Ethics Catch-Up, 7/23/2020: Waiting For Baseball Edition [Corrected]

This moment in “Field of Dreams” was how I started off my baseball and culture presentation this week. Ironically, the speech has always irritated me, because of its stagey blocking, and because it is a speech that sounds like a  speech, and is essentially right out of the book the film was based on. In the novel, “Shoeless Joe,”,the “Terrence Mann” character played by James Earl Jones was real life (and then, still living) recluse author J.D. Salinger. I dislike the speech, but the scene always moves me, for a personal reason.

As Terrance Mann stands, giving his speech, the ghostly players of the past silently assemble behind him in Ray Kinsella’s (Kevin Costner, of course) magic corn field. One of the players behind him has been identified in the film as Smokey Joe Wood, a 30 game winner with the World Champion 1912 Boston Red Sox. Just a few years before the film was made, I had been in the Fenway Park grandstands as  Smoky Joe, feeble, in his mid-nineties and in a wheel chair shortly before his death, barely threw out—more like dropped—the first pitch at a Red Sox Old Timer’s game, to a standing ovation.  And here he was, in that  corn field, but young and vital again.

Gets me every time….

1. Ethics query: is it ethical to perform “Piggies”? I just caught an old concert clip in which George Harrison and Eric Clapton performed the obnoxious pseudo-Marxist ditty “Piggies” (from the White Album) to thunderous applause.

[Notice of correction: I originally wrote that “Piggies” was a Lennon composition. All these years I assumed it was, heavy-handed and juvenile politics that it was. I am stunned that the song was George Harrison’s doing; I thought better of him.]

This was well after the Manson murders: I had never heard anyone perform the song in decades. Admittedly, it is just moral luck that a madman seized upon the White Album Beatles songs as his inspiration to mastermind the slaughters of  Sharon Tate, her unborn child, and her house guests, as well as supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary the following night. However, “Piggies” was the one song referenced directly in both murders. It is not inconceivable that if the White Album had omitted that song—no great loss, either–at least the LaBianca murders might not have taken place. I know I can’t hear the song without picturing carnage, and it seems to me singing the song is like a celebration of Manson’s work. I wouldn’t ban it; I don’t believe in banning anything.  I just think it’s bad taste to play it or perform it.

Is that inconsistent with my objection to “canceling”  “Dixie,” “My Mammy,” “Rockabye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody,” “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” “Oh Susanna!” and other songs that are redolent of the Old South? I would argue that those songs have the virtue of being great tunes and important cultural touchpoints…in other words, works of musical art that justify themselves. “Piggies,” in contrast, is musical junk, like about 20% of the White Album filler. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 7/5/2020: Post-Fourth Hangover Edition

Except it’s not alcohol, it’s all the anti-America agitprop that has me groggy…

1. One last Fourth of July resource: here is one of many annotated versions of the Declaration. Here is another.

2. The downside of paying baseball players so much. Major League Baseball is plunging forward with a season of sorts, only 60 games long and with some hopefully temporary rules, such as a universal Designated Hitter and an extra-inning stunt so revolting that I don’t even want to think about it. The players are getting a pro-rated salary, but the Players Union insisted that any player could opt out of the season for a legitimate health related reason, such as being at in a  high risk group, and collect his salary, or for ny reason, and waive his salary.

It has been fascinating to see some players decide to not play, thus leaving their teams in the lurch, because its just not worth the effort. Take, for example, Dodgers starting pitcher, fresh off of a trade by the Red Sox. He announced that he won’t be playing, and will forfeit 11 million dollars (of his usual 30 million dollar a year salary)for the privilege. Felix Hernandez, another former ace now with the Braves, also opted out, though he loses far less, since he was working on a minor league contract while trying to keep his recently declining career going. In both cases, however, the pitchers are taking a major risk, because sitting out a full season for older players often makes returning to action difficult. In addition, especially in the case of Price and some of the other opt-outs, the decision not to play harms his team and team mates. But David Price has earned about 250 million dollars in his career, and will earn another 50 million whether can pitch or not. Hernandez has already earned more than 200 million.

Love of the game? For the good of the team? Never mind. The players are motivated only by money, and once enough is in stocks and bonds, even that isn’t motivation enough.

