Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Threatening Banana

First, the story:

In Mesa County, Colorado, Nathen Rolf Channing, 27, was arrested after he pointed a banana at police officers as if it were a gun.  He explained that he doing a “trial run” for YouTube video as a “funny joke.”

The two officers initially thought the banana was a gun after Nathan “drew the object in the same manner someone would draw a standard handgun from a concealed holster.”  According to the arrest affidavit, Mesa County deputies Joshua Bunch and Donald Love  feared for their lives after Nathan pointed “what appeared to be a yellow tube with a black center” at them. Both stated that they thought the fruit was a gun, and Love was preparing to fire when Nathan shouted “It’s a banana!”

A conviction could get Nathan three years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

Now some observations:

1. Nathan is an idiot, and should be convicted. Just because an assault is silly doesn’t mean its not an assault. Police officers shouldn’t have to put up with gag threats on their lives. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Eleven Ferguson Ethics Posts In One!

APTOPIX Police Shooting Missouri

There are too many ethics topics for me to cover adequately as it is. This is frustrating. That the Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck is generating ethics issues on a daily, even hourly basis creates a professional dilemma for me. I don’t want to appear obsessed with this mess; I’m not. I am really quite sick of it, and sick as well—and depressed—by the relentless stream of emotional, incompetent, and toxic opinions issuing from the news media, well-meaning but ignorant friends, and in some cases, professionals who appear overwhelmed by confirmation bias. One of my father’s favorite lines was “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts,” and I doubt that I have ever seen commentary on an event so dominated by that state of mind. Except, perhaps, the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman fiasco.

Allow me, then, to indulge in this compromise, while I wait for the entries in the Ethics Alarm contest to find the most unethical article, essay or blog post about Ferguson. Here are eleven points about the current Ethics Train Wreck that I would devote full posts to if I had the time and we lived in a Hell where Ferguson was the only thing going on. I may write full posts on a few of them yet, but meanwhile, here are shorter summaries that I hope you can use to enlighten some of your friends, relatives and associates afflicted with jerking knees….

1. We keep hearing that Officer Wilson is suspect and not credible because he expresses no remorse, and seems “cold.” This attitude projects the critics’ unjustified conclusions onto Brown, who doesn’t share them and shouldn’t. Why don’t interviewers point this out? If Brown was killed in self-defense, prompted by his own threats to the officer, Wilson shouldn’t be remorseful. Remorse means “deep regret or guilt for a wrong committed.” Wilson only did wrong if he shouldn’t have shot Brown, which is the assumption—an evidence-free assumption—of those who want him tried for murder. As for “cold”: Wilson’s whole life has been turned upside-down because a community and a substantial part of the nation have decided to make him pay the price for insensitive and poorly run police departments over decades and across the country. People are calling him a murderer based on political agendas. He’s supposed to respond to that warmly?

2. On ABC this morning, Jelani Cobb, a professor of African-American studies—and boy, are we learning a lot about the racist biases of that area of scholarship lately—pronounced the testimony of Wilson “fantastical” based on this statement: Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, U.S. Society

Ethics Quiz: The 90-year-old Scofflaw Humanitarian vs. The Heartless Mayor Who Isn’t Really

Seiler

[Fred, one of my two regular ethics issue scouts (Alexander Cheezem is the other, and what I would do without their assistance, I do not know: thank you, thank you, thank you, guys!), flagged this classic ethics conflict several weeks ago.]

Some sources reported that a “90-year-old man was arrested for feeding the homeless.” This set off typical fact-free indignation on the social media and talk shows, not to mention the angry e-mails from around the world: Charity illegal???  A kind old man arrested just for trying to help the poor! Cruelty!!! ARGGGHHH!!!

Naturally, this was not what really happened.

For 23 years, since he was 67, 90–year-old Arnold Abbott and his non-profit organization, Love Thy Neighbor, have provided food for the homeless at a public beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Wednesday of every week at 5:30 p.m. This year, on October 21, the City of Fort Lauderdale Commission passed an ordinance that banned such food distributions in public. The ordinance required that organizations distributing food outdoors would have to provide portable toilets for use by workers and those being fed. It’s a health and safety regulation, for the benefit of homeless and vulerable. A few days after the ordinance took effect, on a Wednesday, at a bit after 5:30 PM, Abbott  was approached by police officers and cited for violating the ordinance. He was not arrested. He was told that he must appear in court.

After Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler was called everything from a monster to a Republican (he’s a Democrat), someone finally asked him what the ordinance was all about and questioned his police department’s treatment of the kindly senior. “We hope he feeds, ” Seilor said. “He has a very valuable role in the community. All we’re saying is he can feed the next block over. He can feed at the church. We want them to be in safe secure settings. We wanted them to be in a sanitary matter. We them to have facilities available before and after.” That seems reasonable.

Seiler has also offered an explanation for the ordinance, which was backed by the Chamber of Commerce, that sounds more, well, Republican, saying that  providing the homeless food in public only enables homelessness, and that Fort Lauderdale wants the homeless to use government and church services. “If you are going to simply feed them outdoors to get them from breakfast to lunch to dinner, all you are doing is enabling the cycle of homelessness,” Seiler says. Well, that’s debatable, but it isn’t unreasonable.

Still,  it’s hard to teach old humanitarians new tricks, and Arnold is defiant. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Quizzes, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunce and Unethical Facebook Post of the Month: Elizabeth Lauten, Spokeswoman for Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tennessee)

Elizabeth Lauten, communications director for Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher, decided that she is authorized to give parental advice to First Offspring Sasha (13) and Malia (16) Obama. She was deeply troubled by the young ladies looking bored in photographs she saw online, so she posted this jaw-dropper on Facebook:

Facebook lecture

Wow. What a Thanksgiving feast of unethical features! Let’s see: Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Family, Government & Politics, Literature, Professions, The Internet, Unethical Blog Post

Ray Rice’s Indefinite Suspension By The NFL Has Been Overruled On Appeal. GOOD!

You have to be fair to bad guys too, you see.

Ray Rice and sparring partner.

Ray Rice and sparring partner.

If you will recall, the NFL levied a paltry two game suspension on Baltimore Raven’s star last summer, following his guilty plea for knocking his then fiancée, now wife, colder than a mackerel with a punch in her face. Then security camera video of the punch, in a casino elevator, ended up on TMZ in September, and public outrage against the NFL’s casual approach to domestic violence became a public relations crisis for pro football, which has too many already.

In response, Commissioner Roger Goodell ordered a do-over, this time suspending the player indefinitely while Rice’s team, the Ravens, fired him. The NFL’s risible claim was that while Rice had admitted that he hit the love of his life so hard that he rendered her unconscious, they never suspected that he really, really hit her until they saw the video.

As I wrote at the time:

Sports stars who engage in criminal behavior should be penalized heavily by their teams and leagues, to leave no question about their special status as paid heroes and pop culture role models and their obligations to honor that status. Rice’s conduct was especially significant, given the prevalence of domestic abuse in this country. The NFL, however, had its shot, made its statement, disgraced itself and let him get off easy. Rice hasn’t done anything since then worthy of punishment. The league and Rice’s team should have to live with their initial decisions, no matter how much criticism they received for them. The overly lenient punishment should stand as symbolizing how outrageously tolerant society, and especially male dominated cultures like pro football, are of this deadly conduct. Treating the video as if it constituted new evidence of something worse is unfair and ridiculous: yes, you morons, this is what domestic abuse looks like!

Rice [I originally said “Peterson” here, getting my violent NFL players mixed up] appealed through the player’s union, and yesterday a judge agreed with him, the union, and me, writing:

“In this arbitration, the NFL argues that Commissioner Goodell was misled when he disciplined Rice the first time. Because, after careful consideration of all of the evidence, I am not persuaded that Rice lied to, or misled, the NFL at his June interview, I find that the indefinite suspension was an abuse of discretion and must be vacated…I find that the NFLPA carried its burden of showing that Rice did not mislead the Commissioner at the June 16th meeting, and therefore, that the imposition of a second suspension based on the same incident and the same known facts about the incident, was arbitrary…The Commissioner needed to be fair and consistent in his imposition of discipline….Moreover, any failure on the part of the League to understand the level of violence was not due to Rice’s description of the event but to the inadequacy of words to convey the seriousness of domestic violence. That the League did not realize the severity of the conduct without a visual record also speaks to their admitted failure in the past to sanction this type of conduct more severely.”

