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Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/13/2018: A Strange Philanthropist, A Redeeming Cadet, A Good Idea, And An Obvious Observation

Good Morning!

(This was definitely the oddest LP in my Dad’s Jimmy Durante collection….And good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are…)

1. Ethics Hero, I guess. A sad one…The Henry Street Settlement , a community charity, was shocked to receive $6.24 million donation, the largest single gift from an individual in its 125-year history, from the estate of the late Sylvia Bloom, a legal secretary from Brooklyn worked for the same law firm for 67 years until she retired at age 96 and died  in 2016. When one of the wealthy lawyers she worked for bought a stock as she made the transaction for him (or her; I don’t know), she bought the same stock for herself, in a smaller amount. The woman amassed all this money, which she could have used while she was still breathing to assert some beneficial influence over society, help others, or just to expand her own experiences and life opportunities, but instead delegated the responsibility to a non-profit organization to handle after her death. She spent a lifetime in thrall to a law firm, and never could take the initiative to be free.

I view this story as a strong argument for feminism.

2.  Progress: For the first time in The Citadel’s 175-year history,  the Corps of Cadets command was awarded to a female cadet, Class of 2019 Regimental Commander Sarah Zorn. This was no affirmative action or gratuitous diversity moment, but an honor well-earned. In addition to her academic record and demonstrated leadership abilities, Zorn can do 70 pushups in two minutes (I’ve done 7 push-ups in two decades) and has three martial arts black belts. This triumph finally eradicates the humiliating beginnings of the South Carolina military academy’s gender integration, when Shannon Faulkner won a lawsuit against the school’s strict male-only admissions policy, became the first female cadet admitted, then showed up out of shape and irresolute, washing out after five days, four of which were spent in the infirmary. I have always regarded Faulkner as the anti-Jackie Robinson, the perfect example of how a trailblazer without sufficient character can make the trail worse than it was before.

3. An ethics inspiration from Europe. 15,000 European 18-year-olds will be able to travel free of charge in Europe this summer, using special free travel passes valid for 30 days. The European Parliament initiative was passed “to enhance a sense of European identity and European values.” . The cost will be about $14.2 million dollars in American currency.

Great idea, and better, in fact, for the United States to try than Europe, since the United States actually has a national culture and one that a majority of young people are neither learning about nor understand. The U.S. version should include tickets to a baseball game, of course.

4. Duh. Imagine my surprise when, after opening the Sunday New York Times Sunday Review section, I found leading off the insert that has been dominated by anti-Trump hate and hysteria since last November an essay that dovetails nicely with this Ethics Alarms post from yesterday.  Liberals, You’re Not as Smart as You Think” by Gerard Alexander, professor of political science at the University of Virginia, was given the front page of the section to make a point, a full year and a half into President Trump’s administration, that has been a theme on Ethics Alarms for all of that time, and should have been screamingly obvious to anyone whose own ethics alarms still had functioning clappers. Alexander writes in part, Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/11/2018: The Yankees Get Nasty, The Times Keeps Distorting, Rudy Is Sacked, And Dangerous Advice From An HR Expert

A lovely May morn to all!

1 As I have always said, the Yankees are evil. Most serious baseball fans,  and presumably all Baltimore Orioles fans, remember how in the 1996 ALCS play-offs,  a young New York Yankees fan named Jeffrey Maier turned what should have been a crucial out for his team into a game-tying home run by Derek Jeter in the 8th inning of Game 1, by reaching over the fence and catching the ball before it could fall into O’s rightfielder Tony Tarasco’s glove. This was interference, but it was before the challenge and replay rule, and the umpires, as is too often the case, missed the play. The Yankees won the game, the series and the World Series, and the Yankees and their city celebrated Maier as a hero—for, in essence, cheating on their behalf. The rules announced at the beginning of each game dictate that such conduct will result in an offending fan being thrown out of the stadium, but never mind: the ends justify the means, consequentialism, moral luck, double standards, hypocrisy…readers here know the litany. Misconduct was rewarded and extolled because everyone loved the result. New York, New York!

