Warped Values and Perverse Incentives: Banning Employers From Asking Whether A Job Applicant Served Time

Sorry Hedley---it's unfair to ask a potential employees if they were rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers...and don't you dare ask if they are Methodists!

Sorry Hedley—it’s unfair to ask a potential employees if they were rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers…and don’t you dare ask if they are Methodists!

I was unaware that this was a trend: states and cities making it illegal for employers to ask job applicant’s whether they had been convicted of a crime and served jail time.

It is an unethical, foolish and illogical trend, an example of misplaced compassion being used to justify placing risks on law-abiding citizens for the benefit of those who are less trustworthy.

A news article regarding the problems faced by former prisoners re-entering society quotes Zach Hoover, executive director of LA Voice, a multiracial, faith-based organization working to get such a measure passed in Los Angeles:

“Sometimes people think of someone who’s been in prison and they think only of what they did instead of what they’re doing today. They’ve done their time. They served their sentence, and they’re looking for a job.It’s like double jeopardy. You’ve done your time, and now you get a life sentence of joblessness.”

What utter claptrap: Continue reading

#!@&! Ethics Dunce and Incompetent Elected Official of the Month: L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti

"Stay classy, Los Angeles!"

“Stay classy, Los Angeles!”

Let me see: What epic event would justify an elected leader, public figure and inherent role model intentionally doing his best to undermine beleaguered efforts by parents, teachers, employers, Federal regulators and ethics blog authors to protect the vital cultural values of civility and respect from the onslaught of the boorish, inconsiderate and inarticulate who would make obscenity part of everyday discourse?

World peace? Curing cancer? Ending poverty? Nah. The occurrence so significant that Los Angeles’s mayor thinks it justifies his use of the vague and slovenly adjective “fucking” in a planned statement is  the L.A. Kings’ Stanley Cup victory. You know…pro hockey? Where they bat that little rubber thing around the ice?

Occasionally, public figures like Joe Biden (but he has…well, you know…issues) have accidentally tossed f-bombs into unwilling ears canals, but never before has an elected official set out to do so. It is irresponsible, and demonstrates how America is increasingly electing children to high office. If the Mayor of L.A. thinks that a hockey game victory provides a sufficient pass to issue officially sanctioned vulgarity to America, what chance do parents and teachers have when they try to instill manners—that is, routine respect for those we interact with— into their young charges? Answer: less of a chance than they had before Mayor Garcetti opened his smug, pandering, dirty mouth. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: The Los Angeles Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers clinched the National League West regular season championship last night by beating their divisional rivals, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Traditionally, when such moments occur away from the winner’s home park, they are celebrated with a happy mob scene around the pitcher’s mound and then a retreat to the clubhouse, where campaign and revelry reign.

But not in the case of the 2013 Dodgers. Seeing the inviting swimming pool that is a unique center field feature of Chase Field, the giddy Dodger team jumped the fence and splashed into the pool to celebrate. The Arizona Republic, in an editorial today, accurately expressed the reaction of the Diamondback fans and community:

“In the interests of good sportsmanship, here’s to the 2013 National League West Division champs.Congratulations are in order. Even to a bunch as classless as the Los Angeles Dodgers, the first players not wearing Diamondbacks uniforms to celebrate a championship by diving into the Chase Field pool. Informally, the Arizona Diamondbacks management had asked their Dodgers counterparts, should their lads clinch the division at Chase Field, to kindly celebrate in the clubhouse until the fans cleared out. For safety’s sake. Well, the Diamondbacks got their answer. Effectively: We got some “safety,” for you. Right here….” Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Harvard’s Institute of Politics

Thank God Clinton is a Yalie...

Thank God Clinton is a Yalie…

From the Harvard Gazette (Full disclosure: My parents met at Harvard, so I owe Harvard my life, literally. My mother worked in the Harvard administration f0r 25 years, and I (C 1972, American Government), my sister and my father all graduated from the college):

“IOP [ Institute Of Politics] fall visiting fellows include Hilda L. Solis, former U.S. labor secretary (2009-13) and U.S. representative (CA-32nd, D; 2001-09) and Antonio Villaraigosa, two-term mayor of Los Angeles (2005-13). Visiting fellows traditionally meet with student groups; lead discussion groups on topical issues and their experiences in public and political service; and participate in public policy classes.”

Antonio Villaraigosa engaged in exactly the kinds of unethical practices that Harvard is supposed to be training leaders to eschew. He is neither academically distinguished (he flunked the bar four times) nor an appropriate role model, and for Harvard to intentionally expose its students to a repeat ethics violator like Villaraigosa is a breach of trust and responsibility. It is ethically indefensible.

Right now, I am in a state, Virginia, where the Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, has been exposed for accepting unreported gifts. While mayor, Villaraigosa set the record for the largest ethics fine levied in California state history $41,849 — for failing to disclose about $42,ooo in free tickets he received to Los Angeles Lakers games, the finals of “American Idol” and more than two dozen other sports and entertainment events. Accepting gifts and not reporting them provides the slippery slope to bribery, and involves the use of an official position for personal advantage. Continue reading

Chris Dorner Capture Reward Ethics

John_Wilkes_Booth_wanted_poster_colourThe gossip site TMZ often has horrible ideas, but for once it has come up with a horrible idea that is worth discussing seriously.

