Tag Archives: abuse of power

Ethics Quiz: Is It Time For A “Let’s Tweet Insults About Chip McGee Day”?

Meet Chip McGee!

Meet Chip McGee!

At Bedford (New Hampshire) High School, several students were not pleased with Superintendent Chip McGee’s announcement via his Twitter feed that classes would resume the day following the school’s cancellation for snow. They responded with tweets of their own, some that were not especially pleasant. McGee, as one would expect a mature adult to be, especially one overseeing the education of children, was philosophical. saying, “Kids said some very funny, clever things. And some kids stood up and said, ‘Hey, watch your manners.’ That was great. And some kids — a few — said some really inappropriate things.”

Yes, kids will be kids. McGee then suspended those latter students for up to four days.

“It’s been a really good exercise in issues of students’ right to speech, on the one hand, and students’ and teachers’ rights to an educational environment that’s conducive to learning,” McGee explained to the Constitutionally ignorant. “Kids have the right to say whatever they want about me [and] The First Amendment right means you can say what you want, (but) it doesn’t mean that you are free of repercussion. It can’t disrupt what we’re doing in school … If something disrupts school, and it (occurs) outside school, we not only can take action, we have to.”

McGee  hopes that the punished students will learn from this incident about “the line” of decent and appropriate commentary. “You only learn that by checking where it is, and having something happen when you cross it,” he said.

Good ol’, wise ol’ Chip McGee. He has no idea what the hell he’s talking about.

The students are absolutely guaranteed of speech without “repercussion, if the speech in off school grounds and the repercussion is from a school official who takes offense. The school has no authority to punish students for what they post on Twitter, from their homes, none at all, unless it relates directly to action at school itself, such as organizing a school disruption. A student opinion of the superintendent or his decisions? That’s 100% protected speech. I can find that right to speech Chip mentions in the Constitution, but search as I might, I can’t locate in the Bill of Rights the provision the “students’ and teachers’ rights to an educational environment that’s conducive to learning” that extends to what a student says and writes outside of school. Where is that “right,” Chip?

Chip speaks in the measured tones of a caring educator, but he acts like a petty tyrant who is eager to abuse his position and power to punish anyone who dares to displease him in what they say or think.

No merely insulting or uncivil tweet is going to disrupt school, and if that’s Chip’s claim, he has a rather tough burden of proof to demonstrate it. Nor does a public school—that’s the state, you know— have the right to effectively censor speech by punishing content. If the speech isn’t libelous or a credible threat, Chip McGee’s remedy consists of asking to speak with the Tweeter and express his hurt and disappointment, or perhaps consulting with the student’s parents, who do have a right to limit online speech when their children are the speakers.  As an educator, he might explain to the student that insulting authority figures you must relate to on mass social media is neither wise, civil, nor a good habit, and suggest that an apology is in order. He may not, however, abuse his power and position to constrain the free speech of those students and others by inflicting punishment. Chip McGee, who has the young minds of children within his power to lead or mislead, needs to learn this basic civics lesson, as do other tin god educators, and I’m sure there are many, who similarly itch to punish students for exercising their speech rights in the privacy of their homes.

Thus this somewhat atypical Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz question to ponders:

Should we declare a “Let’s Tweet Insults About Chip McGee Day”?

Continue reading

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Sen. Gillibrand’s State of the Union Guest

Emma and her mattress: actually, many of the other attendees at the State of the Union would have loved to have had a mattress...

Emma and her mattress: actually, many of the other attendees at the State of the Union would have loved to have had a mattress…

I was considering framing this as an either/or ethics quiz, with Sen. Gillibrand (D-NY) inviting Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia student who continues to harass the student she accused of rape despite her allegations being judged, by the school and police, as unprovable to the State of the Union, being compared to Speaker John Boehner’s in-your-face invitation of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress about Iran. I don’t like either of the moves: both are unethical in different ways. I can at least devise an argument for Boehner, however. I don’t see how anyone can excuse Gillibrand, who is essentially accusing a young man of rape when she has no direct knowledge of what happened.

Columbia student Paul Nungesser was found “not responsible” for sexually assaulting Sulkowicz, Since that official determination, Sulkowicz has been carrying a mattress around the university as “an art project” to protest Nungesser’s success at defending himself. When he learned that the Senator had injected herself into the controversy, he told reporters,

“I am shocked to learn that Senator Gillibrand is actively supporting Ms. Sulkowicz’s defamation campaign against me by providing her with a public forum in which to broadcast her grave allegation. By doing so, Senator Gillibrand is participating in a harassment campaign against someone who, for good reason, has been found innocent by all investigating bodies.”

