Thursday Ethics Theorizing, 5/19/2022: Book Banning, Another George Floyd Victim, And A Lucky 911 Botch

I don’t put many Ethics Alarms posts on my Facebook page. The bubble there is so overwhelmingly lazy-leftist and Trump-Deranged that the responses just make me sad and depressed about the state of public discourse and my social circle. I posted about Kamala Harris’s “working together” attack, and predictably two (lawyer!) friends immediately defaulted to “but Trump!” The response that really annoyed me, however, was to my link to the tattooed baby story. Two relatives (one is 94, so she gets a pass…kind of) complained that “with all the problems and threats” (you know, like the threat that a spectacularly incompetent performance by the entire Democratic Party might cause voters to look elsewhere for leadership, which, of course, will doom democracy…but I’m just guessing) the nation is facing, why care about a woman using her baby as a self-promoting human canvas? My answer is simple: unethical conduct matters whether it is big or small, and it’s my job to do what I can to explore both. The site is called Ethics Alarms, and alarms are dulled and muffled when so-called “trivial” ethics abuses are shrugged off. (See: the Rationalization List) In addition, almost none of the over 300 friends (I’m slowly paring it down: more than a hundred gone since January) on my list ever bother to read the blog, which would help save their imperiled brain and values if they did. I cover seven to ten issues every day, more than 50 topics a week. There have been over 14,000 posts on Ethics Alarms in about eleven years; I assume that readers would be bored or worn out if we only explored the big stuff, and even if they wouldn’t be, I would.

1. Remember, the political right is untrustworthy too... After Virginia Beach schools voted two books  from their libraries’ shelves following a school board member’s complaints, Virginia Beach attorney and State Delegate Tim Anderson is representing a client suing Barnes & Noble for making the book accessible to minors, because it is “obscene.” This is just one more sign that if Republicans get the power they crave their most extreme party members will work day and night to make them just as seem just repulsive and fanatic as the Democrats are behaving now. Book banning is as much as an assault on free speech as the current progressive mania, censorship. Book stores are already endangered species: making them responsible for what minors buy there like a 7-11 selling beer will finish them off. Parents should be thrilled that their kids are reading at all. The law suit is a goner, but it will waste a lot of time and money while making the public dumber just by its presence. [Pointer: valkygrrl]

2. Thanks, HBO, but I got my fill of George Carlin while he was alive…George Carlin’s American Dream” will premiere on HBO this weekend, and my sock-drawer is calling. Carlin is a resurgent hero again among the Woke, which is appropriate. His leftist political comedy was often just as shallow and pandering as what we (when I say “we” I mean “not me”) hear from virtually all comics today who have full membership in the Progressive Propaganda Club. He called golf “racist.” I just heard a spectacularly unfunny environmentalist rant in which he claimed that he rooted for natural disasters because humans deserved them.

Carlin was no genius, but he was a smart and witty performer, and at his best, could be very funny. But he was a true misanthrope (Lewis Black just plays a misanthrope, and funnier) who essentially thought he was smarter than everyone else. He was also an opportunist, making the transition from being a coat and tie stand-up that made mild fun of weathermen and sportscasters to a long-haired bearded, drug-extolling angry hippy persona just as the Sixties caught fire. Christian Toto muses about whether Carlin today would have the guts to buck the Great Stupid and mock his progressive audience when they deserved it. Nah. I heard little integrity from Carlin over the years. I wouldn’t expect him to tempt cancel culture. And I hold him partially responsible for the facile, knee-jerk political views his young audience accepted as if they came down from the Mount, rather than from a self-serving comedian who never had to manage anything in his life.

3. Another unjust result in the George Floyd case. Thomas Lane, 39, was one of three former police officers to face charges (aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter and aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder) in the accidental death in of George Floyd. Lane now gets a court a sentence of 36 months, accepting it because he didn’t want to take the chance of being convicted and serving 12 years. This is, like Chauvin’s conviction, a political result because Black Lives Matter demanded it, and Minneapolis didn’t want any more riots. Floyd was over-dosing on multiple drugs and resisting arrest; Chauvin was negligently inattentive to his distress (under a department-approved restraint maneuver) but clearly not trying to kill him. Charging the three other officers with any variety of murder was unethical, but then Keith Ellison is the state Attorney General. In a statement, Floyd family attorneys, including entrepreneurial race-baiter Ben Crump, praised the guilty plea but mad it clear there are more officers’ lives and careers to ruin, saying in part,

