The Great Maine Diner Controversy


Thanks to the internet, every day conflicts between ordinary citizens become opportunities for society-wide ethical evaluation . This can be extremely beneficial, helping to reveal disagreements regarding ethical conduct in common situations, and establishing social norms with efficiency that once would have been impossible. Of course, that requires that society reaches a reasonable consensus.

Last week a controversy emanating from a Portland, Maine diner called Marcy’s had blogs bloviating, pundits punditting and social media boiling over. Vacationing parents took their toddler to a crowded diner for breakfast, waited 30 minutes for a table and another 40 minutes for their food. The hungry child went on a crying jag that went on too long for the owner, who  suggested that the couple to leave in a less than polite manner, and finally shouted at the little girl to  “shut the hell up!” The couple left the diner.

The mother, Tara Carson, couldn’t resist registering her indignation on the Marcy’s Facebook page, the owner responded with even more colorful language than she did in the original confrontation, and social media appeared to divide into the “it takes a village so be sympathetic to parents of young kids and give them a break” camp and the “serves these entitled and incompetent parents right for being so inconsiderate and not controlling their child” camp, with the latter considerably smaller than the former. Then, not content to let the matter blow over, Carson got the Washington Post to publish her op-ed about the episode, which concluded, Continue reading

A Rare Ethics Hero-Ethics Dunce: Maine Attorney General Janet Mills

I looked everywhere to find a picture of a combination Hero-Dunce. This was the best I could locate: the Maine Atty. Gen.

I looked everywhere to find a picture of a combination Hero-Dunce. This was the best I could locate: the Maine Atty. Gen.

If one’s only point of reference were Eric Holder, one might get the impression that the job of an attorney general is to use the influence and power of the office to pursue the executive’s political and policy objectives. That is not what an attorney general is supposed to do, however, because the top lawyer of a city, a state or the U.S. is pledged to represent all the people, not just those who patronize a particular party, and the top lawyer’s client is not the executive, but the entire government entity. If that entity becomes corrupt, then the client becomes the public that is being betrayed.

Maine’s Attorney General Janet Mills illustrated how the job should be done and can be, if the lawyer holding it is ethical and not merely a serving as a political yes-man. Governor Paul LePage, a Republican, wanted to appeal the federal government’s  denial of his request to remove about 6,000 low-income young adults, 19- and 20-year olds,  from Maine’s Medicaid program. Normally the Attorney General would handle the litigation, but Mills refused, insisting that it was  a case that could not be won, and would waste state resources. Excellent. Continue reading

Ethics Train Wreck Updates: The Obama Presidency and The Washington Redskins

Obama golfing

1. Update: The Obama Presidency Ethics Train Wreck

This has been a week dominated by Ethics Train Wrecks old and new: the Ferguson Express, which will presumably slow down for a few months until we find out what the grand jury does and why; the previously dormant Donald Sterling choo-choo, which came around another bend in its tracks, and, predictably, the Ethics Train Wreck that is the entire Obama Presidency, highlighted by the President more or less intentionally refusing to act like an engaged leader, happily going back to fun on the links after making a statement regarding an American journalist beheaded on video by terrorists.

Naturally the latter concerns me more than the rest, but I have realized that most of those who are in permanent denial about this leader’s ineptitude simply don’t want to process the truth in this regard. Mention the obvious, or what should be, that this frightening confluence of crises domestic and foreign is an irresponsible time to be perceived as taking a break, and one is bombarded by specious comparisons with Bush or JFK’s home away from home on Cape Cod. Some observers have the integrity to concede what many–you know, those mean Obama critics who are out to get him because he’s black–correctly discerned long ago. Here’s The New York Times, consistently one of the President’s most incorrigible apologists:

“Yet the juxtaposition of his indignant denunciation of terrorists and his outing on the greens this week underscored the unintended consequences of such a remove. If Mr. Obama hoped to show America’s enemies that they cannot hijack his schedule, he also showed many of his friends in America that he disdains the politics of appearance. He long ago stopped worrying about what critics say, according to aides, and after the outcry over Wednesday’s game, he defied the critics by golfing again on Thursday, his eighth outing in 11 days on the island.