Now let’s go forward 22 years to last night’s tense game between the Yankees and their eternal rivals, the Boston Red Sox, also in Yankee Stadium (the new version.) The Yankees, as they had the previous two nights, rallied late against the hapless Boston bullpen and tied the game, 4-4, in the 7th inning. In the Sox 8th, J.D. Martinez hit a lazy fly that just got over the short right field fence and leaping gargantuan Yankees rightfielder Aaron Judge’s glove, into the outreached glove of another young fan, except that this one did not reach over the fence, and did not, as the replay showed clearly, interfere with Judge in any way.

Ah, but the home run he caught was hit by a Red Sox player, and put the Yankees behind in the game, after the fans’ hopes had been raised.

Yankee Stadium security hauled the fan out of the stadium.

The Red Sox won the game.

Good.

2. The Good Illegal Immigrant on stage…just to remind us of how pervasive false narratives are..I have kept an April 10 New York Times feature around just to raise my blood pressure in case I need a jolt. The article hails “Miss You Like Hell,” a new musical produced at Manhattan’s Public Theater. The show is about the pain and suffering endured by people who are in the United States illegally, having presumed to take what they want in defiance of our laws and policy, but no sense of wrongdoing is even hinted at in the story. The Times uses the deceitful cover-phrase “undocumented immigrant,” which was devised deliberately to blur the illegal immigration issue.

Today, as has been increasingly the case throughout the news media, a front page Times article uses “immigration” interchangeably with “illegal immigration.” This, of course, advances the lie that the those who oppose illegal immigration—that is, those who oppose law-breaking without consequence as national policy–are anti-immigrant.

This same story was headlined by the Washington Post, “Trump unloads on Homeland Security secretary in lengthy immigration tirade.” Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/10/2018: Co-Starring… Twitter!

Good Morning!

(I am grimly soldiering on, despite the horrifying Red Sox loss to the Yankees last night. Duty calls...)

1 From the “Facts don’t matter to Trump, and facts don’t matter to Trump enemies” files:

1) The New York The Times  reported that Secretary of State Pompeo was absent from Washington when Trump announced he was pulling the U.S. out of the nuclear deal with Iran, and framed it as a gaffe, headlining the story, “At a Key Moment, Trump’s Top Diplomat Is Again Thousands of Miles Away.” The paper  knew why Pompeo was absent, though: he was heading to North Korea make sure that three imprisoned Americans got released and returned home without a hitch. The story under the accusatory headline said so.  Pompeo also went to North Korea to arrange a date and venue for Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong Un. And, of course, Pompeo arriving with some of the benefits of Trump’s tough policy toward North Korea was an excellent backdrop for the Iran announcement.

Ethics verdict: bias and misrepresentation.

2) Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti included transactions by one or more Michael Cohens who have nothing to do with Donald Trump in a report Avenatti released about the President’s personal fixer’s alleged banking transactions. There are already questions being raised about how the lawyer acquired any banking records before legal discovery, but this is just rank incompetence.

3) Yesterday the President tweeted,

“The Fake News is working overtime. Just reported that, despite the tremendous success w”e are having with the economy & all things else, 91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake). Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?

Wow. What a mess that tweet is! Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/24/18: Jarrar And The Kardashians

Good morning, everyone!

1 Something stupid. I haven’t written about the Kardashians for a long time, unless you count Kanye West, but he has a legitimate claim to celebrity and the fact that he’s married to Kim K. is more or less a footnote. This morning, checking some cyanide out at the CVS, I saw this cover by the register:

Quick, now: why would it be smart and profitable to put this story on the front of a tabloid magazine? Who is Khloe Kardashian (normally I would try to find a way to get that accent over the “e” but it just isn’t worth it) and why would anyone on God’s green earth care about what she’s doing or what someone else is doing to her?

