Category Archives: language

Ethics Observations On The Trump-Deranged Prof’s 2016 Post-Election Freak-Out

Bridgewater State University professor Garrett Avila-Nichols wrote the Facebook screed above shortly after the November 8 defeat of Hillary Clinton by President Anti-Christ. Somehow the post didn’t become known to students—at least the ones he hate—and apparently even the university’s administration until this week.

Observations:

1 We are seeing one example after another of college professors making tweets and other social media posts denigrating conservatives, Republicans, whites, men and Trump voters in emotional, vicious and frequently obscene rhetoric. Can anyone recall any similar conduct from professors directed against liberals, conservatives, minorities, women, or Obama, Clinton or Carter voters? I know that there was no social media to abuse for much of those periods, but still: when did professors get the idea that attacking large segments of the population and the student body was tolerable? Why do they think it is acceptable conduct now?

2. Is it because they see, hear and read so much similar hate and fury in the mainstream media, social media, and mouth-foaming  anti-Trump fanatics like Maxine Waters, Keith Olberman, and Stephen Colbert, and see them get away with it relatively unscathed?

3. Professor Turley is almost an absolutist on the matter of professors being able to exercise their First Amendment rights on social media. Would he defend this? Really? How can someone teach students when he has declared in print and online that some of them aren’t welcome? How could such students trust such a professor to grade them objectively and fairly? Teachers are supposed to be mentors and allies: how can someone who hates you perform those roles? How can a school trust a professor who writes something like that?

4.  Does it matter that this is an old post? I don’t think so. Emotions that intense and judgement that terrible are signature significance. Rational, reasonable, trustworthy professionals don’t make public outbursts like that. Ever. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/14/17: Reed College…Fired For Mentioning Grits?…Stupid Protests…The DNC Lies To Democrats…And The Times Clarifies Its Double Standards

Hi there!

1 There is another one of those hybrid ethics stories coming out of Oregon. Cross oppressive political correctness with racial-offense hypersensitivity with Lena Dunham-like totalitarian-minded progressives itching to report “wrong-thinkers” to authorities with organizations punishing individuals for private speech they did not intend to make public and what monstrosity do you get?

This: a white conductor and festival artistic director fired by a music festival after he was overheard talking to a black friend in a fake Southern accent and saying, “Do you want some grits?” or words to that effect.

I’m not going to explain in any detail what and who are unethical in this fiasco, because I shouldn’t have to. Halls is a victim. The woman who reported him after eavesdropping is worse than merely unethical: she is an evil-doer, someone who sets out to hurt other people to feel powerful. She either never heard of the Golden Rule or doesn’t accept it. (Maybe she IS Lena Dunham!) The festival’s conduct is unfair, uncaring, cowardly and irresponsible. It deserves to have its artists boycott the festival in support for Halls, but since artists tend to be leftists of the knee-jerk variety, addicted to virtue-signaling and with the depth of analysis exhibited by the typical dachshund, I wouldn’t expect any colleagial  support if I were the conductor.

If you have functioning ethics alarms, it will be obvious that the episode was disgusting and unjust, and why. If the festival’s conduct  makes sense to you, then I’m afraid you’re hopelessly corrupted.

2. Morning Warm-Up may yet morph into “stories that are so irritating I can’t stand writing full posts about them.” Take this one, for example: at small liberal arts school Reed College,  a mandatory humanities course on ancient Mediterranean civilizations was canceled after student protesters kept  interrupting the class to protest “Eurocentrism.” Western culture has been, like it or accept it or not, the beacon of world civilization, and even those who (idiotically) choose to deride or reject it need to understand the history and forces that brought us to where we are today—where we are today being a time when weak and incompetent college administers refuse to assert the indispensable fact that students are there to learn, not dictate to their elders.

