Naming Ethics: The Gaylord Affair

My short summary of this ethics controversy is: This mother is nuts.

A woman, 24, is due to have her first child in August, and, she says,  the first born son of everyone from her side of the family has been named Gaylord since the early 19th Century. She is determined to carry on the  tradition, though her husband is horrified, maintaining that to name any boy “Gaylord” is child abuse.

That’s probably overstating it, but just a bit. Gaylord is not a common name (it’s from the Old French gaillard meaning “joyful” or “high-spirited”), but Wikipedia lists 25 famous or accomplished Gaylords, only one of which I had ever heard of, the baseball player on the list (of course). That’s Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry, who won over 300 games during a 21 year career in which he was famous for throwing spitballs, an illegal pitch.  Perry is one of the three Gaylords on the list who is still alive, including a French long-distance runner named Gaylord Silly.

Now that’s child abuse..

But I digress. The mother says she offered her husband a compromise, agreeing that young Gaylord would go by “Gail” in school “so that he doesn’t have to deal with bullies.”

What? Continue reading

There Are Many Ethics Villains In This Story, But The Boys Put In Handcuffs Aren’t Among Them.

In July of 2019, 10-year-old Gavin Carpenter and a friend were playing outside with toy weapons near a Fort Carson, Colorado intersection, acting out a favorite video game scenario. One of the weapons was an an orange Nerf bow that apparently didn’t work.  Gavin had a toy gun with an orange tip. It was also broken. The boys might as well have been using their fingers, or sticks.

As part of the game, they pretended to shoot at passing cars. One driver stopped, and was furious, shouting at the boys, who ran  to a grandparents’ house. The man called the police.  The County Sheriff’s deputies arrived and arrested both Gavin and his friend. They were  handcuffed and taken to the Colorado Springs Police Department for mugshots and fingerprinting.

For pretending to shoot at cars with obvious toys that couldn’t shoot anything. And they were ten.

Gavin was finally released into his parent custody at10:30 p.m. They  hired an attorney to help get the charge expunged from Gavin’s record, but the District Attorney was intent on prosecuting.  The boys were moved into a diversion program requiring community service,writing an essay, and other hoops to jump through. 216 days later, what was charged as Felony Menacing was finally expunged from their records

Now the rogues gallery inhabiting this revolting episode: Continue reading

“Miracle On 34th Street,”An Ethics Companion, Continued….Chapter 2: The Story Unfolds…

The Introduction is here.

Chapter I is here.

Let’s get this out of the way up front: Kris is not really Santa Clause. The sooner you understand that, the more sense the movie will make.

Now onward:

2. The bad mother and the sneaky lawyer.

While Kris is enjoying his starring role in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, we meet Susan Walker, Doris’s young daughter, and Attorney Fred Gailey,  who lives in the apartment next door. Susan has been raised  to be a joyless little cynic, the victim of an arrogant and misguided single mother who needed to read more Bruno Bettelheim ( except that Bruno didn’t write The Uses of Enchantment  until 1976).  Doris, as we soon surmise, has allowed a bad marriage to make her suspicious of dreams, hope, and wonder, and she is passing her own disappointment in life off to her daughter at the tender age of nine. Nice.

Lots of parents do this, I suppose, but that doesn’t mitigate how cruel and damaging it is. I remember how horrified I was at Susan’s brainwashing when I first saw the film at about the same age as Natalie Wood was in the movie. My parents, particularly my mother, surrounded my sister and I with fantasy and whimsy. They went to elaborate measures to make Santa Claus seem real, and the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. At one point my sister, having read a story about a lollypop tree, planted a lollypop stick in the back yard. My mother pooh-poohed the idea, telling my sister that this was just a fantastic story she was believing, and that she was  going to disappointed.  Then, three days later, my father exclaimed as he looked out the kitchen window,  “I don’t believe it! Look at that!” And there, about four feet height and covered with lolly pops of all  the colors of the rainbow, was the lollypop tree.

