Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/23/2020: You Know, If People Keep Putting Impeachment Ethics Fouls In Front Of Me, I May Have To Comment On Them

Good Morning!

January 23 is a big day in ethics, good and bad. In 1964, poll taxes were finally banned via the 24th Amendment. In 1973, peace was finally declared in the Vietnam War (though it was hardly the “peace with honor” President Nixon called it.)In 1977, “Roots” debuted as a TV mini-series, helping to educate millions of Americans who knew very little about slavery.  In 1988, the Challenger exploded as a result of an engineering ethics breakdown. On this day in 1998, Bill Clinton looked America in the eye and denied having sex with Monica. Of course, he wasn’t lying, because he meant “sexual intercourse.” Sure. And finally, in 1989, Ted Bundy was electrocuted. Good.

1. Impeachment notes. I will not watch the trial, but these kinds of things that come to my attention cannot be ignored:

Instead, we are here today to consider a much more grave matter, and that is an attempt to use the powers of the presidency to cheat in an election. For precisely this reason, the President’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box—for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won. In corruptly using his office to gain a political advantage, in abusing the powers of that office in such a way as to jeopardize our national security and the integrity of our elections, in obstructing the investigation into his own wrongdoing, the President has shown that he believes that he is above the law and scornful of constraint.

Good Lord. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/27/2019: Two Bingos, Two Drag Shows, and Poop

Good morning!

1. Is it me, or is this TV commercial indefensibly gross, and signals the impending end of civilization?

2.  Reasons not to duck the New York Times op-ed pages…Yale student Kathryn Hu contributed a sane and thoughtful essay on the topic of classic operas with characters and plot elements that seem sexist or racist to today’s more enlightened audiences. As we know, today’s “woke” censors of the arts and arbiters of what we are allowed to watch and hear have their own solution: never do the piece again, despite its obvious virtues, or interpret and rewrite it out of existance or into nausea, like John Legend injecting “It’s your body and your choice” into the lyrics of “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” I had to suppress my gorge from rising while reading this article, for example, that described the current production of  J.M Barry’s 1904 classic “Peter Pan” in Washington D.C:

In [Playwright Lauren Gunderson’s] version now playing at Shakespeare Theatre Company (retitled Peter Pan and Wendy…), the character of Tiger Lily has been completely reconceived. No more the helpless princess in distress, Tiger Lily is now a spirited and fearless Native rights activist whose people thrived in Neverland long before Captain Hook’s pirate ship dropped anchor and Peter showed up with the Lost Boys.

Because as we know, there were so many Native American activists in 1904. To anyone with brain cells and cultural perspective that haven’t been woked to death, it is obvious that Barry’s Neverland is a child’s fanciful impression of Indians, pirates, and friendly wild animals. It has nothing to do with reality , so imposing current day adult political views on the and characters is neither fair nor necessary.

Hu’s solution to the supposed horrors of 19th Century biases and social mores in opera: Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: That Peloton Commercial

Hmmmm.

As regular readers here know, I often criticize TV ads for sending unethical messages or endorsing unethical conduct. I have even been accused of being hypersensitive on the subject. With the controversial Peloton commercial above,  I missed it, if there was  an it to miss.

The surprising thing is that a lot of the objections to the ad are coming from the Right. If I had bothered to think about the Peloton commercial, I would have perhaps detected that it was sexist, with a critical husband demanding that his already apparent fit and lovely wife get in better shape, and she dutifully complying. Indeed the Left was annoyed: Yashir Ali, who writes for HuffPo and New York Magazine (and you know what THAT means) captured the spirit of the objections:

Another tweeter wrote, “So sweet. My husband was inspired by the Peloton ad to get me a pair of pants in a child’s medium and a handwritten note that says “Don’t fucking touch me till you can fit into these.”

