Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/23/18: (It’s My 38th Wedding Anniversary)

Good Morning!

1. A Thanksgiving Story. Yesterday, as we have in recent years since our available family has been inexorably shrinking or moving away, Grace and I, plus my son and his girl friend, went out to a favorite D.C. restaurant for our celebration. A very large party was next to our table, and when I overheard a comment or two, I figured out who it was. The extended Dole family, headed by former Senator Liddy Dole and former Senate Majority Leader, Presidential candidate and Vice-Presidential candidate Bob Dole, now 95, was having a holiday gathering with at least three generations on hand. My Dad deeply admired Dole’s military sacrifices in World War II as well as his wit, and both Doles had spent a lifetime in public service, so I decided to send the table a bottle of champaign with the Marshall family’s regards.

I expected at most a smile and a wave. Liddy Dole, however, came immediately over to our table, and chatted for quite a while, energetically expressing her  and Bob’s gratitude for the gift. Later a Dole niece came over to do the same, and I got a handshake and some nice words from Bob as we left. I would have assumed that lots of tables at the packed eatery would have sent some token of appreciation the Dole’s way, but we seemed to be the only ones. Indeed, we seemed to be the only ones who knew who they were. “Sic transit gloria mundi.”

It was funny: Liddy Dole did a wonderful job covering with opening comments that could have suggested that she had met us before, a skill anyone in public office must master. I managed to make it clear in my remarks that we hadn’t met, but her gratitude appeared genuine rather than formal.

So the Marshall family had a memorable collision with political history and Washington royalty! Best bottle of champagne I ever bought…

2.  If Obama wants to protect his own legacy and project a positive image of the Presidency, he really should shut up. During a summit this week for the Obama Foundation in Chicago, former President Barack Obama said,

“Climate change, we’re going to have to come up with some new technologies to solve the problem as much as we need to. Although even on something like that, right now I could take off the shelf existing technologies, we could reduce carbon emissions by, let’s say 30 percent, without any, you know, it’s not like we would have to go back to caves and, you know, live off, you know, fire. We could have electricity and smartphones and all that stuff, which would buy us probably another 20, 30 years for that technological breakthrough that’s necessary. The reason we don’t do it is because we are still confused, blind, shrouded with hate, anger, racism, mommy issues. “I mean … we are fraught with stuff.”

Stuff like, oh, reality. The U.S. is deeply in debt, in no small part due to Obama’s own mismanagement of the budget, and a trillion dollar infrastructure bill is overdue. Estimates—and on climate change, all we have is estimates, of what it would cost to reduce carbon emissions by 30% range from another 1.7 to 3 trillion dollars, and many estimates tell us that even that wouldn’t do enough, whatever “enough” is. “It’s not like we would have to go back to caves and, you know, live off, you know, fire’ is a masterpiece of “It’s not the worst thing” duplicity. OK, Big Shot, what would it mean? Of course, Obama has no idea. He’s just blathering, and at a level not much superior to the blathering President Trump gets regularly skewered for. Yes, we are indeed confused, because climate change research and hype are now indistinguishable thanks to messengers like Obama, but how the hell do “hate, anger, racism, (and) mommy issues” have anything to do with the issue other than to serve as standard left-wing insults at anyone who doesn’t agree with them?

The use of racism as a default explanation for any and all opposition has reached the point of self-parody. I wonder when the half the country not being victimized by it wakes up and sees how unfair and destructive this is… Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 1/29/2018: Alexa, Hillary, The Grammys, And The LED Rocket Copters

Good afternoon.

(Where did the morning go?)

1 Regarding Alexa the Feminist: I had said that I would wait for 20 comment before revealing my own answer to the recent Ethics Quiz, which asked readers whether it was ethical for Amazon to  program its Artificial Intelligence-wielding personal assistant Alexa with the rhetoric and the sensibilities of a feminist. As usual, Ethics Alarms readers covered a full range of considerations, from the fact that consumers weren’t being forced to take a feminist robot into their homes, and could choose a non-woke personal assistant if they pleased, to the pithy,

“My screwdriver should not tell me it is a communist. My toothbrush should not tell me it is a Republican. My lamp should not tell me it is Hindu. My car should not tell me it likes polka music. My sunglasses should not ask me if I’ve heard the good news. My refrigerator should not tell me I should have more meat in my diet, and by no means should it be vegan.”.

I don’t trust the big tech companies, and the more I see them becoming involved in politics and culture, the less I trust them. It is unethical for Amazon to try to indoctrinate its customers into its values and political views, and if that isn’t what the feminist Alexa portends, it certainly opens the door. If there is a market for communist screwdrivers, however, there is nothing unethical about filling it.

As long as consumers have the power to reject AI-imbued tools with a tendency to proselytize, there seems to be no ethics foul in making them available.  It’s creepy, and since these aren’t women but pieces of plastic and metal, it’s absurd, but in the end, so far at least, Alexa’s feminist grandstanding is “ick,” not unethical.

