Laws Aren’t Enough: Compassion, Prudence, Proportion And The Golden Rule Must Also Be In The Equation

Here is a cautionary tale out of Great Britain,  whose ethics comprehension appears to have gone into a tailspin.

In Manchester, England about a year ago, Jamie Griffiths , then a 19-year-old male student, reached out and  touched a 17-year-old female classmate’s arm while they were both walking along a city street during the day. Jamie explained to police, which the young woman contacted because of the incident, that he had just wanted to get her attention, introduce himself, and maybe “make a friend.”

Instead, the woman claims, the spontaneous encounter quickly spiraled out of control. As she told the court, according to The Manchester Evening News,

“I was just set on getting home and [reviewing] for my mock exams, but as I was coming over the bridge I saw him facing a hedge and I thought it was really weird. He wasn’t doing anything. He was just facing the hedge, staring at it. As I walked towards him, I was watching him and he suddenly swung round so he was facing me. I remember it happening fast. As soon as he moved, I moved, and I said: ‘stop’ and he touched me on my arm. I sort of jolted out of the way and I went into the road to avoid him and he very quickly walked away…I forgot about it for a while because I had my exams. I just thought it was weird behavior.” She went to the police and reported the episode. Then there was a second. This time, the 17-year-old was was walking to school when Griffiths walked in front of her and touched her side, staying in contact, she said, for about three seconds. “He smirked at me, he didn’t stop, he just touched me and walked off and I broke down crying in the street—it was quite traumatic.”

She and her mother filed a crime report. The student was traumatized by the encounters, she says. “Every time I started working I would cry because I would think of it. I felt very unsafe, even in my own home.”

A magistrate convicted Jamie Griffiths of two charges of sexual assault, accepting the young woman’s assessment that there was “no doubt” that had she not moved away from him that first time he touched her arm, he would have gone on to touch her breast. “The complainant’s evidence was very clear, logical and without embellishment,” the magistrate told the defendant. “We can think of no motivation for you to touch the victim other than sexual. Had she not taken evasive action the assault was likely to have been even more serious.” Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Homeless Hero

Perhaps you have seen this video:

Apparently both the Brooklyn attacker and the man who took him down were homeless.

Observations:

  • I thought the “knock-out game” was 1) over with and 2) an urban myth. This sure looks like the “game” to me.

I can’t find a single report that notes that, however.

  • I also can’t find the name of the man who tackled the assailant and held him until police arrived.

Why hasn’t such a good citizen been recognized?

  • Many of the headlines on this story are like CBS’s, which reads, “Homeless Good Samaritan Saves 2 Elderly Women Attacked By Homeless Man.” That’s fake news. Can’t these hacks get any story right? Watch the video. Yes, the man attacks the the attacker of the two women, but the bad homeless man was trying to leave. The damage to the women he punched was done. By no interpretation of that video can it be said that the “good Samaritan” saved  the victims. Indeed, he didn’t interact with them at all.

The video accompanies the headline, and yet the headline is still false!

Tell me again, ye Defenders of the News Media, why we are supposed to trust these irresponsible, undependable, incompetent hacks, much less respect them.

  • Would you do what the Good Samaritan did here? If not, why not?

Behold..THE DUMBEST ETHICS STORY EVER TOLD!!!

peetoy

Are you ready?

James and Isabelle Lassiter, who hail from Texas, were visiting Murfressboro, Tennessee and stopped into a Wasabi Japanese Steakhouse recently with their children. Apparently the sense of humor at hibachi restaurants has declined precipitously since the last time I ate at one, for I am told that the gag the Lassiters endured is now common fare. One of the Wasabi chefs held up a plastic toy depicting a little boy, and when the boy-toy dropped his shorts, he squirted water in a long, thin stream, as if urinating. The children were delighted! They were especially delighted when the stream hit their mom in the face.

Isabelle Lassiter was not delighted. In fact, she and her husband called the police, and accused the chef of sexual assault. “It peed on me…basically, out of his… wee wee area,” Isabelle explained, delicately.”It really didn’t have a wiener, but you got the point.” Investigators, who briefly took the toy into custody, indeed noted that the toy wasn’t anatomically correct. An officer wrote, “I observed the toy to have no penis and just a hole for the water to shoot out.”

PLEASE don’t tell me that if the toy did have a plastic penis, the claim of “sexual assault” would have been taken more seriously.

