Tag Archives: cruelty

On Mockery, The Streisand Effect, Incompetent Lawyers And The Sleeping Yankee Fan

ESPN cameras caught Andrew Rector sleeping in his seat in the fourth inning of  the April 13 Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees game. In the time-honored tradition of TV play-by-play when something funny, weird or, most especially, sexy is spied in the stands, ESPN commentators Dan Shulman and John Kruk  began making fun of him. The clip ended up on YouTube, naturally, and thus on various sports websites, followed by the various idiotic, cruel, gratuitously mean-spirited insults, usually composed by brave anonymous commenters.

This is a familiar pattern of unethical public mockery, and we have become inured to it. Though the ESPN team’s jibes were rather mild in nature, and Rector’s legitimate embarrassment quota would be far, far less than, say, that of George Costanza when this happened at the U.S. Open, let me say for the record that picking fans out of the crowd at sporting events and making fun of them, whatever they are doing, is generally a rotten thing to do. I know: it’s public, you know you might be on camera, and the fine print on the ticket stub puts you on notice. Unless, however, the conduct involved is actually newsworthy or despicable (as in instances where an adult has snatched a baseball from a child), the Golden Rule applies. Who knows why Rector was sleeping? Maybe he was up all night with a dying relative or a grievously ill child—Shulman and Kruk don’t know. And if he chooses to pay for a ticket and nap during the game—and it wasn’t exactly a scintillating game, I should add—so what? Continue reading

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Apology Of The Year Nominee: Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep

JESSICA_URBINAIn May, I wrote about the wretched treatment of student Jessica Urbina by her high school, Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep in San Francisco. Jessica was humiliated by the school when it refused to include her graduation photo in the class yearbook on the grounds that she had worn a tuxedo rather than a dress. I wrote…

“The rule is sexist, archaic, unthinking, prejudicial, arbitrary, cruel and wrong. The best way to change a rule that is sexist, archaic, unthinking, prejudicial, arbitrary, cruel and wrong is to break it, and see if those in charge have the sense and compassion to do the right thing. The administrators of Sacred Heart Cathedral High School flunked. I doubt that Jessica was even trying to provoke a confrontation: like any normal student, she wanted her image in the most important piece of memorabilia of her high school years to accurately portray her as she was, not as some alien ideal dictated by the Catholic Church. There was nothing to be achieved by banning the photo.”

It turns out that by the time I had discovered the story and commented on it, Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep had already reversed its decision. It wouldn’t normally garner much praise here for that: we have seen legions of stories of schools taking cruel, mean-spirited and idiotic measures against innocent students and then back-tracking later, only because the publicity and public backlash became too toxic. In this case, however, the school announced its reversal with an apology of unusual sincerity and grace, which I will reprint in its entirety: Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Quotes, Religion and Philosophy

Ethics Quiz: Virginia’s Forced Vasectomy

"Well, they can't all be "shouting fire in a crowded theater," Oliver. So you had an off day....it happens.

“Well, they can’t all be “shouting fire in a crowded theater,” Oliver. So you had an off day….it happens.

One of the skeletons in the Old Dominion State’s closet is the 1924 “Virginia Eugenical Sterilization Act,” a  law allowing the sterilization of citizens adjudged to be in a long line of mentally deficient idiots. The law was upheld in the infamous  1927 Supreme Court opinion in Buck v. Bell, in which the great Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, to his undying shame, wrote,

“It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind…Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

So approved, Virginia’s eugenics law lasted into the 1970s, allowing the state to sterilize more than 7,000 people in mental institutions. The law was repealed in 1979, and victims are seeking reparations. Now the ghost of that law is hovering over the resolution of a current case.

The only thing Virginian Jessie Lee Herald has done on his 27 years more than get in trouble with the law is have children: so far he has had seven (with six mothers) and his current wife says she wants more. He recently fled the scene of a car crash with his injured 3-year-old son. Herald pleaded guilty to felony child endangerment, felony hit-and-run, and misdemeanor driving on a suspended license. Investigators who went to his home found his child to have been neglected, with, among other things, shards of glass in his diapers.

