Tag Archives: commenters

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/8/18: Breaking Radio Silence

Good Morning!

Adventures in Woburn, Mass.:

1. The Event. I guess I should have assumed that some commenting here would go on yesterday about the unpleasantness involving an ex-participant here, while that dispute was causing me to lose all of yesterday between travel and court. (I alomot tried to put up a post late last night, but was too fried.) I have little to say on the matter, which is still being considered, except that I did learn some surprising things, such as that

  • …the weakness of the concept of “lawyer-in-all-but-degree” tends to be exposed in court;
  • …being banned from an ethics website is an existential catastrophe, and actionable, according to “lawyers-in-all-but degree”;
  • …having a great poker face is an essential talent for a judge:
  • ….in  lawyer-in-all-but-degree schools, they apparently teach that the position that “judicial misconduct” and “judicial ethics” are essentially the same topic is ridiculous and libelous, and
  • ….playing the part of Van Johnson in “The Caine Mutiny” just isn’t as much fun in real life as it seems to be in the movie, if you get my drift. It’s kind of embarrassing and sad.

2. A airport encounter:  In the airport on the way to Boston and waiting for my flight in an early morning mob, I was anxiously wandering through the crowd when I heard a quiet male vice say, “Nice tie!” It was not obvious who had spoken, but I decided it had to be a young African American airport employee who was helping a traveler in a wheel chair. “Did you just say ‘nice tie’?” I asked him, though he was not looking at me. Then he lit up, said that he had, and got into a long conversation with me about ties. He is a tie aficionado. He has photos of his ties on his cell phone! He loves talking about ties! And thus I connected with a fellow human being in a chance encounter, when he took the step of breaking through the silence and mutual disinterest that increasingly marks the daily interactions of Americans, even neighbors. I also ensured that he would not feel like I was ignoring his existence when he had taken the risk of an unsolicited overture to interact. [Unlike the female jogger I write about here.] Contrary to some of the comments that I received then, I don’t think anything about the chance encounter yesterday should have been different if the participants had been different ages, races, ages, or stations in life. Continue reading

64 Comments

Filed under Animals, Character, Daily Life, Etiquette and manners, Law & Law Enforcement

Afternoon Ethics Warm-up, 6/6/18: Special “Don’t Sue Me, These Are Just Opinions” Edition

Good afternoon.

1. For the record...Ethics Alarms passed 9 million views this week. That’s not a lot in a bit less than 9 years by the mega-blog standards, but their aren’t many ethics blogs that do better, and maybe none. Admittedly, this is a little like being the most popular fan site for Clint Howard…

2. Now this IS a frivolous lawsuit...tomorrow I finally go to Boston to argue my motion to dismiss the vexatious defamation lawsuit against me by an Ethics Alarms commenter whose feelings I hurt in the process of throwing him off the site. If a lawyer brought this suit, I would have a rare claim against him for breaching Rule 3.1, prohibiting frivolous suits. No lawyer, however, would bring such a suit. There has to be a good faith belief that you can prevail, or change the law, but there is literally no support in the law of defamation for calling insults (yup, I insulted him), opinions, and conclusions based on fully-revealed information and data libel. Non-lawyers, however, don’t have to obey legal ethics rules, and, as in this case, don’t know what they are anywhere. Maybe after I’m through with all of this, I’ll post the whole complaint. Among its claims is that I graduated from Hampshire College, and that the Massachusetts court has jurisdiction because I’m a fan of the Boston Red Sox. I also, it claims, defamed the plaintiff by erroneously referring to him as an academic. To deal with this spiteful action, I have already expended several thousand dollars. Yes, it goes with the territory. I know.

3. Imagine, impugning the professionalism and impunity of the FBI! A drunk and irresponsible FBI agent  shot a man at a Denver bar over the weekend when his gun flew out of his pocket, hit the floor and discharged as he was executing an acrobatic maneuver on the dance floor. This, you will not be surprised to learn, is not compliant with FBI policy. Agents are considered on duty at all times. They can carry their weapon at all times too, but cannot endanger the public while doing so. They are also not permitted to act like clowns in public, or be drunk as proverbial skunks. The agent is Chase Bishop, 29, who works out of Washington D.C. No word yet if he is part of the Mueller investigation.

Conservative wag Glenn Reynold would headline this story, “Top. Men.” Maybe he already has. And if you don’t get the reference, your cultural literacy needs a tune-up. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Saturday Afternoon (Because I Was Up At 5 AM Writing About CNN’s Unethical “Town Hall”) Ethics Warm-Up, 2/24/18: Generic Packaging Scams, Goodbye Molly, Polls, And Welcome Student Commenters!