My sister and I weren’t idiots; we knew that our parents had made the tree. But we played along, and the lesson was taught.  Life is more fun and bearable if you believe in the unbelievable, and are open to a little magic in the world. Our parents gave my sister and me a gift that made us love music, literature, humor, mystery, and surprises. Doris Walker, out of ignorance, grief or anger, was an incompetent and selfish parent. ” We should be realistic  and completely truthful with our children  and not have them growing up believing in  a lot of legends and myths like Santa Claus, for example,” she says.

And your authority for this proposition is what, Doris? Generations of children have grown to healthy, happy maturity being raised on myths, legends and fairy tales, and you, with your invaluable perspective as a department store employee, are confident in your certitude that their parents were wrong, and you are right. Wow. Continue reading

Sunday Before Christmas Ethics Ornaments, 12/22/19: Googling Ethics, “Cats,” Goldman Sachs, De Niro, Trump Derangement

Here’s hoping that the the next three days rescue the Spirit of Christmas…

…because the last few weeks have been a downer, man.

1. Googling ethics:  Phillip Galanes, at Social Q’s was consulted by a woman who had bad vibes about her girlfriend’s new love, so she googled him, and found out, as she suspected, that he had some serious red flags in his past. She told her friend, who had discovered the bad news herself, but who was hurt and angry that the inquirer did a background check on her boyfriend. “Was I wrong?” she asked. In his answer, Gallanes implies that she was, although “everybody does it.” I’d like a nice, succinct, substantive explanation of by what ethical theory it can ever be wrong to access publicly available information about anyone. This isn’t an issue of privacy, because the information isn’t private. There was nothing wrong with the inquirer’s motives, because she was concerned about her friend.

I’d call this the Ick Factor at work. It seems unethical because the fact that anyone can check our lives out online is creepy. The research itself, however, is ethically neutral. The ethics comes in with how the information is used.

2. I guess I have to mention “Cats”…since it is getting the most spectacular negative and cruel reviews since “Showgirls,” and maybe before that. “Exorcist II, The Heretic” perhaps. Oddly, the usually hyper-critical New York Times is not one of the worst defilers, but here was what the reviewer really found objectionable :

“It’s too bad that no one seems to have thought through the semiotics of Victoria’s chalky white cat face, given that Hayward is of mixed race and that the heavy is Idris Elba’s predatory Macavity. Elba seems to be having a fine time, but come on!”

Ah! The old “mixed-race actress in whiteface being menaced by a black actor playing a cat” racist imagery!

I can’t wait for them to write down these rules. Continue reading

Now THIS Is Child Abuse—So Why Is A Texas Jury Enabling It?

That’s James’ father with him on the left, and his mother, after dressing James as “Luna,” on the right.

A jury in Dallas, Texas jjust ruled against Jeffrey Younger,  who is trying to stop his son’s’ mother, Dr. Anne Georgulas,  from “transitioning” him—his current name is James–into “Luna,” a female. Dr. Geogulas now can start the boy on puberty blockers and eventually cross-sex hormones.

Eleven of the twelve  jurors rejected James’ fathers petition to be granted sole conservatorship over his two sons. In this bitter custody fight, he argued that his ex-wife is “transitioning” James against the boy’s will.

I neglected to mention that James is seven years old. He cannot meaningfully consent to being chemically and eventually surgically transformed into a female at that age. It is astounding that this is legal in Texas or anywhere else. It is child abuse. It is an abuse of parental power. It is abuse that political agendas and cheerleading from the popular culture is inflicting on innocent children without adequate research or cause. Continue reading

Ethics Cool-Down, 9/25/19: Democracy On The Rocks

Ahhhhh…

I wish I had a martini, but since I don’t keep alcohol in the house, this will do…

1. More from the Ethics Alarms “res Ipsa loquitur” files:

The story is here.

I remember kindergarten classmates, boys and girls, frequently going on kissing sprees. Adults knew it was nothing decades ago. Had #MeToo really made people this unable to make obvious distinctions? Proportion is an ethical value.

2. Regarding today’s earlier post from the same files...Yes, I think that the transcript of the President’s call to the Ukraine, on its face, should make Democratic claims of an impeachable offense look as silly and contrived as they are. This does not, however, allow for confirmation bias, which is at fever pitch in “the resistance” with some toxic frustration and desperation mixed in. This is one reason the mainstream media keeps calling the transcript a “summary,” which implies that something material is missing, and your Deranged friends keep raising Nixon’s edited versions of White House meetings on Watergate matters, as if this has any similarity to that at all.

