Tag Archives: fairness

Ethics Quiz: The Lettering Of Michael Kelley

Michael-Kelley-Down-Syndrome

Controversy in Kansas:

Michael Kelley is a high school student who has Down Syndrome and autism. He plays extra-curricular special needs basketball, so his family bought him a varsity letter and had it sewed to a school jacket to resemble the jacket the school’s athletes wear. The school’s special needs teams are not regarded as  varsity sports.

The school asked Michael to remove the jacket or the letter, since East High’s policies dictate that only varsity teams can wear the letter.

Now Michael’s mother is petitioning the school board to ensure that special needs team members get letters. Public reaction in Wichita is running against the school, which is being painted as cruel and lacking compassion by not letting Michael wear his letter jacket.

Your Ethics Alarm Ethics Quiz this almost spring weekend (March is back to being a lion here in the D.C. area) is this:

Should the school have let the special needs athlete wear his counterfeit letter jacket?

Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Education

Monetary Affirmative Action: “Women On 20s”

Patsy Mink, almost certainly one of the 100,000 most significant Americans in our history.

Patsy Mink, almost certainly one of the 100,000 most significant Americans in our history.

Barbara Ortiz Howard was interviewed on CBS this morning, talking about her effort to put a female face on our money. The thrust of her argument distills down into simple math: there are a lot of women, so the money should reflect that. We are now in the realm of affirmative action, and this was a sitting duck for the effort. There is no criteria for being on currency, just death. It’s an honor, of course, and as an honor, should be taken seriously, though its hard to argue that the current slate of faces reflects any objective evaluation. Salmon P. Chase? Kennedy’s undistinguished three years in office didn’t earn him his place on the 5o cent piece; getting shot did.

I can’t work up much indignation over the campaign being played out on Howard’s website, Women on 20’s. Like all efforts to impose quotas and encourage group identification, the effort is devisive, and the site’s candidates to replace Andrew Jackson could serve as a primer on how affirmative action can have the perverse effect of diminishing the credibility and integrity of an accomplishment. Whatever one thinks about Jackson, he had a tremendous impact on the nation and its political culture, was a transformative national leader, and a historical figure of great significance. Quick: name the major legislative accomplishments of Patsy Mink, Shirley Chisolm and Barbara Jordan for example. Jackson towers over them in importance to the nation’s growth and long-term success. That doesn’t mean he has to be on a bill, but nobody will be able to argue again that being so honored means anything more than that a powerful constituency caught an accommodating Democratic President when he needed to bump a poll number. Continue reading

41 Comments

Filed under Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, History

Fire NYT “Public Editor” Margaret Sullivan

new_york_times_logo

In some professions, an apology isn’t enough.

One such profession is accounting. Arthur Andersen couldn’t fix its reputation by apologizing. Its knee-deep involvement and likely complicity in the Enron debacle rendered its claim to trustworthiness permanently and irredeemable damaged. Its conduct made the company useless as a certifier of transparency and truth. For an accountant or auditor, if there is any doubt that he or she might not be telling the truth, the jig is up. One cannot trust a truth-teller who only is accurate and reliable most of the time.

I think the same applies to newspaper ombudspersons, if that’s the proper term now, and this is what Margaret Sullivan’s job as New York Times “public editor is,” euphemisms aside. She is supposed to bolster public trust by serving as an objective critic of Times reporters, columnists and editors, and ensuring that they hew to the high standards of professionalism and journalism ethics readers should be able to expect from the nation’s most respected newspaper.

Like the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart, Sullivan has published a mea culpa for her joining on the “Darren Lewis is a white cop and Mike Brown was an unarmed black kid, so obviously the white cop gunned down the black kid in cold blood because that’s what white cops do and whites want to do” lynch mob last summer as it was being led by Eric Holder, the media, Al Sharpton and others.  But unlike Capehart, who is an opinion columnist and can be forgiven a bit for being led by his biases, Sullivan job is to protect her colleagues from their biases and ensure that the Times at least tries to be objective and fair. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, Professions

Shortest Investigation Ever: Determining Whether It Was Inappropriate For The Middle School Vice Principal To Say In A Video, “I Don’t Like Black Kids”

"Wait, let's not leap to conclusions...maybe he's not dead."

“Wait, let’s not leap to conclusions…maybe he’s not dead.”

In Fresno, California, Scandinavian Middle School vice principal Joe DiFilippo was recorded on video by a student saying, “I don’t like black kids” in the cafeteria. The video was then posted on YouTube. Fresno Unified School District officials said DiFilippo has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.

Maybe I’m suffering from a momentary lack of imagination, but what else do they need to know? I understand union rules and the need for due process, but what findings could possibly, ever, under any circumstances, allow DiFilippo to keep his job? 11% of the school’s students are black. Why would they ever feel secure going to a school where an administrator said such a thing in the school? (I’m assuming the man didn’t really say, “I don’t like black kids any more or less than I like any other kids, as everyone in the school knows.” Watching the video would presumably make that possibility moot.)

District officials say they are investigating “the context in which the comment was made.”  What possible context could mitigate that statement? Let’s see…maybe he was talking about not liking them for special purposes, like snacks or as piñatas? “I don’t like black kids..when they’re on fire? When they are holding Uzis on my family? When they sing the Sponge Bob theme song”?

It doesn’t matter! If there is anything the man doesn’t like about black kids that he accepts about white kids, he’s not qualified to be a vice-principle.

Every second Mr.Fillippi doesn’t resign, he’s wasting time and money, and proving that he is just as big a fool as the video shows him to be. If no investigation can save  him, then he shouldn’t wait for an investigation to do the right thing.

 

17 Comments

Filed under Character, Education, Race, Workplace

Protest Slogan Ethics, Lies As Enlightenment, And “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!”

