Luncheon Ethics Laniapppe, 9/9/20: Track! Movie Fraud! Mainstream Media…Well, You Know.

1 And speaking of movies…I just finished watching the latest from cult director Charlie Kaufman, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things.” I won’t spoil it or recommend you don’t see it, except to say that it is one of those films that you leave not knowing what you just watched, and resolving either to watch it again (nope!) or decide you wasted your time. It’s a demented cross between “My Dinner with Andre,” “Back To the Future” and “The Exorcist Part II” that would have made a decent Twilight Zone episode at 30 minutes. I tried to puzzle the thing out while and  after I watched it, which seemed fair: how many movies end with a complete rendition of Jud’s gloomy solo “Lonely Room” from “Oklahoma” and a dream ballet, after over 40 minutes of conversations in a car while driving through a snowstorm? At least the film was original, challenging, and bold…or so I thought.

Then I read an article about one of the actors (all the performances are excellent) who said he asked Kaufman, the writer and director, what the film was about, and the answer he got was “I don’t know.” Whaaaaat?

That’s fraud on the audience, a cheat, and unethical. Be obscure, be mysterious, be oblique or vague, but at least have a point when the presumption of any audience member is that every movie means something. This is like James Joyce revealing, after scholars have written books and treatises and had symposia arguing what “Finnegan’s Wake” was about, that he just threw down random words on paper and that the book really didn’t mean anything.

2. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! (1) Headline of the Day:  From the New York Times front page: “Scaring voters didn’t work in 2018. Will it now?” I’d say that in 2020, it is the violent and intimidating conduct of the Left, such as Black Lives Matter and the antifa, the Democratic governors and mayors refusing to protect their communities and maintain order, and the fact that the mainstream media now so blatantly attempts to cover for all of it that is “scaring voters,” or should. How is there any valid comparison with 2018?

This is the false innuendo version of fake news. The headline implies that Republicans are exaggerating the breakdown of civic order that has been rationalized and excused by Democrats. Continue reading

Mrs. Q’s Corner: Fetal Tissue Research And The Slippery Slope

by Frances Quaempts

[This, the latest installment of Mrs. Q’s Corner, responds to the discussion of the Trump Administration’s ban on fetal tissue research, and the issues raised in this post particularly.]

I know slippery slope arguments can be annoying, however we have seen, for example, how the years of race-baiting rhetoric that “all cops hate blacks” has led to the current madness. In that spirit I wonder, regarding this issue, just how far the commodification of unborn baby parts could go.

Once upon a time, child sacrifice in some societies was acceptable and even the rule. It would be nice to think we have evolved behaviorally to never entertain such horror, yet after seeing the way recently groups of teens and wild-eyed adults have chased and surrounded those they presume guilty of wrong-think, like jackels, could such barbarism make a comeback?

Could we justify using women to become “tissue-makers” if only they are compensated? Could we justify using the unborn for things like soda flavoring or hair products? Is that already happening? Could we jump from using the unborn to born but with defects or some other issue? Can we justify cannibalism as a means to “save the planet?” Is utilitarianism sometimes an excuse to rationalize the dehumanization of people in order to push through some grand and supposed ideal of humanity that isn’t even possible in a Star Trek episode? Will sacrificing a child or adult make the harvest plentiful when it has in the past?

The “downstream” issues that come up after supposed good ideas are well implemented can be the cause for even greater problems that generations have to deal with later. We have seen the good idea that women are equal turned into women degrading themselves in the name of a sexual revolution that mainly has benefited immature men.

We have seen how the good idea of fighting racism has led crowds to burn down the businesses of those most affected by racism. We have said the Red Scare was utterly without merit while Marxism has slowly poisoned our county using the arts, education, and media as a means for indoctrination.

