Tag Archives: Massachusetts

KABOOM! Brandeis Cancels A Play About Political Correctness Because Students And Faculty Protested That It Wasn’t Politically Correct

I do want to thank Curmie, our esteemed drop-in commenter who is a drama teacher and chronicler of ethics outrages from the world of education, for ambushing me with this head-exploding story from Brandeis University. And my head had been doing so well.

Playwright Michael Weller had received a Creative Arts Award from Brandeis, and when he wrote a  a play, “Buyer Beware,” that satirized the political climate on U.S. campuses the University scheduled it to make its premiere there. The satire concerns a student who discovers the works of  iconic 50s era comedian Lenny Bruce, and attempts to stage a  production in the spirit of the taboo-challenging comic. The production offends  students affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as the Brandeis-like university, which worries that the controversy will offend a crucial donor. The script, channeling Bruce (think George Carlin but more abrasive, and not as funny) called for a white character to use “nigger” in several instances. The play quotes Bruce’s famous manifesto against strictures against mere words: “Imagine if we just kept saying these words over and over again, sooner or later they’d become meaningless noise.”

Without reading the script, it appears, so many students protested that Brandeis administrators, proving that their spines and principles were noodle-flexible, capitulated and cancelled the production, when the statements of the protesters should have made it obvious that such a play was desperately needed. For example, Andrew Childs is an Undergraduate Department Representative for the Theater Arts Department and a member of the season’s play selection committee, told the student newspaper,

“The issue we all have with it is that [Weller] is an older, straight…, able-bodied and white man. [ Wait! Isn’t it okay to be white?] It isn’t his place to be stirring the pot.”

What are they teaching at Brandeis? Only certain genders and races can “stir the pot”? Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: “The Stickering”

More than a dozen handmade stickers reading “It’s okay to be white” were posted around overnight in Harvard Square earlier as well as around the nearby Harvard Law School campus.

Law School Dean of Students Marcia L. Sells, who is black, wrote an email to law students in the wake of what Stephen King might call “The Stickering”:

“It seems likely that these anonymous postings, made in the middle of the night, were provocations intended to divide us from one another HLS will not let that happen here. We live, work, teach, and learn together in a community that is stronger, better, and deeper because of our diversity and because we encourage open, respectful, and constructive discourse”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Dayand watch your step!—is…

Do you think posting the stickers was unethical? Do you think the Dean’s response was responsible?

Continue reading

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Why Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring: The Gloucester PTO’s “Don Trump” Gravestone

In Gloucester, Massachusetts last week, the parent-teacher organization hosted a Halloween themed fundraiser at West Parish Elementary School.   One of the parents was thoughtful enough to bring a bean bag toss game that featured fake tombstones. One of them had the familiar name “Don Trump” on it. Hilarious! And so clever…

Surprisingly, at least to the thoughtful parents and the host who didn’t have the sense to say, “Cute! But you know we can’t display that…”, not everyone present, even in the Bluer than Blue Bay State of my birth, revels in the thought of the President of the United States dying in office.  Several  parents took photos of the fun game, and sent them to Massachusetts Republican Party committeewoman Amanda Orlando Kesterson, who shared one of the them on Facebook along with a searing post, which read in part,

“I find it absolutely despicable that the PTO of one of our local elementary schools would bring this political agenda before our children. The parents or teachers responsible for this disgusting display should claim responsibility publicly and apologize publicly as well. … We should teach our children that the office of the president ALWAYS deserves respect. Our school system is not the place for nasty political agendas.”

One question that puzzles me: did they object to the fundraiser organizers before sending the photos? That would be the ethical course. There’s nothing wrong with ring those ethics alarms by hand if they are stuck.

After the controversy erupted into the news media, the school principal, Dr. Telena Imel, apologized in a letter to parents, saying

“Intentionally or not, it inappropriately brought a political agenda into what was designed to be a fun family affair. Our school, and this includes school events sponsored by related groups, is not the place for politics. In planning future events, it will be made clear to organizers that school is not the place to engage in or to display political agendas or opinions.”

Oh, I think it’s fair to conclude that it was intentional.

The parents responsible for the  game  apologized, as did Gloucester’s mayor, who said in a statement, “The City of Gloucester does not condone political messaging within our schools.”

