Tag Archives: empathy

Comment Of The Day #2: “Back To The Bigoted Baker: It’s Complicated…More Than I Thought”

This the second of the Comments of the Day on the post about the Great Cake Controversy; a third arrived last night, which will appear shortly. It was authored by the always provocative Mrs. Q—you can tell because she always uses ampersands. I used to turn them back into “and,” and then decided that this was a signature feature.

The three Comments of the Day on this topic are as different as they could be. I detest the Colorado baker controversy, because three people could have and should have avoided the whole thing, saved a lot of time, money, and ink, and just exhibited some empathy and proportion rather than avoiding the Golden Rule so emphatically. I detest it, but it certainly is a rich ethics subject.

Here is Mrs. Q’s  Comment of the Day on the post Back To The Bigoted Baker: It’s Complicated…More Than I Thought:

When my wife & I were looking for wedding rings we stopped at a place where the owner after talking to us went on a strange rant about some NFL player who came out gay. The owner went so far as to physically mimic kissing another guy in telling his story, and shivering with wide toothed disgust at the thought. He didn’t say he wouldn’t sell us a ring, but obviously we didn’t want one from his store & the feeling was mutual.

We could have gone on Yelp and given the store a bad review or complain to someone who could “go after” him politically, but at the end of the day our relationship didn’t (doesn’t) need others affirmation. We were certainly hurt – not by his thoughts but the manner in which he shared his thoughts. Yet we picked our proverbial battle and let it go. Why? because we too are Christian and know no one person can ever really give us what we need. Hurt feelings can be gotten over and forgiveness heals wounds far faster than enacting revenge because someone doesn’t agree with us or what we do.

We have to ask what will be next. I don’t believe suddenly we’ll see “No Homo’s Allowed” signs on shops. And ultimately that’s not what I believe this case is about. Also I’m not convinced that these bakers are bigots either. Instead I suspect what this case is ultimately about religion and thought police. Orthodox Muslims having to make non-Halal foods, Jewish deli’s selling pork, Christians making Satanic themed confections. I’d rather see a few victim-minded SJW’s get butt-hurt than force others to sign off on what are ultimately another persons *private* beliefs. Forcing business owners to think as we wish sets a dangerous precedent while walking away from a shop not being affirmed only requires one to find another place to go. And honestly it’s fairly easy to find smug leftist affirmation at businesses. Yes…even in small towns too. Continue reading

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An Ethics Hero Epic: Johnny Bobbitt, Jr, Kate McClure, And Americans

Kate, Johnny, and Kate’s boyfriend. I bet you can tell which is which…

I learned about this story days ago, and got so distracted by all the nauseating ethics news that I neglected to write it up. I apologize. This kind of story should always be the top priority.

Kate McClure of Bordentown, New Jersey, was driving through Philadelphia to visit a friend when her car ran out of gas in a tough section of the city. McClure pulled over, got out of her vehicle and began to walk to the nearest gas station. But Johnny Bobbitt, Jr, an ex-Marine who lives on the streets, saw her plight and immediately took charge. The neighborhood was a dangerous place for a woman to walk alone, he told her, and suggested that she get back in her car, lock the doors, and leave matters to him.

A few minutes later, Bobbitt was back with a full gas can, and gave Kate  20 dollars, the only money he had to his name,  to make sure she could get home safely.

McClure said she did not have money to pay Bobbitt back that night, but she returned several times to the spot where he sits, offering him a few dollars and useful items.. Then McClure started a GoFundMe for her rescuer. She wrote,

I would like to get him first and last month’s rent at an apartment, a reliable vehicle, and 4-6 months worth of expenses. He is very interested in finding a job, and I believe that with a place to be able to clean up every night and get a good night’s rest, his life can get back to being normal.

So far, her campaign has attracted donations totalling almost $380,000 for Bobbitt.

