More Breast-Feeding Ethics

As some of the commentary on this post has again shown, there are some topics that many people are incapable of thinking about objectively and dispassionately. Breast-feeding is evidently one of those topics, and by complete coincidence—you think I plan these things?—another breast-feeding controversy has raised its nippled head.

The Dutch airline KLM is under fire for its policy regarding breast-feeding mothers in flight.  The policy is that breastfeeding is allowed onboard as long as no other passengers are offended by the practice. Otherwise, mothers are asked to use a blanket, or retreat to the rest rooms.

“To ensure that all our passengers of all backgrounds feel comfortable on board, we may request a mother to cover herself while breastfeeding, should other passengers be offended by this,” the airline clarified in a tweet this week.

In ethics, this is called a “reasonable and fair policy.” I would have avoided the term “offended.” Mothers who just flip out a breast and allow a kid to chow down in public—sometimes kids as old as five, in one restaurant episode of my own experience—aren’t being offensive; they are just deliberately or negligently making others around them uncomfortable by engaging in an intimate act and exposing body parts that society generally regards as warranting some cover in polite society. No, it’s not offensive. Immodest? Yes. Rude? Yes. Inconsiderate? Yup. Defiant? Sure. It’s also feminist grandstanding. Using a blanket to partially keep the activity between mother and child is hardly an unreasonable  requirement, that is, unless one believes that nobody else matters, and civility is an outmoded construct.

The argument for punishing KLM—of course, there is the threat of a boycott–is pretty much the same from all critics. Well, not all critics: here’s a bad analogy from Chris van Tulleken, a doctor in London:

“For the comfort of passengers from racist or homophobic backgrounds would they ask people to cover skin and identifiers?”

Two thoughts… Continue reading

Let’s See How The Ethics Alarms Of Some Advice Columnists Are Doing…

 

Well, let’s see: blog traffic is dead today, like most Sundays,, my in-progress post about the Big Lie that President Trump is a racist needs to be cut approximately in half (though it could easily be twice as long), and my current inventory is made up of either “too silly to write about,” yet more “2016 post election ethics train wreck” insanity, or  stuff that’s two complicated to handle working on half a brain, which is what I woke up with, now seems like as good a time as ever to see how the newspaper advice columnists are doing…

  • Philip Gananes (Social Q’s) advises a teenage son who is embarrassed by his mother’s “R-rated” tattoos “all over her arms and back.” The teen has asked Mom to cover up around his friends, and her reply is if people don’t like her tattoos, that’s their problem.”  He asks the advice columnist if he is out of line.

Gananes says in part, “As an adult, she is free to make her own choices about her body and body art. You’re entitled to have feelings about her tattoos. But to ask her to hide them to save you embarrassment is like asking her to pretend to be a different person — because you’re ashamed of the one she is. That has to sting…The next time one of your pals makes a crack about your mom’s tattoos, say: “I’m not crazy about them, either. But she’s a great person and a terrific mother.” When you can say that and really mean it, Brian, you will be a terrific son.”

The Ethics Alarms verdict:

Whiff!

I was surprised that Gallanes, who is usually on target, would embrace the “that’s just who I am” rationalization. The issue isn’t tattoos, but “R rated” tattoos. “Mom, would you please not fart and belch loudly around my friends?” “That’s just who I am!  If people don’t like it, that’s their problem.”  “Mom, would you stop saying “fuck” and “cock-sucker” when my friends are here? “That’s just who I am!  If people don’t like it, that’s their problem.”  “Mom, would you stop coming on to my male friends?….Mom, would you please stop dressing in a halter top and going bare midriff with your gut hanging over your belt when my friends are here? You’re 56 years old and weigh 212!…Mom, would you please not come out to talk to my friends when you’re drunk”?

That’s just who I am!  If people don’t like it, that’s their problem.”
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Saturday Ethics Review, 7/13/2019: The Uncomfortable Truth About “The Lion King,” The Green New Deal, Children At the Border, Blackface, And Harvey Weinstein

Hi!

