Sunday Ethics Excursion, 11/17/2019: This Crazy, Unpredictable, Untrustworthy World

Greetings!

1.  So we can’t trust Intel, either. Good to know. Last May, Intel released a patch for a group of security vulnerabilities researchers had found in the company’s computer processors.  Intel implied that all the problems were solved. The official public message from Intel was “everything is fixed,” said Cristiano Giuffrida, a professor of computer science at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and one of the researchers who first reported the vulnerabilities. “And we knew that was not accurate.”

Indeed, the software patch meant to fix the processor problem addressed only some of the issues the researchers had identified.  A second patch, publicly disclosed by the company last week, finally fixed all of the vulnerabilities Intel had said were fixed in May…six months after the company said that all was well.

2. So they finally bullied the NFL into re-considering Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick, the mediocre NFL quarterback whose political grandstanding before games made him an albatross for the league and any team foolish enough to employ him, has had woke “fans,” who couldn’t care less about football but who loved his race-bating and police-bashing protests, claiming that he was “blackballed” from pro football for exercising his right of free speech.

This was never true—let a grocery store clerk try that argument when he’s fired for making political demonstrations during store hours—but never mind: Kaepernick was styled as a martyr anyway.  Why the NFL capitulated to bogus complaints and gave the player a showcase for NFL scouts, I cannot fathom. He’s 36, hasn’t played for three years, and wasn’t that good in 2016. If no team signs him, the NFL will be told again that it is racist and oppressive. If a team does sign him, the message will be that enough agitation can force an organization to elevate politics above its legitimate priorities.

3. This is why our politician aren’t civil, collaborative, respectful and ethical: the public doesn’t want them to be.  Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Minority Leader,praised Representative Peter King, the long time Long Island Republican House member who announced his retirement this week, by tweeting  warm words on Twitter.  “I will miss him in Congress & value his friendship,” the effusive message concluded.

For this once-standard professional reaction to a fellow Congress member’s retirement, Schumer was roundly attacked by Democrats and progressives on social media. To his credit, despite more than 10,000 mostly negative replies and even calls for his resignation, Schumer neither apologized for his tribute to a colleague nor took down the tweet. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Washington Nationals Catcher Kurt Suzuki

So it’s come to this. A professional athlete now qualifies as an Ethics Hero for expressing respect and admiration for the President of the United States while being honored at the White House.

Good job, everybody!

Yes, this is emblematic of the harm “the resistance” has inflicted on the nation and the culture. During a ceremony on the South Lawn, the President Trump introduced a number of Nationals players and invited them to the podium. Asked by Trump Suzuki to “say a couple words,” the Nats catcher pulled out his MAGA hat and put it on, prompting the President to shout, “I love him!” and to give him a hug.

Of course, this spontaneous moment triggered a meltdown among the Axis of Unethical Conduct, especially on social media. Suzuki’s twitter feed transformed into an orgy of hate. Apparently furious that the Capital’s baseball team had the gall to be respectful to its most important resident, a doctored video circulated on Twitter supposedly showing star pitcher and World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg snubbing President Trump by not immediately shaking the president’s hand after speaking. Strasburg  quickly declared the deceptively edited clip “fake news,” and sure enough, the real footage confirms Strasburg shook hands with the President at the podium. Continue reading

Ethics And The Joker’s Moustache

“The Joker,” opening this week and presenting Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of Batman’s arch-enemy as fitting the classic mass-shooter profile, has provoked all sorts of ethics- related debates. Is it responsible to release a film that may risk triggering the psychopathic loaners with access to guns we all know lurk in the shadows? Is the studio risking another Aurora-style theater shooting? Should such films be boycotted? Regulated?

These debates, which are retreads of the same old refrains the nation has been tortured by since dime novels through Warner Brothers gangster movies, EC comics, “The Untouchables” TV series, the Legion of Decency’s reign, Sam Peckinpah films and “A Clockwork Orange,” are all appeals to censorship using “Think of the Children!” rationalizations, and are essentially attacks on free speech. The contrived debate is alarming but not difficult to call: the would-be censors are wrong, motivated by emotion, and that’s that.

