Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/28/2019: As Another Ethics Tree Falls In The Deserted Forest…

Hellooooo?

Well, I missed the 2-ish deadline, after which only the most dedicated or bored Ethics Alarms readers check in on Saturdays, and the blog is already mired in the predictable holiday slump. My fault. But as Saroyan said, if just one human being sings your song, you haven’t lived in vain…

1. I see that Ann Althouse has a leftist troll. Interesting. Although the Wisconsin law prof blogger is a center-left commentator herself, her commentariat has gradually become almost completely anti-progressive in tone and substance. I see this happening on all the blogs where the predominant and virtually mandatory anti-Trump bias isn’t encouraged or observed. Now she has a recently-pressed commenter named “President Toilet Paper Shoe’s Perfect Phone” who is flooding threads with supercilious attacks on the other commenters and even Ann herself. The comments are obnoxious, abrasive, and smug. Why does Althouse tolerate them, as she is an aggressive moderator? I think she is letting this guy get away with comment misconduct because she wants more viewpoint diversity.

I sympathize, but this is “The Leftist Jerk’s Pass.” She should ding him. I would.

2. Cute or not, having a baby mayor is child exploitation.  Whitehall,  Texas, has a seven months old honorary mayor after his parents bought the title  a charity auction in October, but his anti-abortion activist parents are promoting Charlie McMillan as the “new face of the anti-abortion movement in America.”

They have even attached a slogan to his “office”: “Make America Kind Again.” 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

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 11/4/2018 (Part II): Halloween Leftovers, Hot Yoga, And Polls

Today’s extended Warm-Up continues…

5. Halloween ethics left-overs:

  • Nah, there’s no Trump Derangement…In Hastings, Michigan, young Benny Drake wore a Donald Trump mask and costume around the neighborhood to solicit candy. At one house, the woman who answered the door threw candy at him and “asked me if she could slap me,” Drake said.

Benny should build a wall around her house.

  • Confession: I once wore a KKK-themed costume to a party. In Fort Smith, Arkansas, a Ku Klux Klan costume won a Halloween contest and a prize at the Lil’ Dude Tavern. After the photo of the costume “went viral,” the bar was attacked on social media and condemned by the local NAACP. A few points:

a) Many of the news media reports discussed the costume but wouldn’t share the photo with readers or TV viewers, presumably out of fear of upsetting some of them. This is incompetent and cowardly journalism, in the same category as writing about the Danish anti-Muhammad cartoons without showing them, or writing that an “epithet” set off a controversy without stating what the epithet was.

b) I assume the ethics issues here are the same as in the Hitler costume controversy, correct?

c) When I wore a KKK-themed costume decades ago, it was after a prominent white supremacist had been killed in a plane crash. KKK costumes always looked a lot like ghosts to me,  so I made a hybrid ghost-KKK costume and carried a travel case with the victim’s name on it and the airline’s sticker.  And I won a prize, too: for Costume in the Worst Taste.

  • I don’t understand this one at ALL.  In Vermont, a trick-or-treater received a bag of poop deposited in his candy bag. According to police, who investigated, it was just a mistake. How could something like that be a mistake? If the bag contained rat poison or an “explosive device,” would “Oops! Silly me!” still be an effective explanation? What if the kid ate the poop, and got violently ill? Same result?

Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/30/18: Gay Bashing, A Stupid Social Experiment, And The Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck Keeps Rolling Along…

Good Morning!

It’s the last day of the regular season for baseball, or should be: there could be two tie-breakers tomorrow, and they are officially considered part of the season. There were more baseball ethics posts this year than ever before. You can review them here.

1. And now for something completely stupid. I was temped to make this a free-standing post, but it triggered my stupid alarm, and doesn’t deserve it.

In Los Angeles, Boguslaw Matlak  and Laura Quijano decided to stage a “social experiment” to determine whether bystanders would act to protect an  endangered child. As their hidden cameras ran, they stuffed their 3-year-old son Leo into the trunk of their car. In truth, the back of the trunk had been rigged so Leo could climb into the back seat. He was in no danger.

“I was thinking maybe I should do a video to show people that they should do something about it when they see something wrong, to get involved,” Matlak said.  They got involved, all right. Witnesses called the cops, who arrested the couple and took Leo into protective custody.  The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services  placed the child with a relative. For the last three weeks, the couple has been trying to get him back.

“They are hurting my son emotionally at this point,” Quijano told reporters. “He’s not home with his parents who love him very much and what else do they want from us? I just don’t understand at this point.”