Is it unethical for an ethics speaker to drop trow during a program? I think so. It was a situation I narrowly avoided this morning. I am a rather animated speaker, and after I slammed the D.C. ethics rules into the floor to illustrate a point, my effort to retrieve the volume resulted in the rear snap of my galluses pulling loose from the back of my pants. With an unpantsing imminent (and about to be streamed live to hundreds), I asked my moderator to come down from his platform and rescue me by reclipping the devices on, which he did.

Hilarity ensued.

1. “Asshole” ethics. In another episode today, I referred to Harvey Weinstein as an “asshole,” in the context of discussing the multiple David Bois ethics problems in handling the Hollywood mogul’s representation. The exact statement was “Even assholes deserve competent representation.” This came closely after I had mentioned that lawyer incivility was an ethics problem whether there were explicit rules against it or not. One of the attendees in cyber-space texted a query as to whether it was uncivil for me to use the term “asshole.”

I answered that I was reminded of the moment in  “1776” when one of the members of the Continental Congress challenges Thomas Jefferson’s use of the term “tyrant” to describe King George. Is it really necessary, Jefferson is asked, to use such a harsh word? Why resort to an insult? “Because the King is a tyrant,” Tom replies.

I went on to say that I have found that in certain situations, only certain harsh words are sufficiently accurate.  What should I call Harvey, a miscreant? A jerk? No, the man is an asshole, I said. I’m not using the term as an ad hominem attack, but as the most accurate term I can think of for someone who has done the things he has done to so many women while indicating no remorse at all. I do not use the term indiscriminately, and would not use it in certain forums, such as open court. But I do not believe in word taboos, and when the description, however harsh, fits, it is not uncivil to make a Harvey Weinstein wear it.

2. Now, what’s the right word for THIS? In the Washington Post,  Dan Hassler-Forest reflects on the themes of “The Lion King” and asserts that the lions, hyenas, and gazelles are “stand ins for human societal organizations” and that the themes of the movie “incorporates the white supremacist’s worldview.” Hassler-Forest is an author and public speaker on “media franchises, cultural theory, and political economy” who works as assistant professor in the Media Studies department of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. “No matter how you look at it, this is a film that introduces us to a society where the weak have learned to worship at the feet of the strong,” his article asserts. Continue reading

WTF? The New York Times Again Violates Its Own Standards Because Bringing Down The President Is More Important

The “The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage,” pompously sub-titled, “The Official Style Guide Used by the Writers and Editors of the World’s Most Authoritative Newspaper,” has always inveighed against the paper publishing vulgar or obscene words. In particular, it has never allowed the printing of the word “fuck” or any version of it anywhere in the paper. On one occasion, the Times stage reviewer had to review a play with “fuck” in the title without ever revealing what the title was.

Ethics Alarms has consistently held that 1) if a vulgar word is a substantive part of the news story, then a newspaper should print the word. Codes like “the f-word,” “F-bomb,” and “f—” convey the word fuck, so why not just print it? The practice is juvenile (remember the camp song  “Shaving cream”, in which a line that was set up by a previousl line rhyming with “shit” and suggesting “shit” would substitute “having cream! Hilarious! Well, if you were 11…) and yes, the position here is the same regarding so- called taboo words like “nigger.” In 2015, there was a huge uproar after Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison muttered “Fuck that nigger” behind his handinto a live microphone after answering a post-Final Four game news conference question about Wisconsin player Frank Kaminsky. Yet despite the  fact that the words he used were the issue, no newspapers, and certainly no TV news outlet, actually reported the words.  I wrote,

It took me 15 minutes and visits to six web sites before I could find out exactly what it was that Harrison said.  Most sources vaguely reported that he had uttered “an expletive and a slur,” or plunged readers into a game of “Hangman” with the statement being reported as “_ _ _ _ that _ _ _ _ _ _.” The Washington Post settled on “[Expletive] that [N-word].” Which expletive??? This is ridiculous, and as inexcusably bad journalism as refusing to show the Charlie Hebdo cartoons that caused the Paris massacre.  The story is about what Harrison said, and it is impossible to inform readers about the incident without saying exactly what was said.