Of course women should be equal, people of all races should thrive, and if someone wants to believe in some secular utopia where the proletariat magically rules the world, in this country they can. The downstream of it all is not simply the what of something or even the why, but the how. How do we avoid justifying dehumanization in the name of helping humanity? How do we use materials of any kind wisely and with respect? How do we check our unethical rationalizations so we don’t do more harm than good, no matter how utilitarian or beneficial the item or action is? Continue reading

A Response To “Comment Of The Day: ‘Ethics Escape, 8/24/2020: The Not Watching The GOP Convention Edition. Item #3, Fetal Research Ban'”

I promised a response to Chris Marschner’s provocative Comment Of The Day on Item #3 in the post, “Ethics Escape. 8/24/2020: The “Not Watching The GOP Convention” Edition. Here it is…

Chris begins,“Before I go any farther, I believe that fetal tissue is crucial to research.” That’s an excellent stipulation; I concur. Thus we agree that obtaining fetal tissue is beneficial, and an objective with positive value for society.

That leaves as the sole issue for ethical debate as whether using the source of such tissue creates such a counterbalancing negative effect that the positive effect, which has been conceded, is overcome and rendered moot.

Chris says he “can see an argument in favor of the Board’s decision to deny access to such tissues.” I can see the arguments; I wouldn’t make the arguments. I’m assuming Chris not only sees them but agrees with them to some extent. Chris goes on,

I may agree with Turley that such research use of fetal tissue does not incentivize women to have abortions. However ,I do believe it incentivizes sellers of such tissues. Such sales make a commodity of aborted fetal tissues and the of other human tissue donations; this is not some far-fetched fear. Do we want to be like China, which forcibly removes kidneys so that others can have a transplant?

I don’t think “may” is reasonable here. Professor Turley states unequivocally that women do not have abortions to harvest fetal tissue, and while it is impossible to prove a negative, there is literally no evidence that indicates this is a problem. Hospitals sell medical waste, including organs for transplant. Chris’s logict applies with equal force to all things removed from patients, who have a right to deny the medical institution from selling it or using them themselves. The patients, by law, cannot sell their tissues and organs themselves, however, and few choose to take the items home as souvenirs. Almost all the time, patients let health care providers dispose of such things as they see fit, and why wouldn’t they?

The “Coma” scenario, where doctors intentionally kill patients to harvest and profit from their organs, has been around for decades, (The Robin Cook novel was written in 1973.) It just hasn’t materialized, and in the case of fetal tissue, nobody would be killed, in the eyes of the law, if medical professionals were selling it as profit center. The argument is a straw man, a separate theoretical problem related to the issue being discussed, but not strictly relevant. In this it is like the anti-cloning debate. Opponents of cloning worry about how the technology might be abused, but that’s a downstream issue. There is nothing inherently unethical about cloning, just as there is nothing inherently unethical about using fetal tissue for research. If unethical practices emerge, you deal with them directly, not by eliminating the otherwise neutral or beneficial process that creates the opportunity for abuse.

Chris:

Imagine a society that becomes insensitive to the concept of the sanctity of life. It is not outside the realm of possibility that we could begin to allow doctors to withhold life saving but costly treatments in order hasten the demise of a potential donor.

The first sentence is irrelevant in the context of this discussion  because, via Roe v. Wade, the law of the land does not acknowledge fetuses as human life. I think Roe was and is a terrible decision; I am certain that the pro-abortion position that unborn children are like warts or parasites is intellectually dishonest and a belief made necessary by the political objective of abortion access rather than justified by reality, but that doesn’t matter. The U.S. position isn’t insensitive to the sanctity of human life because society and the culture, through the courts, have absorbed the legal fiction that fetuses are not human life. If and when that fiction is rejected—personally, I don’t foresee it happening—then the sanctity of life issue becomes relevant. As for the rest of Chris’s statement: that is happening already, thanks in part to the costs of treatment and the limits of insurance.

I won’t say that doctors pressuring a family to take a brain-dead loved one off of life support because a 17-year old woman needs a heart and lung transplant stat is unethical. It theoretically violates Kant’s Categorical Imperative, but Kant wasn’t considering brain dead patients before such patients could be kept alive. This is when Utilitarian balancing is called for. “Are we willing to let doctors or insurers make that call to take the patient off the vent so he can become a heart donor? I certainly hope not, ” Chris asks. Well, we don’t, and shouldn’t, but the input of those not emotionally involved in the decision is valuable.

