Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/29/2019: Updates, Coincidences And Suspicions [CORRECTED]

The same as what?

I heard this song yesterday for the first time in many years, and immediately wondered how many people  my son’s age (he’s 24) or even older would know what “Spanky and Our Gang” referred to. Then I made the mistake of briefly watching HGTV’s “A Very Brady Renovation” and saw to my horror that all the “Brady Bunch” kids are senior citizens. “Who’s that old lady? OHMYGOD It’s JAN!!!!”

1. Well, it was nice while it lasted...Traffic here increased by about 30% over three days last week after Facebook slipped up and allowed a link to one Ethics Alarms—it violates Facebook community standards, don’t you know— post to be circulated on among users.

2. Here’s a poll on the previous post, about a controversial joke related to the Texas governor’s disability that was made by a female judge. Governor Abbott has been in a wheelchair ever since he was struck by a falling tree almost 40 years ago. Noting that Texas Republicans have opposed proposed environment-minded legislation, “even local tree ordinances,”  the judge quipped to her partisan Democratic crowd, “Governor Abbott hates trees because one fell on him.”

While we’re on the subject of polls, the Ethics Alarms readers were strongly opposed to the course of action discussed here, here, and here, with about 88% holding that a Swedish man should not have allowed a doctor to euthanize his sister despite her past consent to the procedure, because she was resisting.

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Ethics Quiz (And Poll): The Cop And The KKK Application

Either our nation is committed to the principles of freedom of thought, speech, expression and association,  or it is not.

With that preface, here is the kind of gray area, bizarre fact pattern controversy that puts ethical analysis to the test.

In the Muskegon County (Michigan) town of Holton, African-American  Rob Mathias, accompanied by his wife and children, was walking through the home of Charles Anderson, a local police officer, with the intent of possibly purchasing it.  Then he saw a framed Klu Klux Klan application hanging on a wall, as well as several Confederate flags. He and his family immediately left the property.

Later he posted a photograph of the KKK application on Facebook, (above) explaining later that he felt it was something the public had a right to know about, especially if the officer had a history of questionable interactions with African Americans.  Mathias wrote that Anderson “was one of the most racist people” in the community and “hiding behind his uniform.” The post was also personal and threatening, concluding with “I know who you are and will be looking for resources to expose your prejudice.”

The Facebook post triggered an internal investigation of Anderson, and he was placed on administrative leave. “We do take this sort of issue, seriously, and we are working hard to understand if/how this may impact his ability to safely and fairly police our community,” Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson reporters. Muskegon County NAACP President Eric Hood piled on, saying, “We want a thorough investigation to be sure that when he goes out there and puts on that uniform and performs his duties as an officer that he’s being fair and impartial.”

“I’m still disgusted by it. I’m hurt,” said Mathias “You can’t serve your community and be a racist. You can’t. There are people of all different colors, of all different nationalities … out there that you have to serve and protect. You can’t just protect one group of people.”

 Rachel Anderson, the officer’s wife, told reporters that her husband is not and never was a KKK member. She said he was a collector, and called the uproar a misunderstanding.

Mathias’ wife said in rebuttal,

“I like antiques, but I collect things that I represent. You can go in my basement, we have Detroit Lions, Red Wings, Michigan stuff, everything we associate ourselves with.So why would you collect something you don’t associate with yourself?” 

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Has this situation been handled fairly, responsibly and ethically? Continue reading

Thank You, FaceApp!

Were you aware of FaceApp? It was a suddenly popular mobile face-editing application for your smartphone that would take your photo and show how might age over the next half century. It was all the wave, until there was a contemporaneous story about law enforcement going into facial recognition software big time. Oh oh…”Minority Report”! Suddenly someone read the app’s privacy policy. The company was based in Russia! It could sell your face to be used in subway gonorrhea ads, and there was nothing you could do about it! The Democratic National Committee freaked, and sent out an alert imploring those who work on presidential campaigns to delete the app from their phones because FaceApp’s creator, Wireless Lab, is based in St. Petersburg, Russia. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer then went overboard, as Chuck is wont to do, and demanded that FBI and the Federal Trade Commission  investigate FaceApp, because the company could pose “national security and privacy risks for millions of U.S. citizens.”

ARRRHHHHH!!!!

The app’s creators rushed to contain the damage. FaceApp’s CEO swore that the company’s servers are not based in Russia,  that no user data is sent there, the photos will not end up in  facial recognition databases.  FaceApp does not, it is told, “sell or share any user data with any third parties.”

Google also swears that it won’t read our email. And don’t get me started about Facebook…

FaceApp’s privacy policy asks for “irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully paid, transferable sub-licensable license” for the pictures of your face. That should set off ethics alarms, or better yet, privacy alarms, for anyone who reads it, which means virtually nobody. I’m hardly any better: many years ago I used a Simpsons app to convert my photo into Simpsons Jack… Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Notables. 5/18/2019: More Social Media Partisan Censorship, A-Rod’s Potty And Ian’s Potty Mouth…

Why, I asked, on such a beautiful May day, am I inside writing about ethics? And my wife turned into Hymen Roth…

1. PLEASE stop making me defend Alex Rodriguez, who is one of my least favorite human beings, never mind former athletes, on the planet, and yet…this is a strict Golden Rule issue. The ex-Yankees (also Texas and Seattle) slugger  was photographed sitting on his toilet in his luxury apartment’s bathroom. The shot was apparently taken by a rogue photographer in a high rise office building next to the apartment building where A-Rod shares a  $17.5 million apartment with Jennifer Lopez, whose movies are now beneath those of Adam Sandler and Tom Arnold on my playlist.

