Ethics Quiz: The Governor’s Dress

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer wore a “form fitting dress” or a “distractingly badly-fitting dress” during her state of the State address. After some pundits and a lot of social media users leveled harsh criticism of her attire, the matter quickly entered the battlefield of the gender wars. She said in a statement,

“In my speech I was encouraging people to see the humanity in one another in this cruel political environment. In an era when so many women are stepping up to lead, I’m hoping people will focus on our ideas and accomplishments instead of our appearance. Until then, I’ve got a message for all of the women and girls like mine who have to deal with garbage like this every day: I’ve got your back.”

Anne Doyle, an Oakland County leadership coach for women, said,

“If she had been wearing something big and baggy, she would have been criticized for wearing that. We’re going to see a significant amount of this type of criticism as more and more women are in these type of powerful, leadership roles. It’s gender bias. But we have to power our way through it and ignore it.”

No question about it, female public figures are often subjected to higher standards of appearance than males. However, does this mean that no criticism of public comportment and appearance by public officials in the official discharge of their duties is legitimate? Here’s Ann Althouse on the controversy, writing that the Governor…

…wore a dress to her State of the State Address that was just way too tight. As many of the commenters (at The Daily Mail) observe, you can see the outline of her bellybutton. It’s not really fair to accuse everyone of body shaming when you wear something that fits so poorly. People talk about Trump’s tie being too long….

And his hair, AND his skin color, AND his hands, AND his weight. Meanwhile, Michelle Obama’s every fashion choice received barrels of ink-worth of automatic praise. The issue is, or should be, whether a public figures should be held accountable for decisions regarding they present themselves to the world. Cousin Vinny kept finding himself in contempt of court for inappropriately casual attire, which was deemed disrespectful to the court. Are supporters of the governor really arguing that all criticism of a female elected official’s attire or appearance is sexist? Seriously?

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Day is…

Was criticism of the Governor’s dress unethical?

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Fish Bone Ethics: A Poll

My tuna sandwich had an unwelcome bonus: a 3/4 inch, two-pronged bone. It stuck me in the gums. No blood drawn, but I expect better from my usual brand of white albacore in water.

Now what? I have encountered negligently included matter in foodstuffs before, nothing large or horrible, like the famous human toe in the plug  of chewing tobacco often cited as a perfect illustration of “res ipsa loquitur”. (The Mississippi Supreme Court: we can “imagine no reason why, with ordinary care human toes could not be left out of chewing tobacco, and if toes are found in chewing tobacco, it seems to us that somebody has been very careless.”) In such cases I have just let it go, taking a Golden Rule approach. After all, some stuff is bound to slip through now and then. Yes, I made a big deal when I found a bug in my salad, but the occasional small hair, or bit of bone, I let pass.

This one was different, though. It was  bigger, and the damn thing stuck me.

So should I send the tuna fish company the bone and complain? If I do, what’s the objective? Is it to extort a lucky haul by getting the company to send a life supply of tuna fish? I know people that send in such complaints several times a year, often with spectacular results. They specialize in writing indignant, angry letters full of implied threats. These people like finding bones in their tuna fish. The problem is, I don’t like them.

Is it a matter of good citizenship to tell the company that some of their cans have bones along with the fish? Can I save another consumer from a stuck gum and a spoiled sandwich experience by alerting the company to a problem in their processing? It probably is good citizenship, except that I’m pretty sure that renegade fish bones are a well-known inevitability in the tuna fish business.

The question, then: what’s the ethical course?

Ten Points Regarding The Rob Porter/White House/Domestic Abuse Scandal…

1 We know that the FBI had told the Trump White House about allegations from Porter’s two ex-wives that he had been physically abusive. Apparently, the FBI did not confirm, or could not, that the accusations were true. The allegations were still sufficient to prevent Porter from getting security clearance, whether they were true or not. There are good reasons for this. That does not mean that it is fair that someone’s career can be derailed and his reputation smeared without proof of wrongdoing, but it is necessary.

2. The position of an employer that has its own integrity and reputation to protect when an explosive allegation of personal and criminal misconduct regarding an employee arises is an ethics conflict. The Golden Rule suggests that such an employer should not jettison such an employee absent due process and sufficient proof of wrongdoing. However, the greater duty in this case is to the administration.

3. Porter should have resigned. In fact, that he did not resign was the best reason to fire him. This was his domestic problem, and he had no right to  inflict it on the White House, even if he was innocent.