Calls with foreign leaders are typically not recorded, so this was a reconstructed transcript, which is as close to an exact one as we are going to get. For those who presume that everything this President does is impeachable, that’s a problem. For those who accept that he was elected President and should have the same opportunity to do his job as all the others, it isn’t, and there are too many like that in the public for this latest manufactured offense to work.

I guess this is Plan S.

I’m so, so sick of this.

3. I guess it’s time for another update:

The Complete Presidential Impeachment or Removal Plans A-S (Updated 9/25/2019)

Plan A: Reverse the election by hijacking the Electoral College.

Plan B: Pre-emptive impeachment. 

Plan C : The Emoluments Clause.

Plan D: “Collusion with Russia”

Plan E : ”Trump is mentally ill so this should trigger the 25th Amendment.”

Plan F: The Maxine Waters Plan, which  is to just impeach the President because Democrats want to, because they can.

Plan G : “The President obstructed justice by firing incompetent subordinates, and that’s impeachable.”

Plan H: “Tweeting stupid stuff is impeachable”

Plan I:  “Let’s relentlessly harass him and insult him and obstruct his efforts to do his job so he snaps and does something really impeachable.”

Plan J : Force Trump’s resignation based on alleged sexual misconduct that predated his candidacy.

Plan K: Election law violations in pay-offs to old sex-partners

Plan L: The perjury trap: get Trump to testify under oath, then prove something he said was a lie.

Plan M: Guilt by association. Prove close associates or family members violated laws.

Plan N: Claim that Trump’s comments at his press conference with Putin were “treasonous.”

Plan O: The Mueller Report proves the Trump is unfit for office even if it did not conclude that he committed any impeachable offenses. 

Plan P: Summarized here as “We have to impeach him because he’s daring us to and if we don’t, we let him win, but we can’t, but then he’ll win!”.”

Plan Q: Impeach Trump to justify getting his taxes, and then use the presumed evidence in his taxes to impeach him.

Plan R: Rep. Adam Schiff announced on July 24 that President Trump should be impeached because he is “disloyal” to the country. This desperate response to the fizzle of the Mueller Report was ignored and forgotten the second it came out of Schiff’s mouth, but it confirmed what the list above already proved: the Democrats don’t want to impeach the President for something he did; they want to find something he did to justify impeaching him.

Plan S: Trump should be impeached because his call to Ukrainian President Zelensky was really an effort to shake down the Ukraine and force it to find dirt on Joe Biden, thus “interfering” in the 2020 election even though Biden hasn’t been nominated (and won’t be), even though a President has every justification to seek evidence of a prior administration’s wrongdoing in foreign relations, and even though there isn’t a whiff of a threat of quid pro quo in the only transcript of the call.

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/23/2019: Post Emmys Edition [UPDATED]

I’m kidding; I  didn’t watch the Emmys, have not watched a second of the Emmys in decades, and can’t imaging a greater waste of time than watching the Emmys, and that includes the time I spent watching “Tusk,” the Kevin Smith black comedy in which a madman played by Michael Parks traps a jerk podcaster played by Justin Long and surgically transforms him into a human walrus. I kind of liked it, to be honest.

That’s Billy Porter above, by the way, the first openly gay actor to win a performing Emmy, after the many, many non-openly gay actors who have won over all these years. Making a big deal out of this diminishes his honor, since it suggests that his sexual orientation had something to do with his winning the award. I don’t see any reason why who an actor chooses to have sex with should have any relevance to an acting honor.

[UPDATE: Not that it matters, but the Emmy broadcast ratings hit an all-time low. What? People voluntarily passed up a chance to see actresses use their podium time to lecture about acceptance of trans individuals, and basing industry pay levels on gender  equity rather than value?]

