Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/13/2021: All Sorts of Stuff!


Today in ethics history, in 1971, the New York Times published stolen documents in order to try to turn public opinion against the Vietnam war and the administration of Richard Nixon. On June 30, On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled that the Times had the right to publish the material, a leap down a slippery slope that may have been (barely) justified with a responsible, trustworthy, objective and non-partisan news media, but has, as some predicted at the time, provided a motive for criminal activity, such as leaks by government lawyers for partisan goals, that has done incalculable harm to the nation.

The New York Times published portions of the 47-volume Pentagon analysis of how the U.S. commitment in Southeast Asia grew over a period of three decades, especially during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. It had been stolen by Daniel Ellsberg, a former Defense Department analyst turned antiwar activist who gave them to the Times. The Times was also an opponent of the war and especially of President Richard Nixon. Though the controversy was framed as a “the public has a right to know” issue, it was also a partisan and ideological strike by the Times. Now, of course, the paper does little else when political matters are involved.

1. Let’s start with some good ethics news. Uber driver Latonya Young picked up a passenger named Kevin Esch. They got to chatting, and Latonya, 43, disclosed that she had dropped out of school at age 16 when she gave birth to her now 26-year-old son. She wanted to re-enroll in classes at Georgia State University, but didn’t have the funds to pay the necessary $700. Without informing her, Esch paid the $700 for her, allowing Latonya to re-enroll, She finally graduated with a bachelor of science in criminal justice.

2. Would it be wrong to call this “good ethics news”? Ethics Alarms has a special designation, the Fick, which describes someone who is openly unethical and proud of it. The term is named after Leroy Fick, first described here, who made headlines after he continued to collect food stamps despite winning the Michigan lottery, giving just under a million bucks after taxes. Well, thanks to reader Other Bill, I learned yesterday that Leroy has reached the end of his slimy trail. Fick blew through his winnings in just two years, sadly typical for lottery winners, and ended up jail for a drug charge and firearm conviction. What a surprise. Last week, Police recovered the 69-year-old’s body from the Tittabawassee River.

3. And the Great Stupid rolls on…In Randolph, New Jersey, a school board that couldn’t deal with complaints over changing Columbus Day to “indigenous People’s Day” decided that many of the holiday names might be offensive to the ubiquitous some, so it voted to take every holiday’s name off the school calendar. Now all the holiday dates will simply read, “Day Off.”

Wait until someone notices that Martin Luther King Day is missing. This all smells like racist plot to get his day removed.

4. ‘He Loved Big Althouse!’ Blogress Ann posted another non-comment from a reader, since comments are banned, but Ann will highlight emails she receives and call them comments. See, now, though no comments are allowed, you see a comments link, at which you are told that “Only members of this blog can comment directly. That means only me and Meade. But if you email me — at — I might put your comment down here in the comments section (or on the front page).” Meade is Ann’s husband, and no terms for “membership” have ever been mentioned, so that message is–what? Snotty? Supposed to be funny?

Two days ago Althouse put this email on her “front page”:

I was a prolific commenter, probably too prolific, previously. I was really upset when you stopped allowing comments. But now that I am getting over my withdrawal symptoms, I am kind of liking it, especially now that you are bringing back curated, artisanal, commenting via email.”

This gets one of the ethics Alarms “Animal House” clips:

4. Stay classy, Democrats! Did you know that President Trump was uncivil and used personal insults and attacks, which coarsened our civic discourse? At the televised debate among Democratic candidates for mayor of New York City, the group was asked which landmark they’d name for Rudy Giuliani. The question itself is unprofessional and unethical, since it calls for ad hominem insults, but none of the candidates had the integrity to refuse the bait. Here are the oh-so-clever answers:

  • Adams: “Rikers Island”
  • Wiley: “A dump”
  • Yang: “An anchor at the bottom of the sea”
  • Garcia: “A sewage plant”
  • Stringer: “Affordable housing development, formerly Trump Tower. We could call it Giuliani Way”

As mayor, Giuliani ended a NYC crime wave, increased tourism, and made Times Square a safe and attractive destination. Under the current Democratic/Communist regime, crime is up, murders are up, and even before the pandemic Times Square declined to its pre-Rudy filth.

