Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/10/2021: Happy Birthday, Jimmy! [UPDATED!]

Jimmy Durante was born on this day in 1893 (“The Snozzola” died 87 years later, in 1980. He’s a semi-regular around here, because it’s Jimmy’s famous line from “Jumbo” (1935) (“Elephant? What elephant?”) that describes the Ethics Alarms offense of resolutely refusing to admit an ethic breach that cannot be denied.

My father was a lifetime admirer of Jimmy, and eventually I joined him: we had all of his albums, and as a stage director I often played his renditions of a ballad (like “I’ll Be Seeing You”) for singers to demonstrate the importance of phrasing and expression, both of which Durante excelled at despite having a distinctive but hardly euphonious voice. He also impressed me with his professionalism. When my father was handling marketing for a Boston banking association, he helped arrange for his organization to be one of the sponsors of Jimmy’s show, which came to the Prudential Center in Boston. The Snozz was over 70 then, but he always seemed ageless, and his energy in person was even more impressive than it was on TV (in fact, Durante had learned to tone down his enthusiasm on the small screen, because it became exhausting to watch). He made his entrance in the stage show rushing on from the wings while singing and flinging his fedora to the back of the stage, where it landed neatly on the head of his band’s bald drummer. My father managed to get our family backstage (though Jimmy was not available because he had a charity appearance right after the show) and I talked to the drummer. I asked him how often Jimmy landed the hat on his head. He replied, “He’s never missed.” He went on to say that his boss rehearsed that bit for hours every week and before every show. It was a split second grace note, but Jimmy insisted on doing it perfectly.

Durante had a stroke after a show when he was almost 80, and never fully recovered. My father, who was uncomfortable expressing emotion face to face but wrote beautiful and touching letters (I hated getting them because they always made me cry; still do), wrote Jimmy, who was then bedridden, a letter thanking him his long entertainment career and explained what his work had meant to Dad. Jimmy’s wife Margie wrote back to say she had read the letter to Jimmy, and he had mouthed the words “Thank you.”

1. Politicizing everything. UCLA’s star gymnast Nia Dennis is getting accolades for turning her floor routine into an ” exuberant and powerful celebration” of black culture. Says Slate, “This routine has everything. Dennis pays tribute to Colin Kaepernick (she kneels!), Tommie Smith and John Carlos (she raises a fist!), and Kamala Harris (like a soror, she strolls and she steps!).” That’s funny: the only way I would recognize a reference to Harris would be if Nia cackled and blathered nonsense. The routine is more dance than gymnastics, but it’s a diabolical gimmick (don’t blame Nia: she has a woke choreographer, Bjoya Das). Any judge that doesn’t give the routine the highest marks knows he or she will be cancelled as a virulent racist.

2. Then there’s the Jeep ad…I’m not going to bother with surveying the ethically dubious Super Bowl ads this year, since they all are unethical for supporting the NFL’s ongoing negligent homicide, but I can’t let Bruce Springsteen’s obnoxious Jeep ad pass. Here it is:

[Whoa! That video was pulled from YouTube shortly after I posted it! I also can’t find a link that has it.]

“To The ReUnited States Of America.” Right. Springsteen is hardly an honest advocate for “the middle,” as a vocal Democrat and anti-Trump shill. The country is supposedly “re-united” because a Democrat is President. The entire theme of the ad is a cynical exercise in Rationalization #64, “It isn’t what it is.” Donald Trump was “divisive” because Democrats decided to paint him as such. Enforcing immigration laws shouldn’t be divisive. Withdrawing from an unapproved treaty with no actual impact shouldn’t be divisive. Calling the biased news media what it is shouldn’t be divisive. Now, calling half the country racists , Nazis and morons IS divisive, and the party that just won control of Congress and the White House has been doing that for four years. Surveys show that that half of the country is more angry, alienated and distrustful than ever, and for some very good reasons, like the current unconstitutional impeachment trial. Got it, Bruce: when Republicans win a national election it’s divisive,and when Democrats win one, it’s unifying.

Update: Apparently Jeep has received so many complaints about Bruce that they decided it was a major gaffe. How can this happen? It happens when the entire company and its ad agency is so overloaded with Democrats and progressives that they can’t see what’s right in front of them.

