Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/23/2022: A New Rule And Assorted Ethics Confusion

As Bill Maher would say: “New rule!” I am no longer tolerating rude, nasty, disrespectful clerks, waiters, or service providers of any kind. Gus McRae’s handling of an obnoxious bartender in the memorable scene above from “Lonesome Dove,” which I have come to regard as the best Western drama ever put on a screen, high praise from me, may be a bit extreme, but only a bit. The frequency of insolence and general surliness from such employees has increased wildly in recent years—theories welcome— and the only way to stop the unethical trend is to resolve to make as much trouble for such jerks as possible. a) Tell them off. b) Complain to their supervisors. c) Tell the story to online consumer resources. d) Write to headquarters, and e) Don’t give up (I am still fighting it out with CVS over a complaint I registered almost six months ago.) I just walked out of a Staples after not one but two employees treated me like a bug, and resolved never to let such conduct pass again.

1. The “Pity the poor murderer!” defense is unethical, and should be banned. Melisa McNeill, the lawyer for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nicholas Cruz, is making the standard defense argument for monsters who have no other plausible defenses. Cruz never had a chance, he has bad parents, he had various maladies, he couldn’t help himself. This is an appeal to emotion over law or reason, a direct offspring of Clarence Darrow’s position that it is cruel to punish any criminals because they had no free will. The obvious rebuttal to the disingenuous and desperate defense is that millions have grown to adulthood with as many disadvantages or more and not decided to massacre innocent children.

“Wounded and damaged people wound and damage other people because they’re in pain,”  McNeill told the jury in her  opening statement at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale. “Nikolas was poisoned in the womb.”

Gee, there’s a “Make someone massacre high school students” poison? I did not know that!

This is no more nor less than prejudicing the jury. Once it is determined that a killer is legally sane, such defenses should be illegal.

2. I’m trying to think of the last time the District of Columbia didn’t have a ridiculous and incompetent mayor. It might be Marion Barry, who was sometimes ridiculous but never incompetent. Muriel Bowser might well be the most ridiculous and incompetent yet. Her requests for National Guard deployment to help the poor District, a “sanctuary city,” deal with the 7000 illegal immigrants Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) started busing the Capital in April show astounding hypocrisy, not to mention stupidity.  If the Pentagon granted her request, it could not avoid doing the same in the border states, which are often seeing more than 7000 illegals in a day. Ann Althouse makes the obvious point that the Washington Post reporters don’t have the integrity to make:

[W]hat is the number of migrants who came to Texas and Arizona since April and have not yet moved on to other states? Is 7,000 supposed to look like a huge number or a tiny number? And is it a military problem or not? Bowser proposes to militarize it within Washington, but would she view the entire migration across the southern border as a military problem?

Althouse loses some Ethics Alarms brownie points for using “migration.” The issue is illegal immigration. The mainstream news media has settled on “migrants” as its favorite euphemism—you know, like “choice” for killing human fetuses—and commentators who care about clarity and avoiding official deceit should reject this kind of deception rather than enabling it.

3. The Minnesota teachers union has a new outrageous justification for its racist “Fire whites first” contract. You heard the others in the head-exploding interview featured here: the racist policy didn’t matter because it was unlikely to be put into effect, and there is no legitimate complaint, for this is all a contrived issue pushed by conservative media. This argument, however, is a masterpiece of obfuscation: the contract doesn’t really call for laying off white teachers first, it just exempts from firing “teachers who are members of populations underrepresented among licensed teachers in the District, as well as alumni of historically Black and Hispanic colleges, and of tribal colleges.” Leaving just white teachers, of course. Let’s see, a Third Reich analogy would be Hitler claiming that they weren’t exterminating Jews, just exempting Aryan citizens from the death camps. [Pointer: Jazz Shaw]

People who think, reason and argue like that are teaching Minnesota’s children, and probably most children in the others states as well.

4. Clarification: George Floyd was indeed a “thug.” I just read a racial discrimination complaint that, among other things, alleged the creation of a hostile work environment for African-Americans because a manager described George Floyd as a “thug.” The description is fair, accurate, and not racially discriminatory. Floyd was found guilty of armed robbery with a deadly weapon, a felony categorized a violent crime. The first definition of  thug is “a violent person, especially a criminal.” Floyd was a lifetime criminal. One may not like to hear St. George referred to with the term, but as the saying goes, while you are welcome to your opinion, you are not welcome to your own facts.

