What’s Going On Here? You Tell Me…[Corrected]

This isn’t an ethics quiz. It’s not ethics commentary. This is clearly an ethics episode, but, frankly, I’m exhausted. I’m fighting some kind of flu (no, not Wu-Flu); I have a pile of half-begun and half-thought out ethics stories on a cyber-pile, and I just feel overwhelmed and depressed. So I’m just going to present this weird event from the public [NOT ‘pubic,’ as I typoed once again] school chaos, and I invite readers to explain what ethics issues they see here.

Ready?

For  the latest edition of  the NPR’s podcast “Planet Money”,  Shale Meadows Elementary School third grade teacher Mandy Robek was scheduled to read books reading “The Sneetches” to her class as part of about the theme of economics education from in children’s books. Amanda Beeman, the assistant director of communications for the Olentangy Local School District (in Ohio) prepared for the segment by choosing books from the school’s library. The district had stipulated that politics were off limits for discussion. “Pancakes, Pancakes!” by Eric Carle; “Put Me In The Zoo” by Robert Lopshire; a poem from “Where The Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein, and “The Sneetches” by Dr. Seuss were ultimately read to the class. Well…almost.

You know “The Sneetches,” right? Published in 1961, the story is about a community of long-necked birds that all look identical except that  some have stars on their bellies and some don’t. The Plain-Belly Sneetches are traeted by the rest as inferiors, so entrepreneur Sylvester McMonkey McBean sells them stars so they can aspire to be Star-Belly Sneetches.The Star-Bellied Sneetches, resenting the intrusion on their select domain, then succumb to a scheme to have them pay to remove their natural stars. Now the once- Star-Bellied Sneetches will be Plain-Belly Sneetches, and can look down on the former Plain-Belly Sneetches all over again. Meanwhile, supply and demand makes the local capitalist rich. 

“I don’t know if I feel comfortable with the book being one of the ones featured,” Beeman was heard saying on the podcast during the middle of “The Sneetches” reading by the teacher. “I just feel like this isn’t teaching anything about economics, and this is a little bit more about differences with race and everything like that.” As if on cue, a third-grade student soon piped up, “It’s almost like what happened back then, how people were treated … Like, disrespected … Like, white people disrespected Black people!” Continue reading

Observations On The Trans Dinosaur Emoji Appropriation Tragedy [Updated]

I guess Tucker Carlson does have his uses after all: somebody on his staff uncovered a head-explodingly silly NPR feature from January, and the topic was still so silly that it didn’t filter down into the rest of of conservative media until this week. What NPR felt was a matter worth spending taxpayer funds on and wasting listener’s ears on was this, and I am NOT kidding: in the words of a guest on the segment, “Many people who are queer, whether they are trans or some other form of genderqueer or whatever it is…We love dinosaurs.” Continue reading

From The “Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias!” Res Ipsa Loquitur File…

Assassination attempt on Justice Kavanaugh? Who’s “Justice Kavanaugh”?

Yes, it’s a Jumbo. But it’s worse than that…

Newsbusters reporter Kevin Tober recorded the relative minutes of coverage on the Sunday news talk shows for the January 6 Capitol riots show trial and the attempted assassination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The totals:

ABC: Capitol riot: 19:11; Kavanaugh: 0:00

CBS: Capitol riot: 19:31; Kavanaugh: 0:00

NBC: Capitol riot: 36:25′ Kavanaugh: 0:00

CNN: Capitol riot: 18:10; Kavanaugh: 0:00

We already know that MSNBC wants Kavanaugh dead, so there is no need to include that network’s ration. NPR was little better, twice mentioning the Kavanaugh episode without actually reporting on it: “a man arrested near Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s house.,” and “we learned of the arrest of an armed man outside Justice Kavanaugh’s house.” That was it. This is what your tax dollars get you in timely news reporting. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “And Even More Ukraine Invasion Ethics Points” [#1]

As our final Comment of the Day from the weekend just past, here is sooner 8728’s neat explanation for why NPR felt it necessary to calm its listeners and readers by telling them that the wise response to concern over the Ukraine crisis was make lasagna or get a massage, as described in “And Even More Ukraine Invasion Ethics Points…”