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An Ethics Alarms Mash-up! The Great Stupid Meets The Niggardly Principle, And The Result Is…Ridiculous

Contact Greg with your support, and then tell him not to be a weenie…

Greg Patton, a communications professor at the University of California’s Marshall School of Business who is an “expert in communication, interpersonal and leadership effectiveness,” according to his faculty bio, was explaining the common use of a Chinese filler word for “that,” comparing it to (regrettable American words such as “like,” “um,” “uh”…you know, filler.  The  Chinese word he spoke sounds similar to “an English language racial slur.” Of course, since any news source doing its job will burst into flame and its employees immediately dropped into Hell if it actually prints the word so we can know what has happened, I can only guess what the word the professor didn’t say sounded like. (See The Niggardly Principles)

Ah HA! finally found it. The Chinese word is “na ge,” pronounced “nah geh.”

(Can you believe it’s come to this??)

So because the professor used a word that sounded like that mystery Word That Can Not Be Told, though nobody thought he was really using that word, but some students just wanted to signal their virtue and cause him trouble, USC has placed Patton on leave while another instructor  teaches the class.

Hold on to your head and read this statement from Marshall (Great, now I have to change my name out of shame.):

“Recently, a USC faculty member during class used a Chinese word that sounds similar to a racial slur in English. We acknowledge the historical, cultural and harmful impact of racist language..”  Well, that’s a non sequitur! It isn’t racist language, is it? The Greek word for “good morning” and the Greek word for “squid” sound alike if you don’t know Greek. Is a Greek calling you a squid because you misunderstood him?

The statement went on to say that Professor Patton “agreed to take a short term pause while we are reviewing to better understand the situation and to take any appropriate next steps.”  What’s there to understand? He did nothing wrong. What next steps?

Now, USC says, it is “offering supportive measures to any student, faculty, or staff member who requests assistance” and is committed to building a culture of respect and dignity where all members of our community can feel safe, supported, and can thrive.”

Except for professors, who must live in fear of cheap shot complaints like this one, and craven administrators who let students succeed with them.

I have no sympathy for Prof. Patton if he submits to this. He has an obligation to fight it, and, if necessary embarrass the school. If he just meekly slinks away to be “re-educated,” then he’s complicit in this frightening campaign of intimidation and censorship.

Tales Of The Niggardly Principals

Quite a bit of the censorship, word-banning and historical air-brushing we are seeing during the George Floyd Freakout, aka The Great Stupid, are fueled by ignorance, like that of the black D.C. employee in 1999 who forced  David Howard, an aide to Mayor Anthony A. Williams, to resign for using a “racial slur.”  (“Niggardly (noun: niggard) is an adjective meaning  stingy or miserly. It is derived from the Middle English word nigard, which is probably derived from Old Norse hnǫggr , meaning “stingy”) After Howard was reinstated, there was wide agreement that this was political correctness run amuck. Julian Bond, then chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said, You hate to think you have to censor your language to meet other people’s lack of understanding…Seems to me the mayor has been niggardly in his judgment on the issue” and noted that the US has a “hair-trigger sensibility” on race that can be tripped by both real and false grievances.”

Ah, those were the days! Imagine as statement like that coming from the NAACP today.

The core idea behind the three Niggardly Principles is that ignorance and stupidity should not be enabled, reward or encouraged, though it is unkind—unethical—to deliberately set out to offend someone even if the source of the offense is the individual’s knowledge or intellectual deficit. (That’s the Second Niggardly Principle.)

I do not think that one applies to this episode: Greg and Kjersten Offenecker, owners of The Nordic Pineapple in St. Johns, Michigan removed  the Norwegian flag and an American flag posted outside their Civil War-era mansion last week because morons had accused them of promoting racism in the largely conservative Michigan town.

The couple said they capitulated after receiving “at least a dozen hateful emails” and other complaints.  “I don’t see it because I grew up with the Norwegian flag.To me they are two distinct flags,” shrugged Kjersten.

They ARE two distinct flags, you cowardly, submissive enabler of race bullies.!You should have issued each sender of those emails an explanation. You should have put out a press release clarifying the difference between the flags. You should have extended a little time and commitment  to protect speech and expression from sinister efforts to intimidate and censor by the proto-totalitarian Left, which is getting less proto- by the hour. Too much trouble to do your duty to fight for American values and principles, is it? Then I pronounce you a lazy and irresponsible citizen.

Here’s the Norwegian flag next to the Confederate flag:

They are not the same design. They do not have the same colors. Why are you allowing people this stupid to dictate your conduct? And if you remove the American flag because some vile mutation of citizen complains, you are as anti-American as it is. You are the kind of submissive coward who would raise a Nazi flag because your neighbors insisted on it.

