Morning Ethics Warm-Up, June 4, 2019: The All-Jerk Edition

You may notice that it’s no longer morning. This was begun at 7 am. Can it ever be a good morning that begins with a dentist appointment a likely root canal? Never mind that: my car broke down—transmission failure, and had just had the thing repaired—right in front of the dentist’s office, and after the appointment, I had to wait another hour to be towed home.

1. The end of the spelling bee. It seems clear that sick parental obsession with success has killed the spelling,  or should, as soon as possible. Just after midnight last week, the Scripps National Spelling Bee crowned eight contestants  co-champions after the competition ran out of challenging words. Why did these kids successfully spell auslaut, erysipelas, bougainvillea, and aiguillette, while previous winners had triumphed by spelling word like  croissant in 1970, incisor in 1975, and luge in 1984 ?

The primary reason is SpellPundit, a coaching company started last year by two former competitive spellers. For an annual subscription of $600, SpellPundit sends a huge list of words ,  sorted by difficulty level, for potential spelling champions to study. The company guarantees that it includes all words used in the spelling competitions.

Thirty-eight  of  this year’s top fifty spellers were provided the service by their proud parents. One of the this years champions, Sohum Sukhatankar, 13, of Dallas said he had spent about 30 hours a week studying the 120,000 words SpellPundit had selected from the 472,000 words in the dictionary.

Yechh. What a wonderful use of a 13-year-old’s time. When he’s on his deathbed, he’ll wihs he had those hours back.

So now the spelling bee stands for a combination of child abuse, unhealthy obsession, parental interference and rich, hyper-competitive  families buying an edge that normal families either can’t or have the sense not to. Such fun. In case you are in doubt, the jerks here are the parents.

As for the once fun and innocent national spelling bee: Kill it.

2. Soviet-style society creeps ever closer, thanks to political correctness. Dr Sandra Thomas, an associate medical examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in Decatur, was moved to make a spontaneous joke while performing an autopsy. Thomas asked another doctor at the GBI’s morgue if she knew how to do a ‘Muslim autopsy’, and then lifted the neck of the dead woman and made the unique sound known as an ululation, which is commonly used in Islamic cultures at weddings and funerals.

 

Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jonathan Eisenstat reported the incident to internal affairs, and Thomas was suspended for two weeks. Of course, she apologized profusely. The deceased person was not a Muslim. Continue reading

From The “Easy Ethics Questions That Some People Think Are Hard” File: “Should A Father Warn His Daughter’s Boyfriend That She’s A Sociopath?”

Of course not.

On the the sub-Reddit “AmITheAsshole” board,  a father consulted the group as to whether it would be  wrong for him to warn daughter’s fiancé-to-be  that she’s been diagnosed  as a clinical sociopath. She is  attracted to her boyfriend, he said, she has told him in the past that  she doesn’t feel love or empathy towards anyone, nor guilt or  grief.  Yup, that sounds like a sociopath, all right. A doctor diagnosed the daughter as suffering from antisocial personality disorder at age 18.

“She exhibited odd, disturbing behavior at a young age, and after a serious incident of abuse towards her younger sister, I realized she needed professional help,” Dad wrote. “Throughout her elementary years she struggled heavily, getting in lots of trouble in school for lying, cruelty, and all other types of misbehaviors. With an enormous amount of therapy and support, her bad behavior was minimized as she grew older.”

Her boyfriend has no idea, the father believes, what kind of person he will be marrying, and the father believes that he has a right to know, saying,  “I really like and respect this young man, and would feel awful keeping this ‘secret’ from him, and letting him walk into a marriage without this piece of knowledge.”

Yet since her diagnosis, the daughter seems to have her behavior under control. She has a good job, successfully navigated through college and has  many friends. She is also popular on the dating scene.

The Reddit participants seem to have been flummoxed by the father’s dilemma. I’m not. The ethical course is clear. 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!

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin

Daddy gave you this with love….

Incidentally, we have discussed how the news media often hides the party affiliation of misbehaving Democrats, but I had to look up Bevin after CNN neglected to say what his party is. This wasn’t bias, just unprofessional journalism.

Kentucky’s  Governor, who is a Republican, revealed that he exposed  his nine children to chickenpox  so they would get the disease rather than giving them the vaccine.

What an idiot. By doing this publicly, he endorses anti-vaxxer fear-mongering, validates irresponsible parenting, and places lives in danger.

In an interview with WKCT,  Bevin said he supports parents who choose to get their children vaccinated and also those who decline to do so. Do you support public health, you reckless, pandering fool? “This is America,” he said. “The federal government should not be forcing this upon people. They just shouldn’t.” “This” means responsible behavior required to prevent the spread of communicable disease. Governments have a well-established and Supreme Court approved duty to take necessary and reasonable measures to ensure public safety.danger.

Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “A Visit To “The Ethicist””

A disturbing Child Protective Services tale from slickwilly, and a Comment of the Day, on the post, A Visit To “The Ethicist”…

When my kids were little, we learned of the stories from friend and relatives where a CPS worker with a vendetta (or being paid off) would take someone’s kids and subject the parents to 7 kinds of hell just using the process against them.

A friend crossed (innocently enough) a CPS worker, who threatened to ‘get even.’ Several days later she was visited by stormtroopers who forcibly removed her toddler aged child and shipped him to Arizona, to a father who did not want him. This meant that the Arizona foster care system was where the child landed. Think dealing with ONE CPS agency is hard? Try two at once! It too all of the mother’s savings, and over a year, to get her child back. She did not get to even SEE her child for 3 months: a huge part of that child’s life. Terrible.

