Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: ‘Ethics Observations On The Florida Teens And The Drowning Man'”

Responding to Pennagain’s comment, now a Comment of the Day, on his own Comment of the Day, Mark wrote in appreciation,

“Pennagain – I am a musician, mostly classical, and I tend to think in musical terms. I love it when I encounter something non-musical that is “symphonic” in its scope. Your response to my post is positively Mahlerian and, like a Gustav Mahler symphony, it must be listened to many times with each hearing offering up new ideas, connections to old ideas, or even bringing to life something completely new.”

This is, I think, Ethics Alarms’ all-time best ever comment by a commenter on another commenter’s comment on his Comment of the Day.

This July has an unfortunate record as the first month in the blog’s history to fall so far short of the previous year’s traffic in the same month. (Last year’s July did have the political conventions pumping up interest.) However, it also has seen the most Comments of the Day for a single month ever, with many more of equal distinction.  I’ll take quality over quantity every time.

Here’s is Pennagain’s Comment of the Day on the post, Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Observations On The Florida Teens And The Drowning Man”

I’m not sure the disconnect began with the hand-held devices, Mark. That was Phase III. I think the first part began with the invention of teenagers (as a group) in the early 50s, still “post-war” time — and “post-war” was barely “post-Depression” time, so it had been at least two decades and a full generation gone since the the good times rolled. The early 50s coincided with the installation of “labor-saving” devices which took over a lot of household chores for youngsters, not just for the housewives the companies advertised to. All of a sudden, I could keep what I earned on my paper route (though I did have to replace my own bicycle once, used, of course, after I carelessly left it in a neighbor’s driveway), mowing lawns, delivering groceries, raking (and burning) leaves, shoveling snow, sitting for the rowdy 7-year-old twins down the block. All of a sudden, we had a refrigerator in place of the ice-box, so I didn’t need to help chop ice; meat came ground so I didn’t have to cut the chunks and push them slooowly through the grinder; . . . I keep forgetting some things and remembering others, like ruining the dessert one night we had guests because I got some rock salt in the motor of the ice cream maker . . . having a clothes washing machine which got rid of most of the water so I didn’t have to help hold up the soaking wet sheets to be pinned on the lines above my head. All of a sudden, I had both privacy (my own telephone), my own music, and “free” time, however much my parents tried to fill it with after school lessons-this and lessons-that. Money and time. Time and money. It was time for friends to bump together with other pairs and bond like atoms in a molecule, becoming a “gang,” having our own things and our own things to do. Choosing our own movies, having sleep-overs, cook-outs, camp-outs, or just standin’ on the corner (“Most Happy Fella’) watchin’ all the girls/boys go by …. choices my mother had as a flapper for a very short time but in her young adulthood, not a teenager, already making the transition from one family to another.

Until I was in my 20s and living outside the US, I didn’t realize that growing away from my family (not spending most of my days with them) had not been a natural shift, and not a gradual one either. Nor was it particularly safe – a lot of new habits were acquired (smoking was mandatory, drinking less available, less so; under-exercised/over-eating — unrecognized for another generation!), and a lot of lessons were never learned properly, like working through emotion-based arguments, and almost everything about sex). By the time I left for college I was, though without realizing it, estranged from my parents — my peers and some self-appointed guides knew better than they did! — and stupid enough socially to be a total jerk. There was a missing link. So what? I let go of the past and caught up with the future. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Observations On The Florida Teens And The Drowning Man”

My old friend Mark drops in to comment just a few times a year, but always delivers his trademark optimism, fairness, and perception. When he talks, I learned early on in our relationship, attention should be paid.. His was one of several excellent comments on the horrific episode in Cocoa Beach, where five teens stood by watching a handicapped man drown, and seemed to enjoy the sight mightily as they recorded his death on their cell phones. In response to another commenter’s query, “Are “kids” that are so disconnected that they’d do something of that magnitude rehabilitatable?”, Mark leaped k took the discussion to a related topic that I had found myself thinking about a lot while I was trapped in a lobby and two airports yesterday with nothing to do but wait and silently curse. What are electronic devices and social media obsession doing to our social skills and ability to relate to the world? At what point to we start sounding the ethics alarms…or the societal survival alarms? [ I’m going to include the last part of Mark’s earlier comment on the story, because it is a helpful introduction to the rest.]

