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

“Megxit,” A Royal Ethics Mess That The Brits Should Have Seen Coming

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have essentially resigned from their duties as British Royals . The Duke and Duchess of Sussex—remember, Harry is one of Price William’s backups,  likely to become King, if ever, in his dotage, if at all, and only if some catastrophe befalls his his brother’s offspring.   The couple announced  on Instagram yesterday,

“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen. It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.”

What this means is a matter of great debate, but whatever it means, it’s unethical.

Prince Harry and Meghan are members of the Royal family, who are ridiculously compensated by British taxpayers to be living flags and cultural icons of Great Britain’s days of glory long past. That’s what they are. Being members of the Royal Family are their only claim to celebrity and significance, and, to Americans and anyone else who isn’t confused, that’s one wan claim at best. The Windsors are neither especially bright nor accomplished, though Harry’s great grandfather, the last King George, did play a part in helping to defeat Hitler in World War II, and his grandmother, the apparently immortal Queen Elizabeth II has done a respectable job assisting in Great Britain’s decline from a world  power to nation whose status outweighs its power and influence.

For senior members of British royalty to declare that they will be “progressive” royals is like a Pope announcing that he’s going to be a swinger. The Royal Family isn’t progressive by definition; it’s anachronistic.  It can’t be progressive, because the only progressive approach to the Royals is to jettison them, say goodby and thanks for fish and chips, and add their vast wealth to the national treasury to pay for national health care for a few years. Continue reading

“Miracle On 34th Street,”An Ethics Companion, Continued…Chapter 3: Kris Joins The Macy’s Family! [REVISED and CORRECTED!]

(The Introduction is here.; Chapter I is here.;Chapter 2 is here.)

 Kris takes Santa’s throne

Kris’s rave reviews as Santa in the Thanksgiving Day Parade are so good,  Doris hires him play Santa at Macy’s flagship New York City store on 34th Street. He agrees, which is strange, when you think about how busy he should be at this time of year, supervising the elves and all. If he really is Santa, or even if he thinks he is, taking the job in New York is irresponsible.

His supervisor gives him a list of toys to “push”—toys that are overstocked. “Now, you’ll find that a great many children will be undecided as to what they want for Christmas. When that happens, you suggest one of these items,” Kris is told. “You understand?”

Kris says he understands, but later makes it clear in his comments to a co-worker, that he has no intention of “pushing” the merchandise.:

“Imagine…making a child take something it doesn’t want…just because he bought too many of the wrong toys.That’s what I’ve been fighting against for years!”

That being the case, there is exactly one thing Kris needs to do. He needs to quit. What he cannot do, and must not do, and has a clear ethical obligation not to do, is to accept a job when he has no intention of doing what the job requires. This is a sales job. If Kris doesn’t want to sell, then he will be accepting a pay check under false pretenses. This isn’t noble conduct, as the film would have you believe. It’s unethical conduct. It’s wrong.

Kris needs to put himself on his own naughty list. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Leroy Schumacher, Grieving Grandfather”

“I usually tone down the “prophet Jeremiah” flavor notes when I reread these,” wrote Benjamin after I told him that his previous comment was the COTD. I’m glad he didn’t. I prefer strong assertions of ideas and principles ( as you might have noticed ) because they encourage strong reactions.

I  decided to write about a two-year-old story about a grandfather who opined that it was “unfair” for a man in a home his grandson was breaking into to shoot the teen and his two fellow home invaders with an AR-15, because they only were carrying a knife and brass knuckles. His absurd lament  crystallized nicely the “logic” of anti-gun zealots, who now are about to ban that semiautomatic weapon (among other anti-gun ownership  measures) in Virginia, where I live. Benjamin, however, saw larger significance in the the episode.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Dunce: Leroy Schumacher, Grieving Grandfather,” which takes off from a quote by another commenter:

“I’m sorry he lost his grandson.”

I’m not. Such are the grandsons who ought to be lost. Mercy would be best, of course, but his survival would’ve necessitated the death of the innocent as a direct consequence of his direct intentions. Mercy is an elevated form of justice, so no unjust intention can ever be merciful. But, going one further, this grandfather’s response to losing his grandson belies a total abandonment of principle for the sake of immediate self-interest. No doubt, these are “values” he instilled in his children and they in his grandchildren. If we’re going to move for the mutilation of our laws, for the sake of bargaining, we could at least make a far less ridiculous mistake in steering the public support to seeking to penalize this grandfather for his not-totally indirect involvement in (and perpetuation of) the crime.