The agency recently informed the parents that it would would be returning Leo to their custody. Matlak  now faces one count of misdemeanor child endangerment.

Observations:

  • Ethics lesson #1: Don’t use human beings as props.
  • Ethics lesson #2: Three-year-olds can’t consent to such treatment.
  • Ethics lesson #3: Police have enough to do dealing with real crimes. Staging fake ones to see what will happen should be illegal, if it isn’t already.
  • What’s there to complain about? The social experiment was a success!
  • Is proof that parents of a small child are idiots sufficient to remove him? No, I suppose not.
  • The problem with this episode is that the child, who was innocent of wrong doing, is the primary one being punished.

Continue reading

Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up And Sunday Left-Overs, 9/10/18: Values Under Fire

Good Morning.

1. A plug. The computer rescue service GuruAid is why I couldn’t get a Warm-Up post up yesterday: about four different technicians spend from 6:30 am to 3:00 pm helping me fix a serious malfunction in my old Dell PC, so I wouldn’t have to lose Windows 7 forever. It wreaked havoc with my day and schedule, but the computer finally starts immediately without black-outs, red screens, blue screens, warning, check points, sudden freezes and other distractions.

2. Yeah, why waste time on all of this “values” stuff? The Texas Board of Education will decide in the coming months whether to accept the recommendations of a working group to end state requirements that the heroism of the Alamo’s defenders be taught to seventh graders in a required history course, as as study of  William Barrett Travis’s iconic letter written before the final Mexican siege that killed all of the approximately 200 defenders, including Travis. The letter ends, “I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country — Victory or Death.”

The group of educators and historians, tasked with streamlining social-studies standards, felt that teaching about “heroic” acts at the Alamo was “value-loaded,” and eliminating them from the curriculum, along with the significance of such Alamo figures as Davy Crockett and James Bowie would save 90 minutes.

You know, I don’t think I’m even going to bother explaining what’s wrong and alarming about this, except to note that if you wonder why our rising generations don’t understand what has been great about America, or why being a nation founded on values and ideals is important, this episode ought to enlighten you.

3. Beach ethics. Here is an interesting article about how to maximize ethical conduct at the beach. Continue reading

Preface: On The Comments Of The Day Regarding “Unethical Website Of The Month, “March For Our Lives” Edition: Change.Org”

The recent post on the incredibly annoying Change.Org petition backing the “March For Our Lives’ sparked two epic Comments of the Day. I am gratified. That idiotic petition was signed by one of my favorite people alive, and this both inspired the post and made me depressed even before my left-wing Facebook friends started making one terrible argument after another in defense of the thing. (Not  a word from the signee. I have a feeling she was so moved by her two teenagers, even though she knows better. I hope that is the excuse. Creeping dementia would be the only other explanation.)

This is a strange issue: the ethics really orbit around tangential matters rather than the alleged controversy itself. The Second Amendment isn’t going anywhere, no matter how loud the screams are or how many demonstrations there are. As is often noted on Ethics Alarms, I am not interested in abstract ethics without real life consequences; indeed, ethical formulas that only work in theory aren’t ethical. To me, the ethics issues following the Parkland shooting are,

  • The cynical exploitation of the children by the Left
  • The equally cynical, and unwise, hesitation to hold them accountable for their worse excesses in rhetoric
  • The recycling of bad statistics and demonstrably (and demonstrated) bad arguments that have been used before to mislead and frighten the public, and
  • The unethical cheerleading  for the anti-gun position by the news media and pundits.
  • The unusually vivid disconnect between the actual facts of the Parkland shooting and the measures being “demanded” in its wake.

The fake controversy—Should the United States allow law-abiding citizens to arm themselves with reasonably state-of-the-art firearms for whatever lawful purposes they decide are necessary and to the extent those citizens feel necessary?—isn’t on the table. This is the United States of America, and that question was answered long, long ago. As long as it is the United States of America, the answer will be the same. Those sufficiently unwilling to accept that fact really are well-advised to consider Australia. I don’t say this as a “Love it or Leave it” rebuke. I’m sorry such people don’t like the basic values and culture of the country, but I would have a similar suggestion for a friend who is determined to keep protesting that the U.S. should make its national language Danish, except, of course, then I would recommend repatriation to Denmark.

The two comments will follow now in successive posts without further musings by me…

Ethics Observations On A Reductio Ad Absurdum In The Ongoing Gun Control Train Wreck

Nursery schoolers expressing their contempt for the NRA. Or they would, if they could spell it…

This story would be a KABOOM, except for some reason my head didn’t explode, perhaps because at some level I expected something like this, as I know that anti-gun zealots are without shame or common sense.