This woman is the youngest of the original Kardashian sisters, all of whom achieved fame-via-reality show after Kim’s sex tape was released and she gained fame for the size and shape of her butt. I’m not kidding. That’s it. That’s the whole basis for the culture’s love affair with the Kardashians,  and the reality show that introduced ugly duckling heavyish for a professional slut family youngest sister Khloe to America began in 2007, eleven full years ago. And what has Khloe, who is no longer heavy, or recognizable, and that was worth a book and a spin-off reality show—done since then to make her adventures worthy of the time you would normally use to alphabetize your sock drawer?  Absolutely nothing, other than appearing on TV with her weird, venal, narcissistic family, and being rich due to no fault of her won. (Her late father was one of O.J.’s cronies, played by David Shwimmer —“Ross” in “Friends”— in the O.J. miniseries, and her mother is a successful Hollywood hustler.) Here is the full extent of her societal worth, courtesy of the ridiculously long Wikipedia entry:

On September 27, 2009, Kardashian married NBA basketball player Lamar Odom, who was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers at the time. The couple were married exactly one month after they met at a party for Odom’s teammate Metta World Peace. Following her marriage, Kardashian removed her middle name to include her married surname, becoming Khloé Kardashian Odom. Kardashian adopted a pet boxer named Bernard “BHops” Hopkins, after the famous boxer.

On December 13, 2013, after months of speculated separation, Kardashian filed for divorce from Odom and for legal restoration of her last name.[43] Divorce papers were signed by both parties in July 2015; however, the divorce had yet to receive final approval from a judge. In October 2015, Odom was hospitalized after being found unconscious in a Nevada brothel, and was in a coma for four days; as he lay in a hospital, Kardashian withdrew her pending divorce petition. In an interview with People Magazine, Kardashian confirmed that they had not reconciled and the divorce had been withdrawn so that she might make medical decisions on Odom’s behalf.Kardashian and Odom’s divorce was finalized in December 2016.

Kardashian is currently in a relationship with basketball player Tristan Thompson. The couple reside in Cleveland, Ohio.In December 2017, she announced they were expecting their first child together.  In March 2018, Kardashian revealed she would have a girl. On April 12, 2018, Kardashian gave birth to their daughter, True Thompson. He cheated on Khloe Kardashian with other girls leading to him being inactive on social media at Khloe Kardashian’s wishes.

This does not speak well of the culture, American society, its values or its prospects.  My father’s generation was enthralled by the family dramas and controversies surrounding pubic figures like Charles Lindbergh, who, after all, accomplished something and displayed useful and admirable values in doing so.  His generation and the precedding one did have a soft spot for robbers like Dillinger, Bonny and Clyde and before them, Jesse James, but that was because they were styled as latter day Robin Hoods. At least robbing the rich to give to the poor is something. Actors, actresses and sports heroes have always been popular culture icons, but they were famous for their art and achievements, not just for showing up, or worse, showing up and acting like an idiot.  Imagine Babe Ruth being idolized because of fame bestowed on him solely based on his gluttony, promiscuity and drunkenness. That’s where we appear to be now. There really are tweens out there who will announce that they want to grow up to be like one of the six or seven—I don’t know where to put the former Bruce Jenner—Kardashian girls. Parents should lock them in a high tower like Rapunzel, but they won’t, because they probably hope their daughters grow up to be like Kim, Kourtney, Kendall, Khloe aand whatever that the other ones are named…Katmandu? Kalamazoo?

How can ethics survive in a culture like that? What am I doing? Continue reading

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An Ethics Alarms Challenge: Defend Criticism Of The Brooklyn Museum’s Hiring Of Two White Curators Of Its African Art Collections Without Endorsing Racism

The Ethics Alarms verdict is that such a defense is impossible. Asks the Huffington Post in its “Black Voices” section, “People Want To Know Why Brooklyn Museum’s New African Art Curator Is White.” Why are they asking this? The answer is obvious and backed by the curriculum vitae of the two (not one) scholars hired, Drew Sawyer and Kristen Windmuller-Luna. They are eminently qualified for their new jobs, and the color of job applicants is not, and never should be considered “a credential.”

From the museum’s release:

Windmuller-Luna will rethink the Brooklyn Museum’s extensive collection of African art, which is comprised of more than 6,000 objects, and organize a freshly conceived temporary installation showcasing the depth of the collection. Her focus will be to create a dialogue between the African art collection and other works within the museum’s holdings while also helping to develop educational programming.

