EARLY Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 12/6/2021: Christmas, The Great Stupid, Virtue-Signaling And A Fake Olympics Boycott

Contrary to all predictions, we got our 8 ft, real, live Christmas tree, and it didn’t cost any more than last year. The hero was 40-year neighbor Ted West, who grabbed what we needed at his annual church Christmas tree sale which sold out in less than two days.

It was between Bing and Johnny Mathis for the Christmas season musical kick-off. It had to be Bing.

1. When taste alarms don’t work…Here’s a mall Christmas display.

Crappy Tree

How do these kind of things slip by?

2. Speaking of slipping by… The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled that a jury room in Giles County named after the United Daughters of the Confederacy and decorated with a Confederate flag as well as a portrait of Jefferson Davis mandated the reversal of a jury conviction of a black defendant for aggravated assault. The defendant objected on the grounds that the jury could not hold fair deliberations in such a room. Though the the trial court disagreed, but the appellate court threw out the verdict, concluding that …[b]ecause the defendant established that the jury was exposed to extraneous information or improper outside influence and because the State failed to sufficiently rebut the presumption of prejudice, the defendant is entitled to a new trial.”

I guess they have really suggestible juries in Tennessee. I cannot imagine my deliberation on a a jury or on anything being influenced by the name of the room I was in or what was hanging on the walls. Prof. Volokh notes,

Juries have deliberated in this room for more than four decades. Presumably, every black defendant convicted in that courtroom can now object and secure a new trial. The Court did not address this issue. And other courts in the state, and probably throughout the south, may have similar deliberation rooms, or even courtrooms. If these opinions catch on, countless convictions will be vacated.

The Ethics Alarms verdicts are that a) it is ridiculous that the jury room wasn’t purged of Lost Cause propaganda decades ago, and b) the court’s ruling is irresponsible virtue-signaling. Continue reading

Being Woke, Disrespectful And Stupid Is No Way To Go Through “West Side Story,” Spielberg!

West Side story

Gee, I’m getting a lot of opportunities to write, “I told you so!” lately. But I won’t…

In 2019 Ethics Alarms noted,

There is going to be a new film version of “West Side Story,” apparently to have one that doesn’t involve casting Russian-Americans (Natalie Wood) and Greek-Americans (George Chakiris) as Puerto Ricans. Of course, it’s OK for a white character to undergo a gender and nationality change because shut-up. This is, I believe, a doomed project, much as the remakes of “Ben-Hur” and “The Ten Commandments” were doomed. Remaking a film that won ten Oscars is a fool’s errand. So is making any movie musical in an era when the genre is seen as silly and nerdy by a large proportion of the movie-going audience, especially one that requires watching ballet-dancing street gangs without giggling. Steven Spielberg, who accepted this challenge, must have lost his mind.

Ah, but apparently wokeness, not art or profit, is the main goal.

I am so glad that, based partially on this, I turned down an invitation to do a lecture right about now for the Smithsonian on the evolution of “West Side Story” through the years. For here comes the news that Stephen Spielberg, who has never directed a musical in his life on stage or screen, has completed his “improved” version with this considerate feature:

[T]o lend the movie an extra touch of authenticity, Spielberg, and screenwriter Tony Kushner, made the choice not to subtitle any of the Spanish dialogue that’s regularly heard throughout the film. Instead, multiple scenes in West Side Story take place entirely in Spanish — or with a pronounced mixture of English and Spanish — and there’s no onscreen text to fill in the gaps for non-Spanish speaking viewers.

“Extra touch of authenticity”?!! Characters are singing their feelings in the film! I assume that, as in the first film version, they are also doing ballet in the streets. Musicals have no “authenticity.” But aside from that asinine statement from Yahoo! reporter Ethan Alter, the decision to frustrate non-Spanish speaking audience members by making dialogue from the book incomprehensible cannot be defended logically or artistically. What is the objection to sub-titles? It is not only beneficial to the movie to make certain all of the audience knows what’s being said, it is basic courtesy to the original author of the book (Arthur Laurents). What is the objective of this choice?

Divisiveness and to stick it to English-speaking Americans, it seems.

Here’s one contemptuous tweeter: “Steven Spielberg a king for not including subtitles in the Spanish dialogue for his West Side Story…very bold and non-compromising. Make these losers try and decipher what the boricuas are saying along with the rest of the Latinx.” Here’s another: “”Much to love about the new West Side Story, but Steven Spielberg’s deliberate choice not to subtitle any Spanish dialogue was his most brilliant decision. Cops and Jets gang members screaming, “speak English!” The real-world parallels to the American experience of today run deep.”

