Watch the spinning circles…you are getting sleepy…sslleeppyy! Now: you are ethical! And a fan of the Boston Red Sox!
Nothing? Well, it was worth a shot.
Today is pretty much a dud in ethics history, with the major exception that January 15 is the birthday of Martin Luther King. Not related to ethics but still a favorite historical landmark of mine, this date also marks the most inherently comic of all disasters, the 1919 Great Boston Molasses Flood, in which a huge tank at the United States Industrial Alcohol Company building burst and caused tons of hot molasses to sloooowly move through the heart of the city in an 8-foot wave, killing 21 people, knocking down buildings, and leaving an unimaginable sticky mess that took weeks to clean up.
Why no disaster movie has been made about the unique catastrophe is a mystery.
1. Here’s an unethical boast...transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, who was born and went through puberty as a male,”compares herself to Jackie Robinson,” according to another member of the University of Pennsylvania woman’s swim team, according to the Washington Examiner. “She said she is like the Jackie Robinson of trans sports.” This shows a flawed understanding of Robinson’s achievement. Lia would be closer to the mark if Jackie infiltrated the segregated sport of baseball by disguising himself as a white player, but even that’s not quite right, since it misses the unfair competition aspect of what Thomas is doing. She is more like the Barry Bonds of trans sports.
2. SCOTUS followed the law, so naturally the totalitarians and the hyper partisans are outraged. Whether or not having everyone vaccinated is desirable, it was, or should have been clear from the outset that OSHA didn’t have the power to make sweeping requirements based on national health concerns rather than those confined to the workplace. The arguments by the apparently lockstep Democratic appointees to the Supreme Court were shockingly weak, so the 6-3 ruling striking down the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers was strictly in line with Constitutional limits on the executive branch.
So was the 5-4 ruling allowing a similar mandate requiring health care workers at facilities receiving federal money to be vaccinated. That mandate applies to workers at hospitals and other health care facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and was issued through the Secretary of Health and Human services. The governing statute gives the Secretary the general power to issue regulations to ensure the “efficient administration” of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and generally authorizes him to impose requirements to protect the health and safety of patients. Since the power “falls within the authorities that Congress has conferred upon him,” the majority wrote that the mandate “fits neatly within the language of the statute.” In both cases, the Court’s majority chose to follow the law without distorting it for convenience or ideological purity. Republicans were not happy with Justices Roberts and Kavanaugh joining the progressive bloc for a narrow 5-4 confirmation of the health care facility ruling: they wanted a full-scale slapdown for Biden. Progressives, meanwhile, refused to accept the legitimacy of the rejection of the OSHA power grab. “The Justices sided with Covid-19!” wrote lawyer and author Jonathan Carmel in the Times Opinion page. Never mind that OSHA didn’t have the statutory power, this is a crisis! SCOTUS needs to get with the program! It is a the a typical argument behind every suspension of law and rights when the totalitarians take command. On the Rationalizations List, this is #31: The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now.”
3. Can you say “compassion”? “Empathy”? “Proportion”? How about “fairness”? Judge? Hello? 31st District Judge Alexis G. Krot told Burhan Chowdhury that his failure to maintain his lawn was inexcusable, and that he belonged in jail. 72-year-old Chowdhury had been having difficulty with yard up-keep after being diagnosed with cancer three years ago. His wife injured her back, and during a period of three months when their son was out of the country, the weeds and grass got out of control. After Chowdhury struggled to breathe as he explained to the judge that he was “very weak” and unable to clean up the grass that had overtaken the property over the summer, she told him, “You should be ashamed of yourself! If I could give you jail time on this, I would….The neighbors should not have to look at that. You should be ashamed of yourself!”
Funny, I remember when I was a kid back in Arlington, Mass, and an elderly neighbor was bedridden, my father and some other residents of our street kept his yard neat for him. At the time, I just assumed that was how neighbors treated each other.
I guess not.
4. Speaking of unethical judges…Drew Clinton, 18, faced four years in prison under Illinois sentencing guidelines. He had been convicted of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl while she was unconscious at a graduation party. When he came up for sentencing, however, Judge Robert Adrian threw out the conviction so he wouldn’t have to sentence him and Clinton could be released with time served. The nearly five months Clinton had served in jail, the judge said, was “plenty of punishment” for what he had done.
After the public uproar over the ruling, Chief Judge Frank McCartney of the Eighth Judicial Circuit filed an administrative order last week removing Judge Adrian from handling criminal cases. Now he will preside only over small claims, probate, civil cases and other legal matters.
With judgment like he displayed in Clinton’s case, why should he be trusted to be a judge at all?
5. And prosecutors….Color me unsurprised. As several participants in yesterday’s Open Forum noted, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby was indicted last week for making false statements to withdraw money from Baltimore’s deferred compensation plan and to obtain mortgages, according to a Department of Justice press release. She allegedly sought a $490,500 mortgage to buy a home in Kissimmee, Florida, and a $428,400 mortgage to buy a condo in Long Boat Key, Florida. This is signature significance coming home to roost. The last time her name appeared in Ethics Alarms was in July of 2016, in this post, which concluded, “Marilyn J. Mosby revealed herself as a rogue prosecutor, untrustworthy, dishonest, reckless and no longer dedicated to her duty as a law enforcement official, but unethically using her position to advance a political and social agenda.” She was eager to ignore the law and victimize police for her own political gain; it was wholly predictable that such an ethically-compromised official would be willing to break the law for financial gain.
6. The ethics issue isn’t the answer, but that anyone would have to ask such a disturbing question. asked,, the New York Times’ generally reliable proprietor of the long-running “The Ethicist” advice column, easily gave the right answer when “Name Withheld”
In a company staff meeting, a regional manager made a joking remark that was unquestionably inappropriate for that setting. It was sexist in nature but quite witty and clever. While many of us in the meeting groaned in disbelief, three employees laughed out loud. The manager has been suspended by human resources. Should the people who laughed at the comment, two men and one woman, also be disciplined?
Uh, no, sayeth the Ethicist:
It’s wrong… to penalize someone for laughing at a joke, not the least because laughter is sometimes a response to shocked embarrassment. The job of human resources, in any case, is to assess our conduct, not to plumb our souls. Making that inappropriate remark was clearly a choice, as laughing at it might not have been. The penalty paid by the speaker in question sufficiently communicates that the company intends to avoid creating a hostile work environment.
Bingo. Spontaneously laughing at a politically incorrect joke is thought crime at worst, and in a society that believes in individual freedoms, no one should be punished for such a thing. I wonder, however, what proportion of the public wants to see such people punished, if it is growing, and what its demographics are like.