“Facts Don’t Matter”: The Anti-Police Movement Has No Credibility

Instant protest!

Today’s smoking gun—literally!—evidence:

In Detroit, a 19-year old man named Hakim Littleton, was shot and killed by police. Immediately, the activist group Detroit Will Breathe called for followers to immediately report to the scene of the shooting to protest.

And indeed they did. No facts, no explanation necessary; the police are hunting black kids again. The group presumed racism, police guilt and unjustified violence. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: The Archdiocese of Detroit

Terry Gonda has been a loyal member and supporter of the Catholic church for decades, serving as musical director of her parish for over twenty years. She is gay, but never hid the fact from her family, friends, church or pastors. She was also married, to another woman, naturally. This wasn’t a secret.

However, somehow the word got to the Detroit Archdiocese, where it was deemed that her same-sex marriage made her morally unfit to keep her job. On June 12  she received an email reading,  “The Archdiocese is choosing to activate its morality clause to terminate your employment.”

The blow came  just three days before the Supreme Court ruled that employers couldn’t fire workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Whether the ruling will apply to religious organizations is the subject of other cases before the Court, which heard oral arguments last month in Our Lady of Guadalupe School vs Morrissey-Berru, a case about whether teachers at private, religious schools are subject to the exception in the Civil Rights Act.

Gonda says that her Catholic mentors and employers always modeled Pope Francis’s compassionate and tolerant attitude toward homosexuality. She was never shunned for being gay, nor after her 2011 marriage to  Kirsti Reeve, 51. (That’s Kristi on the left, Terry on the right.) Terry told an interviewer that she is certain the Church believes “they’re doing the right thing — they’re trying to protect the church.” Continue reading

Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/8/2019: “Well, No More Oreos For Me!” Edition

An ethical new week dawns!

1. Snopes again. Incredibly, there are still people—like Facebook!—who insist that Snopes is a trustworthy, objective factchecking source. Ethics Alarms had its fill of the site’s partisan spinning many moons ago, but just for giggles, here is another example of the site’s shameless bias.

Last week Snopes pretended to do a “fact check” on whether the Betsy Ross American flag—the thirteen star version that Nike recently rules was too racist to be on a sneaker— was used under President Barack Obama at his inauguration. The strange thing is that no fact check was necessary, since the photographic record is undeniable. As is often the case, however, Snopes’ purpose wasn’t to clarify facts, but to bolster a progressive narrative. Bethania Palma, the most unsubtle of the site’s propagandists, argues that while Obama’s version of the flag wasn’t racist, any use of the flag in 2019 would be racist, because the existence of Donald Trump makes it so.

During the Trump era, what were once relics of the United States’ fraught history with violent racism have been taken up as causes for some far-right extremists. As white supremacists began rallying around Confederate monuments slated for removal, some tried to attach the Betsy Ross flag to their cause as a symbol…The Anti-Defamation League, a non-profit organization that tracks hate groups, doesn’t include the flag in its database of confirmed hate symbols. But many have viewed the flag as symbolizing a time in U.S. history when slavery was legal. “Historically, these symbols have been used by white supremacists, both to hearken back to a time when black people were enslaved, while also painting themselves as the inheritors of the ‘true’ American tradition,” Keegan Hankes, a researcher for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told Rolling Stone.

In other words, now that Trump is President, any symbol or artifact that was used by the United States before the abolishment of slavery is to be regarded as carrying  racist symbolism. That’s a fact! Snopes says so.

2. I won’t link to this because it doesn’t deserve traffic, but the Times just inflicted on its readers a sloppy and incompetent “Guide” to the 80’s cultural references in the third season of the Netflix show “Stranger Things. The popular horror series by “The Duffer Brothers” has always been filled with visual and verbal homages, as well as plot turns, attributable by the culturally aware to  famous 80’s works by better artists–Stephen King, Spielberg, John Carpenter, and more. Sometimes the references are amusing, often they are gratuitous and annoying. The Times piece, including a bold face “Spoilers!” warning, purported to catalogue all such references in the new season.

It doesn’t. It doesn’t come close. It doesn’t come close because the writer is obviously unfamiliar with the works the show references, and didn’t bother to do his research despite representing that he had. What he mainly misses are the lines in the dialogue that are lifted directly out of 80’s movies. For example, at one point, a major character in “Stranger Things 3” says, “I can do anything; I’m the chief of police.”  That’s a direct quote from “Jaws,” as anyone who has seen the film 76 times knows.

If a major newspaper is going to say it has a “Complete Guide” to 80’s pop culture references in a show, then it is obligated to make the effort to ensure that it is, in fact, complete. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/2/18: Stupid Legislature Tricks, NFL Values, And Google Is Now Evil, So Watch Out

Good Morning!