No, the really interesting ethics debate the new movie has revived is another old one: Was it ethical for actor Cesar Romero to keep his moustache when he played the Joker?

Cesar  Romero  (February 15, 1907 – January 1, 1994) is now largely forgotten, but he was a familiar presence in films, radio, and television for almost 60 years. Sort of a Grade B Riccardo Montalban, Romero had a rather narrow range, with his portrayal of dashing Latin lovers, historical figures in costume dramas, and characters in light  comedies all looking and behaving similarly. Romero’s trademark was his moustache, especially in the post-Errol Flynn era when leading men seldom wore them.

When the 1966 camp TV show Batman became a brief sensation in 1966, the casting of Romero as the Joker was a shock. He had never played any role remotely like it, nor was broad, silly comedy his typical milieu. Most shocking of all, when the Joker finally made his appearance on the show  it was obvious that Romero hadn’t shaved his upper lip. Reportedly the actor refused to eliminate  his moustache for the role, and so the supervillain’s white face makeup was thickly smeared over it throughout the series’ three-year run and for Romero’s co-starring appearance in the 1966 film. Continue reading

Labor Day Ethics Quiz: The Dr. Seuss Oath

Conservative writer Megan Fox was left sputtering with indignation after learning that a Missouri councilwoman, Kelli Dunaway (D…of course), took her oath of  office with her right hand on a Dr. Seuss book. “Just because we’ve done things the way we’ve always done them is no reason to keep doing them that way,” she told ABC News.

Good point! Let’s try taking the oath using a hunk of cheese next time!

The particular children’s classic Dunaway chose for this solemn ritual was “Oh the Places You’ll Go” which, ironically, we recently defended here from the accusation that it was racist.

Fox:

“One can only hope that choosing to make a mockery out of the serious pledge to protect and defend the Constitution will be the catalyst to take her to a new place in the next election–the private sector…Meanwhile, real satirists over at the “Babylon Bee” are suffering trying to come up with something weirder than this to report. No wonder Snopes can’t quit accusing the Bee of trying to sound like real news. The real news is insane.”

Is it?

Your Ethics Alarms Labor Day Ethics Quiz is…

Is it unethical–disrespectful, irresponsible, dishonest— to take an oath of office on a children’s book?

I think I’ll wait for some responses before I give my answer…but I have one.

Policing Ethics, Part Two: When Those Expected To Stand Up For The Law Can’t Stand Up For Themselves

Cellphone videos of New York City police officers being doused with water while trying to do their jobs became an internet sensation this week, and an unsettling (but inevitable) controversy for New York City.  The officers were trying to disperse rowdy groups at fire hydrants during a three-day heat wave, and allowed themselves to be assaulted and humiliated while  crowds cheered the attackers on.

The police arrested three men who were caught on video hurling water at police in two incidents. This also caused controversy. “Why is a man facing more severe punishment for dousing a police officer than Officer Daniel Pantaleo is for choking Eric Garner?” asked a Times article. That shouldn’t be a difficult question, but you know—the Times. Eric Garner was a petty criminal resisting arrest. The officers were doing their jobs, and Garner died as the result of an accident, in great part because of his own actions in defying the police. The police were also trying to do their jobs when they were doused with water, in an act that threatens the peace and order of the community.

The Police Department’s highest-ranking uniformed officer, Terence Monahan, the police chief, lit the fuse on a larger controversy, saying,

“Any cop who thinks that’s all right, that they can walk away from something like that, maybe should reconsider whether or not this is the profession for them.We don’t take that.”

But they did take that, and the Mayor of New York wants them to take that, because the whole idea of law enforcement is now, and has often been, anathema to progressive ideology. Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Purge, 7/25/2019: Snopes, Maddow, Gratuitous Disrespect For POTUS…Yuck.