Yup. That just about covers it.

I think it’s overwhelmingly likely that the NFL’s lawyers advised the league that this would be the end result if they tried to punish Rice for the same act twice. The NFL decided that it was worth it to abuse its power and look like it was trying to end Rice’s career so after a successful appeal, it could say, “Well, we tried to do the right thing, and that mean old judge wouldn’t let us! Don’t blame us.”

Anyone who falls for that act is a fool. The real lesson of this ugly sequence is that the NFL’s culture doesn’t recognize right and wrong, or care about either. It’s only concern is TV ratings,  marketing and profits.

 

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Romance and Relationships, Sports, U.S. Society

Incomprehensible Ethics Quote Of The Month: Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY)

Rangel

“I always try to find something good that comes out of conflicts like this, and perhaps people realize that this is not a Ferguson problem at all; it’s a problem around the country. And as long as people feel awkward and embarrassed in talking about the racism that exists, we can never, never, never attack it…The indifference of the patrol officer’s an indication that good people ought to say that you should be sorry when you take anybody’s life. It’s not just the question of what you thought of whether you were afraid…. his total indifference just polarized that community, and I only wish that — that they had not vented themselves in a violent way and taken advantage of people coming together, white and black, and saying that you should at least be able to say you made a hell of a big mistake at least.”

—–Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), wandering confused in the ethics wilderness while discussing the Ferguson mess on MSNBC.

I supposed we should expect Rep. Rangel to be completely muddled when it comes to ethics, given his own history. Still, seldom have I seen such a dog’s breakfast of responsible sentiments and ethics ignorance in the same set of comments:

  • Congratulations are due to Rangel for admitting that this Ethics Train Wreck unfairly settled in Ferguson, which is being made to suffer disproportionately for the conduct of many communities and elected officials across the country, as well as the political opportunism of civil rights activists.
  • However, public officials have an obligation to be clear. What “racism that exists,” exactly? Anywhere in the U.S.? Absolutely: let’s talk about it. In the shooting of Brown? No racism is in evidence at all: if that’s what Rangel is referring to, and many will assume its is, the statement is irresponsible. Was he talking about the grand jury decision, which was the context of the interview? Prove it, Charlie. Otherwise, stop planting distrust with a population that is paranoid already.
  • Michael Brown’s actions, from Wilson’s point of view, forced him into a situation that has resulted in his career being ruined and life being permanently marred….and Rangel thinks Wilson should apologize? This is completely backward. Wilson owes no apologies to Brown, and certainly none to Brown’s parents, who have been carrying on a vendetta against him, calling him a murderer while expressing no acknowledgment that the son they raised had any responsibility for the confrontation that took his life. If anyone owes anybody an apology, it the parents who owe Wilson. Rangel thinks Wilson should apologize for trying to do his job, for not letting Brown take his gun, for not letting him resist arrest, for not letting himself be attacked, and that is ridiculous.

Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, War and the Military

Ethics Alarms Contest: Pick The Most Unethical Column, Post Or Essay About The Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck

Stock up!

Stock up!

I realized that I needed to hold a contest after I heard two CNN experts discuss the relevance of Michael Brown’s marijuana use to the grand jury deliberations. One of them concluded that this was “disrespectful to Brown’s parents.” Of course, ensuring that grand jury proceedings embody proper respect for a victim’s parents, the accused’s parents, or anyone’s parents is not a legitimate concern for a prosecutor or a grand jury: the commentary was utter, incompetent, irresponsible, misleading and sentimental nonsense.

We are now being barraged by nonsense and worse as ideological pundits, journalists and bloggers desperately try to construct an argument that the decision not to indict Darren Wilson for murder was a blatant miscarriage of justice, proof of a rotten criminal justice system and persistent white racism. I don’t have either the time or the resistant vomit reflex to examine all of them, so let’s try to find the very worst through collective action.

Make your submission to this thread, and include a link, the source, the author, a representative quote, the ethical breaches you detect, which are likely to be from the group including honesty, fairness, responsibility, competence, and independent judgment. The only restriction is that posts from “The Daily Kos” and “Chimpmania” are not eligible for submission. I have seen a few awful posts from supporters of the grand jury’s decisions: send them in as well.

I’m almost afraid to see what we will end up with. For my first submissions, I offer two: Continue reading

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