Category Archives: Ethics Alarms Award Nominee

Ethics Quiz: Pronouns

 

(Why am I up writing at this hour? All I will say is that its is unwise to frustrate a Jack Russell Terrier. That’s all.)

Peter Vlaming, a high school teacher in West Point Virginia, refused to use the pronouns demanded by 9th grade student who had announced that she was a female transitioning to male, was fired this week.  The West Point School Board fired him after a four-hour hearing, and its position was that Vlaming was fired for insubordination.

Some news reports on the matter fail to note that there was no allegation that the  West Point High School French teacher insisted on referring to the student using female pronouns in class. Apparently he used her name only. No, he apparently slipped when when the student was about to run into a wall, and Vlaming told others to stop “her.” When discussing the incident with administrators, Vlaming said he would not use male pronouns, because  his Christian faith prevented him from doing so.

Principal Jonathan Hochman testified that he ordered  Vlaming to use male pronouns in accordance with the student’s wishes. Vlaming’s attorney, Shawn Voyles, says his client offered to use the student’s name and to avoid feminine pronouns, but Voyles says the school was unwilling to accept the compromise.

“That discrimination then leads to creating a hostile learning environment. And the student had expressed that. The parent had expressed that,” said West Point schools Superintendent Laura Abel. “They felt disrespected.” Although the school’s  policies were updated a year ago to include guidance regarding gender identity,  gender pronoun use was not included. Vlaming’s attorney argues that the school cannot require his clients to speak words that violate his conscience. This is undeniably true. Vlaming says he is being fired for for having views held by “most of the world for most of human history. That is not tolerance,” Vlaming said. “That is coercion.”

He has not decided on his next steps.

Yikes. I do not see how speaking words that are not blasphemy can qualify as a breach of faith. I do not see how calling a student by name rather than pronoun can be called discrimination or create a “hostile environment.” I do see how a teacher calling an apparently female student by male pronouns could confuse other students, suggest that gender is more flexible than it is healthy to believe, and be something parents could legitimately object to. I think that the First Amendment pretty clearly prevents a government institution like a school from demanding that a teacher use specific pronouns simply because a student wants him to do so, when using the opposite pronouns are still arguably accurate and the teacher is willing to use the student’s name only.

I think that’s sufficient background to ask this perplexing Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz question of the day:

Was it ethical for the teacher to refuse to use the student’s preferred pronouns in referring to that student?

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Ethics Dunce: William Kristol

The Weekly Standard went belly-up today. As usual when a publication dies, there isn’t just one reason. There are many reasons, including a changing market, competition, aging principals and bad luck. These factors were at work in this instance as well. However, the Weekly Standard was primarily doomed by the arrogance and selfish pique of the man who one would think would be the individual least inclined to harm the Standard, since it was his legacy. He went ahead and mortally wounded it anyway, for a stupid reason, if a popular one. He hated Donald Trump. That individual, of course, is William Kristol. Continue reading

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One More Reason Not To Watch “Bull”

Harassed and harasser. Guess who stayed employed?

“Bull,” the CBS legal drama starring Michael Weatherly as a roguish, brilliant jury consultant who violates so many ethics rules on behalf of the submissive lawyer who employs him that it actively makes viewers dumber, reached my boycott list almost immediately. It’s a shame, because I could get a lively post, sometimes several, out of virtually any episode, since the show’s respect for ethics, professional and otherwise is non-existent.

Now there’s another good reason to avoid “Bull.” CBS has investigators checking the depth and length of the cultural norms of sexual assault, harassment and cover-ups at CBS, where CEO Les Moonves was recently fired after it was revealed that he was a serial sexual predator. That was odd, too, because the other networks enjoyed painting Fox News as a den of sexism after founder Roger Aisles was exposed as exactly the sort of pig who would make his female talent dye their hair blonde and dress like cocktail hostesses. They also had their news reporters sneering and preaching about evil Candidate Trump boasting about “grabbing them by the pussy” while their execs and stars were actually doing it. (My guess? Every one of the major networks has corrupt, harassment-supporting cultures like Fox and CBS. Every single one.) One of the revelations was that actress Eliza Dushku, the bad vampire slayer on “Buffy,” was harassed repeatedly by “Bull” star Michael Weatherly, and when she complained about it, was fired. To cover-up, Dushku was paid nine million dollars as damages and hush money. As you know, this must have been a campaign financing violation.