One choose not to speak English, or not to learn to speak it intelligibly. And then has chosen not to be hired for any job requiring clear and effective communication with the majority of Americans. “Speak English”? Damn right. If the new film’s objective is to discredit that basic obligation of citizenship, it doesn’t just deserve to fail, it deserves to be condemned.

Yet another tweet: “Also I like there are not subtitles when they spoke Spanish. The back and fourth between English and Spanish was so familiar ( in my house Portuguese) but you get the idea. That’s how it should be.”

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“Rust,” Guns, And The Barn Door Fallacy

Barn door

The Barn Door Fallacy drives me crazy, and right now a particularly absurd outbreak of it is underway. The phenomenon, named after the old saw about “locking the barn door after the horse is gone,” is the product of pure emotionalism trumping reality: take extreme measures after a rare and perhaps preventable (though not necessarily) tragedy or accident as if doing so will change the fact that the unfortunate event happened. The “defund the police” madness was an obvious example: see, if there are no police, no police officer will ever unjustly kill an unarmed black man ever again! Problem solved! Brilliant!

These over-reactions are many things, all of them wrong. They are virtue-signalling by public officials who care less about solving a real problem than showing their empathy and outrage at something that “shouldn’t have happened.” They are irresponsible, because they advocate rushing into radical “solutions” to problems that are magnified by the proximity of the tragic event, and because the barn door fallacy advocates usually are insufficiently knowledgeable, often shockingly ignorant, in fact, regarding what they are grandstanding about. Moreover, the nostrums frequently are fueled by logical fallacies and rationalizations, such as “We have to do something!” and “If it saves just one life…!”

Much of the time, measures inspired by the Barn Door Fallacy make many things worse without making anything better. That is the likely result of the current Bran Door Fallacy freakout over the fatal gun accident on the set of “Rust,” in which a prop gun wielded by the movie’s star and producer, Alec Baldwin, fired a bullet that killed one and wounded another.

Now many in the movie industry are demanding that real guns be banned from all movie productions. Dozens of cinematographers have signed a pledge not to work on projects using functional firearms. A state lawmaker in California is drafting legislation that would ban operational firearms from sets.

Now, here’s a quiz: how many deaths from firearms have occurred on movie or TV production sets in the last, say, 50 years? Think about all the hundreds, thousands of gun battles and shootouts you have seen or know about. How many shooting deaths?

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Ethics Quiz: The Cancelled Coach’s Video Game Avatar

kyle-pitts

This is almost too stupid for Ethics Alarms to comment on, but as regular readers here know, very little is too stupid to interest me.

We discussed earlier the fate of Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who was always a pretty revolting character (and everyone knew it) but who was brought down when a bunch of his old emails were made public. One seemed pretty clearly racist; some were sexist, some were homophobic, and some were just politically incorrect to the Progressive Mob the NFL is kowtowing to these days. Gruden was forced out of his job, and now the woke brigade is in the process of making him a non-person, because the Soviet Union understood these things, I guess.

Now we learn that Gruden will be removed from the popular “Madden NFL 22” video game, as developer EA Sports announced last week. Gruden’s image will be replaced with a generic, imaginary coach who never sent emails that insulted Joe Biden.

EA Sports explained: “EA Sports is committed to taking action in maintaining a culture of inclusion and equity. Due to the circumstances of Jon Gruden’s resignation, we are taking steps to remove him from Madden NFL 22. We will replace him with a generic likeness via a title update in the coming weeks.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Is this really “doing the right thing”?

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The ACLU Believes Certain Sports Are Racist Now…

The logic and legal reasoning underlying the American Civil Liberty Union’s current bit of woke grandstanding is profoundly depressing. These people are lawyers. This is the caliber of legal minds we are supposed to trust to protect the Bill of Rights?

Central Michigan University eliminated its men’s track and field team. It shouldn’t matter why, but in its announcement of the move in May of 2020, the school cited budget concerns in the midst of the pandemic lockdown. This seems reasonable; when funds are tight, colleges should be spending money on education rather than sports. The controversy was launched when CMU decided this year to add a men’s golf program.

The decision, the ACLU of Michigan decided, was racist in light of the fate of track and field. In one letter, the organization protested that track and field was crucial to the Black community because it has “offered many a way out of oppressive poverty.”

I’d like to see the data on that.

Then the ACLU wrote the university president on September 16 that golf, in contrast, was a “white sport.” “Country clubs that have been the training grounds for elite golfers have historically been racially exclusive,” the letter states. “Add to that the expense of the sport and the socio-economic circumstances of many African Americans, and the reasons for the whiteness of golf are quite evident.”