Yup, I’d say that’s a fair interpretation. He continued,

“Sulkowicz’s accusation is untrue and unfounded: I have never sexually assaulted anyone. This is why Columbia University after seven months of detailed investigation in November 2013 found me to be not responsible…I voluntarily let myself be interviewed by DA chief of Sex Crimes at SVU in New York City, in August 2014. Shortly after this interview, the DA’s office informed me that they decided not to pursue the case further.”

Sulkowicz  decided not to pursue the criminal case any further. She just took the alternative action of setting out to hound, harass, accuse, stigmatize and embarrass Nungesser as “art.” Continue reading

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Holder Does The Right Thing. Finally.

forfeiture pictureFrom the Washington Post:

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without proving that a crime occurred.Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs.Since 2008, thousands of local and state police agencies have made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under a civil asset forfeiture program at the Justice Department called Equitable Sharing.The program has enabled local and state police to make seizures and then have them “adopted” by federal agencies, which share in the proceeds. The program allowed police departments and drug task forces to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds of the adopted seizures, with the rest going to federal agencies.

I wrote about this outrageous abuse of government and police power in 2012. It is an ethics disgrace of long-standing; why Holder was moved to take this action now (and not his first day on the job), I can’t imagine: maybe he wanted to finally do something as he leaves Justice that makes up in some small measure for his atrocious leadership. It doesn’t matter: seldom has the phrase better late than never been more apt. I’ll attempt to overlook the millions of dollars worth of property stolen from innocent citizens by the government over the last six years and give Holder his due now. He did the right thing.

Finally.

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The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 2)

Rice and Janay

Ethics Corrupter of the Year

(Awarded to the unethical public figure whose prominence, popularity and success most corrupts the public’s ethical values)

Janay Palmer Rice, beloved punching bag of NFL star Ray Rice, who was caught on camera smooching with her man shortly after being cold-cocked by him in a hotel elevator, married him, and has repeatedly defended her husband, prompting confused female pundits to defend her. She is not only the embodiment of Rationalization #42. The Hillary Inoculation, or “If he/she doesn’t care, why should anyone else?”, she is also a good bet to get some young women killed by giving them a role model who stands for standing by your abusive man with the hard right hook.

Double Standard Of The Year

In a year of double standards, the treatment of soccer star (and accused child abuser) Hope Solo by her sport, feminists, the media and the public takes the prize. The standard, as I understand it, is that big, strong female athletes can beat up smaller, weaker family members with impunity, and it’s no big deal, but when a male athlete does the same, he is scum. Got it.

Uncivil U.S. Official of the Year

Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and the top American diplomat in Europe, was caught saying in a viral Youtube video saying “Fuck the EU.”  Now that’s diplomatic. Of course, she wasn’t fired, because she works for the Obama Administration

The Jesse Jackson Award 

(For the Year’s Worst Amateur Diplomat)

mo_selfie_lg

First Lady Michelle Obama, who helped her husband make the U.S. look weak and ineffectual (he needs no help), by engaging in this ridiculous effort at hashtag diplomacy. Those kidnapped girls were never found, and Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist group that took them, I learned today, just killed a reported 2000 more victims. Time for another sad picture, Michelle!

Most Unethical Sports League

The NFL, last year’s winner, was even more unethical this year, with the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson fiascos, Commissioner Roger Goodell showing no innate instinct for right and wrong and both the league and its teams making up rules and policies according to talk show calls, polls and wet fingers in the air. Meanwhile, it’s still making billions paying young men to lobotomize themselves. What a great sport.

Sports Cheat of the Year

Alex Rodriguez, suspended Yankee star, had denied, denied, denied, threatened to sue Major League Baseball and the union, and insisted that he had not, as an investigation had determined, used performance enhancing drugs supplied by Biogenesis. Then, just as his season-long suspension was lifted, it was revealed that A-Rod had, under oath, admitted using steroids from 2010 to 2012.

Annual Sports Ethics Controversy That Gets Worse Every Year

Steroid cheats (like Rodriquez) and their fitness for admission to Baseball’s Hall of Fame

Unethical Lawyer of the Year

Michael Fine, the Ohio lawyer who allegedly hypnotized female clients in order to sexually molest them.  Runner Up Alexa Van Brunt. She didn’t do anything unethical; she just advocates ethics rules that would eliminate the core of legal ethics, proving that she doesn’t understand her own profession.