There is no other way to describe this incident except as a mass ethics alarms malfunction, one that is overwhelmingly afflicting Democrats. (Okay, one more question: Did any Democratic-leaning parents see what was wrong with the Dead Donald reference?) I am old enough to remember the assassination of Jack Kennedy, a Massachusetts native son. I can’t imagine anyone in my state not recoiling at any hint of a casual or satirical reference to another President’s death, even Nixon, and Mass was the only state that voted for George McGovern.

We almost had another assassination  when two crazy women took shots at Gerald Ford, and then one more near miss, when a sick Jodie Foster fan somehow thought killing Ronald Reagan would entrance her. When did this ethics alarm get broken, and how? The gravestone of the current President being presented as an appropriate Halloween decoration in an event with children present? Hosted by a parent-teacher organization? No alarms? Not even faint ringing? In Massachusetts, where everyone once knew “Abraham, Martin and John” by heart?

The alarms didn’t ring in part because teachers began thinking that indoctrinating children in their own political views became accepted practice during the Bush administration, as schools started showing Al Gore’s climate change agitprop in class. The Bush administration wasn’t behind the trend, but the Obama administration encouraged it, especially during the Post Sandy Hook anti-gun freak-out. Teachers were punishing kids for finger guns and biting pizza and pop tarts into pistol shapes even before that.

Still, the “It’s not good citizenship to joke about killing the President” alarm was functioning even if the “Don’t indoctrinate kids in partisan politics” clapper had been covered in bubble-wrap. Then the nation’s voters had the audacity to reject an awful, corrupt and dishonest Democratic Party candidate whose campaign had included calling anyone who opposed her a sexist, and anyone who voted for her opponent as “deplorable,” as well as promising that she carry on the policies of that wonderful President who had so thoroughly divided the nation in eight years that someone like Donald Trump—well, not just like him, but him— had been nominated to run against her. Suddenly the very same people who had lectured Trump and Trump supporters about how in the U.S., after an election, no matter how contentious, good citizens always put down their placards and unite behind the winner, validating and honoring American democracy and the wisdom of the people and our system of selecting leaders, did a back somersault reminiscent of Nadia Comanici her prime, and declared, in demonstrations and boycotts and calls for various means of undoing the election,  that this President didn’t deserve that deference and respect.

Then various voices in the party made vague and not so vague references to how nice it would be if someone “took out” the President. (That’s Maxine Waters’ term.) After the Charlottesville riots, Missouri state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal—I wonder what party she belongs to?–went on her personal Facebook and said to a commenter, “I hope Trump is assassinated!”

The main pro-Trump death chorus, however, came from that saintly community that is always doing yeoman service as the culture’s moral exemplar, the entertainment business—you know, where Harvey Weinstein and the cool, beautiful, progressive people hang out. Madonna told an audience, “Yes, I’m angry. Yes, I am outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House. But I know this won’t change anything. We cannot fall into despair.” Johnny Depp told another throng, “This is going to be in the press and it’ll be horrible. But I like that you are all a part of it. When was the last time an actor assassinated a President?” Rapper Snoop Dogg remixed  “Lavender” by Canadian band BadBadNotGood adding a clown-clad version of President Trump called Ronald Klump, and showed him being  shot with a toy gun.

Last summer, New York’s acclaimed Public Theater staged a version of William Shakespeare’s ” Julius Caesar” in  Central Park with the crowd-pleasing gimmick of portraying Julius Caesar as a Trump clone. The audience cheered as he was assassinated in an on-stage blood bath. And, lest we forget, there was this:

All in good fun, of course!

Thus are once functioning ethics alarms silenced.

Now read the comments to Ms Kesterson’s Facebook post.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/4/17

Good Morning!

1. An update to the Michelle Carter fiasco from Taunton, Mass., where the judge in the case discussed here sentenced the young woman to 15 months in jail for her supposedly deadly words, which “made” her boyfriend commit suicide. This classic example of the axiom “hard cases make bad law” provides the censorious camel’s nose access to the tent for advocates of  the criminalization of “hate speech,” opposition to climate change propaganda, and the gradual castration of freedom of speech. Carter should have never been charged or tried; doing so was an abuse of process, prosecutorial ethics and judicial ethics. I strongly suspect that the judge knows the case will be reversed on appeal as unconstitutional, hence his decision to stay the sentence, allowing Carter to remain free while her case winds its way to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, her life will be stalled, and completely absorbed by the consequences of her texts urging teen Conrad Roy III to act on his expressed desire to kill himself, which he did. This is her real punishment, because the sentence will not and must not stand.

