Category Archives: Citizenship

Roshomon, Good Citizenship And Ethics: The Case Of The Concerned Stranger And The Indignant Father

gates-family

“O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!”

—Robert Burns

Jeff Gates, a writer and adoptive father, contributed a thought-provoking column in the Washington Post’s Outlook section this weekend, describing what seemed to him to be a traumatic experience at Cape May. It begins…

“After my family arrives on the Cape May ferry for our annual vacation to the Jersey Shore, I take pictures of our two daughters on the ferry’s deck as we leave the harbor. I’ve been doing this since they were 3 and 4 years old. They are now 16 and 17. Each photo chronicles one year in the life of our family and our daughters’ growth into the beautiful young women they have become….On that first day of vacation, the sea was calm and the sky a brilliant blue. As I focused on the image in my camera’s viewfinder, the girls stood in their usual spot against the railing at the back of the boat. I was looking for just the right pose…Totally engaged with the scene in front of me, I jumped when a man came up beside me and said to my daughters: “I would be remiss if I didn’t ask if you were okay.”

He goes on:

“It took me a moment to figure out what he meant, but then it hit me: He thought I might be exploiting the girls, taking questionable photos for one of those “Exotic Beauties Want to Meet You!” Web sites or something just as unseemly. When I explained to my daughters what he was talking about, they were understandably confused. I told the man I was their father. He quickly apologized and turned away. But that perfect moment was ruined, and our annual photo shoot was over.”

Many of us might laugh off the experience as a funny anecdote, but not Gates, and not his daughters. He is Caucasian and they are both of Chinese heritage, having been adopted as infants in China by Gates and his wife. He obsessed about the incident for a while, and worked up sufficient indignation to track down the man and confront him, saying “Excuse me, sir, but you just embarrassed me in front of my children and strangers. And what you said was racist.” Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Citizenship, Daily Life, Etiquette and manners, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Race

The Nine-Year-Old and the Uzi: A Case Study In News Media Public Opinion Manipulation

no-guns-banner

In White Hills, Arizona, a nine-year-old girl accidentally shot a firing range instructor when he handed her an Uzi on full automatic setting and she lost control of the weapon. That was a tragedy, but there have been thousands of newsworthy tragedies in the six days since that story first appeared, and yet the media is still bombarding us with stories about it. Why?

The episode itself is not very complicated. A foolish parent allowed his daughter to use a dangerous instrumentality that was beyond her maturity level to handle, and a negligent instructor paid with his life for a moment of hideous judgment and negligence. That’s it. It’s a one day story. Today, in the category of horrible accidents involving children, we should be reading about the little girl—same age–who died on a beach yesterday when a sand hole someone had dug collapsed on her. And the most recent infant left in a car to broil to death. Yet the Sunday morning TV shows all managed to mention the shooting range incident, and today I am still seeing articles like this one. Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Burger King Ethics: What’s Unethical About Burger King’s “Tax Inversion” (And It’s Not Burger King)

BKAs you may have heard by now, Burger King is preparing to merge with the larger Canadian equivilent of Dunkin Donuts, Tim Hortons and move the company’s headquarters to Canada. As with the proposed Walgreens move to Europe that was considered and ultimately rejected, the Burger King merger was made for tax reasons, and good ones. The good ones should be clearly explained to the American public, especially voters and those with unemployed workers in their families, but they are not. Let’s  call this BK Ethics Foul #1: news media incompetence. Because the public doesn’t understand what “tax inversion” means, they are vulnerable to having it distorted and demagogued for them by unethical politicians and pundits, and so it has been. Let us designate this BK Ethics Foul #2: the anti-corporate disinformation campaign.

The United States tax rate is  a whopping 35%, more than any other large industrial nation, even more than those that tend toward socialism. There’s nothing unethical about this, necessarily, though it can be argued that it is a foolish and self-destructive policy. Did you know, however—and I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t, because not being an international corporation myself, I didn’t know until this issue arose—that the U.S. applies that tax to all global earnings of U.S. companies. This means that the earning of U.S. companies doing business abroad are not only taxed where they earn the profits, but also in the U.S., or as this is technically called, twice. (UPDATE: I should have made it clear that the the US does give a foreign tax credit for the money paid in taxes abroad, so the effect is not completely double tax, just two taxes.) That is definitely unfair (and also bad policy), and will be called BK Ethics Foul #3: predatory taxation Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Finance, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Why The Winooski Bacon Controversy Matters

bacon signLast week, Sneakers Bistro and Cafe in Winooski, Vermont removed a sign reading “Yield for Sneakers Bacon” from a garden at the Winooski Rotary after a woman who described herself as “a vegan and a member of a Muslim household” called the sign offensive in an online post.

“Given the large number of Muslim families in Winooski, as well as many others who do not eat pork for a variety of reasons, it seems unnecessary for this insensitive business sign to be at the city’s main crosswalk,” she wrote. Sneakers, obeying the growing U.S. cultural mandate that any individual has a veto over words and conduct that he or she finds offensive regardless of 1) whether it is offensive to anyone else and 2) whether the alleged offense is certifiably bats, apologized, and took the sign down.