The United States cannot survive if it is dominated by the ignorant and the meekly submissive.

Boy, Norway is so lovely this time of year. I don’t know how you can stay away… Continue reading

Tales Of The Great Stupid, Niggardly Principles Chapter

I am most grateful—I think—to  Ethics Bob Stone for bringing this story to my attention. It gives me hope, it really does, that we are quickly arriving at the point where the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck will be revealed to all as being driven and enabled by people so silly and stupid, that there will be an ear-splitting slapping sound across the land, as Americans of sense and perspective bring their palms to their foreheads in the humbling realization that they have been taking seriously the blathering of fools and ignoramuses.

And with a ripple of embarrassed laughter, the suddenly enlightened  will immediately begin going about life as they once did, devoid of self-flagellating guilt for believing in  a land and a system where people are, or should be, judged by their talents, enterprise, accomplishments and the content of their character, and not, whether black, Black, white or other hues and shades, the color of their skin, their ancestors, or what their ancestors did or didn’t do. Thereafter this period of unrestrained hate and statue-toppling, the cancel culture,  fear, groveling, virtue-signaling and grandstanding will come to be known as “The Great Stupid,” and we will collectively wonder, as with the Dutch Tulip Mania of the 17th Century and Disco, how the Hell something so mad could have happened, and for so long. Continue reading

The Ethics Mess That Is US Race Relations, Chapter I: The Killingly Redmen Fiasco

In Killingly, Connecticut, the local high school’s mascot has long been  a Plains Indian, and its athletic teams have been called the Redmen. Then, in 2019, the Nipmuc Tribal Council across the state border in Massachusetts complained that the name and mascott were offensive. [There’s an interesting discussion of the association of the color red with Native Americans here.]  Once the complaint was made, other Native American groups decided, “Yeah! We’re offended too!” along with usual gang of offended-by -proxy political correctness zealots. (Does this all sound familiar? It should.)

As typically happens in such situations, the people in charge decided to take the path of least resistance—this is how political correctness and expression suppression take hold, as you know–and in July, the Killingly  school board voted to eliminate  “Redmen” and the mascot and change it to “Redhawks.” It’s just a name, right?

Well, not this time. The uproar was so great that restoring “Redmen” became an election issue. Supporters of the old name and mascot took  control of the school board in the November 2019 election. However, while the new members had enough votes to eliminate the “Redhawks” name, they couldn’t muster enough to restore “Redmen.” “There is no mascot at this point,” said Craig Hanford, the new Republican board chairman, and he sent the dispute to a committee.

Fans of the football team, it was reported, shouted “Go Redmen!” during games during the rest of the season, wore Redmen jerseys and hats, and told anyone who asked that there was nothing racist about the name. One fan wore the grammatically perplexing sweatshirt, “Born a Redmen, Raised a Redmen, Will Die a Redmen.Continue reading

Friday Afternoon Ethics Jolt, 9/6/2019: Unethical Teachers, Schools, Pundits, Lawyers And Australians

Perk up!

1. Now THIS violates the Niggardly Principles! Poor, angry, Australian vegan Cilla Carden has filed complaint after complaint with various courts, most recently the State Administrative Tribunal of Western Australia and the state Supreme Court arguing her neighbors cook fish so often on the barbie that she’s been deprived the enjoyment of life.

“All I can smell is fish! I can’t enjoy my backyard, I can’t go out there,” Carden told reporters. Yet her entreaties keep getting thrown out of court, even though she says the neighbors are deliberately trying to nauseate her.

So, naturally, after Carden’s story went viral,someone launched a Facebook page titled Community BBQ for Cilla Carden  promoting an event scheduled for Oct. 19, in which Australian carnivores will descend on  Carden’s neighborhood grilling like there’s no tomorrow.

“Don’t let Cilla destroy a good old Aussie tradition, join us for a community BBQ in protest of her actions, and help Cilla Carden GET SOME PORK ON HER FORK,” the event invitation says. More than 4,500 Aussies have RSVP’d.

2. Of course, many of us knew this from the start. In a video posted to Twitter,  Debra Katz, the lawyer for Christine Blasey Ford says that Kavanaugh “will always have an asterisk next to his name” when he “takes a scalpel” to  Roe v. Wade. This, she says, is “part of what motivated Christine,” and Katz adds,

“I believe that Christine’s testimony brought about more good than the harm misogynist Republicans caused by allowing Kavanaugh on the Court, We were going to have a conservative. Elections have consequences.”