5. Mask Madness update! Fraser Ross, owner of the Kitson department store located in Beverly Hills, posted signs last week informing shoppers that  wearing a mask was now banned in the store:

At Kitson we prioritize the safety of our staff and customers. We noticed a disturbing trend of individuals wearing masks to avoid identification in various situations including, but not limited to, shoplifting, verbal harassment, and physical assault. The mask mandate may have begun as a health precaution, but we believe it is now being used by some people for nefarious purposes. To that end, we enacted our own mandate of sorts. We do not allow wearing of masks in the Robertson store during regular business hours. Those people who wish to wear masks are free to set up an appointment for a personal shopping experience or visit our website. We also offer curbside pickup.


6. Man Bites Dog, metaphorically speaking…when California Governor Gavin Newsome does something that counters Ultimate Wokeness, that’s ethics news, and attention must be paid. Newsom vetoed legislation this week that would have allowed some California cities to open supervised drug-injection sites as part of a pilot program meant to reduce fatal overdoses. The program is nuts: the government cannot facilitate illegal behavior and have any credibility in enforcing the law. Using illegal drugs is unhealthy; that why the drugs are illegal. Newsom, of course, won’t dare challenge progressive orthodoxy openly, though he may secretly agree with Sidney Wang about the program…

Thus Newsom covered his rationale with Authentic Frontier Gibberish, “explaining,”

I have long supported the cutting edge of harm reduction strategies. However, I am acutely concerned about the operations of safe injection sites without strong, engaged local leadership and well-documented, vetted, and thoughtful operational and sustainability plans.

26 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/23/2022: A New Rule And Assorted Ethics Confusion

  1. There has definitely been a decline in customer service for some time now. The last incident I experienced was at the grocery store. That particular day my credit / debit card was rejected / declined and I said something must be wrong because my balance was more than sufficient to cover the cost. The girl told me to try the card again and the same result, rejected. Well, I happened to have enough cash in my wallet to cover the puchase and just paid cash. Meanwhile, I guess the line backed up a little bit and as I was exiting the checkout line I said, “Have a nice day”. The girl said, “I was until you came through my line”. WTF, it wasn’t my fault the card was declined. I found out later there was a regional problem with Visa credit / debit that day.

    Anyway, I went to the service counter and told them about the incident and they said they would take care of it. I just left; so, I’m not sure whether the clerk was disciplined.

    This isn’t the only incident I’ve experienced overall. Sometimes these people providing service just seem to have the attitude that they are doing you a favor by tolerating you, the customer. It wasn’t that way when I was younger.

    Heck, I worked in a grocery store before college and we had the auto-stop conveyer belts. One customer was holding her groceries back with her arm and all I said was, “the belt will stop automatically when the groceries reach the sensor”. She complained to management and I got verbally disciplined, being told I should just have turned off the belt. Just one example of how the emphasis used to be on customer service.

    Some businesses now have so many customers and revenue coming in that they don’t seem to bother with trying to satisfy customers. Like the cable companies and cell phone companies. We were displeased with our cable service and threatened to cancel and the person on the phone essentially just told us to bring the box back to the nearest store.

    I’m still eager to find out what happens with the CVS debacle. The longer it takes for resolution, the more I feel it’s just going to slip into oblivion.

    • It being hard sometimes to determine the intent behind messages in written form, I want to assure you that this comment is intended as friendly.

      In your experience with the grocery store cashier, she should not have muttered what she did. That was wrong. They might mention it to her, but I doubt there will be any serious repercussions. There were times I felt like that toward customers when I worked in a fast food restaurant in college, but they generally deserved it. You didn’t.

      However, the rejection of a card is often the beginning of a customer confrontation and it usually begins with the customer referencing that there is enough money in the account. It’s pretty rare that the amount of money in the bank is the problem. If a card is rejected, there are any number of reasons for it that have nothing to do with the amount. Rejection of the card does not mean the store is saying you don’t have enough money. As in your story, neither the store nor you were at fault.

      In your workplace experience, your manager was wrong for reprimanding you. The customer was wrong for complaining about you. You were trying to be helpful. That was your job and it’s for unreasonable customers like that and unfair managers like that which is causing some – but not all – of the surliness in customer service that we are experiencing recently (the pandemic certainly did not help reduce the number of demanding, pushy, unreasonable customers).

  2. Quick comment on #4, as I am about to run out the door: I hear that “thug” is racially discriminatory because it was originally used as an epithet by the British against certain groups in India. Originally, there was a racial connotation to it.

    I never knew that the many times I used the term.

    The argument is a simple example of the Genetic Fallacy. However, so much of the hand-wringing that goes on by the leftists can be traced to the Genetic Fallacy.