The Right, however, was equally disdainful. Allahpundit wrote,

The weird part is the … eagerness with which she shows her gratitude. It’s lovely to be grateful for an expensive gift, but she’s *really* grateful and *really, really* wants her husband to know it. It’s not just that she feels compelled to record herself using the bike repeatedly over a span of many months. She looks curiously anxious doing it, even when smiling into the camera. At the end of the clip, when she finally shows him the footage, her eyes are trained on his reaction, seemingly desperate for his approval. Is, um… How do I put this? Is everything okay between these two?

Another conservative wag, Steven Kruiser, wrote, Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/31/2018: “Goodbye 2018, And Good Riddance!” Edition

Happy dying gasps of 2018!

1. Double standards inquiry: Will someone please explain to me why this magazine cover, which made O.J. Simpson blacker than he really is…

 

was universally condemned as racist, and this current cover of New York Times Magazine, making the late Aretha Franklin look like a ravenous rotting zombie from Hell..

…is just an artistic choice? (ARRGHHHHH!!!)

2. And speaking of looks…It is impossible not to notice that TV commercials are increasingly featuring overweight, ordinary-looking actors instead of the impossibly beautiful people who once were the automatic choices to sell products. This is an ethical development for the culture generally, and should help children develop more realistic aspirations regarding their own appearance. Now if only TV dramas would adopt the same inclusive casting policies—a particularly egregious candidate for reform is “law and Order” creator Dick Wolf.  His old series cast one eye-popping beauty after another as the male ADA’s sidekick, and now he is stocking his current NBC line-up of Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, and Chicago PD, with police women, female firefighters and distaff doctors who would be right at home in the pages of Vogue.

3.  More on “Enemies of the People”: Novelist and conservative gadfly Sarah Hoyt has issued a spirited defense—okay, it’s a screed, a rant even— of President Trump’s characterization of the news media, going over ground I have covered (most recently here and here), but with special brio. Read the whole thing— she is mostly right, if a bit hyperbolic and inflammatory—but here are some highlights: Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 11/4/2018 (Part I): Gary Hart’s Prophesy, Media Values, And High School Babylon [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

I’m headed to Boston this afternoon for one of my semi-monthly ethics seminars for new Mass. bar admittees. I have been having bad luck with keeping up on the blog while traveling of late, so I’m going to post a two-part Warm-Up to try to avoid falling too far behind.

1. Maureen Dowd made my head explode with her ridiculous profile of Gary Hart—you know, Donna Rice, “Monkey Business”—so I’m going to rely heavily on Ann Althouse’s analysis which parallels mine. Her head is just more resilient, apparently. [Tangent: I wonder how Ann’s traffic is doing? I have noticed that progressive commenters have virtually disappeared from her blog as well, where a couple of years ago they were equally represented. I don’t consider Althouse a conservative at all: she is relentlessly objective and non-partisan, and mostly serves as the web’s best bullshit detector. She has, however, defended the President against unfair attacks and hypocrisy, and called out the news media for fake news, fake headlines, and bias. That’s asking for a boycott, apparently.) Hart makes this statement:

“If all that stuff had not happened and if I had been elected, there would have been no gulf war. H.W. wouldn’t have been president. W. wouldn’t have been president. Everything would have changed. I don’t say that to aggrandize myself. It’s just, history changed. And that has haunted me for thirty years. I had only one talent and it wasn’t traditional politics — I could see farther ahead than anybody.”

I could write a long essay about this arrogant nonsense with my eyes closed. Ann had the same instant reaction I did: Funny, you weren’t able to foresee that daring reporters to check on your martial virtue would result in your being caught adultery-handed in Clintonesque trysts, you big dummy. (My words, not Ann’s.) And if hindsight is 20-20, hindsight aternate future readings are even better. Gary needs to study Chaos Theory  a bit more closely, and watch that old Star Trek episode. For all he knows, his election would have resulted in the world being taken over by Mole People.

Althouse also flagged the Dowd section where the Queen of Snark writes,

“As we fantasize about a parallel universe, where America is not a joke and our president cares about other human beings, the same questions keep swirling in our heads. What has happened to this country? Can he be stopped? When will it end? How the hell did we get here?”