3. Surprise! It turns out that police are necessary after all.  Any hope that a reasonable and practical answer to Question 13 (“What is the “systemic reform regarding race in America” that the George Floyd protests purport to be seeking?”) vanished when the first substantive measure embraced by the mob was “Defund the police.” That this was even floated, much less executed (as in Minneaplois and New York City) was signature significance for a level if ignorance and recklessness justifying this standard Ethics Alarms clip:

Chris Rufo explains at City Journal just how stupid: Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Reflections, 5/5/2019: Whew! Barely Got Three Items In Before My Head Exploded…

 

I’m writing this bleary-eyed, in large part because our 15-year-old Jack Russell Terrier chose 3 am  to demand that we play what we call “The Bisky Game” –I don’t know what he calls it—a diversion of his own invention that involves tossing or nosing a dog biscuit at the nearest human, barking sharply two to four times, and demanding that the treat be flipped back to him, whereupon he will reject it by growling, barking, and tossing it back, until some mysterious force tells him that the game is over, whereupon he eats the damn thing. Usually this takes between five and ten tosses, but last night Rugby went for a record, and rejected his biscuit at least 15 times. Finally he ate it, licked my arm for about five minutes–a pre-bedtime tradition— and  went to sleep.  I did not.

1.  Live by bigotry, die by bigotry. “Captain Marvel” star Brie Larson, who got her big break in part because Marvel decided to turn a traditionally male superhero into a female, has pandered to social justice warriors and progressive bigotry in just about every way possible.  During the promotion of the hit film,  she said wanted more people of color to review her films, not white men. [ The ethical position would be to want competent reviewers to review the film, recognizing the competence is color-blind.) She that she doesn’t care what old white men thought of films that weren’t made for  them. She has said that we need more gay superheroes. Funny: as long as I’m being rescued and the world is being saved, I don’t care what the color, gender or sexual orientation of my hero is. How old white man of me.

Now, taking the grandstanding, virtue-signaling actress at her word—almost always an unwise thing to do when dealing with performers, someone has launched a  petition demanding,  “We need Brie Larson to step down from her role to prove she is an ally of social justice and ensure a gay woman of color plays the role.”

As of this writing, the petition currently has nearly tripled  its 3,000 signature goal. Good. Heck, I might sign it . Everyone should be required to abide by their publicly proclaimed principles, though such a rule would mean that Joe Biden would vanish from the face of the Earth. [Pointer: RedState ]

2. From the Ethics Alarms “Denial” and ” What is this ‘Accountability’ thing of which you speak?” files: professors Ethan Porter of George Washington University and Thomas J. Wood of Ohio State University have determined that when comedian Jon Stewart departed “The Daily Show,” its ratings fell, and this, they say, “spurred a 1.1% increase in Trump’s county-level vote share.” This from what passes today for a scholarly  paper, “Did Jon Stewart Elect Donald Trump? Evidence From Television Ratings Data” published in the journal Electoral Studies.

Kyle Smith of “The National Review” points out what should be obvious about this junk science… Continue reading

Look! An Ethics Dunce Mob: 2,400+ Law Professors

My mind may be mush, but I can get 2400 colleagues to agree with me anyway!”

In the New York Times: The Senate Should Not Confirm Kavanaugh

One of the most disillusioning aspects of the epic 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck, the worst and most damaging of them all, has been the serial disgrace of one profession after another as they abused their public trust, ethics codes, core values, and expertise. Psychiatrists, physicians, lawyers, journalists, academics, educators, judges, elected officials, pundits, journalists, law enforcement officials and more: so many have sided with partisan mobs when the nature and mission of what makes them valuable society demand that the professionals  remain neutral and objective. Law professors have been particularly fond of disgracing themselves since President Trump’s election, and almost all of them are Democrats,  so seeing over 2400 of them sign a statement that can stand as a warning to all against taking pronouncements from this particular group of  legal academics seriously is hardly a shock.  It’s still discouraging.

What is unethical, as well as dumb, about this stunt, for stunt it is? Let us count the ways.

1. It is grandstanding and virtue signaling designed to mislead the public, and seed further division, if that’s possible. Every one of these professors can have their own individual opinion about the Kavanaugh nomination, but it is no better, or more influential, nor should it be, than yours or mine. They seek to increase their influence by amassing thousands of personal and biased opinions into a single loud one masquerading as a professional opinion, which it is not.

2. The number 2400 is inherently misleading. This isn’t close to a majority of the law professors in the country. It’s not close to a majority of the Democrats and progressives in the profession. Most of the public, however, doesn’t have continuing relationships at law schools, haven’t worked for them, haven’t graduated from one, or taught at one, like, say, me. The petition is designed to deceive. There are more than 20,000 law professors in US Law schools. Now we know at least 10% appear to be unfit to teach law.