From NBC:

Students across the nation walked out of school Wednesday in honor of the victims of the Parkland shooting last month, including a group of New London kindergarteners….While people involved in the walkout involving a group of 5-year-olds at Harbor Elementary School said the demonstration was about school safety, student safety and parent permission have been called into question. 

…New London Interim Superintendent Dr. Stephen Tracy said he didn’t have a problem with the safety message, but he and the principal didn’t know about the march ahead of time and there was no written permission from parents. “When you’re going to do something like that, in connection with something that, let’s face it, is controversial, you need to seek the approval of the principal and the parents before you involve 5-year-olds in something like that,” Tracy said.

…Harbor Elementary’s crossing guard Joyce Powers said she saw the children escorted in two lines by teachers who were carrying signs that read “enough.” “I thought it was pushing it with that age group,” Powers said. “I don’t think they understood what was actually happening.”

Tracy said he’s talked to the two teachers involved but would not say if any disciplinary measures were taken.

Observations: Continue reading

Windy Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/2/18: More Supreme Court Fun, Transparency Games, Ethical and Unethical Quotes Of The Day…

GOOD MORNING!

(Wind storms all over Virginia, knocking out power and my e-mail, and blowing over a tree that narrowly missed my son’s car!)

1 Lack of Transparency? What lack of transparency? During a lecture and moderated discussion at U.C.L.A. this week in which he was a a participant and invited guest, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was heckled with hisses, jeers, shouted insults and profanity from students and protesters, some of whom were ushered and even carried out by police officers. A programmed sixth grader in the audience even questioned him about the fairness of passing permanent tax cuts for companies and expiring cuts for individuals, because as we all know, 10-year-olds are well-versed in tax policy theory.

Afterwards, Mnuchin  revoked his consent for the official video of the event to be released, perhaps because he was flustered by the harassment and it showed. In response to criticism of this virtual censorship,

The Treasury Department, through a spokesperson, said that what the Secretary did wasn’t what he obviously did—a Jumbo, aka “Elephant? What elephant?”—saying,

“The event was open to the media and a transcript was published. He believes healthy debate is critical to ensuring the right policies that do the most good are advanced.”

He just doesn’t want anyone to see or hear the debate.

A related point: The protests were organized by Lara Stemple, a U.C.L.A. law professor, and students and faculty members participated. Protests are fine; disrupting the event is not. Faculty members who assisted in the heckling should be disciplined, and students who participated should be disciplines as well.  It’s an educational institution, and all views sgould be openly explored and heard without interference. No guest of the university should be treated this way. Ever. No matter who it is or what their position. The treatment on Mnuchin was unethical.

2. More Supreme Court fun with ethics! Minnesota’s law banning “political” clothing and buttons from polling places is being challenged as an affront to free speech. The law prohibits people from wearing a “political badge, political button or other political insignia” at a polling place on an election day, and a member of the tea party movement sued after his “Tea Party” message got him in trouble when he came to vote.

Here is Justice Samuel A. Alito’s exchange with Daniel Rogan of the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, who was defending Minnesota’s law:

“How about a shirt with a rainbow flag?” asked Alito. “Would that be permitted?”

“A shirt with a rainbow flag?” Rogan repeated. “No, it would — yes, it would be — it would be permitted unless there was — unless there was an issue on the ballot that — that related somehow to — to gay rights.”

Justice Alito: Okay. How about an NRA shirt?

Mr. Rogan: An NRA shirt? Today, in Minnesota, no, it would not, Your Honor. I think that that’s a clear indication—and I think what you’re getting at, Your Honor—

A T-shirt bearing the words of the Second Amendment? Alito asked.

Probably banned because of the gun-control issue, Rogan said.

The First Amendment? Alito asked. Probably not, Rogan answered.

Got it. The First  Amendment isn’t a political statement, but the Second Amendment is. That led Justice Neil M. Gorsuch to observe: “Under your interpretation of ‘political,’ it would forbid people from wearing certain portions of the Bill of Rights into a polling place but not other portions of the Bill of Rights. And I guess I’m just wondering what compelling interest Minnesota has identified that requires a statute that goes so much further than the vast majority of states?”

In contrast, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy asked J. David Breemer, a lawyer for the Pacific Legal Foundation, representing the challengers, “Why should there be speech inside the election booth at all, or inside the what you call the election room? You’re there to vote.”