Several citizens provided information that led to renegade killer Chris Dorner being trapped and ultimately killed in a stand-off with police. This should put them in line for three rich rewards offered for information leading to the end of Dorner’s rampage, but TMZ identified catches in all three:

 “The Mayor of L.A. announced a $1 million reward — funded by private groups — for information leading to the “capture and conviction” of Dorner.  Big problem — technically speaking, Dorner must be both captured AND convicted to trigger the reward. The L.A. City Council offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to “the identification, apprehension, and conviction” of Dorner.  Again … no conviction.  City Council sources tell us there’s already a disagreement between the Legislative Analyst and the City Attorney over how to interpret the reward language. And finally … the L.A. County Board of Supervisors offered a $100,000 reward for information “leading to the capture of Christopher Dorner.”  One source at the Board of Supervisors tells TMZ,  “Dorner was cornered but not captured.”

Could TMZ possibly be correct? Would the offerers of these rewards weasel out of their obligations, citing the fact that Dorner burned to death before he could be captured and convicted?

Legally it’s possible, but barely. Ethically, it would be unfair and a breach of public trust. Pragmatically, it would be stupid beyond all imagining. Continue reading

Old Testament Treatment For The Miramonte Elementary School Culture

It could be worse; at least no teachers have been turned into pillars of salt.

Following the discovery that two Miramonte Elementary School teachers, Mark Berndt and Martin Springer,  allegedly engaged  in lewd activity with students, Los Angeles Unified School District made the brave decision to replace all teachers and staff, with everyone being re-assigned. Predictably, there have been protests and criticism. The basic argument: it is excessive and unfair. The good teachers, whoever they were, weren’t at fault.

Yes, they were; at least, they were responsible, and share accountability for a culture they were part of. The school district’s decision correctly assumes that when two members of a relatively small teaching staff abuse young children over a long period, something is rotten at the school beyond those teachers. Oversight is lax, administrators are looking the other way, teachers are protecting colleagues or refusing to acknowledge the implications of what they see or hear. There is a substantial chance that the Miramonte Elementary School didn’t just have some proverbial bad apples, but that it had created a culture that encouraged apples to go bad. There can be no certainty that Berndt and Springer were the only abusers on the staff, and the safety of children is at stake. Clear out the school, and wipe out the culture; have new personnel from top to bottom. It is easier to start over with a rotten culture than to try to fix it: this was God’s attitude in the Old Testament, and He had a point. The difference is that He killed off corrupt cultures with floods and fire, or just made them wander in the desert for generations.  Luckily, this isn’t Congress, Wall Street, Hollywood, or Rupert Murdoch’s empire. You can start all over with a school. Continue reading

The Offensive Battle Over “Seven in Heaven Way”

"There goes Fred, getting all religious again...."

With some hesitation, I must re-open the issue of officious inter-meddlers and grievance-mongerers who get satisfaction and empowerment from claiming to be offended by things that could not possibly harm them or genuinely infringe on their rights. The atheists are at it again.

My position has been stated here and elsewhere many times: in the absence of genuine long or short term harm, the ethical human response to a symbolic grievance is to keep one’s response proportional to the offense, which sometimes means considering how many individuals will be made miserable in order to satisfy one individual or a small group, and letting it go. Forcing a university to change the long-standing name of its football team based on a dubious argument that the name is an offense to Native Americans when most Native Americans couldn’t care less, for example, is wrong. Forcing a school to stop teaching kindergarteners to sing “Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer” because a Jewish parent thinks the song promotes Christianity is wrong.

Now a group of New York City atheists is demanding that their city re-name a street that was dedicated to the memory of seven firefighters killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.  Continue reading

Teachers Unions: Not Unethical, Just Uninterested in the Public Welfare

His union is competent; it's just that he isn't

Public unions and their Democratic supporters (and supported) are not going to have much luck winning the public relations battle with Republicans as long as teachers unions are front and center. Teachers unions are not— I repeat not-–primarily concerned with the welfare of schoolchildren, or the public, or the deficit, or even education. Their priority is the welfare of their membership, and if any of those other stakeholders have to take it on the chin to make sure that the teachers have good salaries, benefits and iron-clad job security, well, that’s just the way of the world.

This doesn’t make teachers unions unethical any more than lawyers are unethical to represent their clients. But it does mean that any time a teacher’s union official claims to be concerned with anything but his members, he or she is lying through their teeth. And that is unethical. Continue reading

Defining Fiscal Irresponsibility Down and the $578M School

The shocking thing about the new $578 million school complex recently unveiled in Los Angeles, other than its obscene price tag, is that it was a one-day news story, and a minor one at that. There are no demonstrations; Fox News isn’t screaming about it. One education blog blandly asked, “Some view the school and its deluxe amenities as a showpiece for the community, while others view it as a waste of taxpayer money. What do you think?”

“What do you think???” WHAT DO YOU THINK???

The Robert F. Kennedy Community School is a showpiece for the community, all right: it shows that the community is run by irresponsible, incompetent officials, and that the community’s taxpayers are the human equivalent of sheep. Continue reading

The Trouble With Teachers Unions

The Los Angeles teachers union is demonstrating the difficult and complex ethical dilemmas endemic to all teachers unions. Because the unions represent teachers rather than their students, the unions can, and often are, placed in the position of supporting their membership to the detriment of the children the members have a duty to serve. And because the teachers who need the most protection from adverse employment actions are usually the worst and least dedicated teachers, a moderation of the unions’ priorities to recognize a duty to the students is less likely to occur.

The L.A. union’s president just announced that he was organizing a “massive boycott” of The Los Angeles Times because the newspaper has begun publishing a series of articles that explore student test scores to assess the effectiveness of Los Angeles public school teachers. Continue reading