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Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/31/2019: The NCAA Tournament, Colbert, Chris Rock, And Bullshit

Good Afternoon!

I’ve been thinking a lot about my Dad for some reason, and that was his favorite hymn. It’s an Easter hymn, but our church always had the choir sing it on the special spring service. My unusually musically talented friends knocked it out of the park at my father’s funeral service at Arlington National Cemetery. It also has the advantage of being composed by Arthur Sullivan, just like “Onward Christian Soldiers!” and “Tit Willow.”

1. Fill out your brackets, and enable corruption. It’s the NCAA tournament again, and again, helping the schools and the NCAA and the networks make money off of the destructive and corrupt culture of big time college basketball is ethically indefensible. The New York Times wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but it did recently write about the dissonance, beginning,

Every March, millions of Americans fill out brackets (more than 40 million people, by one count), cheer the underdogs and tune in on television. Others buy tickets to the games, wear jerseys of their favorite teams and let wins and losses dictate their mood. Yet fans who follow college basketball closely know about the game’s intractable relationship to corruption. Even many who come just for March Madness must know that the real madness is not always on the court.

A wide-ranging and fear-inducing F.B.I. investigation into college basketball recruiting continues to ensnare big-name colleges and little-known crooks. It is why Louisiana State, for example, is playing without its head coach, Will Wade, and why Auburn recently had an assistant coach suspended and a former assistant plead guilty of conspiracy for accepting bribes.

This week, the lawyer Michael Avenatti was charged with trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike in exchange for concealing information he had about illicit payments to recruits. He has since revealedsome allegations on Twitter….

The Times doesn’t bother to go into the related problem of how basketball distorts academic goals, sucks away resources that should be used for education, and usually leaves its athletes no better educated than they were when they arrived. As you might expect, the Times’ writer is too ethically incompetent to provide and enlightenment. For example, he quotes one ethicist as saying, “…Someone thinks, ‘Gosh, this is unethical, but I love it so much, and my friends and I have such a good time rooting and cheering that I’m going to participate anyway.’” That description could also be used to justify gang rape. Can we have a little nuanced clarification? Then the Times writer, John Branch, offers these ill-devised analogies:

“Such internal debates permeate our culture. Is it O.K. to dance to a Michael Jackson song, to laugh to a Louis C.K. joke, to watch a movie produced by Harvey Weinstein? To cheer for football knowing what it may be doing to players’ brains?”

Let’s see: wrong, wrong,wrong, and…right.  1 for 4.

A Michael Jackson song isn’t corrupt, or unethical: it’s art. He’s dead: dancing to the song does not enable the misconduct. A joke is a joke regardless of who tells it, and again, laughing at a C.K. joke doesn’t make it more or less likely that he’s going to masturbate in front of a female colleague. Workplace misconduct doesn’t taint the work product, and nobody has claimed that movies themselves are culturally corrupting, or that Weinstein’s films harmed the actors in them.  Cheering for football is a legitimate comparison, because the sport itself is the problem, just like college basketball itself is the problem.

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Asshole vs. Asshole, And How To Avoid Starring In It

If you are old enough, you may remember the long-running comic  in Mad Magazine called “Spy vs Spy.” It was kind of a wordless Roadrunner cartoon with a Cold War vibe, and not especially funny, but I just thought of it for the first time in decades. (Incredibly, it is apparently still running in Mad, though the magazine itself is sinking fast.) I was considering this ridiculous story…

…It started small, but disputes over a Kansas man’s alleged violations of his homeowner association’s rules has led to a complex legal battle that is now the most expensive of its kind. Owner Jim Hildenbrand, has been locked in conflict with the HOA of Avignon Villa Homes since he moved there in 2012…

What began with a disagreement over the placement of a satellite dish and a decorative wall has escalated into a legal back-and-forth that has cost both parties at least a combined $1 million. It is the most expensive HOA dispute in the country.

