The Tipping Point Nears…

You know, Vince, in Iran they’d cut your hand off for this. Maybe in Hollywood too, now that I think about it…

Two episodes in recent days have pushed me closer to the tipping point at which I am forced to conclude that even as an ethicist who has held fast to the principle that no one who both reveres the office of the President of the United States and who believes that the office must be held by a man (or a woman, Bernie!) of outstanding ethical character with strong supporting ethical values can ever vote for Donald Trump or want to see someone like him, if there is such a creature, leading this nation.

I am not there yet, but I would have never dreamed at any time in 2012 through most of 2019 that I could get this close. It is true that President Trump has been far more successful than I expected in the narrow category of policy, domestic and foreign. It is true that he has displayed some admirable character traits, though they have all been in the category I call “enabling virtues,” meaning that they are traits that can serve both good and bad motives and objectives. It is also true that this President has never been given a fair chance to do his job, as he has been undermined, harassed and obstructed since the moment he took office in unethical ways never experienced by any of his predecessors with similar intensity and duration.

Nonetheless, voting for someone like Donald Trump to lead the United States of America is ethics antimatter to me, and professionally impossible—right now. However, the behavior of the “resistance” and  Democrats increasingly indicates that they must be decisively defeated so their current approach to American culture, society, rights and political conduct is sufficient ruinous that they begin a period of urgent reform.

Relatively small events often are tipping points with me, and both of these are small as well. However, when conduct is undeniably signature significance, proving that a group or individual is corrupt and untrustworthy because only the corrupt and untrustworthy would behave in such a way even once, my mind’s made up. I consider these two episodes frightening and if not quite constituting tipping points for me, coming too close for comfort.

I. The Vince Vaughn Affair Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The CNN Democratic Candidates Debate [Corrected]

The full debate transcript is here.

(Or you could read “Moby-Dick” instead,  here, which I highly recommend.)

  • After enduring a long analysis of the December debate, the Ethics Alarms assembled shouldn’t need a sequel so soon— I don’t know what the Democrats think they’re accomplishing by having two of these guaranteed fiascos within a three-week period.

Virtually everything said last night we’ve heard before; every impression of this weak,weak,weak slate of candidates was already established.

  • Yes, it’s good to have the field whittled down to a manageable six, but it also wrapped in neon the hypocrisy of the Democratic party. The party of women  had just two women on stage, one a near impossible dark horse, and the other old, white, and whether Bernie said so or not, unelectable. The party “of color” had  no black, Asian, Native American  or Hispanic representatives on stage (, I won’t make the obvious Elizabeth Warren crack, only allude to it here, which I guess is the same thing.) The supposed party of the young presented four candidates over 70. The party that hates the rich had one billionaire and three millionaires among the six. The party that wants to smother the First Amendment right to spend money to promote political candidates (or attack them) by voiding Citizens United includes one aforementioned billionaire who has literally bought his way into the debates, and another, Mike Bloomberg, lurking in the wings.

This is not, in short, a party of integrity. Res ipsa loquitur. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: The North West Hendricks School Corporation

How can organizations, especially schools,  think this kind of thing is acceptable, much less ethical? Who are the lawyers advising these people? Where do they think they’re living?

In Indiana, the North West Hendricks School Corporation’s “ Parent Code of Conduct ” says that parents should not use social media to make “rude or offensive comments” regarding school staff members or the school itself. Parents also cannot use social media to “campaign against or fuel outrage against individual staff members, the school or policies implemented by the school or district.” Violating the policy means that a parent can be removed from the school premises and banned from entering school grounds forevermore.

This is one of those unenforceable provisions that exist to intimidate and deceive those ignorant parents who were so badly educated (perhaps in the North West Hendricks School Corporation ) that they can’t spot an unconstitutional rule when they see one. No public school can tell parents what they can or can’t say on social media. This is a pure First Amendment violation, so blatant that it even roused the local ACLU from its accustomed slumber.

The ACLU of Indiana was asked about its assessment of the restriction on parents’ speech, and  legal director Ken Falk replied,

“I think this is flagrantly unconstitutional. The overarching problem is you have the government saying if we don’t like what you’re saying, we can punish you — but the government is not allowed to do that. That’s why we have the First Amendment.”

The rule has been in the Parent Code since 2016, but nobody reads these things. It is coming to the fore now because the district is currently keeping a teacher on its payroll despite allegations of sexual misconduct toward a student. Some parents have been discussing the situation on Facebook, and wonder about the school’s response. The district made a point of  handing out copies of the Parent Code of Conduct at a December school board meeting, and it was taken by many as a warning. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Upsetting License Plate

The Utah Division of Motor Vehicles lists standards for vanity plates, based on a statute that “forbids any combination of letters or numbers that ‘may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency or that would be misleading.’”

Plate letter and number combinations that reference drugs, that are “sexual, vulgar, or derogatory,” that  suggest ideas “dangerous to public welfare” or disrespect “race, religion, deity, ethnic heritage, gender, or political affiliation,” are not permitted.

