Tag Archives: role-models

Chaos, Kindness, Vivian Landis, and Me

Yesterday I attended the funeral of Vivian Landis, mother of my long-time friend Lise Landis. Vivian was 98 years old when she died, and by all accounts had a wonderful and rewarding life. She also played a big part in mine, by doing what she apparently did routinely: being kind.

Mrs. Landis, along with her late husband Paul, were, by sheer chance, placed in the position of being the Chaos Theory butterfly in the Amazon jungle that causes a momentous chain of events by flapping its wings. They exemplify to me why it is vital for all of us to strive to live using ethical values. We have often no idea what the results will be, but the odds are they will be more good than bad.

In 1972, I had been rejected by all of my choices for law school, though I had been wait-listed at Georgetown. However, it was August, the fall semester was looming, and no word from Washington, D.C. had reached me. Discouraged but resigned, I said the hell with it, and resolved to take a year off, perhaps to craft my thesis on character and the American Presidency into a book. In the meantime, I decided to join my parents and sister on what bid fair to be our last family vacation. Dad had planned one of his typical forced marches, this one through Reno, Sequoia National Park, Yosemite, San Francisco, and Seattle.

I was having a great time, relaxing, enjoying the sights, when a ranger tracked us down on the Yosemite canyon floor. Our next-door neighbors in Arlington Mass. had sent a telegram forwarding a Georgetown telegram to the Marshall homestead: a slot for me had just opened up in the 1975 Class, but to claim it, I had to be at the Law Center to register Monday morning—and it was Sunday. And I was in California.

I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go to law school at that point, but my dad was determined that I should take the opportunity. We cut short our Yosemite visit and drove to San Francisco, where I was deposited on a red-eye to Dulles. I had few clothes, and knew nobody in the District of Columbia or anywhere near it. Somehow, I was assured, my family would have a plan for me by the time I arrived. I was to call their hotel in Frisco once I had registered. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/4/2018: 500 Days Edition

Good Morning!

1.  In one respect, it is his fault. The most infuriating defenses of the Samantha Bee cunt-fest may be the rationalizations who pronounce her blameless (and thus Turner/TBS) because President Trump made her do it. (Well, maybe the second most infuriating: CNN fake-ethics commentator Brian Stelter actually referred to the episode in a tweet as the “feckless” controversy. You see, Brian, when your field is journalism ethics, you can’t play deceit games like that, because…oh, why do I bother?). To be fair, however, while Bee and the other potty mouthed resistance members and DNC leaders should be held responsible for their own ugly conduct, electing Donald Trump did give a cultural green light to incivility and assholery.

Since nobody else gives me credit and public recognition when I’m right before most of the chattering class (Ethicists Don’t Matter), I have to do it myself. Here is what I wrote in part on September 10, 2015:

We have elected Presidents without experience, who were narcissists, sociopaths or psychopaths, who were not too bright, who were unjustifiably cocky, who spouted policy nonsense, who had only style without substance, who acted tough, who were the product of marketing rather than talent. Some of them turned out to be pretty good; some of them surprised everyone and changed their ways. None of them wrecked the nation. I am confident that even at this difficult time in our nation’s history, reeling from the serial incompetence of  the Bush and Obama administrations, the United States could survive a Trump Presidency as a nation.

We could not, however, survive it as a culture.

Placing a man with Trump’s personality and his rejection of the basic features of civilized conduct and discourse to an extent that only the obscenely rich or the resolutely misanthropic can get away with would ensure that American culture would deteriorate into a gross, rude, selfish, assault muck in which no rational human being would want to live…

Even if Trump was a policy whiz, a political magician and a foreign policy master who balanced the budget and restored American’s primacy in the world, it would not be worth what would be lost: dignity, fairness, civility, caring, respect.

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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From The “Nation Of Assholes” Files: Now President Trump Has Driven The Sociologists Mad

That fake tweet above? It was created by the Southern Sociological Society as promotion for its conference this week. It is also, amusingly, accurate. Based on the conference, titled “Racial Theory, Analysis, and Politics in Trump America,” you can’t trust sociologists any more. Like so many other professional, including among them historians, lawyer, journalists, educators, ethicists and psychiatrists, this group has decided to abandon professional ethics and standards of objectivity and civility for juvenile virtue-signaling and partisan name-calling.