    • I believe the people who say that are misinformed. Cursory research indicates that “thug” comes from a Hindi word to describe crooks or otherwise dastardly people, and people in what is now India used it to describe certain violent groups roaming the area. Therefore, the British referring to those same groups as “thugs” is not an indication of racial bias. That’s just what the locals called them.

      Perhaps people might object to using the word “thug” to describe violent people who are not part of those specific historical (and hopefully now defunct) groups in India? But then by the same token you couldn’t refer to an expert as a “guru”. American people couldn’t be “kings” or “queens” of anything, or any other kind of figurative royalty or nobility, because that appropriates from cultures that still have monarchies and aristocracies.

      I, for one, support the idea that a word can be used in a purely figurative sense, divorced from the historical group that gave the word its present connotations. The important thing, I think, is that a) the historical group is no longer around, and b) the word’s definition in colloquial use does not create misconceptions about the historical group. That way we can avoid confusion.

      • In India the Thuggee were devotees of Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction. As part of their devotions to her, they strangled travelers with cloth garottes, usually weighted with silver coins. The word thug comes from there. They never got as organized as was shown in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” or “Gunga Din,” but they were still dangerous, and the British Raj did the world a favor by eliminating them in the 1830s.

        • Ah, good, so just like “vandals” and “goths” there’s nobody still around who’s going to complain that their own group’s name is being used to mean something else.

          I myself use “thug” to describe people who try to solve all their problems with turmoil, i.e. violence, force, and threats.

    • I once put this type of ‘appropriation is racist’ argument to bed by pointing out the particular individual’s affinity for zombie movies was appropriating African Voodoo.

  3. 6. Newsom’s motives are purely political; he’s planning on a presidential run and knows that enabling drug abuse and addiction won’t play well in the hinterlands.

  4. #4 If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then…

    …there’s no probably about it, George Floyd was a “thug” and trying to whitewash over that verifiable fact to promote George as some kind of honored Saint is like trying to whitewash over the fact that some of the United States forefathers owned slaves. The difference is that our forefathers were actually courageous hero’s that put their life on the line to create this great nation and George Floyd was still a just a “thug” who died a tragically unnecessary death. There was nothing courageous, heroic or saintly about George Floyd.

    • “George Floyd was still a just a “thug” who died a tragically unnecessary death. There was nothing courageous, heroic or saintly about George Floyd.”

      Correctamundo Steve, and that is why he is a superhero of the woke Left.
      That, and also the fact he is now a martyr symbolizing the oppression of black people by white gestapo police.
      Facts are irrelevant when there is money to be made and some violence to wreak.

  5. Here is another scene that warms my cockles.
    Woodrow’s turn to teach a lesson in manners.

    “I hate rude behavior in a man, won’t tolerate it.”

  6. Jack: “ Once it is determined that a killer is legally sane, such defenses should be illegal.”

    Jack, you know this is wrong. The only way for it to be “illegal” is for the government to say so. In essence, that would be the government telling the accused that the accused can’t offer a defense. Our system depends on limiting the government’s ability to throw people in jail.

    Of course, certain defenses are limited in some ways. But, for the government to say you can’t defend yourself (particularly if you have no other defense), you are very close to eliminating the right to a trial for the obviously guilty.



    • It sounds like what Jack objects to is that when the lawyers can’t offer an argument that the defendant didn’t commit the crime, and they can’t establish mitigating circumstances directly surrounding the crime (e.g. a crime of passion, temporary insanity, et cetera), then they start saying “alright, this person committed the crime, but they don’t deserve to be punished because they weren’t raised to be a healthy, responsible human being.”

      Of course, if prisons were designed with rehabilitation in mind, then arguments about the defendant’s upbringing would be redundant, because the answer would be to send them to prison where they could learn to be a healthy, responsible human being. In other words, they would absolutely deserve prison, because it would help them just as much as it helped protect everyone else from them. That seems like the obvious solution here.

    • The prosecution is prohibited from introducing evidence that inflames the jury because it is prejudicial to the administration of justice. So are these sad tales of troubled kids who moved on from murdering pets to killing kids. There is no constitutional right to a fake defense. Jury nullification isn’t permitted—why wouldn’t the “poor murderer” defense be just as offensive/

  7. I know a few small businesses owners just north of San Francisco & employee retention is their biggest problem. It is almost impossible to get people to apply for open positions.
    Employees know this and that their bad behavior and sub-par performance will be tolerated by their desperate employers.