Unethical Judge of the Year

judge_mccree

Wade McCree, the handsome devil pictured above (he circulated this selfie), who, presiding over a felony child-support case, conducted a secret sexual relationship with the woman seeking support from the defendant. This was just the latest of his embarrassments.  Runner up: Texas District Judge Jeanine Howard, who handed down a stunningly lenient sentence of probation and 250 hours of community service at a rape crisis center for a man who confessed raping a 14-year old girl at her school.

 

Unethical National Broadcast Journalist Of The Year

CNN’s Carol Costello. She was biased, smug and incompetent all year long, but reached her nadir when she gleefully played a recording of Bristol Palin explaining to police how she had been assaulted, saying to her viewers, “You can thank me later.” She refused to apologize on the air, or to Palin. Continue reading

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The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 1)

Cosby3

2014 was the year of the Ethics Train Wreck. They were coming so fast that they were getting tangled up with each other, and old wrecks from past years started rolling again, or the damage that was triggered a year ago or more started kicking in. I don’t know if every year really is more ethics free than the year before, or that it just feels that way because I’m getting better at sniffing it out. By any standards, it was a wretched year, with epic ethical misconduct across the culture. But I can’t stall any more: let’s wade into it. There will be more installments this year, so the misery is coming in smaller bites. You’re welcome.

Ethics Train Wreck of the Year

trainwreck

It’s a tie!

The Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck and The Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck

The obvious winner is the Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck, which has managed to hook up with the 2012 winner, The Trayvon Martin- George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck, as well as a the sub-EthicsTrain Wreck attached to the death of Eric Garner, to further degrade U.S. race relations, undermine the stability of numerous cities, get several people, including the recently assassinated NYC police officers killed, revive race riots, give vile demagogue Al Sharpton unprecedented power and influence, and pick up such distinguished riders as President Obama,  Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, New York Mayor de Blasio. It is also still barreling along at top speed after many months, and is a good bet to continue its carnage well into 2015. 

Yet, it became clear to me this summer with this post that the entire Obama Administration has become an Ethics Train Wreck, and one that is neck-and-neck with the one spawned in Ferguson in threatening short and long-term damage. Incompetence, dishonestly, lack of transparency and arrogance have hardened cynicism in the public, corrupted the ethical values of defenders, let journalists to disgrace themselves, and fertilized festering potential disasters internationally and domestically. This is also, I now see, a wreck of long duration that started in 2009, and had gathered momentum with every year. It also has sparked other wrecks, including the one that now keeps it from being the sole 2014 winner. How much damage will The Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck do in 2015? Which agency or department will prove itself to be corrupt, incompetent and mismanaged, which official will continue in a post after proving himself unfit to serve, which inept pronouncement or abuse of power will further degrade American trust and freedom?

I’m not looking forward to learning the answers.

Fraud of the Year

The U.S. Justice Department, which allegedly participated in a plot to force  Sierra Pacific Industries and other defendants  to pay $55 million to the United States over a period of five years and transfer 22,500 acres of land as settlement of charges brought against the company by DOJ for causing a 2007 wildfire that destroyed 65,000 acres of land in California. Naturally, the national news media has barely covered this scandal, which is still in litigation. Runner Up: The Victoria Wilcher scam, which made KFC pay for plastic surgery for a little girl when there was no evidence that the company was in any way involved with her injuries. After the fraud was discovered, it didn’t dare ask for its money back. Well played, fraudsters! Continue reading

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Is It Ethical For Professors To Date Students?

teacher-student datingProfsBlog asks the question regarding law professors and law students, but the question doesn’t change by narrowing the definition. The question is really, and only, “Is it ethical for teachers to have romantic relationships with students?” The answer is, has been, and forever shall be, “No.”

The answer to an ethics question sometimes becomes obvious when it is apparent that every argument on one side is either a logical fallacy, an unethical rationalization, or the application of an invalid ethics principle. Such is the case here, and thus I somewhat question the motives of the author of the post, Kelly Anders. Wishful thinking, perhaps? Asking the question creates the illusion that there is a real controversy. In this case, there isn’t.