3. The letter is completely irrelevant. Nobody in the Senate cares what a group of liberal law professors want. No Senator is going to read this opinion and say, “Oh, no! I guess I better vote against Kavanaugh: a boatload of professors I’ve never heard of think I should!” Continue reading

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

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/8/2018: George Washington, Elaine Chao, Brown-Haired Fox News Babes And Clumsy Cheerleaders

Good Morning!

1. Diversity at Fox News! There was a brunette co-anchor sitting with Bill Hemmer this morning. I almost spit out my coffee, Now if the network would only hire a female newsreader who wouldn’t be a credible contestant in a beauty pageant, the culture might advance a bit…

2.  Can an employer refuse to hire an asshole? The NFL Players Association has filed a grievance  on behalf of free-agent safety Eric Reid,  alleging collusion that has denied him a job for the upcoming 2018 season, and arguing that no NFL rule mandates players stand during the playing of the national anthem, that the league has indicated it respects “the rights of players to demonstrate,” and the collective bargaining agreement states “league rules supersede club rules.”

The grievance loses, or the NFL is in big trouble. Well, it is already in trouble, but more trouble. Demonstrating players annoys fans and hurts business. The NFL may force teams to allow jerks like Reid and ex-player Colin Kaepernick to interfere with Sunday head-bashing frolic by imposing their half-baked politics on the proceedings, but team can certainly choose to pay million dollar contracts to players who have better judgment, and are thus more trustworthy employees.

3. At George Washington University, it’s The Political Correctness Morons vs. The Conflict-Averse Spineless! I can’t believe I’m writing this. No, of course I can: I’ve predicted it.

The following on-line petition has garnered the requisite number of signatures among George Washington University students, and now will get an official response:

“We, as students of the George Washington University, believe it is of great exigence that the University changes its official mascot. The use of “Colonials,” no matter how innocent the intention, is received as extremely offensive by not only students of the University, but the nation and world at large. The historically, negatively-charged figure of Colonials has too deep a connection to colonization and glorifies the act of systemic oppression. Alternative nickname recommendations are “Hippos,” “Revolutionaries”, or “Riverhorses.”

They apparently don’t teach American history at GW.  The nickname  for the athletic teams  is “The Colonials” because the United States, prior to its liberation, were called “the Colonies,” because they were colonies. Colonials are those who have been colonized, not those who do the colonizing. The mascot, meanwhile, is called “George,” because he is a caricature of George Washington, who led the Colonials to victory over Great Britain, and anyone who can’t puzzle that out shouldn’t be in college.

The petition represents the mutant offspring of a one night stand between The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck and The Niggardly Principles.

Who will win? Oh, the Morons, probably. On campuses the Morons almost always defeat the spineless administrators, as well as common sense and rationality. [Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur]

Oh…here’s George:

4.  Speaking of spineless…The cheerleading  coaches at Hanover Park High School in New Jersey decided that there would be no more try-outs for the squad. The school’s athletic director said that after a single mother complained about her daughter not making the cut, the policy would be changed in favor of “inclusion.” The school board released a statement saying: Continue reading

Preface: On The Comments Of The Day Regarding “Unethical Website Of The Month, “March For Our Lives” Edition: Change.Org”

The recent post on the incredibly annoying Change.Org petition backing the “March For Our Lives’ sparked two epic Comments of the Day. I am gratified. That idiotic petition was signed by one of my favorite people alive, and this both inspired the post and made me depressed even before my left-wing Facebook friends started making one terrible argument after another in defense of the thing. (Not  a word from the signee. I have a feeling she was so moved by her two teenagers, even though she knows better. I hope that is the excuse. Creeping dementia would be the only other explanation.)

This is a strange issue: the ethics really orbit around tangential matters rather than the alleged controversy itself. The Second Amendment isn’t going anywhere, no matter how loud the screams are or how many demonstrations there are. As is often noted on Ethics Alarms, I am not interested in abstract ethics without real life consequences; indeed, ethical formulas that only work in theory aren’t ethical. To me, the ethics issues following the Parkland shooting are,

  • The cynical exploitation of the children by the Left
  • The equally cynical, and unwise, hesitation to hold them accountable for their worse excesses in rhetoric
  • The recycling of bad statistics and demonstrably (and demonstrated) bad arguments that have been used before to mislead and frighten the public, and
  • The unethical cheerleading  for the anti-gun position by the news media and pundits.
  • The unusually vivid disconnect between the actual facts of the Parkland shooting and the measures being “demanded” in its wake.