2. If you think that there was nothing wrong with Hillary’s surprise cameo at the Grammys, you’re hopeless. Continue reading

Ethics Heroes: Andy Mitchell, Samee Dowlatshahi, And Friends

 

Rockwall, Texas resident Andy Mitchell posted a photo on Facebook of himself and Justin Korva, a young stranger whom Mitchell had picked up and driven to his job after seeing him walking to work in his work uniform  in 90 degree weather. He was stunned and impressed to learn that Korva walks three miles each way to his low-paying job at Taco Casa, a fast food restaurant,

“To all the people that say they want to work but can’t find a job or don’t have a vehicle all I can say is you don’t want it bad enough!” Mitchell wrote on the Facebook post. Mitchell then used his post as a springboard to raise money to buy a car for Korva, who is 20.  It took less than 30 hours to raise $5,500. 

Samee Dowlatshahi, the owner of a pizza restaurant who had set up a donation box for Korva’s transportation inside his establishment,  contacted a friend at a local Toyota dealership. The friend told his boss about Korva, and persuaded the dealership to drop the price of a white 2004 Toyota Camry. This allowed Mitchell’s group to buy the car, pay Korva’s insurance for a year, and finance two years’ worth of oil changes along with a $500 gas card.

“Are you serious?” Korva said as Mitchell handed him the keys.

Dowlatshahi said,, “We just want you to know, seriously, this community, nothing we love better than to have someone who works hard. We take a lot of pride in that. It’s so hot out here, I can’t believe you walk even one mile in this heat.”

There is hope.

“Such Is Life,” The Kindness Of Strangers, And The Wonderful Ethics Saga Of Moises Treves And Judy Anderson

Such is life

This is an old story, but I’ve never written about it, and I need to be reminded that there is good in the world.

In the mid 1970s, Moises Treves was a day cook at a small taco stand on the island of Cozumel, Mexico, By all accounts he made the best tacos in town, and  American tourist Judy Anderson, a school teacher who visited the island several times, was a special fan of them. On one visit in 1977, Judy, traveling alone as usual, invited him to accompany her to the Mayan pyramids in the Yucatan Peninsula. Moises happily agreed and served as her tour guide. They had  lunch, speaking as best they could to each other using Judy’s limited Spanish and Moises’ broken English.

During the meal, Judy asked Moises if he had any ambition to open his own restaurant. Ah, he said, that was his dream, but he despaired of it ever coming true. He just didn’t have the money, and couldn’t seem to save anything.  Judy responded,”Such is life!,” an expression that Moises had never heard. He asked Judy about it, and the saying stuck in his mind.

As the lovely day came to a close, the two friends said goodbye:  Moises was about to take  the ferry back to the Cozumel, and Judy was heading o the airport and then home to United States. Mysteriously,  Judy gave Moises a sealed envelope and told him not to open it until he was home.

When Moises opened the envelope, he found five $100 bills.  They were accompanied by a letter that said,

“Dear Moises. Go make ‘Such is Life’ happen. Love Judy.”

Continue reading

The Lovers’ Complimentary Meal: An Ethics Tale

The couple

The couple

On his blog, Virgin Airlines tycoon Richard Branson told a story, reputedly true, that show vividly how kindness and ethical conduct can have far-reaching consequences.

Three years ago, a young couple was dining  in a Boston restaurant about . Their affection for each other was obvious, and it attracted the attention of a friend of Branson’s named Pankaj Shah. He was eating at a nearby table, and is apparently a lovable eccentric who likes to anonymously pay for the meals of strangers when he is dining out. He had asked the restaurant staff that night to let him pay the bill for “the couple who looked most in love.”

It was done. The couple learned that a mysterious benefactor had paid for their romantic rendezvous, and Shah received his usual pleasure from the random act of kindness.

Three years later, Pankaj Shah returned to have dinner at the same establishment.  The manager recognized and approached him, and said that he night be interested to learn that the same couple he had treated  three years before were also in the restaurant. Not only that: the manager revealed that
the “dude just got down on one knee and proposed.” He asked the aspiring groom why they he had chosen his restaurant for this life-changing ritual, and was told  that three years ago, at the same table, some stranger had paid for their meal right out of the blue. The gesture made the couple ponder on the importance of kindness, selflessness and love, and had talked about the incident many times since. He said both he and his girlfriend had been inspired to be better, more caring, ethical people as a result, and he felt that the place where this epiphanal event occurred would be the perfect place to propose.

The manager introduced them to Shah, who attended their wedding.

It seems that the couple has preferred to stay anonymous, and hell, I don’t know if the story is really true. That couple in the photo on Branson’s blog may be friends of Manti Te’o, if you get my meaning.

But I hope it is true. It should be.

It could be.

And its lesson is true, regardless.

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Pointer and Source: Cafe Mom

Facts and Graphic: Richard Branson

Facts: Richard Branson