Once again, we encounter the gratuitously hostile stranger phenomenon.
I was running a quick groceries errand today, and a young man right in front of me dropped a cardboard carton containing a hot slice of pizza on the floor. Naturally, it landed top down, and the pizza was smeared all over the linoleum. I was right beside him as he froze briefly, looking down at the mess forlornly.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I said, my Golden Rule reflex kicking in. I hate dropping food, especially ice cream cones and pizza; it brings back many childhood traumas. I genuinely empathized with the guy. And you know what? He completely blew me off. He didn’t look at me, acknowledge my expression of sympathy, or even grunt. He just left the dead pizza slice there, turned on his heels, and walked quickly off to call a staffer.
No, he didn’t have ear buds. He was just another rude SOB who has no interest in contributing to a congenial, mutually supportive society. Can you devise any excuse for this behavior? I don’t think there is an excuse. I think this is evidence that he is a member of the growing and thriving jerk component of American society. Why do so many bystanders refuse to demonstrate care for strangers in peril or stress? Reactions like I got is one of the reasons.
…but for some reason. “The Ethicist” couldn’t figure that out.
I hadn’t checked in on Kwame Anthony Appiah, the New York Times Magazine’s current incarnation of “The Ethicist,” for a while, and based on this exchange, the usually reliable NYU philosophy professor is showing some wear and tear. I blame The Great Stupid.
An inquirer wrote to ask if her friend had done the right thing by not telling her neighbors in ” a close-knit neighborhood” who used the same mother-daughter housecleaning team she did that she had caught the daughter stealing, and dismissed the pair. “She spoke with the mother, who apologized profusely on behalf of her troubled daughter and, of course, understood when my friend said they wouldn’t use the service any longer,” the letter concluded.“Was my friend obligated to let her neighbors know? She worried about this team losing business when she had no way of knowing whether or not the daughter was stealing from others.”
I was gobsmacked that Appiah endorsed not telling the neighbors. He wrote,
I took Spuds out for a walk in the light rain, and was relieved when he relieved himself with his usual impressive fecal discharge early on. I dutifully collected it in a blue New York Times bag—using the delivery bags for this purposes amuses me, as the final content of the bag is less noxious than its original product. Spuds even did his doo-dooty near a trash receptacle. “Now that’s over with!” I thought. Then I took my sweet dog on walk down one of the boutique streets in the neighborhood: lovely houses, elaborate gardens, perfect lawns. And Spuds walked quickly onto one of the latter, and duplicated his earlier performance. Topped it, in fact.
He almost never does this, but I almost always carry a second New York Times bag in case he’s feeling prolific. This time I hadn’t.
Steve’s reaction, as you might expect if you are familiar with his commentary, is much harder of nose. It it too callous to be ethical? The ethic of the United States, from it’s origins, has always emphasized personal responsibility and the obligation of society and government to allow individuals to live their own lives, address their own failings, achieve what they can achieve, and advance by their own effort and talent. Community, by it’s own nature, implies a group that strives to help when it can, but the bitter attitude reflected in the hateful “prayer” is something quite different.
Steve answers the query, “Have I been dismissive of your burdens, and perhaps even cast blame upon you?,” by stating, “Like I said, I have my problems, you have yours. Deal with them. The one thing all your problems have in common is you.”
1. Well, what do you know! Two more women have come forward to accuse New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, making a total of five now. The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post have the stories.
A former press aide, Karen Hinton, told the Post that Cuomo embraced her in a Los Angeles hotel room in 2000. Ana Liss, another ex-aide, said the governor hugged and kissed her and grabbed her waist in 2014. As we have discussed here often, true sexual harassers are habitual and incorrigible. It’s not a mistake or a lot of misunderstandings. These are powerful individuals who feels entitled to abuse that power with subordinates who are likely to be reluctant to resist or report the misconduct.
2. Where was she when John Kasich needed to be told? Ann Althouse has a post titled, Is there someone in your life who is annoying you with the conversational tic “Do you know what?” In 2016, desperately seeking some alternative to Donald Trump among the large and fatally flawed GOP field seeking the party’s Presidential nomination, I was so annoyed by Kasich employing that tic (or its equivalent, “Guess what?”) that I tuned him out every time he spoke. Why didn’t anyone tell him? I’m a stage director: I’ve corrected dozens of actor tics. Any politician who is so inattentive that he or she can’t acknowledge and address a bad communication habit (Kamala Harris’s laugh!) is intrinsically untrustworthy, inattentive and lazy. It’s a tell.
3. Look! A public “How stupid, frightened and gullible are you?” test!This ridiculous thing is a real product designed to wear all day and night to protect you from the deadly viruses, microbes and pollutants that threaten to kill us all.
That’s Spuds above; the story only tangentially involves him. Today I took him to the Shirlington dog park about 7 minutes from our house. He loves it; it’s huge, and there are about 50 or more happy and generally well-behaved dogs of all breeds and sizes running and playing on a nice day, like today was. A half hour to 45 minutes is sufficient to get both of us exercised, him romping, me trying to keep him in sight.