At first I thought this was an Onion parody. From Campus Reform:

…The conference program features two full-color illustrations that crudely depict the President as a baby, six sketches employing similar themes, and nine satirical presidential tweets (each of which comes with a disclaimer alerting the sociologists that it is “not an actual tweet”). The front cover shows the president as a grotesque and overweight infant, sitting in a soiled diaper on top of an image of hooded Klansmen while playing with missiles and nuclear bombs. His outstretched left arm, replete with a tiny hand, may be an attempt to depict him performing the Nazi salute.

A cross superimposed on a series of concentric circles appears above the word “Trump” in the conference title, suggesting the crosshairs on a rifle site…The back cover depicts a similarly-styled Trump, this time with his diaper sagging down and kneeling in a pool of urine inside his crib. Black and white sketches scattered throughout the program, meanwhile, depict Trump in various other unflattering ways, with one showing him urinating on the floor while holding what appears to be a balloon labeled “WW3,” while another drawing portrays him smashing the EPA and healthcare.

The conference schedule indicates that there will be 32 workshops, papers, lectures, discussions, and other sessions that explicitly deal with Trump, including a discussion about “Approaching Resistance to TrumpAmerica” and a session on “How to Talk About Current Events in the Classroom in the Age of Trump without Getting Fired.”

Some sessions, such as “Organizing a Campus-Wide Social Justice Event,” appear to advise professors on how to use their positions to influence campus politics. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2018 President’s Day Edition:

Good Morning, George, Tom, Teddy, Abe!

I’m in a bad mood. Maybe it will pass.

1 No Presidents Day post this year.  I usually do a special Presidents Day post. I never thought I would ever feel this way, but I’m thoroughly sick of writing about the Presidents after the last year. I blame “the resistance” for this along with the news media, both of whom have created a related but separate ethics issue by relentlessly attacking, disrespecting, mocking and undermining President Trump. [Of course, for those who are interested, this epic post, from 2015, was about four years’ worth of Presidents Day material, and this one, also from that year, is my personal favorite of all the entries here about my favorite 45 Americans. Does President Trump have a Julia Sand out there somewhere? We can only hope…]

Yesterday Ann Althouse, strafing the news media’s obsession with the ridiculous publicity-mad porn star whom Trump either did or did not have an affair with and to whom his to slimy lawyer Michael Cohen paid hush money, was attacked on her own blog by commenters who accused her of  defending the indefensible—you know, the President of the United States, who was never allowed a single second when the entire country unified behind the winner of a hard-fought election, and as one wished him good fortune and success. Not a second.

Ann usually doesn’t get involved in her blog’s comment threads., but she responded this time:

You Trump haters made it so boring to hate Trump. I don’t even like Trump, but you people annoy me.

Above all, I believe Trump won the election, and he deserves support as he attempts to carry out the responsibilities America entrusted to him. We need to help him, not try to screw him up at every turn. I think it’s outrageous what has been done to him, and I regard it as an attack on democracy.

I have always found that once the President is elected, we should accept the result and support him when we can and look to the next election if we can’t. I think the “resistance” is a rejection of democracy…

That is about as perfect an expression of my feelings as anyone could compose, including me. It has been this blog’s position from November 9, 2017 on, and I have never wavered from it. I knew this was basically Althouse’s stance as well, since so many of her posts reflect it, but it is gratifying to have another serious blogger I respect express it so clearly. Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Lord Michael Bates

Lord Michael Bates, Britain’s international development minister, was set to answer questions before the British House of Lords on yesterday, but arrived to the session a few minutes late for his scheduled Q and A session. When it concluded, Lord Bates rushed  up to the lectern,  and said,

“It’s been my privilege to answer questions from this despatch box on behalf of the government. I’ve always believed we should rise to the highest possible standards of courtesy and respect in responding on behalf of the government to the legitimate questions of the legislature. I’m thoroughly ashamed of not being in my place and therefore I shall be offering my resignation to the prime minister with immediate effect.”

With that, he walked out of the chamber .

Bravo. Promptness and punctuality demonstrates respect for one’s colleagues and professional duties, and holding oneself to the highest standards of conduct is the epitome of ethical public service.

Afterwards, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said:

“With typical sincerity, Lord Bates today offered to tender his resignation, but his resignation was refused as it was judged this was unnecessary.As a hard-working and diligent minister, it is typical of his approach that he takes his responsibilities to Parliament so seriously. He has received support from across the House and we are pleased he has decided to continue in his important roles at the Department for International Development and HM Treasury.”

Dear Lord Bates: please come to America and run for Congress, They need you. We need you.

 

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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

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