Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.)

What’s the matter with this guy?

Rep. Salmon is apparently obsessed with the coming Congressional showdown over the President’s marvelous “Let’s not let the Iranians get nukes until  15 years from now when I’ll be long gone, assuming they don’t cheat and get them earlier which they almost certainly will” treaty with Iran, a jewel in the crown of his proud legacy.  The Congressman is so obsessed that he couldn’t stop himself from fear-mongering about the dangers of the agreement while doing a civics presentation at the San Tan Charter School. He also apparently was so passionate that he thought he was talking to teeny voters rather than  second and third-graders.
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Ethics Quiz: Once Again, Bystander Ethics, The Duty To Rescue, And The Imperiled Child

clarkkentThe free-range kids debate already raised this issue, and now my colleague and friend Michael Messer, the talented and versatile musician/singer/ actor who teams with me in the ProEthics musical legal ethics programs Ethics Rock, Ethics Rock Extreme, and Ethics Jamboree, just posted about his traumatic experience on Facebook, writing,

“I’m standing in Central Park and witnessed a tourist father grab his (approx 5 year old) child by the arm and shake him… The. open palm smack his child in the head. Hard. Twice. I screamed to him, from about 50 feet, where I witnessed it: “HEY!!! YOU DON’T HIT HIM” he looked up, startled to be called out, and waved me off to mind my business. “YOU DO NOT HIT A CHILD IN THE HEAD”, I repeated, at the top of my lungs, hoping to attract attention. The kid cried and then got himself together and went off to play. No one else in Sheeps Meadow saw or took notice. For about 5 minutes after I kept my eyes on him so he knew he was now being watched. What is the role of a bystander in this situation?”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for the day is…

What is the role of a bystander in this situation?

The answer is simple, really—its that oft-repeated Ethics Alarms mantra, “FIX THE PROBLEM,” at least as much as you can. Do something. Mike did the right thing, from a distance: show the abuser he’s being observed, protest, shame him. If one can, if one has the ability, the skill and the timely reaction and the child looks to be in genuine danger, intervene physically.

The latter course, however, carries risks, and also may be precluded by the natural reflex most humans have when they observe something unexpected and shocking. I discussed this issue when Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary was being pilloried in some publications for not immediately charging into the Penn State showers and stopping sexual predator Jerry Sandusky from sexually abusing a boy: Continue reading

Q: Why Is CNBC Posting Anti-Vaccination Propaganda?

A: Because its staff is lazy, inattentive and irresponsible.

Weston Price (1870-1948), Quack. His work goes on...

Weston Price (1870-1948), Quack. His work goes on…

The cable business news network posted this press release from the natural foods and nutrition huckster group, The Weston A. Price Foundation.

It isn’t news. It is poison.  The press release makes the false claim that vaccinations spread measles, as well as other diseases. This is standard anti-vaxx hysteria, and it gets children killed.  It is false. “Measles live vaccine doesn’t transmit easily at all,” said Dr. Jane Seward of the CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases told NBC, which apparently doesn’t communicate with its subsidiaries. “I don’t think there has ever been a secondary transmission,” she added. “There is no evidence of any transmission of measles virus from a child to household contacts.” As for the Foundation itself:

“The Weston A. Price Foundation is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charity founded in 1999 to disseminate the research of nutrition pioneer Dr. Weston Price, whose studies of isolated nonindustrialized peoples established the parameters of human health and determined the optimum characteristics of human diets. Dr. Price’s research demonstrated that humans achieve perfect physical form and perfect health generation after generation only when they consume nutrient-dense whole foods and the vital fat-soluble activators found exclusively in animal fats….

Yes, it is strange, like Dr. Price’s theories, and not in a benign way. Among the foundation’s other objectives is to show that vaccinations are unnecessary if you eat right, or something: when a  home page prominently displays a link that reads, COD LIVER OIL: Our Most Important Superfood, my eyes tend to gloss over, I file the group under “Nut Balls” and move on.

CNBC posted this promotional piece uncritically and without context, leaving the impression that it was actual news, thus allowing fake news to go to the top of Google searches for gullible readers.  At the bottom of the screen it says “More from CNBC” and not “More from health food hyping anti-science fanatics.Continue reading

KABOOM!* The Most Unethical Anti-Gun PSA Yet

[ If you are new to Ethics Alarms and don’t understand the significance of a Kaboom, go here.]

Should you need any further proof that anti-gun mania turns some people into clinical phobics, melting their ethics alarms and leaving all rationality behind, I give you this, a recent public service video out of San Francisco’s Sleeper 13 Productions:

Could such an ad be more irresponsible? It urges children to

  • Go looking for their parents guns (and why did is the gun in the video where a kid can have access to it?);
  • Pick them  up and handle them (Is the gun loaded?);
  • Steal the guns ( Any gun? Shotguns? Rifles? Semi-automatic weapons?)
  • Take the guns to school, breaking the law in the process;
  • Turn them over to their teachers, who also may have no business handling one.