Witness 128...

Witness 128…

Today’s Washington Post Fact Checker column finally weighs in on whether of not “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” is a lie.  I won’t keep you in suspense: Of course it is.

As I had no ideological reason to pretend that it was otherwise, I identified the phrase as such last November. Since then, it has been wielded by athletes, journalists, members of Congress, protesters, talking heads, professional athletes, and pop stars, while contributing to getting some police officers shot. There was no need for this verdict to take so long. “Better late than never,” you say? How about better responsibly on time, as in when the facts were available to anyone with the integrity to reject a useful catch-phrase that was without basis in fact?

For some reason this is not the regular Post Fact Checker. Maybe Glenn Kessler, a partisan who makes a reasonable  effort to overcome his biases, couldn’t get around them this time, or is sick or dead or something. This Fact Checker is Michelle Ye Hee Lee, and she hardly leaves any room for doubt as she lays the blame for the whole scam squarely on the head of the late Mike Brown’s pal, Dorian Johnson, a.k.a. Witness 128. To be fair, “Hands Up” was not a lie for those who used it profligately after Johnson’s false accounts, for they sincerely, if recklessly and negligently, believed it to be true. This was Johnson’s lie, and though it was obviously self-serving, and though he was as unreliable a source as it was possible to be, confirmation bias allowed all of these good people—well, some of them are good—-beginning with Brown’s parents, to accept it as truth. It was easier for them to believe that white police officers gun down unarmed, gentle giants in the street for no reason other than their color than to question the word of Brown’s scuzzy, criminal friend. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

“Trying To Bring Ethics To Project Veritas? How Dare You? GET OUT!”

James O’Keefe is the famous or infamous (depending on your point of view and whether you believe that the ends justify the means) guerrilla hidden-camera master who sets out to deceive Democrats, liberals and progressives into exposing their evil ways. He is not a journalist. He is an unethical conservative operative who has, though dishonest means, occasionally managed to expose wrongdoing or hypocrisy. He is to an ethics blog what Rice Krispie Squares are to Fine Dining Magazine.

Richard Valdes, a former top staffer with O’Keefe’s oxymoronicly named Project Veritas, reports that O’Keefe assigned an undercover employee to attend a meeting of anti-police violence protesters and to bait them by saying: “Sometimes, I wish I could just kill some of these cops. Don’t you just wish we could have one of the cops right here in the middle of our group?” Presumably he was to secretly record the responses, thus discrediting them.

The undercover agent refused, sending an e-mail to his supervisor Valdes that was copied to O’Keefe. It read,

“I will not say words that will jeopardize my entity, especially when they involve an illegal act of ‘murdering police.’ 

Valdes claims O’Keefe fired him “because he was unhappy with me for being unwilling to strong-arm the guy.” He is considering a lawsuit for wrongful termination.  Valdes is threatening to sue for wrongful termination.

A Veritas spokesman denies the allegations, saying, “Project Veritas would never do anything that we believe would incite violence against police officers. Anyone suggesting otherwise is clearly unfamiliar with our body of work.”

Observations:

1. Anyone “familiar”with the organization’s body of work..

  • …would not be surprised at anything it did, no matter how outrageous.
  • ….would not believe a spokesperson, since Project Veritas is all about lying.

2. If it didn’t happen, why did the undercover employee think this was his assignment?

3. No ethical individual would work for O’Keefe anyway. What are the damages for being wrongfully terminated from a job you are lucky not to be in any more?

4. I believe Valdes.

4 Comments

Filed under Character, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Musings On The “You Can’t Even Spell” On-Line Debate Tactic

dooleyIn a debate on a live thread here between two esteemed commentators, one of the contestants expressed vivid annoyance when the other derided the quality of his text in a retort. I’ve witnessed this many times online, as have you, I’m sure: someone registers an opinion while making a blatant typo, a bad misspelling, a misuse of a word, or a grammar gaffe and the opponent immediately focuses on it. What is this, exactly, and is it always wrong?

1. What is it? As I mentioned on the thread in question, it’s pretty close to an  ad hominem attack once removed, right? The sense of such a comment is, “Why should I respect your opinion? You can’t even spell “inaugural!” which in turn suggests that the individual is an ignoramus rather than a worthy adversary. It needs a name though. Is there one?

2. Is the tactic ever justified? Clearly it is not fair and indeed an unethical deflection if the issue is a typo or two. Or, in my case, or six. Anyone who visits here often knows that I have a serious typo problem, paired with an even worse proof-reading problem. I have dinged job applicants for resumes and job letters that contain “your” for “you’re” and “recieve” for “receive”? Indeed I have. Is there a difference? I think so: if someone wants to make a good impression and still makes these mistakes, I am justified in concluding that this is really the best that applicant can do, or, in the alternative, that he or she doesn’t care very much.

I wasn’t blogging 2000 words a day then, however.

3. Mentioning a gaffe seems to be mandatory if the comment or text containing it was complaining about carelessness, illiteracy or stupidity generally. Again, though, what does this mean? Is it essentially another variation of an ad hominem attack: “Hey, you’re so dumb you make the same kind of error you’re bitching about! Your argument must be dumb too!”? I think it is, but it also falls in the category of “Boy, I asked for that!” In “Twelve Angry Men,” the bigoted Juror 10 derides the character of a witness, saying, “He’s an ignorant slob! He don’t even speak good English!” Whereupon the heavily-accented naturalized citizen in the group corrects him, saying, “He doesn’t even speak good English,” humiliating his fellow juror. Ethical? In that setting perhaps; generally, however, I would think that the Golden Rule should apply, but most of us can’t resist the hanging curve over the center of the plate. Continue reading

37 Comments

Filed under Character, Etiquette and manners, History, U.S. Society