Observations On An Ethics Mess

Ethics Messes are situations too chaotic and ugly to qualify as Ethics Train Wrecks. This is an Ethics Mess. Think of it as a runaway Ethics Train Wreck that hit a nitro-glycerine factory and was then stomped by Godzilla. All we can do is sift through the gore.

California State University, Sacramento associate professor Tim Ford and his wife had a confrontation with their neighbors during which Ford’s wife, who was intoxicated, called one of the neighbors a “nigger” several times as well as a “bitch.” The target of her abuse, Mikaela Cobb, videoed the exchange and posted it on Facebook. The professor’s conduct was far from civil as well, as he is caught shouting, “I’m a professor at Sac State, dude. I have a Ph.D. I don’t need to be dealing with shit like this!”  He can also be seen tossing  a can of some beverage at the neighbor’s window.

Sacramento State President Robert S. Nelsen said last week that he had recently received and watched the “very disturbing video” that showed the professor and his wife in “an ugly verbal dispute with their neighbors.” Even though the couple’s neighbors are not Sac State students, Nelsen said, he still regarded the situation as serious and a school matter, and he said that the video had a harmful impact  on the campus community. Continue reading

Mid-Day Ethics Stimulus, 4/16/2020: Ethics? Never Mind Ethics, I Got TOILET PAPER! 26 Rolls! TOILET PAPER! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Sorry, I lost it a bit there for a moment…

Where was I?

Oh, right..the post.

1. Incompetent elected official of the moment, since there are so many revealing themselves lately I can’t keep up with them…it’s New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy! Asked by Fox News host Tucker Carlson if he realized  the Bill of Rights prohibited his order prohibiting religious gatherings,  the Democratic leader said,

“That’s above my pay grade, Tucker.I wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when we did this.”

Then he blathered on about how he consulted “experts” and religious leaders.

2. I don’t understand this story at ALL. NASCAR star Kyle Larson was competing in an iRacing event on Sunday when he lost communication with his spotter on his headset.

Larson was participating in the Monza Madness iRacing exhibition race over the weekend. Video from another competitor’s twitch stream caught Larson blurting out “nigger” across the audio channel where drivers can talk to all competitors. When a driver speaks on that channel, their name appears on each driver’s screen. In the video, Larson said: “You can’t hear me? Hey nigger…” Another driver said: “Kyle, you’re talking to everyone, bud.” “Yep, we heard that,” said another. Yet another said, “Yikes.”
Continue reading

Noonish Ethics Warm-Up: Everyone’s Gone To The Moon, But They Aren’t Going To Zoom

Hello?

The Jonathan King hit from 1965 (most people think was originally sung by Chad and Jermy, who covered it) sounds profound but it’s not; King, who wrote the song in college, later admitted that he was satirizing Dylanesque lyrics intended to have great portent, but in fact he meant nothing in particular. The song sounds timely now, doesn’t it? Yesterday, while taking a walk, my whole Alexandria neighborhood was eerily empty and silent. I started singing loudly as I walked as my own small rebellion, but I didn’t think of King’s song until I got home.

1. The ethics breach is “incompetence.” Imagine having a niche business, waiting for your big break, then you get the break, and botch it. That’s Zoom. When schools, colleges and other organizations were forced to resort to online conferencing platforms, Zoom was a ready-made solution: easy to download, single click-access.

It was, as the saying goes, not ready for prime time. The easy access allowed easy hacking and the new phenomenon of “Zoombombing,” where anonymous assholes—yes, this is another time when the term is fair, apt, and necessary—entered conferences and classes uninvited with with pornography or worse. Zoom was  also caught sending user’s analytics data to Facebook, even if the user didn’t have a Facebook account. There were other privacy issues. Many school districts have suspended classes using Zoom.  Google just banned  the use of the Zoom teleconferencing platform for employees, citing security concerns. [UPDATE: So has the U.S. Senate.] Now many potential users, including me, are looking elsewhere.

The  company’s CEO and founder now says he’ll make his product harder to use to improve Zoom’s safety and security. Good luck with that. I suspect this is a Barn Door Fallacy situation. Business competence requires you be ready for that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and if it arrives and you’re not, you not only might not get a second chance, you don’t deserve one. Continue reading

The Ethics Mess That Is U.S. Race Relations, Chapter V: Oklahoma University Loses Its Mind [UPDATED]

Kathleen Brosnan, an Oklahoma University faculty member in the history department, read from a 1920’s U.S. Senate document that included the word “nigger”multiple times.  In another episode, Peter Gade, director of graduate studies for the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication and Gaylord Family endowed chair, compared the use of  “nigger”  to current use  of the phrase “OK, boomer.” (Interesting analogy! Ill-advised, but interesting…) Nobody contends that the word was aimed at any individual or intended to denigrate a race. Nonetheless, laboring under the misconception that words can be banned in the United States, campus protesters calling themselves the “Black Emergency Response Team,” or BERT, have issued a set of demands including the immediate resignation of Provost Kyle Harper, mandatory diversity training for faculty and a new multicultural center.

