Category Archives: Comment of the Day

Comment of the Day: “KABOOM! The School System ‘Applauds The Efforts Of Students Who Act In Good Faith…'”

This is an appropriate illustration for this Comment of the Day.  You'll see...

This is an appropriate illustration for this Comment of the Day. You’ll see…

The post about the middle-schooler suspended for rushing to the aid of a stricken classmate inspired a wide range of fascinating commentary, and also generated a tangential thread, as essays here often do. This one involved some commenters challenging my assertion that the ungrammatical quote from the young hero spoke to a school system that was better at no-tolerance discipline than it was at education, and that students not conditioned to view double negatives as poor communication were being handicapped by incompetent teaching. Into the fray jumped the always provocative Extradimensional Cephalopod, who walloped the debate with one of his trademark, long-form expositions on linguistic matters.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “KABOOM! The School System “Applauds The Efforts Of Students Who Act In Good Faith To Assist Others In Times Of Need” And Is Therefore Exacting Punishment So They Know Never To Do It Again.”

I agree that not all languages are created equal. Effective communication requires a few subordinate skills based on semantics (navigating within a paradigm) and empathy (shifting between paradigms). One such skill is translation, the ability to convey a set of ideas to someone who has an unfamiliar paradigm and to understand ideas they express in that paradigm. Another is background, the ability to recognize semantic cues (e.g. grammar and etiquette) and use them to create a desired impression on someone else, which is necessary to smoothly blend in with one’s surroundings, putting others at ease by appearing to be similar to them. People need to develop the power of communication in order to interact with others, and therefore regardless of how they prefer to speak, they need to be able to shift to different methods of speaking depending on the context in which they find themselves. That is the virtue of linguistic descriptivism: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Or, as my grandfather likes to say, “…as the Romanians do.”

That said, linguistic prescriptivism has virtues of its own, when correctly employed, which is rare. Language is important because it is based on semantics, which is the simplification of interactions and which usually brings with it the concept of designating anything as “proper”. Labels and names are not hard limits for thought, but they shape it by making some thoughts easier than others. Any concept for which we have a word becomes easier to think of, because we can call that concept and associated ones readily to mind instead of retrieving each concept individually. It’s the difference between using the word “bird” and describing the animal’s characteristics anew each time you want to talk about it. The latter is possible, but people might have trouble thinking about birds and what they are like.

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Update: The Frontrunners”

Zoltar

Rising Ethics Alarms comment star Zoltar Speaks! has weighed in with a passionate and perceptive comment inspired my recent overview of the ethical bankruptcy among the public’s current top choices to be our next President. Most commentators, even partisan ones, have become sensitive to what ZS describes, though they describe it in differing ways. Here’s a fascinating post on City Journal, giving Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Kennedy’s hagiographer and once influential liberal/Democratic historian credit for predicting the phenomenon:

“Both lament and warning, “The Disuniting of America” reflected a Schlesinger disconcerted by the rise, within overwhelmingly liberal academia, of multiculturalism and political correctness, the linked solvents of American identity. …Trump is both a reaction to and expression of liberal delusions. Schlesinger’s fears have largely come to pass; we’ve become what he called a “quarrelsome spatter of enclaves.” Schlesinger was too much a part of the elite to imagine that the class he always thought of as representing the best of the future would come to be despised by a broad swath of Americans for its incompetence and ineffectuality. But what Schlesinger saw on the horizon seems to have arrived, with no sign of abating: we are in the midst of a soft civil war.”

Government, especially democratic government, relies on trust. Nixon and Watergate exacerbated the decline in trust created by the Vietnam War, then Clinton betrayed the dignity and image of his office to make almost any conduct by the President not just imaginable, but defensible. Sam Donaldson famously said that Clinton would have to resign if the allegation about Monica were true, and he had lied. Sam was right under previous rules, and a President who cared more about the country’s trust than himself would have done as Donaldson predicted.