1. Country music’s Jackie Robinson. Ken Burns’ documentary “Country Music,” on PBS now, convinced me that Charlie Pride, the first black country music star, deserves more accolades than he has received, as do the white producers and allies, like Chet Akins, Jack D. Johnson, and Louis Allen “Al” Donohue, who made it possible for him to break that culture’s color barrier.

Inspired by Robinson, Pride resolved as a teen to escape the cotton fields. He played minor league baseball, and sang in bars to make extra cash. Then he was “discovered” by two country music figures and advised to go to Nashville.

It’s an amazing story (why Pride’s life hasn’t been made into a movie, I don’t know). Apparently at the beginning of his career, stations played his records without noting his race. In the documentary, Pride describes a Detroit concert where he was introduced to an all-white audience of nearly 20,000 that roared and applauded when he walked out, and then suddenly became silent when they saw his skin color. Do you think that scene might have inspired Richard Pryor to write this one?

2.  Jerk of the Year? Just being the NFL Jerk of the Year is an achievement (there is so much competition), but Antonio Brown, the star receiver signed by the New England Patriots (in their own bid for NFL Jerks of the Year) after he had jerked his way off his previous two teams, then released after two sexual misconduct allegations against him surfaced, went out in a blaze of jerkness.

Immediately after being ditched by the embarrassed Pats, Brown unleashed a torrent of attack tweets, attempting to position himself as a victim. Continue reading

Bleary-Eyed Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/21/2019: The Child Endangerment Follies

Abby Sunderland, now and then.

Not awake, don’t expect to be awake…

…any time soon.

1. Where have I been? Yesterday’s 16 hour marathon for the D.C. bar, followed by another three hours bright and early this morning, pretty much have me operating with one-half of my brain tied behind my back while functioning like a lesser Kardashian with a closed head injury. That I got through it all relatively intact is all due to the Ethical Arts Players, my team of brilliant actors who frequently enhance ProEthics programs—in this case, Esther Covington, David Elias and Chris Davenport, who played 10 comic characters in the ethics training video we were shooting, and Paul Morella, who has been portraying Clarence Darrow with me for almost two decades. It was long day and an exhausting day, but thanks to them, a very proud day for ProEthics.

2. Terrific open forum, everyone, and once again, thanks.

3. On child exploitation...Since you asked about my view of children setting “youngest” records doing dangerous things: the opening thread on the forum was sparked Keith Walkers comment,

Yesterday on the Today Show there was a feature on a 10-year-old who just became the youngest person to ever successfully climb El Capitan. I immediately thought of Jack and this blog, wondering what he would think of the parents’ decision to let this happen, since someone who is 10 is clearly too young to understand the potentially deadly ramifications of failure. Several friends agreed with my leanings toward “what on Earth were the parents thinking??”, but some made some good points the other way as well. (The parents were well-trained climbers, were with her the entire climb, clearly professionals, etc. – the girl was surrounded with experience, if that makes a difference in your opinion.)

As several commenters knew or guessed, my position on this kind of thing is fixed, and I have expressed it many times. Like… Continue reading

Now THIS Is An Unethical Pastor! Also An Idiot. Also…ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

As I go through life, I find myself having increasing difficulty distinguishing organized religions from cults. I know what Ben Franklin would say: “cult” is always used in the third person, as in “their cult.” I also have a difficult time of late distinguishing cults from religions. Isn’t climate change activism a religion now? How about hating President Trump? Socialism has always been a cult. Cults install One Great Truth as a substitute for critical thought and the ongoing process of self-education and accumulated wisdom. They also can drive people mad.

Take, for example, this story….

Jaddeus Dempsey, the associate pastor at Impact City Church in Pataskala, Ohio, asked the kids attending his after-school youth program to spit in his face,  slap him in the face, and finally to cut him on the back with a kitchen knife. He explained that  the exercise was part of a larger lesson on “how much Jesus loved them.”

If Jesus really loved them, He wouldn’t allow them to get trapped in a room with this wacko.

The whole horrible  episode was partially captured on video, as you can see above. Some of Dempsey’s Disciples  shout and laugh as they line up to  spit at the pastor and slap him.  Some of them seem genuinely enthusiastic about abusing him.  (Hitler Youth may have been trained this way.) The video ends after the first cut with the kitchen knife; who knows what happened after that.

