Category Archives: Citizenship

Ethics Quiz: Once Again, Bystander Ethics, The Duty To Rescue, And The Imperiled Child

clarkkentThe free-range kids debate already raised this issue, and now my colleague and friend Michael Messer, the talented and versatile musician/singer/ actor who teams with me in the ProEthics musical legal ethics programs Ethics Rock, Ethics Rock Extreme, and Ethics Jamboree, just posted about his traumatic experience on Facebook, writing,

“I’m standing in Central Park and witnessed a tourist father grab his (approx 5 year old) child by the arm and shake him… The. open palm smack his child in the head. Hard. Twice. I screamed to him, from about 50 feet, where I witnessed it: “HEY!!! YOU DON’T HIT HIM” he looked up, startled to be called out, and waved me off to mind my business. “YOU DO NOT HIT A CHILD IN THE HEAD”, I repeated, at the top of my lungs, hoping to attract attention. The kid cried and then got himself together and went off to play. No one else in Sheeps Meadow saw or took notice. For about 5 minutes after I kept my eyes on him so he knew he was now being watched. What is the role of a bystander in this situation?”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for the day is…

What is the role of a bystander in this situation?

The answer is simple, really—its that oft-repeated Ethics Alarms mantra, “FIX THE PROBLEM,” at least as much as you can. Do something. Mike did the right thing, from a distance: show the abuser he’s being observed, protest, shame him. If one can, if one has the ability, the skill and the timely reaction and the child looks to be in genuine danger, intervene physically.

The latter course, however, carries risks, and also may be precluded by the natural reflex most humans have when they observe something unexpected and shocking. I discussed this issue when Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary was being pilloried in some publications for not immediately charging into the Penn State showers and stopping sexual predator Jerry Sandusky from sexually abusing a boy: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Race, U.S. Society

Ethics Whistle On The Post’s Dana Milbank…So Blood Won’t Shoot Out My Nose

I know just how you feel, Lewis...

I know just how you feel, Lewis…

I was going to ignore this, I really was. Most Washington Post readers know Dana Milbank is a hard left, often unstable partisan reporter pretending to be an objective analyst. Most also know that he is prone to jump the rails of logic, fairness and reality from time to time, like here, when he blamed a “scandal of the week” mentality on the press and Republicans, and not the fact that the incompetent Obama Administration averages a scandal a week…or here, when he called millennials selfish for not supporting their President’s misbegotten health insurance scheme and acting in their own interests rather than their President’s political interests.

But his most recent column was churning around in my brain like Lewis Black’s routine about overhearing a young woman say, at a table next to him in a restaurant, “If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.” ( Black: “Now, I’m gonna repeat that, because it bears repeating. “If it weren’t for my horse…” as in, giddyup, giddyup, let’s go — ‘I wouldn’t have spent that year in college,’ which is a degree-granting institution. Don’t think about that too long, or BLOOD will shoot out your NOSE!”) Milbank’s columns are often like that for me, and this one, expressing his outrage that the Republicans are trying to repeal what’s left of the estate, or “death tax,” was one of the worst. So you can regard this post as saving my life, if you wish.

I have no philosophical objection to taxing rich people, none at all. However, I have a very great ethical disagreement with those, like Milbank, who seem to think that there is something so sinister about parents trying to amass wealth for their kids that it justifies the government laying claim to what they have achieved, grown and saved through their own had work and responsible decisions. This was the ethic that drove our grandparents, great grandparents and great grandparents to build values, families, businesses, communities and a nation.  Making life better and easier for their children than it was for them was a virtue, and properly recognized as such.

Many studies, out of fashion now and suppressed in academia because they are politically incorrect, have suggested that poverty persists through generations  in part because of the acculturated lack of a future time perspective among some groups, which is a nice way of saying that when people seek instant gratification and don’t save and invest their assets, they become poor and stay poor. It is essential to progressive cant that there are no differences between successful people and unsuccessful people…not intelligence, talent, diligence, industry or ambition…just opportunity and privilege, or the lack of them.* People really believe this, especially the people I see in worn-out clothes buying 30 bucks worth of lottery tickets at a pop in the 7-11 rather than saving the cash to get some job training, or start a college fund for their children, who, this being the D.C. area, probably don’t live with him anyway. No, there’s nothing these unfortunates can do to better their lot, you see. Meanwhile, the government preys on their present-time proclivities by creating rigged lotteries to take their money from them.

Of course, someone born into a wealthy, two-parent, stable and supportive family is equally deluded to think, as the late Texas governor Ann Richards once said derisively of George H.W. Bush, that he hit a triple when in fact he was born on third base. That still does not mean, as Milbank seems to think, that there is something wrong and undesirable about  American’s parents working and sacrificing to make sure their children aren’t left sitting on the bench, or can’t even get in the park to see the game. Milbank, like the lock-step progressive he is, believes that every individual in every generation should have to start life without any competitive advantages over anyone else, and if that means giving his competitors a head start, or making him run with weights on his feet, or tripping him at the start of the race, well, too bad, and too bad for his parents.

