Category Archives: U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/20/18: Darrow, Damn Technology And Dunkin’ Donuts

Good Morning!

1. Shameless self-promotion Dept. Once again, I am presenting my three-hour Clarence Darrow and modern attorney ethics CLE program for the D.C. Bar, and later this summer, Virginia CLE will be sponsoring the same seminar in Richmond and Northern Virginia. As always, my partner and collaborator in All Things Darrow is esteemed D.C. actor (and American University law school instructor, and, I am proud to say, my friend) Paul Morella, who has been Darrowing since he premiered my one-man show about the great and flawed lawyer in 2000, for The American Century Theater. His website is here. This is Paul…

Paul is a lot taller, thinner and better looking than Darrow, and unlike Clarence, he also bathes regularly. It doesn’t matter. I can’t recommend his show, which he performs for bar associations and legal groups around the country, more highly, and would feel this way even if I hadn’t written it. Of course, any group that wants Continuing Legal Education credits can also book today’s seminar, which has many of Darrow’s greatest courtroom orations, but also legal ethics commentary from me.

2. Ah-HA! NOW I understand why I’m being sued for defamation!  This is in the “This comes as no surprise” category, but it still explains a lot. The Pew Research Center just released a survey that demonstrates that a large proportion of the public can’t distinguish facts from opinions. The main portion of the study  measured the public’s ability to distinguish between five factual statements and five opinion statements. Pew found

“…that a majority of Americans correctly identified at least three of the five statements in each set. But this result is only a little better than random guesses. Far fewer Americans got all five correct, and roughly a quarter got most or all wrong. Even more revealing is that certain Americans do far better at parsing through this content than others. Those with high political awareness, those who are very digitally savvy and those who place high levels of trust in the news media are better able than others to accurately identify news-related statements as factual or opinion.”

I challenge that last part. It may well be that those who place high levels of trust in the news media could distinguish between fact and opinion in those  ten statements, but it doesn’t change the fact (now this is my opinion, but I still believe it is demonstrably true) that the news media distorts what it represents as facts based on journalists’ biased opinions. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, History, Science & Technology, The Internet, U.S. Society, Workplace

From Ethics Alarms “The Truth Hurts” Files: Target’s Fathers Day Card

Target came under fire for putting out the Father’s Day card above, and apologized, especially for having only a black couple version.

Interesting: what exactly is wrong about the card? It depicts the state of black fatherhood as it is: about 72% of black births are to unmarried couples, while about 32% is the white figure. Is the perceived problem that the card shames African Americans, or that it appears to give couples having children without bothering with marriage a societal pass by celebrating their lack of responsibility? Not being married to a child’s mother vastly increases the likelihood of absentee fathers, and being raised by single mothers is statistically linked to many social pathologies that disproportionately plague black communities.

Maybe Target isn’t the one who should be apologizing. One incensed critic wrote on Twitter, “This is an insult to black fathers and a slap in the face to the African-American community as a whole.” No, that would be true if the card’s implication wasn’t true. It is true. Now what? Getting angry at Target is a deflection.

Of course, the likelihood is that Target wasn’t thinking deeply about this at all. It just thought the “baby daddy” card opened up a new Fathers Day market.

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Gender and Sex, Marketing and Advertising, Race, U.S. Society

Chaos, Kindness, Vivian Landis, and Me

Yesterday I attended the funeral of Vivian Landis, mother of my long-time friend Lise Landis. Vivian was 98 years old when she died, and by all accounts had a wonderful and rewarding life. She also played a big part in mine, by doing what she apparently did routinely: being kind.

Mrs. Landis, along with her late husband Paul, were, by sheer chance, placed in the position of being the Chaos Theory butterfly in the Amazon jungle that causes a momentous chain of events by flapping its wings. They exemplify to me why it is vital for all of us to strive to live using ethical values. We have often no idea what the results will be, but the odds are they will be more good than bad.

In 1972, I had been rejected by all of my choices for law school, though I had been wait-listed at Georgetown. However, it was August, the fall semester was looming, and no word from Washington, D.C. had reached me. Discouraged but resigned, I said the hell with it, and resolved to take a year off, perhaps to craft my thesis on character and the American Presidency into a book. In the meantime, I decided to join my parents and sister on what bid fair to be our last family vacation. Dad had planned one of his typical forced marches, this one through Reno, Sequoia National Park, Yosemite, San Francisco, and Seattle.

I was having a great time, relaxing, enjoying the sights, when a ranger tracked us down on the Yosemite canyon floor. Our next-door neighbors in Arlington Mass. had sent a telegram forwarding a Georgetown telegram to the Marshall homestead: a slot for me had just opened up in the 1975 Class, but to claim it, I had to be at the Law Center to register Monday morning—and it was Sunday. And I was in California.

