Unethical Quote Of The Week: An Ice Cream-Licking, Fame-Seeking Moron

“All I wanted to do was be famous.”

—Accused ice-cream carton-licker, Lenise Lloyd Martin III, a 36-year-old unemployed man who has been arrested in Louisianan for making a video of himself licking a carton of ice cream in the Big B’s Supermarket in  Belle Rose.

“It’s a shame,” commented Matt Walters, who works at the store. “A grown man doing something like that.” Yes, that’s a shame, but a greater shame is a grown man thinking like that, and a culture that raises its children to believe that fame itself is an accomplishment, regardless of what one is famous for.

The internet and social media have spread this disease of ethics and the mind, but it began long before the web took over our lives. Andy Warhol’s prescient quote, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”, first appeared in the program for a 1968 exhibition of his work at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. We saw the hints of the cultural malady with the advent of television, as we saw ordinary Americans getting a thrill from acting like giddy fools behind announcers and TV journalists when they saw a TV camera.

This compulsion spawned such pop culture freaks as “Rocken Rollen” also known as Rainbow Man, who somehow managed to get himself and his rainbow-hued Afro on camera at dozens of live sporting events. At least he stayed in the stands; another example of the phenomenon was fans who ran out on the field mid-game hoping that a TV camera would capture their moment of “fame.”

Clearly, the culture is sending a toxic message to our youth. The movie and subsequent TV series “Fame,” following the travails of aspiring teenage performers, both pushed the false concept that being famous itself is an achievement:

Baby, look at me
And tell me what you see
You ain’t seen the best of me yet
Give me time
I’ll make you forget the rest

Don’t you know who I am
Remember my name!
Fame!
I’m gonna live forever
I’m gonna learn how to fly, high
I feel it comin’ together
People will see me and cry,
Fame!
I’m gonna make it to heaven
Light up the sky like a flame,
Fame!
I’m gonna live forever
Baby, remember my name
Remember, remember, remember, remember
Remember, remember, remember, remember…

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/9/2019: Then They Came For Mr Peanut…

Good Morning!

1. From what cultural hell in America did this conduct ooze out of? A family got in a brawl in the middle of Disneyland, as on looking children screamed. See?

Nice.

The family was escorted out of the park, and criminal charges are being sought.

This entire family is so devoid of  functioning ethics alarms that it lacked the basic civilized instincts not to a) physically attack each other b) physically attack each other in public c) physically attack each other in a family venue that represents the opposite of what they were doing.

In some kind of record for inappropriate understatement, Disney said that  the company “does not condone this type of behavior.” That’s reassuring.

2. Congratulations to the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, but its captain is still an asshole. I fully endorse—well, 95%— Washington Post columnist Mark Thiessen, who had this to say about Megan Rapinoe, the team captain who has been grandstanding her hatred for President Trump by refusing to respect the National Anthem abroad. He writes in part,

Rapinoe is not playing for the Trump administration; she is playing for the United States. It’s one thing for a professional athlete to protest the national anthem, but quite another for a member of Team USA to do it. Rapinoe is protesting the Stars and Stripes while wearing the Stars and Stripes. That’s not OK. Representing your country is a privilege, not a right. If she really feels she can’t show respect for the U.S. flag and anthem, then she shouldn’t wear the U.S. jersey. Here’s the worst part: What she’s doing is selfish. Her protest comes at a time when the U.S. women’s team has taken an important stand against gender discrimination. They are suing the U.S. Soccer Federation because, despite being more successful on the field than the men’s team, and bringing in more revenue, they are paid significantly less than the men. They have a point, and the World Cup is a chance to rally the country behind their cause. But instead of unifying Americans behind her team’s admirable fight for gender equity, Rapinoe is dividing Americans with her anthem protests. Untold numbers of Americans who might have been inspired to support the team’s cause have been alienated by its leader.

Thiessen is talking about cognitive dissonance here: he’s pointing out, correctly, that people are less like likely to rally with even a just cause when its advocates are assholes.

My 5% objection is that the women’s team will have a strong claim to equal pay when they prove that they can play soccer as well as the men’s team. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Paintball Attack”

This is a record for Ethics Alarms; johnburger 2013’s Comment of the Day on the paintball shooting ethics quiz is being honored before it has gotten out of moderation. (Too many links will do that.) It’s also jumping ahead of several other COTD’s on the runway, and the reason is—in addition to the fact that I’ve been feeling lousy recently and catching up requires more time and energy than I’ve had left after trying to keep up with paying work and the daily personal catastrophes—that I find the story of the paintball siege and resulting death raises fascinating and perplexing issues that transcend easy answers in ethics and law.