    According to the Guidelines on NextDoor, the word “thug” is now explicitly prohibited as (according to NextDoor) a racial pejorative blacks.
    Makes perfect sense: all blacks are criminals.

  8. [3rd try posting this comment – 3rd time’s a charm OR 3 strikes and out??]
    4. The term ‘thug’ has a racial connotation and has had for several years, and quite apart from its use in India. Language evolves, and rap and hip hop have contributed to that. Way back in the 1990s, Tupac Shakur formed a group known as Thug Life which released an album “Thug Life: Volume 1” in 1994. Here’s what he said: “I don’t consider myself to be straight militant. I’m a thug, and my definition of thug comes from half of the street element and half of the Panther element, half of the independence movement. Saying we want self-determination. We want to do it by self-defense and by any means necessary. That came from my family and that’s what thug life is. It’s a mixture.”
    Like some other terms, the connotation varies according to the user. If Barrack says ‘Obamacare, it’s a good thing. Not so much when used by a right-winger.
    Here’s what language professor John McWhorter said seven years ago: “Well, the truth is that thug today is a nominally polite way of using the N-word. Many people suspect it, and they are correct. When somebody talks about thugs ruining a place, it is almost impossible today that they are referring to somebody with blond hair. It is a sly way of saying there go those black people ruining things again. And so anybody who wonders whether thug is becoming the new N-word doesn’t need to. It most certainly is.”

    • I don’t have to cower to what rappers decide a perfectly good word “really means,” nor is McWhorter the language cop. I still see “thugs” routinely used to describe white and Hispanic thugs. It’s a pejorative word, and should be. If it’s applied disproportionately to black thugs, that may be because there are a disproportionate number of violent criminals in the black community. Trying to restrict the word is in the same category as “inmate,’ which is now politically incorrect.

      • You of course can use words however you want, but, like it or not, there are situations where ‘thug’ will carry a racist connotation. The rappers did not decide the real meaning; they used the word in a certain way which caught on with enough people so that the rapper’s usage became a more common usage. Usage, after all is what determines meaning. And McWhorter is not prescribing, he is describing.

        • And, usage continues to evolve — note the widespread use of ‘thugs’ to describe those who assaulted the Capitol, which, at least in that context, didn’t have a racist connotation.

        • At this point, any word or criticism relating to blacks, or any position its activists find inconvenient, “has a racist connotation.” They did that, not me, and it was done to squelch legitimate speech. Screw that!

          • I’m with you, Jack.

            As my husband likes to say: “if you hear a dog whistle, it’s because you’re the dog”, and he’s right.

          • I was just about to say something similar. Imagine if persons of European descent decided that the term whites is a racist. Who uses that term any more except to vilify a particular group.

    • Regarding what Tupac Shakur was attempting to do with the word “thug”, I suppose that’s fair considering what happened with the word “punk”. “Punk” means something more… well, not constructive per se, but more self-aware and purposeful than what it used to mean.

      That said, I’m inclined to keep using the word “thug” to mean “someone who addresses conflict by engaging in the tradeoff of turmoil”. If there were a better one, I’d use it. I don’t want the word to have any ethnic connotations, and I also don’t think a thug is a good thing to be, so I don’t think a community should try to hold onto it as an identity. (The same goes for other tradeoff words, like charlatan (corruption), squanderer (wastefulness), miser (austerity), bungler (negligence), feeble (susceptibility), heedless (decadence), and blinkered (dogma), all subject to change if I find better words.)

      I realize that some communities can be more comfortable dealing with turmoil than with corruption, but I don’t think either of those tradeoffs is something to aim for, and I don’t think either is what human communities actually want.

      It should go without saying that I do not want any of these tradeoff words to be linked to any particular ethnic group or heritage, and I do not want people to make prejudiced assumptions about the tradeoffs another person might engage in.

      It is possible to create a culture based on accepting tradeoffs in the face of liabilities (rather than practicing the constructive virtues of investment, preparation, transcension, and ethics). In fact, many cultures throughout human history have based their cultures of tradeoffs. It’s just not something I judge to be a good idea. Tradeoffs are traps, and cultures that accept them are not as healthy as they could be.

  9. I applaud Kitson for their attempt at solving the problem they’re facing, but banning masks won’t do much. Shoplifting has been essentially decriminalized in California, and you probably won’t get a cop to show up for verbal harassment or assault most of the time, either. Having camera evidence that shows the perp’s face won’t be of much help if the crime is never investigated or prosecuted.

    Kitson’s management needs to understand that the state has higher priorities than dealing with crimes at retail establishments, like sending police to force a 4-year-old to wear a mask in school.

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