“Today’s guilty plea by former officer Thomas Lane brings the Floyd family another step towards closure for the horrific and historic murder of George Floyd,” they said. “While today is a step in the right direction, we only need to look to the recent and tragic killing of Amir Locke to understand that the City of Minneapolis has a long journey ahead to regain the trust of its citizenry.”
As explained here, Locke was not murdered, and the police involved should not face prosecution. But the objective isn’t justice, it is to wage war on the justice system and police.
4. Oh, fine, another government service we can’t rely on: 911…According to a woman who called 911 while Payton Gendron was shooting people in the Tops supermarket where she worked, the operator reprimanded her for whispering (she was hiding from the shooter), and then hung up when the caller expressed frustration with her  failure to grasp the situation. The spokesman for the Erie County executive, Mark Poloncarz, said an investigation would involve a review of the call and that it was unclear who had hung up. The County also offered the excuse that the botched call had not affected the dispatching help: Buffalo’s police commissioner, Joseph A. Gramaglia, said  that the first 911 call had come in at 2:30 p.m. and that officers had arrived at the store at 2:31.

That, however, is pure moral luck.

Poloncarz admits that the handling of the call was “completely unacceptable,” and that the dispatcher will be terminated. Good. Yes, anyone can make a mistake, but if you make a mistake in one of the jobs where mistakes can be fatal, accountability cannot be argued away.

Luckily for the dispatcher, they just fire 911 operators who screw up. They don’t prosecute them.

17 thoughts on “Thursday Ethics Theorizing, 5/19/2022: Book Banning, Another George Floyd Victim, And A Lucky 911 Botch

  1. 4. They can’t determine who hung up on who?

    I have worked for two companies that had call centers in them. In both companies, the phone system was sophisticated enough that finding out from which end a call was terminated was no problem at all.

    Are 911 dispatch centers that horribly antiquated that they cannot find out if a dispatcher disconnected an emergency call?

    • That was my reaction as well; our phone system logs the whole call, how it’s routed, and how it’s terminated. I’m tempted to suspect they’re lying about it, even though telling the truth wouldn’t put them in a worse position and even though the lie is obvious to anyone with phone system experience or general IT knowledge.

      I think pointless attempts at obfuscation are part of corporate culture. If they’re honest when they don’t have to be then transparency might become a bad habit, and then they’d start being held accountable for things. We’re going to have to start calling companies out on things and imposing consequences on them wherever possible if we want them to start being ethical.

      • I am more tempted to say they want to keep their mouths shut until the logs are forensically reviewed by all relevant authorities to avoid impacting the investigation. It might be routine to pull the recording, but accessing such minute details might be unfamiliar, and verifying the equipment was operating properly may take time.

    • No, they are designed to avoid accountability. I know 3 people who tried to sue the city over incidents where the 911 tapes would have corroborated their story. In all 3 cases, the ‘tapes were lost’ or ‘we weren’t recording that day’. The judges went along with it and dismissed all 3 cases when the city claimed there were no 911 tapes. Stop believing government officials when they say something that is obviously a lie.

      In one of those instances, a diabetic man went into a coma from low blood sugar. He was too big for his wife and daughter to get into the car so they called 911. After giving their name, address, his name, the fact that he was diabetic, his blood sugar level, and his condition, they answered several minutes of questions. When the questions never seemed to end, they told the 911 operator to ‘just send and ambulance’ and then the 911 operator hung up. They called back twice more to face acrimonious 911 operators who refused to send an ambulance until they took his complete medical history, etc. The daughter ran down the street to get a neighbor to help at 2 AM. The neighbor helped them get him into the car so they could drive to the hospital. In court, the city claimed that they never called 911. They showed their phone log and the city said that it didn’t prove they said anything to the operator even though the call time for the first call was over 2 minutes.

      However, if you get an antagonistic 911 operator, you can call the non-emergency number which goes strait to dispatch. They will take minimal information and dispatch police, fire, or ambulance directly. The 911 operator has to call dispatch to send help. If you are about to ask why it works this way, you haven’t been paying attention to how governments work.

  2. Jack,

    “I just heard a spectacularly unfunny environmentalist rant in which he claimed that he rooted for natural disasters because humans deserved them.”

    It wasn’t a “rant”; it was part of a stand-up routine. Unfunny to you, perhaps, but it’s considered a classic and made the audience for whom he performed it laugh uproariously and feel validated in spending the money it cost to see him. In other words, it’s a piece of art that connected with it’s (<– intentional typo) desired audience. Case closed. Further analysis about it's (<– also intentional) actual merits elevates it to something it never intended to be.

    • Agreed. Back then, that bit was probably funny because it was provocative and unexpected.

      Now, it is less funny because there are actually people for whom it is a serious statement.


