Ethics Quiz: The Insensitive Exam Question

This ethics quiz is designed to balance my own biases.

Above the Law’s Ellie Mystal claimed that a Georgetown University Law Center professor gave his class an insensitive hypothetical in an exam. I am almost as disgusted with GULC as I am with my other alma mater; Above the Law is a hack website; Mystal has proven himself to be a left-wing hysteric, a racist, a biased journalist, a self-evident jerk and a lawyer whose ethics are so warped that he should never be allowed within 50 yards of a potential client. As a result, I can’t be sure that my conclusion that his analysis in this case is as wrong as I think it is, since all of these biases, however justified, may be rusting my ethics alarms solid. Maybe.

You probably recall that Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed earlier this year, killing 157 people. This part of the ongoing Boeing 737 MAX jet controversy that has resulted  in the aircraft being pulled out of service.Cedric Asiavugwa, a third-year student at the Law Center, was one of the victims of the crash.

Georgetown Law Professor M. Gregg Bloche  devised a final for his “The Mind And The Law” class that included a question that asked students to evaluate the legal issues surrounding the FAA’s emergency grounding of Boeing 737s. Mystal is outraged: Continue reading

Ethics Alarms Flashback Post Of The Week: “Ethics Quiz: The Sensitive Cop’s Facebook Confession”

[A  while ago I wrote that I might periodically re-post one of the more than 2000 Ethics Alarms essays that have appeared here since 2009. The criteria? Let’s see:

  • A post that I have completely forgotten about, and don’t remember even after I’ve read it again.
  • A post that may be interesting to consider in light of subsequent developments since it was written (in this case,  social media posts triggering workplace discipline, and police-community relations)
  • A lively discussion in the comments.

I think this post, based on a find by now-retired Ethics Alarms super-scout Fred, qualifies on all counts. It’s from May of 2014.]

“If there was any time I despised wearing a police uniform, it was yesterday at the Capitol during the water rally. A girl I know who frequents the Capitol for environmental concerns looked at me and wanted me to participate with her in the event. I told her I have to remain unbiased while on duty at these events. She responded by saying, ‘You’re a person, aren’t you?’ That comment went straight through my heart!”

Thus did Douglas Day, a police officer at the West Virginia Capitol in Charleston, confess to Facebook friends his mixed emotions while doing his duty.

For this he was fired.

The day Day wrote his Facebook post, Capitol Police Lt. T.M. Johnson told him  that the post “shows no respect to the department, the uniform or the law enforcement community which he represents.”  About a week later, Sgt. A.E. Lanham Jr. wrote to Day that he “found the entire [Facebook] posting to be extremely offensive and shocking … This is just another episode of many incidents which show his bad attitude and lack of enthusiasm toward police work in general and toward our department in particular.”

Day was thunderstruck. “If they believed there was some sort of a violation I made, then why wasn’t it addressed? They never brought me in and never said anything to me,” Day said. “In 2½ years working there, I had no disciplinary action taken against me at any time. Nothing was ever written up and I received no reprimands.” So much for the “many incidents.” Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Cubs Fan Ban

(I have already made up my mind about this one, but I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise…hence the quiz.)

At the start of the bottom of the third inning of the May 7th Marlins-Cubs game, the NBC Sports Chicago broadcast went to analyst Doug Glanville for some “in the stands” commentary. Behind Glanville,  , a fan in a hoodie waved hello to the camera, flashed a peace sign, then made an upside-down OK hand gesture with his fingers.

Always looking for outrages and ways to hype racial tension, sharp-eyed activists flooded  the Cubs  with tweets like this:

@cubs @dan_bernstein What say you about this racist fan flashing a white power sign behind Mr. Glanville at tonight’s game? pic.twitter.com/zR7DqYWgQv

— Marc Lipkin (@Flipkin) May 8, 2019

Whether or not that gesture is “racist” is a matter of opinion, debate, and context. Annoyingly and self-consciously “woke” lawyer-NBC sports blogger Craig Calcaterra explains: Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Harvard’s Diversity Speaker

As the keynote speaker at its annual diversity conference, Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts & Sciences selected Tim Wise, an “anti-racism writer, educator and activist.” Here is a Facebook post by Wise from 2015.

This is America…people basing their beliefs on the fable of Noah and Ark, or their interpretation of Sodom and Gomorrah…rather than science or logic…If you are basing your morality on a fairy tale written thousands of years ago, you deserve to be locked up…detained for your utter inability to deal with reality…NO, we are not obligated to indulge your irrationality in the name of your religious freedom…but we will provide you a very comfortable room, against which walls you may hurl yourself hourly if your choose. Knock yourself out….seriously, knock yourself out, completely, for weeks at a time…I’m sorta kidding but not by much…I don’t believe lunatics like this should be locked up, but I do think they have to be politically destroyed, utterly rendered helpless to the cause of pluralism and democracy …the world is not theirs. They have no right to impose their bullshit on others. They can either change, or shut the hell up, or practice their special brand of crazy in their homes…or go away. Their choice. And this argument applies to any fundamentalist religionist of any faith who thinks they have a right to impose their beliefs on a secular, pluralistic society. Go away.