The Lassiters agree that this detail should not matter. “Just because somebody cut off a piece of plastic…doesn’t change the fact that you’re getting peed on,” said James Lassiter. “It was a sexual style assault on my wife.”

This is not a hoax. I wish it was a hoax. Reading about it has temporarily disrupted my capability to organize my thoughts, so I’ll just note the following in no particular order:

1. It was not sexual assault, by any stretch of the imagination. Nobody “peed on” Mrs. Lassiter. The cook squirted water on her, using a juvenile, risqué version of a squirt gun.

2. If Isabelle thought even  for a second that the stream of liquid was urine, she has a cognitive problem. Isabelle, pay attention: plastic figures do not urinate. They are toys. They have no bladder or kidneys. Even if the liquid comes from the toy’s “wee wee area,” it can’t possibly be urine.

3. Calling the police was beyond an over-reaction; it was truly idiotic, and it should be punishable. I’m trying to think of any reason not to have an ordinance that declares a spurious and wasteful call for police a misdemeanor carrying a hundred-dollar fine. Of course, such an offense should only be declared in extreme circumstances…like this, for example.

4. The manager of Wasabi did issue an apology to the couple, but claims he has never had any complaints about the toy in the past. “The kids like it, they think it’s a water gun, kind of like a water gun you know,” said Mr. Huang. Ah! The old “if kids think it’s funny, it’s ethical” standard. This standard is not reliable. The Lassiter kids might well have also found it hilarious if the chef hit their surprised mother with a cream pie, a pillow, or a dead cat. Continue reading

The Ethics Lesson Of Breitbart’s Implosion: Unethical Cultures Are Deadly, And So Is Donald Trump’s Touch

Nice job, Andrew!

Nice job, Andrew! That’s some legacy!

The Breitbart conservative website empire is in the process of wrecking itself through its own corruption. Good. This is an invaluable lesson in the field of organizational culture, and perhaps it will prompt other unethical organizations to reform their cultures before it is too late.

I had  the good sense to abandon Breitbart as a trustworthy news source long ago, after I was burned by the site’s doctored Shirley Sherrod video. Conservatives, like liberals, often hold on to their heroes long after they have proven themselves unworthy of reverence or even respect; Andrew Breitbart was an especially unfortunate example. He created a group of websites that really delivered news the way Fox is unfairly accused of reporting. They ignored stories that impugned the honesty, integrity or reliability of conservatives, and actively sought stories that showed the worst of progressives, and often slanted those stories to mislead readers, shamelessly appealing to their confirmation bias. The corrupt culture he built, cheered by prominent conservative pundits who should have known better like Glenn Reynolds (Breitbart was “punching back twice as hard,” you see: Rationalization #2 A. Sicilian Ethics, or “They had it coming”), predictably became worse after its architect’s untimely death. Nothing showed this more vividly than Breibart’s decision to become, as resigning editor Ben Shapiro called it today, “Donald Trump’s personal Pravda.”  It attacked Trump’s critics and rationalized Trump’s outrages. I dissected a particularly disgraceful example here, but there were many others.

Then came, as almost always does, a chance event that has shattered Breitbart along its rotting fault lines. Continue reading

Celebrity Ethics: Sir Paul And Bill

Pual rejcected

Two recent ethics stories involving the famous, accomplished and popular:

1. Bill Murray The aging bad boy of SNL and “Groundhog Day,” found himself in some trouble recently when he was trying to chill at the Vesuvio rooftop lounge in Carmel, California, convenient to the annual Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tourney in which Bill was playing. A few patrons started flashing cameras at him from close range—without asking, of course–and true to his on-screen character (and off-screen, where he is known as an impulsive jerk), Murray got up and chucked their phones off the 2nd story rooftop. Obviously, whatever the provocation, you can’t do that.

Bill paid for the phones, and the owners didn’t press charges. The problem for me were the typical reactions of commenters on the story, proving once again that the average, even above average member of the public can’t solve a simple ethics problem. Continue reading

An Unethical Photo And Caption, And The Ethics Fog Of A Baseball Fight

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals is grabbed by Jonathan Papelbon #58 in the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park on September 27, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 538595765 ORIG FILE ID: 490330798

According to USA Today and many other reputable news sources, Washington Nationals pitcher Jonathan Papelbon “choked” team mate Bryce Harper in a dugout altercation in full view of fans and TV cameras during yesterday’s loss to the Phillidelphia Phillies. The photo above, freezing the moment in which Papelbon’s hand touched Harper’s neck, was presented full page width in the Nats’ home town paper, the Washington Post.