The veteran has been homeless for over a year because of real problems. He has battled drugs, bad choices and probably emotional issues as well. I hope this story has a happy ending. So far so good, though. Johnny demonstrated exemplary ethics, sacrificing his own well-being for a stranger. Kate demonstrated genuine gratitude, empathy and concern, and took affirmative action to try to pay him back. And the American public, as it usually does, showed that when sufficiently alert, it knows how to reward good and selfless deeds.

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Further Ethics Observations On The Kevin Spacey Scandal [Part 2]

[Continuing the reflections on the accusation against Kevin Spacey and its aftermath…Part One is here.]

I have always assumed that Spacey had endured some kind of serious trauma that explained his aversion to confirming that he was gay, since, really, it was so, so obvious. Many actors become actors because of familial abuse and self-loathing: if you think about it, it makes sense. They don’t like who they are and what real life has been, so they seek the fantasy life of being someone else on stage, films and TV.  Maybe Spacey’s long obsession with performer Bobby Darrin provided a clue. (Spacey eventually played Darrin in his own vanity film project. “Beyond the Sea.”) You have to be really unhappy with yourself to fantasize being in the shoes of Darrin, the talented, troubled heterosexual  actor-singer who died before he turned 40. Thus I was not surprised when Spacey’s brother Randall Fowler, 62, a limo driver and professional Rod Stewart impersonator, described the home in which he, Kevin and their sister were raised as resembling the plot a  horror movie.

  • Fowler says he and his brother were both sexually abused by their father, Thomas Geoffrey Fowler (whom the children called “The Creature”), and that their mother knew about their treatment at his hands. Their older sister, Julie, was also abused before she fled home when she was 18. In a 2004 interview, Spacey’s brother described how their ultra-right-wing father was a member of the American Nazi Party. He was so enamored with Adolf Hitler, Fowler claimed, that he trimmed his mustache to resemble Der Fuehrer’s.

“I grew up in a living hell. There was so much darkness in our home it was beyond belief. It was absolutely miserable,” Spacey’s brother said then. “Years later, our mother actually wrote a letter to all three of us, trying to justify what had gone on by saying she was abused as a child and so was our father. Kevin tried to avoid what was going on by wrapping himself in an emotional bubble….He was so determined to try to avoid the whippings that he just minded his Ps and Qs until there was nothing inside. He had no feelings.”

Fowler described his younger brother was an “empty vessel” who had never been in a real relationship with anyone. “Neither of us had a chance growing up with two such damaged parents, ” he concluded.

No, I don’t know that what a Rod Stewart imitator and publicity-seeking sibling of a famous actor says is completely true, exaggerated, or a fabrication.  But it fits. Spacey should be given the benefit of the doubt, and accorded some compassion. We all deserve that. Continue reading

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Further Ethics Observations On The Kevin Spacey Scandal [Part 1 of 2]

The comments regarding yesterday’s ethics quiz have been varied and vigorous. As to the quiz question itself,

Is [Anthony] Rapp’s public accusation [against actor Kevin Spacey alleging that Spacey sexually assaulted him 30 years ago when Rapp was only 14] fair, responsible, and ethical?

I have arrived at my answer, and am abashed that I didn’t see it immediately.

No, the accusation was not fair, and it was unethical. It fails all ethical systems. It is a Golden Rule breach: What Rapp did to Spacey is not how he, or anyone would want to be treated. The fair and decent thing would have been to confront Spacey privately.  Maybe Rapp has distorted the incident over time; maybe Spacey is as remorseful and embarrassed by the incident as Rapp has been traumatized by it. All of us would want at least a chance to explain or make amends before being exposed…in Buzzfeed(!?).

Other observations, as Spacey is being metaphorically disemboweled by an angry mob…

  • Rapp also stomped on Kantian ethics, which forbids using human beings as a means to an end. Rapp says his goal was “to try to shine another light on the decades of behavior that have been allowed to continue because many people, including myself, being silent.” Wait: is there a shred of evidence that Spacey engaged in such conduct over “decades”? Is there any indication that Rapp is protecting future teens from his assaults? No, he’s just jumping on a train, joining a virtue-signalling mob engaged on what appears to be a scalp-hunting expedition. His late hit on Spacey didn’t stop a predator (as with Weinstein), didn’t report a crime to authorities (the statute of limitations is long past), didn’t accomplish anything postive and productive involing Spacey at all. I was just symbolic, and Kant, correctly, holds that it is unethical to destroy real human beings to make a political, social or culotural point, in this case the point being, “Don’t stay silent for 30 years if you have been abused, harassed or molested!”