Translation: Blasey-Ford’s objective, enabled by her unthical lawyer, was to smear Kavanaugh to make it easier to impugn his motives when he was part of an entirely hypothetical, opinion overturning Roe in a yet to be filed or accepted case. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/8/2018: George Washington, Elaine Chao, Brown-Haired Fox News Babes And Clumsy Cheerleaders

Good Morning!

1. Diversity at Fox News! There was a brunette co-anchor sitting with Bill Hemmer this morning. I almost spit out my coffee, Now if the network would only hire a female newsreader who wouldn’t be a credible contestant in a beauty pageant, the culture might advance a bit…

2.  Can an employer refuse to hire an asshole? The NFL Players Association has filed a grievance  on behalf of free-agent safety Eric Reid,  alleging collusion that has denied him a job for the upcoming 2018 season, and arguing that no NFL rule mandates players stand during the playing of the national anthem, that the league has indicated it respects “the rights of players to demonstrate,” and the collective bargaining agreement states “league rules supersede club rules.”

The grievance loses, or the NFL is in big trouble. Well, it is already in trouble, but more trouble. Demonstrating players annoys fans and hurts business. The NFL may force teams to allow jerks like Reid and ex-player Colin Kaepernick to interfere with Sunday head-bashing frolic by imposing their half-baked politics on the proceedings, but team can certainly choose to pay million dollar contracts to players who have better judgment, and are thus more trustworthy employees.

3. At George Washington University, it’s The Political Correctness Morons vs. The Conflict-Averse Spineless! I can’t believe I’m writing this. No, of course I can: I’ve predicted it.

The following on-line petition has garnered the requisite number of signatures among George Washington University students, and now will get an official response:

“We, as students of the George Washington University, believe it is of great exigence that the University changes its official mascot. The use of “Colonials,” no matter how innocent the intention, is received as extremely offensive by not only students of the University, but the nation and world at large. The historically, negatively-charged figure of Colonials has too deep a connection to colonization and glorifies the act of systemic oppression. Alternative nickname recommendations are “Hippos,” “Revolutionaries”, or “Riverhorses.”

They apparently don’t teach American history at GW.  The nickname  for the athletic teams  is “The Colonials” because the United States, prior to its liberation, were called “the Colonies,” because they were colonies. Colonials are those who have been colonized, not those who do the colonizing. The mascot, meanwhile, is called “George,” because he is a caricature of George Washington, who led the Colonials to victory over Great Britain, and anyone who can’t puzzle that out shouldn’t be in college.

The petition represents the mutant offspring of a one night stand between The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck and The Niggardly Principles.

Who will win? Oh, the Morons, probably. On campuses the Morons almost always defeat the spineless administrators, as well as common sense and rationality. [Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur]

Oh…here’s George:

4.  Speaking of spineless…The cheerleading  coaches at Hanover Park High School in New Jersey decided that there would be no more try-outs for the squad. The school’s athletic director said that after a single mother complained about her daughter not making the cut, the policy would be changed in favor of “inclusion.” The school board released a statement saying: Continue reading

Review: Ethics Alarms Concepts And Special Terms

Recently updating the Ethics Alarms list of concepts and frequently used terms reminded me that I had been meaning to post them for review and assistance to those relatively new here. Of course, the link has always been right there at the top of the home page, but I have this sneaking suspicion that it isn’t visited very often.  Here, then, is the up-to-date list.

CONCEPTS

Non-Ethical Considerations: Defined above, non-ethical considerations are important because they are often the powerful impediments to ethical conduct, and the cause of many conflicts of interest. Non-ethical considerations are many and diverse, and include:

  • The need and desire for shelter, health, wealth, fame, security, self-esteem, reputation, power, professional advancement, comfort, love, sex, praise, credit, appreciation, affection, or satisfaction
  • The desire for the health, comfort, safety, welfare and happiness for one’s family, loved ones, friends, colleagues, an co-workers
  • The pursuit of vengeance or retribution
  • Hunger, lust, pain, ambition, prejudice, bias, hatred, laziness, fatigue, disgust, anger, fear
  • …and many more

Ethical Dilemma: This is an ethical problem in which the ethical choice involves ignoring a powerful non-ethical consideration. Do the right thing, but lose your job, a friend, a lover, or an opportunity for advancement. A non-ethical consideration can be powerful and important enough to justify choosing it over the strict ethical action.