It is unethical to use the legal system this way. When the government takes it upon itself to punish citizens despite the absence of applicable laws, it is treading over the line dividing democracy from totalitarianism.

2. What is to be done about California? States have always maintained their own unique cultures, and that is a national strength. When a state’s culture becomes wholly estranged from and hostile to the values and principles of the nation it belongs to, however, it becomes a danger to that nation and perhaps to its citizens. What, if anything, is the responsibility of the federal government when this happens? What is the duty of the state’s elected officials?

Tucker Carlson’s creepy interview on Fox with a leader of the California secession movement,Shankar Singam, raised these questions and more. Among Singam’s jaw-dropping positions was that the documented exodus of middle class Californians and small businesses from the state was a good thing. “If everyone in the middle class is leaving, that’s actually a good thing. We need these spots opened up for the new wave of immigrants to come up. It’s what we do,” Singam told Carlson. He also told Carlson that “This is California. We’re not the United States.”

At least that settles the question of whether Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.

An ethical, responsible, loyal American governor would recognize the danger inherent in allowing his state to see itself as separate from the rest of the country, and actively work to reverse that dangerous trend and attitude. That governor is not Jerry Brown. Continue reading

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The Michelle Carter Verdict

Michelle Carter’s 18-year-old boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, had told her that he has been considering suicide. First, she told him to seek counseling, then  she changed course, texting him to go through with it. “The time is right and you’re ready, you just need to do it!” she wrote.  “You can’t keep living this way. You just need to do it like you did last time and not think about it and just do it babe.”

Later, she texted to Roy that his family accept his death, and that he would enjoy the afterlife. “Everyone will be sad for a while but they will get over it and move on. They won’t be in depression. I won’t let that happen. They know how sad you are, and they know that you are doing this to be happy and I think they will understand and accept it. They will always carry you in their hearts,” she texted.

“You are my beautiful guardian angel forever and ever. I’ll always smile up at you knowing that you aren’t far away.”

A week before the suicide, encouraging her boyfriend to be more diligent as he searched for the supplies he needed and then going through with his plan in these exchanges:

“Do you have the generator?”

“Not yet LOL,”

“WELL WHEN ARE YOU GETTING IT?”

“Now.”

“You can’t think about it. You just have to do it. You said you were gonna do it. Like I don’t get why you aren’t”

“I don’t get it either. I don’t know”

“So I guess you aren’t gonna do it then All that for nothing. I’m just confused. Like you were so ready and determined.”

“I am gonna eventually. I really don’t know what I’m waiting for but I have everything lined up”

“No, you’re not, Conrad. Last night was it. You keep pushing it off and you say you’ll do it, but you never do. It’s always gonna be that way if you don’t take action”

 “You better not be bullshitting me and saying you gonna do this and then purposely get caught.”

“No, none of that.”

On July 12, 2014, Conrad drove to a Kmart parking lot and connected his truck to a pump that released carbon monoxide. When he lost his nerve and got out of the truck, his girl friend texted him  to “get back in.”  She never alerted any authorities to stop the suicide attempt. The young man was found dead in his truck.

Yesterday, Judge Lawrence Moniz, of Bristol County Juvenile Court in southeastern Massachusetts, ruled that Ms. Carter, just seventeen at the time of her crime, committed involuntary manslaughter by urging Roy to kill himself. Continue reading

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Aaron Hernandez And The Weird Legal Doctrine Of Abatement Ab Initio

The predator priest, the corrupt CEO, and the murderous Patriot, all innocent because they’re dead….

Massachusetts judge Judge E. Susan Garsh ruled that the state’s law required her to vacate the 2015 murder conviction of former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez. Because Hernandez’s appeal was pending when he committed suicide in his cell, she said,  the common law doctrine known as abatement ab initio applied: a defendant’s death before an appeal erases his conviction. Prosecutors argued that Hernandez’s purpose in hanging himself on April 19 was to to void his conviction, but Judge Garsh responded that she was bound to follow state law anyway, especially since Hernandez’s motives were unknown. She had presided at the trial in which a jury found Hernandez  guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the murder of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd.