In the process of this well-intentioned, hysterical brain rot, the PSA also encourages children to be terrified if their parents own a gun, though there is no context at all in the video. Is a parent a cop? An FBA agent? A gun collector? A hunter? A trained marksman? Clint Eastwood? James Bond? Never mind: steal the gun. This attitude is the tell-tale symptom of an anti-gun zealot: it’s the gun itself that is dangerous, and who owns or wields it is irrelevant. Continue reading

Criminal Charges For Web-Shaming? Sure.

Gee, I wonder why that kid is a bully?

Gee, I wonder why that kid is a bully?

Police in Winter Garden, Florida have arrested and charged Christle Prado and her, ah, “roommate” for forcing her 10-year-old son to wear a dress, and then posting photos on Facebook to humiliate him. Discipline, you see; he had wet his bed.

The model mom and Keith Driscoll were charged with cruelty toward children and infliction of mental injury on a child.

Good.

I’ve written about web-shaming children before, and characterized it as child abuse, which it is. A maxim here is that when ethics fail, the law must take over. It is a poor second option, but for this couple and those like them, including the parents of the boy in the photo to the left, it is a necessary and an ethical one.

Police learned about the abuse after one of the boy’s relative saw posted photos of the boy dressed as a girl and wearing makeup. He was crying. I wonder how many of Prado’s friends “liked” those photos on Facebook? Prado told police that Driscoll came up with the idea to dress her son like a girl as a way to discipline him, went along with it because she “did not want to cause problems with her living situation.”  Oh, well, that’s all right then, ma’am—you can go now. Driscoll, you see, is her sleep-in landlord.

Yechhh. I wonder what else she’ll do to her son to keep that cozy relationship peaceful? Cigarette burns? Whipping? Water-boarding?

The child cruelty charge is a second-degree felony. I’m all in favor of expanding such charges to apply to the parents who post photos of children holding signs that read “I pooped on the floor” and other self-incriminating screeds compsed by mom and dad, even those who aren’t doing it to interfere with their sex-for-rent arrangements. In fact, I’d expand it to include those Jimmy Kimmel fans who make YouTube videos of their children crying because their Christmas gift appeared to be old sweat socks or broccoli, in the hopes that Jimmy will make their exploitation of their own kids go viral. (An excellent discussion of everything that is wrong with child-shaming on the web can be found here.)

Using the web to humiliate your powerless children—forever, remember—is wrong, but if parents are so stupid, cruel and ethically inert that they can’t fathom this basic Golden Rule principle, it should be illegal too.

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Pointer: Fark

Facts: WFTV

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Comment of the Day: Daily Comics Ethics: When Did Erection Gags Become Appropriate For The Funny Pages?

unicorn

Traversing such seemingly unrelated topics as aphrodisiacs, “Mr. Ed,” post-war culture, literacy, and the evolution of childhood,  Penn’s Comment of the Day is one of my all-time favorites. Here it is, a response to the post, “Daily Comics Ethics: When Did Erection Gags Become Appropriate For The Funny Pages?” I have a lot of reactions, but here are three:

  • If kids really don’t read the funny papers any more, what good are they? Who does read them? The Washington Post and other papers used to take “Doonesbury” out of the section and place it in the main body of the paper on the theory that it’s humor was “adult.” (Of course, “Doonesbury’s” humor has also been non-existent since around 1978—but I’ve never seen an erection joke there, either.)
  • Just because little kids are familiar with the term “horny” doesn’t mean they have any idea of what it refers to.
  • I like the “Mr. Ed” song!

In reply to your rhetorical (and tertiary) query, Jack, you missed (that small part of the) evolution just as we all did and do, because it was an evolution, a slow-moving American tsunami of post-war change beginning in the late 40s.

As a child, I recall controversy, strictly among adults, over things that wouldn’t be even thought of today such as the idea of having a girl (Lois Lane?) take up a weapon against a villain instead of waiting, albeit bravely, for Superman, to come rescue her. It was argued to be unladylike – and therefore, unsuitable for children’s comics — for females to fight for themselves if there was a man around, even as the WACS, nurses and ambulance drivers returned home, joining widowed moms & rosie-riveters in job-hunts. Or unless it was Wonder Woman. And oh the struggles to allow Wonder Woman — she of the skin-molding, crotch-height tights and the noticeable chest bumps, however well armored — into the son’s bedroom. Or the daughter’s wardrobe (next, she’ll want a bra!) Continue reading

Ethical Feline Of The Year: Tara the Cat

The rescuer and  the rescued (photo from KERO, Bakersfield)

The rescuer and the rescued (photo from KERO, Bakersfield)

You may have seen this video already, but as I may never again have the opportunity to honor a member of one of nature’s least ethical creatures for exemplary ethical conduct, here is the amazing tale of Tara the Cat.

