The “Welcome November!” Open Forum Is Now…Open

November animated

Let’s get the month off to a rousing start, shall we?

All topics, opinions and analysis are welcome, as long as they are related to ethics. Non-political topics are especially welcome, since the opposite has been sucking all the air out of the metaphorical ethics room of late.

55 thoughts on “The “Welcome November!” Open Forum Is Now…Open

      • He’s not evil, but he is a narcissistic buffoon in this particular enterprise; one presumes he wouldn’t be Warren Buffett’s right-hand man if he didn’t have considerable ability in other areas. And yes, he wants students to live a a windowless cave.
        If I were a student or the parent of a student facing the prospect of having to live in Munger Hall, I’d be thinking the UC campuses in San Diego, Santa Cruz, and Irvine would be looking pretty enticing right about now.

        • Oh, I meant Buffett, not the architect. I totally agree with you about him. My snark was to point out what appears to be an attempt to tar Buffett by association.

          P’raps it is deserved, at least to some degree, but it’s just so typical. And it’s maddening that the administration would be okay with such a building — that sends a signal of both incompetence and cowardice.

  1. Ok, I have wanted to ask about this for weeks, but keep forgetting. It involves high-school football.

    My wife and I have an on-going debate about this every Friday night there’s a home game. We go to the game and sometimes get there early to meet our kids and our daughter-in-law’s grandparents. The issue involves saving seats. One of us thinks it’s alright to inform other people that we are saving bleacher space for family that may arrive a little later, and ask them to find another place. One of us thinks otherwise. Full disclosure: we pay admission for the right to sit in the bleachers, but not in a specific spot.

    So…is trying to reserve “free-range” seats unethical?

    This probably seems painfully trivial, but we can’t get through a game without at least one (usually both) of us feeling very frustrated.

    • Do you have large enough people in your party to make it stick? Are there more of you than of other folks? If not, I’d be careful about telling others to go somewhere else. If there’s some 6’5″ guy with a few other really big dudes who wants to sit down, I’d tell your late-arriving family you’ll catch up with them later. Better to do that than to be plucked from your seat and thrown down the stairs.

      • A Japanese tourist once pushed in front of me in a queue at Leicester Square underground station in London. He took me so much by surprise that, before I knew it, I had thrown him hopping on one leg out into the concourse.

    • I grew up in a smallish town. Reserving seats for friends or family was considered normal, and even expected.

      Times may have changed, but I have never had anyone express anger or anything resembling anger as a result of seat saving efforts.

        • I’ve never known there to be a limit on how many seats are acceptable to save. We’ve taken turns getting to events early to save seatas, ditto reserving spots at parks, etc. It could definitely just be a Midwest thing, but I’ve never had any issues with saving more than a couple of seats, nor have I ever felt upset when someone told me they were saving seats and I had to continue looking.

      • There are generally six of us, so not very many, and no one else has expressed anger, but there is occasionally a little frustration at being “required” to find another spot. I definitely appreciate the input.

    • I’m wondering… do you feel the same way if you or your spouse would have to get up to go to the bathroom/concessions? Since you have no claim to the seat in the first place, why do we find one more acceptable than the others?

    • Nothing stops you from relinquishing your seats when they arrive to go to an area where you can all sit together if that is important to you.

  2. The CDC caused an uproar in early September 2021, after it changed its definitions of “vaccination” and “vaccine.” For years, the CDC had set definitions for vaccination/vaccine that discussed immunity. This all changed on September 1, 2021.

    The prior CDC Definitions of Vaccine and Vaccination (August 26, 2021):

    Vaccine: A product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease. Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but can also be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose.

    Vaccination: The act of introducing a vaccine into the body to produce immunity to a specific disease.

    The CDC Definitions of Vaccine and Vaccination since September 1, 2021:

    Vaccine: A preparation that is used to stimulate the body’s immune response against diseases. Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but some can be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose.

    Vaccination: The act of introducing a vaccine into the body to produce protection from a specific disease.

    People noticed. Representative Thomas Massie was among the first to discuss the change, noting the definition went from “immunity” to “protection”.

    • So, I agree in part and disagree in part.

      I think the CDC is going at this the wrong way. It has become obvious to me that the Covid vaccines are actually not vaccines as we have always thought of them — which is what the original definition states. When you get vaccinated against a disease — polio for example — you’re protected against that disease. I was vaccinated against polio about 60 years ago and I’ve never heard of anyone needing a booster.