A Shenandoah County prosecutor, Illona White, proposed a plea deal that would reduce Herald’s prison sentence to just four years: he would have to agree to a vasectomy. He took the deal, which also requires him to pay for the operation.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

 Is it ethical for a state to make a convicted felon choose between prison time and sterilization?

Continue reading

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The Perfect Scam

Victorias Victories

It appears that a family in Jackson, Mississippi has pulled off the perfect scam. Victoria Wilcher, 3, was mauled by her grandfather’s dogs, and needs extensive plastic surgery. A website, Victoria’s Victories, was put up the family to raise funds for her care, and really got a boost after the girl’s grandmother, Kelly Mullins, claimed that the child had been asked to leave a local Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise because, they were told, Victoria’s scarred face was upsetting patrons. The story went viral on the web, and more than $135,000 poured in from outraged and sympathetic Americans, including $30,000 from a frightened KFC.

Mission accomplished. Now it appears that a full-fledged hoax is unraveling. KFC, looking for someone to fire, can’t find any record of Victoria on surveillance footage for the day and time she was supposedly ejected. The girl’s grandmother and her aunt who runs the website can’t get their stories straight, citing varying dates and fingering various KFC stores, including one that has been shut down for months. The investigation is ongoing, but no confirming witnesses have come forward, and nobody can verify the socking tale of the cruelly-shunned little girl, who has already suffered so much.

Perfect! Since the object of the hoax is blameless, and the objective can be rationalized, and because the victim is just a mean old corporation that sells deadly fast food, the ends–getting money to repair a little girl’s damaged face–will certainly be regarded by many and perhaps most as justifying the means—lies, slander, libel, disparagement, and fraud. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, The Internet, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “The Humiliation of Jessica Urbina”

catholic church

I confess to priming Patrice, an old friend and the resident Catholic theologian here, for this. I have known here for many years, and she is what I would call a passionate and rebellious Catholic scholar, and hoping she would weigh in on my criticism of the Catholic Church in the wake of the treatment of high school senior Jessica Urbina, which I view as symptomatic of the Church as it is of the schools. As I expected, however, Patrice makes a strong case.

Here is her Comment of the Day on the post, The Humiliation of Jessica Urbina:

Well, you knew I was going to respond, right?

“The cruel treatment of Jessica is one more indication of the sorry state of the Catholic Church, which appears to be a fatal cesspool of hypocrisy, desperate public relations, and an integrity vacuum. There are two kinds of Catholics, it seems: those who profess the be devout followers of the Church but who discard and violate its doctrine and core principles whenever they seem too burdensome, unpopular or embarrassing, and those who blindly follow the dictates of the Church, no matter how clearly they have been proven wrong and wrongful by the accumulated experience and wisdom of civilization, because morality never changes.”

So, what am I? The feckless “Cafeteria Catholic” or the “Fundamentalist Catholic”? I really take exception to your gross generalizations about Catholics as being one or the other of your versions. Knowing me, Jack, how could you make such generalizations?

As a sometime student of Theology, I prefer to see myself as a Catholic who dissents in good conscience from certain teachings of the Church — not because they are “too burdensome, unpopular, or embarrassing,” but because I believe that there is more to be learned from the core teachings of Jesus than what we have thus far proclaimed. And for the record, I am saddened by what happened to Jessica. What the school did (notice I say school, not church) was not compassionate, kind, or tolerant.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following:
“A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself.”

The problematic part comes after that: “Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.” It’s kind of a Catch 22. Does the Church see a well-formed conscience as one that has been properly educated (indoctrinated?) in the “truths” that the Church has put forth, and therefore agrees with the Church on all matters? Maybe. I suspect that this conscience thing was intended to give courage to Catholics who would have to disobey their “Catholic conscience” to do something they were being encouraged or forced to do in the secular world that is against Church teachings. Thus, martyrs. Regardless, I stand by my educated conscience.

I hold up the subjects of my senior thesis, which was about dissent in the Church: Hans Küng and Charles Curran. Both censured for their dissent, but still voices in the wilderness. Look at Pierre Telhard de Chardin. Got into a lot of trouble for his writings, but somewhat “rehabilitated” in today’s world of theological thought.