My favorite part of this story: to accommodate protesters, the Reed administration agreed to allow adverse students to stand surrounding lecturers in the course. “The general understanding was that the protesters would be allowed to continue as long as they didn’t interfere in the lecture period”…as if forcing lecturers to teach under such circumstances isn’t inherently interfering, as well as intimidating to the teachers and other students.

Colleges and universities that cannot respond more effectively and professionally to such unethical bullying by extremists don’t deserve to exist at all. If you don’t want to learn about Western civilization, go to another school, probably in California. If you disrupt the learning experience of other students, you should be expelled. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/9/17: The AP Invents A New Misleading Phrase, Deaf Signer Ethics, No Innocent Until Proven Guilty In The NFL, And More…

GOOD MORNING!

1 This is the monthly brief warm-up, as I have to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at an obscenely early hour and teach the peculiarities of the District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct to about 300 lawyers newly admitted to the bar. And those rules are peculiar, notably Rule 5.4, which allows District lawyers to form multidisciplinary firms, with accountants, economists, professional marketers and other non-legal professionals as partners. Such firms mirror entities in Europe that take international business away from U.S. firms, but are regarded as unethical in every other U.S. jurisdiction, and condemned by the American Bar Association.

2. Yesterday I watched Florida Governor Rick Scott give his pre-hurricane warnings, or tried to, since standing next to him was a signer for the deaf, gesticulating and making more elaborate faces than the late Robin Williams in the throes of a fit. I have mentioned this in the context of theatrical performances: as a small minority, the deaf should not be enabled by political correctness to undermine the best interests of the majority. What Scott was saying was important, and could have been adequately communicated to the deaf citizens present by the signer standing off camera. TV viewers could and should have been able to watch a text crawl following Scott’s speech, or closed captioning. Public speaking involves verbal and visual communications, and having a vivid distraction like a professional signer—many of whom feel it is their duty to add broad facial expressions to their translations—is unfair to both the speaker and his or her audience. This is one more example of a sympathetic minority bullying the majority to establish its power. Continue reading

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The “Unacceptable Word” Fiasco: OK, Now I Really Want To Know How Many Progressives Seriously Endorse Stuff Like This?

I just received an email from the Democratic National Committee urging me to protest Betsy DeVos’s (completely valid and overdue) withdrawal of the “Dear Colleague Letter” by which the Obama Department of Education pressured universities into dispensing with due process when a male student is accused of sexual assault. “Tell Trump and DeVos not to undo President Obama’s policies to combat sexual assault on campus!” it bleats. The e-mail blast (if I ever find out who put me on this list, there will be blood), quotes DeVos, as if this advances their case, as saying, “If everything is harassment, then nothing is harassment.”

The Education Secretary was exactly right, and a story today from Reason shows why.

Joshua Zale, a student at Moraine Valley Community College, was asked by his drama instructor to play a pimp asking for money from another student, playing the role of a prostitute in an improvisation exercise. Improvisation means that the actors work without a script. In the process of the improv, Zale used an “unacceptable word” according to the instructor, who was apparently improvising the role of a fool. The teacher immediately reprimanded Zale, who later insisted on a private meeting to learn why he had been attackedfor using a word he felt was consistent with  the role he had been assigned.  Assistant Dean Lisa Kelsay subsequently accused  Zale of violating Title IX—the weapon of choice in the “Dear Colleague Letter”—and school conduct policies by sexually harassing his acting partner “as a woman.”

No one has yet divulged what this “unacceptable” word was. I have taught improvisation. I am a pretty creative guy, with a fairly extensive vocabulary. I cannot imagine any word, from Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis to supercalifragilisticexpialidocious to Bill Maher’s favorite, cunt, to “penis breath,” uttered by a child in the opening minutes of “E.T.”, that would be “inappropriate” in an improv, especially in a scene involving a sex worker and a pimp.

