Category Archives: Literature

The Strange, Sad, Ominous Case Of College Student Julian Batts and His Wheel Of Fortune Disaster

The solution is obvious: colleges should teach "Wheel of Fortune" skills...

The solution is obvious: colleges should teach “Wheel of Fortune” skills…

The Indiana University press breathlessly proclaimed it as a cause for campus pride:

An Indiana University honors student fulfilled a lifelong dream of appearing on the iconic television game show “Wheel of Fortune.” Julian Batts, a Hudson and Holland Scholar, a Herbert Presidential Scholar and a Hutton Honors College student from Indianapolis, will appear on the show Friday, April 11, as part of its annual “College Week.” “I’ve watched it as long as I can remember,” he said of the game show, which has been on the air for more than 30 years. “I have always had that desire to be on the show and solve puzzles in front of a live audience.”

Batts traveled to Culver City, Calif., and taped the episode in February. Students from Indiana State and Purdue universities also were selected to participate in “College Week” matches. The Carmel High School graduate is majoring in business and Spanish. He is actively involved at Rose Avenue Residence Hall and as an usher at the IU Auditorium. He participated in IU’s Intensive Freshman Seminar program and the IU Beginnings program, which introduces a small group of students to recruiters from top companies that partner with the Kelley School of Business. He also is the third generation of his family to attend IU, and both of his parents earned IU degrees.

“This was an opportunity of a lifetime for Julian, and we’re happy that he has had this experience to add to the many wonderful experiences he’s enjoyed as an IU student,” said James Wimbush, IU vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs and dean of the University Graduate School.

…On April 11, he looks forward to getting together with friends so they can see how well he did. “Regardless of whatever is aired on TV, I am glad I did it. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was an experience I will never forget,” he said. A viewing party for Batts will begin at 6:45 p.m. in Room 150 of the Student Building on the IU Bloomington campus.

Do make a mental note of the last part. Even after the taping, Julian was proud of his performance, and was thrilled about a viewing party. This glowing story was written after the following fiasco occurred. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Literature, Race, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

Kafka Middle School, New Jersey, Where Nothing Makes Sense, And Nobody Cares

The Trial

“I know you love these,” wrote the friend and reader who sent me the latest example of student abuse by school administrators who have lost their minds. No, I really don’t. They make me sick and angry and leave me with the feeling of having just stepped off the curve and had a bus whiz by close enough for me to feel the breeze. If this happened to my son, I could see myself snapping and going for the responsible administrator’s throat. This was not an inconsiderable factor is choosing to home school.

Glen Meadow Middle School (in Vernon, N.J.) seventh grader Ethan Chaplin told reporters that he was twirling a pencil with a pen cap on in math class when a student who harassed him earlier in the day shouted, “He’s making gun motions! Send him to juvie!”  As local school Superintendent Charles Maranzano explained, policy and law requires him to investigate any time a student is made  “uncomfortable” or threatened by another student. Thus it was that Ethan was summarily stripped, forced to give blood samples (which allegedly caused him to pass out) and urine samples, so he could be tested for drugs.  Four hours later a social worker cleared him to return to class, but a doctors decreed that a five-hour physical and psychological evaluation was necessary before the boy would be allowed back in school.

Continue reading


Filed under Citizenship, Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Government & Politics, Literature, Professions, Rights, U.S. Society

What Is An Ethical Tiger Lily?

Believe it or not, this is Disney's version of an Indian chief.

 Disney’s version of an Indian chief.

I recently watched the Disney “Peter Pan,” long my favorite of the classic animated films, which I had not seen from beginning to end in decades. I was genuinely shocked at the portrayal of the Indians, which would make the average movie Western seem politically correct and the Washington Redskins seem like a compliment. I know the story is a fantasy; I know that these are not supposed to represent real Native Americans, but a Victorian child’s visualization of the villains of their games. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine the effect of such a film on a Native American child as being anything but devastating. The Neverland Indians, and their heroine, Tiger Lily, have been a human relations problem since at least the civil rights era, and the provocation is legitimate: did you recall (I had forgotten) that Tiger Lily belonged to the “Piccaninny tribe”? That James Barrie was a funny guy. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Literature, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, U.S. Society, Workplace