5. Finally, from the “Ick” not Ethics Dept:

DNA fathers day

14 thoughts on “Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/13/2021: All Sorts of Stuff!

  1. 5. I’m confused. Don’t those DNA tests simply give you various percentages of your DNA and assigning them to various places in the world? Do they match customer DNA against DNS samples taken in conjunction with police investigations and prosecutions? Is this product really a “Who’s your Daddy?” item? Or is this just an awkward gift suggestion? I guess it’s funny. But isn’t it appropriation? Isn’t “Who’s your Daddy?” a black, hip hop kind of thing?

    • I assumed (and the website seems to support) that one would give this to their father to test the father’s DNA, so they could find out what percentage of Viking (or whatever) they are. To quote the site:

      Help reveal his heritage and discover the people and places that make up his past.

      I’ve never seen the appeal of these things, but I don’t see where the “ick” comes in?

      • My sister did one of these and we found out that we are far less German than we previously thought…and far more Irish. Go figure.

        However, the ick factor could come in with another feature of these kits which can tell you who your relatives are. I’ve read a couple of Dear Abby advice columns in which someone has done one of these things and found out that Dad wasn’t the biological father or some other awkward family history that everyone thought was buried.

        So, I guess caveat emptor applies here. If you’re considering buying this for Father’s Day, be sure to ask Grandma if there are any skeletons in the closet first.

        And don’t do what I did and think that Father’s Day was today and sent my Dad his card this week. At least it isn’t late.

        • 1. It’s one of those “gifts” that is really for the giver.
          2. It has the ring of doubt to it, as in “I don’t think we’re related, but lest see if yours square with mine.”

          My son, who was adopted from Russia, got one from his serious girlfriend. That makes sense, as his genealogy is only generally known (there were, as it turns out, no surprises).

          3. It’s my own bias. I couldn’t care less about my DNA. The phrase “I warned you mot to look under that rock!” comes to mind.

  2. From the Fick article:

    “Fick and Amanda Clayton, another ‘Make Me Rich!’ lottery winner who was discovered to have continued using her Bridge Card after her $1 million win in 2011, inspired a new law that required the Michigan Lottery to provide the Department of Human Services the name of anyone who wins $1,000 or more to determine their eligibility for food stamps.

    “Fick’s abuse of the government assistance program caused 15,000 families with assets of more that $5,000 in Michigan to lose food stamps, Bridge Michigan reported.

    “Clayton was found dead in 2012 of an apparent overdose, Fox News reported.”

    Boy, this lottery sure does not have a good track record.


  3. I have to question that 5K in assets disqualifier. SNAP was marketed very aggressively during the Obama years. I can’t believe owning a car would bounce you out of the program. Something seems fishy in that part of the article.

  4. 6 reminded me of an unintentionally funny bko k of ads I caught on the radio once. (God bless the Adult Contemporary target demographic):
    – Dating service in the style of Match dot com, but curated and sold as a social club.
    – Jewelry store specializing in engagement rings.
    – “Discreet paternity tests”

    The only thing missing was a divorce mediation firm (because “attorney” is too aggressive for mild mannered and progressive Seattle).

  5. On the 23 an Me subreddit, there’s a whole thread of ‘Family problems/discoveries’ with story after story about Dad not being Dad, or other children in other cities/states being discovered. If you put your results on the 23 and Me site, you’re automatically matched with anyone related to you. It has led to a lot of surprises for a lot of families. They should know this. It’s irresponsible to sell these for Father’s Day.

  6. (shrug) Well, taking every named holiday off the school calendar leaves no one with anything to complain about, since nothing is being celebrated officially that anyone can have a problem with. I think it’s a weenie response, BUT, I also think it’s one of the few practical ones I’ve seen.

