1. There is absolutely no good reason to kill Halloween this year because of the Wuhan virus, but that appears to be what the fear-mongered flock is going to do. Children as well should know by now, are at about as much risk from this virus as any other, everyone is wearing masks anyway, and how hard is it to find ways to drop candy in bags?
Mark this down as one more little joy young lives are losing out on due to a) adult hysteria and b) partisan scaremanship. We never get many Trick-or-Treaters anyway, but I hereby announce that any costumed kids that drop by 2707 Westminster Place in Alexandria, Virginia will receive extra-generous treats for their spirit of adventure.
2. Not that they haven’t been trying to scare kids out of the tradition long before this… Here, for example, is an article that gratuitously warns us that “marijuana edibles” can look a lot like candy, so parents should be extra vigilant—never mind that pot treats are about ten times more expensive than candy, and the likelihood of any stoners slipping those into the TOT bags instead of peanut butter cups are about the same as the odd of my voting for Joe Biden next week. Poisoned Halloween candy is a hoary urban legend: there are no recorded cases of its, except the monstrous father who poisoned his own son’s Halloween haul to collect on an insurance policy. (That doesn’t count.)
People gather outside the Supreme Court building as the court hears oral arguments in the Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue case in Washington, U.S., January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger.
This opinion just came down, and I haven’t had an opportunity to read it, and probably won’t until tomorrow. In Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the justices held that the application of the Montana Constitution’s “no-aid” provision to a state program providing tuition assistance to parents who send their children to private schools discriminated against religious schools and the families whose children attend or hope to attend them, in violation of the free exercise clause. This was a straight conservatives vs. liberals majority, and Chief Justice Roberts, much maligned of late, wrote the majority opinion. The Washington Post reports,
Chief Justice John G. Roberts …said the Montana Supreme Court was wrong to strike down the program because of a provision in the state constitution that forbids public funds from going to religious institutions. The U.S. Constitution’s protection of religious freedom prevails, he said.
“A state need not subsidize private education,” Roberts wrote. “But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.
Again, I haven’t read the legal arguments, but the ethical justification for the opinion is clear. If public schools could be trusted not to indoctrinate students with political view and social positions that their parents might oppose, the urgency of the state providing affordable alternatives would be far less. However, alert and involved parents realize, or should, that by sending students to public schools, they are too often subjecting them to partisan and ideological brain-washing, and we are seeing the results in the streets as I write this. There need to be alternatives other than home-schooling. The ethics principles here are fairness, respect, and autonomy. Continue reading
In Montana, the Valley County Health Department sent out a flier to businesses decreeing that all essential workers from outside the county must wear pink armbands or bracelets signifying their quarantine status in order to shop in the county. Anyone not wearing a pink armband, the flyer said, would be reported to police.
If that graphic is too blurry for you, it reads in part,
Anyone who is from out of town or out of Valley County who has a PINK wristband has been here 14 days or more and no longer needs to do the strict self-quarantine. They may enter your business. Anyone who is from out of town or out of Valley County, staying here/working here, and has not completed the 14 day quarantine is REQUIRED BY THE VALLEY COUNTY HEALTH OFFICER ORDER to use curbside delivery only. They are not to enter your business to shop.
Boy, that reminds me of something. What is it? It’s right on the tip of my tongue…something to do with..is it the Holocaust? Could that be it? No, it can’t be. No health department would be that stupid, would it? Especially when mayors and governors around the country are being accused of having a “Who’s the best dictator?” competition? Would it? Really?
Here’s the Nazi badge code, in case you can’t read German: Continue reading
I wondered why a July 6 2019 Ethics Hero post was suddenly getting lots of visits. The reason was disappointing: Presley Prichard, the inspiring paramedic who built herself up from a slim, 120 pound paramedic into a160 pound athlete so she could meet the strength and fitness requirements to achieve her life goal of being a firefighter — “This is how female empowerment is supposed to work” I wrote, saluting her determination—
—was fired by Evergreen Fire Rescue in Flathead County, Montana for posting provocative photographs of herself on Instagram. Continue reading
This is how female empowerment is supposed to work.
Presley Pritchard was a paramedic who aspired to be a firefighter. She was told, however, that at 120 pounds (that’s the “before” photo on the left above) she was too small and weak for the physically demanding job. Did she sue? Did she take advantage of reduced strength and fitness qualifications to get what she wanted anyway? Did she try to find a firefighting outfit that had a “diversity” quota to meet? Did she give up? Did she decide that she treasured her Size 2 wardrobe more than her ambition?