      • It was serious for Carlin, who was essentially hateful. And that’s why it wasn’t funny (the audience was not particularly appreciative, just polite) then, and isn’t now. By what logic is rooting for natural disasters because “man” has abused the earth logical, sensible, or just? Nor is it a particularly funny idea, or even an original one. The first time I heard it, years ago, I thought it was especially hypocritical for Carlin, who mocked religion, to endorse the Old Testament concept of Nature’s retribution.

    • If that was art, it was bad art, ND. And the audience hardly laughed much at all (and hardly uproariously). Lots of moments like those in Carlin routines, where he starts lecturing rather than making jokes or even funny observations, and the audience starts going “heh” out of loyalty. He said he likes fires, and though he doesn’t want firemen to get hurt, he’s not rooting for the firemen, he’s rooting for the fire. Hilarious!

      You know who are most often killed by fires, right? Poor people. If that crap is considered a Carlin “classic,” it validates my opinion of him as wildly over-rated.

  3. The people I know who praise Carlin tend to be conservative. As far as I can tell, though, they only like his anti rich guy and anti big government stuff and probably ignore the rest. Me, I’m still trying to figure out where all the purple food is.

  4. If people criticize you for tackling something that’s too small it’s just another way of people telling you to shut up. If you tackled the big stuff they tell you to shut up too. Shutuppery is what people do. Most people just can’t be bothered engaging in a real discussion or dealing with a challenge. They know what they think. They’re not interested in what anyone else thinks. If someone else dares break their comfortable silence they just want to lash out, sometimes by being sort of clever, sometimes by being self-righteous, sometimes just by being nasty. That’s when you have to hit back, appropriately, of course.

    1. Book stores have been on the last legs for a while now. It’s a side effect of Amazon and e-readers, which have the added benefit of being able to enlarge the type, something that I’m finding increasingly helpful as I get older and have trouble focusing. That said, a lawsuit like this is a waste of time, they sell what they sell. It’s really the parents responsibility to determine what their kid reads and doesn’t read. It’s also their responsibility to oversee how the kids learn about different kinds of sexual behavior. However, this only appears new at this point because homosexuality is involved. Parents were fighting to pull all kinds of books off the shelves for decades before this. Just ask Judy Blume, many parents have wanted to pull off the shelves because some of her books discuss sexuality rather too frankly.

    2. I’ve quoted George Carlin a couple of times, mostly just to utilize some of his vulgar insults. I’ve read some of his stuff, and it’s garbage. The guy has landed a place in the pantheon of individuals who made being a jerk profitable, in his case very profitable. The mistake he made, and the mistake a lot of his fans made, is, as you pointed out in another post, treating his anarchic rants like they were the serious stuff instead of a break from the serious stuff. In all fairness, he isn’t the first entertainer to take himself too seriously, and he won’t be the last. However, I certainly don’t blame you if you decide to take a pass on more of him now that he is taking the dirt nap.

    3. The officer is basically being sacrificed on the altar of any kind of order, to the blood demands of the mob. There’s really nothing more to it than that.

    4. In my day I disciplined a few 911 operator types and termination is definitely appropriate here. That said, it wouldn’t be termination for behavior as much as for the consequences of that behavior.

      • Long story short, I moved from working on primarily labor issues to primarily working on civil litigation. Part of it was that was what I orininally interviewed for, but part of it was a conflict with the management of the labor team, who treated a colleague who was their golden girl with kid gloves, but saw no problem of any kind with assigning me more files than any other two attorneys in the section combined, and then telling me that none of them were that unusual (a lie) so there was nothing all that distinguished about me (another lie). Both of those chiefs are gone now, one to the state, the othr to NJ Ttransit. I’d still talk to the former, but I told the latter that if I see him again I’ll end him.

  5. 4. I’m going to assume the 911 operator is a person of color and will face absolutely no adverse consequences.

    And speaking of ’60s comedians, the call sounds like a Flip Wilson in drag phone call sketch.

  6. 2. Steve in NJ can chime in on this, but George Carlin was Irish Catholic to the marrow of his bones. He’s one of those guys who could have just as easily become a Catholic priest or religious, or Whitey Bulger, or a full-time bar fly, or all three at the same time. He was arrogant and moralistic and unshakably and insufferably superior. But he could be funny and witty and almost charming. When he stuck to plain old human behavioral comedy, he was without peer. His routine about going through the family’s refrigerator was tremendous: “This is either a piece of meat or really old cake. If no one wants it, I’m going to throw it out.” I could relate. My Irish Catholic Depression Era mother ran a tight refrigerator.

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