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I’m Not Certain What The Proper Ethics Description Of The State Department Expressing “Concerns” Over The All Male Taliban Government, But “Oh, Shut The Hell Up!” Might Cover It…

In a statement that would be right at home in a satire of U.S. government cretinism like “Lil’ Abner” or “Mars Attacks!,” the Biden State Department expressed “concerns” over the composition of the new interim Afghan government announced by the Taliban. There’s just not sufficient diversity, you see.

The statement noted that the list of names announced by the Taliban earlier in the week“consists exclusively of individuals who are members of the Taliban or their close associates and no women.”

In a related statement, the State Department also expressed its shock and dismay that all the members of the interim government appeared to be Muslims, and no African-Americans were included.

OK, I’m kidding about that. But it would be no more ridiculous than the real statement. Maybe the diabolical strategy of the Biden Administration is to cause the Taliban to perish from laughing so hard their hearts explode, or something, like in Monty Pythons’ “Killer Joke” sketch. If the U.S. government has ever made an official statement that more embarrassing weak and pathetic than this one, I’d like to see it. Did the Hayes administration, after the corrupt deal in 1876 giving Rutherford B. Hayes the Presidency in exchange for pulling Federal troops out of the former Confederate states express its concern that former slaves were not being accorded the full rights of American citizens? That would be close.

This is one of the best examples of where ethics estoppel applies, easily surpassing Hillary Clinton condemning sexual harassment and demanding the female accusers of powerful men must be believed. When the U.S. abandoned the people of Afghanistan in a manner that evoked another Python classic moment…

…it forfeited all rights not to be mocked mercilessly if it dared to make any demands or express any “concerns” about what the known radical, brutal Islamists it left in power to do whatever they wanted did, which everyone knew would include treating women like a lesser species.

The Taliban talibanned women from participating in sports yesterday, and the Biden State Department thinks it is going to react to the expressed “concern” that it won’t allow women to participate in its government with anything but hilarity and derision? Who ARE these people? Does diversity and inclusion mean that our State Department has to be run by alumni of Madam Louise’s Home for the Bewildered?

What is this? Could the Biden experts we now have running our foreign policy really be this stupid and tone deaf? Or is it the public the Biden hacks think is so gullible that such hollow virtue signaling will prompt Americans to respond, “Good for us; that’s telling ’em!”? Is it women and feminists this bunch of desperate incompetents have such contempt for?

I don’t understand. What are they doing? What do they think they’re doing? What’s going on here?

The Biden Presidency is now officially an Ethics Train Wreck.

Saturday Night Ethics Fever, 6/12/21: Cruel World Edition [Corrected]

John-Travolta-Saturday-Night-Fever

1. Cruel reality. You know, I’m starting to feel less and less sorry for Merrick Garland. The man who should have been confirmed as a member of the Supreme Court has revealed himself as an ultra-political and partisan Attorney General. His latest is to darkly hint of scrutinizing “post-election audits to ensure they abide by federal statutory requirements to protect election records and avoid the intimidation of voters.” He wrote in part,

“As part of its mission to protect the right to vote, the Justice Department will, of course, do everything in its power to prevent election fraud and, if found, to vigorously prosecute it. But many of the justifications proffered in support of these post-election audits and restrictions on voting have relied on assertions of material vote fraud in the 2020 election that have been refuted by law enforcement and intelligence agencies of both this Administration and the previous one, as well as by every court — federal and state — that has considered them.”

That’s simply a lie. The claims have not been “refuted,” nor has the Federal government shown sufficient curiosity about “election fraud” to investige any of the many suspicious events related to mail-in ballots counted in Democratic strongholds in closely contested states.

Republicans take this as a veiled threat to interfere with the limited audits taking place in Arizona and Georgia. Arizona state Senator Wendy Rogers (R) minced no words in her response to the almost-SCOTUS justice, saying in part,

“You will not touch Arizona ballots or machines unless you want to spend time in an Arizona prison….The free state of Arizona will not tolerate this federal meddling. If Attorney General Merrick Garland thinks he has a right to our ballots and machines he should go to court. If he uses force when multiple courts have already authorized this audit he will be in violation of the law.”

Translation: “Bite me.”

I approve.

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The Augusta National Golf Club. Shows How Virtue-Signaling Can Be Unethical

“Virtue-signaling” was going to be the 2017 Ethics Alarms “Unethical Trend of the Year” if I had ever had time to compile that year’s “Ethics Alarms Best and Worst” lists. Until it was overtaken by “presumed racism” in 2020, it was probably the winner in 2018 and 2019 as well. Now it’s on the rise again, thanks to corporations beclowning themselves and abusing their societal roles by taking political stands based on nothing but a desire to appeal to the woke social media mobs.

