Category Archives: U.S. Society

Irresponsible Gun Ownership and Consequences

smoking-gun

Here we go again:

A 15-year-old boy  shot and killed his younger brother during a game of “cops and robbers” using what they thought was an unloaded handgun. The boy called police to their home in Eagan, Minnesota, and told them he had shot his brother, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Though police said the facts would be presented to the Dakota County Attorney’s Office for review, but no one is in custody and no charges are expected.

Investigators say the boys found their father’s 9mm handgun, which had been hidden unloaded, with a magazine holding cartridges nearby. At some point, the handgun was loaded by one of the boys, and assuming it had been unloaded, the brothers  began to chase each other in a game of “cops and robbers.” police said. The 15-year-old unintentionally fired,  striking his brother in the chest.

The father should be arrested and charged with negligent homicide. Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Family, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, U.S. Society

Wanetta Gibson, The Limits Of Forgiveness, And The Most Unethical Facebook Friend Request Ever

"Come on. Let's hang out. I'm more mature now."

“Come on. Let’s hang out. I’m more mature now.”

Brian Banks, the once-promising high school athlete whose life was upended by a classmate’s false rape accusation that sent him to prison for five years, is now  back on his feet, working for the National Football League, and, by the evidence of his recent profile in the New York Daily News, impressively beyond anger and bitterness. He does tell a stunning story, however, of a day in 2011 when he received an unexpected Facebook friend request from Wanetta Gibson, the woman who, for no apparent reason, did this terrible thing to him. Banks says that she wrote…

“I was hoping we could let bygones be bygones. I was immature back in the day, but I’m much more mature now. Let’s hang out. I’d love to see you. I’ve seen your picture on Facebook. You look real good. I would love to hook up.”

I’ve been trying to think up a fanciful equivalent for this “I know I tried to wreck your life, now will you please let me back into it?” request. Would it be John Hinckley Jr. asking President Ronald Reagan for a job? Edward Snowden replying to an NSA RFP? Maybe V. Stiviano asking Donald Sterling for a job recommendation? I’m not sure any of them would be as bad. “Let bygones be bygones.” Among other things, what an insult this is. How stupid does Gibson think her victim is?

Then there is this chilling statement: I was immature back in the day, but I’m much more mature now.” Translation:  “Yes, now I’m a fully mature vicious sociopath. Don’t you want to renew our relationship?”

These are the situations where someone inevitably argues that Americans believe in redemption, and when I inevitably respond, “You are out of your friggin’ mind.” Some people, not many, but some, are bad to the bone, and the social pressure to forgive the worst of the worst—Did you read the words “I’m sorry” anywhere in that request?—is a trap, set up by those who won’t have to live with the consequences of another betrayal of trust.

Banks, of course, rejected Gibson’s overtures.

Two years later, she recanted her withdrawal of her rape accusation.

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, The Internet, U.S. Society

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Gary Sinise

gary-sinise

“With all due respect, what the hell are you talking about?”

—Actor and Wounded Warrior ally Gary Senise, in an open letter responding to Howard Dean’s statement that the audience for “American Sniper” consisted of “angry people.”

Good question. What are the vicious and anti-military critics of Clint Eastwood’s box-office busting bio-pic about Navy Seal Chris Kyle talking about?

I saw the film yesterday. It’s not pro-war, pro-Iraq invasion, or political in any way. The various critics of the film out themselves as hateful and so biased against combat, the military and, I don’t know—life? Reality?—that they can’t even keep their minds open a crack for a thought-provoking piece of popular art. Dean had said, turning his review (I’ll bet anything that he hasn’t seen the film) into a gratuitous attack on tea party supporters:

“There’s a lot of anger in this country, and the people who go see this movie are people who are very angry. And this guy basically says ‘I’m going to fight on your side.’ … I bet you if you looked at a cross-section of the Tea Party and the people who go to see this movie, there’s a lot of intersection.”

In the same forum–his weekly HBO conservative-bashing fest–Bill Maher called Kyle a “psychopath patriot” (there is nothing whatsoever in the film that supports that diagnosis). Seth Rogen compared “American Sniper” to a Nazi propaganda film. Michael Moore used the film–which he couldn’t possibly have seen–to make the ridiculous observation that snipers were “cowards.” Kyle, the most effective sniper in U.S. military history, was wounded repeatedly and awarded two Silver Stars and five Bronze stars. For him to be smeared as a coward by the likes of Michael Moore is grotesque.

The film, among other things, shows just what kind of horror our service men and women endured in Iraq, how they suffered (and suffer still), what it did to them and their families, and accords them well-deserved compassion and respect. How sad, bitter and rotten inside someone must be to resent that. As I watched the film, it occurred to me that this was probably exactly what John Wayne wanted “The Green Berets” to be during Vietnam, but had neither the discipline to avoid agitprop and sentimentality, nor Clint’s directing skills to pull it off.