With regard to Jessica, I see this as an educational system problem, because it might have happened at any school. The fact that it happened at a Catholic school makes it look like a Catholic problem, but I sense that you would find the same problem in schools in various places around the country, as well as other denominations which teach (yes, there are others) that homosexuality is wrong/forbidden/whatever. I’m sure I’m breaking one of your principles here, but really I do see this as an authoritarian school problem first and foremost. It’s also a self-expression issue.

I personally wish Jessica great success as she, no doubt, continues to break the barriers that keep her and others from being and expressing who they are.

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Education, Religion and Philosophy

The Humiliation of Jessica Urbina

JESSICA_URBINA

Every year at this time, Ethics Alarms covers one or more ethics controversies over a yearbook photo that has been deemed inappropriate for a high school graduation yearbook. The 2014 controversy, I think, has more significance than the others. Like other examples of rigid school administrator enforcement of poorly though-out rules and blatant cruelty to children, what was done to Jessica Urbina demonstrates the peril of allowing those in what no passes as the education profession to have power over our children, since they so frequently abuse it, or influence over the development of our children’s character, as the administrators display such flawed character themselves. The more I think about this incident, however, the more I conclude that it foretells the dying of a major religion in this country, and why it may deserve to die.

The yearbook photo of senior Jessica Urbina was deleted from her class  yearbook because she wore a tuxedo. School officials at San Francisco’s Sacred Heart Cathedral High School said  she violated the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s policy because she didn’t wear the dress that’s required for female students in yearbook photos. This is the no-tolerance version of yearbook photo rules, sexist, anti-gay, cruel and stupid. Jessica isn’t dressed inappropriately or unkempt; in fact, she looks great. She took care to make herself presentable for her yearbook, and succeeded. Quite reasonably, however, she decided to appear in clothing that made her feel comfortable, given her sexual orientation, for she is reputedly gay. Tuxes are not a gay uniform by any means; hetero and gay women have worn them as fashion for decades. Below are, clockwise, Ellen Paige, Kim Kardashian, Madonna, super-model Danielle Luquet de St Germain, and the immortal Marlene Dietrich:

Celebs in Tux

I know: yecchhh! How disgusting!

Seriously–there is nothing, nothing, provocative, inappropriate or wrong with Jessica’s attire. She is nicely groomed, her clothing is impeccable, the photograph is impeccable, and she looks cute and happy. The school officials knew what to do about that.
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Ethics Quiz: If There Is Going To Be A Racial Double Standard For Bigoted Statements, Can We Please At Least Know What It Is?

stop-sign2

Item: Donald Sterling, billionaire owner of the NBA Clippers, while speaking with his mistress/girl friend/ escort in the bedroom, announces that he doesn’t want her bringing black men to Clippers games. In the process, he does not say anything specifically derogatory about African- Americans. He believes the statement is private, and that he is talking to someone he could trust.He was wrong. A recording of the conversation was leaked to the press, and Sterling has been roundly vilified as a vile racist, threatened with a boycott by the players, mostly African-American, in the NBA, fined 2.5 million dollars and banned from the game.

Item: Via Mike Wise, Washington Post sports writer—

“Following Wednesday’s Pacers-Wizards game in Indianapolis, during the time when NBA rules permit media members to be present, the music blaring in the Indiana locker room was filled with vile language: racist, homophobic and misogynist. Afterward, I complained on Twitter that if Commissioner Adam Silver truly wants an inclusive league, he ought to address this (common) practice.”

Result: Wise, who is white, was attacked as a racist. What NBA players listen to in the locker room is none of his business, he is told (but what Donal Sterling says in his bed room is their business.) The NBA has done, and is expected to do, nothing.

Item: Appearing on ESPN where he is a commentator, Charles Barkley, former NBA star (and an African-American), decided to deride the women of San Antonio, Texas as fat. “There’s some big ‘ol women down there,” said Barkley. “That’s a gold mine for Weight Watchers.” He added, “Victoria is definitely a secret. They can’t wear no Victoria’s Secret down there.” A spokesperson for a fat acceptance group protested:

“Making slurs about body size is just as offensive as making comments about body color. One would think being a black man, he’d be more sensitive to having his physical body criticized. It’s totally out of line. He should absolutely apologize.”