The fake controversy—Should the United States allow law-abiding citizens to arm themselves with reasonably state-of-the-art firearms for whatever lawful purposes they decide are necessary and to the extent those citizens feel necessary?—isn’t on the table. This is the United States of America, and that question was answered long, long ago. As long as it is the United States of America, the answer will be the same. Those sufficiently unwilling to accept that fact really are well-advised to consider Australia. I don’t say this as a “Love it or Leave it” rebuke. I’m sorry such people don’t like the basic values and culture of the country, but I would have a similar suggestion for a friend who is determined to keep protesting that the U.S. should make its national language Danish, except, of course, then I would recommend repatriation to Denmark.

The two comments will follow now in successive posts without further musings by me…

Unethical Website Of The Month, “March For Our Lives” Edition: Change.Org

This page, the petition for gun control to “save our children” is what earns the “honor.” I see many Facebook friends, many on whom are genuinely gifted intellectually, surrendering to emotion and signing this junk, as junk it is. The petition neatly encapsulates the serial intellectual dishonestly,  misleading rhetoric and appeal to emotion that we will see bloviated all over the National Mall this weekend: I guess that has some value for historical purposes. Otherwise, it is an engine of ignorance designed to either attract the ignorant, make the less ignorant more so, or deceive.

Let’s look at this mess, shall we?

In the tragic wake of the seventeen lives brutally cut short in Florida, politicians are telling us that now is not the time to talk about guns. March For Our Lives believes the time is now. Created by, inspired by, and led by students across the country, we will no longer risk our lives waiting for someone else to take action to stop the epidemic of mass school shootings that has become all too familiar.

Nobody is saying that “now is not the time to talk about guns.” Who has said that? The statement is straw man. Agreed: now is a good time to talk about anything: guns, pangolins, acne, cabbages and kings. We have a First Amendment as well as a Second, something those Other Civilized Nations that are always being extolled in the gun debate don’t have.

Created by, inspired by, and led by students across the country, we …

Not to be pedantic, but a serious petition should be written by someone  who can speak the language. Signers are created by students? It’s bad enough that they are being led by students, who are after all, students. They do not know enough, either through knowledge or experience, to be seriously participating in a complex policy debate, much less leading it.  “We, the undersigned adults who are duty-bound to be teaching and leading our rising generation, are allowing them to dictate to us.” Good plan. How can anyone sign such a petition and not hide their head under a bag?

…will no longer risk our lives waiting for someone else to take action to stop the epidemic of mass school shootings that has become all too familiar.

This is pure appeal to emotion rather than reality. The existence of the right to own guns no more “risks lives” than the existence of anything else that is dangerous when misused. There are 10.6 deaths per 100,000 U.S. citizens due to guns according to latest statistics, including those of suicides and those killed by law enforcement. Three times that many die in alcohol-related automobile accidents. Nobody argues that we risk our lives because “someone” hasn’t taken “action” (aka, “do something,” “make it go away” “make us feel safe when nobody in a free society is ever safe”, aka. “ban and confiscate guns.”) regarding that risk we accept as part of living in a free society that includes jackasses, fools and criminals, and that’s just one of many.

There is no “epidemic” of school shootings. Students in school are safe; if they don’t feel safe, it’s because of fear -mongering from activists and the news media.

“We support the right of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms, as set forth in the United States Constitution.”

No, you obviously don’t. This is a pure lie (or inexcusable stupidity.) A movement called “Never Again” is either lying in its title by implying that any public policy, laws or regulations will guarantee no more gun deaths, in schools or anywhere else, or it is telling us its real purpose in the name, while lying about the movement’s real intent.

Many, many, if not most mass shooters were “law-abiding” until they started shooting. This statement either endorses pre-crime measures, profiling citizens to decide if they are a risk to eventually abuse gun rights—unconstitutional—is magical thinking, or is, again, a lie. The statement—and while it is always a fine time to talk about guns, it is never a fine time to resuscitate this zombie tautology that the NRA has been knocking down for decades—is self-rebutting.  Laws only affect law-abiding people, as long as they obey laws. Restrictive gun laws are violated by criminals, because they don’t obey laws. Nobody has ever explained how a law will not infringe “ the right of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms” while somehow keeping the same kinds of arms out of the hands of those who are not law-abiding. This is because it’s impossible.