It was all the more striking given that Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain canceled his vacation after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria released the video showing Mr. Foley’s death because the accent of the masked killer suggested he came from Britain. Former Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox News that Mr. Obama would “rather be on the golf course than he would be dealing with the crisis.”

But the criticism went beyond the usual political opponents. Privately, many Democrats shook their heads at what they considered a judgment error.”

It is not a judgment error at all. It is just another example of Obama’s flat, flat, flat learning curve regarding leadership. Continue reading

Ethics Heroes: ABC 7 (Bangor, Maine) News Anchors Cindy Michaels And Tony Consiglio

[ To those who wonder why I am posting at Ethics Alarms when it’s 4:37 on Thanksgiving morning, I can only note that when you’re staying in a hotel in Baltimore and hacking your guts out with the world’s slowest moving chest cold, and your wife is asleep and your Jack Russell makes it clear it is either walk him or face the consequences—and with that breed, the consequences can mean anything from an unpleasant deposit in your suitcase or ground glass in your next meal, you’re going to be up for a while. A surprising number of prostitutes out around Fayette Street this time of night….and they were all more interested in Rugby than they were in me.]

When it comes to quitting on the job, there is the Steven Slater method, and then there is this.

Embroiled in various disputes with station management, the news team for ABC’s affiliate in Bangor, Maine (WVFX), Cindy Michaels and Tony Consiglio, decided to resign on the air, at the conclusion of the nightly news broadcast, without informing their soon-to-be ex-bosses. Normally I would frown at such a stunt as unprofessional, and I expected the pair’s performance to have a “take this job and shove it” flair. It did not. Their tone and execution was note perfect, saying good-bye and thank-you to their audience, community and staff, and barely hinting at any discord behind their departure at all, though one would have had to be a low-information voter not to surmise it. Michaels said afterward that the two had “figured if we had tendered our resignations off the air, we would not have been allowed to say goodbye to the community on the air and that was really important for us to do that.” Here was their farewell Wednesday night:

Continue reading

The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Show Us The Way

“The operation was a success, but the patient died.”

“We had to destroy the village to save it.”

Massada. That worked out well too.

I’m sure the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union approves of these classic oxymoronic statements, because its members are currently patting themselves on the back for standing up to Hostess Brands, Inc and not giving an inch in contentious labor negotiations that had put them on the picket line. “I think we’re the first ones who have stood up and said, ‘We’re not going to let you get away with it,’” was the message the union’s resolve sent according to  Sue Tapley, the strike captain at the Biddeford, Maine Hostess plant. “You can fight them. You can shut them down.” “Unions have been losing power for years,” added  a striking worker outside of the same plant. “This is an exceptional case. If Hostess had been allowed to get away with what they’d been trying to do, other corporations would have lined up to try the same tactics. Hopefully, this will be an example to other companies not to break their unions.” Continue reading

The Zumba Instructor’s List and Public Shaming In Maine: Choose Your Ethical System

What those Zumba ads never told you…

Kennebunk, Maine’s popular Zumba dance instructor Alexis Wright and her “business partner” are being charged with solicitation and prostitution. Now the Maine Supreme Judicial Court is about to decide whether  Wright’s substantial client list should go on the public record, as it will unless the court agrees to put it and its names under seal.  Defense attorneys will argue that the harm that will result from allowing Wright’s “johns” to be outed to their families, employers and neighbors is too great. “We think there’s a really important principle at stake here: These people are presumed innocent,” defense attorney Stephen Schwartz said. “Once these names are released, they’re all going to have the mark of a scarlet letter, if you will.” Continue reading

Orc Attack! The Unethical GOP Campaign Smear With the Built-In Punishment

“Citizens of Maine, I give you your next state Senator! Her campaign slogan: “Better an Orc than an idiot!”