I am happy to support that this decision did not play well, even in ultra-liberal Vermont, and under a barrage of criticism on the web and elsewhere, the Sneakers’ management posted the following message on its Facebook page, thus making their situation worse:

“We are here to serve people BREAKFAST, not politics. We removed the sign that was located on public property as a gesture of respect for our diverse community. There were also concerns raised about safety. Removing it was not a difficult decision. We still love bacon. We still love eggs. Please have the political conversation elsewhere.”

That idiotic statement was the disaster anyone conscious should have been able to predict it would be. And let’s be thankful this is still true. Tomorrow, Sneakers’ response may be standard operation procedure, even if ISIS doesn’t take over the country while the President is breaking par. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, The Internet, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunce: Doug Wilkey

Let’s shame this guy but good: he deserves it.

The horror.

The horror.

Dunedin, Florida 12-year-old T.J. Guerrero has received a neighbor’s  permission to set up a lemonade stand in front of his property for the last couple years. This isn’t some kind of mega-stand: it’s exactly like the ones I purchased sweet drinks of varying quality from last weekend. It’s Florida, and T.J. is unusual: he is virtually running the 3 to 7 business all year long.

Another neighbor named Doug Wilkey, 61-years-old going on “Get off my lawn, you lousy kids!,”  has emailed City Hall at least four times in two years demanding that T.J. ‘s traditional foray into junior capitalism be shut down. He says that the kid’s  operation is illegal, and that it causes excessive traffic, noise, trash, illegal parking and other problems that, he says, threaten to reduce his property values.

To its credit,  local government officials appear to have the sense of proportion Wilkey does not. “We’re not in the business of trying to regulate kids like that; nor do we want to do any code enforcement like that,” said Dunedin planning and development director Greg Rice. “We are not out there trying to put lemonade stands out of business.” Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics

Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck Update: The Mayor of Atlanta Tells “Meet The Press” That “Justice” Means Prosecuting Officer Wilson

kasim-reed

There should be no question about it any more. The nearly unanimous position, stated or unstated, by elected Democratic and African American officials is that Officer Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot the unarmed, 18-year-old Michael Brown, should be charged with murder. That position represents a triumph of group identification, political expediency and bias over the rule of law and, yes, in defiance of that cynically wielded term “justice,” and it needs to be rejected and condemned at the highest levels of our society. Who is going to have the courage to do it?

Certainly not the news media. This morning on the David Gregory-less “Meet the Press,” the stand-in for the fired host interviewed Democratic Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, who talked exclusively in code about “justice” and “transparency.” Nixon, you will recall, has already stated his view that Wilson should be prosecuted, so his mouthing platitudes now about “transparency” ring like the sly plotting of the villains in old Westerns. You know the type: the cattle baron who owns the town and the sheriff devises a way to remove an obstreperous opponent who won’t toe the line by framing him and convicting him of murder. “Make it look niiice and fair, right by the book!” he snickers to his henchman. That was Nixon today.

Then the questioning turned to NBC round-table guest Kasim Reed, the African-American Mayor of Atlanta, who was asked about how to ensure a just result in the case. His answer was frank, if jaw-dropping: everyone, including jurors and officials, should see the incident “through the eyes” of Brown’s parents, “whose son was shot six times in front of four witnesses and left lying in the street for hours.” Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, U.S. Society, Uncategorized, Workplace

Comment of the Day: “Mid-EthicsTrainwreck Observations On Ferguson”

China Protest

How much fire power should a democracy’s police forces have at their disposal? Is the trend toward militarization in urban police departments an inherent threat to our liberty? These are interesting topics, and issues with public policy as well as ethical implications, brought to our attention by the armored vehicles we have seen prowling through the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.

I confess to neglecting these matters on Ethics Alarms, in part because the question of whether a police officer justly and legally shot (six times) and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown has been muddled by too many other considerations already. As a result, I haven’t given the issues much quality thought, other than my usual fascination at the ability of some committed libertarians to take a position dictated by their ideology without being troubled by the obvious practical problems associated with that position, a proclivity I would file under the heading of “Irresponsible.” Also, “Strange.” How can someone advocate virtually unregulated access to increasingly powerful weaponry by citizens—including criminals—and oppose sufficient arms in the hands of the police to protect the public from a misuse of that weaponry? Libertarians (and others) maintain that a prime purpose of the Second Amendment  is to prevent the government from disarming  citizens to dominate and control them. Agreed. But the unfettered freedom of law-abiding citizens to acquire the weapons they feel are necessary for whatever lawful purpose they choose will also result in the same weapons being available to those with less savory objectives in mind. I understand that the opposition to a police force armed to the teeth springs from either a distrust of government generally (libertarians and anarchists) or police specifically , especially by a segment of the population, African-Americans, who are otherwise favorably inclined toward a large, intrusive government—a contradiction as striking as that offered by the libertarian position, but understandable for those who live under the threatening authority of the Killer Klown act known as the Ferguson Police Department.

Fortunately, texagg04, a distinguished Ethics Alarms regular, has been inspired to delve into some of these questions, and others, in a superb post, the Comment of the Day, on the essay Mid-EthicsTrain Wreck Observations On Ferguson. Here it is: Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Rights, Science & Technology, U.S. Society, War and the Military