In Bakersfield, California, four-year-old Jeremy Triantafilo, who is mildly autistic, sat on his bicycle outside his family’s home when the neighbor’s chow-labrador mix, who “doesn’t like children or bicycles” according to his owners, escaped the yard through an open gate , saw the boy, and attacked him. Surveillance footage shows the dog grabbing the boy’s leg and pulling him to the ground, and beginning to shake him. The Triantafilo family cat, Tara, saw the attack and charged to the rescue, leaping on the dog and chasing him off.

The boy’s father posted the video of the jaw-dropping episode to YouTube, and you can see it below.

I have had cats and lived with cats, and one cat in particular, my wife’s Siamese, broke my heart when he died. Nonetheless, cats are nature’s sociopaths, charming but ultimately self-centered,  cruel and lacking in empathy. They are not pack animals or group oriented, and “loyalty” is not one of the characteristics that anyone would say distinguishes the species. There is a reason why the film “Cats and Dogs,” which posited that the two rival creatures were really alien races of superior intelligence secretly battling for dominance on Earth, cast the cats as the villains. Cats can’t be trusted, and there is no such thing as an ethical cat.

Or so we have always been told.

Tara (the video is not a hoax) is either an outlier, or this is just one more example of how scientists don’t understand animals as much as they think they do. She clearly places herself in danger to rescue the most vulnerable member of her family. The cat assessed what was happening, set out to rescue the child, and did it efficiently and well.

I have never heard of such a thing. There are other YouTube videos that show cats engaging in ambiguous conduct that is termed a rescue, but such episodes always involve the cat protecting itself or its general vicinity from an intruder. At first, I thought Tara’s video was staged, like “The Incredible Journey.” So far, it doesn’t appear to be.

Thus we have to conclude that, contrary to lore, conventional wisdom and propaganda from the Ministry of Dogs, cats—some cats, one cat, this cat—are capable of  conduct that in a human we would regard as altruistic, ethical and courageous acts. Tara not only rescued a little boy from serious harm, she also elevated the status and reputation of cats everywhere.

Now that’s an Ethics Hero.

And here’s the astonishing video:

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Facts: Daily Mirror, ABC

Worst Loving Parents Of The Year…I Hope

The Sailing Kaufmans. Make that the Sinking Kaufmans. The Stupid Kaufmans?

The Sailing Kaufmans. Make that the Sinking Kaufmans. The Stupid Kaufmans?

Last month, I wrote about the burglar who brought his infant offspring along with him on a job, which is to say, a burglary. It is fair to say, and thus I am saying, that San Diego parents Eric and Charlotte Kaufman, presumably known as “The Sailing Kaufmans” in honor of “The Biking Vogels,” make that burglar look like the Huxtables from “The Cosby Show.”

Oh, they are loving parents I’m sure, just like the doting professionals played by Bill Cosby and Felcia Rashad in the iconic sitcom. The problem is that they don’t have the sense bestowed by nature on the average adult lemur. Mom and Dad Kaufman brought their 1-year-old daughter Lyra and her 3-year-old sister, Cora along with them as they embarked in March on the great adventure of sailing across the Pacific as the first leg of a planned circumnavigation of the globe.

In a 36-foot sailboat.

Alone.

With a toddler.

And an infant.

Morons.

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“My Little Pony” Ethics, Blaming the Victim, and the Dilemma Of The Bully Magnet

Rainbow Dash...awwww!

Rainbow Dash…awwww!

Nine-year-old Grayson Bruce likes “My Little Pony,” a long-running animated children’s TV show that has a cult following in the gay community. He decided to show his affection for the show by carrying his lunch in a “Rainbow Dash” themed bag featuring a popular equine character. Now some of Grayson’s fellow male students at the Buncombe County (North Carolina) elementary school he attends have stepped up their harassment of the boy as a reaction to his tastes in entertainment and accessories.

“They’re taking it a little too far, with punching me, pushing me down, calling me horrible names, stuff that really shouldn’t happen,” Grayson says. It’s not like he doesn’t understand why. “Most of the characters in the show are girls, and most of the people put it toward girls,” he notes. His mother complained to the school, and it says it is taking appropriate measures to deal with the bullies and bullying in general. It also told Grayson to leave Rainbow Dash at home, caliming that it is a “trigger for bullying” and a distraction. Mom, Noreen Bruce, objects. Continue reading

Family Ethics: The Rachel Canning Saga, Continued.

Rachel, pouting but loved.

Rachel, pouting but loved.

The latest turn of the bizarre Rachel Canning saga should have all parents asking themselves. “What would we do?”

Presumably, the answer is, “Exactly what Sean and Elizabeth Canning are doing.” Yes, even after filing a law suit against her mother and father demanding that they continue to support her after she defied their authority and moved out of their home…even after accusing her father of vague inappropriate behavior and her mother of cruelty…Rachel asked to move back into her childhood home. And her parents said, “Yes.”

Why? Because that’s how ethical families behave. Because it is the right thing to do. Because children…and she is still a child, though the law now treats her as an adult…screw up, say and do reckless, irresponsible and hurtful things, act ungrateful and spoiled, and then come crawling back, asking for forgiveness, because they know they will get it. Continue reading