Ethics On A Rainy Day, 9/10/2020: Customer Service, Rights On Campus, And Kamala Harris Is Still Embarrassing Herself

1. I worry about sounding like Andy Rooney or George Costanza’s father, but I have a lot of problems with these people!

  • One of our medical insurance carriers who is paid automatically from our account sold its customers to another company. It didn’t tell us, didn’t write us, didn’t alert us at all. The new company wrote a letter, which got tossed because we assumed it was junk mail.  Of course, the new company wasn’t getting the automatic payment, so after three months, it cancelled the coverage. I learned about this when a drug that typically cost three bucks for 90 pills  was suddenly 12 times that when I went to the pharmacy to pick it up.
  • A certain bar association that will not be mentioned alerted me to a dues issue and some missing information. The letter said, “Do not hesitate to call [this number].” When I called that number, I got a message that said that the office was temporarily closed “due to Covid 19” —I guess they meant the Wuhan virus—and there was no opportunity to leave a message.
  • Having switched to Comcast from AT&T, I have discovered that when you call Comcast information at 411 and ask for “Comcast customer service,” the computer says that there is no record of that number.

2. Admittedly, pointing out that Kamala Harris is shockingly dim is like shooting fish in a barrel, but her comments about the Jacob Blake shooting are so frighteningly unethical—incompetent, irresponsible.

First, she said  in a CNN interview that based on the video of Jacob Blake’s shooting, the white police officer who shot him should be charged, insisting that it was “very clear” that the charges should be “considered in a very serious way and that there should be accountability and consequence.” (And why does she talk like that?) First, as we have discussed here regarding episodes like Barack Obama impugning George Zimmerman before the facts were known and the various officials pronouncing Officer Chauvin guilty, as well as Wisconsin’s Governor and Lt. Governor doing the same regarding Blake’s shooters, this kind of mouthing off by elected officials robs defendants of the right to a fair trial. When President Nixon said, in 1970, that Charles Manson was “guilty, directly or indirectly, of eight murders without reason,”  Manson’s attorneys immediately demanded a mistrial, saying Nixon had irredeemably tainted the jury pool.  It was just moral luck that the motion failed.

Then Harris decided to visit Blake’s family with Blake himself participating by phone, and gushed, “I mean, they’re an incredible family.And what they’ve endured, and they just do it with such dignity and grace. And you know, they’re carrying the weight of a lot of voices on their shoulders.”

Blake broke into the home of his ex-girlfriend in May, allegedly raped her, stole her car keys and debit card and fled the scene. Wisconsin issued  an open warrant for Blake’s arrest for third-degree sexual assault and a restraining order which Blake violated, thus prompting the fateful police confrontation, where he resisted arrest and placed one officer in a headlock.

Blake’s father, meanwhile, has posted racist and anti-Semitic rants on social media.

What an incredible family! Continue reading

Mid-Day Ethics Meanderings, 7/22/2020: Relax, The Duke Is Safe.

1 .Another shoe drops: The Boston Red Sox announced that they would “support” any players who chose to kneel during the National Anthem when The Strangest Baseball Season since World War II, when teams fielded 16-year-old infielders and one-armed outfielders, commences tomorrow. The announcement was no surprise, and this team in particular had little choice.

Boston’s AL team is forever viewed with suspicion on race issues because it was the last major league team to break the color line, and because it passed on opportunities to sign some of the early black stars. Last season a visiting player claimed to hear a racist slur hurled his way from the Fenway Park bleachers, and the Red Sox management has been ostentatiously “woke,” cancelling Tom Yawkey  from the Fenway environs  though the team owes its existence to the long-time owner’s beneficence. He was rumored to be a racist, however, and that was enough to justify erasing his name (except from his initials in Morse Code on the scoreboard).

2.  Bad service only matters for drug stores, apparently. State regulators in Oklahoma cited and fined CVS for conditions found at four of its pharmacies, including inadequate staffing and errors made in filling prescriptions. Staffing just about everywhere is unfriendly to consumers—indeed, most stores were understaffed even before the lockdown, now half-lockdown while the teachers extort the country.

Our local CVS, where I have many ethics adventures, now has minimal staff, including in the pharmacy,  because there are so few customers lately. Hilariously, the store’s auto-scan checkout option is one of the features that requires staff: the damn things don’t work half the time, or a staffer has to lead some confused senior through the process.