Some will find jb2013’s (that’s my nickname for him; I hope it’s not presumptuous of me) post provocative. He was reacting to commenter Alizia’s speculation that such episodes are inevitably populated by citizens who are not, shall we say, the sharpest knives in the drawer. It is a topic that Americans are not supposed to talk about of think about: democracy means letting a lot of really, really, dumb, ignorant people having power over your life and influence over your culture and society. As in the short story : “The March of the Morons,” it is the duty of the minority that is not semi-literate, crude, ruled by passions and emotions and lacking the critical thinking and problem solving skills of my Jack Russell Terrier to keep the rest from hurting themselves and lousing up the country beyond repair, but to do so without infringing on their rights and liberty. In today’s dangerously polarized public, both sides regard the other as over-stocked with dolts, and both are, sadly, correct. A majority of Republicans think Barack Obama is a  Muslim. A majority of Democrats think we have just 12 years to address climate change or we are all doomed.  A majority of both believe in ghosts.Most can’t name ten Presidents, or identify half of the Bill of Rights, or tell you the significance of today and tomorrow to world history. No, I don’t think such people are qualified to vote, and the fewer of them who do, the better off we are. Sill, the Founders articulated principles that ensure them the right, and we have to respect that and do the best we can, relying on the “wisdom of crowds,” the phenomenon, unknown to George, James, Ben, Tom and the rest, that seems to make group decisions wiser that the composition of the groups would predict.

Contrary to all the Democratic Presidential candidates, Michelle Obama and others who maintain that America was never great, this has worked out rather well so far.

Watching cable TV is both educational and terrifying—just binge on true crime shows and listen to the interviews with family members and friends of the victims and perps. Observe the cretinous plots and actions of the adulterers, sociopaths, psychopaths,  and petty thieves, thugs, pugs, mugs and Methodists. I literally don’t know people like these, and never have; I’ve never had a relationship of any kind with someone who regularly uses “ain’t no..,”  or who mixes up statue and statute. That’s my bubble: I have to constantly remind myself that my mini-world is the outlier, and my responsibilities lie in the real one.

Here is johnburger2013’s comment on Ethics Quiz: The Paintball Attack:

You raise an interesting point. I live in Houston – where it is frickin’ hot and humid (PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!!!) – and I saw this story on the news. It happened in South Houston. A little bit about South Houston: Stay the hell out of there. At all costs. It is as close to a Hell Hole as one can get without actually being in a Hell Hole. It is an unincorporated area of Harris County, Texas, at the southern edge of the City of Houston. It is politically independent of the City of Houston and is a major petrochemical center in the region, with atmospherics to show for it. It is about 78% Hispanic, where Spanish is the primary language spoken. The median income is $42,615 (as of 2016). It is above the state and national averages in property and violent crimes.* Gang activity is a problem. Just for grins, read through this report from the Texas Department of Public Safety from 2018 to see what gangs operate in here. It’s a fun read. Continue reading

Dead Ethics Alarms+Blackface+Social Media+Spineless School Administrators= One Hopeless Ethics Train Wreck

Constant reader/commenter/master provocateur Michael Ejercito flagged this story for us, and it had already garnered some interesting commentary before I spotted it.  Michael has a distinct style here and is always asking questions that are the equivalent of firecrackers thrown into a wake. He’s one the longest-enduring participants here, and I haven’t let him know sufficiently how much I appreciate what he contributes.Thanks, Michael.

This is a hopeless ethics train wreck at this point, screwed up beyond all repair. I will note the points at which it all could have been avoided, but really, as it is now, it can only get worse. The thing unfolded like contemporary Shakespeare tragedy, in five acts.

ACT I: In Illinois, photos and video  posted to Snapchat, showed a group of white males wearing blackface pulling up to a fast food drive-thru and making denigrating comments about African-American girls. One of the boys is wearing a sweatshirt from Homewood-Flossmoor High School, where all of them were students.

Morons with dead ethics alarms. No high school student in the United States should be unaware that such a prank/stunt/ unbelievably stupid act and self-publishing the evidence of it is almost—but not quite!—the equivalent of maliciously shouting fire in a crowded theater, and thus deliberately tempting others to react emotionally and destructively. I know, teenage boys are too close to sociopaths for comfort, but conduct  like this indicts their parents, their teachers, and the community, as well as them.