Here is Mark’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Observations On The Florida Teens And The Drowning Man:

…The natural human reaction to observe has been enhanced by our ability to record, and it now seems to be the first response in almost every situation – the more harrowing the better. I’m sure there is some personal thrill involved in being able to post the result, garnering comments and ego-gratifying oohs and aahs.

The situation in Florida is only the most horrible of them, right up there with the guy who posted pictures of himself with the corpse of his step-father, whom he had just murdered. Like everything else, this is a tiny part of a much bigger picture of who we are becoming as a culture. The 21st century ability to remain safely behind a screen while still feeling a full participant in life (Internet commenting a prime example) frees us of the necessary empathy (or simply humanity) to come from behind that screen to behave in ways that might be heroic or even civil. I have little difficulty seeing that behavior manifesting in children raised viewing life through a cell phone.

The much larger question – at least for me – remains “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It’s a nagging question, versions of which swirl in and around almost all the major political issues of our day and, now, into our personal dealings with one another. It is always there, but we come up with more and novel ways to avoid actually answering or acting on it. Clearly, it never occurred to these boys. Cain didn’t want to answer the question. And, I suspect, neither do we.

***

 I carry two cell phones, absolute wonders of technology, which remain in my briefcase most of the time although I’ll take one of them with me to a picture-taking occasion. My friends grit their teeth at receiving responses to texts that are weeks old. My relationship with my cellphone(s) was cemented when I had the opportunity to whale watch off of Maui. I realized that I was so concerned about my precious iThing getting wet or falling into the water that I wasn’t watching the whales. I put the phone away and decided that watching the real world with both eyes was more interesting and that’s what I try to do. I hope sincerely that that attitude would ensure that I offer whatever aid I can in a dire situation rather than wondering what it will look like on Facebook later on. Continue reading

The 8th Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2016: The Last Of The Worst

how-lead-gets-injpg-1e9d798a1edee129

Ethics Alarms wraps up the Worst in 2016 Ethics with the usual education and journalism breaches, Ethics Dunce of the Year, and more delights for the sadistic…

Unethical Government Fiasco Of The Year

The Flint, Michigan water crisisA failure of competence, diligence, responsibility and honesty, compounded by bureaucrats, elected officials, the city of Detroit, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the EPA made people sick and cost billions.

Good job, everybody!

Scam of the Year

Sen.Ted Cruz’s fake “official” mailer before the Iowa Caucus. Cruz’s campaign  sent out mailers labeled in all capital letters, “ELECTION ALERT,” “VOTER VIOLATION,” “PUBLIC RECORD,” and “FURTHER ACTION NEEDED.” On the other side, the mailer said, in red letters at the top, “VOTING VIOLATION.” The text read:

You are receiving this election notice because of low expected voter turnout in your area. Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors’ are public record. Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well. CAUCUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE and please encourage your neighbors to caucus as well. A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses.

This is why Trump’s nickname for Cruz, “Lyin’ Ted,” was crude but accurate.

Ethics Dunces Of The Year

All the social media users and others who ended Facebook friendships, genuine friendships and relationship over the 2016 election. Haven’t they ever seen “It’s A Wonderful Life”? Morons. Shame on all of them.

Weenies of the Year

The college students who demanded that exams be cancelled, therapists be available, safe spaces be found, puppies be summoned and cry-ins be organized because the awful candidate they supported in the Presidential election lost, as candidates often do.

How embarrassing.