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The comment about NPR not seeing their audience as adults makes a ton of sense. Much of the modern Left isn’t like the old time Left. Americans used to be mostly united on the values of hard work, duty, faithfulness in marriage, etc. Political differences didn’t make a ton of difference in personal behavior. Now, the left is saying gender doesn’t exist, you can define your own existence any way you want, polyamory is good, there is no limit to welfare, and other types of ideas. They refuse to accept limitations on reality. Continue reading

Catching Up: Professional Ethics And The Challenger Disaster

Because of non-ethical matters in the Marshall household, I missed posting about the January 28 anniversary of the Challenger disaster, as it is labeled among the thousands of Ethics Alarms tags. I have written about and alluded to the completely avoidable explosion of the Space Shuttle in 1986 many times (you can check here), and there may be no other incident that so perfectly encapsulates the complexities of professional ethics, especially in a bureaucracy. In 2016, I offered an ethics quiz on the topic.

In 2020, Netflix presented an excellent, if extremely upsetting, docudrama on how the fiasco unfolded, “The Challenger Disaster.”

I have used the tragedy in my legal ethics continuing legal education courses to force attendees to consider what might make them decide to breach legal ethics and place their careers at risk when an organizational client is hell-bent on what the lawyer knows, or thinks he or she knows, will be disastrous. Legal ethics rules are different from engineering ethics, though the latter has caught up considerably since the Space Shuttle explosion, and in part because of it. However, I view the ethics conflict in parallel situations in both professions the same, as well as situations in medicine, organized religion, the military, and government. When would, and should, professionals decide to do everything in their power to stop the consequences of a terrible decision when it is outside their role and authority to do so?

In my legal ethics seminars, a majority of lawyers ultimately say they would have done “whatever it took” to stop the Challenger’s launch, whatever the consequences, if they knew what the engineers knew. They said they would go to the news media, or chain themselves to the rocket if necessary. Of course, saying it and doing it are very different things.

Here is the most recent incarnation of my Challenger disaster legal ethics question, which I presented to government lawyers a year ago. What would you answer? It is called “The Launch.”

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In 1986, Roger Boisjoly was a booster rocket engineer at Morton Thiokol, the NASA contractor that, infamously, manufactured the faulty O-ring that was installed in the Space Shuttle Challenger, and that caused it to explode. Six months before the Challenger disaster, he wrote a memo to his bosses at Thiokol predicting “a catastrophe of the highest order” involving “loss of human life.” He had identified a flaw in the elastic seals at the joints of the multi-stage booster rockets: they tended to stiffen and unseal in cold weather.  NASA’s shuttle launch schedule included winter lift-offs, and Boisjoly warned his company that sending the Shuttle into space at low temperatures was too risky. On January 27, 1986, the day before the scheduled launch of the Challenger, Boisjoly argued for hours with NASA officials to persuade NASA to delay the launch, only to be over-ruled, first by NASA, then by Thiokol, which deferred to its client. Another engineer, Bob Ebeling, joined Boisjoly and begged for the launch to be postponed, only to be overruled.

That night, Ebeling told his wife, Darlene, “It’s going to blow up.”

Question 1Should one or both of the engineers have “blown the whistle”?

  1. They did.
  2. Only the engineer who was sure that it would be a disaster.
  3. No, that’s not their role, their decision, or their call.
  4. After the explosion, but not before.
  5. I have another answer.

 Question 2: How are the ethical obligations in such a situation different for government lawyers than engineers?

  1. Government lawyers have to disclose when human life is threatened, engineers don’t.
  2. Engineers have to disclose when human life is involved, government lawyers don’t.
  3. Lawyers get kicked out of their profession for blowing whistles, engineers just get blackballed.
  4. There is no difference.
  5. I have another answer.

Fake News Watch 2: The Missing Mask

Compared to the above mass fake news about mass graves that have not, in fact, been verified, NPR’s bit of false reporting on Supreme Court intrigue seems trivial, and is. NPR’s longtime liberal-leaning Supreme Court reporter impugned Democratic Party boogie man Neil Gorsuch—He stole Merrick Garland’s seat!—by writing that Mean Neil was trying to kill Justice Sotomayor ( who “has diabetes, a condition that puts her at high risk for serious illness, or even death” from the Wuhan virus) or something, because he refused to wear a mask despite Justice Roberts “asking” him to.  Sotomayor, therefore, has to participate in the Court’s work via Zoom. Gorsuch is, apparently, fully vaccinated, and doesn’t have the virus. Continue reading

The Great Stupid And “The Postman Always Rings Twice” Meet NPR!

Abbott-costello-meet-frankenstein-1

Like the classic film starring my favorite comedy team, this is more funny than scary. And it couldn’t happen to a more deserving news organization.

An online NPR article and a tweet promoting the story reported that Michelle Wu, just elected as Boston’s  first woman and first person of color mayor, had disappointed some activists with her victory. 

boston-mayor-npr-03

“While many are hailing it as a major turning point, others see it as more of a disappointment that the three Black candidates in the race couldn’t even come close,” the story, like the tweet, read.  This being The Great Stupid, NPR was quickly accused of being racist. Trapped like a rat, NPR’s Boston affiliate apologized and said it had deleted the tweet which was “causing harm”, though all it had done is report, and accurately, the reaction of others in the city, notably the black community. “We realize we don’t always get things right the first time,” it groveled, saying that the  “tweet/headline misrepresented the story.” No, what NPR was really apologizing for is reporting the story, which exposes the fact that black race-activists only care about one race, their own. They did see Wu’s victory as a disappointment. NPR’s sin was telling the truth, instead of being a reliable propaganda organ and spinning the story to the satisfaction of those who want to avoid letting on that the conservative criticism of the Left’s race obsession is legitimate. What “harm” had the tweet done? The harm was not following the approved script and hiding the ugly hypocrisy at the core of progressivism.

Bad progressive lapdog! BAD!

“The story is still Asians vs. Blacks for some unknown reason. The ‘tweet/headline’ was hardly the issue,” one outraged Bostonian tweeted. Unknown reason? Harvard and other elite colleges are rejecting better qualified Asian-American applicants to admit Blacks with lesser credentials. A disproportionate number of the attacks on Asian-Americans hyped by the media was at the hands of Blacks.

Now the  updated tweet says that “many were hopeful Boston would finally elect its first Black mayor,” with “Black activists and political strategists” left having to “reflect on what they can learn from the 2021 campaign season.” But they weren’t disappointed that Boston didn’t elect a black mayor, you see? 

No, I don’t either. What NPR correctly noted is that “many” in Boston and elsewhere in Progressiveland care about color more than character and ability. Continue reading

Ethics Overview, 1/6/2021: Don’t Believe Women If They Are Married To Democrats, Helen Keller Is A Myth, Christmas Trees Are Yummy, And More!

Calvin And Hobbes Ethics

1. About the Georgia special elections:

  • I’d love to know why people who live in big cities run by incompetent Democratic mayors still happily vote for Democrats. Atlanta and its suburbs are driving the likely victory of both Democratic candidates, yet the mayor of Atlanta, like her counterparts in Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and so many other Democratic strongholds is objectively terrible. Amazing. There is no accountability at all.
  • That said, none of the candidates for either party last night have much to recommend them except their party affiliations. I wouldn’t vote for Purdue, unless he were running against as bad a candidate as Ossoff, and maybe not even then. (From the December post on that race: “If the Republicans lose the Senate because enough voters are disgusted by this and refuse to trust a Senator who used his position to benefit financially, it is the party’s own fault. Republicans should police such conduct, and could. They apparently care more about their own riches than the fate of the nation.”)
  • Raphael Warnock’s win should kill any credibility #MeToo has for Democrats and progressives for good. He’s been accused of spousal abuse by his ex-wife, in a direct statement by her that would have prompted screams of indignation had he been a Republican. After Joe Biden’s win and now Warnock, Al Franken must feel like the biggest dupe on Earth. And he should.
  • Would the GOP have at least won one of the two Senate seats in Georgia had not the President been unable to restrain his inner asshole for a few weeks in the interests of his party and the nation? I think so.

2. Madness! Madness! I keep reading in multiple sources about how there is growing support for a national 15 dollar-an-hour minimum wage, as President-Elect Biden proclaims his support for the measure. With the disastrous shutdowns across the country killing small businesses and the restaurant industry in particular, this is the worst possible time to mandate an increase in restaurants’ expenses, but I’m sure it will happen anyway though it is irresponsible and incompetent.

Continue reading

Musings On The State Of Mind Of Your Friendly Neighborhood Ethicist

Gloom

There are three reasons I just sat down to try to write the first Ethics Warm-Up in three days. The first is that the new, mandatory WordPress format makes it too difficult to create a post on my laptop, so I have to retreat to my office, a larger screen and my more responsive PC to compose, requiring me to abandon my wife and my dog. The second is, frankly, that writing posts just isn’t fun when I have to struggle with software that is actively impeding me.

The third is that I am increasingly feeling as if the fate of the United States of America rests on its citizens being responsible, becoming informed and realizing what awaits them and the nation if the Democrats seize power—and I do mean seize—and I feel as if what I do here is the equivalent of pointing out dolphins, flying fish and sunsets from the decks of the Titanic.

Oh, all right: I’m also boycotting baseball, which has been one of my greatest sources of joy and inspiration since childhood.

Almost nobody I know well or have met face to face reads Ethics Alarms. My family doesn’t, except for Grace. My son doesn’t; most of my friends don’t: I’m only aware of a couple. I did have a nice encounter this week when a neighbor I had never met called out my name, near my home: he recognized me from the photo on the blog and Spuds, whom I was walking at the time.

Continue reading

Sunset Ethics, 9/30/2020: Conflicts Of Interest, Sexual Harassment, Movies And Lies

1. Conflicts of interest on my mind. I narrowly averted a disastrous conflict of interest yesterday out of pure moral luck, so the topic is much on my mind; I’m still distracted by the near miss. Professionally, it was the equivalent of almost being picked off by a bus.

NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg reacted to the death of Justice Ginsburg with an essay on her 48-year friendship with RBG, saluting Ginsburg’s “extraordinary character.” That’s funny: Totenberg never told NPR’s listeners, nor did  NPR, that she had a personal relationship with the Justice, despite being charged with covering the Court and critiquing its decisions.  Kelly McBride, NPR’s public editor and senior vice president of the Poynter Institute, threw a metaphorical ethics foul flag,

“In failing to be transparent about Totenberg’s relationship with Ginsburg over the years, NPR missed two opportunities,”she wrote on the NPR website. “First, NPR leaders could have shared the conversations they were having and the precautions they were taking to preserve the newsroom’s independent judgment,” McBride said. “Second, having those conversations in front of the public would have sharpened NPR’s acuity in managing other personal conflicts of interest among its journalists.”

Ginsburg, who officiated at Totenberg’s wedding in 2000. Nonetheless, the correspondent,  who wears her progressive bias on her sleeve as it is, denied that the conflict compromised to her journalism, telling  the Washington Post that NPR’s listeners benefited from ther friendship because it gave her greater insight into and Ginsburg’s  thinking.

And that justifies keeping the relationship secret from listeners how, Nina?

2. From the “When ethics alarms don’t work” files: Lawyer Phillip Malouff Jr. of La Junta, Colorado, was censured for a series of episodes of unprofessional behavior and sexual harassment.

In November 2016, Malouff  winked at a magistrate judge and said, “When you get back from your vacation, I better be able to see your tan lines.” When he visiting the same magistrate’s chambers to discuss scheduling matters, he  said, according to the female judge,: “Ask your husband a question for me when you get home tonight. Ask him what it’s like to have relations with someone who wears the robe. It has always been something I’ve wanted to do, but there have never been any women judges until now.”

Malouff  was informed that his comments were unprofessional and a violation of the Colorado Judicial Department’s anti-harassment policy. Ya think?

In July 2019, Malouff asked a judicial assistant to check whether the mother in a parental rights hearing had an outstanding warrant. When the assistant replied, “She is good.” Malouff  responded, “Her husband told me that she is good.

Wink wink, nudge nudge. Continue reading