Category Archives: Ethics Train Wrecks

Fire Lisa Mars

I usually hesitate to call for anyone to be fired, though there have been exceptions. In this case, however, the call is mandatory on ethical grounds. It is unethical for a school dedicated to the arts to hand oversight to an gross incompetent who doesn’t comprehend the arts she is supposedly responsible for teaching; it is unethical for someone to take on this responsibility who is wildly unqualified for the job; and it is unethical for that individual to act in a way that undermines the mission of the school she heads.

I have just fairly described Lisa Mars, currently the principal at the Fiorello LaGuardia High School, the high school “of music, arts the performing arts” made famous in the movie and TV show, “Fame.”

On opening night of a school production of “The Sound of Music,” she ordered all Nazi-themed props and set pieces struck. They are offensive, you see. Never mind that the show is set during Germany’s take-over of Austria as the Third Reich was expanding. Never mind that Nazi Germany and its officers are major elements in the plot, or that the plot is based on the real-life escape of the singing Von Trapp family from the Nazis. Never mind that theater is a representational art form. Stage deaths are not real killings, stage rape isn’t really rape, stage racism isn’t really racism, and stage representations of Nazi symbols do not promote fascism. Most grade-school actors can grasp this basic principle, but not the head of a school for the performing arts.

“This is a very liberal school, we’re all against Nazis,” one sophomore said. “But to take out the symbol is to try to erase history.” Yes, that too. “Obviously the symbols are offensive,” he added. “But in context, they are supposed to be.”

Make him principal. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History

Analysis: Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s #MeToo Accusations And His Response

Oh, great…the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck is still making stops and picking up passengers. This time the target is Neil deGrasse Tyson who someone, actually several somones, decided was a powerful man too full of himself who needed to be taken down a peg or sixty, and thus he has been accused–Democratic Senators would say “credibly” accused—of two episodes of sexual harassment and one rape. This is no trivial matter for Tyson, whose carefully constructed image as the new Carl Sagan is now in real danger. So is his job, his celebrity, his reputation and perhaps his marriage.

The three accusations belong in two boxes. The two sexual harassment claims may bolster each other, for harassing is an attitude, a habit, and a form of ethics blindness. Real harassers never do it just once. Rape is something else entirely, and, obviously, far more serious, since it is a crime.

Let’s examine each of the accusations, and Tyson’s defense, which he issued in a long Facebook post over the weekend.

Accusation #1:

Workplace Harassment: Hostile work environment and Unwanted sexual advances (2018)

Ashley Watson, who began a job as Dr. Tyson’s assistant on “Cosmos” in the spring, told an interviewer that on one occasion he asked if she would like to come to his home to share a bottle of wine and “unwind for a couple of hours.” She agreed to come in for one glass, she said, believing that they were going to talk about work and her future assignments.

Once in the astronomer’s apartment, she said, he told her that “as human beings, we all need release,” and asked if there were any “releases” she needed.  (Oh-oh!) As she began to leave a while later,  and he asked if she would let her show her  a Native American handshake.” This required clasping their hands together , finding the pulse on the other person’s wrist, and looking into each other’s eyes. (Super Oh-oh, and also “You’ve got to be kidding me.”) She says that it made her uncomfortable, and she broke it off after about 10 seconds.

As she was again trying to leave, she says Dyson commented, “I want you to know that I want to hug you so bad right now, but I know that if I do I’ll just want more.”

Then, the next day, he told her, “You say you want to be a producer, but it’s always going to be an uphill battle for you because you’re too distracting.”

She says told a supervisor ,a line producer,about what had happened, and that she was quitting.. The supervisor, asked Watson if she wanted to file a complaint. She said no. The supervisor suggested she tell her co-workers that she was leaving because of a family emergency, which she did.

Comment: If accurately described, this is slam dunk sexual harassment. The apartment visit is an extension of the workplace. If it is a veiled “date,” Tyson has crossed a line because he is the woman’s supervisor with hiring and firing power. She cannot consent meaningfully. The release comment, depending on the delivery and context, is creepy and plausibly sexual in intent, unless he also said, “Me? I like to watch baseball. How about you?” The “Native American handshake” sounds like a nifty version of the old “shoulder rub.” Now there has been touching, and forced eye-gazing. Ew. The last comment at the apartment  is also a sexual advance, especially in context with the rest.