Haven’t featured the Battle Hymn of the Republic for a while: it was the musical climax of my Dad’s funeral service at Arlington National Cemetary. My many performer friends sure came through that day. “Wow,” the chaplain exclaimed when the rousing three choruses were finished.

1. On Wisconsin. After a party flip in state governments, the party on the way out will occasionally try to pass lame duck legislation to try to hamstring the new majority. I’m pretty Ethics Alarms has covered other examples of this in the past; if not, it’s because the stunt is usually grandstanding for the base, or mere politics Such laws often fail to  withstand judicial challenge. If a legislature can get away with it, then it’s in the ethics gray zone of politics.

On Monday, the GOP majority Wisconsin legislature will try to pass as much as it can of a huge bill with many dubious or controversial provisions, including some that would limit the new governor’s powers to control the state attorney general, and others that would constrict broad powers the same legislature gave to the defeated Republican governor, Scott Walker. As long as a legislature has power to act, one cannot logically criticize efforts to benefit that legislature’s majority party and its constituents until it has the power to do so no more. If the parties mutually agreed to informally ban such lame duck tricks, that would be wonderful.

As it would be if I could win an Olympic swimming medal.

Sources: Journal-Sentinel 1, 2, 3

2. How clever, and further vulgarizing public discourse, too! I have now heard two ad for Christmas products use the term “elfing,” as in “It’s elfing awesome!” ZOne was a TBS ad for the movie “Elf.”

Really? Obvious plays on the word fuck to promote Christmas and a children’s film? Continue reading

Mid-Day Ethics Warm-Up, May 1, 2018: Generally Disgusted

Good day to all, I guess.

Me, I feel like quitting.

1.  Basic ethics blindness regarding the White House Correspondents Dinner. The ethically obtuse responses I am reading in columns and blogs regarding the self-defining journalism ethics event–you know, as in none—doesn’t bother me too much. I assume these people have the ethics of jackals. The similar responses I am reading here from intelligent readers who have been supposedly paying attention, however, discourage me greatly. Really: why bother writing a couple thousand words a day about ethics when  your readers react to a high profile, unequivocal act of disrespect and rudeness by resorting to “I don’t like the guy, so I’m glad,” “he started it!” and “they had it coming”?

Or, my personal favorite, “this one insult everyone is talking about isn’t one if you spin it hard enough, so the other 30 insults don’t matter”?

There is no ethical defense whatsoever for inviting individuals to a formal dinner and intentionally making them feel like they are being singled out for abuse. Ever. Period. No exceptions. This is so obvious and uncontroversial that it prompt debate in a civilized society.  That anyone is trying to defend the association, and its hired gun, Ms. Wolf, simply validates my two years-and-running correct prediction that electing Trump as President will turn this into a nation of assholes, though I was expecting those transformed to be primarily young, shallow and easily influenced. I did not expect so many professionals to re-enact the donkey-scene in “Pinocchio.”

And yes, as far as I’m concerned, Wolf, with the journalists’ consent, insulted the President of the United States and his daughter to their virtual faces. It is just moral luck that Trump did not attend, and there is no reason to believe that Wolf changed her act one iota because he wasn’t there. She was prepared to call the President of the United States a pussy, a monster and a Nazi to his face, with him a captive audience member. The ethics-free, rationalized justification I am reading on this blog is , “Yeah, well he made fun of a disabled man in 2016!”  Wow. I really am wasting my time, I guess. How else can I interpret that?

Off the blog, some other ethically dim justifications have surfaced, like today’s New York Times column absolving Wolf from all responsibility because she performed the same kind of anti-Trump material that she always did. Funny, nobody gave Don Imus, the briefly ascendant shock-jock, that easy out when he embarrassed President Bill Clinton by calling him a “weasel,” among his less offensive terms, when he entertained the same group. Hey, protested the I-Man, I call Clinton a lying weasel every day on my show, why would anyone expect me to do any differently at the dinner? Why? Because professional entertainers have calibrated the appropriate content of their performances to their audiences’ tastes and sensitivities forever, that is why, and professionals are expected to be professional, which includes responsible. Go ahead, look me in the eye and tell me that Wolf would have made equally denigrating jokes if Obama was the President. Jokes about his flirtation with being gay. Jokes about eating dog. Jokes about him being a weenie with Putin and the “red line.” Jokes about the most “transparent” administration ever. Jokes about Joe Biden feeling up women during photo ops. About the IRS. About “you can keep your plan.”  No, the association always assumes that its entertainers would keep their material appropriate to the venue and the event. The argument being used to excuse Wolf would be like excusing infamous “blue” material comics like Buddy Hackett, Redd Foxx and David Brenner if they made dick jokes on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” No, they toned down their material, out of respect for the audience. Respect. What a concept. And this was an audience of middle class Americans, not the President of the United States.