      What the Covid vaccines (and likely flu vaccines as well) need is a different name. Not vaccine but something else that tells us you’re protected against the worst effects of the disease, but not so much against getting it in the first place. Isn’t that also true more or less of flu vaccines? You are less likely to get sick but if you do get sick it’s much less likely to kill you or put you in the hospital.

      I’m not a scientist, nor have I stayed in a Holiday Inn, but perhaps it is this new technology — mRNA I think it’s called — that allows scientists to craft a counter to a disease that ameliorates the effects but doesn’t actually prevent illness.

      What would be a good name for something like that, if we didn’t want to call it a vaccine?

  3. A friend of mine and I got into a conversation a state senator’s land purchase. A while back they were going to build this highway near our town. The plans were public and it was known to all the government would be buying up farmland. A state senator bought the land from a lady (even though she knew the government would be buying it) divided into into plots and made a ton when the government came through and bought it. Nothing was illegal and all parties knew the government was going to buy the land so no individual was cheated. He contends that what the senator did was immoral because he cheated the taxpayers by dividing the land into plots. I disagree. The government allowed him to do this and if the government was going to force you to sell the land wouldn’t it be fair to get as much value for it as you could? I feel he further undercut his argument when he said he would have been ok if the lady had done it herself.

    • Seems to me that if everything was public knowledge, there is nothing wrong with a state senator or anyone else buying the land and subdividing it.

      I don’t actually understand why dividing it into plots would mean the government would pay more for it, but hey, I am neither a real estate agent nor a government bureaucrat.

      I would have to stipulate that the senator was not involved in setting up the land purchase program or determining the route of the highway. That might legally make no difference, but ethically and optically it might raise issues.

    • Being a state representative means he might have been privy to information the other parties could not have known, so this creates an “appearance of impropriety” that officials are supposed to avoid.

      If he was an employee for an real estate developer and he bought up farmland knowing that his employer would soon buy it from him, he would justifiably be fired for cause.

    • Running up the score permeates youth football. In a youth league in which I officiated as a referee for 25 years (until I quit this year midseason as I was tired of the harassment and abuse I and my crew were receiving from parents and coaches), it was not at all unusual for a really good team to run up scores by 30 or 40 points just because they could. It is not enough to win any more; it is to dominate other teams. However, there is karma. My second year at V.M.I., when Virginia Tech and we were real rivals, they beat us 70-12. The following year, we beat them 12-10. So maybe there is karma involved.

    • I can understand how high school games can be very one sided at times (sadly mine was only ever on the losing side).

      However, if we can believe everything we read in that story, the state association has put some rules into place that would alleviate the carnage, but the winning school in this game refused to exercise them. Of course, that might have meant the score would only have be 70-0, but still….I don’t think prospective colleges are going to be much more impressed by a 106-0 win than a 70-0 win.

      I think the winning coach needs a stern talking to on the importance of public perceptions.


      You also hear similar things with college football, when a small school is getting paid some huge amount to show up and get obliterated (mostly likely, if you look at the entire SEC schedule for one of the Saturdays in November, it’s been their practice to all schedule Division 20 schools). These games raise some of the same issues, except the losers are getting paid to be punching bags.

  4. I find it striking that no one mentioned vaccine mandates as a election topic. I personally am furious at mandates. I will not go anywhere that requires a card, particularly for my children. It’s causing chaos in the local hospital, people are quitting. How is that better? I read LA Police said the can’t enforce it, they’d be too short staffed if they do; the trucking industry will lose an estimated 35% of their drivers and they’re already short staffed too. How does requiring 5 year olds to have a card to eat out for the public safety? That doesn’t even follow the science. Suddenly everyone has to be the “vaccine police?” Ick.

    • October 2020: “There is NO way I would take any vaccine for Coronavirus that was released during the Trump Administration.”

      October 2021: “Vaccines should be mandated in these unprecedented times and anyone that disagrees is an existential threat to good health and democracy.”

      I think that’s about all I need to know regarding “mandates.”

  5. From
    “On Friday 5 November Vice President Harris will visit NASA GSFC (Goddard Space Flight Center) to talk about climate change and protecting vulnerable communities.”

    The climate change is a stretch and a dilution of NASA’s mission. But, “protecting vulnerable communities” is nonsensical. Unless she’s going to talk about the scientific advancements made possible by the space program it has no place but to further politicize NASA.