Embracing Orwell


Nancy Pelosi epitomizes the ethics illness that has been gradually infecting our public discourse for decades now. She suffers from, and indeed wants to spread, the George Orwell Disease, epitomized in his classic “1984,” which causes political leaders to seek to control the public and hold power by controlling what the population is capable of thinking and saying. Such cynical and sinister use of language to hide the truth and then keep it hidden by insisting on vernacular that throws the brain off the track was once primarily the realm of the military, but in recent decades the American liberal establishment has found the approach—“War is Peace,” as George would have put it—extremely useful, indeed, indispensable. Pelosi’s tactics—it isn’t just her, of course, but the Democrats are accountable for their leadership—include many of those that Big Brother was adept at in Orwell’s book—repetition, for example.

Yesterday, Pelosi explained how the Affordable Care Act was a “winner” for Democrats going into the 2014 elections—or, as Big Brother would say, “Losers are Winners”—and instructed the public and the media that the law isn’t “Obamacare.”  “It’s called the Affordable Care Act. It’s called the Affordable Care Act, ” she insisted. “Affordable. Affordable. There’s a reason. Affordable. Affordable. Affordable. Affordable. Affordable.” Continue reading


Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Literature, U.S. Society

Ted Nugent Ethics, Part 2: Nugent vs Bump


If asked, I would have said that it would be impossible for even the most ethically muddled blogger to discuss Ted Nugent’s revolting “sub-human mongrel” denigration of the President and make Ted look relatively astute by comparison. And I would have been wrong.

I wouldn’t even have answered in the affirmative if I had been warned that the parody of a progressive, Phillip Bump, was on the case. Bump was last featured here when I dissected his inept attack  on criticism of the Obama children’s unusually lavish vacations. In a post on Wire, however, Bump does the impossible, and in the process, actually proves the diagnosis that has been offered in many forums regarding the warped ethical values and priorities in the progressive camp. To too many of them, race really does trump everything. Moreover, the obsession with race and racism can make one look foolish even compared to Ted Nugent, who looks foolish compared to Barney the Dinosaur, Justin Beiber, Flavor Fav, Valeria Lukyanova, a.k.a. “Real Life Barbie,” Michele Bachman, or “Jackass II.”

Over the weekend, Nugent issued 44 fatuous tweets asserting that various conduct and policies of the President or his administration were “more offensive” than his  racist slur to describe President Obama. This is, as any regular reader here will note, an example of my least favorite of all the rationalizations on the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations list, the dreaded #22, “The Comparative Virtue Excuse,” or “There are worse things.” Attempting this argument, in my view, is proof positive that one is an idiot or a scoundrel, and usually both. Wrongful conduct is never excusable or mitigated because other conduct is somehow more wrong. An individual who reasons in this rudimentary way can rationalize literally every kind of unethical conduct, from cheating on a spouse to serial murder (“Well, at least I’m not a mass murderer!”) I call it the “bottom of the barrel,” and so it is. That Ted Nugent sought to defend his racist and ugly slur this way is signature significance that he is an irredeemable, indefensible jerk.

If Bump had any sense himself, and he does not, he would have dismissed Nugent’s offensive idiocy by citing the rationalization at work. Instead, he commenced upon the fool’s errand of comparing each of the 44 “worse” things cited by Nugent (several of them barely coherent) to racism, which in Nugent’s case means only the vilest variety of name-calling. Here is some of the conduct that Bump argues are definitely not “worse” than Nugent’s words:

“a biased lying media”
“bribing & rewarding bloodsuckers & con artists”
“buying votes”
“Fast & Furious”
“government out of control”
“government spying on Americans”
“hating America”
“Presidential lies”
“racial preferences”
“the racist knockout game”
” runaway fraud, deceit, and government corruption”
“violating your oath of office”

We are talking in the abstract here, remember. Bump isn’t arguing with Nugent about his interpretation of whether the President or his administration really engaged in these things; he is truly arguing that an addled rock singer uttering offensive words is more objectionable than all of the above, each of which has tangible, in some cases devastating negative consequences affecting lives, and in some case millions of lives. Bump’s priorities are stunning in their Bizarro World detachment from reality. He writes,

“Some of these are obvious. “Presidential lies” would be less offensive than racist words because racism is worse than lies.”