4. There was nothing inconsistent about President Trump’s tweets condemning domestic violence and regretting the lack of due process and fairness in the current #MeToo witch hunt environment. He is right on both counts. As usual, he was not as articulate as he needs to be when opining on such delicate topics. He is not going to become more articulate, however.

5. Porter’s denials of wrongdoing, absent more, should carry no more nor less weight than the accusations against him.

6. Nobody who does not know Porter, the women involved or the intimate details of their relationships should be saying things in public like “I believe the wives” or “I don’t believe them.”  This flips us back to “I believe Anita Hill but don’t believe that slut Paula Jones” territory. People believe who they want to believe. Women who accuse men of abuse have no more claim or right to be believed without evidence than any other accuser, including those who accuse you.

7. Domestic disputes are infamous for the frequency with which previously honorable combatants will use false or exaggerated accusations to gain legal leverage or for old-fashioned revenge. It is possible that Porter’s two wives want to destroy his life. They seem to be doing a good job of it, if that’s their objective. Continue reading

Now THIS Is A Witch Hunt…The Bitter Actress’s Old Score

 

Cross and Yi

Actress Charlyne Yi ( you may remember her on “House”—well, maybe not)  tweeted last week :

“I think about the first time I met David Cross 10 years ago & he made fun of my pants (that were tattered because I was poor). Dumbfounded I stared at him speechless and he said to me ‘what’s a matter? You don’t speak English?? Ching-chong-ching-chong.’

“I will say this: I can tell the difference between this man making a joke vs condescending me,” Yi wrote later. “This happened 10 years ago and I sure as hell hope he’s changed (or at the very least, he’s scared enough to not be his racist self).”

Now Cross, a very funny improvisational comic and actor best known for “Arrested Development” (he was also in the first two “Men in Black” films) is being attacked on social media as a a racist. He purports to be flummoxed.

“I don’t remember this at all!” he said in a tweet this week. Cross later tweeted to Yi,

“Charlene, i dont remember this at all! It’s bonkers to me and WAY, way out of character. DM me so I can understand all of this.”

Mark this down as one more way social media allows people to be worse human beings, and makes the world a meaner, nastier place.

Yi, who has obviously held a grudge for a long, long time (Career just didn’t work out the way you hoped, eh?) exploited social media to get some media buzz by accusing a colleague of being a jerk ten years ago. This, in turn, calls down on Cross’s head the Web Furies, harms his reputation, and there isn’t a thing he can do to defend himself, whether he said what she claims, or not.

This is a blinding Golden Rule breach by Yi. Who among us would like to have this happen—a bad moment in a single personal interaction suddenly made public just to cause us humiliation and embarrassment? It seems as if Yi, lacking a salacious story of being propositioned, assaulted or raped by Harvey Weinstein, decided to see if recounting the time David Cross was a jerk to her could get some cheap publicity. And it worked! Continue reading

Al Luplow And The Duty To Remember

 

A culture is defined by what it chooses to remember and what it chooses to forget. Ideally, a culture would remember everything, because knowing the past, as Santayana famously observed, was insurance against repeating its mistakes.  But time is a huge eraser, as Shelley told us:

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
This is why historians have such a crucial role to play in preserving our culture, by preserving stories, lives and memories along with the inspiration and wisdom they can provide.Sometimes a lost memory is rescued from neglect. Today we remember Colonel Joshua Chamberlain as one of the central heroes of the Battle of Gettysburg for his desperate stand with the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment at Little Round Top, culminating in his using his knowledge of military history (he was a college professor) to improvise the bayonet charge that held his position and turned defeat into victory. That was not the case for almost a century, however, until the historical novel “The Killer Angels” retold the story so vividly that Chamberlain’s entire career became the object of new scholarship and admiration. This was truth emerging, but it was also justice. Chamberlain deserved to be remembered.

Unfortunately, Chamberlain is an exception. Once a life, a deed, a remarkable moment is forgotten, it is usually gone. That is a tragedy for the culture. The duty to remember, which I have discussed here before, is the duty to protect the culture and its riches. It is also based on the Golden Rule. We all would like our lives to be remembered as long as possible, especially when we accomplished something that future generations could and would appreciate or benefit from recalling.

This brings us to Al Luplow.