Wow, Talk about bias making you stupid. To many of us who are at least as smart as Maureen, America is a joke when it embraces open borders and edicts by international organizations, when it warps the Constitution by declaring that men and police can be guilty until proven innocent if a member of a favored group accuses them, and allows a partisan news media to control public opinion. It’s not a very funny joke, though. Some trenchant comments on Ann’s post:

“I don’t know why I’m still surprised by liberals’ inability to do any real soul-searching. You’d think by now, after many hundreds of “how did we get here, why aren’t smart people like me listened to by the stupids?” articles, I’d give up hope that they will ever open their eyes and see what’s right in front of them. But then I remember, I’m a pollyanna. I can’t give up on anybody.”

***

“It would seem obvious to me that Trump does care about human beings, but not the ones Dowd think he should be caring about. And maybe her friends consider America a joke, and maybe that’s why we got were we are..”

***

“Dowd’s perspective is Technocratic. Society needs to be supervised by an educated elite. Democracy is just mob rule that will lead to ruin. But, we have to put on a facade so that the deplorables will accept our edicts. So we do the election thing, but the real rules are set behind the scenes by career bureaucrats. Politicians and the medias’ job is to set the agenda and influence popular opinion towards the “correct” attitudes”

Bingo. Bingo. Bingo. Continue reading

Gay Stereotype Ethics

I admit it: I no longer understand gay stereotypes, or even if they are gay stereotypes anymore. What are the rules, and the ethics, now?

Take Jamie, the newish character in the Progressive insurance commercials, as longtime spokes-character Flo (Stephanie Courtney) approaches late middle age  and viewer fatigue. Everything about Jamie is stereotypically gay, and on top of that, he’s a silly character. (The actor is excellent and funny. Boy, will I be impressed to learn that he is straight. …let’s see…HOLY COW! His name is Jim Cashman, and apparently he IS straight! Wait…then he is deliberately playing a transparently gay man? And making him both funny and goofy? Silly gay characters were standards fair in Hollywood for decades, but the message was that gay men were ridiculous and laughable.

I don’t see how Jamie is any different from the outrageous gay stereotypes that were ridiculing gay men right up until  recently. Like Martin Short, in “Father of the Bride”: Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Harassing McGruff: Oh-Oh…Am I Going Crazy?”

I’m going to post the whole ad at issue again, because it is an essential reference point for context:

My almost entirely serious post about the GEICO ad showing McGruff the Crime Dog being subjected to office harassment based on his appearance and species/race prompted more and more diverse commentary than I expected, and one slam-dunk Comment of the Day, by Zanshin, who has a record of deconstructing oddball Ethics Alarms posts.

Three points:

1. I was not aware that McGruff had starred in anti-bullying videos, and I doubt that any but a tiny fraction of the intended audience for the GEICO commercial is either,

2. Kudos to Zanshin for seeing a connection to The Jehovah Paradox, which I did not. It is not often that I am told that I don’t understand my own inventions, but he makes an excellent argument. I also need to add TJP to the Ethics Alarms list of concepts and special terms, which I had neglected to do.

3. I just saw the ad again, and it still feels to me like GEICO is making light of workplace racism, bullying and harassment, and

Here is Zanshin’s Comment of the Day on the post, Harassing McGruff: Oh-Oh…Am I Going Crazy?:

Jack asked, […] am I just seeing an ethics breach that isn’t there?

My answer, You saw only the unethical part in this commercial because you didn’t have the context to ‘see’ the ethical part in it.

tl/dr

1. McGruff is subjected to cruel bullying and office harassment.

2. Is that an ethics breach? No, not if one understands “The Jehovah Paradox”.

3. In the commercial McGruff doesn’t break character.

4. (At the minimal) the commercial doesn’t go against the teachings of McGruff.

5. The commercial makers should have done a better job in making the teachings of McGruff more explicit.
(But maybe couldn’t given intellectual property/licensing issues?)

Let me explain. Continue reading