Legal precedent in New York suggests than  Rodriquez has no case, because in 2015, an appeals court ruled that a gallery show of images snapped through less famous New Yorkers’ windows by an “artist” was not a privacy violation. (I wrote about that photographer here; perhaps the title gives you a sense of where I came out on my analysis: “Why Photographer Arne Svensen Is An Unethical Creep”]

Fine, I see the legal point. If you don’t want people taking photos of you, then keep your window blinds down. However,just because you can do something crappy to another human being doesn’t make it right.

Even if it’s a crappy human being. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/5/ 2019: An Intersex Revolutionary War Hero! An Unethical Feminist Trailblazer!

Good Morning!

Well, it was nice while it lasted. Thanks to prurient interest in a minor “Naked Teacher Principal” post, traffic on Ethics Alarms this week resembled those heady days of 2016, before ultra-Trump polarization, liberal commenter cowardice and Facebook’s ban took over. Incidentally, despite many thousand of “clicks,” the post in question didn’t get a single comment from the first-time visitors, meaning that said clicks were meaningless and useless.

1. About “Ma” Fergusen. As promised yesterday in my note about “The Highwaymen”, here is the “Ma” Fergusen saga, which is an ethics feast, though not a tasty one. (Source: Texas Politics)

Miriam Amanda Wallace (“Ma”) Ferguson (1875-1961), was the first woman governor of Texas. She served as the first lady of Texas during the gubernatorial terms of her husband James Edward Ferguson,  who was impeached during his second administration for extensive corruption. When James  failed to get his name on the ballot in 1924, Miriam entered the race for the Texas governorship, promising that if elected she would essentially be guided by her husband and that Texas thus would gain “two governors for the price of one.” She defeated the Republican nominee, George C. Butte, and was inaugurated fifteen days after Wyoming’s Nellie Ross, Miriam Ferguson became the second woman governor in United States history. Thus “Ma” helped set the precedent for future examples of wives being elected (irresponsibly) to offices they were not qualified for as substitutes for their husbands. “Ma” wasn’t the feminist pioneer she has sometimes been represented as. She was the opposite–you know, like Hillary Clinton.

Ma Ferguson (the “Ma” comes from her initials) pardoned an average of 100 convicts a month, and there was considerable evidence that she and her puppeteer husband  were taking  bribes of land and cash payments. The Fergusons also appear to have leveraged highway commission  road contracts into  lucrative kickbacks. Though an attempt to impeach Ma failed, these controversies allowed Attorney General Daniel James Moody to defeat her for renomination in 1926 and win the governorship. She (that is,  puppetmaster Pa) was back in  office in 1932, as she won the governorship again on the wave of discontent over the Great Depression.

The portrayal of “Ma” as a strong, independent executive in “The Highwaymen” would have to be judged misleading.

2. Speaking of women, sort of...An intersex  hero and role model may have emerged through the dim fog of history. Scientific researchers at Georgia Southern University claim that after years of study, their examination of skeletal remains of Revolutionary War hero, General Casimir Pulaski, ‘the Father of the American Cavalry’ has revealed that he  was biologically female.

Imagine if these had been George Washington’s remains… Continue reading

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:

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Comment Of The Day (1): The Transgender Secret: Was I Right Then, Or Am I Right Now?

Many, many excellent comments followed this post. The issue, covered here before but long ago, was when a transgender individual is ethically obligated to reveal that fact to a romantic target, or partner. The Ethics Alarms poll on the question reached these results:

Here is the first of two Comments of the Day from The Transgender Secret: Was I Right Then, Or Am I Right Now?; this one is by Rich in CT.

I voted “before having sex” and/or “when the relationship becomes serious”; as these were the earliest stages on the list. I also included “when marriage becomes a possibility” as the latest possible time to reveal. (I did not include “first kiss”, as this is too vague a time period)

My take would be as soon as practical (including at soon as the overt risk of a violent reaction is ruled out). The current consensus is that gender and orientation are spectrums, not binary absolutes. Within this logic, we have a duty to understand and respect our romantic partner’s place on the spectrum. One (of ant orientation) might be exclusively attracted to the extreme end of the female gender spectrum, for instance. This might preclude attraction someone with a surgically transitioned body. Since gender and orientation are considered persistent traits, it is not necessarily bias alone that dictates this exclusive attraction.

One must also consider cultural values of a partner. Any relationship I’ve been in, I’ve made known early on that kids (naturally conceived) are a long term goal of mine. On this basis alone, I might decline to pursue any women with known infertility. Were such detail withheld, I would feel extremely hurt and betrayed. Continue reading