Two nights ago, in an outrageously antic and entertaining game between the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox, Indians outfielder Austin Jackson robbed Hanley Ramirez of a home run by leaping in the air at the right centerfield bullpen fence reaching over it mid-air to catch the ball, and tumbling over it. He still held on to the ball—he could have easily broken his neck—and the home run became an out.

Although outfielders have fallen over that fence from time to time, notably in the 2013 play-offs…

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Ethics Quiz: The Boston Red Sox And “Hate Speech”

SHHHHHHHH!

I don’t know why it is that the Boston Red Sox are leading all of baseball in ethics controversies, but here’s the story:

The Red Sox have been playing the Orioles the last four days, in a series marked by rancor arising from an incident last week that has metastasized into an exchange of words, accusations and attempted beanballs.  After the first game in this series,  Orioles’ outfielder Adam Jones claimed that he had heard racial epithets from the stands, and a bag of peanuts had been thrown at him.  Boston  and the Red Sox in particular have a dubious racial history (the team was the last in baseball ito have a black player), so this immediately became a big story, with the Sox, MLB, the city, and even the governor expressing horror, regret, and outrage. No fan or Orioles player has stepped  forward to substantiate Jones’ accusations. I don’t doubt him, but that is relevant, because in the entire episode as it unfolded, conclusive evidence has been deemed unnecessary. Accusations alone confer guilt. In the next game, Fenway gave Jones a long standing ovation on his first trip to the plate, saying, in essence, “We’re sorry you were treated this way, and we reject that disgusting conduct.” Good. That is the Fenway Park I know.

Then it was reported that another fan who was in the crowd at Fenway  the next night has been banned for life by the Red Sox. Team president Sam Kennedy said that the fan received the lifetime ban for using a racial slur to to describe a Kenyan woman who sang the National Anthem before the game, in a conversation with another fan.

Calvin Hennick, a Boston resident bringing his son to his first Red Sox game as a present for his sixth birthday, wrote on Facebook and confirmed to the Associated Press  that a  fan sitting near him used “nigger” when referring to the National  Anthem singer that night. Hennick asked the man to repeat what he had said, and when he did,Hennick summoned security. The Fenway security ejected the offending fan, who denied using a racial slur….you know, like Giles Corey denied being a witch.

Kennedy thanked Hennick, who is white, for coming forward. Says NBC baseball writer Craig Calcaterra, who once was a lawyer and presumably understood basic principles of justice, process, and fairness, “Kudos to the Red Sox for acting so swiftly.”

The Red Sox acted swiftly, all right.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is this...

Is it fair, proportionate, reasonable and just to ban a baseball spectator for life under these circumstances?

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Dear San Diego Gay Men’s Choir: Yes, Disappointments And Screw-Ups Are Annoying, But They All Aren’t Part Of A Conspiracy Against You, And You Make Your Cause And Yourself Look Foolish By Being So Eager To Play The Victim Card

gay-mens-chorus_1_t658

Allow me to elaborate, guys.

Let’s take your recent unfortunate experience at the San Diego Padres game last night No doubt about it, somebody, probably lost of people, messed up big time.

Before the Dodgers-Padres game at Petco Park, a hundred singers from your San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus  assembled on the field  to sing the National Anthem. Then, just as you were getting ready to sing, and very well, too, if the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C. , which I have heard sing many times, are any indication, somebody put on a recorded version  a woman singing it instead. Was it  Lady Gaga? I hope so; that was great.   I guarantee it wasn’t a recording of Rosanne Barr wrecking the song at a Padres game in 1990, but if you want to put what happened to you in perspective and haven’t heard it, here it is. Okay, I’m ready: I have my eyes closed and my fingers are on my ears:

But I digress.  Here you all were, out on the field, ready to sing and entertain the fans, and you are suddenly listening to a recording over the loudspeakers.Nobody stopped it,  no announcement, explanation or apology followed it. You all had to just stand in center field feeling and looking awkward until the song finished, the crowd cheered, and  they escorted you off the field.

That really bites. I remember the time that a performing group I ran and performed with was signed to sing on a dinner cruise down the Potomac, and the organizers never prepared a proper performing area or had the passengers, who wanted to drink and party, prepared to listen to Gilbert and Sullivan songs. It was horrible, believe me. I ended the performance mid-song, because the audience was getting hostile. I’ve never been so humiliated in my life: I would have prayed for a recording of  Lady Gaga singing the National Anthem to come on. I would have prayed for a recording of  Roseanne singing the National Anthem to come on. Continue reading