Good Afternoon!

1 The kids are all right! Ethics Alarms has recently been graced with comments by some intrepid and articulate high school students on the guns and schools issue. I salute all of them, as well as the teachers who sent them our way. Some of the students also encountered the tough debate style and sharp rhetoric that our regulars also engage in. One of the students who found himself in a particularly spirited exchange, mostly with me, just sent me a long, self-flagellating and abject apology. My response in part..

Relax. Apology accepted, and I am grateful for it, and admire you for writing it. But you impressed me in many ways. I wish I could meet you.

When I was growing up, there was no internet. I just managed to earn as reputation as a clown, a master of sarcasm and insults, and someone who would never back down from an argument the old-fashioned way—by talking. I made a million gaffes along the way. I made an ass of myself. I hurt people. I also scared some people, but eventually I learned some boundaries. Meanwhile, the skills I acquired being a jerk sometimes have served me well, in college, in law school, in management, in theater, in ethics. (I’m still a jerk sometimes. You have to keep that edge.)

You are welcome to comment on Ethics Alarms any time, my friend. Just remember we’re all human beings, nobody hates anyone, and no mistake is final.

I do hope that any time young readers who identify themselves as such come here to argue, Ethics Alarms commenters will keep in mind that the best result, no matter what they might say while testing the waters here, is to keep them coming back.

2. Packaging designed to make you feel stupid…I’d do a whole essay on this again, but there have been a lot of “yelling at clouds” posts lately. The common practice of generics intentionally imitating the packaging of the original product they derive from is per se unethical. (I’m sure I have written about this before, but cannot find it. I know I criticized the practice of cheap kids animated videos of  stories like “Beauty and the Beast” copying the artwork and color scheme of the corresponding Disney version to fool inattentive purchasers.) My wife just got caught by a CVS scam—the company is a long-time offender—that fooled her into buying for my use an inferior knock-off of Pepcid A-C which I need because the Parkland shooting deception and agitprop is giving me ulcers. It is intentionally packaged with a red fez-shaped cap to look sufficiently like the good stuff to deceive consumers.

See?

Of course, as with the video, it isn’t exactly like the original: the shade of red is different, the cap shape isn’t quite the same, giving them plausible deniability.

There should be some kind of law or regulation to discourage this. I’m going to go into the store and complain to some nice clerk or manager, who will shrug and say she’s sorry, which is to say that, once more,  I will be yelling at clouds . Continue reading

58 Comments

Filed under Animals, Around the World, Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Education, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, language, Leadership, Marketing and Advertising, Race, The Internet, U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: ‘NCIS’ Ethics”

[ Again I am awash in Comments of the Day. There’s no question about it: the comments here are getting better, and more commenters are participating. There are also more comments being made to posts than ever before. 2017, despite a 10% drop in traffic from 2016, set a record for comments. This blog was always designed to be an interactive online colloquy on ethics. More views, links and shares would be nice, but I’ll take more and better comments over volume any day. You all are doing a terrific job. I may  have to make “Comment of the Day” a daily rather than an occasional feature. That would be progress.]

The latest Ethics Quiz was about this week’s “NCIS” episode in which the federal agency’s director got all misty eyed and proud to learn that his daughter had accepted the blame (and the charges) for her friend’s shoplifting because her friend was 18 (and a habitual shoplifter) and the offense would end her dream of college. Ethics Alarms readers were asked whether this was a responsible ethics message for Mark Harmon’s long-running procedural to send, especially to any children watching.

The quiz attracted uniformly excellent responses (my take is here).

Here is Greg’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quiz: “NCIS” Ethics:

I would say that the daughter acted foolishly and the father acted unethically.

The father has a duty to teach and protect his children, which he utterly failed to fulfill in this case. His daughter is showing disastrously poor judgment, placing her future seriously at risk, and he needed to set her straight. He should have lectured her on the enduring truth of the adage, “Lie down with dogs, rise up with fleas.” She should not be spending any time at all with an incorrigible thief. This other girl is big trouble. She has already gotten the daughter arrested once and if the daughter continues to hang out with her, the odds are high that she will do it again. The lesson that the daughter should have learned from this incident is that she needs to shun the company of this supposed friend. Instead, the incident has bound them together even more closely. Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement

Ethics Hero: Chandra McKinnon

 

There is moment in my favorite Saturday matinee movie, “The Vikings”—okay, it’s tied with the original “Journey to the Center of the Earth”–where Ernest Borgnine as Ragnar, the Viking King, is about to be thrown, hands bound, into a pit of ravenous wolves by his Britsih captors, A Viking, we have learned, can only go to Viking Heaven, Valhalla, if he dies with a sword in his hand. Just as Ragnar about to be tossed, Tony Curtis cuts his restraints and hands  him a sword, and the Viking King, beaming, leaps into the pit with a victorious shout of “VALHALLA!” They didn’t have CGI back then, so we only got to hear the sounds of him killing snarling wolves left and right until he was finally mauled, but I always could picture Ragnar’s battle in my mind.