The story is disgusting. Read it and retch. to summarize, Weatherly, who apparently is very much like the charming jerks he plays, pet making sexual comments to Dushku, calling her “Legs” on the set, suggesting that she participate in “threesomes” and similar comments. Soon other men on the show were doing the same. Dushku, who had been signed up play a continuing role on the show, complained—as she should have—and Weatherly had her fired. Then CBS paid to cover it up.

Nice.

It is amazing to me that even in the ethics cesspool of show business, this behavior continues to happen, and big corporations continue to allow it, indeed facilitate it. Weatherly says he was misunderstood, that he was joking—like when he said in front of the cast and crew that he would bend her over his leg and spank her, or when he said he would take . Dushku to his “rape van,” which he said was filled with phallic objects and lubricant—that this is just the way he is, that he didn’t mean anything by it and is sorry that he upset anybody.

Bull.

This is classic sexual harassment, and would have been rude, unprofessional and abusive conduct before the term “sexual harassment” was invented.

I have had many female peers and subordinates in my embarrassingly diverse career, including many who were single, attractive, and who caused my heart to skip a beat every time I saw them. I never once made a sexually suggestive comment to any of them; it would not have occurred to me to do so. The reason is that I was raised properly to be respectful to women, and because I instinctively understood that the workplace, even the confusing workplace of show business, was not a locus where basic manners and common sense were suspended. This shouldn’t be hard. That particular ethics alarm should be installed and fully functional by the time a child is 10.

Weatherly, of course, as the star of a successful, popular and lucrative show, assumed that he was immune from discipline, and he was, sadly, right. What should have happened was that the producers should have called him in to grim scene with lawyers present. He should have been told that his conduct was not only stupid and vulgar but illegal. He should have been required to apologize to the actress and to make an appropriate statement to the cast and crew. Finally, he should have been told that a single instance of this kind of conduct, or any hint or retaliation against Dushku, would result in his dismissal for cause.

Disney and ABC, you will recall, fired Roseanne Barr from her own show for a single tweet. Even a CBS show had acted decisively when “Criminal Minds” fired star Thomas Gibson for kicking a writer. Ah, but one instance was racism, and the other was violence. The tragedy is that too many organizations and powerful men, especially in Hollywood and Washington, D.C., still don’t see sexual harassment as all that big a deal. No, it certainly doesn’t help the the President of the United States also doesn’t think it’s a big deal, but you can’t blame CBS’s conduct on him.

There is no excuse for this. There was never any excuse for this.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/14/2018: PolitiFact Lies About The Lie Of The Year, And What’s This Taboo Stuff Bing is Blathering On About?

Good morning.

1. So you think baseball ethics controversies end with the season? Not at Ethics Alarms!

  • Did you know that baseball has its own Colin Kaepernick, sort of? Free-agent catcher Bruce Maxwell can’t find a team, though he was once considered the front-runner to be the Oakland A’s starting catcher.  In 2017 Maxwell,  who is white, became the first and only major leaguer to kneel during the National Anthem. The buzz coming out of baseball’s winter meetings was that taking a knee was enough to make him persona non-grata among baseball owners.

Of course, the fact that Maxwellwas arrested on a gun charge in 2017 and later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, and also played poorly last season in the minor leagues doesn’t help. “This is not a Colin Kaepernick situation, said an anonymous source at the meetings. “This is if Colin Kaepernick had knelt for the anthem and also been arrested for a gun crime.”

Except that things like gun crimes are not that big a deal in the NFL…

  • In a debate with baseball commentator Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo, Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa inadvertently gave a lesson in why conflicts of interests are a problem while simultaneously showing that he has no idea what a conflict is. Russo correctly protested that Harold Baines, recently a shock election to the Baseball Hall of Fame by a 16 member committee that included  close associates of Baines, was unqualified, and noted that several members of the committee, includiing Baines’ long-time manager LaRussa, had a conflict of interest. LaRussa’s rebuttal: “Do you think the people who know him better than the average expert, fan or even other baseball executives, have actually been teammates with him … when they speak with more knowledge about the type of player he was, I think that speaks more to his credit, not less.”

No, Tony. Those who knew and admired him are biased, and Baines should have been elected or not elected by a panel that knew him no better or less than it knew the other candidates. That Baines’ pals have inside knowledge that he, let’s say,  likes puppies, always held the door open for the manager’s mother, once bailed a team mate out of jail and often played despite a sore toe has nothing to do with his qualifications for the Hall. And LaRussa has a law degree! Maybe this explains his ultimate career choice. Continue reading

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Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa)

You know when I mentioned that Ted Lieu was NOT the most “foolish, dumb, frightening” member of Congress? Steve King was one of the people I was thinking of.