Tyson’s Explanation: Not good. In his Facebook post,  Tyson described the handshake as one he uses “in appreciation of people with whom I’ve developed new friendships.” He said that at work, Ms. Watson freely offered hugs, which he typically rejected, but that on a few occasions, he “clumsily declared, ‘If I hug you I might just want more.’”

“My intent was to express restrained but genuine affection,” he wrote.

He also wrote that . Watson had come into his office after the incident in his apartment and told him she had been “creeped out.” He said he had “apologized profusely” and that she had accepted the apology.

Comment: Tyson’s defense is essentially “I didn’t mean anything by it, she construed it the wrong way, and anyway, she accepted my apology.” Those are three excuses, none of which carried any weight in sexual harassment cases. It’s what the harasser did, and how the harassed felt about it. His apology and her acceptance of it, even if true, doesn’t undo the event. The encounter and his words  made her uncomfortable working with him, and objectively, anyone can see why. It is also interesting that Tyson doesn’t deny the “release” conversation, or his later comment about her being a distraction.

Since Watson had to leave her job, this episode could justify a lawsuit for sexual harassment.

Accusation #2: Sexual assault (2009)

Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Facebook, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Romance and Relationships, Workplace

Death By A Thousand False Narratives

If you read the New York Times and its pundits as your primary news source, hate the President of the United States, and are a sucker for confirmation bias (as most of us are), then you probably really do think that President Trump in on the verge of being prosecuted. He’s not, and the fact that the flagship-by-default of the journalistic establishment nonetheless encourages that misconception is all you need to know about the state of American journalism. It deliberately and incompetently misinforms the public to suit its political alliances and agendas, rather than informing the public objectively about what they need to know to govern themselves.

I hate to keep pointing this out, but the evidence keeps coming, and the deniers are increasing their volume. I’m so sick of this particular story that I could hurl. Unfortunately, I have an obligation as both a responsible citizen, an ethicist and a blogger not to allow these Big Lies to lie around unchallenged, because that’s part of the Big Lie method. People get sick of arguing, and the lie becomes truth by default. Well, I’d rather lose readers—and I have—than be complicit in that.

Today, for example, and prompting this mini-post, was this column in the New York Times Review section, by the managing editor of Lawfare. Its called “Mueller vs Fox News,” and the theory is the exact opposite of reality. Her claim is that Fox News is deceiving the public into thinking that Mueller’s investigation hasn’t uncovered what it has been looking for, a way to push the President out of office, when it has. “The evidence from the special counsel’s investigation is already damning, but it must contend with a haze of lies, confusion and ‘alternative facts,'” she writes.

That cut line is what made me read the piece, for I’m always looking for real, as opposed to hoped for, assumed, or misunderstood, evidence that the President illegally and unethically made a quid pro quo deal of some sort with Russia to steal the election. I don’t like cheating in any field, and I don’t care who does it. I also, however, know what cheating is.

There not only isn’t “damning evidence” relating to the President itemized in the column, there is no evidence at all, just the same Manafort and Cohen machinations we have been hearing about all week, plus the even murkier doings of conservative writer James Corsi, none of which constitute “collusion.” Nonetheless, the author posts a series of Orwellian, black-is-white/War is Peace pronouncements which are the precise opposite of reality—and the Times dutifully publishes them. For example, she writes, Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Mid-Day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/29/18: Slime, Blather, Theft And Trolling

Good Afternoon…

For me, anyway: I woke up feeling healthy for the first time in 17 days.  Now the day’s ethics stories will make both of us feel sick. I’m sorry.

1. The Sliming. The news media is determined, in the absence of any verified or verifiable evidence, to continue sliming Brett Kavanaugh. The Washington Post placed the story about his return to coaching  girls’ basketball in its “Public Safety” section. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!

This below-the-belt innuendo that the Supreme Court Justice is a threat to the young women on his team was caught, criticized, and the Post claimed it was an accident. You know, if journalists played it straight, and  had any credibility as objective, fair commentators, such an explanation would be credible. But they don’t, and it’s not.