Chris continues, Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Escape, 8/24/2020: The “Not Watching The GOP Convention” Edition.” Item #3, Fetal Research Ban

Bioethics is perhaps the most murky area of ethics of all.  I am grateful for Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day taking on the task of making the counter-argument to yesterday’s post highlighting Professor Turley’s objections (and mine) to the Human Fetal Tissue Research Ethics Advisory Board, appointed by Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, voting to block 13 out of 14 applications for fetal tissue research. Chris makes as good a case as can be made in defense of the decisions, but I don’t think he has much to work with; as I suggested in the post, this is an uncharacteristically easy call. I’ll return at the end to explain why; in the meantime, here is Chris Marschner’s Comment Of The Day on Item #3 in the post, “Ethics Escape. 8/24/2020: The “Not Watching The GOP Convention” Edition:

Before I go any farther, I believe that fetal tissue is crucial to research. With that said, I can see an argument in favor of the Board’s decision to deny access to such tissues. [Commenter Ryan Harkins] and I may agree with Turley that such reasearch use of fetal tissue does not incentivize women to have abortions. However ,I do believe it incentivizes sellers of such tissues. Such sales make a commodity of aborted fetal tissues and the of other human tissue donations; this is not some far-fetched fear. Do we want to be like China, which forcibly removes kidneys so that others can have a transplant?

Imagine a society that becomes insensitive to the concept of the sanctity of life. It is not outside the realm of possibility that we could begin to allow doctors to withhold life saving but costly treatments in order hasten the demise of a potential donor. For example: assume we have a 28 year old MVA victim with severe head trauma. His intercranial pressure has exceeded 30 for weeks and doctors have told the family that it is unlikely that he will ever recover significantly. After 3 weeks in the ICU the medical costs have risen to about $275,000. Are we at the point that we are going to say, “Let’s stop throwing good money after bad. The guy is an organ donor and he is a match for a person in need.”  Are we willing to let doctors or insurers make that call to take the patient off the vent so he can become a heart donor? I certainly hope not. Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/9/2020: Whining, Lying, Slipping, Faking, Scaring….

Good morning.

I detest that sappy Ray Stevens song, and have since the first time I heard it. But I have to try something…

1. There’s no whining in baseball! Note to MLB players: heroes and role models don’t whine.  Players have been making excuses for their flaccid play—of course, only the players who aren’t playing well are complaining—that the lack of a crowd makes it difficult to  bear down during games. The Red Sox broadcasters, including two former players, keep talking about this over and over again. Two games ago, Red Sox newcomer Alex Verdugo, in his second season, made a great catch to take away a home run, and the only cheering to be heard (I’m not including the fake crowd noises) was coming from Verdugo himself.  “In a normal game, he’d be getting  a standing ovation! A curtain call out of the dugout!” said Dennis Eckersley.

Oh, cry me a river. These guys are supposed to be professionals, and they get millions of dollars to play a game for living, one they supposedly love. I don’t believe they need crowds screaming to “get up” for big moments, and if they do, something’s wrong with them. Every kid who played sandlot baseball manged to perform at his or her best because that’s what competitors in any game do.

Then there’s Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez, who is off to a miserable start. His excuse? Part of the MLB protocols during the pandemic prohibits players from in-game use of video equipment. Martinez is used to looking at videos of his at bats during games to pick up on any flaws in his swing, so he has complained that not being able to have access to the usual devices  is contributing to his slump.

Not surprisingly, the former players in the booth have not been particularly sympathetic to his plight, having played in those dark ages when baseball players just played baseball during the games.

2. Telling us all we need to know about “Defund police,” the current Democratic Party, Minnesota,  the former co-chair of the Democratic National Committee, and the mainstream media…MN Attorney General Keith Ellison recommended last month that women not call police to report when they’ve been raped. Ellison, who coincidentally has been accused of rape himself, said,

“If you’re a woman who’s been a victim of a sexual assault, and the assailant ran away, wouldn’t you rather talk to somebody who is trained in helping you deal with what you’re dealing with, as opposed to somebody whose main training is that they know how to use a firearm? Right?”