The church spokesperson “explained” that Dempsey was just trying  to present the exercise as a lesson of the crucifixion ahead of the Easter holiday.

Oh! Then that’s all right then!

Dempsey appeared in a video on the church’s Facebook page, saying with a knife sticking out of his back—I’m joking!

“It was just not appropriate and it was in bad judgment. I am so sorry for misrepresenting the community, the church, the parents, and the students — anybody that I hurt. This was not my intention. My intention was to just show them how much Jesus loves them and that I love them as a student leader for almost four years now. Tonight was an anomaly and it is not normally what happens. Again, I am deeply sorry for the pain that I have caused.”

Got it! You’re an irresponsible moron, and unfit to be left alone with children! Now check yourself into a mental ward, that’s a good pastor…

The church’s lead Pastor Justin Ross elaborated on the intended lesson. “Jaddeus got up in front of the students and he says, ‘I’m going to ask you to do something that might seem a little crazy, but if there’s anyone here that would like to spit in my face, you can do so without any repercussions,” Ross said.

“He had the opportunity to share a message about Easter,” Ross added, “and he chose to use an illustration to explain a very important topic about the crucifixion, but the illustration went too far.”

Ya think?????

In another statement, Ross told WBNS-TV,

“We exist to create an environment that is safe and predictable for students to come, connect with their friends and grow closer to God. Today we failed at creating that safe, predictable environment. We want to do better.”

Well that’s a relief. It would be pretty hard to do worse.

Another disturbing aspect of the episode was that none of the adults, including Ross, who were in the room  witnessing Dempsey’s deranged lesson—that was child abuse, you know— had the integrity, courage or independence to stop it.

Cults are like that.

The mother of one of the male children who handled the knife told a TV station that  her son won’t be returning to the church, and that she reported the incident to the sheriff’s office. Good. That’s one responsible parent. Unfortunately, I assume most will echo the sentiment of Kelsey Collier, who  told the BBC,

“Jaddeus and people in that church were always there for us.They’re the most understanding, least judgmental people you will ever meet.”

Well they certainly have the least judgment of anyone you are likely to meet…

 “I don’t think someone should be judged just based on one mistake, that one mistake doesn’t define who he is.”

Sorry, Kelsey, but someone in a better youth group needs to introduce you to the concept of signature significance.

Normal, trustworthy, rational and responsible people don’t tell kids to slap them and cut them with knives—ever. That’s not a mistake, that’s fanaticism, and it absolutely defines what the pastor is, at least in a professional context.

Dangerous, and nuts.

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/23/2019: Hypocrisy, Rationalizations, Spin, And Things Your Facebook Friends Will Hate To Pieces

Good Morning!

Doesn’t Barbra sing beautifully? Does knowing she’s ethically dead inside ruin her singing for you? (see #2)

1.  How arrogant and incompetent is this? UNBELIEVABLY arrogant and incompetent. Apparently Jared Kushner and the President’s daughter, Kushner’s wife, have been using private email accounts for official business. It’s against the law. it’s absurdly hypocritical, after the (deserved) criticism the President leveled against Hillary Clinton for her private server shenanigans. The Justice Department should prosecute both of them, and if the President had anyone else competent that he could trust as a close advisor—he fear he doesn’t—he should fire them both.

2. Wow! Barbra rationalizes sexual child abuse! Will this mean that Babs will no longer be welcome at Democrat fundraisers? Doubtful. Progressive never met a double standard they wouldn’t use.

Here is what the singing icon said to the The Times about Michael Jackson’s recent accusers (via documentary and lawsuits), Wade Robson and James Safechuck, and hold on to your heads:

“His sexual needs were his sexual needs, coming from whatever childhood he has or whatever DNA he has. You can say ‘molested,’ but those children[ now grown-up Robson and Safechuck] as you heard, say they were thrilled to be there. They both married and they both have children, so it didn’t kill them.”