3. Unfortunately, it’s more difficult than ever to believe sexual harassment allegations. #MeToo so egregiously overplayed its hand and has been so schizophrenic in its standards that I have to look at any high-profile allegations as potentially motivated by politics. In an action that must have been well underway before the Washington Redskins  suddenly caved and agreed to change the team’s name (yet another poll, a new one, has indicated that the vast majority of football fans and Native Americans have no problem with “Redskins”), 15 female ex-employees told The Washington Post that they were sexually harassed while working for the organization. Shortly thereafter, a Fox News staffer and periodic on-air guest filed suit in federal court alleging they had been harassed or raped  by Ed Henry, the Fox News reporter who was fired for “willful sexual misconduct in the workplace,”  The suit also alleges harassment by  Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, the latter perpetually on “the resistance’s” hit list and the target of boycotts, and Carlson recently becoming a force as a pundit. Therefore he must be destroyed.

Do I find it hard to believe that the Redskins, or any NFL team, has a culture hostile to female employees? No. Do I think that Fox News has effectively banished its pervasive workplace sexism and misogyny since the forced exits of the late Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly?  Absolutely not. Do I think weaponizing sexual harassment allegations has become a predictable and unethical tactic on the Left, (See: Mathews, Chris) thus making the timing of both of these sets of complants suspicious?

Is Bismark a herring?*

4. More things  now as predictable as they are indefensible. The University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts will remove its John Wayne exhibit as part of the school’s efforts to address “systemic racism” in society with obnoxious, shallow and foolish gestures.

The Duke graduated from USC, of course (he was raised in Iowa), and the justification for his dishonoring was an admittedly dumb interview he gave Playboy in 1971, where he was obviously (to me, anyway, at the time) trolling a liberal and hostile magazine by saying exactly the kinds of things  the Wayne haters expected him to say. (I always assumed he was drunk during that interview.) This move by USC was expected—California, universities: you know, morons. As Spiked noted, Wayne’s importance to the culture and the history of film by virtue of his on-screen portrayals should not be diminished by any interview the actor did.

As an actor and a director,Wayne was careful to portray characters who respected blacks and other minorities as human beings. In “The Cowboys,” for example, he is routinely reprimanded and shown up by his black cook, played by the great Rosco Lee Browne. In many movies, like “McClintock!,” “Hondo” and “Fort Apache,” he demonstrated sympathy and respect for Native Americans; Wayne also prominently featured Chinese-American actor H.W. Gim in his films whenever feasible from 1942 on, notably as his landlord Chin Lee in “True Grit.”

If his character was a racist, Wayne didn’t hesitate to represent racism negatively, as when he opposed his black ranch hand (Woody Strode) learning to read in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” because Wayne’s character is hostage to archaic traditions, or when he seems determined to murder his white niece (Natalie Wood) because she has lived with Native Americans and presumably had sex with a chief.

All of John Wayne’s wives were also Mexican, meaning that his four children are “Persons of Color.”

Never mind. Wayne’s legacy and hold on the culture is unbreakable. Just last week I stumbled about four of his films on cable. They’ll get Mt. Rushmore before they shoot down the Duke. [Pointer: Pennagain]

__________________________

*Cultural literacy bonus points for identifying the source.

Another Vote For “The Washington Code Talkers”

The Washington Redskins ownership finally was forced to capitulate in the decades long- battle to force a beloved and fanatically supported NFL team to ditch the name that fans were beloving on the dubious theory, rejected by most native Americans and people capable of  critical thought, that despite all outside appearances having a team carrying a  Native American name dishonors Indians rather than keeps their story up front and vital in American consciousness and culture. Because the decision was a sudden biproduct of the George Floyd Freakout, the D.C. team wasn’t prepared for a change, and had no names in reserve. (It apparently had a shot at the name “Warriors,” which alliterates at least, but was late moving on the copyright and trademarks, so that name has, as they say, left the wigwam.

Meanwhile, gag names are flying around like arrows at the Little Big Horn, so ending the mockery is urgent. We are hearing calls for the Washington Weasels, the Washington Swamp-Dwellers, the Washington Investigators, the Washington Slime, The Washington Bootlickers…even the retro “Washington Murderous Savages.”  (I was an early advocate for “The Washington Concussions.”) However, one serious suggestion offered by the President of the Navajo Nation Jonathan Nez is brilliant: the Washington Code Talkers.

I second, with enthusiasm.