This also fails any Millsian or Benthamist test of utilitarianism. The ends accomplished by Rapp’s accusation consist almost entirely of destroying Kevin Spacey. What else? I suppose its a warning too: anything you did that society will regard as worthy of making you a pariah can be revealed by an angry, vindictive or politically motivated alleged victim at any time, and you will have no recourse. Call it the Anita Hill Principle. That’s not enough of a “benefit” to society to destroy someone’s life. We have the Weinstein example, and the Bill Cosby saga. They were–are?—both serial offenders. Taking out Kevin Spacey based on one very old incident is not a means justified by any end.

  • Upon examination, Spacey’s response was a mistake and an ethics botch on multiple levels. Here it is again:

First, here we have another example of why Twitter is dangerous. Spacey is a smart guy, yet he foolishly, in his rush to deal with this crisis, authored his own rapid response on social media. In the old days, as my late friend Bob McElwaine, Hollywood publicist for Danny Kaye, Dean Martin, Robert Mitchum and many other stars, told me, he job was to make sure nothing attributed to his Hollywood clients was authored by them. Continue reading

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The 87th And 88th Rationalizations: The Reverse 15 And The Psychic Historian

Translation: “I got nuthin’!'”

I haven’t been in tip-top shape the last several days, making new posts more of an ordeal than they should be. Luckily this motivates me to catch up on updating the Rationalizations List, which has several waiting additions, including these:

Rationalization #15 A. The Reverse 15, or “If I don’t do it ( and I don’t want to) somebody else will.”

The Reverse 15 uses exactly the same excuse as #15. The Futility Illusion:  “If I don’t do it, somebody else will,” but for the opposite purpose. In #15, the rationalizer wants to avoid the consequences of doing something unethical by arguing that his or her refusal to follow orders would have no practical effect: someone else would just step in and do what was demanded anyway. How, asks the fictionalized version of Confederate Captain Henry Wirz in “The Andersonville Trial,” can a post-Civil War military tribunal fairly hold him responsible for cruelly mistreating the Union prisoners in the Georgia prison camp as he was ordered to, when if he refused he would have been shot, and his successor would have abused them anyway?

In 15A, the argument is the opposite. The rationalizer refuses to perform a necessary ethical act out of apathy, callousness or fear, but this was reasonable because he or she was certain that someone else would do the right thing instead. The Reverse 15 could also be called “The Kitty Genovese Rationalization,” recalling that the many people who heard the murdered woman’s screams chose not to “get involves” while convincing themselves that someone would come to her aid. All of the Mount Everest climbers who left a stricken colleague behind to die protested later that they were certain the next climber behind them (or the next, perhaps) would stop to help the man. We pass a stopped car in distress on the highway at night, reasoning that someone else will stop to help, sparing us the trouble.

Sometimes someone does. Sometimes not. This abdication of an ethical duty is accomplished by casting one’s lot, and gambling with the fate of another, while relying on the unpredictable quirks of moral luck. The only ethical decision is to take action. You must do what you know is the ethical act yourself, and not ignore your obligation because you can pass the buck and then argue, disingenuously, “How could I know that everyone else would be as unethical as I am?”

Rationalization #1B. The Psychic Historian, or “I’m On The Right Side Of History”

Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: Anyone Who Ran This Story

On my way home from my seminar today, I saw that my cab’s in-ride video featured, along with three Jeopardy! questions from Alex Trebek, a Jimmy Kimmel feature (his “Pedestrian Belly-Flop” competition) and the weather, and a video from the ceremonies I had just returned from witnessing in person at Boston’s Fenway Park. The headline was-HAHAHAHA!—“First Pitch Goes Horribly Wrong!” and showed Mike Andrews, the ex-Red Sox second baseman from the 1967 “Impossible Dream Team,” receiving a pitch from the ceremonial first pitch tosser, who then heaved the ball far beyond Mike’s reach into a group of photographers, hitting one of them—it’s important to note that he is male–right in the crotch. The clip was attached to an ad for the local ABC affiliate here.