Unethical University Of The Year 

Liberty University.  This is the most competitive of categories, with all the schools that railroaded male students based on questionable sexual assault claims while quailing in fear of the Dept. of Education’s “Dear Colleague Letter,” and all the schools that signaled that the results of a simple election justified PTSD treatment for their shattered charges, as well as making it clear to any students who dared to tilt Republican that they were persona non grata. Nonetheless, Liberty University takes the prize with its unique combination of greed, hypocrisy, and warped values. From the Ethics Alarms post:

Last week, with great fanfare, Liberty hired Ian McCaw as its new athletic director. “My vision for Liberty is to position it as a pre-eminent Christian athletic program in America,” McCaw said during a news conference.

This is his first paying assignment since May, when he left his job as the athletic director at Baylor, also a Christian university. His departure was made essential after a thorough investigation that found that those overseeing Baylor’s  football team as well as the management of  the athletic department—that is, McCaw— had been informed of multiple gang rapes and sexual assault by team members and had ignored it, as any good football-loving Christian would….especially when a star was involved.

Continue reading

Ethics Alarms Presents A New Category: “Trump Of The Month” And Congratulates The First Recipient, Kelly Osbourne

From this day on, “Trump of the Month” will recognize those individuals who are accorded the benefits of celebrity, public attention, trust and credibility despite  demonstrating beyond any shadow of a doubt their lack of  the character, judgment or acumen to justify such status.

With that important announcement, Ethics Alarms now designates its first Trump of the Month, the daughter of elderly British rock star Ozzie Osbourne, Kelly Osbourne. She is described these days as a “television personality,” the rocking-chair career also occupied, at a slightly higher level, by Osbourne’s opinionated wife, Sharon. Both Osbournes owe their millions in dollars and fans to the fact that they are related to Ozzie, and nothing else—and Ozzie was a drug-addled, half-forgotten has-been when some bright TV executive, inspired by his name and the idea of doing a reality show parody of “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” the sine qua non of unfunny whitebread Fifties family sitcoms, gave him a second bite at fame.

Kelly’s got nothing, and I am being generous. She is not especially attractive, has no talent, has never uttered a perceptive comment in her life, and should fall down on her knees and thank providence that she is not living in a two room apartment in Gary trying to make ends meet as a temp. Because, however, she acquired that most important of all assets, at least to star-struck Americans, fame, by appearing weekly in a long-past reality show about the dysfunctional family of a mumbling boob with a lot of money (that would be Ozzie), she has been tapped to deliver verdicts on everything from fashion (Kelly herself likes to dye her hair lavender) to the administration of Barack Obama. Why are so many citizens ill-informed and eagerly embracing the dubious leadership abilities of Trump, Clinton or Sanders? Paying attention to “authorities” like Kelly are part of the reason. Compared to Kelly Osbourne, the Kardashians look like the Algonquin Roundtable.

Kelly Osbourne earned the initial Trump of the Month by engaging in the kind of slimy conduct that in a sane culture would ensure permanent obscurity and antipathy. Her parents recently announced that they were getting a divorce because Sharon found incriminating e-mails that proved Ozzie had been fooling around with  Sharon’s hairdresser. In response, pundit Kelly tweeted this classy tweet to her FOUR MILLION followers on Twitter:

kelly-osbourne-tweet-

Continue reading

The Case Of The Involuntary Naked Teacher

This isn't a picture of Leigh Anne Arthur; this is 2014 Naked Teacher Principle victim Kaitlin Pearson. But even if this had been the picture on Arthur's cell phone, she wouldn't have deserve to be fired...

This isn’t a picture of Leigh Anne Arthur; this is 2014 Naked Teacher Principle victim Kaitlin Pearson. But even if this had been the picture on Arthur’s cell phone, she wouldn’t have deserved to be fired…

The Ethics Alarms Naked Teacher Principle (NTP) states:

A secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result. The first formulation of the NTP can be found here.