No, what Presley Pritchard did was begin a long, tough training regimen involving weight training and power-lifting along with a muscle-building diet and increased caloric intake. She raised her body weight by 30%, and aced the firefighter fitness requirements, allowing her to join Evergreen Fire Rescue in Flathead County, Montana without any relaxed standards. She writes, Continue reading
Good morning, and I mean it this time…!
1. My only Red Sox-related note: One reason I know that the news media can’t be trusted is that when I have first hand knowledge of a topic or event reported in the paper, I often find the reporting lazily, inexplicably, factually wrong. Here’s a trivial but illustrative example: this amazing play (It’s at 1:04 on the video) ended last night’s decisive Boston 4-3 victory over the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series:
Here’s how the Times described it:
“Kimbrel then got Gleyber Torres to hit a dribbler to third. Eduardo Nunez, a former Yankee, gathered it and threw slightly wide of first base, but another former Yankee, Steve Pearce, stretched to glove it an instant before Torres touched the bag.”
What? “Slightly wide”? A millimeter wider and the ball would have been in the dugout! If journalists can’t get little things right, why should be trust them to convey the important stuff?
2. Institutional incompetence The historical airbrushing continues. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
Washington and Lee University has decided to make changes to the names of some campus buildings after concerns from students and faculty.
On Tuesday, the Board of Trustees announced that it will rename Robinson Hall as Chavis Hall, in honor of John Chavis, the first African-American to receive a college education in the United States. He graduated from Washington Academy, the predecessor of W&L, in 1799. Also, Lee-Jackson House will be renamed Simpson Hall in honor of Pamela Hemenway Simpson, who served as an associate dean of the college and helped move to a co-ed environment in the 1980s.
The board also announced that effective immediately, it will replace portraits of Robert E. Lee and George Washington in military uniforms inside Lee Chapel with portraits of the two men in civilian clothing.
An educational institution that thinks it is appropriate to airbrush its own history can’t be trusted to teach anyone. Robinson Hall is named after the man who established the college, John Robinson. Yup, he was a slaveholder, but he established the school, and deserves prominent recognition for that. The decision to strip Washington and Lee of their uniforms is particularly ominous, hinting of several obnoxious biases. Soldiers are taboo now? Or is this a strike against “toxic masculinity”? If the idea is to pretend that Robert E. Lee is only notable for his post-military career as president of the university, that’s absurd and dishonest: if Lee had never worn the Confederate uniform, he would never have led the school, and nobody would know who he was today. Washington’s military brilliance supersedes his civilian achievements in significance and historical impact, for without General Washington there would be no United States of America.
My position is that it is negligent for parents to entrust their children’s minds to stupid people and incompetent schools. Washington and Lee and its administrators now qualify for that category.
Walsh (top); Paul (bottom)
“Whooo are you? Who, who, who, who?”
U.S. Senator John Walsh (D-Mt) has an obligation to resign.
He was never elected to office; Montana Governor Steve Bullock appointed him to fill the vacant seat of Max Baucus, who resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China. Though he was Montana’s Lieutenant Governor at the time, Walsh’s primary qualification for the job was his military record and honors, including a master’s degree at the U.S. War College. The New York Times revealed this week that Walsh’s 2007 thesis, titled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy,” was substantially plagiarized, copied from other sources without attribution. Now the War College is investigating to determine whether Walsh’s degree should be revoked.
If this happened to a partner at a law firm, he would be fired. If it happened to a professor at a respectable university, he would be terminated. When it has happened to high ranking corporate officers, they have usually been forced to resign. The importance of honesty and trustworthiness to the duties of a U.S. Senator are more important than either of these. Moreover, the fact that he could not complete an adequate 14 page thesis ( I am still reeling that the War College hands out masters degrees for such paltry work) without stealing the word of others does not inspire faith in his abilities as a lawmaker. Walsh has an obligation to resign.
Instead, he has been making lame excuses and rationalizations, and encouraging others to lie for him. He and his supporters are calling this “a mistake.” Using someone else’s work to make up 25% of your masters thesis and taking credit for it is not a “mistake.” It is proof of a deficit in character. Had his plagiarism been discovered when he submitted the paper, he would have been kicked out of the masters program, presumably. The military is especially strict regarding dishonesty and dishonorable conduct. Would he have been appointed if that had occurred? Presumably not. At least I hope not.