Just to be clear, the reason why this is not quite like shouting fire in a crowded theater is that doing that is deliberately inciting a riot, and thus not legal and protected speech. Blackface is offensive speech, but still legal.

ACT II: A former student of the school re-posted the content to her Facebook page, thus ensuring as much damage as possible.  Over a thousand students and others now knew about the blackface episode, and so did the school district.

This is like someone hearing someone whisper fire in a crowded theater when there is no fire, and then shouting what was whispered to maximize the damage. If the student wanted to alert school officials, then she should have done this responsibly and quietly. Doing what she did was intentionally creating an online mob and inciting as much anger and irrationality as possible. The student was virtue-signaling, while magnifying  the harm done by the original jerks. That is malicious.

ACT III: District 233 superintendent Von Mansfield and Homewood-Flossmoor High School principal Jerry Anderson sent out a letter to parents denouncing the “highly offensive and culturally insensitive” posts, saying,

“The social media postings that were seen and heard were not representative of the high expectations we have for all students that attend our school.This type of behavior is contrary to our expectations, is being addressed quickly and appropriately and will not be tolerated.”

What students do and post to social media off campus and unrelated to school personnel and activities is none of the school’s business. They have no obligation to comment on it or disclaim it.  Let me repeat that: What students do and post to social media off campus and unrelated to school personnel and activities is none of the school’s business. Just because school activists, social justice warriors, busy-bodies, victim-mongers and trouble makers want to start shaking their fists and screaming at clouds over what someone else does, student or not doesn’t mean that the school should take the bait. Wearing blackface is 100% legal, in fact, it is Constitutionally protected. So is saying mean things about black girls, Asian girls, white girls, or Martian girls. The letter from the administrators made a tricky problem worse, and that’s not the moronic boys’ fault, nor the trouble-making ex-student’s fault. It’s their fault. They are supposed to be adults, and more competent, responsible, and reasonable than this.

[No, I do not think the fact that one of the students was wearing a school T-shirt made this a school-related act. If one of the students was wearing a Union Jack T-shirt, I would not assume that Great Britain was behind the episode.]

ACT IV: In an effort to urge administrators to take harsh discipline against the students in the blackface episode, nearly 1,000 of the uninvolved students participated in a walkout,  “chanting their demands for justice.” I assume this means that hackneyed “No justice, no peace” chant that I have come to loathe as much as “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”Students don’t get to dictate discipline to administrators. That is known as “letting the inmates running the asylum.” Every one of the students participating in the protest should have been suspended. The parties responsible for students acting like this are the dim-witted and unethical educators who have allowed and even encouraged student holidays to protest gun control and climate policies. Protesting is not part of high school; it isn’t even a valid component of college.

ACT V: The president and vice president of the district’s board of education reacted by sending  out a letter following the walkout, where they condemned the blackfaced students’ conduct  and praising the “speedy response” from Homewood-Flossmoor administrators, which allegedly includes an investigation. The administrators have no right to investigate legal actions engaged in outside of school not involving other students. The parents of the students should tell the school to back off, and hire some tough lawyers to make the point as vividly as possible. “Our children misbehaved, and this is our job, not yours. You worry about education in the school, we’ll worry about how our kids act out of it.”

The letter read,

“The District 233 Board of Education will be revisiting and moving forward with the diversity and inclusion aspects of our new strategic plan, as they relate to cultural awareness and cultural competency training. Homewood-Flossmoor High School will continue to stand against racism, and against insensitive and disrespectful behavior of any kind, and will take the appropriate and necessary actions to ensure that all students are respected, that our differences are embraced and that our unity is celebrated.”

Oh, ugh, yechh, blechh. More posturing and virtue-signaling out of abject cowardice. “Cultural awareness and cultural competency training” sounds like, and almost certainly will be, political indoctrination. I’d like to see 1000 students walk out over that. You can’t dictate that “all students are respected,” and wearing blackface off school grounds isn’t a show of disrespect for students, since it didn’t involve students other than the jerks in blackface. Nor can students be compelled to embrace differences or to celebrate unity, especially when there is only one kind of unity that Big Brother School District will allow to be celebrated, and because you can’t encourage “differences” while demanding unity.

