Easter Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/12/2020: Missing The Easter Bunny

Happy Easter!

That’s my favorite Arthur Sullivan Easter hymn…

Our family always celebrated Easter twice, at least when Greek Easter fell on a different date, which is usually the case.On traditional Easter, until my sister and I were well into high school, my parents hid two dozen colored eggs that we had decorated the day before all over the house for us to hunt for Easter morning. If there had been a pandemic then, my mother would have still hidden the eggs, because she knew even she, with her incredible talent for making BS credible, would not have been able to convince us that the Easter Bunny was “social distancing.”

How my parents loved family celebrations of holidays! I miss them so much, and days like this just makes not having them in our lives harder.

1. Can’t do this. I had been recommending the usually reliable website Ars Technica to my friends for updates on the virus so that they wouldn’t be battered hither and yon like skiffs made of paper on the ocean of hype and disinformation. I also relied on it myself. The site promised daily updates at 3 pm every day, along with a useful set of information, also updated as needed. Then, on April 6, the updates just stopped; no explanation, and nothing since. Unethical. If you promise a service for those in need of it, you can’t just stop it without warning or explanation. It doesn’t matter what the reason is. You have created reliance and  dependency. If you can’t be sure that you will carry through on your commitment, then don’t make it.

I headed a small professional theater for 20 years at great personal sacrifice on that principle.

2. Welcome to my world...Since so many were forthcoming in their reactions to my quarrel with one ex-commenter, here’s another one. Unsolicited, I received a book about two weeks ago from an Ethics Alarms follower. It was by L.Ron Hubbard, the science fiction writer and founder of Scientology, and the topic was ethics. I was and am grateful, for all ideas about ethics are interesting to me, and most come in handy eventually. A few days ago, I received a long, handwritten letter from the same source, who told me that he was no longer following the blog. He then excoriated my for insulting him by posting, so soon after receiving the book, this post, which in item #3 I  made some uncomplimentary comments about Ron’s “church” (it’s a cult and probably a criminal enterprise), its current leader, and his whacked-out message to the flock about the pandemic, which he called “planetary bullbait.”

My critic thought it was mean and rude of me to respond to his kind gift by deriding his faith and his friend, the Church’s  Chairman of the Board, David Miscavige.

I immediately wrote back in part, Continue reading

Mayor De Blasio, Mrs. De Blasio, And Rationalization #68: The Volunteer’s Dodge, Or “You Don’t Pay Me Enough To Be Ethical!”

New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), an unapologetic social justice warrior and crypto-socialist, installed his wife, Chirlane McCray, as the executive director of  the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, NYC’s nonprofit foundation. Under the previous mayor, the Fund had raised tens of millions of dollars annually for a wide range of projects, from anti-poverty initiatives to Superstorm Sandy recovery. McCray cannot receive a salary for her job, though the mayor has complained bitterly about this. Nepotism is outlawed under the City Charter in Chapter 68 which forbids public servants using their positions “to obtain any financial gain, contract, license, privilege or other private or personal advantage, direct or indirect, for the public servant or any person or firm associated with the public servant.”

Under the leadership of McCray,  fundraising for the Mayor’s Fund has stalled. In the Bloomberg years, the nonprofit raised an average of $32 million per year, while under Mrs. de Blasio’s stewardship  it has raised an average of $22 million annually, a third less. This may be explained in part by the fact that she often isn’t working at her job. She has attended fewer than half of the meetings of the Fund’s board, and spends just an hour each week on the foundation’s business. It is June, and the New York Times reports that she hasn’t  visited the Fund’s offices in 2018, and was largely absent in the latter half of 2017. As the fund’s revenues have dived, its expenses have soared 50% since she took over,  with the organization moved into bigger offices. The Fund also supports fewer projects.

Sniffs the Times in an editorial, “the Mayor’s Fund under Mr. de Blasio and Ms. McCray has done less with more.”

De Blasio, who has pretty much solidified his reputation as a jerk, defended his wife by saying that she had done “an extraordinary job,” insisting to critics that  “You’re missing what her work is about.”

Her work is about raising money, and she’s not doing that very well. As the Times says, the first rule of fund-raising is to show up.  Mrs. Mayor helpfully added,  “It’s not about who can raise the most money.” Wait, what? Has anyone explained to her what her job is?

Then de Blasio said this, thus causing the proverbial light bulb to go off in my head, as he perfectly illustrated a rationalization that has somehow missed inclusion on the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List:

“She does all that for zero dollars a year.”

“All that” meaning “a crummy job.”

Say hello. Mr. Mayor,  to… Continue reading

This Just In: President Barack Obama Is Still Incompetent

Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead

I know I’ve neglected our current unethical President lately while trying to determine which candidate to be out future unethical President is less likely to leave the nation a smoldering ruin, but rest assured, Barack Obama has not improved.

The most indisputable example of late comes as he prepares to visit Cuba. In December, President Obama told Yahoo! News:

“What I’ve said to the Cuban government is, if . . . we’re seeing some progress in the liberty and freedom and possibilities of ordinary Cubans, I’d love to use a visit as a way of highlighting that progress. If we’re going backwards, then there’s not much reason for me to be there.”

This isn’t a casual, non-committal statement when a President makes it, though I realize that Obama has never quite grasped that essential aspect of the job. Cuba reads it, and so does the rest of the world. If Obama is to be believed—he isn’t, but let’s pretend—it is a commitment, and his office as well as the nation is placed on the line along with his credibility.