That’s also how I picture Chandra McKinnon, a Canadian law clerk, as she fights off the hoards of mindless anti-pit bull breed hysterics over at The Post That Never Dies, Unethical Website of the Month: Dogsbite.Org . which has over 5,000 Facebook shares and which has been attracting dog breed bigots regularly since 2015.

Chandra leaped into the pit shortly after I gave up trying to reason with these idiots. I finally added this to the post:

In the future,  comments to this post that consist of nothing but repeating the same disproven myths and ignorant beliefs about the various pit bull breeds will not get through moderation. Any serious, well-researched, civil comments presenting counter arguments and genuine statistics to the facts and expert opinion discussed in these posts are welcome. Citing dogsbite.org as authority will guarantee rejection. Lumping multiple breeds together as “pit bulls” proves laziness, bias and ignorance, and will also result in the comment being spammed. Dumb arguments like “You can’t prove they aren’t pit bulls!” will have the same results.

It is depressing how many people will hold on to a factually unsupportable bias despite every effort to enlighten them, but then prejudice against humans works the same way.

It was getting ridiculous. The commenters, sent my way in intermittent waves by the website’s defenders, are usually semi-literate and always immune to reality.  I have banned more commenters on that post than any three elsewhere on the blog. Here is part of a typical rant from one of them, since banned under the Ethics Alarms Stupidity Rule:

Mr Marshal, why is there a FB page titled Our Pets were Attacked by Pitbulls?… If pitbulls are no more aggressive than other breeds, then why are there no similar pages for other breeds?? Why no “Our Pets were Attacked by Poodles” FB page??…Because these breeds have never killed a human EVER, so most likely will not maul another dog!! …As an ethics person, do you think it’s ethical to prioritize the lives of one breed, the fighting pitbull, over the lives of numerous other breeds, and say well I don’t care about the lives of all those other breeds as long as we can own our pitbulls?? Doesn’t matter that pitbulls kill and injure multiple other breeds each and every day, as long as I fullfill my selfish want for a breed that has no purpose in today’s society since it was bred for a sick bloodsport, then I’m fine with that!! IS THAT ETHICAL???

Continue reading

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Filed under U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/7/2017: A Salute, A Disgrace, An Idiot, And An Asshole

Good Morning!

1  I want to take a moment to salute the commenters here for a remarkable performance the past week regarding the re-emergence of the gun control debate following the Vegas Strip massacre. There have been a staggering 664 comments (so far) on the topic in various threads, two Comments of the Day (and another couple soon to be published), and a rare guest post. The level of discourse has been overwhelmingly high, and the sophistication and variety of opinion has been exemplary. Through all of this, there has been little of equal quality from the mainstream media and its pundits, while the quality of opinion and debate on television and from elected officials has been only slightly above the “Do something!” level still flourishing on Facebook. (I’m going to my Facebook feed now to pick a recent example. Let’s see…here’s one! This is a representative segment of the comments on this story on Mediaite, admittedly an especially dumb one, about MSNBC political analyst Steve Schmidt telling Bill Maher , among other simple-minded observations, that only seem relevant to the anti-gun hysterics, that  it is “harder to buy cough medicine than it is to buy an AK-47 or 50 of them”…

This guy is an idiot. Tell him to go buy cough syrup, then go buy an AK and come back in an hour and see what he has. I bet it would only be cough syrup.

is it in a liberal’s nature to murder unborn babies? just askin

It’s a birth control device for them.

Awww, you need attention

And you gave it

I live in your head

Why so many?

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Heroin is against the law, and yet we have a heroin epidemic. Automatic weapons, like the AK-47, are against the law and yet Steve Schmidt says they easier to get then cough syrup with codeine. He doesn’t even see his idiocy.

False equivalencies to justify your need to compensate, boring.

Well, you can get a semi-automatic one, but it’s a far cry from a military-grade automatic.

The left has issues with their vision. The unicorns that roam the landscape crapping skittles and pissing perfume block their view, I guess.