Few professional sports team have nicknames carrying any historical significance. Most are generic animals, birds, even reptiles. Some of the oldest names are meaningless, like “Red Sox.” Just a few refer to or referenced history: the now defunct Chicago Fire, the San Francisco 49’ers, the Philadelphia 76ers, and a few others. One great virtue of the Code Talkers, in addition to keeping the Native American connection to the D.C. team, is that it would compel the team’s fans to learn some history for a change. (I assume that the 2002 Nicholas Cage bomb, “Windtalkers,” did not have sufficient reach to educate most Americans.)

Who, or what,  were the Code Talkers? Continue reading

High Noon Ethics Showdown, 7/14/2020

“High Noon” is an ethics movie to be sure, but a very strange one. I put it on a list of ethics movies in 2016, but as I wrote then,

“High Noon” is a Western that shows the American people at their worst, refusing to help a single law man threatened on his wedding day, and cringing in fear and denial when their values need to be fought for.

I have long felt that the movie is like a “Twilight Zone” episode, or a Western version of “Invasion of the Body-Snatchers.” What’s wrong with those people? However, it feels less like a Rod Serling parable now, when I find myself thinking “What’s wrong with those people?” several times a day as I surf the news feeds.

It is reported that John Wayne was offered the role of the desperate law man, eventually played by the Duke’s friend, Gary Cooper. Wayne, who was always protective of the heroic character he had created over the course of his career, hated the script, and turned it down. I cannot imagine John Wayne running around a town begging for help as four gunfighters are on the way to seek revenge, and apparently neither could he. In response to “High Noon,” Wayne and Howard Hawks made “Rio Bravo,” about a sheriff who keeps refusing assistance as a rancher hires gunfighters to free the sheriff’s prisoner, his brother.  At every turn, people keep saving the sheriff anyway.

I think one reason Wayne wanted to star in “True Grit” so much is that Rooster Cogburn, old and fat, takes on four villains by himself, charging them on horseback with the reins in his teeth and guns blazing.

1. It’s amazing that everyone isn’t sick of this yet. The latest Times “fact check” of President Trump, like so many others, relies on an interpretations of the notoriously sloppy-speaking POTUS that nobody fair and attentive could possible  think was his intended meaning. The statement at issue was that “99% of which are totally harmless.”

By “totally harmless,” the hyperbole addicted President meant “aren’t fatal.” The game, however, is to pretend the Presidents words, whatever they are, are lies. (The Washington Post just updated its hilarious Trump lie database. I challenge anyone to pick ten entries at random that even include a majority of “lies.”)

The Times even writes, “Studies that have calculated the death rate based on broader antibody testing that takes these silent cases into consideration suggest an infection death rate of less than 1 percent, said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the faculty director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.” Continue reading

Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/13/2020: “Hail To The Thingamajiggies!” Edition [Corrected]

How.

1. When late is worse than never. Reports say that the Washington Redskins will officially announce that they are changing their name, to what nobody knows, not even them. The team’s obnoxious owner, Dan Snyder, who has run the once cultishly popular and successful NFL franchise into the ground during his incompetent stewardship, had memorably said that he would never change the controversial team name, unquestionably the most politically incorrect in all of sports. That pledge did not anticipate his league going nuts and supine before the George Floyd Freakout, to the point that there may be mandatory kneeling by the time the 2020 season opens.

The attack on the Redskins name was always about power, as has been the decades-long assault on all team nicknames with ethnic references. Survey after survey has shown that the vast majority of Native Americans don’t care; the idea is to bring corporate interests to heel, and then aim at the next, more substantive objective. The competent way for a team to handle this problem is to quietly retire a problematic name like “Redskins” (or a anachronistically provocative logo like the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo) when the heat is off, making it clear that the change is volitional and not compelled. Then the social justice mob members can’t puff out their little pigeon chests with pride and think “I did this! What’s the next target?”

I don’t care what the D.C. team’s name is. I do care about dishonest and illogical arguments, which is what have been mounted against this name for as long as I can remember. That’s why the Redskins and related matters have so often been a topic here.

I did laugh yesterday when I read a comment predicting that Snyder would announce that the new name would be “the Washington Murderous Savages”… Continue reading

Independence Day With Ethics Alarms 3…Ethics Fireworks (and Duds)!

1. Gaslighting! Seth Abramson is an American professor, attorney, author, and political columnist whom I have been mercifully unaware of previously. In response to last night’s inspiring speech by the President (inspiring unless you’re in favor of gutting U.S. culture and rights), he tweeted,

Someone please explain to Seth that if you don’t pay better attention than that to what’s going on, you are ethically obligated to shut the hell up.