Next came the completely random catastrophe of the tied 2000 election. Democrats, to their undying shame, employed it as a wedge, and to insist that the election had been stolen, a practice I described at the time as picking at the connective threads of the tapestry of our society. 9-11 was used to suggest that our government would murder its own people; Katrina was used to suggest that our government would allow black people to die because they were black. Bush’s administration blundered into a war, and then into a near-depression—in past generations, these would both be attributed to miscalculations.  But the tapestry, as I warned, was unraveling. Now those mistakes were being seen as deliberate, sinister.Then came Obama, once promising hope and harmony, who has deliberately exacerbated divisions and distrust  to build a political firewall around  his own incompetence. Public trust in government, before the Vietnam protests, was at 73%; it is below 25% today. Of course it is. The question is: Now what?

Here is Zoltar Speaks! in his Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Update: The Frontrunners:

Do you ever get the feeling from the political front-runners in this campaign that this election is primarily being steered towards the elimination of our current political system in favor of something else?

Do you ever get the feeling that illogical social chaos and division among the people is becoming more and more prevalent across the United States and our leaders don’t seem to be spending any of their political capital to slow the trend, instead what we see is rhetoric from our leaders and potential leaders that seems to support illogical social chaos and division among the people?

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Leadership, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “In Search Of A Tipping Point: Trump, The Microphone, And Thomas Dewey’s Ghost”

Trump mic

Ed Moser, a sound designer, technical director and all-around theater pro (he produced and designed sound for my recent staging of “Twelve Angry Men”…he’s also a friend), enlightens us with some insider observation relevant to Donald Trump’s recent denigration of a sound tech. It also reveals an unattractive side of an earlier GOP presidential candidate. Here is Ed’s Comment of the Day on the post, In Search Of A Tipping Point: Trump, The Microphone, And Thomas Dewey’s Ghost:

I have a friend who engineered the sound for a large church back when McCain was a candidate. He visited the church for a “town meeting”.

My friend locked all the unused gear away, and for the event distributed only freshly batteried hand held wireless mics for the event with screw on caps on the bottom. Such caps are specifically designed to prevent clumsy performers from accidentally touching the controls on the bottom of the mic– where one could turn the mic off, change the battery, or worst of all, change the frequency. Then color coded the mics with bright spike tape, so that while he was at the sound board he could instantly tell which mic/channel he was dealing with.

The plan was for McCain to give a speech, then take questions from the floor. Runners would carry one of three hand helds to the person with the query, so the question could be heard throughout the house. There was a fourth back up.

If all of this sounds pretty standard for people who know what they’re doing and have done many such events before: well, it is.

That evening, during the event, the question and answer session occurs. The first mic, it develops, is dead. A quick check reveals that ALL FOUR are dead. Irked at having to come the the edge of the stage and get close to an actual person to hear an actual question, or perhaps just trying to infuse humor at an awkward moment, McCain points to the back of the house, right at my friend, and says to the crowd, “Fire that guy!”

He gets a laugh. Except from my friend, of course.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Comment of the Day, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Science & Technology

Comment Of The Day (2): “The Strange Case Of The Unwanted Triplet”

infant

Beth’s  thoughtful Comment of the Day is only tangentially a comment on the Ethics Alarms post about the surrogate mother who balked at aborting one third of the triplets she was carrying. It was really a comment on a comment made to the author of the previous Comment of the Day on the same post, as J. Jonah Jameson described his own experience as a father who employed a surrogate. JJJ was asked why he chose the expensive and risky surrogate route rather than adoption. That question inspired Beth’s Comment of the Day.

Here it is; I’ll be back at the end.

“Why didn’t you adopt a child that needed a family?”

As a woman who battled infertility in the past, and have many friends who did the same, along with others who intentionally became single parents, used surrogates, or have or are trying to adopt a baby, let me say that this is the absolute worst question you can ever ask somebody going through this process. As you pointed out, you are not trying to be judgmental, but you should never ask this.

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Filed under Around the World, Bioethics, Character, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Etiquette and manners, Family, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine

Comment of the Day (1), on Surrogate Ethics: “The Strange Case Of The Unwanted Triplet”

surrogate-motherIt’s very thoughtful of Ethics Alarms readers to provide such high level content so I have a chance of completing the 2015 Ethics Alarms Awards before March. I am awash in potential Comments of the Day all of a sudden, and this is the first of nesting COTDs, both inspired by the recent post on the surrogate with gestating triplets who is blocking the attempt of the biological father to abort Eenie, Meenie, or Miney, he doesn’t care which.