    • It’s dogma that climate change is racism. Intersectionality is making a big come back. Just listen to AOC. Everything relates to racism. Capitalism is racist. These people are virulent Commies. They want to take away profits to save the environment.

  6. Volunteer ethics: I have been struggling with a dilemma of competency verses need. I am the volunteer de facto music director for my parish. I say de facto as I have been informed pointedly that I am not the music director. The music director is a paid position and we do not have one nor are we searching for one. That being said, someone has to choose music on a weekly basis, arrange for rehearsals, record accompaniments, lead music, make sure people are at the weekend Masses to sing, cover weddings, play music at funerals, organize for special events, and more, and the someone who does all of that is me. I am told I have no power to make most decisions and must get approval from the pastor, who communicates poorly.

    This last eighteen months has been hard on the music ministers. We have always been short staffed. While there is rarely a case of too many, the bare minimum we want is 6, and for a decade now, we have been faking with 5, one of whom has been too old to be very good and was fading fast. First, COVID happened. Then, one of our organists quit due to advanced age, inability to play due to arthritis, and failing health (4). Then we lost another organist/pianist who moved to another town 250 miles away(3). Then we lost one of our singers as the pastor pushed all of her buttons at the same time as she was facing immense pressure at work and she decided that it wasn’t worth the extra effort (2). At that point, the group, which had always been too small to really cover our needs, was down to myself and my husband, my tenor, or a total of two, one third of what is needed to appropriately cover weekend obligations.

    At that point, we finally got permission to ask for more help. A woman volunteered to sing and maybe play piano occasionally(3). She is quite adept at both voice and music reading, and does well enough at piano and we are happy with her skill, but her dedication is lax. She is not a fan of rehearsal but practices adequately on her own so as to sound good, so I don’t fight this battle much. She will rarely give even a week’s notice when she plans to be gone and has twice been a no show with no notice. This is workable, though, and I have my life scheduled such that we can reluctantly handle a Friday call for a Saturday absence. The second set of volunteers was a man and woman who handled one Mass all on their own with no input from me (5). I was reminded at this time that I was not music director and was not to encourage, help, or even contact them. This was, as was put so succinctly, “not my job.” Our pastor let them know the minimum requirements and when they had failed to accomplish those for six months straight, had a hard talk with them. They quit on the spot (back to three).

    The dilemma comes from my third volunteer (4). He volunteered, can read music, and has his own music. Given that I rarely get a music reader (our second set of volunteers could not read music) and volunteers, as you have seen above, are few and far between, and I am the only one of us who has her own music, so he seemed like a dream come true when he contacted me via email.

    Then came the problems. I need approval from the pastor to accept a new singer, though since we are so short on help, he tends to approve fairly quickly. This guy then showed up saying his mother had gotten approval from the pastor and he would be joining us. That seemed weird, but I do not argue with the pastor’s dictates, so I gave my ok and told him when rehearsal would be. He showed up and the first thing I noticed was that he has a major speech impediment. He sounds almost like a carbon copy of the priest in Princess Bride. However, I had been told that the pastor approved him, so I’d just hope for the best even though as a cantor, you should be extremely clear spoken. Then I noticed his voice. It was, at best, lack luster. He has a good range of about three notes, is rarely in tune, and doesn’t breathe or open his mouth well. His diction is non-existent. He is extremely resistant to correction and has very little interest in rehearsal or practicing. He also randomly tells me that he will be gone, or is just a no show. He rarely listens to me when I tell him the stuff I have set aside for his (and everyone’s) aid. Then I find out that my pastor has no recollection of speaking with this young man’s mother. He has stated that for adults, he doesn’t talk to mothers. The secretary remembers her calling and said that she left a message for the pastor to call her back, but does not know if he did so.

    Then the complaints came rushing in. My pastor dislikes the complete lack of diction, volume, or even enunciation of this man. Parishioners come up to me in the street or store and ask when we will next cover that Mass. Parishioners have also been voting with their feet and leaving that Mass en mass (pun intended). Some of the people have offered polite constructive criticism, (one of whom is a retired teacher who is never anything but polite in his offers to help) and have been rebuffed, and by all accounts, this has been done in a rude or standoffish manner. The pastor has asked my opinion on keeping him verses letting him go.