At one point they also demanded a Popeye’s restaurant on campus, but that one seems to have been abandoned as trivializing their cause.

Wise.

The protestors have begun a hunger strike—no, not just no Popeye’s: behave!—- and have pledged not to leave the administration building they are occupying until their demands are met.( Boy, am I having flashbacks to Harvard Yard, 1968! )Foolishly, the  university’s interim President Joseph Harroz Jr. has apologized for both incidents, calling them unacceptable. (It is not “unacceptable’ to use any word for legitimate pedagogical purposes at a university ) and pledged to require all faculty to undergo diversity training. Here is an excerpt from his letter:

“We are all weary of racially charged incidents occurring within our university community could have made the point without reciting the actual word, [but] she chose otherwise. Her issuance of a ‘trigger warning’ before her recitation does not lessen the pain caused by the use of the word. For students in the class, as well as members of our community, this was another painful experience. It is common sense to avoid uttering the most offensive word in the English language, especially in an environment where the speaker holds the power.”

He is a spineless, principle-free coward, and if the faculty was any better, it would demand the HE resign. Naturally, however, many on the faculty are siding with the students, since they are at least partially responsible for them being this way. Continue reading

Day Before The Night Before Christmas Ethics Package, 12/23/2019, Now UPDATED With The Meme I Stupidly Didn’t Post Despite Polling On It (Sorry!)

Merry Christmas!

TWICE yesterday store employees returned my “Merry Christmas!” with  a “Happy Holidays!” that was delivered in a tone that to my ear was intended to convey, “No, THIS is what you should say.” Both times, I was tempted to call them on it, but did not. Maybe I was being hypersensitive, maybe that wasn’t their intent…but of course it was. The next clerk or cashier who does that to me might get a “No, Merry Christmas. Do you have a problem with that?” back.  I’m that close…

1. ARGHH! “Baseball” censorship! Here’s another nauseating example of the capitulation to the word-banners. The MLB TV channel, which, like its satellite radio counterpart, is challenged to come up with programming this time of year. (The radio version held a quiz last week in which we were challenged to identify expressions of despair and horror as either coming from Cleveland Indians fan tweets about the trading of ace pitcher Corey Kluber, or from reviews of “Cats.”) Yesterday the channel was showing Ken Burns’ terrific documentary “Baseball.” In the segment on Ty Cobb, we were told about in infamous incident in which Cobb jumped into the stands to beat up an abusive fan, who, it turned out, had no hands. When the crowd shouted this fact at the infuriated player, he reportedly replied that he’d throttle anyone who called him “that” even if he had no legs. What was “that”? Why, it was that Cobb was a “half-BEEEEEEEEP!” Yes, a loud, high-pitched beep was injected into the narration instead of the word itself, which was in Burns’ original work (I own a copy.) Morons. If the word is  discernible from the context, then the beep equals the word, so just use the word. If it isn’t clearly indicated—and while I was pretty sure, knowing the story, but uncertain enough that I had to check—then it is incompetent to leave viewers wondering. Half-crazy? Half-wit? Half-lizard? Half-breed? No, Cobb was called “half nigger,” and the exact word is essential to understand the incident but also a key component of Cobb’s character. Did Burns approve the marring of his soundtrack? I doubt it.

This has got to stop.

2. Great: colleges are now free to bribe students to renege on their promises. In a proposed agreement announced this month in response to Justice Department antitrust accusations, the National Association for College Admission Counseling said it would allow its member college and university counselors to recruit students even after they have committed to another school and would permit members to encourage students to transfer after they have already enrolled. From the Times:

Now, colleges will be free to offer perks, like special scholarships or priority in course selection, to early-decision applicants, students who are less likely to need tuition assistance and use the process to secure a spot at their first-choice schools. …Institutions will also be able to continue recruiting students beyond a widely applied May 1 deadline that is typically imposed for students who have applied through a regular decision process and are considering offers based, at least in part, on financial aid packages.

The promises to commit to a school that gave you an early admission were never legally binding, just ethically binding. And they still are. Any college whose applicant reneges on such an agreement after being seduced by another college should send a letter telling him or her, “Thank you for voluntarily withdrawing your acceptance. Our school wants only students of good character, who are trustworthy, honest, and value integrity. Now that we know that you do not honor commitments, we realize that we erred in accepting you. We’re sure you will fit right in at the school you chose, however, and wish you the best in your years there.” Continue reading

Another Cancel Culture Episode In Canada

A retired pro hockey player accused the NHL’s Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters of calling him a “nigger” a decade ago when Peters was coaching him on a minor league team, the Rockford Ice Hogs, an affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks. Peters apologized in a letter to the Flames management after the allegations, and two days later was  forced to resign.