2. I have to mention this because it’s embarrasses Harvard. Claira Janover, who graduated in May from the once-respectable university with a degree in government and psychology, saw a  short clip she posted on Tik Tok where she threatened to stab anyone who had  “the nerve, the sheer entitled caucasity to say ‘all lives matter'” go viral.

“I’ma stab you,” the Connecticut native says on the clip, zooming in close on her face. “I’ma stab you, and while you’re struggling and bleeding out, I’ma show you my paper cut and say, ‘My cut matters too,’” she added.

Oh, I get it! She’s making an analogy between someone saying “All Lives Matter” as a retort to “Black Lives Matter,” saying killing non-black people isn’t an issue because black people being killed is to white people being killed  like a stabbing is to a paper cut! Or something like that. It’s not a very good analogy. No, it wasn’t a “a true threat,” either. It was just an ugly and obnoxious video that signaled that she is irresponsible and intolerant of other points of view. This impugned the judgment of her new employers, the international accounting and consulting firm Deloitte, and they canned her. Of course they did. She should have known that would happen.

I would have fired her just for saying “Ima stab you.” Corporations don’t tend to pay huge fees to people who say, “Ima” anything.

Rather than being accountable, Janover has decided to play the victim, claiming Trump supporters are at fault for her fate, and attacking her ex-employer.

“I’m sorry, Deloitte, that you can’t see, ” she said, “that you were cowardice [sic] enough to fight somebody who’s going to make an indelible change in the world and is going to have an impact.” If she keeps this up, she may successfully ensure that nobody hires her, and though she will no doubt claim otherwise, it will have nothing to do with racism.

Good job, Harvard! 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

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/21/2018: Getting The Tree Lights On In One Day Victory Lap Edition, Featuring Sports, Movies, Jerks And “Bambi”

Happy Holidays!

Seven hours, one serious needle wound, and 1300 lights later, victory! I’ll finish the decorations when I get back home, IF I get back home…

1. Itinerary…I’m heading to New Jersey via train to hook up with the brilliant Mike Messer, what we call “the talent,” in an encore rendition of the musical legal ethics seminar, “Ethics Rock Extreme,” lyrics by yours truly, musical stylings by Mike, on the guitar. Then it’s back to D.C. by air on Saturday, if I’m lucky. If I’m not lucky, I’ll be taking the New Jersey bar exam in the Spring…

I have no idea how or whether I’ll be able to keep Ethics Alarms on track once I board the train this afternoon. I’m not going to launch a second Open Forum in leas than a week, so please keep working on the current one here, now at 130 entries and counting. I will be reviewing those on the road, and I’m sure there will be some Comments of the Day to post, eventually.

2. In case I am trapped in New Jersey…Let me alert everyone that Peter Jackson’s apparently terrific (based on the reviews) WWI documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old” will be playing in theaters on December 27, and after that, who knows? The American public’s ignorance about that war, perhaps the greatest human catastrophe in modern history, is a failure of education, perspective and culture. If you have kids, take them. Here is the trailer:

3. Speaking of cultural literacy and movies, TCM is offering a limited engagement in theaters for “The Wizard of Oz,” on January 27, 29, and 30.

Is there another film that so many people purport to know and love so well without actually having seen it as it was intended to be seen? When I finally saw the movie in a theater—no breaks or commercials, big screen—I was shocked at how different and, obviously, better, the experience was. It’s an artistic masterpiece and sui generis: we will never see its like again, nor talents like Judy, Ray and Burt, among others. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/7/2018: Something In This Post Is Guaranteed To Send You Screaming Into The Streets

Good Morning!

1 Oh no! Not my permanent record! My wife gave a small contribution to Mitt  Romney’s campaign, and has been hounded by RNC robocalls and mailings ever since. GOP fundraising started getting really slimy under the indefensible Michael Steele’s leadership, and continued to use unethical methods after Steele went on to job at a bait shop or something. Last week my wife got an envelope in the mail with a block red DELINQUENCY NOTICE! printed on it. A lie, straight up: there was no delinquency, just a my wife’s decision that she would rather burn a C-note than give it to the fools and knaves running the Republican Party. She registered an official complaint with the RNC, and received this response from Dana Klein, NRCC Deputy Finance Director:

“My job as the Deputy Finance Director is to communicate with supporters to let them know the status of their NRCC Sustaining Membership. Unfortunately, I have bad news for you. As of right now, you have a delinquency mark on your record for your failure to renew your membership. But, I have some good news. You can remove this delinquency mark if you renew by the FEC deadline on Wednesday.”