    After that information, is it ethical to counsel the pastor to kick out an incompetent volunteer when we are so short handed and begging for help from anyone who is interested? Competency is highly desired, but does it come at the cost of being too short on help to function? How does one balance the value with the extreme shortage of labor? Does this being a volunteer position affect the answer?

    • A good question. It seems to me that the problem is the leadership, both of the pastor and the church leadership who have pointedly told you that it isn’t your job. Parishioners are voting with their feet, not merely because of the quality of the music, but because of the choices the leadership team has made. It’s obvious you and your husband care deeply about the quality of the music, but honestly, if it were me, when the pastor came to me for advice, I’d shrug and say “I have no idea – I’m not the music director, and have been reminded of that fact firmly.”

      The organization isn’t looking for a music director because they have one. One who has demonstrated that they’ll take on all the stress and responsibility for free. Why would they look for one they have to pay? If people are unhappy with the quality of the music, that’s your fault, not theirs. But they don’t have to listen to you, because you don’t have the power needed to actually fix the problems, because you aren’t the music director. Seems like a fine status quo to maintain from their point of view.

      I don’t know if my instinct is completely ethical there, but I know that resentment is a poison which shatters churches, and also that silence is a lie when you have something to say. The easy path would be to keep going without saying anything. The comfortable path would be to quit and let them flounder until they realize they need to hire a musical director. The hard path would be to sit down with the leadership team and establish boundaries about what your position can and cannot do – and what the responsibilities actually are in relation to that authority. Any way you slice it, it sounds like a nasty tangle to be in, and I don’t envy you the work of clearing that brush. May God grant you Wisdom and Grace as you move forward!

      • As a minister I don’t know why this person is micromanaging you. We have enough stress and if you are willing to do the job and do it for free then we should just let you do it unless large problems come up. However, that’s besides the point.

        First: If sounds like the church is abusing you. If the job you are doing is required by a paid position, stop doing it for free. If you want to sing, then sing, but make them provide music and arrangement. It sounds like the leadership doesn’t care and they won’t until it starts to hurt their bottom line. If people are ‘walking with their feet’ as you say, then they will change their tune very quickly.

        Second: It sounds like your pastor is a weenie. It’s his poor choices that led to the situation and he should have to dig himself out. If he doesn’t value you enough to do the job, then the only thing I would say to him is it is your choice.

        Third: This one of the reasons large groups of people stop volunteering in churches. They are not valued by the leadership.

    • I talked this over with my sister, who is also a Catholic and has also at times been involved with the music ministry in her parish so she has a similar perspective.

      Her first take was that the pastor is where most of the fault lies. Apparently the pastor is the authority in a given parish and if he says you have no authority, well you have no authority.

      But from the very beginning of the church, music has played an important role, so the music ministry is a key part of the church. Except that it appears your pastor is not terribly interested in the music ministry.

      I’d say that, as the pastor has reserved all power of approval then equally he must be responsible for any removals. I don’t have a problem with you giving your opinion, since he’s asked, but at the same time it appears he doesn’t value the music ministry enough to allocate resources to it (I’m assuming that your parish is not simply too poor to afford some paid help).

      One other thing: Is this the only parish in your diocese? I wonder if there might be another parish with a robust music ministry that would be a better fit for you? Clearly this is important to you — I’d bet there’s a parish to whom it is equally important.

      • Thank you for your concern. Unfortunately you are not wrong about the somewhat dictatorial or at least very micromanaging nature of this pastor. We are a very poor parish. It nearly wiped us out when the boiler (installed in 1917) died last year and had to be replaced. They are supposed to pay me, but he has told me that if I accepted a job, my workload would drastically increase (how?) and I just had a new baby and now have four children under eight. I am not sure I could currently take on more work and so have not pushed for the paid position myself. It might tighten the church budget a lot for them to pay me, which is another reason for my not pushing for the job.

        Hoping for a more reasonable pastor in the future, I tend to count down the time until he retires (one year four months) when things get bad. The next nearest parish is 40 miles away, so there is not really much choice.

        However, in terms of the advice, where do you put the value on competency? Would you (or your sister) say it is more important to advise getting rid of someone incompetent at canting or keeping staffing at two thirds of minimum rather than one half of minimum? This is especially important given our utter lack of volunteers and I don’t want to scare anyone off so that we never get a volunteer again for being too harsh. I equate this to our host’s theatre not really having enough actors for a play (but currently barely enough to fake it most of the time with some roles being removed/edited and some actors juggling multiple roles that are never quite on the stage at one time) and one very bad actor holding a main role. If we shut him down, we probably cannot maintain even current, reduced levels.