The Nigeria-born  player, Akim Aliu, wrote on Twitter  that when he was playing for a minor league team a decade ago, Peters, who is white, “dropped the N bomb several times toward me in the dressing room in my rookie year because he didn’t like my choice of music.” Aliu further said that he “rebelled” against the coach as a result of the episode,, and that Peters retaliated by advising executives to demote Aliu to a lower-level league. The National Hockey League reacted with a statement saying that Peters’s alleged behavior was “repugnant and unacceptable.” The Flames immediately opened an investigation into Aliu’s allegations.

In a letter of apology, Peters wrote in part, “I was rightfully challenged about my use of language, and I immediately returned to the dressing room to apologize to the team. I have regretted the incident since it happened, and I now also apologize to anyone negatively affected by my words.”

Aliu, who played briefly with  the Flames, in  2012 and 2013, refused to accept the letter as sincere. There are, by my count, about 28 black or bi-racial players in the NHL, or a bit fewer than one a team on average.

There is so much I don’t understand about this story, it’s hard to know where to begin.

  • Yesterday Aliu met with NHL brass yesterday. Afterward, he told the press, “They couldn’t have been kinder and receptive to the message that we’re trying to bring. I think there’s just some big change coming and it’s long overdue, and I’m excited to see it come to fruition.” Wait, who is “they”? The NHL released a statement too:

  • Akim Aliu is being called a whistleblower.  If so, that was one slow whistle.

How does reporting an incident that took place ten years ago, in a different league, qualify as whistle-blowing in the NHL?

  • Were there other allegation against the Flames coach in his current job? Did he have a long record of bigotry and mistreating players? If this one late hit by Aliu about what happened with the <cough> Ice Hogs is really the whole thing, why did Aliu act now?

His Wikipedia entry describes him as something of a trouble-maker. Was this just vengeance for a his mistreatment for a decade ago?

  • Does it really make sense to fire someone for what he said, with a different employer, that long ago, no matter what it was? Does this mean that Peters can never work again, and will have to wander the world, starving, begging, without friends or shelter? If a statement—not a crime, mind you, but just words, ugly as they may have been— made ten years ago is sufficient to make a man unemployable and a permanent pariah, then why not 20 years ago? Is our enlightened society now concluding that no one can change, or improve, or learn, and a single moment of anger or bad judgment justifying shunning him or her for life?

If I write that this seems cruel and excessive and indeed unethical to me, does that make me racist too?

My usual question as I enter ethical conundrums is “What’s going on here?” In this case, I have no idea, but I doubt that it’s good.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up In Vegas, Afternoon Warm-Up In Alexandria, 11/22/2019

Walter Cronkite, Nov. 22, 1963, relaying the shocking news that changed…everything.

Good whatever it is where you are!

1. President Kennedy was assassinated on this date in 1963. He had been President exactly as long as Donald Trump has, and by most measures, President Trump has accomplished more,despite the fact that JFK really did have “the best people.” You might have to go back to George Washington to find a more qualified Cabinet.  By this point in his term, JFK, we now know, had already committed impeachable “high crimes and misdemeanors” notably through his reckless sexual escapades with an Israeli spy and a mob moll, allowing J. Edgar Hoover (speaking of Deep State villains) to blackmail his administration, and perhaps others. Yet the vast majority of the public regards Kennedy as a great President, which shows what a pretty face, an inspiring speaking style, a complicit news media, and getting shot will do for a President’s reputation.

I’d ponder what this nation would be like if Lee Harvey Oswald had missed that beautiful day in Dallas, but that way madness lies, as King Lear like to say.

2.  How many botches can Joe Biden’s campaign take?  The Biden campaign sent out an email about Joe’s performance in the Democratic debate several hours before ithe debate had started. “Did I make you proud?” it began. (I can’t imagine another typical stumble-fest from Biden would make anyone proud, but never mind)

“I’m leaving the fifth Democratic debate now,” It continued. “I hope I made you proud out there and I hope I made it clear to the world why our campaign is so important.”

I wrote about something like this during the 2012 debates, when USA Today published an analysis by a conservative and a liberal pundit over the previous night’s Obama-Romney debate that was obviously written before the debate took place. These things are lies. What should the public take away from learning about them? They should learn that the people involved will deceive them even when they don’t have to.

“You might have just gotten an email from Joe about just getting off of the debate stage,” the rapidly deployed statement from the embarrassed campaign said.  “That’s our bad, team. We know Joe is going to make us proud tonight. We were just so excited for it that we accidentally hit send too soon,” they added.

Huh? If the message was written before the debate but pretended that it was written after the debate, it is a lie regardless of when it is sent. Continue reading