Catch-Up Ethics Warm-Up, 10/22/2019: Updates, Word Policing, And The World Series

Late start to the day…

…in part as a hangover from the lively Smithsonian Associates presentation on cross examination with my sister last night. The event was completely sold out, a first among my five Smithsonian programs, and it was an intense two hours, followed by lively questioning from some participants who stayed for nearly an hour to grill us.

1. Good ethics news follow-up: Marlon Anderson, the black security guard who was fired from Madison’s West High School last week for protesting being called “nigger” by  a student, thus triggering an unreasonable, brain-dead and indefensible “no-tolerance”  policy, is being reinstated.

Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore  rescinded the termination less than a week after Anderson was fired. The dismissal triggering intense criticism here and elsewhere, including a student walk-out.  One nice thing about incompetent bureaucracies is that their lazy, thoughtless, unethical actions seldom are accompanied by any real logic or conviction, so they will usually back down, following the path of least resistance.

Still, as Ethics Alarms has asked dozens of times, how can responsible parents trust educators whose judgment is so wretched?

I also want to note that most publications reporting on the story emulated the Wisconsin State Journal, which wrote, “A black security guard who was fired from Madison’s West High School last week for repeating a racial slur a student had hurled at him, in an attempt to correct the student, will get his job back.”

Gee, which racial slur? Isn’t the particular slur an essential part of this story? Was it “negro”? “Uncle Tom”? When is it ever competent journalism to withhold relevant information from readers? Is the theory that the mere word will upset some readers more than the tales of carnage the same publications include daily without censorship? Do we read stories that report, “Someone did something really terrible to 26 people in a church using a weapon of some kind”?

In this case, withholding the crucial word at issue supports the “logic” behind the no-tolerance policy that led to the whole fiasco.

2. In more news of progressive word-policing:  Massachusetts state Rep. Daniel HuntGuess what party he belongs to. Come on, guess!  Hey, you have a 50-50 chance of being right!—-has submitted a bill to the legislature that would criminalize use of the word “bitch.” There will be a hearing today on Beacon Hill. Of course the bill is unconstitutional, but why should we expect elected representatives to be able to figure that out?

Meanwhile, the Boston Herald, supposedly the city’s conservative paper (meaning it’s not as left-biased as the Boston Globe) didn’t dare publish the word, writing instead, “the B-word — the term for a female dog that is commonly used to slander women.”

Someone should  tell the Herald that calling a woman a “bitch,” no matter how unjustified, cannot possibly constitute slander. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/20/19: Ancient Icelanders And Others Behaving Badly

Good Morning!

1. Confession: I called a stranger an asshole on Facebook yesterday. I had patiently explained to a Facebook Borg-infected friend that no, the Justice Department report on Hillary’s email fiasco had not proven for all time that she hadn’t “done anything wrong,” quite the contrary. The report revealed that she was directly responsible for over 600 security breaches (after saying otherwise for more than a year). That means that she was reckless, incompetent, irresponsible and dishonest, and, since the applicable statute doesn’t require intent, could have been prosecuted. The report did find that there was no evidence that Clinton deliberately set out to endanger national security, which was never the issue.

Some clod following the thread wrote that you “could sure tell who follows Fox News talking points.” Well, I’m sick of that lazy deflection, and anyone who uses it, especially on me, is an asshole, and needs to be told.  maybe ist not too late to get treatment. It’s even more of an asshole thing to say than the reflex “But ….Trump!” retort.

2. Yes, this is unethical. Yes, it is newsworthy. No, it is receiving almost no national coverage outside of conservative news sources. Rep. Katie Hill, Vice Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, has been engaged in a three-way sexual relationship involving a  staffer and her husband. This would not matter to me, and should not matter to you, except that the woman involved is Hill’s subordinate. The workplace is not a dating bar or personal harem, not in the private sector, not in Congress. In addition, close personal relationships create conflicts of interest for the supervisor in any office. I would mention the inherent imbalance of power that makes it impossible for an employee to consent to a superior’s advances in such a situation, but of course Lee knows that, being an ardent #MeToo and Time’s Up! supporter.

The hypocrisy in the Democratic Party on this issue is wide, deep, and nauseating, except, I guess, to Democrats. Last week, discussing this issue with lawyers following my ethics seminar, a usually smart, fair, male attorney actually opined that Joe Biden’s serial non-consensual groping wasn’t really a problem because “he didn’t mean it to be sexual assault.” The lawyer really said this, though “I didn’t mean anything by it” has been the reflex excuse of every sexual harasser from Bill O’Reilly to Louis C.K.

3. Stipulated: President Trump’s harsh rhetoric in the aborted White House meeting with Democrats was one more stupid self-inflicted wound. Given the barrage of ad hominem attacks by the party that she leads, and the disrespect for the office that Pelosi herself has orchestrated (that mocking clap at the State of the Union speech alone was unforgivable), Trump was certainly provoked, but the President is not supposed to slide into the gutter just because his adversaries live there. It’s swell to be a “fighter”—Trump is probably correct that Mitt Romney would have been elected President in 2012 if he had a some Trump in him—but that doesn’t mean that gratuitous incivility and nastiness is a competent or responsible political strategy.

However, this image, part of a cartoon by Andy Marlette for the Pensacola News Journal earlier this year… Continue reading