As you know, ethics stories often remind me of TV shows and movies. This one (see the video clip above)  reminds me of a famous “MASH” episode, “The General Flipped At Dawn,” in which Harry Morgan, later to play lovable, crusty old Col. Potter, played an insane general. Reviewing the MASH squad, he asks Radar, “Where are you from, son?” Radar answers, “Iowa, sir..” only to have the General scream, “NO TALKING IN RANKS!!!!”

Maybe the improv instructor, Craig Rosen, flipped too. That would be an excuse, at least. But how do you explain the Assistant Dean? Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/6/17: Comey’s Premature Draft, Obama’s Golden Rule Breach, Newspapers “Protecting Us,”And Thank-You, Boston Red Sox

 

1 I want to sincerely thank the Boston Red Sox for giving me, the sole baseball ethicist on the web who also devotes a disturbing amount of his time, energy and passion to following the team, the challenge and opportunity to address a major cheating scandal involving the organization and institution I love. Seriously, guys, thank you. This is exactly what I needed to face after staying up past 1 AM watching the Sox pull out a 19 inning, 6 hour game on Hanley Ramirez’s bloop single to center.

I’ll cover the issue in the next post. Ugh.

2. Ironically, just as the anti-Trump news media was hyperventilating over the fact that the Special Counsel was examining a draft letter by the President regarding his reasons for firing James Comey (draft letters have minimal probative value if any, but you know: Trump), it came to light that in May of 2016, Comey had drafted a statement declining to charge Hillary Clinton or her staff in the State Department e-mail scandal, months before key witnesses (like Clinton herself) had been interviewed or much of the evidence had been reviewed. President Trump, of course, tweeted that this proved there was a “rigged process,” but Comey’s draft is no more incriminating that Trump’s draft. (Now, Loretta Lynch’s meeting with Bill Clinton might suggest a rigged process, but that’s another story.)

Supreme Court Justices have drafted opinions before oral argument; that doesn’t mean they can’t change their minds. It is certainly odd that Comey would have drafted a statement that Clinton would not be indicted so long before the investigation was completed. It is odder still that Hillary’s interview was not under oath, that it wasn’t videotaped, that there was no transcript, and that she was allowed to have representing her as an attorney at the session a top aide who was also a potential witness.

Professor Turley, in a column at The Hill, agrees that the early draft doesn’t implicate the integrity of the investigation, but raises a related issue:

While I am inclined to accept assurances from Comey that he did not finally decide on charges until after reviewing all of the evidence, the details from the Clinton investigation hardly support a view of a robust and dogged effort in comparison to the type of investigation of people like Paul Manafort.

In pursuing Manafort, special counsel Robert Mueller has now enlisted an army of investigators, reached a cooperative relationship with staunch Trump critic New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and actively pursued tax and financial dealings far afield of the original Russian collusion allegations. He also ordered a heavy-handed (and unnecessary) “no knock” search in the middle of the night on Manafort’s home.

The Clinton investigation looks like Club Fed in comparison. Clinton and her staff refused to cooperate with State Department investigators seeking confirm any damage to national security. Key laptops were withheld and only turned over after Comey’s staff agreed to destroy the computers after their review, despite the relevance of the evidence to congressional investigations. Comey then cut five immunity deals with key Clinton staff members, including former State Department staffer, Bryan Pagliano, who set up a server in Clinton’s home in Chappaqua, N.Y., and worked for her at the State Department.

Pagliano refused to cooperate after invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and destroyed evidence after being given a preservation order. Those deals raised the concern over a type of prosecutorial planned obsolescence, making a viable case less likely.

The amusing part is that all of this circles back to Comey’s firing, which was justified by his handling of the Clinton investigation regardless of any other factors.

3. The New York Times today reviews a festival play called “___hole.” That’s not really the title, however, although “___hole” was printed twice as the play title before the Times made this clear. A comment by the reviewer noted that the real title couldn’t “get past the editors.” Continue reading

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Ethics Dunces: The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

I don’t understand this ruling at all.