Then there was the Huffington Post and AOL, which ran this story, headlined “Ford Is Still Receiving Death Threats, Kavanaugh Is Back To Coaching Basketball.”

The innuendo here is that there is some kind of injustice that the accused gets to resume his life while the accuser’s life is still disrupted. No, one who is accused should always be able to return to his life if the accusation is unproven and unconvincing, though that’s often not the case, and not the case with Kavanaugh as his continued sliming by the Left-wing media demonstrates. As for Blasey-Ford, no one should endure death threats. This is, however, a false dichotomy. There is no evidence that Kavanaugh did anything wrong, much less that he is a sex offender. My view is that Blasey-Ford, for political reasons, raising a high school episode that she could not confirm and didn’t recall herself for 30 years in order to discredit an adult judge of sterling reputation and credentials was unethical, irresponsible, and unfair.

2. The Sliming, cont.: Mark Twain Prize Division. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, inexplicably awarded the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize as the individuals who has “had an impact on American society in ways similar to” Twain—Julia Louis-Dreyfus? Seriously?—-used her acceptance speech to display her Twain-like rapier wit and take cheap shots at Justice Kavanaugh. (They are too idiotic and unfunny to warrant repeating.) It takes a lot of gall for someone to be accusing a public figure of sexual assault at any event sponsored by the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Center, or with Kennedy anywhere in the name. Indeed, it took some gall for Dreyfus to even accept the award. I searched her resume to find any evidence that she ever wrote a funny line or witticism of her own, which should be the criterion and usually has been, even with wan selections like Tina Fey, a minor wit if there ever was one. The precedent for Louis-Dreyfus would be Carol Burnett, who also is just a comic actress whose wit comes from other artists, though she bestrides the like of Fey and Louis-Dreyfus like a Colossus. Sad and politically incorrect to admit, but comedy just isn’t a field where women seem to excel, so once again, the quest for diversity involves a compromise in values. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Popular Culture, Social Media, U.S. Society

Mid-day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/28/18: Thanks, Twitter, A Properly Derisive Label Needed, And More Mainstream Media Bias That Is All In My Mind

Having a nice day?

1. A tardy recognition of things to be thankful for. Several of the regular readers here, notably Other Bill, valkygirrl, Pennagain, Michael West, Neil Dorr and Zoltar, but also others, have been flagging ethics stories for possible Ethics Alarms coverage. This has been especially helpful during my recent bronchitis battle, but I can always use tips, especially since my amazingly productive ethics scout of many years, Fred, had to take his talents elsewhere. The best way to send me your links and recommendation is at jamproethics@verizon.net.

2. This explains a lot. Pollster Frank Luntz says that 67% of Democrats believe it is “definitely true” or “probably true” that “Russia tampered with vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected.” There is no evidence, none, that Russia tampered with vote tallies. There isn’t even evidence that Russian-planted “fake news” in social media and other meddling had any measurable effect on the election. Never mind: two-thirds of Democrats are convinced that Hillary Clinton couldn’t possibly have lost to a creep/Nazi/ lunatic/ moron/racist  like  Donald Trump without sinister forces making it so.

This delusion does explain a lot. As a foundation for false beliefs, it is strong impetus to confirmation bias, which Democratic officials and the news media have aggressively and cynically—and successfully—courted. I thought Republicans should hide their heads in bags after polls showed that about 40% of them as recently as 2016 believe that Barack Obama probably wasn’t born in the U.S. Two-thirds of Democrats believing Russians hijacked the election is, if possible, worse. Of course, Republicans didn’t force an endless investigation over Obama’s qualifications to be elected President, so that’s in their favor.

We do need a name for the Left’s conspiracy theorists regarding the 2016 election, though, since the group appears to comprise the majority of Democrats. “Truthers”…”Birthers”…and?

