Category Archives: Childhood and children

Now THAT’S A Terrible Analogy…

Analogy

Daniel L. Byman, a Brookings Institute researcher, authored an article on the organization’s site that would be fun to dissect in its entirety, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep. I also have confidence that any half-objective reader can easily see through it without my assistance. Byman is determined to show that radical Islamic terrorism is nothing for U.S. citizens to get their panties in a bunch over, and like so much coming out of places like Brookings these days, his essay is part brief to absolve President Obama from all criticism. Byman also excels in torturing statistics to make his case, leading to the analogy in question:

“With this picture in mind, the challenges facing the United States [in dealing with terrorism] can be broken down into three issues. The first, of course, is the real risk to American lives and those of U.S. allies. In absolute terms, these are small in the United States and only slightly larger in Europe. The average American is more likely to be shot by an armed toddler than killed by a terrorist.”

I’ve had this quote stalled on a potential post list for a while, but the recent discussions here about argument fallacies revived it.

How many things are wrong with this analogy? Let’s see: Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship

Presenting The First New Rationalization Of 2017: #32A Imaginary Consent, or “He/She Would Have Wanted It This Way”

roxieThe addition of  New Rationalization #32A Imaginary Consent, or “He/She Would Have Wanted It This Way” to the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List became obligatory after it got a work-out over the holidays. Disney turning long dead character actor Peter Cushing into a zombie performer for the new “Star Wars” film was defended with the claim, which was almost surely also used by his heirs who were paid handsomely for the use of Cushing’s CGI avatar.

And that’s always the way this rationalization arrives. Someone wants to profit through some dubious scheme or transaction, and uses the argument that a revered and quite dead family member, personage of importance or icon “would have approved,” or “would have wanted it.” Like its progenitor 32. The Unethical Role Model: “He/She would have done the same thing,” which employs misdeeds of presumably admirable figures of the past as precedent for misdeed in the future, this is an appeal to irrelevant authority. Worse, Imaginary Consent presumes what cannot possibly be determined without prior express statements from the deceased.

This is one reason why DNR (“Do not resuscitate”) orders are essential. Using a fictional consent to absolve a decision-maker from actual responsibility is both a dodge and cowardly, as well as dishonest. I remember the horrible day that my sister and I were called upon to decide whether to terminate my mother, who was unconscious, on life support and beyond recovery. We made the decision quickly, and what my mother “would have wanted” was never a factor. (She had delegated the decision on her own DNR to my sister.) What my mother wanted, we both agreed, was to live forever. She would have been willing to have her comatose body waiting for a miracle or a cure until the hospital crumbled around her….in fact, that’s why she delegated the decision without instructions. Sure, it would have been easier to fool ourselves with #32A. But it would have been a lie.

The other true story this rationalization makes be think of is the time the elderly parents of a friend decided to euthanize their wonderful, bounding, big and joyful dog Roxie, some kind of a felicitous hybrid between a boxer and a freight train. They were moving into a resort where dogs were not allowed.  I was aghast, but they insisted, “We just know Roxie wouldn’t be happy living with anyone else.”

I argued(they did not appreciate it), “You know what? I bet if she could talk, Roxie would say, ‘You know, I really like you guys, really, and I’ll miss you a lot, but on balance I think I’d rather keep living, thanks. I’ll miss you, but I’m pretty sure I’ll get over it. Have a great time in Florida.'”

They killed her anyway.

#32A is a way to pass off responsibility for an ethically  dubious decision on someone who is beyond participation in that decision, and sometimes even the victim of it. It is cowardly, unaccountable, and based on an assertion that may not be true.

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Special Thanks to Reader/Commenter Zoltar Speaks!, who suggested the new entry.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Family, Health and Medicine

“Is It Possible To Address A Race-Related Problem Without Being Attacked As Racist?” And Other Reflections On The Holiday Mall Brawls

mall-violence

On the City Journal website, Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute writes in part,

Judging by video evidence, the participants in the violent mall brawls over the Christmas weekend were overwhelmingly black teens, though white teens were also involved. The media have assiduously ignored this fact, of course, as they have for previous violent flash mob episodes. That disproportion has significance for the next administration’s school-discipline policies, however. If Donald Trump wants to make schools safe again, he must rescind the Obama administration’s diktats regarding classroom discipline, which are based on a fantasy version of reality that is having serious real-world consequences.

The Obama Justice and Education Departments have strong-armed schools across the country to all but eliminate the suspension and expulsion of insubordinate students. The reason? Because black students are disciplined at higher rates than whites. According to Washington bureaucrats, such disproportionate suspensions can mean only one thing: teachers and administrators are racist. The Obama administration rejects the proposition that black students are more likely to assault teachers or fight with other students in class. The so-called “school to prison” pipeline is a function of bias, not of behavior, they say.

This week’s mall violence, which injured several police and security officers, is just the latest piece of evidence for how counterfactual that credo is.  A routine complaint in police-community meetings in minority areas is that large groups of teens are fighting on corners…The idea that such street behavior does not have a classroom counterpart is ludicrous. Black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at ten times the rate of white and Hispanic males of the same age. The lack of socialization that produces such a vast disparity in murder rates, as well as less lethal street violence, inevitably will show up in classroom behavior….School officials in urban areas across the country set up security corridors manned by police officers at school dismissal times to avoid gang shootings. And yet, the Obama administration would have us believe that in the classroom, black students are no more likely to disrupt order than white students.