As a curator and historian of African arts and architecture, with a specialization in the early modern period and Christian Ethiopia, her work counters myths about African civilizations and artistic production by focusing on cultural specificity, artistic diversity and global historical context. Windmuller-Luna received her Ph.D. and M.A. in Art and Archaeology from Princeton University and her B.A. in the History of Art from Yale University.

Drew Sawyer will reimagine the role of photography collection within the museum and explore ways to integrate it with other collection galleries and exhibitions.

Sawyer is currently Head of Exhibitions and the William J. and Sarah Ross Soter Associate Curator of Photography at the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio. He is also a co-organizer of the upcoming historical survey Art after Stonewall, 1969 to 1989 which will tour during the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in 2019. Sawyer holds a Ph.D. in Art History and Archaeology from Columbia University, specializing in North American art and visual culture of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

“Kristen’s vision for a new permanent collection installation that transforms how viewers relate to the arts of Africa is tremendously exciting for us as we near the 100th anniversary of the Brooklyn Museum’s pioneering exhibition of African art in 1923, ”said Deputy Director and Chief Curator Jennifer Chi. “Drew’s deep expertise in social and experimental documentary practices during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries will significantly augment our strong collection and will contribute to our history of championing contemporary artists who continue in this vein.”

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/13/18: Bad Quotes, Faithless Speakers

GOOD MORNING!

1 O.J. was guilty??? I’m shocked! I was going to run a quiz about whether Fox broadcasting the 12-year-old O.J. Simpson interview in which he “hypothesizes” about what really happened—when Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman ended up with the lives stabbed out of them and a trail of O.J.’s blood leading from the scene to his home—was unethical or just icky, as in “revolting taste.”

Never mind: I’m willing to say it was unethical. Fox was aiding and abetting a murderer’s efforts to cash in on his crimes. Yes, yes, I know: in the eyes of the law, Simpson is innocent. But Fox, and you, and I, and O.J.’s lawyers and certainly O.J. all know beyond a shadow of doubt that he did it, and Simpson deserves a full shunning from the culture in every respect.

Fox, many forget, produced this interview as part of the promotion for O.J.’s book, “If I Did It,” written by a ghostwriter after interviews with Simpson. Simpson got $600,000 in the deal, denying later that he had anything to do with the project, and saying, “Hey, they offered me $600,000 not to dispute that I [wrote] the book…Everybody thinks I’m a murderer anyway. They’re not going to change their mind just because of a book.”

The consensus is that the Simpson’s statements in the Fox interview amount to a confession to double murder. I saw the key portion in a promotion,, where O.J. says that he remembers being at Nicole’s home, grabbing a knife, then seeing lots of blood…but not remembering what happened in between. But Simpson is a liar and a sociopath, and because of double-jeopardy, he can say that he watched Nicole and Ron get attacked by an army of zombies he recruited and it wouldn’t make any difference.

The degree to which Fox debased itself by running this offal cannot be exaggerated, and anyone who watched it without being paid to do so is an accessory after the fact to the unjust enrichment of O.J. Simpson.

2. Bonus O.J, ugliness: Read this hateful, racist, biased and legally ignorant essay by Michael Herriot at “The Root.” Herriot is another of many contributors to CNN whose anti-white racism is palpable, but deemed acceptable mainstream punditry. How deep and widespread is this kind of blind, unreasoning hatred of white Americans in the black community? How can anyone read something like this and wonder where the upsurge in white nationalism comes from?

3. And speaking of CNN’s  race-baiters…Here is Van Jones on his newly minted CNN show, whining and grovelling to Oprah Winfrey:

“It meant so much to us, and, you know, I have to let you know how it is for us now. We had you. We had the Obamas in the White House. Even on a bad day, you had a north star. You had some hope. And then it was like the universe looked just said, psych! And threw us in the toilet and closed the lid and now we’re just stuck in this crazy situation, swirlingHelp us, though, help us though!…I go out there and I try to tell people, let’s not become what we are fighting. Let’s not be what we’re fighting. They tell me, shut up, Van, because we got bigots out here, we got Nazis out here, we’re getting bullied, we are tired of going high. We want to go low and kick them in the private parts!”

