyalty to their hero because they don’t want to sacrifice their own autonomy and well-being to help the President’s misbegotten health care bill succeed. It is well-known that a sufficient number of young Americans must sign up for health care insurance—which, for them, is over-priced under the law—to make the rest of the numbers add up. So far, they aren’t doing it. Milbank:

“The administration announced last week that only 1.08 million people ages 18 to 34 had signed up for Obamacare by the end of February, or about 25 percent of total enrollees. If the proportion doesn’t improve significantly, the result likely will be fatal for the Affordable Care Act.”

Milbank then makes the jaw-dropping argument that Obama should take this personally, that it is a betrayal by his troops in his hour of need. After all, Milbank tells us, these were the same voters who elected Obama, seeing him as a transformative candidate. Shouldn’t they be willing to sacrifice now and make their health insurance decisions according what will be best for him?

What??? Of course not! Oh, I have no question that the President thinks this way. It was Obama, after all, whose solution to the depressing unemployment numbers has been to tell business leaders to hire more people, because he said so, and because it would make his policies look more successful. Businesses would be happy to hire more employees, of course, if the stuttering administration didn’t keep changing the rules, laws and assumptions, wasn’t feeding global uncertainty by inept foreign policy, threatening to make energy costs skyrocket, and generally be the least business-friendly government in recent memory. Businesses don’t change their behavior because it helps a President politically, they do it because it will help them make money. The same is true of individuals, young and old. “This will make my life easier and more secure” is a reason to buy health care. “This will help a President I voted for rescue his grand plan that he lied about, managed incompetently and that isn’t working right” is not.

Why does Milbank think it is? Continue reading