“But with that right comes responsibility.”

As an ethicist, I object to a cynical use of the language of ethics to deceive, which is what this is. If the topic is responsibility, then we are talking about law-abiding citizens again, as well as ethical ones. They usually don’t use guns irresponsibly, or if they do (like killing themselves), such irresponsible use is not addressed by the measures proposed here. If I am a law-abiding citizen, I won’t be more likely to abuse my gun ownership whether I have had a background check or not. Irresponsible gun ownership includes not keeping guns where children—you know, citizens the age of the people “leading” those who sign the petition—can find them and hurt themselves and others. It includes not learning how to use a gun safely and appropriately. This petition isn’t about promoting responsible gun ownership. It’s about replacing the right to own guns responsibly with the right to own sling-shots.

We call on all the adults in Congress elected to represent us, to pass legislation that will protect and save children from gun violence.

There it is: “Think of the children!” A pure, unadulterated, inexcusable appeal to emotion over facts and reason. Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms Lost Files: The Firing And Un-Firing Of Sam Seder

Somehow I lost this one for a week, then found it today, reminding me how much it ticked me off.

Sam Seder, an MSNBC political commentator and host of the “Majority Report” podcast, had sent a tweet  in 2oo9—that’s 8 years ago, folks—obviously mocking the Hollywood supporters of fugitive film director and child rapist Roman Polanski.

The tweet said,

“Don’t care re Polanski, but I hope if my daughter is ever raped it is by an older truly talented man w/ a great sense of mise en scene.”

That is called artful satire, and if you can’t tell that, you really should restrict yourself to Nickelodeon and “Good Night Moon.”

Then Mike Cernovich, the far-right activist and conspiracy theorist, who is not an idiot, though he is many other unpleasant things, tracked down the tweet and began to complain to  MSNBC’s media relations department and other journalists about Seder using the same kind of political correctness crack-brained mania that the Left typically inflicts on the Right. Cernvich was trolling MSNBC, I assume, and maybe he was trying to accomplish what he eventually did accomplish: he got the left-wing cable channel management to fire Seder for “inappropriate and insensitive remarks.” Or maybe he was just trolling, though before the axe fell, Seder accused Cernovich of attempting to silence his criticism of President Trump and Roy Moore….you know, like the way the Seder-sympatico Media Matters has tried to silence Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Now one would think that MSNBC execs would be able to tell Seder’s tweet was witty, and also have enough faith in the brain pans of its viewers to assume they, unlike most conservatives, who for some reason don’t have much if a sense of humor, would understand that there was nothing offensive about the Polanski tweet, except to Polanski and child rape fans in France and Hollywood. But no: out he went, as Cernovich lifted a glass of Korbel somewhere with Ann Coulter and Bill O’Reilly.

Then thousands of people signed a petition demanding that Seder be rehired, and he was. MSNBC’s head Phil Griffin wrote: Continue reading

Dear Regan Chastain And Her 9,670 Anti-Fat Shaming Hysterics: 1) It’s Satire and 2) Stop Trying To Censor Expression You Don’t Like

Nice, Regan. You can dance. Now get a sense of humor…

There was  an unanticipated side benefit of visiting Alas! A Blog, cartoonist Barry Deutsch’s home for the furious left-addled, as I researched the previous post. I also caught Barry giving space to fat-activist (not fat activist, for that would be rude) Regan Chastain as she fulminates against an Esquire U.K. feature by writer Giles Coren called ““I Don’t Care What My Son Becomes… As Long As He Isn’t Overweight.” Chastain is furious, and apparently Barry agrees. I presume he’s signed her Change.Org petition that demands that Esquire pull the post as “hate speech” (sigh!) and fire Coren.

For in her petition Chastain says that Coren…

Calls his 4-year-old son a “fat little bastard” and a “chubby fucker”

Says that “to bring forth upon the world a fat son is indeed a shame before God”

Says that he would rather his son be a “crackhead” than be fat.

Says about fat people: “I’d kill them all and render them down for candles.”

He ends the piece by saying that he “tries to look at the positive” but “other times I think, “I’d best get the chubby fucker’s jaw wired before he’s old enough to stop me.”

Read the article. Is there anyone out there who can’t tell that the article is satire, and intended to chide parents who obsess over their kids’ weight? How about the photo he posted with the article, showing his “fat” son? This…

Does that not constitute a sufficient clue? Continue reading