It is also yet another example of the increasingly common societal phenomenon of “Asshole vs. Asshole.” These are ethics breakdowns where two parties in disagreement decide that making the other side pay for daring to have an adverse position overwhelms whatever the original objectives of the two parties were. It is reminiscent of the kinds of disputes parents—the good ones, anyway–arbitrate between siblings. “You’re both right,” Mom or Dad will say, “And you’re both wrong. You have reached the point where the escalation of anger and retaliation is the problem, not what you think you are arguing about.. Work it out. Compromise. See it from the other one’s perspective. And if you don’t, we’re going to punish both of you.”

In the case of Mr. Hildebrand and his fascist Home Owner Association, both sides say it’s the principle of the thing. As any reader hear know, I am a believer in and a practitioner of taking stands for principle, but knowing when this is essential (Do NOT apologize for speaking the truth or bucking the mob) and destructive is a critical life skill. The trick is keeping emotion out of it, and engaging in ethics problem solving. Asshole vs Asshole occurs when hate, and anger, and the desire to teach that jerk a lesson blinds both parties to common sense, the Golden Rule, and the human duty to seek peace, not war. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/21/2019: Smollett And His Friends

Good Morning.

(Be honest: how many of you once thought this song was sung by The Beatles?)

1. Jussie Smollett hoax notes:

  • The actor is in custody, is being charged, and the Chicago’s Police Superintendent just gave a withering speech condemning him, asking rhetorically what kind of black man uses a noose as a prop for a false hate crime accusation. It also appears that Smollett had previously sent himself a fake hate crime letter.

Has Smollett wrapped up “Asshole of the Year”? Only in the Hollywood Division, would be my guess, but the year is young.

  • Speaking of contenders, stop making me defend Adam Schiff. The House’s #1 Trump-Hunter deleted this tweet…

Now he’s being criticized by conservatives for trying to send his embarrassing embrace of Smollett’s facially absurd story “down the memory hole.” I don’t blame anyone for deleting stupid social media posts, especially public figures. Why give your enemies a graphic club to bash you with…forever? Of course, a public statement that he was wrong, rash and inflammatory would be appropriate, but this is Adam Schiff we’re talking about. Watch him spin when the Mueller report turns out to be a dud.

  • Here’s part of a Boston Herald editorial:

As Jussie Smollett’s account of his alleged assault falls apart, it is important to note that politicians, the media and influential voices did their best to fan the flames of outrage, based on nothing but the dark premise that conservatives and Trump supporters are evil….It was a flimsy yarn from the outset, which only became more precarious with each passing day. That didn’t stop those most deeply invested in the narrative of Evil Trump to jump into action.

Presidential hopefuls Cory Booker and Kamala Harris each labeled the supposed attack a “modern-day lynching,” with Harris adding that, “We must confront this hate.” Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted, “This is a sickening and outrageous attack, and horribly, it’s the latest of too many hate crimes against LGBTQ people and people of color. We are all responsible for condemning this behavior and every person who enables or normalizes it …” Joe Biden tweeted, “What happened today to @JussieSmollett must never be tolerated in this country. We must stand up and demand that we no longer give this hate safe harbor; that homophobia and racism have no place on our streets or in our hearts. We are with you, Jussie.”…freshman congressman, Rashida Tlaib, tweeted, “The dangerous lies spewing from the right wing is killing & hurting our people.”

… Hollywood notables also reacted as expected. Director Rob Reiner tweeted, “The horrific attack on Jussie Smollett has no place in a decent human loving society. Homophobia existed before Trump, but there is no question that since he has injected his hatred into the American bloodstream, we are less decent, less human, & less loving. No intolerance! No DT!”

The media has comported itself badly as well. Almost immediately after getting the Covington Catholic story so wrong, many in the news industry immediately accepted the Smollett story as true…. a Washington Post writer named Nana Efua Mumford wrote this: “If Smollett’s story is found to be untrue … The incident would be touted as proof that there is a leftist conspiracy to cast Trump supporters as violent, murderous racists. It would be the very embodiment of ‘fake news.’ And that reason, more than any other, is why I need this story to be true.”

In other words, Trump supporters are violent, murderous racists. That dark premise is a lie, fake news and untrue. Let us hope one half of the country can correct their horrifically jaded view of the other half before we lose ourselves.

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