I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go to law school at that point, but my dad was determined that I should take the opportunity. We cut short our Yosemite visit and drove to San Francisco, where I was deposited on a red-eye to Dulles. I had few clothes, and knew nobody in the District of Columbia or anywhere near it. Somehow, I was assured, my family would have a plan for me by the time I arrived. I was to call their hotel in Frisco once I had registered. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Daily Life, Family, Love, U.S. Society

Ethics Quiz: The Disappointed Valedictorian’s Billboard

Gary Allmon purchased the large digital billboard above on U.S. Highway 264 in Wake County, North Carolina to honor  his son, Joshua. The message was on display for 10 days through June 12, the day of East Wakefield High’s graduation ceremony.

The  school recently replaced valedictorians with the Latin honors ranking system used in colleges–summa, magna, cum—as a fairer and more accurate way to honor academic performance. Josh’s transcript shows him ranked as number one, and he felt robbed.

“It’s a stupid rule that will hurt students down the line, but it’ll accomplish their goal of making everyone feel equal,” he wrote on Twitter. He has a full scholarship to North Carolina State University to study chemical engineering. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Quizzes, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/14/18: Derangement!

Goooooood morning Vietnam!

(Well, not just Vietnam, of course, but did you know Ethics Alarms has had 643 views from Vietnam in 2018, and three already this morning? I wonder how many of those readers suffer from anti-Trump derangement…)

Prelude: I would prefer not to let this topic dominate a Warm-Up, but the alternative is to keep posting on it separately, and then I would get more of those “why do you keep posting about this when children are being taken out of the arms of their mothers at the border?” messages. I post about it for the same reason I began posting on it two Novembers ago, and for the same reason 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck is one of the fattest tags on the blog: the organized, multi-institution hysteria focused on the elected President is unprecedented, destructive, dangerously divisive and threat to the stability of the nation and our communities. Moreover, it is getting worse, more shrill, and to my eye and ear, more desperate, as President Trump’s successes, much as the new media and “the resistance” denies them, increasingly makes the Angry Left and Hillary Bitter-Enders realize that all their protesting and screaming at the sky and biased news stories and leaks and unethical investigations not only aren’t working, but are, in fact, increasing support for the President and public distrust of his sworn destructors. As proof of further lack of hinges, the Deranged think the rational response to this is to become more shrill and more obnoxious.

Unrelated but still annoying note: On HLN just now, after Lovely Robin Meade reported on a Norwegian study that purports to prove that “we is getting dummer,” with an estimated 7 point drop in average IQ since the 1970s, her sidekick Jennifer Westhoven noted off camera that all 730,000 test subjects were all men, in a tone clearly designed to suggest, “so that explains it.” Then the two women laughed like the witches in “MacBeth.” See the recent post on this phenomenon, and reflect. Then imagine if an on-air personality had said “blacks,” “Norwegians” or even “women” in the same context. I’m not accepting such jokes as amusing or acceptable from people who won’t accept the same kind of jokes from me.

1.  It’s time to break out the surgical masks and gloves, I fear. Ann Althouse found this comment on generic New Your Times Trump-hater Frank Bruni’s column, “How to Lose the Midterms and Re-elect Trump,” which begins

“Dear Robert De Niro, Samantha Bee and other Trump haters: I get that you’re angry. I’m angry, too. But anger isn’t a strategy. Sometimes it’s a trap. When you find yourself spewing four-letter words, you’ve fallen into it. You’ve chosen cheap theatrics over the long game, catharsis over cunning.”

The rant was the most popular of the many responses it received from on-line Times readers:

“What are we supposed to do? Speak calmly while he’s praising neo-Nazis? Wag our finger when he walls us in? Abide his ignorance and hate with good grace? Tsk tsk when he embraces murderers and war criminals while berating honorable Democrats? We’re not going to win over the deplorable nincompoops who voted for this man. Do you honestly think that we will offend their delicate sensibilities? These are the people who witnessed the vilest displays of hate, including his encouragement of skinheads to beat up protesters. They heard him brag about groping unwilling starlets. They watched as he mocked a disabled reporter. And yet they went into voting booths all across America and pulled the lever for this narcissistic, unread, vulgar excuse for a human being. Robert De Niro expressed openly the disgust that I have been feeling in my den, sitting in front of the TV and pretty much yelling the same sorts of things when I encounter the daily outrages that ooze from this pustule of a president. Who’s to say that Democrats aren’t scoring victories because of the palpable feeling of disgust that attends this so-called president’s every utterance? This man body-surfed into the White House on a wave of resentment and hate. Maybe a bigger wave of righteous anger will flush him and his Republican enablers out, and down into the metaphorical swamp from which they came.”

