Tuesday Ethics Tidbits, 7/7/2020: Goodbye To “Social Q’s,” Faithless Electors And A Weenie Judge

1. I’m cancelling Philip Gallanes. The advice columnist in the Times’ Sunday Styles section has provided some interesting topic for discussion here, but there have to be some consequences for irresponsibly spreading propaganda and falsehoods, even if they are sanctioned by his employers. In response to a “Social Q’s” query from someone who was annoyed that a neighbor had posted a “Defund the Police” sign and asked if it would be ethical to eschew calling the cops if she saw her neighbor’s house vandalized (Answer: Of course not.), Gallanes had to give readers the whole set of George Floyd Freakouts talking points:

“Many of the reports I’ve read about defunding the police focus on limiting the deployment of armed police officers to situations where they may be necessary and helpful — such as violent crimes. Many activists point to the large share of state and local budgets dedicated to police services when many calls to police (about persistent homelessness or family conflicts, for instance) would be better handled by social workers. Why not redirect some police funds to affordable housing and mental health services, they ask?”

Then why not say what you mean, I ask? Defund means defund. I resent this dodge.

“Still others would like to dismantle the current model of policing, as Minneapolis has pledged to do, and reimagine community safety given the frequency with which officers kill unarmed Black men and women.

And how’s that working out so far for Minneapolis, Phil? The frequency in which officers kill unarmed Black men and women is called “infrequently,” and the frequency is decreasing.

Later Gallanes cites “another spate of senseless killings by police.” A spate means “a large number.” That is a false characterization and anti-police propaganda.

Bye! I don’t pay attention to advice columnists who either lie or just uncritically adopt  the prevailing biases of their peers.

2. Speaking of Gallanes’ biased and irresponsible employer: Full time anti-Trump propagandist Maggie Halberman has a story on today’s Times front page headlined, “Trump Adds To Old Playbook As He Stokes White Resentment.” Black Lives Matter and its assorted Marxist and anarchist allies are “stoking white resentment” by intimidating, insulting and attacking white Americans as well as the nation’s Founders, among others, using the Catch-22 that if a white Americans don’t grovel, prostrate themselves, admit guilt and vow amends, ideally financial, then they are racists who shout be fired, canceled, and shunned. Stating facts isn’t “stoking resentment,” and correctly saying wrongful conduct and divisive rhetoric is wrongful and divisive isn’t either.

3. And now for something completely puzzling: Why do TV shows and movies almost always show people in the workplace getting Chinese food and eating with chopsticks like they were raised in Beijing? It just isn’t true! I recently saw a meeting on a TV procedural where all eight actors were happily using chopsticks. My experience is that in any group, maybe one or two will use chopstick, and the rest will opt for the (far more efficient ) fork. What’s going on here?

I apologize in advance if this is one of those things, like people on TV never saying “goodbye” at the end of phone calls, that you never noticed and will now drive you nuts.

4. Good. Yesterday the Supreme Court decided unanimously in Chiafalo v. Washington and Colorado Department of State v. Baca that state laws penalizing  or removing Presidential electors who do not vote for the candidate they pledged to support will not violate the Constitution.  Unanimously.  NPR said that the decision “is so strong that it would seem to allow states to remove faithless electors even without a state law.” Fox News  reported that “[m]embers of both parties feared that if the Supreme Court did not issue a ruling on the faithless electors issue, a close election in 2020 could see just a handful of electors move to sway the result.”

5. Weenie of the Day, George Floyd Freakout Division. U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney thought that he was complimenting Central District executive and clerk of court Kiry Gray during a June 9 webinar when he commented, discussing  his adjustment to his  chief judge’s role. “Fortunately for me, we have just a fabulous clerk of the court in Kiry Gray. She’s so street-smart and really knows her job,” Carney he said. Ah, but Gray is black, and though calling someone “street-smart” who is wh=ite is not uncommon (I’ve done it), calling an African American street-smart is evidence of racial insensitivity.

Apparently facilitated by Gray, some of the audience were outraged, and called for the judge’s resignation. So he resigned. For using the term “street-smart.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that in the email announcing his resignation from the chief judge’s post, Carney said he thought that his “street-smart” comment was positive at the time.“To me, the term means a person of great common sense, initiative, and ability to work with people and get things done. It saddened me greatly to learn that some people view the term to be demeaning to people of color. I never knew that there was a different definition of the term,” he wrote.