Barkley not only refused to apologize, but defiantly challenged anyone objecting to his remarks, jokes or future comments to “change the channel.”  Nobody expects Barkley to suffer any consequences from this series of events.

Item: In 2007, talk show provocateur Don Imus got into a facetious discussion with a broadcast team member about how te women’s basket ball team from Rutgers was “rough looking” and had some “nappy-looking ho’s.” He also referenced Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” and the film’s “Jigaboos vs.  Wannabes.” Imus apologized profusely, pronouncing the exchange inappropriate, thoughtless and stupid. Under pressure from various civil rights groups,  WFAN, which produced his show, fired Imus, who has never regained his previous prominence.

Item: In 2013, media professional Justine Sacco tweeted a race-based joke before boarding a plane to Africa: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” A furious cyber mob condemned her as a racist, and demanded her punishment. When she landed in Africa, she learned that she had  been fired.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for today is…

What the hell is going on here?

Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Week: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

“Shouldn’t we be equally angered by the fact that his private, intimate conversation was taped and then leaked to the media? Didn’t we just call to task the NSA for intruding into American citizen’s privacy in such an un-American way? Although the impact is similar to Mitt Romney’s comments that were secretly taped, the difference is that Romney was giving a public speech. The making and release of this tape is so sleazy that just listening to it makes me feel like an accomplice to the crime. We didn’t steal the cake but we’re all gorging ourselves on it. So, if we’re all going to be outraged…Let’s be outraged that private conversations between people in an intimate relationship are recorded and publicly played. Let’s be outraged that whoever did the betraying will probably get a book deal, a sitcom, trade recipes with Hoda and Kathie Lee, and soon appear on “Celebrity Apprentice” and “Dancing with the Stars.”‘

-—Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in an essay pointing out some of  hypocrisies and excesses in the reactions to the Donald Sterling saga.

"Gotcha! He's screwed now...but he's a racist scumbag, so it's perfectly OK."

“Gotcha! He’s screwed now…but he’s a racist scumbag, so it’s perfectly OK.”

Good for Kareem. I was just about to make this point myself, and preparing to be pilloried for making excuses for a racist. Kareem is a lot bigger than I am, and I’m happy to stand behind him.

I watched two African-American lawyers on CNN today erupt in over-the-top outrage that has become the norm in the “finger-wagging Olympics” that Abdul-Jabbar decries in the rest of his article. One of the lawyers called Sterling’s remarks defamatory—“defamatory?” Sterling didn’t say a word that was negative about blacks; he just said he didn’t want his girl friend taking photos with them. His comments constitute smoking gun proof of racial bias, sure, but they aren’t “defamatory.” The other lawyer called them “the most vile, disgusting...” on and on and on, comments that he had ever heard.  Really? I doubt that. You know, once you award the prize to Sterling’s racist comments, you have no more superlatives left  for really horrible racist remarks. The two sportswriters, Christine Brennan and Bill Rhoden, who preceded my commentary on NPR today, did the same thing. It was a contest over who could express the most outrage.

It is a small surprise, then, in this hyper-charged atmosphere, that the conduct of V. Stiviano is getting an ethics pass, as if betrayal doesn’t matter as long as the betrayed party is despicable, and what she did was justified because she exposed a racist to the world. It’s not justified. The ends don’t justify the means, when the means are betrayal and mean-spirited vengeance, and when the methods used threaten to become a social norm, turning American homes and bedrooms into Stalinesque trap where no secret is safe. We’ve seen this practice before and I’ve condemned it before: the Harvard Law student turned into a campus pariah by a jealous rival circulating a private e-mail to the people most likely to be offended by it; Alec Baldwin’s daughter releasing private communications with her intemperate father to harm his reputation; Mel Gibson’s girlfriend doing the same; e-mail jokes being intercepted and sent to political enemies as a tool of personal destruction; clumsy suitors having their fumbles turned into national ridicule by the objects of their affection. Continue reading

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Ethics Dunces: Paula Deen and “Uncle Bubba”

uncle-bubba-s-oyster

Like breaking up via text message and telling your spouse you want a divorce in an e-mail, here’s a crummy use of technology that we should hope doesn’t catch on.