Of course, Wolf easily could have assumed that she was expected to be uncivil, cruel and offensive, since she knew that her hosts, like her and her fellow professional Trump-bashers, constituted the “resistance’s” Agents of Presidential Destruction. That doesn’t relieve her of ethical responsibilities, though. The association was irresponsible to hire someone with her proclivities, and she is accountable for her own disgusting, divisive conduct. Continue reading

This Is How Our Educational System Teaches Students Not To Challenge Authority

hazel-tweet

Hazel Juco, a 17-year-old student at John Glenn High School in suburban Detroit, went to the school’s bathroom to wash her hands. When she turned on the faucet, ugly brown water came out. She then used her cell-phone to take the picture above of the discolored water and posted it to Facebook and Twitter.

Juco says she was soon called to the principal’s office shortly after she posted the photo.“They told me I was being suspended… It’s inappropriate use of electronics in the restroom. And every girl takes selfies in the bathroom and makes it their profile pictures and no one has gotten in trouble,” she said. Indeed, that policy, it has been noted, didn’t seem to apply to the many students in the school whose cell phone use didn’t involve exposing health hazards that school administrators should not allow to exist.

Thanks to social media, the school’s outrageous conduct didn’t remain an internal matter, as it would have in an earlier era. Hazel’s photos were widely circulated, and eventually the news media became involved. After all, this is Michigan, and there was that little episode involving inept elected officials and agency administrators poisoning the Flint water supply just a few months back. Hazel Juco was hardly being an alarmist.

When reporters called Wayne-Westland Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Michele Harmala, and she said school administrators made a mistake by not reporting the water issue to maintenance, and the rule against students taking pictures in bathrooms was misapplied, since Juco was taking photos of polluted water rather than students using the toilet. It’s an easy mistake to make! Anyone could make it!

Sure.

The deteriorating  pipe leading to the faucet is being replaced, and the suspension has been expunged from Juco’s record. How nice. Nonetheless, the fascist, incompetent and abusive administrators remain in their jobs, and though Hazel’s unjust punishment has been retracted, the message sent by it remains. The school has taught the lesson that it is dangerous to speak out, perilous to blow the whistle, and risky to point out the deficiencies of those with power.

Unless the counter-message is sent that Hazel did the right thing, and that serious career consequences await administrators and teachers who seek to cover up their own ineptitude by intimidating students, these episodes will continue.

 

Clarence Darrow, in 1926, On Why Black Lives Matter

The all white Detroit jury that acquitted Dr. Sweet.

The all white Detroit jury that acquitted Dr. Sweet.

When I referred to Clarence Darrow’s support for terrorist John Brown in the previous post, I reviewed other references to the great trial lawyer that have appeared here. (As you may know, I authored a one-man play about Darrow, still performed to legal groups by actor (and my friend) Paul Morella, and with historian Ed Larson compiled selections from Darrow’s writings, court appearances and speeches, The Essential Words and Writings of Clarence Darrow.) I have also posted on his famous Leopold and Loeb argument against capital punishment, but I was shocked to find out that I never posted any part of his closing argument in the murder trial of Dr. Sweet.  I need to remedy that omission now. That courtroom oratory is not only the best of Darrow’s closing arguments, but also the most relevant to current events. It is a masterpiece, and  also astonishingly prescient and wise.

In 1925, Dr. Henry Ossian Sweet, a black man, moved his family into a house in a previously segregated section of Detroit. Mobs of whites gathered outside the house with torches, clubs and guns the first two nights of their residence, as police stood by passively. On the second night, a gunshot coming from the house killed one of the demonstrators, and all 11 residents of the home, including Dr. Sweet, were charged with murder. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People hired Clarence Darrow to handle the defense.

There were two trials, the first ending in a hung jury. In the second, Darrow performed a seven hour closing argument, aspects of which have inspired homages in “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “A Time to Kill.” Despite the all-white jury, Dr. Sweet was acquitted, and the charges against the others were dropped. Darrow isn’t a legend for nothing.

I have left out the parts of the closing argument that recount the testimony and the facts of the case: you can read about the trials on Doug Linder’s excellent website, and you can read Darrow’s whole closing here. This redacted version focuses on Darrow comments about race and race relations. It is longer than the version we used in the play, but this is the version I would have used if audiences could tolerate a three hour one man show.

I continue to believe that this was the high point of Darrow’s incredible career, and also one of the most impressive—and gutsy—speeches in our history. Only Clarence Darrow would challenge an all-white jury like this in 1925. It is also unbearably moving. Paul, when he performs the selection, ends with tears streaming down his face, as Darrow did. You might too. Try reading it aloud to your kid. Or to yourself.