In case you haven’t heard the widespread mockery, King asked Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai  at this week’s House Judiciary Committee hearing about alleged bias and abuse of power by the tech behemoth,

“I have a 7-year old granddaughter who picked up her phone during the election, and she’s playing a little game, the kind of game a kid would play. And up on there pops a picture of her grandfather. And I’m not going to say into the record what kind of language was used around that picture of her grandfather, but I’d ask you: How does that show up on a 7-year old’s iPhone, who’s playing a kid’s game?”

Pichai responded,  “Congressman, the iPhone is made by a different company.”

Kindly leaving out the obligatory, “You moron.” Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/13/2018: The All-Segue Edition

Good Morning!

(Though any day that begins with the legal gossip scandal-sheet website Above the Law sending me a “media inquiry” as they dig for dirt is not a good day.)

1. In brief. Well I have now received the appellant’s brief in a certain lingering law suit regarding Ethics Alarms. What fun. Anyone who wants to read it is welcome; those who have dealt with pro se submissions will immediately recognize the syndrome, lawyers may be amused, and non-lawyers may be edified. I expect to knock out the reply brief today, which won’t have to be more than a few pages. It’s not like I have better things to do or anything…

2. Speaking of cases that should have been thrown out of court…Reason reports:

In June, an Oakland County sheriff’s deputy pulled Dejuante Franklin over in front of a gas station for a traffic violation. While handing Franklin his ticket, NWA’s “Fuck tha Police” began to play in the background. As it turns out, James Webb, who did not know Franklin, witnessed the stop. He decided on his own accord to turn the song up louder before walking into the gas station store. When he exited, the officer slapped him with a ticket for misdemeanor noise violation, citing that Webb played the song at an “extremely high volume.”

It took 9 minutes of deliberation for a jury to bring in a verdict of  not guilty. This was an obvious attempted end-around the First Amendment by the officer, and the judge shouldn’t have let it get to a jury at all.

3. And speaking of abusing First Amendment rights…as well as “A Nation of Assholes,” MSNBC’s “Morning Joe’s” co-host and wife-to-be (don’t get me started on THAT) Mika Brzezinski,  called Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a “butt-boy” during yesterday’s show.  Why not? After all, CBS lets its on-air personalities call the President a “cock-holster.” Mika wouldn’t have had her filters down, of course, if the culture around MSNBC wasn’t rife with such hate, but she realized mid-show that this wasn’t exactly professional or civil news reporting, and babbled an apology. Too late!

An ethical, professional news station would suspend her, but this is MSNBC, and there are no ethical, professional news stations.

4. Meanwhile, speaking of media bias and unprofessional reporting...A New York Times “fact check” on the contentious meeting among Trump, Pence, Pelosi and Schumer had this amusing note:

“Mr. Trump has long charged that Democrats want open borders, slinging accusations at a higher clip in the waning days of the midterm elections campaign in November. Democrats do not want open borders, evidenced in part by border security legislation that Democrats have supported. What Democrats do not want is Mr. Trump’s costly border wall.”

Oh, that’s a fact, is it? No, Democrats, at least a great many of them, DO want open borders, evidenced in part by their wilful refusal to distinguish between illegal immigrants and legal immigrants, their insistence on signalling through their support for “Dreamers” that bringing children across the border illegally is a virtuous act, their position that illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the U.S. as longs as they don’t break any more laws, their constant demonization of necessary border enforcement efforts, and their proposals to abolish ICE. Continue reading

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Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Rep. Ted Lieu

I guess there are more foolish, dumb, frightening members of Congress than this guy. Think about that.

Lieu, the very model of a modern California Democrat, told CNN host Brianna Keilar, among other things,

“I would love to be able to regulate the content of speech. The First Amendment prevents me from doing so, and that’s simply a function of the First Amendment, but I think over the long run, it’s better the government does not regulate the content of speech.”

And then, he tweeted,

“Would I like to regulate Fox News? Yes, but I can’t because the First Amendment stops me. And that’s ultimately a good thing in the long run.”

You see, people qualified to the leaders of a democracy don’t want to operate like totalitarians. I don’t trust people who want to summarily execute or imprison political opponents without due process or a trial, but who add “But I can’t because of the Constitution, and I guess that OK.” Or, say things like “I wish I could keep slaves/ outlaw religions/ confiscate guns/ nationalize businesses/ take away private property and give it to whoever I want but there’s that dang Constitution.” Such people are wannabe totalitarians, don’t really like our rights, and would crush them in a second if they saw a chance.

That’s Ted Lieu. That’s a lot of Democrats and progressives. Lieu is just of the few dumb enough to admit it.

 

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