After expressing his disgust at Dean’s outburst in a tweet, the stage and screen star, whose foundation works to help and recognize the soldiers and veterans he calls our “defenders,” wrote,

To Howard Dean,

I saw American Sniper and would not consider myself to be an angry person. You certainly have a right to make stupid blanket statements, suggesting that all people who see this film are angry, but how is that helpful sir? Do you also suggest that everyone at Warner Brothers is angry because they released the film? That Clint Eastwood, Jason Hall, Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller and the rest of the cast and crew are angry because they made the film? Chris Kyle’s story deserved to be told. It tells a story of the stress that multiple deployments have on one military family, a family representative of thousands of military families. It helps to communicate the toll that the war on terror has taken on our defenders. Defenders and families who need our support. I will admit that perhaps somewhere among the masses of people who are going to see the film there may be a few that might have some anger or have been angry at some point in their lives, but, with all due respect, what the hell are you talking about?

My guess is that Dean is talking about his own estrangement from basic American values, its history, and its essential role in the world, including all the sacrifices, risks and difficult choices that role demands. He’s the angry one.

 

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Professions, U.S. Society, War and the Military

STUPIDITY SATURDAY Bonus: The Deflategate Deniers, Excusers, Rationalizers and Corrupters

dumb football fan

[This post took so long to write that I am posting it on Sunday. Pretty stupid.]

Every few months an ethics story erupts that convinces me that I’m wasting my time. I started writing about ethics online in disgust over the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, which revealed to me that no politicians, few journalists and a tiny minority of the public understood the difference between, right, wrong, and a desperate rationalization. I was aghast at the vigorously nodding heads on talk shows when some ethically-challenged dolt would say that “everyone lies about sex” (so it’s okay), or that because other leaders may have had illicit sex, that made it acceptable, or that Clinton deserved special dispensation because he was an effective and popular President, or that he and Lewinsky were consenting adults, or that personal conduct was irrelevant to the job, or that other Presidents had done worse. These were all just lazy, poorly reasoned and culturally corrupting rationalizations, but nobody except a derided few seemed to know it.

So I’ve been writing about these and other ethics issues, including rationalizations, for about 15 years, and nevertheless, when something like the Patriots cheating scandal arises, I hear the same unethical, ignorant crap, as if nothing has changed. And, of course, nothing has. All I can hope to do, in conjunction with others who don’t want to see society devolve into a Hobbesian Hell, is to try to convince enough rational people that we can, by constantly explaining, arguing, and pointing the way, just keep things as barely endurably corrupt as they are now.

I got depressed just writing that last sentence.

The issue regarding the New England Patriots giving their quarterback an edge by cheating—deflating the balls so he could throw more accurately–isn’t controversial or hard to understand. If the team broke a rule that relates to sportsmanship, the fairness of the competition and the integrity of the result, and it is hard to see how it didn’t, then the NFL should punish the team severely. [ The NFL, true to its black heart, has made it clear that its investigation will not allow a resolution of this until after the Super Bowl, meaning that it hopes the controversy will deflate. I’m sure it could resolve all questions and identify the accountable parties faster if it wanted to—it doesn’t want to.] To do otherwise essentially endorses cheating. Moreover, since the team involved has a head coach who has made it clear that he is willing to cheat (having been caught before), that coach must be held accountable for the unethical culture he has nurtured whether he was directly involved in this particular episode or not. This is truly Ethics 101, Management 101, Culture 101, Sports 101—let’s just call it “101.” Yet so many, from the elite among sportswriters to the public that devotes an obscene amount of their passion, time and money to following football just don’t get it. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Professions, Sports, U.S. Society, Workplace

Ethics Alarms Mail Call: Mt. Holyoke Ditches “The Vagina Monologues” As “Non-Inclusive,” and the Misuse of Kindness

VaginaI’m an ethicist who often writes on college controversies, and I make no secret about my double life in professional theater, so it figures that my inbox would include more than one query about Mt. Holyoke College’s decision to end its annual student performance of Eve Enlser’s “The Vagina Monologues” on the grounds that it is now admitting women without vaginas—I know, it’s confusing–who would feel excluded from what was supposed to be an inclusive experience and statement for the all-women’s school.

From Campus Reform:

The annual production of the play is part of a country-wide tradition to perform Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues on Valentine’s Day to raise awareness about gender-based violence and usually coincides with the V-Day campaign. The proceeds are donated to sexual assault prevention organizations or women’s rights organizations. This year, however, Mount Holyoke’s Project Theatre Board is defying tradition by permanently retiring the play. In a school-wide email from the Theatre Board, a representative from the group, Erin Murphy, explained the problems with the play and the reasoning behind its discontinuation.

“At its core, the show offers an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman…Gender is a wide and varied experience, one that cannot simply be reduced to biological or anatomical distinctions, and many of us who have participated in the show have grown increasingly uncomfortable presenting material that is inherently reductionist and exclusive,” the email, obtained by Campus Reform, said.

Replacing the play will be Mount Holyoke’s own version that will be trans-inclusive and fix the “problems” supposedly perpetuated by Ensler. Murphy also claims that there are problems with race, class, and “other identities” within the play. The new production, comprised of students’ monologues, will be performed in a fashion reminiscent of the feminist classic. The program will be performed alongside the College’s Peer Health Educators, an on-campus student-led group that provides education and workshops for students, including a workshop on how to use sex toys properly.

Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Literature, Rights, The Internet, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “A Failure To Understand Legal Ethics Kills”

armchair quarterback2

It shouldn’t shock anyone to see yet another Comment of the Day here authored by texaggo4. He has been the most prolific commenter—other than me, and he’s ahead of me so far in 2015— since the legendary tgt went into voluntary keyboard retirement, and has led all visitors in commentary the past two years. Last year, he contributed a staggering 3, 048 comments, more than twice as many as runner-up Steven Mark Pilling, who was hardly a piker with 1,082. (The rest of the top five: Ablativemeatshield/Scott Jacobs close behind at 1, 079—he would have finished #2 if he hadn’t quit the field in a pro-pot snit; Beth, with 881, and dragin-dragon at 809. Thanks, everyone, and all other commenters too. That’s a lot of quality content, some of the best on the web anywhere.)

The list is especially relevant to this COTD, as tex rebuts an accusation of “Armchair quarterbacking” against Beth from new commenter gokafilm. Beth had offered a comment to the post about Tampa lawyer Gienevee Torres, who called 911 to report a deranged client—he was wearing pajamas and thought she was God– who had just left her office with his 5-year-old daughter after making an ominous comment. The police decided that the man was harmless despite her warning, and the man eventually dropped the girl off a bridge. Beth wrote:

“I am furious at this lawyer — not the police. She should have said something like, “Yes, I am God. He commands you to give me your child and leave my office now and run to the nearest hospital.” I would have happily stood before the Bar Committee defending my actions if it meant that I had saved a child’s life.”

Gokafilm replied:

Easy to say Beth from the safety of your home/office/wherever. She had to be concerned for her safety and her staff as well. This most likely is a split second decision. Get the individual out and call the authorities…Did she not have a responsibility to herself and her staff to consider their safety as well? What’s to say he wouldn’t have harmed them if they forcibly tried to keep the girl. This lawyer did the right and only thing she could have. Got the individual out of her office, and contacted both 911 and DCF in order to protect the child. Any other conclusion is merely arm chair quarterbacking from the safety of your computer screen.

Another term for “armchair quarterbacking” is hindsight bias, the tendency to judge a difficult decision unreasonably harshly when it doesn’t work out well. “Obviously” conduct is “wrong” after the results are known. My response to Beth’s comment was that the whole, horrible incident was moral luck: if the lawyer had done the same thing and the girl had been rescued as a result of her violating client confidentiality, everyone would have said that her actions were appropriate and even heroic.

On the other hand, post-event analysis is invaluable; this website is based on it. The argument that nobody should criticize an individual’s conduct “unless he’s walked a mile in his shoes” is a lazy cop-out that impedes cultural wisdom and learning from the mistakes of others. I don’t completely agree with many, perhaps most, Comments of the Day, but I concur with this one.

Here is texaggo4’s Comment of the Day on the post, A Failure To Understand Legal Ethics Kills: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, U.S. Society

The Destructive, Useful, Unethical Presumption of Bigotry, Part I: California’s Anti-School Discipline Law

Last year, in September, California became the first state to prohibit by law the suspension of students for “willful defiance” unless the activities involved were certified by the school superintendent as meeting the specific standards enumerated in the law, all of them very serious, most of them already crimes. What was the rationale behind Assembly Bill 420? Well, it seems African American kids were being disproportionately suspended. They made up about 6 percent of total enrollment, but 19 percent of suspensions for defiance.

According to the Justice Department’s politically motivated embrace of the “disparate impact” approach, any policy that disproportionately affects a minority group adversely is presumptively racist. It couldn’t possibly be true that black students are, as a group, more likely to defy authority, especially the authority of white teachers, right? The fact that pundits, members of the Congressional Black Caucus, MSNBC, Al Sharpton and the President keep hammering on the idea that America is run by a racist cabal, and that the only reason we aren’t getting ready to replace Teddy Roosevelt with Barack Obama on Mount Rushmore is that his wonderful accomplishments have been denied and distorted by white racists, and that our police departments are hunting down and murdering unarmed young black men as the justice system looks the other way—none of this could possibly be feeding anger, frustration, and hate among  among young black students that is translated into willful defiance in class—why would anyone think that?

The law is lunacy. The California state government is endorsing the idea that the schools, especially white teachers, are bigots, and thus the government is reinforcing exactly the emotions and beliefs that feed African American classroom defiance in the first place. Now uncooperative minority students will be able to have their disruptive conduct validated (with disruptive conduct by non-minority students similarly encouraged), treated gently and with understanding, inevitably reducing the educational value of class by allowing more chaos and less discipline, undermining the education of well-behaved students black or white. Meanwhile, toxic behaviors, attitudes and conduct by students that will hamper their prospects of success after school will not attract trigger negative reinforcement.

And when the out-of-school defiant conduct occurs later in response to a lawful command by a police officer?

You might get Michael Brown.

This is such a good plan. Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society