This post also relates to another recent post, the one about jury nullification. That is really what Darrow is arguing here, in the context of confronting racial injustice and bigotry for the survival of the nation and society. The white victim of the shooting was shot in the back. Darrow, at one point, calls it murder himself. Nonetheless, he argues that acquitting Sweet and his family is the right thing to do, whatever the law says.

Here is my abridged version of the epic closing argument made by Clarence Darrow, May 11, 1926, in defense of Dr. Sweet and his family.

Continue reading

The Washington Post Tries To Hide A Muslim Attack From Its Readers: What’s Going On Here? Or Rather, What The HELL Is Going On Here?

Now, see, THIS Post has informative headlines...

Now, see, THIS Post has informative headlines…

I have no hidden agenda; I really would like to know.

Sharp-eyed media critic Ian Tuttle noticed how the Washington Post headlined a news story from Detroit in which a Muslim man, Terrence Lavaron Thomas, asked two strangers at a Southfield, Mich., bus stop whether or not they were Muslim and when they answered in the negative, stabbed them with a  knife. This was the headline:

wapo-headline1

What? That suggests the opposite of what happened!  We are told “conservatives” on social media objected. Really? Only conservatives are bothered by incompetent, misleading or intentionally false news reports? Anyway, the Post’s editors said, apparently, “Oh, all right, if you’re going to be all picky about it,” and changed the headline to this…

WaPo Muslim headline 2 - revised

Except that “Are you Muslim? No? THEN DIE, INFIDEL!!!” is not what I or any fair and rational person would call a “discussion.”  Once again those pesky “conservatives”—you know, the ones who don’t appreciate the press lying to them–complained, so again the Post changed the headline:

WaPo Muslim headline3

So now that irrelevant Muslim angle is missing entirely, because this has no possible relationship to  Muslim extremists around the world burning people alive, cutting off the heads of Christians, kidnapping and killing children or any of that nasty stuff. Continue reading

PETA’s Unethical Treatment Of Human Beings

"You keep using that word, "ethics." I don't think it means what you think it does."

“You keep using that word, “ethics.” I don’t think it means what you think it does.”

From whence comes PETA’s compulsion to periodically make the organization look as unethical and/or deranged as possible? If I were not charitable by nature, I would say that it was because the leadership of the organization is constitutionally unethical, and nuts. I suspect that the real answer is close to that, but it’s not exactly right. I think that PETA’s concept of ethics begins and ends with “the ends justfy the means,” that they are so besotted with the rights of animals that they dehumanize people, and that arrested juveniles run the organization.

The latest jaw dropper from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is to use money to induce poor people in Detroit to comply with PETA’s vision of an ethical lifestyle. From the PETA website:

“With jobs in Detroit disappearing, many residents are struggling. As they’re forced to choose which bills to pay, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has chosen for them―shutting off water and leaving many people high and dry. The department put the shutoffs on a temporary hiatus, but people’s water bills are mounting. So with the help of a generous PETA member, we have come up with one small way to assist Detroit residents and save animals, too.Thanks to this donor, PETA will be able to pay off the water bills for 10 families who commit to going vegan for one month. We’ll also help them get started by giving each family a basket of healthy vegan foods and recipes.”

In other word, PETA is exploiting the most vulnerable citizens of the urban wasteland known as Detroit to turn them into human billboards for the group’s utopian vision of an animal-friendly world. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Latrez Cummings Sentence

"I understand, son. We've all been at that awkward, "just want to beat the old white guy to death" age...."

“I understand, son. We’ve all been at that awkward, “just want to beat the old white guy to death” age….”

Detroit Third Judicial Circuit Judge James Callahan sentenced 19-year-old gang member Latrez Cummings to six months in jail for his participation in the mob beating of Steve Utash, a 54-year-old white man who jumped out of his car to assist a 10-year-old African-American boy after his pick-up truck hit the child. Cummings and at least 20 others on the scene attacked Utash and beat him severely, leaving him with permanent brain damage.

Judge Callahan told Cummings that the lack of a father was what led him to his current plight. “That’s all you have needed in your life, a father, someone to discipline you, someone to beat the hell out of you when you made a mistake,” Callahan lectured Cummings. “Without the guidance of a father, being 19 years of age, I can understand how some of these problems existed in the past.” The judge added that Cummings has suffered without “somebody to beat the hell out of you when you made a mistake.”  With the further rationalization, “We’ve all been 19 years of age, ” Callahan handed down the six month sentence, to be followed by probation.

The prosecutor, to her credit, went nuts. Said Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey: Continue reading