    I don’t know where the idea that if you disagreed with someone else’s celebration you had the right to stop it came from, but it has taken hold and it got a really big boost from Floyd. As I have often said, we Italian Americans are now expected to just roll over and play dead or bow, scrape and say we are sorry as we are pushed off the calendar to celebrate victimhood instead of achievement. In this case we stood up and said “no,” and “no” actually meant something, because in NJ we have the numbers to where we matter. This isn’t some ultra-progressive City on the west coast which celebrates victims over victories, grievance over greatness, everything wrong and nothing right with the US. This isn’t some white bread town in the Midwest where Italian-American culture is limited to a faded picture of someone’s great-grandmother who came from Italy way back when and a pizza parlor whose pies are topped with sauce from a 55-gallon drum, synthetic cheese and a quarter inch of grease. This is where there are still lots of folks who had four grandparents whose names ended in vowels. This is where you can still walk into niche shops that have black and white football banners on the wall and sell all kinds of imported food products. This is where the pizza parlors still throw the crusts up in the air and top them with sauce from recipes that go back generations and even centuries and fresh mozzarella. We are not disappearing because some bureaucrat or dean who majored in ethnic studies or social work has decided we should.

    If you don’t want to join in the celebration of this group’s culture or achievements, then fine. No one says you have to. If you want to take the position that this country is built on murder and stealing, and therefore tainted and shameful, then take it. There are plenty of celebrations that not everyone joins in. If you’re Jewish, no one says you have to celebrate Christmas and can’t celebrate Hanukkah. If you’re Orthodox, no one says you have to celebrate Christmas and Easter when the western churches celebrate them, and can’t celebrate a week later pursuant to the Julian calendar. If you’re strict atheist, and think all of this is superstitious nonsense, no one says you have to join in ANY of these celebrations. But don’t say these celebrations offend you, so they must stop.

  7. 1. Apparently, Latonya Young plans to go to law school. From the original Atlanta Journal – Constitution article on this incident:
    “At first, she imagined being a prosecutor, but her life experience has steered her in a different direction: defense attorney. “I would rather help people,” she said…”
    A prosecutor represents the state and all its people on each case, while defense attorneys represent one client at a time. Over the course of an ethical career, who “helps” the most people”
    An attorney friend of mine (formerly a great detective) recently announced his campaign for Public Defender in our county. I asked him, “What’s your campaign slogan going to be, ‘I’ll put more criminals back on the street than the other guy!’?”
    2. “Wait until someone notices that Martin Luther King Day is missing. This all smells like racist plot to get his day removed.”
    Those white supremacist extremists are SO sneaky!
    5. I know a family that was blindsided by revelations from DNA testing. The intent of the person tested was innocent, but it disclosed long-held family secrets that should have been disclosed long ago. The facts disclosed were nowhere near as devastating as the decades of deception. Family secrets, unlike fine wine, seldom age well.
    DNA testing allowed me to verify entries in my family tree and clarify the often murky information from sketchy public records from the 1700s and 1800s. As a history buff, I have enjoyed discovering the histories of the various branches of my family tree and learning about people I never knew existed until I started digging into our genealogy. DNA testing was a useful adjunct to that process, but my family has kept few secrets, none of them warranting more than a raised eyebrow. Your mileage may vary.

    • “Family secrets, unlike fine wine, seldom age well.”

      Damn straight. Unfortunately my mom was more of the “what they don’t know won’t hurt them and it’s more important to keep up appearances,” school, and concealed a lot of embarrassing history that explained why her side of the family was so screwed up. Part of it I found out because her brother blabbed to me, the rest my father revealed to me after mom was gone. I was frankly aghast. The last three generations are an accident, stemming from an incident waaaaay back in the 1930s involving a young would-be boys’ high school teacher, a girl from a family who’d normally consider themselves above him, alcohol, and I’m sure you can figure out the rest.

  8. #5. My brother and I are adopted. Both he and I have done our DNA. Both he and I have connected with our biological families. I still grapple with making my DNA “matchable”. There is a part of me that believes that my DNA is mine and possession is 9/10 of the law. I, along with most adoptees, also believe that I have no right to upset the apple cart as much as I might deeply desire to have an understanding of where I came from. In both my and my brother’s cases, there were joys and there were heartbreaks. Some family want to know us. Some family want nothing to do with us. And that is the risk an adoptee takes. When I was contacted by DNA relatives, I made it very clear that if they told me to go pound sand they would never hear from me again. (And I always keep my word.) In the end, I have two sisters that are new and precious in my life.

    Those DNA kits, however, should come in a plastic wrapper with a label that says “this is not a toy.”

Leave a Reply to JutGory Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.