There is no evidence that Wise has moderated these views at all. He didn’t issue a direct attack on Christians at Harvard; he did say  that President Donald Trump is and “always was” racist, and that his election shows that “this country is more sexist and more racist than I realized” (because there was no reason not to want Hillary Clinton as President other than racism and sexism, I guess). He argued that academic institutions like Harvard should embrace the struggle for social justice and solidarity “not just at the level of rhetoric but policy.” This means,  Wise said, “Schools must make mission statements up to date,” and tell potential applicants that “if you’re not down with this mission, then you don’t actually fit in with us as an institution.”

You know: diversity! Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Senator’s Mockery

Arguing with apologists for the ridiculous Rep. Ocasio-Cortez makes me feel like I’m going crazy. They claim that the Green New Deal isn’t the same as the bizarre, silly, rapidly removed “FAQ” posted by the Democrat’s “It Girl, with its talk about rebuilding all of our buildings, eliminating air travel, and a living wage for those who “choose not to work.” Thy say that what almost all the Democratic Presidential hopefuls say they support is just an “aspirational” goal  of conquering  creeping climate change within the imaginary 12 year deadline (and I do mean dead.) “What is it they are supporting?” I ask. “The Green New Deal!” they answer. “What is the Green New Deal they say they are supporting” I ask, “if it isn’t the only printed description of the goals as defined by the Democrat who coined the phrase?” “That wasn’t what they are supporting,” these climate change alarmists “explain.” “There’s nothing in the Green New Deal about eliminating cows and airplanes.” “Then what is in the Green New Deal?” I ask. “It’s aspirational,” they answer. Round and around.

I wonder how Democrats and progressives feel about the fact that their party and ideological clan has abandoned all responsibility, professionalism, principle and common sense as it sinks into some kind of collective nervous breakdown triggered by Donald Trump, Obama’s failures, Clinton’s loss, its increasingly obvious hypocrisies, and the fact that it has embraced one irrational “do something!”position after another. Surely not all of them are sharing the delusions. Surely there are alert and uncorrupted Democrats who can see what is happening to a once honorable and trustworthy American institution. Following close on the fumes of the three year failed effort to remove the President between election while poisoning the public’s trust in him, the Democratic Senators revealed the  phoniness of party endorsements of Ocasio-Cortez’s juvenile delusions when none of them would go on the record and support a motion to advance the  Democratic Green New Deal resolution.

There wasn’t  a single “yea” vote from Democrats, not even from the 2020 wannabes whose names already appear as co-sponsors on the Senate version of the thing.  (Nancy Pelosi won’t permit such a vote in the House.) The final tally was 0-57, with forty-three Democrats voting “present,” and three Blue Senators from “red states” doing the expedient thing and voting with the Republicans. There’s no way to spin this, though in their infinite belief in the stupidity of the American people, Democrats tried, with the help of its captive media, of course. The vote was a GOP gimmick, you see. Ocasio-Cortez:

“The GOP’s whole game of wasting votes in Congress to target others “on the record”, for leg they have no intent to pass, is a disgrace. Stop wasting the American peoples’ time + learn to govern. Our jobs aren’t for campaigning, & that’s exactly what these bluff-votes are for.”

The woman has been saying and tweeting that there is no time to waste, and that the nation needs to take radical, society-shaking measures to prevent doom NOW, yet somehow voting on a resolution of her own making to weigh Congress’s position on her policy demands is a waste of time. Meanwhile, her colleagues in the House have announced that their top priority isn’t substantive legislation, but continuing to pursue endless investigations in the hope of justifying impeachment.

Is the public really so stupid that such obvious corruption and dishonesty…and disrespect  for those who they are supposed to represent…escape their notice? The Democrats appear to be betting on it.

Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee delivered a speech on the Senate floor using pure mockery to illustrate  the Green New Deal lack of seriousness—which the subsequent vote confirmed.  No, Lee shouldn’t quit his day job, but his routine had its moments. He began, Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Improper Jury Instruction

At least a dozen Pennsylvania murder convictions may be reversed because Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes included this description of reasonable doubt to instruct her juries:

“Each one of you has someone in your life who’s absolutely precious to you. If you were told by your precious one’s physician that they had a life-threatening condition and that the only known protocol or the best protocol for that condition was an experimental surgery, you’re very likely going to ask for a second opinion. You may even ask for a third opinion. You’re probably going to research the condition, research the protocol. What’s the surgery about? How does it work? You’re going to do everything you can to get as much information as you can. You’re going to call everybody you know in medicine: What do you know? What have you heard? Tell me where to go. But at some point the question will be called. If you go forward, it’s not because you have moved beyond all doubt. There are no guarantees. If you go forward, it is because you have moved beyond all reasonable doubt.”

U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh ordered a new trial for a man convicted following this instruction, and Hughes may have used it in 50 cases.

This is why I am making this an ethics quiz: I have no idea why the instruction is wrong, or confusing. I’ve read McHugh’s opinion, and I still don’t understand what the alleged problem is, unless this judge just doesn’t want to anyone convicted. (He’s an Obama appointment, but I’m sure that has nothing to do with anything, for Chief Justice Roberts tells us so). The decision is here, and this the judge’s reasoning: Continue reading

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?