That’s the kind of  statement I would expect from a teenage social justice warrior like David Hogg. Ellison is the top law enforcement official in the state, and his definition of a police officers is that that their main skill is using a gun? Continue reading

Is It Unethical To Use HIV Transmission As A Plot Element In Drama?

In an essay in The Body, an HIV-AIDS community website, Abdul-Aliy A Muhammad argues that it is unethical and exploitive for writers to use the disease as a plot point in TV shows and movies. His argument is pitched at black writers particularly. (In case you are not familiar with the term he uses, the “down low” refers to apparently heterosexual black men who secretly have sex with males.) He argues in part,

Last week’s episode of the popular show on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), Greenleaf, provided a storyline that’s become all too familiar—the disclosure of HIV status as a spicy and scandalous plot twist.

…During this season, at the end of episode three, a shocking reveal happens: AJ was raped in prison, and the person who raped him transmitted HIV to him. AJ is now suffering from HIV disease and finally tells Grace. That’s how the episode ends. As an HIV-positive Black person, my heart sank, because again, the failure to hold any nuance with HIV emerged, 16 years after the “down low” and HIV plot twists of the early 2000s. It’s as if we’re frozen in time.

… I want to say this to the writers and producers of Greenleaf, and other Black creatives: HIV is not a plot twist device. HIV is not a caricature, and HIV is not predatory. Yes, there are the very real stories of people contracting HIV after being raped, and yes, there are some people who are not fully open to their partners and who may have transmitted HIV. But the narrative of HIV as a hidden monster and prison rape are not what drive the epidemic in Black communities.

…[T]here have been many harmful representations of HIV stories in the media. Let’s start with Tyler Perry’s 2010 film…For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf. In his film adaptation, Janet Jackson’s character, “Lady in Red,” is married to a man named Carl Bradmore…His character is struggling with sexual desire and can be seen cruising for other men in the film, and ultimately there is a scene where oral sex is performed in a car. Hardwick’s character Carl Bradmore is in a BMW under a bridge and gets head from another Black man.

…Throughout the film, Lady in Red has a scarf tied around her neck, and toward the end, the scarf is red. She coughs frequently and drinks tea, ostensibly to soothe her throat. The drama erupts toward the end of the film, when they are both sitting on a bed and not facing each other. She says something to the effect of, “You can keep your sorry and your HIV”—which is saved as a grand reveal, to provide shock and melodrama to the story. Shange’s original play includes no “down low” men, and it was written before HIV, so these aspects were specifically added by Perry.

I watched this film in shock…. My mother was a Tyler Perry fan; she thought his desire to (and practice of) giving leading roles to Black actors was something to celebrate. I on the other hand felt… here again is another media representation of the [down low] monster as a viral operative to drive the drama of the plot, and to both titillate and disgust. There is data that suggests that Black people aren’t doing anything behaviorally different than white people when it comes to intimacy or other vulnerable ways to become HIV positive. The difference in disproportionate infections comes from anti-Black racism that discourages trust of systems and incarcerates and criminalizes Black people. Our vulnerability is undergirded by the lack of infrastructures of care and the breakdown of food systems in the hood and in the rural South.

Until we truly consider the truth about HIV and not the easily propagated myths, we are doing more harm to our communities and aren’t standing in solidarity with HIV-positive Black people…. Isn’t it time for TV and film catch up and stop with the same tired use of HIV as plot twist or cautionary tale. Continue reading

My Ethics Conflict: Woodrow Wilson’s Name Should Have Been Removed At Princeton Long Ago, But Erasing It Now Opens The Floodgates, Part II: The Case For Expunging Wilson [Corrected]

Woodrow Wilson’s name should have never been put on

Yet President Wilson ended up being honored by having his name plastered on buildings, schools and bridges (like here in Washington, D.C) more than most Presidents, in part because influential Democratic historians, notably Kennedy family flack Arthur Schlesinger Jr., pushed the false narrative that he was a great idealist and a great leader. This required burying Wilson’s well-documented record as a racist, though the rest of his record wasn’t great either.

In Part I, I gave the official Ethics Alarms argument for not tearing down honors to Wilson now that Black Lives Matters and its allies are in full Soviet/Maoist cultural bulldozing mode. When Wilson is gone, I see little stopping the mob from tearing down Franklin D. Roosevelt memorials next, to name just one example of where this slippery slope leads.

Despite leading our nation through an existential depression and World War II, FDR had his own black marks regarding racism and discrimination, arguably as many as Wilson. In  1916, a document was discovered  showing that  Roosevelt, as Wilson’s Deputy Secretary of the Navy, personally signed an order segregating bathrooms in the Navy Department. As President, FDR wouldn’t allow his black and white White House servants to eat together.  Everyone knows (or should) that he imprisoned about 70,000 American citizens because they were Japanese, and just last year, “The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise and the Holocaust” revealed  archival evidence of FDR’s callous and bigoted treatment of European Jews prior to and during the Holocaust.  Franklin Roosevelt was a racist and an anti-Semite. When we get into retroactively dishonoring Presidents virtually all of them are at risk.

However, there are persuasive arguments that Wilson is a special case. Continue reading

My Ethics Conflict: Woodrow Wilson’s Name Should Have Been Removed At Princeton Long Ago, But Erasing It Now Opens The Floodgates, Part I: The Case For Woodrow

Reviewing, I see that the original Black Lives Matter attack on American values, history and culture first broke out in 2015. Then as now, Democrats rushed to embrace the racist group’s anti-white, anti-police and anti-America agenda, seeking, as usual, to enamor itself with its base. That was also the first time Princeton University was urged by student activists to remove honors to Wilson from the campus, though Wilson was not only a President of the United States (and according to Democrats until recently, one of the greatest) but also a lauded president of Princeton. The 2015 calls for his airbrushing out of Princeton’s history coincided with many similar attempts, some successful, to dishonor past historical figures whose legacies or conformity with modern values had been called into question.

College campuses, not city streets, were ground zero in 2015. Yale and the University of Missouri led the madness. At Mizzou, black students manufactured racial outrage out of ambiguous and off-campus incidents, then engaged in what Ethics Alarms then termed  an “I’m mad at the world and somebody has to pay for it” tantrum (Hmmm! Still sounds pretty good!), demanding all sorts of special accommodations and race-based policies and hirings, and demanding the university president’s resignation. Thomas Wolfe did resign, giving us an early precedent for all the capitulation and cowardice we are seeing today. As we’re seeing today, intimidation, race-bullying and attacks on free expression and language were part of the assault:

  • Amherst students demanded a crack-down on any free speech in the form of criticism of Black Lives Matters or the protest goals.
  • Dartmouth’s Black Lives Matters members roamed through the campus library, verbally assaulting white students attempting to study.
  • Smith College held a sit-in, and barred reporters-–the new breed of campus freedom-fighters just don’t like that pesky First Amendment—unless they promised to cover the protest positively. .
  • Occidental College students occupied a three-story administration building, demanding “a series of actions ranging from racist to just unreasonable to oppressive” in the name of “safety” and “diversity”, of course. Predictably, the leftist faculty which helped make the students this way were fully supportive.Refresh your recollections with the list of student demands here; my favorites: demanding an increase in tenured black professors and black doctors; funding for the student group for black men, which is racist and counter-diverse by definition; and “elimination of military and police rhetoric from all documents and daily discourse.”