        • My thought would be that, if this person is bad enough that people are leaving, you are probably better off with nothing than with someone who actually diminishes the liturgy. If there is a hole in the service, then perhaps that will motivate someone with some minimal talent to step up.

          I would say that your duties to your family have to take precedence over most things. If you are already doing as much as you can for the church, the Church cannot reasonably expect you to neglect your family. My impression (which might be unfounded) is that without your husband’s support you might have already had to give up and withdraw. Certainly that is something to cherish.

          One last thought occurs to me, and I don’t know just how this would work in the Catholic church. I wonder if it would be possible to reach out to the diocese. Perhaps someone on the staff there might be able to think of something, or to offer some help or at least some suggestions. It’s surely their concern that their parishes function well.

    • Certainly an uplifting story. You read about companies getting bought out all the time. It’s is certainly unusual for the founder to do something like this for all her employees. If I were the company buying her out, I’d make a lot a effect to keep her on managing that division.

      A note on NPR, which is who published this story. It took me perhaps 30 seconds to find out that Spanx has 750 employees. So it’s going to cost her maybe $10-20 million for this gesture. Granted a small fraction of the billion dollar sale price, but not chicken feed.

  7. From the Insane Clown Posse that is the Biden administration on the new OSHA emergency rule:

    Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, during a media blitz on Thursday, said that the new Biden administration rule that requires private employees to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or get tested for COVID-19 on a regular basis is not a mandate.

    “This isn’t a mandate—this is a vaccine or testing,” Walsh, a former mayor of Boston, said during an appearance on MSNBC.

    Or stated another way: “Stupid proles, it’s only a mandate if we say so.”

    “It isn’t what it is” rides yet again!

    • At school they sometimes used to say “it isn’t compulsory, but you have to do it”, which was actually a meaningful distinction, though without a difference here: “compulsory” meant that it had been formally designated as such, whereas “you have to do it” only meant that someone who could make you do it or sanction you for not doing it was exercising his discretion, which had wide latitude.

  8. I frequent the drive-through at a bank’s branch that has in their employ an (IMO) exotically stunning, abnormally tall woman whose chosen manner of dress…um…accentuates a decidedly prominent decolletage.

    The video camera inside, which transmits to the drive-up position, is angled to display other height challenged tellers’ faces.

    With this woman, the close-up, and I mean CLOSE-UP, image depicts a range between the clavicle and lower rib cage, leaving nothing to the imagination. As it is my earnest desire that all aspects of my transaction be carried through efficiently and without error, I’ve said nothing. The result of that concentration? Any effort to avert my gaze has been, not to put too fine a point to it, uneven.

    This has been continuing apace for the better part of a year, so one may well assume that others, arguably more ethically-challenged than myself, have noted this situation and allowed it to continue.

    Having (finally…?) reached my Ethics Alarms Popeye, do I:

    A) Say nothing because it might be considered rude?
    B) Say nothing because she may be already aware of it?
    C) Mention, as innocuously as humanly possible, that she’s inadvertently flashing any-n-all?
    D) Mention, as innocuously as humanly possible, that she ought raise the camera’s angle so customers may see her smiling face?

    With the possible exception of D), all could be construed to suggest I’m a perv….

  9. I don’t recall reading about it here (I could have missed it), but there was another arrest from the Durham investigation. Igor Danchenko, principal source for the Steele dossier, was indicted and arrested for lying to the FBI during their investigation of this matter.

    It is becoming apparent that Durham believes the whole Russian collusion narrative was something cooked up by the Clinton campaign and their operatives.

    Naturally I looked at other web sites to see if anyone aside from Fox mentioned this arrest. I could find zero stories on the CNN web site, although they did have stories (in their Crime & Justice section):

    >>>>Pumpkin spice products are inescapable. We tested a few of them so you don’t have to
    >>>>Minnesota man charged in hacking MLB and for trying to extort the league

    You know, the important news of the day.

    MSNBC’s web site did have a story — the headline was something like ‘Clinton aide appears in Court’

    And I believe that today there was a story in the NYT on the arrest. Good for them!

  10. It continues:

    “When you look at the Biden — when you look at the Brandon administration,” DeSantis said before being drowned out by cheers and applause.

    …. The White House did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment on DeSantis’ joke.

    Courtesy of

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