New commenter J. Jonah Jameson—presumably not really Peter Parker’s employer—submitted a helpful personal story that puts much of that drama in perspective. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, The Strange Case Of The Unwanted Triplet:

I am the biological father of a child born of a surrogate mother. I’m sure ResurrectedToday is correct that the father fully knew that there was a chance of triplets. But the surrogate knew the same thing, and I’m almost 100% certain that she agreed in advance that she would have an abortion if the father requested it. (If not, then there are a lot of lawyers, doctors and other professionals who did not do their job.) Either she changed her mind, or she never really intended to abide by that agreement.

I can say a few things about my own experience:

1. There were a lot of people involved in the process: me, the surrogate, the donor, the three lawyers representing us, the doctors, and the psychologists and social workers at the lawyers’ and doctors’ offices. In almost every conversation that I had with any of these people, the subject of multiple births was discussed. Everybody involved understood clearly that there was a very high possibility of twins, triplets or even more.

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Filed under Bioethics, Business & Commercial, Character, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement

Comment of the Day: “Comment of the Day: ‘On the Importance Of Christmas To The Culture And Our Nation : An Ethics Alarms Guide'”

Scrooge9

Nesting Comments of the Day again, as Belle’s reflections on how the cultural celebrations of Christmas made her feel “othered” as a child was met with many excellent responses and a lively thread. Pennagain’s (that is to say, the Commenter Previously Known As Penn) comment, however, surpassed tough competition, and thus we have the Comment of the Day on the post, Comment of the Day: “On the Importance Of Christmas To The Culture And Our Nation : An Ethics Alarms Guide”:

First impressions aren’t that easy to shrug off. Belle’s comment that she “was always sure that Ebenezer Scrooge was a commentary on the Jews” reawakened a long dormant spectre of mine. So, Google to the rescue, I went searching for the 65-year-old source and damned if I didn’t find it: My oldest Scrooge image is not from Dickens; it’s from the Rackham illustration of Shylock from Charles and Mary Lamb’s incomparable childrens’ (anyone’s!) introduction to Tales from Shakespeare:

ShylockFiction abounds with misers, a sub-category of villains (often semi-comical: to jeer at), a stock character from Medieval times, especially in children’s stories, who are often more memorable — and way more fun to act out — than are heroes. Miserly villains tend to have the same features and characteristics: mean, suspicious, hoarding good will as well as gold, stooped, narrow-shouldered, and “clay-faced” life-denying penny-pinchers … as is another “Ebenezer” in Stevenson’s “Kidnapped” whose miserliness is ethically and morally beyond villainhood (he changes sides in the middle of a battle), or a father-and-son pair of Chuzzlewits in another Dicken’s classic, or Shylock himself — who has by the end of Scene 1, before he lends the money and (jokingly) adds the “interest” that is the basis of the tragedy, chosen love of money over love of his daughter.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Literature, Popular Culture, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “On the Importance Of Christmas To The Culture And Our Nation : An Ethics Alarms Guide”

 

Belle is a Jewish reader of the recent Ethics Alarms Christmas post who sent  her comment to me off-site, then agreed to have it posted as the Comment of the Day after I requested permission.

She describes a real dilemma that I am very aware of, and thus am grateful for her raising it clearly and directly. I’ll be back with a bit more at the end, but here is Belle’s Comment of the Day on the post, On the Importance Of Christmas To The Culture And Our Nation : An Ethics Alarms Guide

I would like to try to make you understand at least a little why I am SO heartened that my children are growing up with “Happy Holidays” and Chanukah menorahs along with Christmas trees in public places, and how difficult it was for those of us non-Christians who didn’t. I sense that you were so antagonized by your colleague’s aggressiveness and different world view that you couldn’t hear what might have been behind the aggressiveness. You write that “Jews, Muslims, atheists and Mayans who take part in a secular Christmas and all of its traditions—including the Christmas carols and the Christian traditions of the star, the manger and the rest, lose nothing, and gain a great deal. Christmas is supposed to bring everyone in a society together after the conflicts of the past years have pulled them apart, What could possibly be objectionable to that? What could be more important than that, especially in these especially divisive times? How could it possibly be responsible, sensible or ethical to try to sabotage such a benign, healing, joyful tradition and weaken it in our culture, when we need it most?” Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Literature, Religion and Philosophy