The fact that some legal and ethical puzzles have proven unsolvable despite troubling lawyers, judges, legislators and scholars for decades (and sometimes centuries) is one of the best proofs I know for The Ethics Incompleteness Principle, which holds that no rule or principle makes sense in all circumstances, and that human beings are incapable of articulating perfect laws and rules that will work as intended in every case. Abatement ab initio is a classic example.

Abatement is the dismissal or discontinuance of a legal proceeding “for a reason unrelated to the merits of the claim.” It is available in both a civil and  criminal context. Traditionally, the death of a criminal defendant following conviction  but before an appeal can be made mandates abatement. The effect of  the doctrine is to discontinue all proceedings  and to dismiss the appeal as moot, overturn the conviction, and dismiss the indictment. The deceased defendant reverts back to his status before being charged. In the eyes of the law, he is innocent…again. Continue reading

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Finding His Country In The Jaws Of A Values Crisis, It’s Richard Dreyfuss To The Rescue! or, “This Was No Boating Accident!” [UPDATED]

Several episodes in the news this week had me pondering a post about whether the hysteria of “the resistance” has caused a critical mass of Democrats and progressives to lose their grip on basic ethical values, like decency, tolerance, respect, proportion, democracy and citizenship competence. These were all ethics alarms, perhaps especially for liberal Americans with integrity, warnings that their side of the ideological divide is not merely spinning off its axis, but spinning into insanity.

Ethics Alarm #1, and the worst by far, was this astounding scenario out of Newton Massachusetts.

Newton District Court Judge Mary Beth Heffernan freed a previously deported Uber driver accused of three charges of rape on minimal  bail even after a prosecutor insisted that federal immigration agents were drafting a detainer and asked for higher bond to hold him. Tapes of this week’s hearing revealed the judge cutting  arguments short, and before a defense attorney could even counter the prosecution’s $100,000 bail and GPS-monitoring demand, declalred, “Twenty-five hundred dollars cash.” She then set a follow-on court date  and asked, “Is he going to make the bail today?”

On the tape, someone in the courtroom is heard calling out, “Yes.” Heffernan then asked a court employee, “Can you take bail downstairs? Sometimes they won’t, they make them go back out to the House of Correction at 4 o’clock.” The defendant, Luis Baez, promptly disappeared, which was the evident goal of the judge. She was more concerned with allowing an illegal, already once deported immigrant avoid ICE arrest than  protecting the citizens of Massachusetts.

Baez was accused of raping a drunken Boston College student who had hailed his Uber car. Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Raquel Frisardi told the judge that Baez took the young woman to a parking lot and other sites, and raped her three times.. He then dropped his victim  at Boston College, where she reported she had been raped. Baez was introduced to the judge as “somebody known to the Boston police gang unit as having previous involvement in the Mozart Street Gang, someone who had been previously prosecuted and in fact previously deported.”

She didn’t care about any of that. Judge Heffernan, a judicial appointment of Obama pal, former Governor Deval Patrick, was a former public safety secretary in his administration who had resigned in the midst of a scandal. True to her party’s obsession, she was determined to help Baez avoid immigration enforcement.

Ethics Alarm #2 illustrates how warped some even previously warped hyper-partisans have become in their hatred of the President.

Talking on  MSNBC with Chris Hayes about the dangerous situation with North Korea, Hayes, a card-carrying Trump-basher if there ever was one, made the rather obvious statement that he’s “genuinely rooting for” Trump to “handle the North Korea situation well.” Good for Chris Hayes: he’s an American, and partisan hate hasn’t completely eaten his brain. Not Moore though.

“I don’t know if I agree with that,” Moore responded. Moore went on to explain that it is more important to him that Trump fail and thus lose power than for the United States to successfully defuse the rogue nuclear nation and its threat to the world.  “It’s like rooting for a 6-year-old who suddenly swiped dad’s car and figured out how to take it down the road,” the fool stated. “I’m not rooting for the 6-year-old to get on the highway and drive that car. I want the 6-year-old off the highway.”

This accurately expresses the message being broadcast by much of the anti-Trump forces, including the Democratic Party, since the election. They are willing to facilitate almost any damage —in Moore’s case, nuclear destruction—to the nation, its institutions, its stability and the public if it will somehow undo the election, and get Donald Trump “off the highway.” Moore is obviously an extreme case, but when you find yourself in the same camp as someone who thinks like he does, the ethics alarms should be deafening.

Ethics Alarm #3 came in the context of climate change, along with open borders the most intensely and irrationally held tenet of current progressive cant. Continue reading

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