Now here’s the video:

Papelbon’s hand was on Harper’s throat for less than a second, as opposed to the impression given by the still, in which you can almost hear Harper gagging ACK! GAH! LLLLGGGGHHH!  The USA Today headline “Bryce Harper was choked by Jonathan Papelbon in Nationals’ dugout fight” is pure sensationalism and an intentional misrepresentation. I’m not even certain Papelbon was trying to choke Harper, but if he was, he failed immediately because Harper backed away.

This incident transcends its context for ethical interest, because it demonstrates how much context and biases influence public and media assessments of right and wrong.

First, some context: Continue reading

De’Andre Johnson Ethics Quiz: Is It Ever Ethical For A Male Athlete To Punch A Woman?

deandre

Nineteen year-old De’Andre Johnson was kicked off the Florida State team after “The Tallahassee Democrat” obtained a video showing Johnson punching a young woman in the face in an altercation at a bar in June. He has also been charged with battery. Johnson’s lawyer says that woman was taunting him with racial epithets and hit him twice before he punched her.

Lawyer Jose Baez told NBC News that Johnson “tried to deescalate the situation” but the woman “kneed him in the groin area” and “took another swing before he retaliated.”  “It wasn’t until she struck him twice that he reacted,” Baez said. “But he is very regretful that he didn’t turn around and walk away immediately.” Baez added, however that his client “makes no excuses for what happened.”

The video above does not seem to support Johnson’s defense, but never mind.  After the Ray Rice episode, no football player who lays a hand on a woman in anger will be able to avoid severe punishment. All athletes, and football players particularly, are on notice that as far as hitting women goes, it is strict liability unless the men’s lives are in danger, and maybe not even then.

But hypothetically, I’m curious. Racial epithets are fighting words. If a black athlete punched a white man, even a much smaller white man, after racial abuse and a knee to the groin, there would probably be no charges filed, and not much criticism either. How different, if different at all, should the ethical judgement be if the individual engaging in the abuse is a woman? What if she shows no signs of stopping unless she is physically stopped? What if she looks like this…

Gina Davis

 

Or. say, THIS…

Katka2

Or even this…

hope-solo

Hope is over six feet tall, you’ll recall and is rumored to have a penchant for striking people off the athletic field.

Thus your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is this:

Is it always unethical for  any male athlete to punch any woman in a situation not involving the male’s mortal peril?

ADDENDUM…lest we forget: what if the woman is this former Olympic medal winner…

caitlyn-jenner

?

 

The Washington Post Tries To Hide A Muslim Attack From Its Readers: What’s Going On Here? Or Rather, What The HELL Is Going On Here?

Now, see, THIS Post has informative headlines...

Now, see, THIS Post has informative headlines…

I have no hidden agenda; I really would like to know.

Sharp-eyed media critic Ian Tuttle noticed how the Washington Post headlined a news story from Detroit in which a Muslim man, Terrence Lavaron Thomas, asked two strangers at a Southfield, Mich., bus stop whether or not they were Muslim and when they answered in the negative, stabbed them with a  knife. This was the headline:

wapo-headline1

What? That suggests the opposite of what happened!  We are told “conservatives” on social media objected. Really? Only conservatives are bothered by incompetent, misleading or intentionally false news reports? Anyway, the Post’s editors said, apparently, “Oh, all right, if you’re going to be all picky about it,” and changed the headline to this…

WaPo Muslim headline 2 - revised

Except that “Are you Muslim? No? THEN DIE, INFIDEL!!!” is not what I or any fair and rational person would call a “discussion.”  Once again those pesky “conservatives”—you know, the ones who don’t appreciate the press lying to them–complained, so again the Post changed the headline:

WaPo Muslim headline3

So now that irrelevant Muslim angle is missing entirely, because this has no possible relationship to  Muslim extremists around the world burning people alive, cutting off the heads of Christians, kidnapping and killing children or any of that nasty stuff. Continue reading

Banning The “Gay Panic Defense”

Last year, the American Bar Association House of Delegates passed a controversial resolution calling on states to ban the so-called gay panic defense. The defense arises (when it does arise, which is rarely), in cases of a heterosexual accused of an assault on a gay individual when the defense attorney argues that his client was so shocked and terrified by a homosexual advance of a romantic or sexual nature that he was overcome with disgust, anger and fear, and was launched into a psychotic state that compelled violence. Many judges refuse to allow it, because there is no accepted scientific evidence that “gay panic” exists as a legitimate prelude to temporary insanity.