I suppose I need to circulate this more widely, because some schools apparently are confused, such as Union County High School in South Carolina. In a completely warped and unfair application of the NTP, school district officials in Union County demanded and received the resignation of engineering teacher Leigh Anne Arthur after a student stole her phone, examined its contents and found a semi-nude selfie (intended for her husband’s enjoyment only), which he shared with his classmates.

 The district’s David Eubanks said that the district’s position was that the 13-year teaching veteran was at fault for leaving her phone unlocked on her desk when she went out of the room, and that she had, in effect made the pictures available to her students. He also said that the engineering teacher’s actions may have contributed to the delinquency of a minor.

The technical terms for Eubanks are unethical, unjust and illogical. The kid stole the phone before he knew what was on it. He would have stolen it even if it had been locked. Arthur didn’t make him a delinquent; he was already a delinquent. How far would the school board take their absurd logic? If the kid stole her purse, found a key in an envelope with a bank account number on it, and the student took it to a bank and got into her locked storage box, and in there was the combination to a warehouse storage locker that contained a nude oil painting of her that was painted when she was an artist’s model, and he stole the painting and held an exhibit of it in his garage, charging admission, would the school system fire the teacher, or expel the student for an outrageous invasion of privacy, as well as theft? Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Spring Valley High School Arrest

1. After a 48 hour review, Ben Fields, the school resource officer who was caught on camera violently flipping the desk of a disruptive South Carolina high school student, was fired for violating police department policy. Naturally, he and his lawyer claim otherwise, but that’s just posturing for the inevitable union challenge. He had to be fired for many reasons, including terrible optics and bad judgment. The worst of the defenses offered for his conduct was that the girl, treated like a professional wrestler by the much larger male officer, wasn’t injured. If true, that was pure moral luck: from the violent nature of the arrest, it is a miracle he didn’t break her neck. (The student’s lawyer claims that her arm is broken, among other injuries.)

2. The news media immediately declared this a racial incident. The New York Times, for example, began a report like this:

A white sheriff’s deputy in South Carolina was fired Wednesday after county officials concluded he had acted improperly when, in a videotaped confrontation, he dragged and then threw a female African-American student across a high school classroom this week.

I can find no evidence that race had anything to do with this incident, unless one accepts the Black Lives Matter assertion that the colors of participants in black-white confrontations prove that the white individual is a racist and the black individual is a helpless victim who has no racial biases whatsoever. Continue reading

Observations on the Great Baseball Game Sorority Selfie-Shaming Affair

Screen-Shot-selfie girls

I was going to skip this one as too stupid even for my intrigue, but the combination of baseball, selfies, privacy, the generation gap, The Golden Rule, cultural rot…and those pictures above… is too much to resist.

In a now viral video clip, about a dozen comely members of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority attending the Arizona Diamondbacks-Colorado Rockies game this week were put on camera to serve as fodder for TV broadcasters Steve Berthiaume’s and Bob Brenly’s ridicule. The reason they were on camera is that it was an unusually attractive bevy of maidens, and that they were engaged in something that could best be called a selfie orgy. It went on and on as the announcers snickered, saying things like…

“Do you have to make faces when you take selfies?”

“Wait, one more now. Better angle. Oh, check it. Did that come out OK?”

“Here’s my first bite of the churro. Here’s my second bite of the churro.”

“That’s the best one of the 365 pictures I’ve taken of myself today!”

“Welcome to parenting in 2015!”

“Every girl in the picture is locked into her phone. Every single one is dialed in. They’re all just completely transfixed by the technology.

“‘Help us, please! Somebody help us!'”

As the internet weighed in, the girls found themselves being defended by most commentators, at least by most commentators under 40.

Observations: Continue reading

The Sexting Persecution Of Cormega Copening

sexting

Charging kids with crimes for sexting themselves to a fully consenting fellow kid always seemed excessive and cruel to me. This story is the reductio ad absurdum that settles the matter.