The entire essay is here.

Observations: Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Quotes, Race, U.S. Society

Ethics Hero: Uber Driver Keith Avila

keithavila

Outside a house in Sacramento, California, two women got into Uber driver Keith Avila’s car with a girl who looked to him like she was just 12, wearing a short skirt.  One of them asked Avila to turn up the music as his car approached their destination, a Holiday Inn in Elk Grove. But Avila could still hear them.

“They were describing what they were going to do when they get there: ‘Check for guns. Get the money before you start touching up on the guy,’” Avila said on Facebook Live, minutes after he dropped off the passengers and had called police to report that the women seemed to be selling a child for sex. Though the girl was 16 and not 12, she was being sold for sex at the Holiday Inn.  Avila was correct. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement

Late Nominations For 2016 Jerk Of The Year: Lena Dunham And Daniel Goldstein, Ivanka’s Jet Blue Harasser

jet-blue-tweet

I’m pretty sure the Ethics Alarms 2016 Jerk of the Year Award was locked up a while ago, but two new challengers for the title at least strengthen the field:

1. Daniel Goldstein, attorney

Goldstein, in the cabin of a JetBlue flight on which Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, was also a passenger, verbally accosted the soon-to-be First Daughter before take-off. Holding a child in his arms, the New York lawyer started shouting, “Your father is ruining the country!” Then he asked, “Why is she on our flight? She should be flying private!”

Ivanka, who had her own kids in tow, tried to ignore him and attend to her family until he was removed from the flight by JetBlue personnel. “You’re kicking me off for expressing my opinion?” he yelled as he was led off the plane.

What a rude and obnoxious jerk.

Other observations: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Gender and Sex, Popular Culture, Professions, Social Media, Unethical Tweet

Fake News Update: Fake History, Santa’s Number One Elf, And The Ornery Irishman

maine

Consider this three-headed post an exploration of just how tangled and gray the Fake New Ethics Train Wreck really is.

Let’s start with…

1. The Irishman.

Last week the obituary of Chris Connors was viral on social media. The first part of it read,

Irishman Dies from Stubbornness, Whiskey

Chris Connors died, at age 67, after trying to box his bikini-clad hospice nurse just moments earlier. Ladies man, game slayer, and outlaw Connors told his last inappropriate joke on Friday, December 9, 2016, that which cannot be printed here. Anyone else fighting ALS and stage 4 pancreatic cancer would have gone quietly into the night, but Connors was stark naked drinking Veuve in a house full of friends and family as Al Green played from the speakers. The way he died is just like he lived: he wrote his own rules, he fought authority and he paved his own way. And if you said he couldn’t do it, he would make sure he could…

I instantly liked Chris, as did millions of others. This was published on the obituary site, Legacy.com. People like me sent the obituary  around to friends, thought about it, and talked about it, because it made us feel good. Now there’s someone who did not go gentle into that good night!

Do I have any idea if this obituary is 100% accurate, or accurate at all? No. How often are obituaries fact-checked, if they aren’t written by a reporter? For normal people, like Chris Connors, almost never. Do you care? Do you care in this case? I don’t I am pretty sure that the obituary gives a fair sense of the kind of man Chris Connors was, even if it is hyperbolic, as I assume it was. Nevertheless, the obituary made me feel good, as it was supposed to. Christmas is starting to depress me as the years mount up: too many memories, too many lost loved ones, the sense of time passing too, quickly , of time running out. Chris’s story, which may have been only partially true, was a great, bracing, much-needed slap in the face. He had the right idea, or if he didn’t, whoever wrote his obituary did. Is there any harm anyone can attach to this inspiring farewell? If it was fake news by Facebook’s new standards, does it matter?

2. Santa’s Number One Elf

Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, History, Journalism & Media, The Internet, War and the Military

Ethics Quiz: The Ethical Duties Of Santa Claus Imposters

11 photos for movie review running Thanksgiving Eve. Billy Bob Thornton in Terry ZwigoffÕs BAD SANTA. Photo Courtesy of Tracy Bennett.

A post yesterday described the outrageous conduct of the management at the Six Flags Over Texas theme park, which declared a local man named Jerry Henderson person non grata and kicked him out of the park because he “looked too much like Santa Claus” (they want him to shave his white beard to resume his park privileges). He also gave candy canes to children after their mom asked him to pose with her kids for a photo.

A regular Ethics Alarms commenter related this 180 degree variation on the story:

My kids take swimming classes at our local park authority pool, and last week, while we were signing in, one of the managers came out of the back office dressed as Santa. However, he was doing it as a gag for the other employees, not for the kids. (About 80%+ of the people there were children.) My kids went running up to him shouting, “Santa, Santa!” He did not acknowledge them or the other kids, didn’t even say hi, and just walked into one of the workout rooms.

I thought my kids were going to cry. I had to tell them that Santa was busy right now, but not to worry, we would go see him tomorrow when he had time to talk to them.

Your “Bad Santa”-themed Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

If you look like Santa Claus, are you ethically obligated to act like Santa Claus?

Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Popular Culture, Religion and Philosophy