Both my wife and I were professional fundraisers for many years. This is deceptive and coercive fundraising, and anyone who voluntarily supports an organization that uses such tactics is a victim or an idiot.

Or, I suppose, a Republican.

2. Another one…This is another one of the statements that I am pledged to expose every time I read or hear it: a Maryland legislator, enthusing over the likelihood that a ballot initiative will result in legalizing pot in the state, ran off the usual invalid, disingenuous and foolish rationalizations for supporting measure. (Don’t worry, pot-lovers: I’m resigned to this happening, not just in Maryland, but nation wide. As with the state lotteries, our elected officials will trade the public health and welfare for easy revenue every time. Minorities and the poor will be the most hurt, and the brie and pot set couldn’t care less.) Only one of his familiar bad arguments triggered my mandatory response pledge: ” to legalize a drug that is less harmful than alcohol.”

This is the bottom of the rationalization barrel, “it’s not the worst thing.” Alcohol is a scourge of society, killing thousands upon thousands every year, ruining families and lives, wrecking businesses, costing the economy millions of dollars. Just yesterday there was a report that fetal alcohol syndrome was far more common that previously believed. There is no question, none, that U.S. society would be healthier and safer without this poison accepted in the culture: unfortunately, it was too deeply embedded before serious efforts were made to remove it. Now pot advocates want to inflict another damaging recreational drug on society, using the argument that it’s not as terrible as the ones we’re already stuck with. Stipulated: it’s not as harmful as alcohol. It’s not as harmful as Russian Roulette or eating Tidepods either. I have a bias against taking seriously advocates who use arguments like this; it means they re either liars, and know their logic is absurd, or idiots, and don’t.

3. Riddle me this: What do you get when you cross casting ethics, weak and lazy school administrators, political-correctness bullies-in-training with “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”?

Answer: a cancelled high school musical, and per se racism supported by the school.

New York’s Ithaca High School was beginning production of the Disney film-based musical “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” but made the unforgivable error, in the eyes of student activists,  of casting of a white student as a Romani heroine Esmeralda, played in the classic film by that gypsy wench, Maureen O’Hara, and in the Disney version by a Toon.  Several students quit the show in protest,  and formed an activist group to reverse the decision. It sent a letter calling the casting “cultural appropriation” and “whitewashing,” calling the student the “epitome of whiteness.” The letter admitted that she was also “a stellar actor, singer and dancer” that any stage would be “lucky to have,” but what is the talent, skill and competence required for a role compared to what really matters, her skin color? The students demanded that the school either choose a different show or recast Esmeralda a black and brown actress. Continue reading

The End Of Chief Wahoo

The Cleveland Indians will yield to political correctness and ditch the team’s 70 year-old logo, Chief Wahoo. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred pressured Indians chair Paul Dolan into making the change, which had been demanded by Native American activists for decades. A version of the red-skinned, hook-nosed caricature of a Native American first appeared on the Indians’ uniforms in 1948, when the team won its first American League pennant after many frustrating years. The logo caught on in part because the team’s fans had good associations with the image—the cognitive dissonance scale strikes again!—and then grinning indian became part of team tradition.The various groups that bullied other teams to change or eliminate names or logos with any hint of ethnicity on spurious grounds made banning Wahoo a priority, along with the Atlanta Braves “tomahawk chop” and especially the Washington Redskins nickname.

Apparently Manfred used the 2019 MLB All-Star Game as leverage, telling the club that either Chief Wahoo goes or the All-Star Game would end up somewhere else.

I have no affection for the logo, which is grotesque and anachronistic, but as with the Redskins, the protests were part of a power play by the Left and not the result of genuine, widespread offense affecting Native Americans. Nobody was made into a racist or caused to hate Native Americans because of Chief Wahoo, and sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon. There was no racist intent: people do not associate names and images that represent what they hate with teams they love. (The cognitive dissonance scale again. Is there anything it can’t explain?) As with the Redskins name, I feel as if the Cleveland Indians logo needed to stay as a matter of principle. Again, the attack on team names and symbols is about power, and bending others to their will.  Polls and surveys showed that most Native Americans didn’t care. But this is just another brick in the wall, and the censors of art, history, tradition, thought and language will never stop. Continue reading