That’s fairness to our many Milbanks. To me, fair is for each individual to be able to make the most of what life and luck  provides, through their own abilities and efforts, with the help and assistance of parents and family being a a vital and respected inheritance that reinforces a duty and obligation to do the same for the next generation.

Anyone is free to see it differently. What should not be tolerated are statements like this, by Milbank: Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Rights, U.S. Society

Already, Clinton’s Compulsive, Clumsy Lies Are Flowing: Are Her Supporters Really Going To Pretend Ethics Don’t Matter To The Bitter End?

If you don't know why a photo of Richard Nixon is appropriate in a post about Hillary Clinton, you need help...

If you don’t know why a photo of Richard Nixon is appropriate in a post about Hillary Clinton, you need help…

Hillary lies. That’s what she does. She can’t help herself; she does it by reflex, even when there is no reason to. Even when one includes Richard M. Nixon, whose reputation as a liar was think well before he became President, Hillary Clinton’s record is remarkable. She lies about little things (Claiming to be a Yankee fan), big things (conservatives made up the Monica story); she lies without caring who the lies hurt (the White House travel office debacle), and lies to make herself look heroic (her Brian Williams-like tale about being under fire). She lies to try to duck responsibility for her own actions (saying that her use of a  private e-mail server was compliant with government rules), and she lies when it is obvious that what she is saying is ridiculous (she and Bill left the White House in penury.) Unlike her charismatic husband, she’s not even good at lying, and apparently practice doesn’t help, in her case.

Yet she keeps doing it. She is not being well served by her supporters, who have given Clinton no reason to reform, improve, or respect the them or the public they are part of.  The message Clinton has received is that it doesn’t matter what she does or says. She’s a woman, and she’s a Democrat, and that’s all that matters. Have any voters adopted such an indefensible, irresponsible and civicly disgraceful approach to self-government? Well, yes, come to think or it: the 95% of black citizens who supported Barack Obama for a second term based on race and little more. That’s not mitigation.

Barely out of the gate, Hillary is at it again. Speaking in Iowa Wednesday, she told an audience that all her grandparents had immigrated to the United States, a story that public census data and other records related to her maternal and paternal grandparents show is fabrication. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Maybe The Best Reason To Remember April 15…Number 42

jackie-robinson

A lot has happened on April 15.

Leonardo De Vinci was born…Abraham Lincoln died…Apollo 13 had the accident that almost destroyed it, but that triggered one of the great triumphs of the space program…Lee surrendered, ending the Civil WarThe Beatles disbanded…I didn’t get my taxes in on time….

I would argue however, and will, that as culturally important as any of these events was that sixty-eight years ago, in 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first black man to play major league baseball in the modern era. This represented a cultural change that allowed the United States to take a giant step forward toward healing the self-inflicted and almost fatal wound of slavery, and it took a man of surpassing courage and character to do it. (Two men, really: the other was Dodgers GM Branch Rickey.)

Today all MLB players will wear Robinson’s number 42 to honor him. If you haven’t seen the movie “42, or if your children haven’t seen it, this is a good day to get a sense of what Jackie went through as he broke the color line.  You can check out Robinson’s baseball stats here,  and learn about the civil rights work he did after his playing career, in the too-short life that was left to him here. He’s in the Ethics Alarms Heroes Hall of Honor, of course, and his entry there has more about his life as well as some good links.

The main thing is, remember him.

Many years ago, I had a conversation with a close friend—smart, accomplished, engaged, educated, about 26 years old at the time. She had no idea who Jackie Robinson was. Nobody, then, now or ever, should reach adulthood in the United States without knowing and understanding what Robinson did, and our nation’s debt to him. There is an ethical  duty to remember, and to respect.

Thank you, Mr. Robinson.

Thank you.

 

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Heroes, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Cartoonist Garry Trudeau

The exquisitely rendered artwork of Gary Trudeau, circa 1970.

The exquisitely rendered artwork of Gary Trudeau, circa 1970.

“At some point free expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious. It becomes its own kind of fanaticism.”

—-Doonesbury cartoonist and relentless critic of the Right, Garry Trudeau, in a speech delivered on April 10 at the Long Island University’s George Polk Awards ceremony, where he received the George Polk Career Award.

Trudeau is a Yale grad, so perhaps we should cut him some slack muddled thinking. (Kidding!) However, in making his weak case that legitimate and socially acceptable satire only consists of “punching up,” he appeared to be advocating government prohibition of certain kinds of speech, to be designated by Trudeau and his ideological allies, who, of course, know best.