Such are the grandfathers who ought to be lost. At the very least it would be an effort (maybe the first I’ve seen in my life) to reverse the engineered-and-enforced public tolerance for addictive ideas corrosive to public decency. It would be better to instill in society (rather than the laws) an intense rejection of ideas like this and the people who hold them, but politics takes place in the realm of the possible, as they frequently tell me. Continue reading

Sunday Before Christmas Ethics Ornaments, 12/22/19: Googling Ethics, “Cats,” Goldman Sachs, De Niro, Trump Derangement

Here’s hoping that the the next three days rescue the Spirit of Christmas…

…because the last few weeks have been a downer, man.

1. Googling ethicf:  Phillip Galanes, at Social Q’s was consulted by a woman who had bad vibes about her girlfriend’s new love, so she googled him, and found out, as she suspected, that he had some serious red flags in his past. She told her friend, who had discovered the bad news herself, but who was hurt and angry that the inquirer did a background check on her boyfriend. “Was I wrong?” she asked. In his answer, Gallanes implies that she was, although “everybody does it.” I’d’like a nice, succinct, substantive explanation of by what ethical theory it can ever be wrong to access publicly available information about anyone. This isn’t an issue of privacy, because the information isn’t private. There was nothing wrong with the inquirer’s motives, because she was concerned about her friend.

I’d call this the Ick Factor at work. It seems unethical because the fact that anyone can check our lives out online is creepy. The research itself, however, is ethically neutral. The ethics comes in with how the information is used.

2. I guess I have to mention “Cats”…since it is getting the most spectacular negative and cruel reviews since “Showgirls,” and maybe before that. “Exorcist II, The Heretic” perhaps. Oddly, the usually hyper-critcal New York Times is not one of the worst defilers, but here was what the reviewer really found objectionable :

“It’s too bad that no one seems to have thought through the semiotics of Victoria’s chalky white cat face, given that Hayward is of mixed race and that the heavy is Idris Elba’s predatory Macavity. Elba seems to be having a fine time, but come on!”

Ah! The old “mixed-race actress in whiteface being menaced by a black actor playing a cat” racist imagery!

I can’t wait for them to write down these rules. Continue reading

Child Abuse And The Genius

I don’t know what the ethical way to raise a prodigy is, but I am certain this isn’t it.

Laurent Simons is a 9-year-old Belgian genius,  and was finishing up on a brain-connected electrical chip for his final project at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. His goal was to get a diploma before he turned 10 on December 26, making him the all-time youngest university graduate. The child started primary school at 4, entered high school at 6 and began college at Eindhoven at 9.

Now his parents have pulled him out of Eindhoven, because the school determined that Laurent would not be able to graduate until after his birthday. In a statement, administrators said that the parents had insisted that Laurent receive his bachelor’s degree at  9, and  the university had determined that he could not take the necessary  the exams in that time. Laurent’s father accused the university of using his son “like a Christmas tree,”  a “glittering ornament that made the institution shine.”

The university is using the boy like a Christmas tree? Last month, the New York Times reports,  his parents announced to the news media that Laurent would graduate with a degree in electrical engineering by the end of the year. Continue reading

The Topless Stepmother Conundrum: When Ethics Work Better Than Laws

MOM?!

A lawyer for Utah’s chapter of the ACLU asked Utah Judge Kara Pettit to rule that the state’s lewdness law violates the Constitution by treating women differently than men and thus violating the Equal Protection Clause. The  statute makes it a crime to expose “the female breast below the top of the areola” in the presence of a child in a private place “under circumstances the person should know will likely cause affront or alarm.”

Tilli Buchanan, 27, faces imprisonment, fines and the requirement to register as a sex offender for 10 years if convicted of violating the law, which she certainly did. Buchanan and her husband had been installing drywall in the garage, and they had taken off their shirts that had become scratchy from the fibers, she told reporters.  When her stepchildren, aged 9, 10 and 13, walked in, she “explained she considers herself a feminist and wanted to make a point that everybody should be fine with walking around their house or elsewhere with skin showing,” her lawyers wrote in court documents. Here’s Tilli…

Just kidding.

Lawyer Leah Farrell of the ACLU says the law requires women to do a “mental calculation” about whether going topless would cause alarm. But men can go shirtless without violating the law and without making that calculation. “That really sets up an unequal and unfair dichotomy,” Farrell says.

Prosecutors say that Buchanan stripped in front of the children and  was under the influence of alcohol at the time. They also claim she said she would put her shirt back on if her husband showed her his penis.

Ick. Continue reading