In Fayetteville, North Carolina, 17-year-old Cormega Copening and his girlfriend Brianna Denson, also 17, began exchanging naked photos of themselves in text messages when they were 16. They were the only ones who saw the pictures, but someone somehow tipped off local authorities, who searched Copening’s phone and discovered them.

Copeling and Denson were charged with sexual exploitation. The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office concluded that Denson had committed two felony sex crimes...against herself. A warrant cited her as both the adult perpetrator and the minor victim of two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, second-degree exploitation for making her photo and third-degree exploitation for having her own nude photo in her possession. A conviction could have put Denson in prison and would have required her to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life. Denson pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was given 12 months of probation.

Her sexting partner Copening, however, is still facing as much as ten years prison time for two counts of second-degree sexual exploitation and three counts of third-degree exploitation. As with Denson, the third-degree charges arise out of the pictures Copening had of himself.  That’s not the worst of the mind-twisting logic of this prosecution, however. North Carolina is one of two states in the country (the other: New York) that makes 16  the age of adulthood in the criminal system. The state’s consent laws consider anyone 16 and under a minor, but allows minors 16 or over to be charged as adults.

Gilbertian result: Copening is facing conviction, as an adult, for exploiting a minor—himself. Continue reading

The Duty To Confront, Part One: A Starbucks Encounter

Starbucks

A friend on Facebook just posted this tale…

“Lady at Starbucks yelled at employee for serving old sandwiches marked 8/11. She was irate and insisted on seeing the manager. The manager told her that today was 8/11. Lady said “oh” and no apology for employee who was now in tears.”

And, apparently, nobody, including my friend, stepped in an demanded that the customer apologize.

Wrong.

We have a shared duty to keep up basic standards of ethics and decency. In this situation, and apology is mandatory, and if the woman, who had a valid reason to complain if she was right, didn’t have the sense, character or decency to do the right thing, she needed to be told, and even embarrassed.

Three incidents in my experiences come to mind…. Continue reading

Hail Trump, King Of Signature Significance!

Because Senator Lindsey Graham properly said that Donald Trump needed to stop acting like a jackass and should get out of the Presidential race, Trump gave out the Senator’s cell-phone number.

Of course he did.

I almost wrote a post yesterday about how some right-wing pundits apparently have no concept of right and wrong, crippling them in matters like the Donald Trump campaign. I listened in amazement–I actually had to pull off the road, so as not to crash—as Sean Hannity and another right-wing fool (I didn’t catch his name) went on and on about how if only Trump could avoid “mistakes” and “self-inflicted wounds” what a great candidate he would be, and how impugning the courage of a war hero like John McCain was such bad strategy, because it distracted from his message. These people really understand nothing, not ethics, not common sense, not character, and certainly not signature significance, even though Donald Trump is the living embodiment of the term.

Signature significance, which is used often here, means that a single instance of conduct can be so remarkable that it allows an accurate assessment of the character of the individual engaging in it. It comes from the world of baseball statistical analysis, and the example is a starting pitcher allowing no runs, striking out 15, not walking a batter and giving up less than five hits in a complete game, 9 inning performance. Doing this just once is enough evidence to conclude, decisively and validly, that the pitcher involved is a superior one. Why? The reason is that the history of baseball shows that literally no pitcher who isn’t great can pitch even one game that good.

In ethics, signature significance refers to an act so blatantly wrong and yet intentional that no ethical individual would ever do it, even once, or a statement showing such complete ethics ignorance that it alone justifies withholding trust from anyone who would say it, even once. Ethics dolts like Sean Hannity really think that public figures who have shown beyond all doubt that they don’t know what ethical behavior is will suddenly be able to act ethical if they just try a little harder.  Donald Trump is the perfect example of why that is ridiculous, yet here Hannity was, yesterday, applying that logic to Donald Trump.

Trump is the epitome of signature significance. Again and again he has done and said things that if they were the only thing we had ever heard about the man, it would be sufficient to conclude with near 100% confidence that this guy is 1) untrustworthy and/or 2) dumb as a brick. Continue reading