Racism, even the essentially victimless variety displayed by Nugent—these are just words, after all, directed at the most powerful man in America, who can, will and does brush such attacks off like gnats— is certainly worse than many kinds of lies, like those on Judge Kozinski’s list. It is assuredly not worse than substantive Presidential lies, which affect elections, policy, finances and lives. Ted Nugent’s pathetic, nasty, self-mutilating name-calling? Insignificant. “If you like your current health care plan, you can keep it—period”? Not just offensive, but catastrophic and a mass national betrayal. To Bump, however, that Nugent’s is a greater offense is beyond debate. To whom?

Yes, Phillip Bump is more offended by the silly blatherings of a has-been singer than he is Obama lying to the electorate. Or violating his oath of office, an impeachable offense. Or politicians engaging in voter fraud. Or news media bias, which makes competent democracy unworkable. In his own ideology-poisoned way, he’s every bit as crazy as Nugent.

Is Bump typical of progressives in his conviction that so much misconduct is less harmful than racial slurs? I find that difficult, and too frightening, to believe. Any group that believes mere words are so dangerous is on the verge of advocating censorship.  Ted Nugent may be a racist and a fool, but his priorities, with all their many gag-inducing flaws, are more rational and ethical than those of Phillip Bump.

And they’re not as offensive, either.


Graphic: Cinedork


Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Literature, Race, U.S. Society

Cartoon Ethics: The New York Times “Eliminationist” Joke

The New York Times is taking fire from diverse commentators on the Right for publishing a political satire cartoon that includes this panel:


It is part of a larger cartoon japing at the supposed aftermath of a harsh winter:


Among the ethics complaints against the drawing:

  • “Aside from its patently offensive notion that those holding different political views don’t deserve to live, the panel in question also lacks a key element in political cartoons that aim to be tongue in cheek — it isn’t funny. Imagine the outrage at the Times if Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, et al., suggested that liberals should die for not agreeing with them. Yes, things would get nasty in a hurry. Has it really been that long since the Tucson massacre and the left’s demand for more civility, at least from conservatives?”Newsbusters
  • “Global warming has made much of the country so cold that the Times is instructing its readers to use giant icicles to bludgeon the non-believers to death.”Ed Driscoll
  • “NY Times Suggests Killing “Climate Change Deniers”Weasel Zippers
  • “So, as WUWT readers well know, I have a different opinion about global warming.Do you think the New York Times  should endorse stabbing me (and others with similar opinions) through the heart like a vampire because I hold that opinion?”Anthony Watts Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Environment, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Literature

An Ethics Breach That Matters: Betrayal Of The Rule Of Law And Democracy

In the endless Obamacare Ethics Train Wreck, the trains may be our democracy, and the Rule of Law.

In the endless Obamacare Ethics Train Wreck, the trains may be our democracy, and the Rule of Law.

The consensus among objective legal observers is that President Obama’s unilateral amendments to a bill passed by Congress and signed by him into law exceed his constitutional authority, are illegal, and violate his oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Worse, they create a precedent that endangers the nation’s freedom,  as protected by the rule of law and the system of checks and balances, by laying the foundation for more obtrusive and dictatorial acts by future Presidents, who are sure to notice that the negative consequences of this blatantly unconstitutional act were nil. The President and the executive branch shares responsibility for this dangerous and irresponsible display of autocratic lawmaking with both houses of Congress and both political parties, none of which have demonstrated either the integrity or the courage to oppose him, for varying reasons.

It is depressing and indeed disgusting that our successful democratic system of government  created out of the vision and sacrifices of so many men and women of character, ability and high ideals is being progressively undone by fecklessness, incompetence and political expediency. That, however, is the plot playing out on the national stage, and these are the perpetrators: Continue reading


Filed under Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Literature, U.S. Society

Crossing The Line Between Fun And Corruption: The Elf On The Shelf



Ever since I first encountered an “Elf on the Shelf” at a friend’s home, I have wrestled with the alleged tendency I have to perceive serious  unethical consequences into trivial matters. I have wrestled long enough: the “Elf on the Shelf” is an unethical addition to a child’s home, and parents should think long and hard before subjecting their children to its sinister influence.