Submissions welcome. Here’s the poll data (more here): Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Social Media, U.S. Society

The Nauseating Caravan Apologists

As usual regarding illegal immigration, there is no “other side,” only rationalizations, dishonesty and Trump hate and emotionalism. Still, the Left’s…and the media’s but, you know, same thing… rhetoric response to the happenings at the border over the weekend represented a new low. I may just let my deranged Facebook friends stew in their own hateful craziness for a while, so I avoid snapping and telling them exactly how they are acting, which might be ethical but wouldn’t be civil. Here’s international law and human rights expert Alyssa Milano, former witch and Tony Danza’s daughter on Twitter:

“You tear-gassed women and children, asswipe! And on Thanksgiving weekend, you piece of shit, asshole, motherfucking, evil-creature-person!!”

Now, I count at least five ways this is unforgivably moronic (It’s not unforgivable to be a moron, but it is unforgivable to make moronic statements in public), but maybe you can find more that five. It is also, except for its exact choice of words, pretty much the same level of logic as most of my lawyer friends on Facebook: yes, they have been reduced by Trump-hate to the abysmal level of a washed-up celebrity with (I think) a high school education.

One: women who break the law and participate in violent attacks on law enforcement officials are as legitimate targets of non-lethal response as men. Funny how feminism evaporates when it is convenient to the feminist.

Two: Using children as human shields is child abuse, and essentially what sops like Millan are arguing is that an adult with a child should be subjected to different law enforcement standards and more lenient ones than anyone else. Wrong. Also unworkable. Also stupid. There were pictures coming out of yesterday’s chaos of men holding up toddlers as literal shields. Nice. By all means, Alyssa, let’s make that an effective tactic.

Three: Democrats, reporters and Facebook sillies were using “gassed” to describe tear-gassing as if the U.S. was breaking the Geneva convention with chemical weapons. Tear gas and pepper spray are legal, useful, necessary alternatives to deadly force in riot situations. My college classmates were subjected to tear gas twice while I was in college, and deserved it.

Four: Wait, did I miss the new law that says that violent illegal immigrants get a pass on a holiday they don’t acknowledge? Or the one that says that other laws are suspended on Thanksgiving? Or the one that says that besieged law enforcement officials are supposed to throw stuffing and cranberry sauce at their attackers?

As for Five, I offer this to Alyssa and any other hypocrite who had no complaints when this was going on, but who now excoriate Trump in vulgar terms: this link, where we find, Continue reading

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Sunday Ethics Rundown, 11/25/ 18: Liberty Games

Good Morning!

1. Baraboo hangover. Apparently the Wisconsin male high school students who gave a Nazi salute in an off-campus photo will not be punished. The superintendent overseeing Baraboo High, Lori Mueller of the Baraboo School District, said in the letter that the district was “not in a position to punish the students for their actions” because of their First Amendment rights. That’s right from a Constitutional viewpoint, and something good will come of the incident if it means that schools will stop punishing students for what they post on social on their own time. Here is the photo, in case you have forgotten…

The Times article sure is full of dissembling and nonsense, however. Peter Gust, the jerk who took and posted the photo, claims that it had been modified by “malevolent behavior on the part of some in society.” Sure. Jordan Blue, the boy in the upper right hand corner in the red tie, has embraced the role of ethics hero in the media, and is grandstanding and virtue signaling like mad, saying that he didn’t have time to leave the photo but that he didn’t raise his arm because “I knew what my morals were and it was not to salute something I didn’t firmly believe in.” Uh, that should be “firmly didn’t believe in,” Jordan. Then there is Brock Turkington, also  in the photograph, whose story is that  “As we were about to take that photo, the photographer instructed the boys to give a ‘high-sign.” The photographer instructed us to extend our arms out, no one knew what a ‘high-sign’ was. I asked another student next to me ‘What are we doing?’ He responded, ‘Stick your arm out.’” But that’s not a “high-sign.” That’s a Heil-sign.

2. I won a bet with myself! Cracked, the list and pop culture commentary website that evolved out of a cheap Mad Magazine rip-off from the Sixties, has a feature called “5 Laws From Other Countries (The USA Should Totally Steal).” Cracked is dominated by smug, if clever, social justice warriors, so I made a bet with myself that the list would contain  several concepts that were unconstitutional or that would advance the Left’s dream of perpetual power. (By the way, you can’t “steal” a law.) Sure enough, the tally was three out of five. I win!!! Continue reading

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