The ABA resolved:

 That the American Bar Association urges federal, tribal, state, local and territorial governments to take legislative action to curtail the availability and effectiveness of the “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses, which seek to partially or completely excuse crimes such as murder and assault on the grounds that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction.

Such legislative action should include:

(a) Requiring courts in any criminal trial or proceeding, upon the request of a party, to instruct the jury not to let bias, sympathy, prejudice, or public opinion influence its decision about the victims, witnesses, or defendant s based upon sexual orientation or gender identity; and

(b) Specifying that neither a non – violent sexual advance, nor the discovery of a person’s sex or gender identity, constitutes legally adequate provocation to mitigate the crime of murder to manslaughter, o r to mitigate the severity of any non – capital crime.

It should be no surprise that California was the first state to follow this plan, with Gov. Jerry Brown signing an anti-gay panic defense bill into law in September. Now New Jersey has a similar law under consideration. Continue reading

Ray Rice’s Indefinite Suspension By The NFL Has Been Overruled On Appeal. GOOD!

You have to be fair to bad guys too, you see.

Ray Rice and sparring partner.

Ray Rice and sparring partner.

If you will recall, the NFL levied a paltry two game suspension on Baltimore Raven’s star last summer, following his guilty plea for knocking his then fiancée, now wife, colder than a mackerel with a punch in her face. Then security camera video of the punch, in a casino elevator, ended up on TMZ in September, and public outrage against the NFL’s casual approach to domestic violence became a public relations crisis for pro football, which has too many already.

In response, Commissioner Roger Goodell ordered a do-over, this time suspending the player indefinitely while Rice’s team, the Ravens, fired him. The NFL’s risible claim was that while Rice had admitted that he hit the love of his life so hard that he rendered her unconscious, they never suspected that he really, really hit her until they saw the video.

As I wrote at the time:

Sports stars who engage in criminal behavior should be penalized heavily by their teams and leagues, to leave no question about their special status as paid heroes and pop culture role models and their obligations to honor that status. Rice’s conduct was especially significant, given the prevalence of domestic abuse in this country. The NFL, however, had its shot, made its statement, disgraced itself and let him get off easy. Rice hasn’t done anything since then worthy of punishment. The league and Rice’s team should have to live with their initial decisions, no matter how much criticism they received for them. The overly lenient punishment should stand as symbolizing how outrageously tolerant society, and especially male dominated cultures like pro football, are of this deadly conduct. Treating the video as if it constituted new evidence of something worse is unfair and ridiculous: yes, you morons, this is what domestic abuse looks like!

Rice [I originally said “Peterson” here, getting my violent NFL players mixed up] appealed through the player’s union, and yesterday a judge agreed with him, the union, and me, writing:

“In this arbitration, the NFL argues that Commissioner Goodell was misled when he disciplined Rice the first time. Because, after careful consideration of all of the evidence, I am not persuaded that Rice lied to, or misled, the NFL at his June interview, I find that the indefinite suspension was an abuse of discretion and must be vacated…I find that the NFLPA carried its burden of showing that Rice did not mislead the Commissioner at the June 16th meeting, and therefore, that the imposition of a second suspension based on the same incident and the same known facts about the incident, was arbitrary…The Commissioner needed to be fair and consistent in his imposition of discipline….Moreover, any failure on the part of the League to understand the level of violence was not due to Rice’s description of the event but to the inadequacy of words to convey the seriousness of domestic violence. That the League did not realize the severity of the conduct without a visual record also speaks to their admitted failure in the past to sanction this type of conduct more severely.”

Yup. That just about covers it.

I think it’s overwhelmingly likely that the NFL’s lawyers advised the league that this would be the end result if they tried to punish Rice for the same act twice. The NFL decided that it was worth it to abuse its power and look like it was trying to end Rice’s career so after a successful appeal, it could say, “Well, we tried to do the right thing, and that mean old judge wouldn’t let us! Don’t blame us.”

Anyone who falls for that act is a fool. The real lesson of this ugly sequence is that the NFL’s culture doesn’t recognize right and wrong, or care about either. It’s only concern is TV ratings,  marketing and profits.