My review of the play? Everybody involved screwed up, acted without considering consequences or proper boundaries. At this point, this mess can not be fixed. If my son was one of the idiots who wore blackface, I would consider,

  • My own protest to the school and the school district, as well as a law suit for demonizing and endangering my son based on his non-school related conduct.
  • Meeting with every administrator involved and explaining in great detail why they are incompetent fools unqualified to train goats, much less educate children.
  • Taking my son out of the school, and either hone schooling him or shipping him off to military school.
  • Making him regret the day he donned blackface for the rest of his youth, telling him that such privileges as driving, having an email account, using social media or having a cell phone would cease until he was living elsewhere and over 18.

Good job, everybody!

Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 2/22/19: Irony, Absentee, And General Lee

Good evening, Ethics Lovers!

Those of you who are older than me will recall that Spike Jones used to call his audience “music lovers.” I have strived to be the Spike Jones of ethics.

1. Oh, you know you want it: today’s Jussie Smollett ethics items!

  • Do we really have to say “alleged” when talking about Smollett’s hoax? Well, we you have to say “alleged” about every fact about someone that has not been the object of a jury trial? The use of “alleged” has to do with formal guilt, not opinion or unavoidable conclusions. Yes, responsible journalism ethics requires “alleged” is such situations as Smollett’s, indeed various ethics codes state this in black and white. But “we” are not journalists, and “we” have eyes, ears and brains. This isn’t a case, as with the accustaions against Brett Kavanaugh, where there is an unsupported, unsubstantiated allegation: that’s “alleged” by definition. This isn’t: with the exception of the fact that Smollett refuses to admit what he did, the evidence is overwhelming, and his original story makes less sense the more you think about it.

It’s OK to say he did it.

  • Here’s Jussie’s lawyers’ statement from yesterday. Beginning by claiming that we had witnessed “an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” Smollett’s legal team said,

“The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a Mayoral election. Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”

Observations: 1) The police statement yesterday was indeed excessive. This kind of angry denunciation of anyone accused of a crime taints the jury pool. Prosecutors have been disciplined for making public statements like that. 2) Calling Smollett a man of impeccable character is giggle-inducing, but not a lie. If the lawyer thinks that, he can say it, and nobody can prove he’s lying. 3) Ah! The lawyer says that Smollett maintains his innocence, and not that Smollett IS innocent. That’s how lawyers are supposed to phrase it in such circumstances.

  • From the “bias makes you bat-shit crazy” files: The Daily Caller tracked down Jussie’s anti-Trump tweets, which hint at a motive for claiming that racist and homophobic Trump supporters roughed him up. Here are a few…

“Trump stole a presidency. White supremacist cabinet. Syrians being exterminated. Tell DC 2 get real criminals & let the kid smoke her damn j”… “Get that dude out of office as president…”…”Pathetic excuse by U.S.”President” to show no condolence & further sell/spew/spit his white supremest, xenophobic, racism as fact. GTFOH”…”Shut the hell up you bitch ass nigga. You will continue to run this country further into the ground and risk lives every time you breathe. You’re not the president. Just a dumpster full of hate. FOH. Sick to my stomach that literal shit currently represents America to the world.”

Nice. Fox, which features “Empire,” apparently allowed a star to spout hate like this on social media assuming that fans of the show loved the Trump Hate. The tweet that will haint Jussie, I suspect, is this one, from 2016:

“The Trump way of campaigning… Take a pile of bullshit lies, sprinkle a drop of truth on top & call it “FACT”. I pray we aren’t this dumb”

How ironic! Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/3/19: Morons, And More.

Good morning!

Still working on the appellee brief in my defense against the frivolous law suit by an angry banned Ethics Alarms commenter whose boo-boo I bruised. How do you write a professional, respectful, effective rebuttal of a 70 page brief that is basically nonsense? I know how to argue against a real good faith legal assertion–indeed, my enjoyment of brief-writing nearly got me stuck in the traditional practice of law. But “this is deranged crap that doesn’t constitute a valid appeal and that wastes the time of everyone involved” isn’t a professional response, just a fair one.

1. “You know…morons!” At least two people—I can’t find the link for the second one, but it was a child—were wounded when spent bullets shot into the air by New Year’s Eve celebrants fell back to earth and hit them. This happens every year. Why do people think shooting guns into the sky is safe? In WW II, my father had to promise a court martial for any soldier under his command who shot a weapon into the air.  This is basic Law of Gravity stuff, but it seems to elude an amazing number of gum owners. I’m only aware of one move that ever featured a death from a falling bullet: “The Mexican,” a failed 2001 Brad Pitt-Julia Roberts comedy.