Flailing to find an escape, Walsh has played the veteran pity card, suggesting that the plagiarism may have been the result of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. It doesn’t matter why he plagiarized, though this seems like a particularly slimy excuse. He plagiarized. His current credentials, which were among the factors that got him nominated, were based on a lie. Continue reading
“Your Honor, uh, you’re not quite yourself today..”
How many racist e-mails does one have to send out before it proves one is a racist? At Above the Law, legal affairs blogger Ellie Mystal says the answer is one, and I agree. Mystal writes:
“If you send one horribly racist email that actually manages to leak out into public discourse, it’s probably not your only one. Seeing a racist email from someone is like seeing a mouse in your apartment: there’s never just one. I believe in temporary insanity, but I don’t believe in sudden onset racism that magically appears once and only once and then disappears forever. Of course, whenever anybody gets caught in a racist email scandal, they always say that it’s the only one. It’s always “Whoops, that email was racist, but I’m not racist.” The racist email is always allegedly “out of character,” and the person always claims to have shown “poor judgment.” And that person always has some apologists, as if sending one or two racist emails is just something that “happens” in the normal course of business to non-racist people.”
The “out of character” nonsense is what Ethics Alarms refers to as the “Pazuzu Excuse,” as when someone explains that his or her full-throated expression of a vile nature “just wasn’t me” and “doesn’t express how I feel,” as if their being was suddenly possessed by the evil demon that made Linda Blair spit pea soup in “The Exorcist.” People try that excuse—and absurdly often are allowed to get away with it—because, at their core, they realize that signature significance is persuasive when judging character. Non-racists simply don’t send out racist e-mails ever, even once, and one such episode, all by itself, is convincing evidence that the sender is, in fact, a racist.
The racist under discussion by Mystal was retired federal judge Richard F. Cebull, appointed chief judge for the District of Montana by President George W. Bush in 2001. In 2012, Cebull got in trouble when he sent the following e-mail to seven acquaintances: Continue reading
The Taco Bell employee-to-be,
Prediction: Those who don’t comprehend the George Zimmerman verdict will never understand this one. Yet it is absolutely right and necessary in every way.
Summary: The Montana Supreme Court blocked an incompetent judge from changing an offensive and inexcusably inadequate sentence for a serious crime, because he was trying to do so as the result of public criticism.
Background: Judge G. Todd Baugh, an elected district judge in Montana’s Yellowstone County, sentenced former high school teacher Stacey Dean Rambold to 15 years in prison with all but 31 days suspended—that’s one lousy month, friends— for having sexual intercourse without consent, also known as rape, with a 14-year-old female student (the teacher was 49 at the time) who later committed suicide while the case was pending. The judge, who appears to be an idiot (he later said that he can’t imagine what came over him) explained his decision at the time by saying that the underaged victim of the statutory rape was “older than her chronological age” and had “as much control of the situation” as the teacher.
Beginning with the late student’s mother, who reacted to the absurd sentence by screaming “You suck!” at the judge (Excellent diagnosis, by the way) and storming out of the courtroom, the ridiculous verdict caused an overwhelming backlash of negative public sentiment that spread nationwide. There was so much wrong with the sentence and the way it was arrived at that the mind, and conscience, boggles: Continue reading
Sen. Baucus and, uh, staff…
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana) has announced that he won’t be seeking re-election in 2014, and the alert national media has spun this into many themed stories: how it further endangers the Democratic Party’s chances of holding the Senate; how it will remove one of the purported experts on the tax code from possible tax reform efforts; how, as Washington Post columnist Stephen Stromberg put it, Baucus has a chance to leave “an admirable tax-reform legacy” by negotiating a deal on a carbon tax. All of this misses the Tyrannosaurus in the room, and worse than that, leaves the impression that it doesn’t matter. Baucus is one of the most corrupt and untrustworthy members of the Senate, which is no small accomplishment, if not exactly an admirable legacy. He should resign now, as he should have resigned years ago. The fact that his colleagues didn’t force him to resign (like his former, similarly corrupt Republican colleague, Sen. Ensign) shows just how unworthy of the American public that body is.
Since he was last elected by the good people of Montana, Baucus…
- Carried on an inter-office, and adulterous, affair with staffer Melodee Hanes
- Blatantly favored her in the course of business, giving her an excessive raise and taking her along with him on costly junkets
- Nominated Hanes to be a U.S. attorney, a plum job Hanes withdrew herself from consideration for after their clandestine affair was revealed
- Probably pulled strings to get her a high-ranking job in the Justice Department, after the couple divorced their respective spouses and got married in 2011… Continue reading