Damn you really are a mental nut case

Ugh.

Thank you, everybody.

You do Ethics Alarms proud..

2. In the category of “This is so obviously incompetent that I should have to write about it  The IRS awarded a sole source $7.25 million contract to Equifax to verify taxpayer identities and help prevent fraud. This was after the credit company negligently allowed the personal data of millions of Americans to be hacked. The excuses being offered by the agency are hilarious. IRS officials claim they were forced by circumstances to issue the no-bid multi-million dollar contract to Equifax. The GAO calls this baloney. The IRS argued, in a letter to Congress, that the IRS  it was unaware of any fraud related to the company’s data breach.  No, it’s just that Equifax was incompetent and negligent to an inexcusable extent that ought to be criminal. Another defense offered by the IRS:  most of the data hacked by Equifax had already been revealed in previous corporate breaches, such as those at Target and Anthem.  WHAT? That’s like saying you are a trustworthy nanny because the child you let get run over by a car was already dying of cancer.

From Politico:

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle blasted the IRS decision.

“In the wake of one of the most massive data breaches in a decade, it’s irresponsible for the IRS to turn over millions in taxpayer dollars to a company that has yet to offer a succinct answer on how at least 145 million Americans had personally identifiable information exposed,” Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told POLITICO in a statement.

Ya think?

A. Cancel the contract.

B. Fire the head of the IRS and anyone in the chain responsible for this decision. Continue reading

17 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Facebook, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, U.S. Society

A Hopefully Calming Word From Your Host [Updated]

I would not have predicted that the NFL Anthem Protest (Or is it the anti-Trump protest? The “there are still injustices in America protest”?) Ethics Train Wreck would be the topic to cause multiple meltdowns, name-calling bouts and potty-mouth attacks among the veteran commenters here. I’ve given up on predicting which issues will ignite the assembled, however.

I am proud of the passion and intelligence with which the regular participants in this forum attack the varied matters I throw down for consideration. At their best, even the most intense debates usually bring more light than heat, to use the dichotomy poor Howard K. Smith employed when William F. Bucklet snapped, called Gore Vidal a “queer” on live TV and threatened to punch him out.  However at least four veteran commenters here have had Buckley-esque flip-outs of late, and that will not do.

I don’t expect this blog to ever be “safe.” Bad, lazy, poorly reasoned, biased and partisan opinions should always be called out, and in terms that fit the offense. I do not want to police words, but when we move beyond fair or at least supportable assessments of comments into insults and the denigration of commenters, I expect the ethics alarms to ring out. If they don’t sound, I don’t know what the purpose of Ethics Alarms is. Theoretically, we are here to learn from each other, and that means giving each other the benefit of an assumption of good will, and occasionally a damn break.

Those who have contributed positively here for a lengthy period build up credits that will allow them to commit one or more egregious breaches of decorum without any adverse action. Ironically, I also expect the veterans and frequent commenters to be role models, and lead by example.

I also want to urge some commenters here to make an effort to curtail endless, circular one-on-one debates  in which the objective deteriorates into getting the last word. In the past, Ethics Alarms has seen some epic debates resembling the Hundred Years War. What is remarkable about all of them is that it was clear as glass from the start that neither combatant was going to yield, and indeed was even fairly processing what his or her adversary was saying. I confess: outside of checking in periodically and making sure that the exchange isn’t resembling a Tarantino film, I don’t read these very long. They are boring. And because they are boring, they make Ethics Alarms boring.

Commenters with agendas are also a problem. If you approach every issue here knowing immediately what position you are going to take before you even read the post, I submit that your objective is less helping us nourish an ethical society than something else. You need to think about that, because it makes you a less valuable participant here. It also can make you annoying.

One more thing I need to add (and am adding as I am in a Fairfax, VA hotel after a horrible sleepless night as I prepare for a presentation to local lawyers about legal ethics and technology: occasionally pushing another commenter’s buttons—you know who has them, and what to push—is occasionally justifiable, but becomes sadistic and abusive if engaged in as a regular tactic.

You know, I’ve met a lot of you. There isn’t one commenter that I have met that I don’t like. Every one is a smart, passionate, interesting person. I would recommend that before you start hurling abuse at another empty face in cyberspace, consider that, as Marge Simpson sang in “O Streetcar!,” “A stranger’s just a friend you haven’t met.”

We can get our work done civilly and respectfully. I’ve seen it. If all else fails, consider the advice of Elwood P. Dowd:

Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood – “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.

I recommend both.

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid"