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

Teachers Have No Ethics Code. Here’s One Example Of Why That’s A Problem…

In Tarboro, North Carolina, a 5th grade teacher punished a student for calling her “ma’am” in class. Parents of the child, an African-American boy, brought the incident to the administrators of the North East Carolina Preparatory School after he brought home for their signatures a sheet on which he had been required to write “ma’am” nearly two- hundred times.  The parents said their children were taught to refer to elders as “ma’am” and “sir,” and that their son was obviously not intending to be disrespectful. Upon their request, he was removed from the class to that of another teacher. The school has refused to comment further on the incident, other than saying in a statement, “This is a personnel matter which has been handled appropriately by the K-7 principal.”

That’s not correct. This is an education profession issue that should be addressed by the profession as well as the school. And moving the student, who did nothing wrong whatsoever, sends the wrong message. The school and the teacher should have apologized to the student as well as his parents, and disciplinary action ought to have been taken against the teacher. Moreover, other parents have a right to know who  this teacher is, and have the opportunity to have their children removed from her oversight. If that makes it impossible for her to continue teaching, since any responsible parents would insist on her being kept as far away from children as possible, then she might have to forfeit her job.

Good.

One purpose of professional ethics codes is that they prime the ethics alarms by putting core ethical principles related to the profession into black and white. Here’s one that might have saved the boy from his undeserved ordeal:

No students should be subjected to punishment without understanding what they are being punished for, and why. The punishment should be proportionate to the offense, which should be substantial enough to warrant more than a verbal warning or admonishment. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Disappointed Valedictorian’s Billboard

Gary Allmon purchased the large digital billboard above on U.S. Highway 264 in Wake County, North Carolina to honor  his son, Joshua. The message was on display for 10 days through June 12, the day of East Wakefield High’s graduation ceremony.

The  school recently replaced valedictorians with the Latin honors ranking system used in colleges–summa, magna, cum—as a fairer and more accurate way to honor academic performance. Josh’s transcript shows him ranked as number one, and he felt robbed.

“It’s a stupid rule that will hurt students down the line, but it’ll accomplish their goal of making everyone feel equal,” he wrote on Twitter. He has a full scholarship to North Carolina State University to study chemical engineering. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/31/2018: The Baseball-Trained Rifleman, The Hockey Hero Accountant, And Some Other Stuff That’s Just Annoying…

Good morning!

1. “The Rifleman” and “Fix the problem.” I recently was interviewed by a graduate student in organizational leadership and ethics. One thing we discussed was how popular culture in America once dedicated itself to teaching ethical values and ethics problem-solving, especially in shows aimed at young audiences. This is not so true any more; indeed, popular culture models unethical conduct at least as often today.

I told my interviewer about recently watching an episode of “The Rifleman,” the early ’60s TV Western about a single father raising his young son while being called upon to use his skill with a rifle to fight for civilization in the harsh frontier.  In the episode, hero Lucas McCain (played by the under-rated Chuck Connors) had to deal with an old friend, now an infamous outlaw, who had come to town. (The ethical conflict between personal loyalty and an individual’s  duty to society was a frequent theme in Westerns.) Lucas was a part-time deputy, and at the climax of the episode, his friend-gone-bad is prepared to ride out of town to escape arrest for his latest crime. Lucas tells him not to leave, and that if he tries to escape, Lucas will have to let his custom-made rifle settle the matter, as usual. (Peace-loving Lucas somehow managed to kill over a hundred men during the run of the series.)  Smirking, his friend (Richard Anderson, later known as the genius behind “The Six Million Dollar Man”), says that he knows his old friend is bluffing. For Lucas owes him a lifetime debt: he once saved “The Rifleman’s” life.  You’re a good man and a fair man, the villain says. “You won’t shoot me. I know you.” Then he mounts his horse , and with a smiling glance back at “The Rifleman,” who is seemingly paralyzed by the ethical conflict, starts to depart. Now his back is all Lucas has to shoot at, doubling the dilemma.  You never shoot a man in the back, an ethical principle that the two officers who killed Stephon Clark somehow missed. We see McCain look at his deadly rifle, then again at the receding horseman. Then, suddenly, he hurls his rifle, knocking his friend off his horse. The stunned man is arrested by the sheriff, and says, lamely, as he’s led away. “I knew you wouldn’t shoot me.”

I love this episode. It teaches that we have to seek the best solution available when we face ethics conflicts, and that this often requires rejecting the binary option presented to us, and finding a way to fix the problem.

Of course, it helped that Chuck Connors used to play for the Dodgers, and could hurl that rifle with the accuracy of Sandy Koufax.

2. Here we go again! Now that anti-gun hysteria is again “in,” thanks to the cynical use of some Parkland students to carry the anti-Second Amendment message without having to accept the accountability adults do when they make ignorant, dishonest, and illogical arguments in public, teachers and school administrators are back to chilling free speech and expression by abusing their students with absurd “no-tolerance” enforcement. At North Carolina’s Roseboro-Salemburg Middle School, for example, a 13-year-old boy in the seventh grade was suspended for two days for drawing  a stick figure holding a gun.

I drew pictures like this—well, I was little better at it—well into my teens. It’s a picture. It isn’t a threat. It isn’t anything sinister, except to hysterics and fanatics without a sense of perspective or proportion—you know, the kind of people who shouldn’t be trusted to mold young minds. “Due to everything happening in the nation, we’re just being extra vigilant about all issues of safety,” said Sampson County Schools’ Superintendent Eric Bracy, an idiot. How does punishing a boy for a drawing make anyone safer? It makes all of us less safe, by pushing  us one step closer to government censorship of speech and thought.

Then we have Zach Cassidento, a high school senior at Amity High Regional School in Connecticut who was suspended and arrestedarrested!—for posting a picture of his birthday gift, an Airsoft gun, on Snapchat. He was not charged, but was suspended for a day from school….for posting, outside of school, on his personal account, the picture of an entirely legal toy gun (It shoots plastic pellets: my son has several of them).

The people who do this kind of thing to children in violation of their rights as Americans are the same people who cheer on David Hogg while signing factually and legally ridiculous petitions. They should not be permitted to teach, and this kind of conduct ought to be punished.

Where is the ACLU? For the organization not to attack these abuses is an abdication of the organization’s mission. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Durham District Attorney Roger Echols

This is how a society erodes respect for the rule of law. It is a good way to pander to political correctness and social justice warrior jerks, though.

At the height of the mad fervor to tear down Confederate hero memorials and statues over the summer,  Takiyah Thompson, 22, Dante Strobino, 35, Ngoc Loan Tran, 24, and Peter Gilbert, 39. pulled down a century-old statue of a generic Confederate soldier in Durham, North Carolina. This was done in front in front of news cameras and during the day.

Thompson  is a student at North Carolina Central University, a black institution.  The three men belong to the Workers World Party, which  organized a Durham protest to piggy-back onto the Charlottesville, Virginia protests around the removal of a Statue of general Lee.

Notably, police spotted Tran at the court hearing for Thompson when a deputy asked him to help identify two people . Tran refused and he was arrested.

Tran explained the justification for the vandalism thusly:  “Monday night hundreds of people gathered in front of the statue, and it was the will of everyone there that that statue come down knowing that in the state of North Carolina there is no legal route for removing Confederate statues.”

Of course there is a legal route for removing statues. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/15/17: Lafayette, Harvard, Manning, And “Shut Up And Give Us The Score!” [Updated]

Good Morning!

1 Commenter Other Bill had to ruin my evening by posting this defense of Jamele Hill from a Sports Illustrated writer, which would be enough for me to cancel my subscription if I had one.

“I was going to give this a pass. Truly, I was. Jamele Hill, the gifted young woman who co-hosts ESPN’s The Six every night with my old Morrissey Boulevard running buddy Michael Smith, got on her electric Twitter machine and tweeted out her unremarkable—and damned near irrefutable—opinion that the current president of the United States is a racist and a white supremacist. This drew the usual screams from the political flying monkeys of the American Right. ESPN responded with a craven corporate response that I’ll get to in a minute, but let me just say right now that you will not believe that the response was written by anyone who ever came within a light-year of any newsgathering operation. OK, so I thought that was pretty much it. I agreed with everything Hill tweeted. I thought what she said should be obvious to everyone in America at this point. She delivered her opinion. There was the customary cyber-bullying pushback, and we all move on.”

This is a perfect example of why sports writers should be seen and not read or listened to on non-sports topics. Let’s see:

a) The fact that she is “gifted”—a matter of opinion: a smart ESPN broadcaster wouldn’t do something this stupid—is irrelevant to the controversy. So a bad sports journalist  would be less justified in attacking the President like this?

b) A journalist calling the President of the United States a racist is in fact quite remarkable, and if an ESPN employee had called Barack Obama equivalent things, he or she would have been fired so fast her hair would have combusted.

c) OK, asshole, give me your closing argument about how President Trump is irrefutably a white supremacist. You can’t use the fact that he believes in enforcing immigration laws, or the fact that white supremacists tend to support him, when his political opponents are addicted to saying and writing things like “the whole white race is a virus.” You can’t use the fact that he doesn’t believe that tearing down statues of Civil War heroes is smart or valid, because I agree with him, and I am not a white supremacist. The fact that he implicitly defended the right of white nationalists to exercise their First Amendment rights makes him a supporter of the Constitution, as his oath of office requires, and not a nascent totalitarian like the hate-speech banning politicians you probably support.

So what have you got? I’d say nothing. It’s “irrefutable” to you because your left-wing friends say it is….

d) …not that whether Hill was right or not is the least bit relevant to whether ESPN is sending the message that gratuitous public anti-Trump, race-baiting grandstanding from employees is acceptable, but anti-Democrat/Muslim/Trans statements are not. It is sending that message, and that’s a double standard and obvious bias.

e) ESPN’s response was craven all right, but for the opposite reason that this guy says.

f) The fact that mostly conservatives correctly condemn Hill and ESPN only proves that the Left has lost its ethics alarms and professional compass, or broken them while stomping and screaming during their post 2016 election tantrum. It’s not a partisan or political verdict, except that “the resistance” would defend the Zodiac killer if he attacked the President. That’s their flaw, not ours.

2. Today’s “I was going to post on it but the story is so stupid that I don’t want to give it the prominence” note is this one.  Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/20/17

1. It isn’t just the President’s boorish role modelling and the misbehavior and incivility of his opposition that makes me fear for the ethics alarms of our rising generation. The long-term results of people being able to isolate themselves from social contact—and the social skills and sensitivities that direct, face to face contact nurture—by constant attention to electronic devices is a matter for concern. Yesterday, I became aware of another danger.

I heard, on the new Sirius-XM Beatles channel, a recording of Paul McCartney singing my favorite song from “Guys and Dolls,” a sweet ballad sung in the musical by an elderly father to his grown daughter during her romantic crisis.

McCartney has a foot in two cultures and always has. As much as a rock and pop innovator as he was, Paul was also steeped in the traditional love songs of his parent’s generation, including Broadway. Today both of McCartney’s feet are planted where nobody under the age of 30 is likely to tread, and that is natural. Yet it seems that popular music is increasingly devoid of tenderness, empathy and compassion. Hip-Hop, particularly, seems immune from being able to express a sentiment like that in Frank Loesser’s nearly  70-year-old song that Paul McCartney obviously understands. I wonder, and worry. how many of today’s young Americans understand it, or will grow up with the capacity to do so.

Here’s Bing crooning the same song…

You know I love ya, Bing, but the Moptop wins this round.

2. There was some discussion on a thread here yesterday about the ethics of interests outside the state putting so much money into Georgia’s 6th congressional district’s special election. The House was designed to give communities a say in the national government, so to the extent that a local election is warped by interests outside the community—the Democrat, Jon Ossoff, is a carpetbagger who doesn’t live in the district—it’s a violation of the spirit of the Constitution and the ideal of American democracy. Some have even made an analogy to foreign governments interfering in U.S. elections. On the other hand, all this outside “interference” consists of are words, ads, and marketing. The district’s residents still are the ones who vote. If they are so easily swayed by slick ads and robocalls, that’s their responsibility. (There may even be a backlash.) Continue reading