If you have been lucky enough to avoid this relatively new addition to American holiday traditions, here is what is going on, right from the Elf on the Shelf website, where you can buy these small KGB agents in pajamas:

“The Elf on the Shelf® is a special scout elf sent from the North Pole to help Santa Claus manage his naughty and nice lists. When a family adopts an elf and gives it a name, the elf receives its Christmas magic and can fly to the North Pole each night to tell Santa Claus about all of the day’s adventures. Each morning, the elf returns to its family and perches in a different place to watch the fun. Children love to wake up and race around the house looking for their elf each morning. There are two simple rules that every child knows when it comes to having an elf. First, an elf cannot be touched; Christmas magic is very fragile and if an elf is touched it may lose that magic and be unable to fly back to the North Pole. Second, an elf cannot speak or move while anyone in the house is awake! An elf’s job is to watch and listen. Elves typically appear in their families’ homes at the beginning of the holiday season (around Thanksgiving in the U.S.). On Christmas Eve, the elves return to the North Pole with Santa Claus–until next year!” Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Finance, Government & Politics, Literature, Marketing and Advertising, Rights

Worlds Are Colliding! A Conflicted Holiday Invitation For Ethics Alarms Readers, Their Friends And Families…


Now I know how George Costanza felt. This time it is the world of Ethics Jack and Theater Jack that are colliding….

The American Century Theater, the small, Arlington, Virginia-based non-profit professional theater company—you know, one of those “culture palaces” that rich people give to so they can “hobnob” with each other (our performing space is in a Middle School) according to Robert Reich—which I helped found and have served as Artistic Director for 18 years— is producing a unique—and free—dramatized version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” that Ethics Alarms readers can actually “attend” and enjoy with the families, friends and ghosts.

Using a technique pioneered by Ethics Jack’s company ProEthics for Continuing Legal Education teleseminars under the auspices of Virginia Continuing Legal Education,  the production will recreate the sound and feel of old time radio drama using modern teleconferencing technology. All of the actors are snug in their own homes, using telephones as their microphones, as their vocal portrayals are mixed, live, with music and sound effects by sound designer Ed Moser, also The American Century Theater’s technical director. More than 20 current and former professional actors from  Maryland to Utah will be involved, creating an hour-long, live recreation of a script adapted from the Golden Age of radio drama, when Campbell’s Soup presented an annual live broadcast of “A Christmas Carol” starring Lionel Barrymore ( you know him best as “Mister Potter”) as Scrooge, to millions of families across the country every Christmas Eve.

Theater Jack is the director of the show, which you can listen to over your own phone, or better yet, through the speaker phone with your family taking in the sounds of the classic tale by your side.

How do you do this?

It’s as simple as licking a candy cane!

Anyone wishing to hear the broadcast will only have to call in a few minutes before 8 PM, E.S.T., on Sunday next, December 22. The  audience Dial-in number is 1-443-453-0034, followed by entering the Christmas Carol Conference Code: 758246. Then, upon entering the virtual theater, audience members must press *4 to mute their lines (if only theater audiences and their cell phones were so neatly muted!) and wait for the show to begin. There will be no charge to the listening audience for “A Christmas Carol,” except for regular long distance rates where they apply.

Feel free to let your friends, colleagues and neighbors know about the event, and consider this worlds collision-risking invitation my thanks to you for helping Ethics Alarms have a banner year of ethics debate and illumination.

Merry Christmas!



Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Literature, Science & Technology

Santa Claus Ethics, Stupid Division

I don't care WHAT color this guy is, I'm getting my kid OUT of there!

I don’t care WHAT color this guy is, I’m getting my kid OUT of there!

The fact that there is a serious debate going on in the blogosphere and news media whether 1) Santa Claus is white; 2) whether it is racist to maintain he is white and 3) whether he should be some other race or species is more evidence that the United States of America is having a nervous breakdown. It also demonstrates that race-baiters and the insanely politically correct have no sense of proportion, moderation or shame, and that too many of those who are confronted by these annoying people don’t have the sense to know when to just nod, pat them on the heads and say, “Sure, sure…if it makes you happy.” Here are some loosely connected observations on a controversy too dumb to justify organization: Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, History, Journalism & Media, Literature, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, Race