Prepping for a colonoscopy, thanks…ethically, of course…

1. Great Moments in Confirmation Bias. Believe it or not, this is what Rachel Maddow said about the Mueller testimony:

“I will tell you, I was not quite sure what to expect from today’s testimony by Robert Mueller. If you had told me that today, we would get from Robert Mueller over the course of these seven hours such a blunt accounting from him… of who in the president’s campaign was compromised by Russia, and how, specifically how they were compromised by Russia, including the President…All in all, just look at today as a whole, it was a remarkable day, not just for this presidency but for the presidency. I know the Trump White House and conservative media are trying to, like, chin up tonight, make it seem like they had a great day today… they did not have a great day today.”

How in the world could anyone watching the hearings say that? How can anyone, realizing that this the way she translates reality into her commentary every night, continue to waste their time and brain cells watching her? How could responsible executives at a news network hear that and not take remedial action, if they have any regard for journalism as all? This is literally fiction, or delusion, or the perception of someone from a parallel universe who somehow crossed over (in that universe, Mueller didn’t answer questions almost exclusively with “yes,” “no,” “repeat the question,” “that’s outside my purview” and “bvuh?!”) Wrote Jonathan Turley about Maddow’s rhetoric, ”

“That is like calling the Hindenburg disaster a rough landing. Gone is any notion of informing viewers of what actually occurred and its implications for impeachment calls. Instead, viewers heard what they expect from echo journalists: assurance that Trump remains on the ropes and the Democrats are laying a trap.”

Continue reading

D-Day 75th Anniversary Ethics Warm-Up, June 6, 2019: Stumbling As We Try To Keep America Worthy Of Their Sacrifice [UPDATED!]

U.S. WWII veterans from the United States attend a ceremony at Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial situated above Omaha Beach to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day, in Colleville-sur-Mer, France.

I have a special reason for being a devotee of D-Day: I may be here because my father missed it. He was supposed to be in the invasion, but as an observer, not a combatant. Dad never explained how he got that plum assignment, but before he had the honor, an idiot in his company blew part of my father’s foot apart while playing with a hand grenade nearby. (You’ll be happy to hear that said idiot advanced human evolution by blowing himself up in the process.) Thus Jack Sr. was in an army hospital on June 6, and had to wait for the Battle of the Bulge to be part of an iconic W.W. II conflict.

1. Somehow, I don’t think this is the society they thought they were fighting for…

At Rutherford High School in Bay County, Florida, a teacher  wrote “WTF” on a student’s science homework. His mother complained, calling the vulgar acronym “inappropriate.”

Boy, what a prude.

I just saw another of the increasingly common TV ads where evoking a vulgar word is used for humorous value.  One of the cell phone networks includes an exclamation of “Holy shirt!” (Get it? HAR!) when a father’s gray attire suddenly explodes into color as soon as the family upgrades its network.  “What the Shirt” is also a trendy shirt company.

In a culture where casual public vulgarity is treated as normal and even clever, it is no surprise that alleged professionals often have no functioning ethics alarms regarding their language, or any sense of respect, etiquette, gentility or decorum. After all, when a newly elected Congresswoman thinks it’s appropriate to shout “We’re going to impeach the motherfucker!” and suffers no adverse consequences, what do we expect?

2. Somehow, I don’t think this is the society they thought they were fighting for…wait, didn’t I just write that?

Sueretta Emke complained that she was dining with her family at a Golden Corral in Erie, Pennsylvania, when the manager told her that her attire was inappropriate and that some customers had complained. Asked Emke said the manager couldn’t answer when she was asked what was so inappropriate about her outfit. It was a mystery!

For some reason the phrase “res ipsa loquitur” keeps coming to mind.

Call me crazy, but I doubt that if  Ms. Emke’s croptop and Daisy Dukes had fit her more like this…

…anyone would have complained, or even if someone had, that the manager would have ejected her.  She was being fat-shamed. On the other hand, even at a Golden Corral, diners should have enough respect for others to adopt at least minimum standards of appropriate attire. On the OTHER hand—Did you know that Edward Albee wrote a play called “The Man With Three Arms? It was not a success—unless restaurants have stated, publicized and displayed  dress codes, it is unfair to arbitrarily discriminate against the unattractive exhibitionist and slobs while allowing the attractive ones to dine unmolested. Continue reading