Ethical Conflict: When two ethical principles demand opposite results in the same situation, this is an ethical conflict. Solving ethical conflicts may require establishing a hierarchy or priority of ethical principles, or examining the situation through another ethical system.

Ethical Gray Area: Gray areas are situations and problems that don’t fit neatly into any existing mode of ethical analysis. In some cases, there may even be a dispute regarding whether ethics is involved.

Reciprocity: The ethical system embodied by The Golden Rule, and given slightly different form in other religions and philosophies. It is a straight-forward way of judging conduct affecting others by putting oneself in the position of those affected. Reciprocity should always be available in any ethical analysis, but it is frequently too simple to be helpful in complex ethical situations with multiple competing interests.

Absolutism: Absolutist systems do not permit any exception to certain ethical principles. The champion of all absolutists, philosopher Immanuel Kant, declared that the ethical act was one that the actor was willing to have stand as a universal principle.

One principle of absolutism is that human beings can never be harmed for any objective, no matter how otherwise worthwhile. Absolutism has the advantage of making tough ethical calls seem easy, and the disadvantage of making debate impossible. One sees absolutism reflected today in the controversies over war, torture, abortion, cloning, and capital punishment.

Utilitarianism: Utilitarianism accepts the existence of ethical conflicts and the legitimacy of some ethical dilemmas, and proposes ethical analysis based on the question, “Which act will result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people?’ It entails the balancing of greater and lesser goods, and is useful for unraveling complex ethical problems. Its drawback, or trap, is that utilitarianism can slide into “The ends justify the means” without some application of absolutist and reciprocity principles.

Consequentialism: In formal ethics, utilitarian schools of philosophy are sometimes lumped together as “consequentialism,” in that the ethical decision-making is based on seeking the best result. Here we just uses the above term, utilitarianism.  Consequentialsm, in contrast, is the flawed belief that the rightness or wrongness, or even wisdom, of chosen conduct is measures by its actual results rather than its intended results. If “if all worked out for the best,” in other words, the conduct that created the desirable result most have been ethical, whatever its intent or however the conduct was determined to be necessary or desirable. This is a fallacy.

Cognitive Dissonance:
Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon first identified by Leon Festinger. It occurs when there is a discrepancy between what a person believes, knows and values, and persuasive information that calls these into question. The discrepancy causes psychological discomfort, and the mind adjusts to reduce the discrepancy. In ethics, cognitive dissonance is important in its ability to alter values, such as when an admired celebrity embraces behavior that his or her admirers deplore. Their dissonance will often result in changing their attitudes toward the behavior. Dissonance also leads to rationalizations of unethical conduct, as when the appeal and potential benefits of a large amount of money makes unethical actions to acquire it seem less objectionable than if they were applied to smaller amounts.

Moral Luck: The common situation where an unethical act is only discovered, noticed, or deemed worthy of condemnation due to unpredictable occurrences that come as a result of the act or that affect its consequences. Moral luck is the difference, for example, between two mildly intoxicated drivers, one of whom arrives home without incident, while the other has an unwary child dash in front of his automobile, leading to a fatal accident that he couldn’t have avoided if completely sober. Yet the unlucky driver will be a pariah in the community, while the more fortunate driver goes on with his life.

SPECIAL TERMS USED ON ETHICS ALARMS

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Observations On The La Jolla High Cartoon Controversy

I was going to make this an Ethics Quiz, but category that  can’t quite encompass the issues involved, and the more I considered it, the more certain I became of what should have happened. Here is the story:

A student-drawn cartoon was  published last month in the La Jolla High School’s “Hi-Tide” newspaper. It depicted eight ethnic groups in a blatantly stereotypical manner ( which is to say, it was a cartoon), with each figure pictured wearing T-shirts with messages  reinforcing the stereotypes. The cartoonist’s purpose was to lampoon the controversial H&M ad that caused the company to pull the ad and apologize:

Here was the student’s cartoon…

The requisite number of sensitive students and /or their sensitive parents complained about the cartoon to compel the school principal to grovel an apology, saying that the decision to publish the cartoon was an “error in judgment and a breach of all the values we hold dear at La Jolla High School,” since the cartoon depicted multiple ethnic groups as “ugly racial stereotypes.”

Observations: Continue reading