Should I rename the infamous Rationalization #22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things” after the Funny Girl? Her statement is a perfect example: a child being raped by a grown man isn’t a big deal if the kid doesn’t die. Then there is #42. The Irrelevant Mitigation: “He’ll/She’ll/They’ll get over it”:

” #42 is pure callousness mixed with consequentialism, and thus beyond redemption or ethical application.. It holds that wrongful conduct is somehow mitigated by the fact that the wound heals, forgiveness is granted, or time breeds forgetfulness. It isn’t. How and whether victims recover or get over their anger does not alter the original misconduct, mitigate it, and certainly does not erase it. Those who cite this rationalization are shrugging off accountability and are signalling that they will repeat their unethical conduct or worse, counting on their victims to give them an opportunity to harm them again. Anyone who employs The Irrelevant Mitigation cannot be trusted”

The despicable suggestion that Jackson’s alleged victims consented to being raped, however, because they wanted it, is really revolting. This is #48. Contrived Consent, or “The Rapist’s Defense”, which…

…aims to cleanse unethical conduct by imagining that the victim consented to it, or secretly sought the result of the wrongful act. The most infamous example of this rationalization is, of course, the rapist’s defense that the victim either was inviting a sexual assault by flirtatious conduct or provocative dress, or secretly “wanted it.”

It is, perhaps, the ugliest rationalization of all.

The good news is that these idiotic comments, signature significance for someone whose ethics alarms have turned to moldy cheese, are attracting appropriate condemnation. Good. [Pointer: Other Bill]

3. Here’s some dishonest leftist spin for the Mueller investigation, as the impeachment hounds try to somehow make the facts consistent with their delusions. From ThinkProgress:

“Mueller’s team has filed dozens of indictments and secured convictions and guilty pleas in the conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 election: Six of Trump’s close associates and employees have faced charges. George Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser; Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair; Rick Gates, a campaign aide and longtime Manafort business partner; Michael Flynn, a former foreign policy adviser; Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer; and Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser, have all been charged by Mueller. Manafort and Cohen have been convicted and sentenced to prison.”

That’s multiple lies framed by a lie. None of Mueller’s indictments involve any conspiracy to interfere with the election except the symbolic charges against Russians,  and if there had been any evidence of such a conspiracy, an American would have been inducted on those grounds. Manafort was indicted for his own crimes, not any related to the campaign. Flynn and Cohen had no involvement with Russia either. The others were charged with process crimes: lying to law enforcement, not “colluding” with Russia.

4. “Worst Nazi Ever!” That’s Instapundit Glenn Reynolds gag tag for Trump actions like declaring that Israel should  have sovereignty over the Golan Heights, ending decades of U.S. policy of tip-towing around the issue. It also fits here: The President issued an  executive order directing federal agencies to “take appropriate steps” to “promote free inquiry” at institutions that receive federal research and education grants, including thorough compliance with the First Amendment.  F.I.R.E. approves.

5. Surprise! Your Facebook friends are wrong, and don’t know what they are talking about...It is overwhelmingly likely that the supreme Court will approve the use of emergency powers to build “the wall.” Richard H. Pildes, professor of constitutional law at New York University, wrote a convincing article, “How the Supreme Court Weakened Congress on Emergency Declarations,” in which points out…

  • The National Emergencies Act (NEA), passed by Congress in l976, never defines that an emergency is, largely leaving that assessment to the President.
  • Presidents have used the NEA 58 times. In every case–every case!— the President spent funds not appropriated by Congress.
  • In no case did the Supreme Court overturn the action.
  • The Supreme Court decision in Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha, which declared that “legislative vetoes are unconstitutional,”  including vetoes of Presidential actions under the National Emergencies Act.
  • Absent Congress overriding Trump’s veto of the bill designed to stop his declaration of the emergency at the border, a result that is unlikely, there is no legal way to block the Trump as he acts on the authority of the NEA.
  • Trump neither violated the Constitution nor violated the separation of powers. His unilateral action was a constitutional power ceded to him by an act of Congress
  • President Obama used the act to transfer funds without congressional authority to his health care act.

I didn’t think there was a chance that the President’s power to do this would not be upheld, and the article makes me more certain than ever.  I also agree with Ronald Trowbridge that if the Justices were capable of ruling only on the law rather than partisan politics, the decision would be unanimous.