I addressed this question a long time ago, in an early post here barely seen at the time but among the most frequently visited since. I wrote:

[P]rofessors [are] obligated to maintain a position of authority, objectivity and judgment as mentors and teachers of the whole student body, and [have] a duty to their schools not to allow their trustworthiness to be undermined by having intimate relationships among the same group that they [are] supposed to be supervising and advising. Dating a student is a professional breach of trust, and one that adversely effects the integrity of the entire educational institution…. The appearance created when a supervisor/manager/leader indulges in intimate relations with someone over whom they have authority, status and power—and every professor has authority over every student, in class or out— undermines the institution and the profession, by sending the false message that such relationships are standard, approved, and implicitly desirable in the culture where they occur…A professor has a potential teacher-student relationship with all students at a university, not just those in his or her classes.

Dating a student who happens not to be in one of those classes is what lawyers call “a distinction without a difference.” Many students and professors will reasonably assume that the pairing arose out of the student-teacher relationship, and in some ways it almost certainly did. A teacher always has superior power over any student by virtue of his or her position of authority, and it is an abuse of that power to use it to entice students into dates or bed…

[It] is naive to ignore the extended conflicts such relationships create. Might the professor’s best friends on the faculty be more generous when grading their friend’s significant other if he or she is one of their students? Will the professor consciously or subconsciously be easier on the friends of his student lover if they are in his class? The fact that the question can be asked shows that the situation should not occur where it can be asked.

Students, all students, must be off-limits as romantic partners for professors and administrators in universities, regardless of what rules are in place.Professors who date students risk their jobs because a student body is not their sexual smorgasbord, and it is a breach of trust and duty to treat it like one.

I wouldn’t change a word, except that typo I just noticed, and just fixed in the original. Nor is anything I wrote then revolutionary or new. These are the realities of authority, professionalism, leadership and power. It’s just that sometimes people really, really wish they were not. Continue reading

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President Obama’s Unexpected Legacy: The Deadly Deterioration Of Racial Reconciliation And Trust

Murdered cops

I really hate thinking this, much less writing it.

At this moment, race relations in the United States are in a more precarious and dangerous state than at any time since the 1960s. The arrogance, incompetence, biases, and in some cases intentional political machinations of the nation’s first African American President and his party are substantially and perhaps primarily responsible for this tragedy. This is a catastrophe for the nation and its society, though one that the mainstream media will deny, obscure, or refuse to admit. It is still true.

As we begin December 21, 2014, two NYPD police officers named Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, one white and one Asian, are dead, having been assassinated by a deranged African American criminal who drove from Baltimore to New York in order to put “pigs in a blanket.” He announced his plan with message referencing the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, as well as “them” and “us”—“us” being black men, “them” being police officers.

You will hear and read Obama/Holder/Sharpton/ De Blasio defenders furiously denying the connection between these politicians’ repeated suggestions that white police officers were profiling black men and often killing them, and the racial hatred currently focused on police. They will say that the killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, was insane, and perhaps that he was more likely a lone wolf Islamic terrorist. The journalists  should be reminded that they were immune to such alternative theories when they blamed the Tucson attack that maimed Congresswoman Gaby Giffords on the rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin, even though the shooter in that case had no smoking hashtags that indicated any motivation other than insanity.

Ironically, their arguments apply fairly now, when they did not then. Re-read Paul Krugman’s infamous column from 2011, substituting the “climate of hate” he attributed to attacks on big government by conservatives (because, like the Michigan professor who authored this, Krugman doesn’t regard what he and other liberals express as hate, just well-earned contempt) with the real and deadly racial distrust and suspicion nurtured by the rhetoric of black leaders, progressive pundits, and others, suggesting that young, black men are being hunted down and killed for the crime of being black. Krugman won’t make that argument now, but if he had any integrity or objectivity, he would.

President Obama, elected on the promise that he would bring the races together, lit the long fuse for this unfolding disaster for our democracy in July of 2009, less than a year into his first term. A prominent African American professor, Henry Lewis Gates, Jr., acted like a jerk to a white Cambridge, Mass. police officer responding to a call, and was arrested for disturbing the peace. Obama, in the first of his many unethical pronouncements that interfered with local matters completely unrelated to his job, made public comments suggesting that Gates was treated unjustly because of his race. The facts indicated that Obama had impugned the character of not only a model police officer, but one recognized for extraordinary sensitivity in the area of black community relations. There was no public apology from Obama, however, and the fuse was lit. Continue reading

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