Althouse’s readers are almost unanimous in pronouncing this as the Trump Derangement equivalent of your neighbor vomiting black blood into the street. The comment is an impressive compendium of resistance talking points, distortions, and hysteria, culminating in endorsing a vulgar jerk shouting “fuck” at a non-political award show. What are you supposed to do? Oh, by all means, shouting “fuck” and “cunt” are the best options. How about being a responsible citizen, engaging in civil civic discourse based on substance rather than emotion, and respecting your fellow citizens when they have different opinions than you do? Despite the fact that Althouse is a centrist, her commenters overwhelmingly see the folly of the Trump Derangement strategy. One writes, Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Kaboom!, Leadership, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/13/2018: Everybody’s A Critic!

Good morning!

(That almost came out “good monging”…not a propitious sign)

1.  Diversity ethics:  The concept that somehow there are sinister motives and undesirable results any time an occupation settles into a demographic mix that isn’t four-square with that of the general population is one more bit of ideological cant. In London, U.K, the mayor has decreed it a crisis that the population using bicycles is disproportionately white, and has  said he is considering setting diversity targets for London’s cycling population to ensure that “progress was achieved.” I liked Amy Alkon’s disgusted reaction to this whole issue, as she asked how  gender equality would be achieved in fields where women show little interest in participating for a variety of reasons, including a greater interest in a work-life balance. How is this artificial PC “diversity goal” going to be achieved, she asks…” Force women at gunpoint to become cardiologists, oil rig workers, and garbagepersons? Force men at gunpoint to become veterinarians and kindergarten teachers?”

Reader (and volunteer Ethics Alarms proof-reading czar) Pennagain just sent me an article about the relative lack of female movie critics (minority movie critics are also under-represented among Hispanics, blacks and Asians. (I would also bet that they are disproportionately gay, but the study discussed didn’t check that, apparently.) Now unlike, say, female  “garbagepersons,” female movie critics predictably have a point of view that would make a substantive difference in film reviews, so I cannot brush aside this particular imbalance with “So what?” Instead I will ask, “What’s stopping them?” Anyone can be a movie critic now: all you need is a website, some dedication, and, one hopes, some understanding of film and culture. Now, being paid as a film critic is a little trickier.

Here is the Wikipedia entry on the New Yorker’s Pauline Kael, still perhaps the most famous U.S. film critic, whose long-lasting prominence, success and influence (I hated her reviews most of the time–overly political and biased, with whole genres she didn’t understand—“guy movies” like Westerns and horror films, that she sniffed at as beneath her) should have inspired more women to enter the field, but didn’t. I presume there is a reason for that, such as that spending your life watching multiple movies a day including many you wouldn’t be caught dead at if it wasn’t mandatory isn’t an attractive career choice, especially if you want a family.

2. From my sexual harassment files...I just rediscovered this, a sexual harassment case I discussed in program for a construction company in the 90’s. An attractive woman who worked in construction (Diversity!) was walking to work with a co-worker when some boor from an apartment window shouted at her, “Hey, show me your tits!” The women misheard the remark, and shouted back, “Sorry, I don’t have any kids!” Her colleague thought th exchange was hilarious, and told her what the guy really said, He also told everyone on the construction site about the incident, and the woman was pestered from then on with men smirking as they made comments like, “Hey, can I see pictures of your kids?” I hear you have two beautiful kids!” “Why don’t you let your kids out more?”  “Boy, I bet you’re proud of those kids of yours.” The women tried to laugh it off, but the joke never died, even though she started telling everyone to knock it off. Finally, she complained to management, and was told that she was being silly and hyper-sensitive. She sued.

Was using the word “kids”  in a coded joke creating a hostile work environment, or did the court find that since the language itself was inoffensive and not sex-related, it couldn’t be sexual harassment? Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Popular Culture, Professions, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society, Workplace

Women Of America: PLEASE Don’t Make Me An Anti-Feminist By Talking Like Anti-Male Bigots!

Apparently we can’t have mutual respect, equality, fairness and opportunity. There has to be a boot on someone’s throat, hate, envy, anger, payback, pecking orders, groveling and discrimination. The inevitable result of all that is backlash, and when it comes, it’s earned.

The most recent wretched example of this discouraging state of the culture is the escalation of anti-male, feminist chauvinism, though the trend has been building for a long time. Hillary Clinton’s primary argument for electing her President was that she had two X chromosomes, and anything else was a bonus. Long before that, Christiane Amanpour led a despicably sexist panel one memorable Sunday morning  in which she and three other women discussed how women are obviously better than men when it comes to leadership, management, decision-making, and conflict resolution.

I wrote at the time, when I was able to force my mouth to close from the rictus of horror it had been frozen into by this open display of bigotry: Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society