When I arrived there were two geezers outside the gates, apparently leaving, one with a huge Bouvier that wanted to make Spuds’ acquaintance. I started chatting with the owner, and the older of the two men, who did not appear to have a dog, noticed my Red Sox warm-up jacket and launched into a pointless tale about Carl Yastrzemski. It turns out the guy—I later learned his name was Kevin—-had been an usher at Fenway Park 50 years ago. He was thrilled to learn that I was also a Bostonian.
I was mistaken, for Kevin wasn’t leaving; his dog was still inside the dog park. Spuds took off looking for pals, and Kevin latched on to me like a barnacle. I can match anyone in Boston-related anecdotes, and periodically interjected some while Kevin rambled on about Richard Cardinal Cushing, the Bruins, Boston College, Tip O’Neill, the death of Durgan Park, Jesuits and the Kennedys. He had done a lot of things and known some famous people; he also had a background in national intelligence. Unfortunately, he kept forgetting his stories mid-tale, and each incomplete story led to another: it was like spending time with Grandpa Simpson. Kevin also walked very slowly, so I kept losing sight of Spuds.
Several of these items could support stand-alone posts, I suppose, but I have bigger metaphorical fish to fry. I’ve also figured out that traffic would look better if I broke some of these 800-1000 word posts into multiple 400-500 word bites, but to hell with it: a post should be as long as it has to to make the points I want to make. Traffic has also been excellent lately: from Election Day through yesterday EA has had the best extended streak since 2017. As usual with such surges, this has involved some quirks. For example, the post about Margaret Thatcher’s favorite poem has been leading all posts in clicks for three days. I didn’t see that coming…
1. Ethics Quiz:Which is more unethical, the creep who offers such tales out of school, or the publication that gives her a platform?
The entire genre of former school mates coming forward with unflattering and ancient anecdotes about political figures is unethical. Now that Ivanka Trump’s father is likely to be out of the White House next year, her seventh grade friend Lysandra Ohrstrom decided it was a safe to reveal what a creep the First Daughter was as a 13-year-old, because so few of us lacked a functioning ethics compass at that age. She also decided that she would enjoy being interviewed on various Trump-hating TV shows, I assume.
Why the woman continued to stay friends with someone she now says was an elitist snot is a mystery; yes, some of Lysandra’s tales impugn adult Ivanka as well as the child version.
One of her earliest memories of Ivanka is her blaming a fart on a less popular classmate. The monster! In their twenties, Ivanka asked Ohrstrom for a book suggestion and when her friend suggested “Empire Falls,” replied, “Why would you tell me to read a book about fucking poor people?” Ohrstrom also recalls Ivanka once telling her “You’ve really turned into a Marxist” during a discussion about affordable housing in Manhattan.
Is there anyone who has ever lived who doesn’t have embarrassing incidents that occurred early their lives and that they trust that the family and friends who witnessed them have the decency and loyalty not to inform the world? Ohstrom’s ignorance of the Golden Rule and her pathetic lunge for 15 minutes of fame tell us more about her character than reveal anything relevant about Ivanka Trump.
This is kind of an anti-ethical ethics comment by Steve-O-in NJ, but a useful one. Taking off from the juvenile “mean girls” criticism the First Lady gets from the news media regarding whatever she does, says or wears (while anything worn by the previous First Lady, no matter how hideous, was inevitably praised as a fashion coup), Steve lists other examples of “middle school values,” which are all things kids do, say and think before their ethics alarms are operational. I’ve numbered them for reference purposes. There are sixteen in all. Most of them, though not all, are rendered moot by even a rudimentary understanding of the Golden Rule. Ethics barely peaks is head out in #13. Barely.
Do these daily life ethics tests find me, or do I look for them?
I think they look for us all. Some just can’t see them.
It was almost 11 PM here in Alexandria on a dark night, trying to rain. I was on the way home from an annoying 7-11 errand for my wife, knowing that upon my return, Spuds would need his last walk of the day. As I drove down a neighborhood side street, I saw a small indistinct figure ahead in my headlights: it was a dark and scruffy dog. He froze for second as my car slowed, then took off running into the darkness behind me.
I started to continue home, and saw a heavy-set middle aged man walking quickly in the same direction the dog had been running. On a hunch, I pulled over and rolled down my passenger side window.
You may have missed it, but Ellen DeGeneris, the queen of daytime talk shows whose brand has always been her niceness, has had her once impeccable reputation sullied lately as employees of her show have complained about a “toxic environment” that the star did nothing to address. There’s an investigation now, and Ellen is rumored to be considering leaving “Ellen,” meaning that instead of toxic employment, her staff and production crew will have no employment at all.
In the midst of this crisis for DeGeneris, sensing a cheap opportunity to grab some publicity, kick her when she’s down, and apparently seek vengeance for a slight that he has obsessed about for more than 40 years, a man named Ben Gravolet has come forward to tell the world that…..what, that DiGeneres sexually molested him? That she was secretly working for Fidel Castro? No, Ben accused Ellen of being mean to him when he was 11 years old.
We should have seen this coming, for it is the dangerous slippery slope Christine Blasey-Ford’s dubious accusation against Bret Kavanaugh greased. Continue reading →