Uncle Bubba’s Seafood & Oyster House, a restaurant owned by Paula Deen and her younger brother, Earl W. “Bubba” Hiers Jr., told all of its employees that the place was going out of business on its Facebook page, and that was all. The message:

“Since its opening in 2004, Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House has been a destination for residents and tourists in Savannah, offering the region’s freshest seafood and oysters. However, the restaurant’s owner and operator, Bubba Heirs, has made the decision to close the restaurant in order to explore development options for the waterfront property on which the restaurant is located. At this point, no specific plans have been announced and a range of uses are under consideration in order realize the highest and best use for the property.The closing is effective today, Thursday, April 3, 2014. Employees will be provided with severance based on position and tenure with the restaurant. All effort will be made to find employees comparable employment with other Savannah restaurant organizations.”

Yechh.

Cruel, rude, impersonal, cowardly. Also callous, lazy and inefficient: how many employees were told by third parties about the announcement?

Well, at least Paula’s not a racist. I wonder if the Food Network fired Paula via Facebook? I’m pretty sure it didn’t.

_____________________

Pointer: Evil HR Lady

Facts: CBS

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Privacy, Facebook, And School Abuse of Power

I bet the school officials never even said they were sorry, did they, Riley?

I bet the school officials never even said they were sorry, did they, Riley?

It can a bit late to the party, in my view, but the ACLU just delivered a crucial blow to Big Brotherism in the schools. Addressing an issue that Ethics Alarms flagged in 2011, Minnewaska Area Schools (in Minnesota) agreed to pay $70,000 in damages to

for violating her rights. It also agreed, as part of the federal court settlement, to rewrite its policies to limit how far a school can intrude on the privacy of students by examining e-mails and social media accounts created off school grounds.

In 2012, the ACLU Minnesota Chapter filed a lawsuit against the Minnewaska School District after it suspended Stratton for a Facebook post, written and published outside of school, in her home, in which she expressed hatred for a school hall monitor who she said was “mean.”  After the suspension, Stratton used Facebook to inquire which of her “friends” had blown a whistle on her. School officials brought the young teen into a room with a local sheriff and forced her to surrender her Facebook password. Officials used it to searched her page on the spot; her parents were not consulted.

“A lot of schools, like the folks at Minnewaska, think that just because it’s easier to know what kids are saying off campus through social media somehow means the rules have changed, and you can punish them for what they say off campus,” Minnesota ACLU attorney Wallace Hilke said. “They punished her for doing exactly what kids have done for 100 years — complaining to her friends about teachers and administrators. She wasn’t spreading lies or inciting them to engage in bad behavior, she was just expressing her personal feelings.”

Not that it was any of the school’s business if she was spreading lies or inciting others to bad behavior. This phenomenon, where schools decide that they have a right to punish students for non-school activity, words and thoughts  was discussed on Ethics Alarms, and condemned as unethical, here, here, here, and here, and more recently here.

Minnewaska Superintendent Greg Schmidt protested (the school settled without admitting any wrongdoing) that the school only wants to make sure kids understand that actions outside of school can be “detrimental.” “The school’s intent wasn’t to be mean or bully this student, but to really remedy someone getting off track a little,” Schmidt said. Not your job, you officious, censorious, child abuser. This is the sole realm of parental authority. I have seen enough wretched judgement from your breed, Mr. Schmidt—like (I’m picking examples randomly) here, here, here, here and here—to convince me and anyone with a cerebral cortex that school administrators lack the training, wisdom and judgment to know what “going of track a little” is for a 13-year old.

Stay out of my kids’ life and my family’s life. You have enough trouble running schools properly…work on that.

________________________

Sources: Daily Caller, ACLU, Minnesota Star Tribune

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