In 2011, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. had locked out union workers. After the company later settled a contract dispute, they all returned to work except for Anthony Runion, who had been fired. Runion had shouted at a van carrying replacement workers onto the company’s grounds: “Hey, did you bring enough KFC for everybody?” and “Hey, anybody smell that? I smell fried chicken and watermelon,” the opinion noted, adding that most of the replacement workers were black.

In the 2-1 ruling for the fired worker, Judge William Duane Benton cited the law protecting unions, strikers and pickets, 29 U.S.C. § 157. Section 7 of the Act guarantees employees the right to “assist labor organizations . . . and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” Section 7
gives locked-out employees the right to picket. Section 8(a) prohibits an employer from interfering with, restraining, coercing, or discriminating against employees in the exercise of their Section 7 rights.

How would firing  a worker for uttering undeniable racially hostile verbiage in the process of striking? Benton writes, citing various cases in the line of labor decisions:

“One of the necessary conditions of picketing is a confrontation in some form between union members and employees.” Chicago Typographical Union No. 16, 151 NLRB 1666, 1668 (1965), citing NLRB v. United Furniture Workers of Am., 337 F.2d 936, 940 (2d Cir. 1964). “Impulsive behavior on the picket line is to be expected especially when directed against nonstriking employees or strike breakers.” Allied Indus. Workers No. 289 v. NLRB, 476 F.2d 868, 879 (D.C. Cir. 1973) (internal citation omitted). This court analyzes picket-line conduct under the Clear Pine Mouldings test: a firing for picket-line misconduct is an unfair labor practice unless the alleged misconduct “may reasonably tend to coerce or intimidate employees in the exercise of rights protected under the Act.” NMC Finishing v. NLRB, 101 F.3d 528, 531 (8th Cir. 1996), citing Clear Pine Mouldings, Inc., 268 NLRB 1044, 1046 (1984), enf’d, 765 F.2d 148 (9th Cir. 1985). The test is objective.

Wait: racially prejudiced rhetoric is “impulsive behavior”? Not by non-racists, its isn’t. Non-racists don’t suddenly start talking like racists on impulse. Anthony Runion unmasked himself as a racist by his behavior on the picket line. It may not have been “picket line misconduct,” but it was certainly unacceptable workplace and employee conduct, with a strong indication of more to come. Benton wrote that there was no evidence the black “scabs” heard Runion’s racist words, though dozens of others nearby did, and that the comments were not directed at any individual. Wait again: is the judge arguing that using racial epithets in the workplace isn’t a firing offense as long as the offender can say, “I didn’t mean you” ?

The lone dissenting judge, Judge C. Arlen Beam  dissents by stating the obvious: Continue reading

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Soccer, Civility, And Mexican Fan Ethics

During Mexico’s matches at the Gold Cup, the regional championship soccer tournament being played across the United States this month,  Mexican fans have been chanting the word “puto,” typically a slur used in Mexico to mock  gay men. The chant has become routine at Mexican national team soccer matches, and officials and many fans are embarrassed by the vulgarity and homophobic innuendo. Soccer officials of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) have warned and fined Mexico eight times already, but the chant survives. Gold Cup Tournament organizers asked players to read a pledge urging fans to set a civil a example for children. Security officials were authorized to eject fans who shouted it. They even installed a technical device to block the chant from being audible in TV broadcasts.

Never mind. Fans are still bellowing the anti-gay slur at opposing teams and players, maybe more enthusiastically than ever. What’s a soccer federation to so?

For the Confederations Cup in Russia last month, the FIFA tried to get tough and announced a three-step program to discourage the chant. The first response to “Puuuuut000o!” was  a public address announcement at the stadium, warning fans to stop or else.  If the chant continues, which it will and did,  the referees can stop the match until the chants subside. That won’t work either. I know fans. They will think that letting the game start and then having to be halted again because of what someone yells is hilarious. Finally, if all else failed, the referee can go nuclear and stop the match completely, sending everyone home. Continue reading

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