This is a problem requiring an “all or nothing” solution. Either all forms of political speech must be allowed, or no speech at all. In a sick time where citizens honestly argue that a MAGA cap or a picture of a gun makes them feel threatened and “unsafe,” the ethical option would seem to be Justice Kennedy’s. No speech, messages, no logos, no photos, no American flags. Last fall I voted wearing my Red Sox jacket.

Uh-uh. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Ames Mayfield’s Cub Scout Den

 

Ames Mayfield is a smart, gutsy 11-year-old, and this episode in his life may work to his eventual advantage. Nonetheless, his treatment by his Cub Scout den was nauseating, cruel and wrong, and contradicts the very values Scouting exists to imbue.

There is another likely villain here as well.

Ames’ Cub Scout den met with a Colorado State Senator, Republican Vicki Marble, last week. Ames came prepared with a long list of typed-up questions. (I wonder where THOSE came from?)  He raised his hand to ask his first one , involving gun legislation. “I was shocked that you co-sponsored a bill to allow domestic violence offenders to continue to own a gun,” Ames said, according to a video posted to YouTube by …hmmm, not Ames but his mother. “Why on earth would you want someone who beats their wife to have access to a gun?”

Ames’s questions continued until a den leader suggested that he pause and allow the Senator a chance to answer. I wonder if Marble noted the Supreme Court’s decision n Voisine v. United States, holding that a federal statute banning firearms possession by anyone convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” including individuals who have “misdemeanor assault convictions for reckless (as contrasted to knowing or intentional) conduct.” Maybe Ames, who I’m sure is an avid reader of Ethics Alarms, quoted my post on the issue, which concluded in part,

The real question, from an ethical standpoint, is whether Congress can and should remove a citizen’s Second Amendment right based on a misdemeanor conviction for domestic abuse. Is that fair? Sure it is. It is already settled law that it is constitutional to prevent convicted felons from owning  guns, even if it was a non-violent felony. From an ethical public policy standpoint, why would it be overly restrictive to ban gun ownership from those who engage in a violent misdemeanor?

…The majority covers the legal logic of the decision; the ethics logic is simpler. How difficult is it not to physicality abuse a spouse to the extent that one is found guilty of breaking the law? It shouldn’t be hard. Nor do I weep for any degree of spouse-beater who is denied the right to purchase a gun. Good, I say to such a person. I don’t trust you, and I don’t trust your judgment. If having access to a gun was so important to you, you should have thought about that before you started knocking loved ones around. If the threat of losing gun rights makes hot-heads think twice before engaging in domestic violence, that’s good too.

After the meeting, the leader of Ames’s Cub Scout pack, which oversees various dens, met with the boy’s mother, Lori Mayfield, and told her that that her son was no longer welcome in the den. Her son’s question was disrespectful and too political, Lori was told. (Her son’s question…)

Accepting for the nonce that this was all Ames’ idea, which we should know is baloney, why would he be kicked out? Continue reading

If “A Boy Named Sue” Had Problems, What’s Chance Does An IT Named Searyl Have?

“It’s up to Searyl to decide how they identify, when they are old enough to develop their own gender identity. I am not going to foreclose that choice based on an arbitrary assignment of gender at birth based on an inspection of their genitals.”

—Statement released by Katy Doty, Canadian non-binary transgender activist and mother of Searyl Atli Doty, upon it’s birth.

Let’s stipulate a few things before we get into the muck and mire, as well as the “ick” and “Are you kidding me?”…1. As the mother of Searyl, who I recommend trademark that name quick before a drug company uses it for te latest product that will do something to alleviate some dread disease if a sufferer is willing to risk dozens of equally dread side-effects listed at the end of a TV commercial, Katy has every right to do this

2.Katy’s using her just born child as a political and a political prop. She thus qualifies as a soul-less, radical mother who puts her political obsessions over her obligations to her own child, and a great candidate to be an awful parent.

Good luck, Searyl Atli, but I think you are doomed.

3. That name isn’t going to do the kid—can we agree it’s a kid, Katy?—any good either.  Giving a child anything but a name that will allow him or her to go through life without a  needless and gratuitous handicap nailed to them by parents amusing themselves, grandstanding or turning their offspring into a billboard is a form of child abuse. Being saddled with a name nobody can pronounce—Seerill? See-Ay-rill? See-Ay-RILE? Wait… is this name really an illiterate spelling of Cyril?— or spell will rob anyone of about a thousand hours before they are 60, if they are lucky.

Why would a mother inflict this on a child? Because the mother is a selfish jerk, that’s why.

4. This is grandstanding,  narrow-focused virtue-signaling, and worse. Continue reading