There is disturbing evidence that “the resistance” and the anti-Trump mob, including the news media, is heading into a new and even more deranged stage, which is scary, since the previous stage has been putting unprecented stress on the nation’s mental and political health. We saw this deterioration with Jill Abramson’s open admission that she keeps a totem of Barack Obama in her purse to stave off despair. We are seeing more and more alternate-reality rants, like this one by David Remnick in “The New Yorker.”

The rhetoric is getting more shrill and hyperbolic every day, even when the news is good. At least Paul Krugman is consistent: his rhetoric about Trump has been shrill and hyperbolic from the start. Here he is this morning:

“Now, it’s a commonplace, but also a euphemism, to say that Trump has authoritarian instincts. A more accurate statement would be that he expects the kind of treatment tin-pot dictators demand, free from any criticism inside or outside his government and greeted with constant hosannas of praise. And everyone who isn’t willing to play the full game, who has tried to play by something resembling normal democratic rules, seems to be fleeing the administration. Soon only the shameless sycophants will be left. This will not end well.”

Sigh. All of America’s strong Presidents have had autocratic instincts, with the arguable exception of George Washington. Jackson, Polk, Lincoln, Cleveland, Teddy, Wilson, FDR, Truman, Ike,  LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton. Obama did as well, though he wasn’t a strong President. It’s just that people like Krugman are so offended by Trump being President that when he behaves essentially like the rest, they think it’s sinister. The complaining about this President surrounding himself with yes-men is especially hypocritical, since there were few complaints from the same critics about President Obama’s dangerously deferential inner circle, bolstered by a worshipful rather than properly objective press.

Krugman’s title is “Springtime for Sycophants.” Trump is Hitler, get it? Continue reading

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Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/11/2018: Baseball, Bannon, and Chaos

Good Morning!

1 Great. Now I have to defend Steve Bannon. What greeted me this morning, as I surfed the Sunday news shows, Diogenes-like, searching for an honest journalist, but the sight of Steve Bannon in France, addressing the far-right National Front party yesterday and saying, speaking of the party’s effort to stem unrestrained immigration, particularly from Muslim countries,  “Let them call you racist. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor.” On every channel, this was interpreted as if Bannon was endorsing racism, xenophobia and nativism. Naturally this was then reflected on Trump as part of the “Trump is a racist” Big Lie that Democrats and the news media push virtually every day.

Bannon has certainly made testaments at other times that raise a rebuttable presumption that he is a racist, but this wasn’t one of them, and the fact that so many journalists would intentionally represent the statement to the public as if it was tells us either that they can’t be trusted to analyze news events, or that they can be trusted to spin them to advance an anti-Trump narrative even when it defies language and reality. From NBC in a typical fake history description: “Bannon’s appearance in France was part of a European tour as he seeks an international platform for his closed-borders, anti-foreigner message that helped Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency.”  Trump did not advocate “closed borders,” nor was his platform “anti-foriegner.” That was the dishonest characterization of “America should enforce its immigration laws” by Democrats and the allied news media.

The words Bannon referenced have been part of the ongoing efforts to silence and demonize legitimate positions that oppose progressive cant, such as condemning rather than welcoming illegal immigration. What  Bannon was obviously saying —and I do mean obviously—is “Don’t let their reflex race-baiting and demonizing tactics discourage you or deter you. Calling sensible immigration laws “xenophobic” is a desperate lie. Calling it racist is a lie. Calling it nativist is a lie. Recognize that their tactics mean you are winning the argument. Be proud, not intimidated.”

The fact that many of those he was addressing may be racists, xenophobes and nativists doesn’t change the meaning of what Bannon said. The news media’s job is to report, not read minds.

I could imagine making the same kind of statement to a colleague who has been savaged as a racist on Facebook for opposing affirmative action, or attacked as a sexist for questioning #MeToo tactics, or called a “Trump apologist” (or a Bannon apologist) for demanding fair and honest treatment from the media for politicians regardless of who they are. “Be proud that they are stooping to name-calling. It means they can’t rebut you on the merits.”

Oh: Bannon also said, “History is on our side.” This really upset the “journalists,” because everyone knows that history is on their side. Continue reading

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