2. “You know…morons!” (cont.) The Netflix horror hit “The Bird Box,” which involves a blindfolded Sandra Bullock leading her similarly burdened children on an odyssey to escape an apocalyptic threat that only strikes when it is seen, has spawned a web challenge in which people are encouraged to try doing everyday tasks wearing blindfolds. This prompted a warning from Netflix:

“Can’t believe I have to say this, but: PLEASE DO NOT HURT YOURSELVES WITH THIS BIRD BOX CHALLENGE. We don’t know how this started, and we appreciate the love, but Boy and Girl have just one wish for 2019 and it is that you not end up in the hospital due to memes.”

Boy and Girl are what Bullock’s character’s children are called, because she is so certain they are doomed that she doesn’t want to name them. I am tempted to say that anyone so stupid as to try this challenge should not be discouraged, because their demise will only benefit the rest of us. But that would be mean.

True, but mean.

3. Follow-Up…The Federalist has more on the unfolding Steele Dossier scandal. I do not see how any result of the Mueller investigation can hold up in court, no matter how much the mainstream news media spins it, with the degree of procedural irregularity and prosecutor misconduct we already know is behind it. Presumably this is why the focus has shifted to the extremely dubious theory that Trump violated election laws by paying off a sex partner, something he would have probably done whether he was running for office or not, and also a transaction that didn’t involve campaign funds. The media keeps reporting the latter as if it is an unquestioned crime (apparently because Michael Cohen was induced to plead guilty to it), but it just isn’t a crime, and I believe in the end that theory will be thrown out of court too. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/29/18: ‘Infuriating Stuff I Wish I Didn’t Have To Know About Or Write About’ Edition

Screaming from mountain tops does no good, I know, but this is the life I have chosen…

Good Morning.

(My beautiful Christmas tree is drooping already, despite meticulous care. (Did you know that in Philadelphia it’s called a “Holiday Tree”? Did you know they had gone mad in Philadelphia?) I’ve had some last until February first. Not this one, I fear.)

1. Like most of the journalism establishment here, only less subtle about itDer Spiegel reporter Claas Relotius was exposed this month to be that publication’s version of Stephen Glass, a star journalist who just made stuff up. He, however, made stuff up to play to anti-Trump sentiments abroad, writing multiple stories to show how bigoted and backward the town of Fergus Falls, Minnesota was, explaining why it went for President Trump in the 2106 election.

The New York Times story on the hoax shows how Relotius could have accomplished the same mission using just spin, slanted framing and old fashioned bias. Read the thing: it just drips with thinly veiled contempt for Trump voters, and the President, of course. “The election results speak for themselves,” says the Times, knowing how the typical times reader will take that. The Times reporters reveal that the town isn’t full of racist yahoos as if that is news in itself.

2. Can’t let this pass, unfortunately. President Trump and first lady Melania Trump were taking calls from young children wondering about Santa’s whereabouts on Christmas Eve, as part of the NORAD Santa tracker (which I think is a waste of money no matter what it costs, and an example of the government being involved where it should not be), and had  this conversation  with 7-year-old Collman Lloyd which was videoed on both sides;

Collman told the President about the Santa visit preparations underway at the Lloyd household, saying “Probably put out some cookies and then we’re hanging out with our friends, so that’s pretty much all.”

The President: “Well that’s very good. You just have a good time.”

Collman: “Yes, sir.”

The President: “Are you still a believer in Santa?”

Collman: “Yes, sir.”

Trump: “Because at seven it’s marginal, right?” 

Collman: “Yes, sir.”

The trivial exchange triggered more Trump-bashing and a ridiculous amount of negative commentary. This approaches blind hate at a pathological level. The focus of the attacks were that the President’s “marginal” line supposedly destroyed the girl’s belief in Santa Clause. Ugh.

  • She later said that she had no idea what “marginal” meant. We  all know Trump can’t talk: this is Julie Principle territory. The only way one assumes that his intent was to shatter the girl’s innocent faith is if one thinks the President is a monster…which is what the news media wants the public to think.
  • If I had to guess, I would say that he was noting that not all of her friends did believe in Santa—which is, studies say, true. My son was a skeptic at 6. I. in contrast, believed in St. Nick until I was 28…
  • Collman also said that what the Evil Scrooge Trump said didn’t cause her not to believe in Santa, though this could be called moral luck.
  • Even at seven, a personal exchange with the President of the United States would have meant so much more to me than any dents in my Santa Claus beliefs that I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Of course, when I was seven it was the norm that all citizens respected and honored the President, because that was whom our democracy chose to lead us.

Continue reading