Tag Archives: Stanford

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/31/18: Labor Day Weekend Edition

Good Morning.

This was in some respects the worst month in Ethics Alarms history, and I won’t be sorry to see it go. This weekend I will be spending more hours trying to cover ethics issues and developments while  knowing that an even smaller group of readers will bother to consider them, as they will off at beaches and mountain retreats, or sweltering at backyard barbecues. I have to admit it’s discouraging, and makes what needs to feel important and stimulating feel like an unsatisfying slog instead. Well, if you’re reading this, it’s not your fault.

1. Ethics estoppel. I couldn’t believe I read more than one local account of last night’s Detroit-Yankee game, a crushing loss for New York, complaining that Tigers DH Victor Martinez’s game-tying homer in the 9th “wouldn’t have been a home run in any of the other 29 Major League stadiums.”  Wow. The unmatched dominance of the New York Yankees over all of baseball has been significantly aided by its uniquely short right field fence ever since the original Yankee Stadium was built to provide cheap right field home runs to Babe Ruth, who hardly needed any help. Even though the shot to right isn’t as easy as it used to be (those old Yankee Stadium dimensions are illegal now), the Yankees still build their offense around that fence, and it is substantially responsible for the fact that the team leads all of baseball in home runs, and games won by cheap home runs.

Yankee fans and media are estopped from complaining when an opposing player benefits for a change. What utter gall!

2. Worst management ethics ever. President Trump is again tweeting about what a lousy job Attorney General Jeff Sessions is doing. Is he trying to make Sessions resign? Why? Why doesn’t he just fire him? This is a guy who became famous using “You’re fired!” as a trademark. Undermining a subordinate in public can’t possible make him or her perform better. It also signifies a dysfunctional organization and chain of command. In Sessions’ case, it makes the target look like a pathetic weenie devoid of self- respect. If my boss complained in public about me, I would resign that very day, with a brief statement that no professional should have to endure such gratuitous abuse from a superior, and that I would not. Continue reading

34 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Education, Family, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Popular Culture, Sports, U.S. Society, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/3/2018: Remember Pickett’s Charge! Edition [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1. “General, I have no division!” At about 2:00 pm, , July 3, 1863, by the little Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee launched his last, desperate and audacious stratagem to win the pivotal battle of the American Civil War, a massed Napoleonic assault on the entrenched Union position on Cemetary Ridge, with a “copse of trees” at its center. The doomed march into artillery and rifle fire, across an open field and over fences, lasted less than an hour. The Union forces suffered 1,500 casualties,, while at least 1,123 Confederates were killed on the battlefield, 4,019 were wounded, and nearly 4000 Rebel soldiers were captured. Lee’s bold stroke had failed spectacularly, and would go down in history as one of the worst military blunders of all time.

That verdict is debatable, but this is not: Pickett’s Charge, as the attack came to be called, holds as many fascinating ethics lessons as any event in American history, and this blog has returned to it for enlightenment time and time again.

There is the matter of the duty to prevent a disaster that you know is going to occur, the whistleblower’s duty, and the theme of Barbara Tuchman’s work, “The March of Folly.” There was Robert E. Lee’s noble and unequivocal acceptance of accountability for the disaster, telling the returning and defeated warriors that “It is all my fault.” The defeat also turned on moral luck, with many unpredictable factors, such as the intervention of a brave and intrepid Union cavalry officer named George Armstrong Custer, who also teaches that our greatest strengths and most deadly flaws are often the same thing, and that the Seven Enabling Virtues can be employed for both good and wrongful objectives.  Pickett’s Charge shows how, as Bill James explained, nature conspires to make us unethical.

Pickett’s Charge also teaches that leadership requires pro-active decision-making, and the willingness to fail, to be excoriated, to be blamed, as an essential element of succeeding. Most of all, perhaps, it illustrates the peril’s of hindsight bias, for without a few random turns of fate, Robert E. Lee’s gamble might have worked.

2. Funny how if you continually denigrate someone based on his color and gender, he will eventually stop respecting you. Stanford University has established a Men and Masculinities Project  that aims to help men develop “healthy and inclusive male identities”—because they obviously don’t have those now.  “We acknowledge that male identity is a social privilege, and the aim for this project is to provide the education and support needed to better the actions of the male community rather than marginalize others,” anti-man-splains Stanford’s gurus. Stanford, of course, is not alone in pushing the ubiquitous progressive narrative that men are toxic, along with whites, making white men the worst of all. Perhaps this might explain why support for Democrats among young white men is falling fast.

Nah, it must be because they are sexist and racist…

3. But..but…settled science! The Economist estimates that as many as 400,000 papers published in supposedly peer-reviewed journals were not peer-reviewed at all. Scientists, scholars and academics are no more trustworthy or alien to unethical conduct than anyone else, but because most of the public (and journalists) don’t  understand what they write about and have to accept what they claim on faith, they are presumed to be trustworthy.

Think of them as the equivalent of auto mechanics. Continue reading

28 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Professions, Research and Scholarship, Rights, Science & Technology, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society, War and the Military

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

33 Comments

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

38 Comments

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

85 Comments

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?

22 Comments

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

13 Comments

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