I thought that the mocking video was an ABC product, and it might be, since other ABC affiliates have distributed it. But the same video with similar mockery of the pitch in the commentary is elsewhere, and on its way to going viral. Here is the attached story used by ABC Channel 15 in Arizona:

A photographer and University of Arizona alum was the unfortunate victim of one of the worst first pitches in MLB history on Wednesday night.

Before the Boston Red Sox hosted the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park, the gentleman who tossed out the first pitch threw it juuuuuust a bit outside — and right into a sensitive spot for Tony Capobianco, a photographer and page designer for The Eagle-Tribune who graduated from UA in 2013.

Fortunately, Tony reported he’s OK. Way to Bear Down, sir.

That “sir” is a triumphant cancer survival and success story by The Jimmy Fund, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s ‘s research drive to cure cancer in children that the Red Sox  made the organization’s affiliated charity since Ted Williams became passionate involved with the project in the late 1940s. His pitch was the climax of the ceremonies honoring the 50th anniversary of  the storied pennant winning team, in part because that team became the first to ever award a full World Series share to cancer research, and in part because Andrews had followed his playing days with 25 years as the Jimmy Fund’s executive director. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/9/2017

Good Morning!

1. On the matter of whether James Demore’s Google memo was unethical in its distribution, which some commenters here dispute, apparently he took the precaution of hiring an employment lawyer before he sent the memo. This strongly suggests that he was not merely opening up an internal discussion, but intentionally provoking a confrontation. If he just wanted to alert management to a problem, the ethical approach was to speak directly to management, not put out an e-mail that he had to know someone would leak to the internet.

Meanwhile, Google’s firing Demore for politely raising legitimate culture issues belies its “Don’t Be Evil” motto. It also may be illegal: Federal labor law bars union AND non-union employers alike from punishing an employee for communicating with fellow employees about improving working conditions. California also has a very strong anti-political discrimination law which “prohibits employers from threatening to fire employees to get them to adopt or refrain from adopting a particular political course of action.”

2. I noted this in yesterday’s post, but it’s worse than I thought: the left-wing news media, which is to say the news-media, has displayed neither discipline, common sense (you can’t keep signalling how biased you are, guys—eventually people will notice) nor ethical journalism by outrageously misrepresenting the message and the tone of the memo. CNN’s Brooke Baldwin, for example, described the memo as saying  “I don’t really like women anywhere near a computer.” That’s false reporting. Do these people understand that anyone can read the memo and see that either they are lying, or haven’t read the memo?

3. The memo’s allegedly “controversial” statement that men and women have some innate physiological, emotional and psychological differences that make their genders (in general, not in specific cases) better or less-well-suited for certain jobs, tasks or fields takes me back to my multiple battles with feminists who insisted that I cast female actors in “Twelve Angry Men.” They simply put their fingers in their ears and hummed when I pointed out that the play was about the group dynamics when twelve disparate male strangers are locked in a room. Do women in such a situation keep threatening each other physically? I think not. Actually, the play is an advertisement for diversity: having women in that largely dysfunctional fictional jury would have probably solved many of its problems, but because women are different from men, not because they are exactly the same, as the Georgetown feminists insisted. Women really need to decide what their stand is: are they different in ways that can be advantageous, or not different at all? They can’t have it both ways. On Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds recalled “The Althouse Rule of Gender Research”, which is, : “Scientists: remember to portray whatever you find to be true of women as superior.”

This goes for commentators, pundits, journalists, educators and, of course, Presidential candidates. ‘We need a woman in the White House (because men screw things up)’ is wise and true, and not sexist at all. Continue reading

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