The legal ethics CLE business is peculiar: about 50% of it takes place in just two months, September and October. For me, in addition to presenting fascinating cash-flow puzzles, this means that I am jetting off into U.S. air transportation Hell an average of twice a week, or making long, mid-might drives around Virginia. I have other responsibilities too, such as keeping up with ethics developments and, in years like this one, ushering the Boston Red Sox to the World Series. Often this makes me sick, as I now am, and I’m not as young as I was, well, just yesterday in fact.
One of the unfortunate results of all this is that am behind on my Ethics Alarms coverage, and there is a lot going on. I have a huge backlog of terrific topics that have been sent to me by many of you, and “A List” news stories that I had queued for essays are gathering mold. I have also been less able to join in the combat in the comments, which have been doing very well without me, thanks—though tgt is still AWOL!—and more seriously, I have sometimes been late approving comments of those new to the blog. [Side note to "Passerby"---I'm sorry it took me a day to OK your comment orgy: your comments---all 15 of them, civil and well-considered--- are up, and future ones should post immediately now. But you still owe me, privately, at firstname.lastname@example.org, your real name. Check the comment policies, please! Welcome.]
There’s a month of this to go, and I will try to cover the ethical outrages, dilemmas and controversies being thrown at us like pies in a Max Sennett comedy more thoroughly in October than September. Bear with me, and I thank you all for your tolerance, attention and loyalty.
And good night, tgt, wherever you are…
Just in time for the latest round of political exploitation of a gun-related tragedy, it has been discovered that a school history textbook used in some Texas high schools (and probably others) mis-states the meaning of the Second Amendment, neatly editing away the part that all the controversy is about.
In fact, John J. Newman’s “United States History: Preparing for the Advanced Placement Examination,” rewrites the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. On page 102 of Newman’s book (page 134 of the PDF version), the author summarizes the amendment in a way that distorts its meaning:
Could this be intentional? Well, it is certainly wrong, and one is not being conspiratorial to wonder how such a blatant error 1) got into a history text in the first place , 2) passed any review process, and 3) lasted this long.
It is well-established that the Second Amendment guarantees the individual’s right to keep and bear arms, and not only in a militia. How far that guarantee extends is indeed a matter of intense debate, but Newman has misleadingly limited that right only to those who are members of a government militia, essentially editing the amendment right into obsolescence. Though that is clearly where many anti-gun zealots, including Senator Diane Fienstein, CNN talk-meister Piers Morgan, and many others would like to see it go, it is not the current state of the law, and never has been.The Supreme Court opinion in District of Columbia vs Heller (2008), which is not mentioned in the textbook, held that the Second Amendment “protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”
There is no defending Newman’s textbook, except as a justifiable attempt to destroy the Second Amendment by teaching students that the right to bear arms doesn’t exist in the modern world—in other words, by using deception and indoctrination. Continue reading
The combination of Memorial Day reflections on my late father’s character and a letter to relentlessly ethical advice columnist Carolyn Hax leads me to expound on what we will henceforth call the “Julie Principle.”
Hax’s non-religious correspondent wanted to know what she should do about a good but annoyingly Evangelical friend, who would not cease inviting her to attend church, despite knowing that such an activity held no appeal whatsoever. Hax’s answer, which you can read here, touched on many approaches to the problem. To my dad, the answer was simple. Continue reading
I know it is asking a lot, but it would save a lot of frustration and aggravation on all sides if newcomers to Ethics Alarms would take the time to read, not only the Ethics Alarms Comments Policies, but also the Concepts and Special Terms (under the masthead above), the Unethical Rationalizations and Misconceptions, the Virtues, Values and Duties, the Alarm Blockers, and the Ethics Decision-making Tools, all of which have permanent links to the immediate left of the most recent post. Not only do the essays and commentary constantly refer to these terms and topics, they are also based on them. I don’t expect to stop all new commenters from relying on “everybody does it” logic or from stooping to “who are you to judge?” as their sole argument, but if more would just read these sections, I wouldn’t have to keep writing the same thing in response quite so much. That would make me happy, and also get more new relationships here off to a friendlier start. These are the concepts, tools and language that underlie everything that’s written here, and the more we all are speaking the same language, the better the discussion will be.
I have also recently added material to both Concepts and Special Terms and the Rationalizations section, as both were out of date. I encourage regular visitors to re-acquaint themselves with those areas, and feel free to suggest changes, additions and deletions, as well as flagging the inevitable and apparently unavoidable, for me at least, typos.
Thank goodness for the Maine Incivility Project.
With all the talk about incivility sparked by the media’s determination to blame a madman’s shooting rampage on Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and the Tea Party, it rapidly became evident that civility is a somewhat elusive concept. For example, while shouting “You lie!” at the President while he is speaking is definitely uncivil, arguing that the President was really foreign born isn’t—it’s stupid, but not uncivil. Calling Rush Limbaugh “a Big, Fat, Idiot” in the title of your book, as Sen. Al Franken did, is uncivil, as is calling Nancy Pelosi “the Wicked Witch of the West,” as Rush Limbaugh did. Using cross-hairs to designate Democratic House seats that Republicans are “gunning for’”, “targeting” or “taking aim at”, on the other hand, is not uncivil…just unsettling if one is metaphor-challenged or hoplophobic (having a pathological fear of guns.)
Never fear, however. Before the echoes of President Obama’s call for Americans to come together had barely faded, the public got a handy lesson from the Governor of Maine about what incivility sounds like, as his term launches the new Maine Incivility Project. Continue reading
One of the few pleasures left in business travel these days is the chance to meet interesting people who are very different from those I typically encounter at home. One my last trip, waiting for a connection, I was buying a cup of specialty coffee an airport stand from a friendly man with a lovely African accent. “How much?” I asked.
“All of it,” he said, smiling, as he glanced at the travel funds in my wallet.
“Can’t do that, ” I joshed. “It all belongs to my wife.”
And suddenly this stranger who I was never going to see again was pouring out his life story, choking up with emotion in the process. Continue reading
N.F.L. quarterback Tim Tebow is in the middle of a fierce culture wars controvesy because he agreed to let his life story be the centerpiece of a Super Bowl ad created by Focus on the Family, the evangelical group founded by James Dobson. has bought air time during the Super Bowl. The ad features Tebow and his mother relating how she rejected the advice of doctors when urged her to have an abortion. She had the baby, and he grew up to be a football star. A touchdown for the anti-abortion team.
Some women’s groups, including the National Organization for Women, are petitioning CBS not to air the ad during next month’s Super Bowl, always one of the most-watched television events of the year. Continue reading
Some concluding Ethics Alarms from the Brown-Coakley Senate race, many with the same dispiriting lesson: hyper-partisan zealotry is causing many Americans to abandon their senses of fairness, proportion, and common sense : Continue reading
Conan O’Brien did the only honorable, dignified thing left for him, which was to tell NBC to enjoy the rubble of its schedule, because he wasn’t going to be part of it. Continue reading
Some diverse ethics observations while living the lonely existence of a traveling ethics trainer… Continue reading