According to human rights organizations,  the Castro regime’s repression has indeed grown worse since the renewal of diplomatic ties with the United States in 2014. Abuse and arrests of dissidents have increased, and there has been a government crackdown on churches and religious groups:

Throughout 2015, there were more than 8,616 documented political arrests in Cuba. In November alone there were more than 1,447 documented political arrests, the highest monthly tally in decades. Those numbers compare to 2,074 arrests in 2010 and 4,123 in 2011. . . . According to the London-based NGO, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), last year 2,000 churches were declared illegal and 100 were designated for demolition by the Castro regime. Altogether, CSW documented 2,300 separate violations of religious freedom in 2015 compared to 220 in 2014. . . .  Most of the 53 political prisoners released in the months prior and after Obama’s December 2014 announcement have since been re-arrested on multiple occasions. Five have been handed new long-term prison sentences. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch noted in its new 2016 report, “Cuba has yet to allow visits to the island by the International Committee of the Red Cross or by U.N. human rights monitors, as stipulated in the December 2014 agreement with the United States.”

Oh, never mind all that depressing stuff, you Gloomy Gusses! Obama announced last week that he’ll go to Cuba anyway, and thus his December pledge was meaningless, just more words. Continue reading

Of COURSE There’s An Unwed and Pregnant Catholic School Teacher Principle….Don’t Be Silly.

pregnant nunButte Central teacher Shaela Evenson says she is planning on suing the Montana Catholic middle school that fired her for getting pregnant without the benefit of a husband. Whatever it is she is thinking (and whatever it is her lawyer is encouraging to keep thinking), it’s unethical, and I doubt the law will have much sympathy with it either.

  • She signed a contract promising “to respect the moral and religious teachings of the Catholic Church in both her professional and personal life”—a bit broad for my tastes, but this episode was pretty obviously exactly the kind of thing such a clause was designed to forbid, and nobody forced her to agree to it.
  • As Patrick Haggarty, the superintendent of Catholic schools for the diocese, said,  Evenson “made a willful decision to violate the terms of her contract.” It’s hard to argue that getting pregnant before marriage isn’t a willful decision, if she wasn’t raped.

  • Haggarty also notes, “The Catholic moral teaching is that the sacrament of marriage is a holy union between a man and a woman.” That sounds about right. Continue reading

Lessons From The Defenders Of The Wise-Ass “A”

Back at the beginning of the month, some obscure corners of the web were buzzing over the picture of a purported student exam that ranked an “A..Nice job!” despite the student’s smug punt at the end. Here it is…the section in the square is the section of the student’s answer that provoked widespread indignation at the grade. I first saw it in a post titled: “Some teachers don’t even care any more”:

funny-test-A-grade-teacher-kid-school

To be fair, there are many and diverse possible interpretations of this evidence, and not enough context to choose among them. It could be a hoax, for example. The teacher may indeed have skimmed the answer, and not read the paragraph in question. The student’s answer may have already covered the topic sufficiently to justify an “A” (in the teacher’s judgment), and the teacher may have decided to ignore the non sequitur, stream of consciousness ending.

Or perhaps the teacher was like my high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Cosloy. (If you are out there reading this, Mr. C—thanks for the memories!) Mr. Cosloy was a terrific teacher who had a healthy dose of cynicism about the way school operated, as well as a well-developed sense of humor. He poked fun at the process all the time, and allowed his students to do the same as long as they also did the work he assigned and showed some progress toward mastering the subject. I felt comfortable writing asides and irreverent commentary on his tests, and on at least one occasion he wrote on one of them that my answers were only worth a B, but he had given me a B+ because I made him laugh twice. We don’t know what the relationship was between the student who allegedly wrote the test answer above and the teacher grading it. Heck, that teacher might have been Mr. Cosloy…

Thus, I was not going to write yet another “here’s more proof that our schools are going to hell” post, though our schools are indeed going to hell. What intrigued me about the episode were some of the comments about it, especially this one, from a Bridgemont Community and Technical College professor named Machelle Kindle: Continue reading

Obama’s Ethics Foul: A False Pledge

Lost in the furor over the insulting “small  people” characterization by BP’s hapless Chairman was a seriously unethical statement by President Obama. If the President is lucky, nobody will remember it. He hasn’t been very lucky lately, however.

As with Hurricane Katrina and President Bush, the Gulf oil spill has subjected President Obama to some unfair public expectations, some of which stem from a basic misunderstanding of Presidential power. (There have also been his genuine failures to meet reasonable expectations based on correct assumptions about Presidential leadership—but that is another topic.) Unfortunately, President Obama brings this upon himself by habitually over-stating his influence over people and events that he can not really control. He did this again, when he announced BP’s agreement to establish a 20 billion dollar fund to address the leaking oil’s damage to the Gulf region, its businesses and its inhabitants: Continue reading

The Hannity-Fox-Tea Party Connection

When you don’t stop something that is obviously unethical until people start screaming and pointing fingers, the reasonable presumption is that it wasn’t the fact that it was unethical that made you take action, but that you were going to be criticized for it. Thus Fox honcho Rupert Murdoch’s last-second cancellation of Sean Hannity’s appearance at a Tea Party event get no ethics brownie points—in fact, quite the contrary. Continue reading

Everyday Ethics: The Dilemma of the Tardy Warning

Not for the first time in my life, the Dilemma of the Tardy Warning is causing me sleepless nights.

By random chance I encountered a gentleman who worked in my field, and we had a phone conversation. He was pleasant and flattering; his projects sounded both interesting and like possible complements to my own. We exchanged e-mails, and he sent me some materials. I said that I would contact him to set up a face-to-face meeting, and meant it.

Then I casually mentioned him to some colleagues, who reacted as if I had announced a planned liaison with the Marquis de Sade. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week

“Let me just make this point, John, because we’re not campaigning anymore.  The election is over.”

———-President Barack Obama at the so-called “Health Care Summit” at Blair House, in response to Sen. John McCain’s complaint that the process used to craft the Presidents’ health care reform bill expressly violated promises Obama made during the 2008 campaign. Continue reading