Tag Archives: Stanford

Ethics Warm-Up, Memorial Day, 5/28/18: Things That Don’t Mix

1. Let’s start with some non-traditional casting hypocrisy.

  • Example A: In “The Gentleman Caller,” an Off-Broadway drama by Phillip Dawkins, an imagined romantic interlude between famously gay Fifties playwrights Tennessee Williams and William Inge has been cast with a Hispanic, and Hispanic-looking, actor as the very un-Hispanic Williams, and an Asian-American actor as the quite Caucasian Inge. This is self-indulgent grandstanding by the director that doesn’t serve the play—that’s the director’s duty, to serve the play—and the playwright was a fool to allow it. If the drama was just about two gay playwrights, it wouldn’t matter who was cast to portray them, or what the actors looked like. The identity of the writers is important to this  drama, however. You don’t cast a short, bald man as Abraham Lincoln, and you don’t cast a fat, flat-chested woman as Marilyn Monroe unless you are actively trying to sabotage the play. The New York Times critic didn’t have the integrity to point out the reverse-whitewashing casting-–mustn’t criticize fellow social justice warriors, you know!—but the stunt is both incompetent and discriminatory.

If a director cast an Irish-American and an Italian-American as James Baldwin and Richard Wright in a similar play, he would be excoriated, and rightly so.

  • Example B. Jim Parsons, best known as aging nerd Sheldon in “Big Bang Theory” and now starring on Broadway in the ensemble revival of “The Boys in the Band,” told the New York Times in an interview that the producer insisted that everyone in the cast be gay. Nice. Gay actors have been insisting forever that their sexuality was no bar to their playing straight characters—this is true, if they are any good as actors—but apparently reverse discrimination is fine.  It’s not fine. It’s bigotry.

When my late, lamented theater company revived that play almost 20 years ago, the director, John Moran, himself gay, insisted that the sexual orientation of the actors who auditioned would play no part in his casting decisions, and it did not. I think most of the all-male cast was not gay, but all of them were (and are) excellent.

One of my favorite Clarence Darrow quotes is, “I’m for the underdog. He needs friends a damn sight more than the other fellow. The best fun in life is to fight for the underdog…If the underdog got on top he would probably be just as rotten as the upper dog, but in the meantime I am for him.”

Things that don’t mix: Anti-discrimination rhetoric and discrimination

2. Another “good illegal immigrant” story. Guatemalan woman Gomez Gonzalez was shot to death in a border incident as she tried to enter the U.S. illegally. The episode is under investigation, and the facts are murky: the border patrol claims that she was in a crowd of people trying to cross the border illegally that became threatening and violent.  Here is how CNN begins its account of the controversy:

“Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez traveled 1,500 miles to the United States, hoping to find a job and a better future. Shortly after she set foot in Texas, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed her.”

No bias there! It is absolutely irrelevant to the legal and ethical issues here why Gonzalez was entering the country illegally. She did not deserve to be shot under any circumstances, and she was no more justified in violating our immigration laws whether her objective was to find a “better future” or to open a meth lab. The news media insists on sentimentalizing what is a black and white issue of sovereignty, law-breaking and enforcement, with the intent of confusing the public and demonizing opponents of illegal immigration.

Things that don’t mix: Lawbreaking and status as a virtuous martyr

Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Sports, U.S. Society, Workplace

Yes, Black Lives Matters Is A Racist Organization (Racism Is Unethical)

Black Lives Matter has banned whites from attending an upcoming event in Philadelphia, designating it as  “black only.”

The April 15 meeting will plan  projects and initiatives for the upcoming year as well as serving as a “black only space”  for people—well, those who are the right color— to “meet, strategize and organize.” Whites are explicitly banned from the meeting, according to the organization’s Facebook event page.

When criticism began coming over Twitter, Black Lives Matter Philly explained that their meetings are “black centered.”

Oh.

Racist.

As Ethics Alarms has stated repeatedly.

While reminding all that the Democratic Party still officially endorses BLM and thus its hypocritical anti-white racism as well, there is this: Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Race, Social Media, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunce: Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky

Let’s see if this sentence generates a fraction of the national attention that the so-called “affluenza” sentence did. For this is much, much worse.

Star Stanford swimmer and Olympic swimming team candidate Brock Turner was arrested in the early morning hours of Jan. 18, 2015  when two Stanford graduate students  saw him on the ground, thrusting his hips atop an unconscious, partially clothed woman. They called police; Turner ran, and police chased him down Turner. In trial, Turner claimed that the woman had consented, though police found her unconscious.

The jury didn’t believe him, and convicted Turner of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object. The usual sentence for sexual assault is six years in state prison. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, however,  sentenced Turner to six months in county jail and three years’ probation. Turner could get out of prison after just three months.

For rape.

I do not find the Judge’s reasoning persuasive. His arguments were.. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Law & Law Enforcement

Unethical Technology On The Way: Imagine What Breitbart Will Be Able To Do With THIS

The video above shows a still-in-development system called Face2Face (research paper here) created by researchers at Stanford, the Max Planck Institute and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. It would allow you to take YouTube video of anyone speaking, and to pair it with a standard webcam  video of someone else emoting while saying something entirely different. Thehe Face2Face system will synthesize a new video showing the originals speaker making the second speaker’s facial movements, including the interior of the mouth, so it looks like the original speaker is saying what the second speaker was.

Tech Crunch reports that the system isn’t quite ready for market yet. Gee, I can hardly wait. This “advance” has the potential of making video just as unreliable and untrustworthy as still photography is now. Web hoaxers, Ted Cruz’s marketing team, unscrupulous political websites like Breitbart and others will have a field day once Face2Face is perfected.

The justification for creating such technology is the same as the rationalizations behind cloning velociraptors in “Jurassic Park”: because we can, and because we can make money with it. Can any good come from Face2Face? It’s late and I’m not at my best, but it seems to me that the end results of having another tool for liars just means more lies, more cynicism, more misinformed people, and less trust.

Isn’t it irresponsible and inherently unethical to invent something like this?

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

New Rule For 2016: Elected Officials, Politician And Presidential Candidates Will Be Accountable For What They Say, Not What They “Meant To Say”

You know that quote time machine that politicians keep using? It doesn't exist. Stop letting them act as if it does.

You know that quote time machine that politicians keep using? It doesn’t exist. Stop letting them act as if it does.

We have a growing mass of public figures in politics and government who increasingly communicate in sloppy, vague, hyperbolic and ambiguous language and assume that they can wait and see how the public reacts to it before they, their spokespersons, defenders, enablers or friendly pundits need to clarify what they “really meant.”

Well, the hell with that.

Communication precision is more crucial than ever in the new, technology-driven public media, when tweets can be circulated to millions within minutes, and on-camera statements live on YouTube forever. This habit of allowing influential figures to spout lies, nonsense , smoking gun revelations about their character and worse and then insist on a do-over when they are called on the obvious meaning of their own words must stop. Among other things, it appears to be killing the little switch in the brains of these people that is supposed to stop human beings from saying stupid things before they say them. That switch goes by the name Prudence, which  encompasses common sense, respect, responsibility, restraint, honesty in communication, and more. We should want our leaders to have that switch working perfectly. Unfortunately, most of our most prominent leaders and would-be leaders appear not to have a functioning switch at all. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Social Media

Unethical Tweet Of The Month: Carly Fiorina

carly tweetThe above New Year’s Day tweet was issued by Republican Presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina, now campaigning in Iowa for February’s caucuses, as Stanford and Iowa prepared to do battle in the Rose Bowl. (It was a rout: Iowa got clobbered.)

Fiorina is a  Stanford alum, and the tweet backfired, it seemed, with many on Twitter finding the tweet revealing, and not at all in a good way.

Are there any plausible translations of the tweet that reflect well on Carly’s character? Let’s see: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Leadership, Social Media, Sports, U.S. Society, Unethical Tweet

The Benefits of Mutual Respect and Civility vs. Hate and “Partyism”

A New York Times feature from October 3 tells the inspiring tale of a friendship between two scholars, one a Christian, the other an atheist. Their friendship does not thrive in spite of the conflict between their core beliefs, but rather because of it.

Prof. David Skeel, the Christian, recently published  a book, “True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World.”  His atheist friend, Patrick Arsenault,  is  acknowledged in the book and quoted as well, and the Times notes that “True Paradox” “might not have existed at all, or certainly would not exist in its present shape and voice, without the secular scientist as its midwife. And that odd reality is testament to a rare brand of mutual civility in the culture wars, with their countervailing trends of religious fundamentalism and dogmatic atheism.” Says Skeel:

“One of the things we talked about was whether it matters if we persuade each other. I long to have Patrick converted to my perspective. So how can we have a friendship? I see it as toleration in the deepest meaning. We don’t just ‘put up’ with each other’s beliefs. We interrogate them.”

Arsenault tells the Times that “in the culture wars, the rhetoric is acerbic on both sides. On the humanist side, there’s this tendency to view people of faith as not rational. And David is clearly rational. He’s just looked at the same evidence as me and come to a different conclusion.”

Contrast this attitude—rational, respectful, practical, fair, constructive and profoundly ethical, with the “partyism” and bigotry being practiced with increasing intensity as the mid-term elections approach. There is Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank in the video clip above, for example,  not merely accusing Republicans of fear-mongering, but suggesting that their criticism of the Secret Service is insincere: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Religion and Philosophy