In Maine, Republicans have attacked a state Senate candidate with an unfair and stunningly silly accusation devised by fools for consumption by the gullible, ignorant and confused. Fortunately, such an attack comes with its own punishment, for it constitutes a smoking gun that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the Maine Republican Party is not only run by dolts, but dolts who never made it into the 21st Century.

Imagine: in a campaign mailing this week, Maine Republicans accused Democratic state Senate candidate Colleen Lachowicz of making “crude, vicious and violent comments” and living in a fantasy world because she plays the fantasy role-playing game World of Warcraft, and comments in online forums dedicated to the popular online pastime.”We need a senator who lives in our world, not Colleen’s world,” the mailing says. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Sen. Olympia Snowe

To the left-biased media (in other words, almost all of it), a Republican who votes like a Democrat is an automatic hero, and can do no wrong. That is why, perhaps, Maine’s GOP Senator Olympia Snowe received nothing but accolades and sympathy when she suddenly decided not to run for re-election, citing the increased polarization in the Senate. Ignored and largely unmentioned in the national media is how this decision and her timing of it betrays her party, her staff, and Maine itself.

In announcing her decision, she said,

“As I have long said, what motivates me is producing results for those who have entrusted me to be their voice and their champion. I do find it frustrating, however, that an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions.”

Never mind, for the nonce, that for moderates to withdraw from polarized political bodies only makes them more polarized: Good plan, Olympia! Let’s concentrate on the first part of that selection. “What motivates me is producing results for those who have entrusted me to be their voice and their champion.”  Really, Senator? Then why in the world did you go out of your way to violate that trust, by doing the maximum damage possible to your party, your staff and your constituency in your manner of leaving? Continue reading

A “Naked Teacher Principle” Spin-Off: “The Case of the Naked Football Coach”

If it's any consolation, Coach Withee, George Costanza sends his sympathies.

With the notable exception of the high school art teacher who moonlighted on the web as an artist that painted pictures using his butt and genitals while wearing a paper bag over his head, most victims of the “Naked Teacher Principle”(TNTP for short) have been females.  [You can read the initial exposition of the principle here. “To put it in the simplest possible terms, a responsible high school teacher has a duty to take reasonable care that her students do not see her in the nude. It’s not too much to ask.”] This time, however, the naked teacher was not only male but the football coach. And, as the merciless Principle demands, he’s out of a job. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Police Officer Robin Parker

The ethical way to take your medicine.

Officer Robin Parker, a Maine state police officer, was pulled over for drunk driving while off-duty and arrested, as he should have been, but as many officers in similar circumstances are not, due to “professional courtesy.”  Parker was put on administrative leave pending an investigation. His arrest was beginning to cause discord at the station, as some of Parker’s colleagues but some of his fellow officers were ostracizing the officers who arrested him.

Parker sent a mass email to all the officers. It read…

Dear Fellow Troopers,

I’m not sure I’m able to articulate exactly how I feel,  but I will try to put into words my thoughts.

Most if not all of you know by now what happened with me last Sunday evening. I was pulled over on the turnpike for suspicion of driving under the influence. I was subsequently processed and charged with that offense by Troopers within Troop G.

 I want to first thank all of you for your tremendous support and prayers. I will continue to graciously accept them as I move forward in this process. One thing I want to make perfectly clear to everyone. My decisions and choices were mine and mine alone. I have made some mistakes and I’m prepared to answer for them. I appreciate the kind words expressing sadness that I will have to deal with this in the courts and within the department. But these are the consequences for MY ACTIONS. I’m not saying this is not painful, because it is. I’m not saying this is not going to be hard, because it will be. I’m not saying I’m not ashamed and embarrassed, because I am. But, what I am saying is I own this and I’m prepared for the consequences. Continue reading