Why is this so familiar? Continue reading

Monday Ethics Warm-Up, 6/22/2020: Lenin, Oliver, And The Troublesome Name

It would be well to consider the fate of that ultimate Sixties folk-pop group the Mamas and Papas, as we watch today’s idealistic anarchists make fools of themselves. By mid-way through their four-year run (during which they sold 40 million recordings), the group was self-destructing with inter-and extra-group sexual affairs and stage appearances where one or more of the group was too drunk or stoned to perform. The group kept breaking up and re-assembling, and fell apart for good in 1969. Mama Cass died of heart failure at the age of 34, after battling heroin addiction and other substance abuse. John Phillips, the creative leader of the group, also was a heroin addict and had emotional and substance abuse problems that he managed to pass on to his daughter, actress Mackenzie Phillips. In her memoir, “High on Arrival,” she wrote that she had a long-term sexual relationship with her father. Papa John also died of heart failure, when he was 66. Tenor Denny Doherty’s solo career flopped after the group ended. He was an alcoholic, but stayed sober for the final decades of his life. An acting career also failed; he finally got a gig as the “Harbormaster,” hosting a kids TV show that was a flagrant rip-off of “Thomas the Tank Engine,” but starring a talking tugboat. Doherty was 67 when he died from an aneurysm.

Michelle Phillips is the lone survivor of the group. She avoided substance abuse problems and after divorcing Phillips, whom she wed at 18, went on to a moderately successful acting career.

As today, these people who aspired to inspire lacked the wisdom, common sense, self-discipline, character, values or perspective to be trusted with their chosen mission.

1. Speaking of...When asked how it was that a statue of Vladimir Lenin was still standing in Seattle when protesters had toppled those of Ulysses S. Grant and others, the Human Rights Campaign’s Charlotte Clymer said, among her reasons, that “Lenin was not a slave-owner, you Confederate apologist fucks.”

To which National Review writer David Harsanyi responded with the obligatory, “Lenin created tens of millions of slaves.”

In related news, a 2015 video  of an interview with Black Lives Matter founder Patrisse Cullors shows her saying, “We actually do have an ideological frame. Myself and Alicia in particular, we’re trained organizers. We are trained Marxists. We are super versed on ideological theories…”

Several of the tenets seen on the BLM website are redolent of Karl. Do all these companies and pandering celebrities giving lip service to the group, attaching #BlackLivesMatter to their tweets and proclaiming support, know what they are supporting? I think it’s pretty obvious that they don’t. They are signaling their virtue by ostentatiously endorsing the most simple-minded and deceptive interpretation of the slogan, as if there is anyone who believes black lives don’t matter. I bet the vast majority have never visited the BLM website and read its agitprop.

That, needless to say, is as dumb as it is irresponsible. Continue reading

What Destruction Of Public Art? What Slippery Slope?

I woke up today wondering  whether those who blindly applaud the carnage of the George Floyd Freakout are lying, frightened or ignorant. The late post last night on Commentary Magazine’s manifesto quickly attracted a comment from Rationalization #64 Land, where John Yoo’s Rationalization, “It isn’t what it is,” holds sway. Implicitly denying the editors’ substantive list of the mob’s acts, “Adam” wrote in part,  “Art must be propagandist or be chopped away? (What art? Where? Who? Propagandist? How?)”

The growing movement to “chop away” at the memorials and statues to men, women and events whose interaction with history and culture no longer conform to what most or many Americans consider admirable (or politically correct) has been growing for years, with the clash of protesters in Charlottesville over a Robert E. Lee statue being only the most publicized of incidents around the country. “What art?” If a citizen is so ignorant of current events,  he shouldn’t be registering an opinion until he educates himself.

Almost on cue (protesters have been very accommodating of late in confirming past Ethics Alarms analysis), a George Floyd mob in D.C. pulled down a perplexing piece of public art, the statue of Albert Pike (above), an obscure Confederate diplomat and general who wrote alternate, bellicose, lyrics to “Dixie.” Writing this morning about why the D.C. police stood by and permitted the vandalism, Althouse wrote,

[W]hy isn’t mainstream media delving into the details of why the police are not acting to protect city artworks and to restore order? Where’s the journalism?! My hypothesis is that the media want to help Joe Biden get elected, so they’re presenting a rosy picture of the protests and refraining from any negativity about the Democratic politicians who control the cities where the disorder rages. I’m sure the journalists realize that at some point the majority of Americans will prioritize their interest in law and order, but — I imagine — they hope to hold us back from that tipping point.

The second question I am musing on is when and whether there will be that tipping point, or if, in the alternative, a critical mass of oblivious or dishonest “Adams”  will keep the public somnolent until it’s too late to tip, with disastrous consequences. Continue reading