Carney said he has apologized to Gray, “but I have concluded that a simple apology will not put this matter to rest. There will be division in the court, unnecessary, negative and hurtful publicity, and a diversion from the court’s essential mission of administering justice if I were to continue serving as the chief district judge. I cannot allow the court to become politicized and embroiled in controversy.”

The judge is a fool and a weenie. He should have refused to apologize, and publicly refused to resign, saying that he would not be made into something he was not because a mob was looking for ways to fix its social and political muscles.  He had an opportunity to condemn what has become  exactly what “witch-hunt” describes. If African-Americans are going to be hyper-sensitive to imagined slights and “micro-aggressions, waiting to pounce on innocent and harmless episodes like this, then it will be impossible to have a healthy integrated workplace.

The Ethics Villain in this case was Gray, who should have shut down the controversy as the Golden Rule dictated, and could have.

9 thoughts on “Tuesday Ethics Tidbits, 7/7/2020: Goodbye To “Social Q’s,” Faithless Electors And A Weenie Judge

  1. “Why do TV shows and movies almost always show people in the workplace getting Chinese food and eating with chopsticks like they were raised in Beijing? It just isn’t true! I recently saw a meeting on a TV procedural where all eight actors were happily using chopsticks. My experience is that in any group, maybe one or two will use chopstick, and the rest will opt for the (far more efficient ) fork. What’s going on here?”

    I have a set of chopsticks, I like my chopsticks, but people look at me like I’m a two headed ogre when I set a place set with sticks. As to the question, I assume it’s because waving chosticks around as props seemed somehow more appealing than a food-laden fork. Or maybe it’s a tone thing…. A set of sticks might seem less threatening than a fork and knife.

  2. No. 3: I’m the fork person in my family. My husband and kids all use chopsticks. I prefer to eat my food and not wear it. Yes, they tease me about it. Every time.

    No. 4. I did a little happy dance yesterday. A unanimous ruling! Thank you Supremes!

    • It’s good but it’s also a shame that it was necessary. For obvious reasons, nothing can be done on the honor system anymore.

  3. “street-smart”

    A progressive friend once called someone I didn’t know “very competent,” and I knew immediately that it had to refer to a black person, because anyone in our little circle would sneer at mere competence. There was an interesting study released a couple of years ago that show conservatives whites just talk to minorities while liberal whites talk down to them:


    It could be that conservative or liberals mean different things when using these sorts of terms.

    • Like when Joe Biden described Obama as “clean”?

      Sure it could be, but assuming a “dog whistle” is unfair, and shows those who are looking for an insult and a fight. One assumes the best intentions, not the worst.

      “Articulate” is another word like that. I’ve used the word to describe athletes, black and white, because athletes are not often articulate. Same with performers. Same with rappers. I would never use the word to describe a politician, a professor, a journalist or a lawyer, because all of those are expected to be articulate. If I said that one of those were “articulate,” expressing surprise, when the individual was black, that would be suspicious, though not decisively biased. (Affirmative action adds an unpleasant wrinkle.)

      Ironically, the fact that no alarms went off for the judge shows that he’s colorblind, as judges should be.

      • I think the judge is the chief villain of this episode. And by the way, he didn’t resign his judgeship, he just gave up being chief judge, which he’d only been since June 1 of this year. I suspect he basically changed his mind and didn’t want the added grief. What a creep.

        What is it about the word or prefix “micro” that people don’t comprehend. It means “extremely small.” Got that boys and girls? Res ipsa loquitor. Can you say that children? Sure you can.

  4. #3: (I am hereby making use of my incredible talent for creating plausible-sounding bullshit.)

    In an office environment, it’s not a given that there are a bunch of forks and knives around to be used (unlike in your home). So when the Chinese food comes with a few sets of disposable chopsticks–as it always does when *I* order it–you use what you have, since you obviously can’t use what you don’t have.

    If this happens often enough, then with practice (and maybe even a smattering of peer pressure) comes proficiency and precision.


    P.S. Mrs. Zechman is terribad with chopsticks, while I’m usually pretty good with them. Whenever we go to a Japanese place, I invariably tease her for being an Amercanji gaijin for asking for a fork.

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