Signaling one’s virtue, real or imaginary, is not necessarily unethical, but it is always obnoxious. Just as smart people don’t have claim that they are smart, good people and organizations that ostentatiously trumpet what they think will get them societal brownie points should start ethics alarms faintly ringing. I don’t trust such organizations. They are usually sucking up to what they perceive as majorities, meaning that they have no ethical principles themselves, and, sadly, most businesses don’t. At its best, virtue-signaling shows a deficit in humility, modesty, and self-restraint. Its worst is nicely demonstrated by the recent statement by Fred Ridley, the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club.

Since Major League Baseball immolated itself and gratuitously harmed the Atlanta community by relocating the 2021 All Star Game as its demonstration of unethical virtue-signaling, activist have been pushing the PGA to do the same with the Masters. Is “lemminging” a word?

The responsible course for the Masters and related parties to take would be to shut up, firmly. It is a sports organization, and should not have any position on political matters and partisan debates. But Ridley, who is especially worthless in this matter because for his golf club to lose the Masters would be a disaster of biblical proportions—“Dogs and cats, playing golf together!”—, so he has a conflict of interest, apparently couldn’t help himself, or was forced into blathering by some of his club’s more influential and less intelligent members.

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The Great Stupid Is Airborne!

Not surprising, at least to me, the carrier (in multiple senses of the word) is United, long recognized by travelers as an incorrigible ethics dunce. The latest from United, however, announced in a head-exploding tweet, is special. The airline announced,

“Our flight deck should reflect the diverse group of people on board our planes every day. That’s why we plan for 50% of the 5,000 pilots we train in the next decade to be women or people of color.”

Wait: who says the flight deck crew should reflect the demographics of the passengers? Why would anyone but a fool say that? Is there really any air traveler who cares about any characteristic of the pilot and co-pilot other than that they be the best qualified people available to fly the plane safely and deal with whatever crisis that might occur?

I know I don’t care what color, gender or ethnic group my planes’ pilots belong to. Why would I? Do you? Does any sane traveler think as they hurtle groundward, screaming, “Well, if we crash, at least it will be because the airline met its diversity quota!”

Conservative website PJ Media headlined the revolting development (Pop cultural literacy quiz! This was once a catch phrase: “What a revolting development this is!” What was the TV show, and for extra credit, who was the actor who said the line in every episode?) this way:

United Airlines Announces They Will No Longer Hire the Best Pilots

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Question: Should Ethics Alarms Develop An Official “Groveling Weenie” List?

Apology Adams

The above was authored by Scott Adams, the “Dilbert” cartoonist, who has also gained fame (or notoriety) as a “Trump whisperer.” He recently composed this “preemptive apology” for when the Cancel Mob comes for him, as it surely will. Reader Richard Marr, who pointed EA to this, asks where it fits on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale. He’s joking, of course: it’s a gag apology, and there is no category for that. It’s also a terrific grovel, which is what so many apologies from those accused of being “insensitive” or otherwise speaking or behaving contrary to mandated opinions and values from the increasingly dictatorial and threatening Left.

The Adams satire moves me to ask a serious question: Should Ethics Alarms add a page listing the revolting grovelers that have marked The Great Stupid, Americans who in fact did nothing wrong, but to keep their jobs, or status, or please demanding and arrogant peers, have prostrated themselves with statements that sound like excerpts from “The Manchurian Candidate” screenplay? The Ethics Alarms term for them is “Weenies”—weak, cowardly, venal or desperate people and entities who are content to have speech censors and ideological bullies gain power and slowly crush the spirit of liberty that has defined the United States of America. The Weenies lack the character and fortitude to stand up for the nation and its values, and would rather signal phony virtue as it is being defined by the cultural wrecking crew than display the real, more difficult virtues these times demand.

The Weenies include sports organizations like the NBA, entertainment companies like Turner Classic Movies, consumer companies like Brigham’s, journalism organizations like ESPN, and many more. They include celebrities like Sharon Osbourne, athletes like the recently retired Drew Brees, performers like Lady Antebellum, journalists like fired New York Times science and health reporter Donald McNeil, as well as professors like Matthew Mayhew and other teachers and academics too numerous to mention here. And, of course, politicians.

I will have to create a clear definition to distinguish the Weenies from the totalitarians, who they aid and enable with their groveling and virtue signaling. Georgetown Law Center, for example, is a genuine engine of totalitarianism; the two professors who meekly left its faculty because they were caught on Zoom explaining the realities of affirmative action are Weenies.

I envision this list as a group project, something like the “hate group” lists compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center, except that it will be honest and fair.

Your opinion is officially sought.