In doing this, Trudeau came very close to aping the popular theme from activists on the Left, especially on campuses, that “hate speech isn’t protected by the First Amendment.” “Hate speech” is an invention of progressives, and is generally defined as political or social criticism of members in good standing of their club, or groups and individuals they sympathize with or approve of.  Saying that you hope Rush Limbaugh’s kidneys fail is funny and deserved;  saying Mike Brown engineered his own demise by attacking a cop is hate speech. It’s easy when you get the hang of it: just look at the world like Gary Trudeau.

Earlier in his speech, he talked about “red lines” in satire, and blurrily–that is, inarticulately enough that he has plausible deniability, called for restrictions on “hateful” cartoons like those that prompted Islamic assassinations in Paris: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, History, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Professions, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

A Thought Sparked By Another Incredible Revelation: Could It Be Ethical To Just Accept Outrageous Government Incompetence?

idea-spark

A persistent election cycle joke is the candidate who swears the deficit can be brought into line without cutting any sacred cow programs or entitlements, or raising taxes. All that has to be done, the candidate explains, is to eliminate the billions of dollars lost to “waste, fraud, and abuse.”

The theory is either dishonest or proof of disqualifying naiveté. Massive systems create massive inefficiencies, and massive systems that confer power and influence attract the inept, the foolish and the corrupt like the Clintons attract cynics. Not only is it impossible to significantly eliminate waste, fraud and abuse from the government, as long as the government keeps growing, their incidence will only increase.

Every time I see evidence of flagrant waste of taxpayer money, or absurd programs that encourage irresponsible behavior and public assistance dependence on a crack-brained theory based on misplaced compassion, I wonder if it’s even worth flagging any more for the unethical betrayal of public trust that it is. Nothing changes, or is likely to change. The waste and unconscionable lack of responsible government has persisted my whole life, though administrations of both parties.

It is true that this administration seems to be the first that doesn’t even try to be competent or responsible, or perhaps that places such negligible value on those qualities that their absence isn’t even viewed by its supporters as a flaw. Good intentions are all that matter. To me, this is insanity, as well as deadly arrogance and obvious incompetence, but it is the theme of the Obama Administration. The attitude appears to be reaching its apotheosis in the rhetoric surrounding the Iran nuclear deal, with the President’s recent comments suggesting that it is a good deal because the alternative is facing a reality we don’t want to face. Even though John Kerry claimed that the operating negotiation philosophy would be that no deal was preferable to a bad deal, he was clearly either lying or off mentally wind-surfing somewhere, because that is not the way his own administration reasons. A bad health care law is better than no health care law, so bad is really good. A bad illegal immigration policy is better than no illegal immigration policy, so the bad policy is good. A terrible recovery from the recession is better than no recovery at all, so the administration is crowing about depressing job numbers and more citizens on public assistance than ever before. This entire administration and its political culture is based on the rationalization I have termed the worst of them all, #22, Comparative Virtue, or “It’s not the  worst thing.”

Nearly seven years of this have  turned the brains of many Americans and especially Democrats to Swiss cheese, and that may have terrible consequences down the road. For example, a recent poll showed that 59% of Americans favor the pending deal with Iran, and 59% also don’t think it will work. Hmmmm. Now, I’m going to be kind and assume that the 41% of my countrymen who don’t like the deal are in that second 59%, but even then, this leaves a significant 18% who like a deal they don’t think will work. Why? Because it’s well-meaning.  Because the President is doing “the best he can.” Because they really think that hoping and wanting and avoiding unpleasant truths is a good way to live. Anyone who is in both 59%  groups is brain-washed or brain dead, and a victim of this President’s acceptance of incompetence without accountability as a management model.

My most recent thoughts on this topic were prompted by this incredible item: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership, U.S. Society

Does A Church Receiving Dirty Money Cleanse It, Or Can Only The Government Do That?

I can see why that $300,000 didn't last long...

I can see why that $300,000 didn’t last long…

For some divine reason it appears to be church day at Ethics Alarms, though I attribute much of the phenomenon  to my #1 topic scout Fred, who has been on fire of late.

David McQueen was the architect of a ruthless $46 million Ponzi scheme. While filling his own bank account, he also gave generously to Resurrection Life Church in Grandville, Michigan, one of the so-called “mega-churches,” as you can see in the photo above. McQueen donated about $300,000 in a three-year period, beginning in 2006, when the church was involved in a building project. See? He wasn’t so bad!

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Borgula is involved in effort to reimburse victims by recovering some of the money taken by McQueen. The $300,000 looked like a nice chunk to go after, so he sent an e-mail to the church elders asking, pretty please, if they would give the money back.

The church said “No.” Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, Rights