Thus it was that Utah high school English teacher Matt Pacenza, driving home, spied  a vanity plate reading “DEPORTM.” As a concerned citizen, he snapped a photo of the personalized plate and posted it to Twitter. (Note: I’m more concerned about drivers taking photos while operating their motor vehicles than about what their plates say, but I’m weird, or so I’m told). The resulting cocial media comments attracted the attention of some state senators as well as the Utah State Tax Commission, which oversees license plate approval. Now the commission says it is reviewing whether the plate violates department guidelines.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the weekend is…

Is there anything wrong with having that license plate on your car?

Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “First Open Forum Of 2020!”…Gift Unwrapping Usurpers

In today’s Open Forum, A.M. Golden raised an ethics issue that had never crossed my mind. I had never experienced it, and never heard or read anyone else mentioning it. My recently departed Jack Russell terrier Rugby occasionally opened a Christmas present that wasn’t his, but I don’t think that counts.

Here’s A.M.’s Comment of the Day:

Today’s Miss Manners features a letter regarding one of my pet peeves:

https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/01/10/miss-manners-they-call-cute-i-call-bad-manners/

In a nutshell, the letter writer is tired of bringing presents for her three-year old niece only to watch the child’s six-year old sister open them for her and hand her the opened presents. She believes each child should have the joy of opening her own presents. She has been told the three-year old is now doing the same to her younger sister. The mother of the children doesn’t see anything wrong with it. When the letter writer asked the six-year old to allow her sister to open the present the letter writer brought herself, she was told the child was later upset and crying over why she couldn’t open her sister’s presents for her.

I have been in the letter writer’s shoes more times than I care to have been. It’s frustrating to attend a young relative’s party and watch some random kid plaster himself to the birthday child, getting in every photo and “helping” the child open his presents. Inevitably, the Birthday Mooch, as I’ve dubbed him, will be half-heartedly cautioned by his parent (think, “No…stop…don’t” a la Gene Wilder in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”) only to have the Birthday Kid’s Mom jump in to say, “It’s alright!”

No, it’s not. Look at your child’s face and see how excited he is to have his presents opened by someone else, Mom, before you give another kid free reign to usurp the Guest of Honor. Continue reading

The Olympics Gets More Specific About Banning Protests, But Remains Vague About Punishments. Let Me Suggest Something…

And the gold medal for obnoxious virtue-signaling goes to…

The International Olympic Committee’s rule on protests at the Olympics Games has been confined to one sentence in the Olympic Charter, and since that didn’t define what a “protests” were (the Committee appeared to be against them) that sentence had no practical effect. It reads, “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

.Recognizing, however, that the athletes of one of the teams likely to win a lot of medals also had a growing proclivity for protests against it own government and  President—guess which country that would be?—the IOC published a detailed list of prohibited actions that would not be welcomed at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Among them…

Kneeling during national anthems.

No fist-raising.

No use political signs or armbands.

None of the above  in stadiums, pools or at a finish line, not on podiums during medal ceremonies, norduring opening orclosing ceremonies.

No such protests in the Olympic Village, either.

This list was described as a “non-exhaustive list,” meaning that violations of the spirit of the prohibitions could also be judges a violation. The documents said that merely “expressing views” was not necessarily a protest.

Boy, I guess the Committee is counting on not many athletes being lawyers. Or Bill Clinton. Continue reading

Observations (And A Poll!) On The Lizzo-Jillian Michaels Bodyshaming Controversy

“The Biggest Loser” trainer Jillian Michaels was being interviewed on the Buzzfeed series “AM to DM” when she opined, “We should always be inclusive, but, you cannot glorify obesity. It’s dangerous. It kills people.”

Well, of course she believes that. She’s a trainer. Her business is fitness, so it would be hypocritical if she said that it didn’t matter if people aren’t fit.

Interviewer Alex Berg , however, cited the  example of African American singer Lizzo, who is unquestionably obese and who flaunts her fat.  Michaels was unimpressed, saying,

“Why are we celebrating her body? Why does it matter? Why aren’t we celebrating her music? ‘Cause it isn’t going to be awesome if she gets diabetes,” Michaels said. “I’m just being honest. I love her music, like my kid loves her music, but there’s never a moment when I’m like, ‘I’m so glad she’s overweight.’ Why do I even care? Why is it my job to care about her weight?”

Berg later tweeted,

What I was going to say here is that Lizzo has been incredibly important in giving so many of us a possibility model for accepting our bodies as we are and celebrating bodies that are normally ridiculed. Had to restrain myself from defending Lizzo’s honor!

Now Michaels is being flamed on social media as a fat-shaming bigot. Oh–and a racist of course, because she is white and Lizzo is black. I’m not even going to address that, as there is no question in my mind that if Berg had mentioned an overweight white singer like Wynonna Judd or Adele, Michaels would have said the same thing.

I will observe, however… Continue reading