My relatives had a similar experience, after their daughter’s ugly divorce (where the father, who did not want the 3 year old boy, nevertheless made a mess by threatening to take away custody.) When the father sicc’d a friend from CPS on her, alleging abuse, the family sprang into action. A day after the initial call from the corrupt CPS worker, her apartment was raided to remove the child and document the alleged signs of abuse. Continue reading

They Seem Like Good Ideas…But Not Really. Clarence Darrow Knew Why.

I. The Daily Telegraph officially apologized “unreservedly” to Melania Trump and agreed to pay her “substantial damages” for an article it published last week. Mrs. Trump had sued the paper in British courts.

The paper said its Saturday Magazine cover story “The Mystery of Melania” this month contained false statements, as her lawsuit claimed. It wrote,

Following last Saturday’s (Jan 19) Telegraph magazine cover story “The mystery of Melania”, we have been asked to make clear that the article contained a number of false statements which we accept should not have been published. Mrs Trump’s father was not a fearsome presence and did not control the family.  Mrs Trump did not leave her Design and Architecture course at University relating to the completion of an exam, as alleged in the article, but rather because she wanted to pursue a successful career as a professional model. Mrs Trump was not struggling in her modelling career before she met Mr Trump, and she did not advance in her career due to the assistance of Mr Trump.

We accept that Mrs Trump was a successful professional model in her own right before she met her husband and obtained her own modelling work without his assistance. Mrs Trump met Mr Trump in 1998, not in 1996 as stated in the article. The article also wrongly claimed that Mrs Trump’s mother, father and sister relocated to New York in 2005 to live in buildings owned by Mr Trump.  They did not. The claim that Mrs Trump cried on election night is also false.

We apologise unreservedly to The First Lady and her family for any embarrassment caused by our publication of these allegations.  As a mark of our regret we have agreed to pay Mrs Trump substantial damages as well as her leg

Continue reading

Tickling The Ivories Ethics, And Other Annoyances, Via “Social Q’s”

The Sunday Times has an advice column by Phillip Gallanes called “Social Q’s” in which the columnists answers questions about what are good manners. For some time it has struck me that his questioners are just plain annoying people who shouldn’t need a an expert to tell them so: anyone with basic common sense could, and should.

Here were the queries in the last installment:

1. “Mom” complained that she was sick of her college-going daughter—the folks are paying, and “sacrificing”— at an elite college writing about her rich classmates’ trips, habits, and bling. “I finally lost it when she ignored the care package I sent during exams, telling me about a friend’s new Cartier necklace instead. She texted: “I wasn’t asking for one.” I replied: “Please stop telling me about your rich friends’ luxuries! I don’t want to hear about them.” What do we do?”

Gallanes’ reasonable response in part:

“You may be creating an unfair connection between your financial sacrifice and your daughter’s behavior. She’s probably drawn to all kinds of unfamiliar people and things in her new environment (some of them 18 karat), and would be even if she were on full scholarship. You gave her free rein to choose a school. You shouldn’t resent her for the price tag now, or let it color your expectations of her behavior….What you can do is trust that you raised her well. Your daughter’s head may be turned by shiny things for a minute (or a semester), but life is long. And the values you taught her will likely count for more than secondhand tales of luxury hotels. Still, in the end, it’s her call whether to chase after bling or deeper fulfillment, right?”

My reaction: parents who want constant fealty and expressions of gratitude for their “sacrifices” need to get their own values into line. It is wrong to make children feel guilty for being parented. It is especially wrong to require children to adopt and ratify their parent’s  insecurities. It sounds to me like this has already happened:the  daughter has been raised by parents who are unduly impressed by wealth and material signs of it. I went to a college full of rich kids. I wasn’t impressed, and because I knew my parents wouldn’t be impressed either, the subject never came up.

If you done want your kid to be interested in how her rich classmates live and think, then don’t send her to a school that’s going to be full of rich kids…but that would be a really selfish and juvenile motive for sending her to State U.

2. “Barbra” asked,  Why do visitors to my home feel that they can sit down and play my piano at parties without asking my permission? Not only does the noise make conversation difficult, it really annoys me! I think it’s as rude as walking into someone’s home and turning on the television. How do I stop this without embarrassing them?

This is a pet peeve of mine: people who use pianos, harps and chess boards as living room decorations. They are pompous and in an amazing number of cases, lies: check what color square is on the right hand corners of the chess board the next time you’re in a home that has one. If it’s a black square, it means your host doesn’t know how to play, and is preening. A grand piano is an even more ostentatious prop to boast: “I’m cultured!” If nobody in the house can play it, it really says, “I’m a phony.”

Writes the columnist in part,

“Unlike your analogy to bursting in and turning on the TV, there is a long tradition of piano music at social events. But this is your home. If you prefer not to have live music, pre-empt it with a little note on the sheet-music stand: “Let’s not have piano music tonight. Thanks!” This will be less hurtful than asking people to stop playing after they’ve begun — which is good, because not one of them means any harm.”

Me: A piano at a party says “play me,” and taking it ill when an accomplished pianist accepts the invitation is obnoxious. Yes, it can hijack the party—as a longtime attendee at show-biz parties that break into aggravating sing-alongs, I sympathize—and nobody should make themselves the center of attention someone else’s party without getting permission first. Nobody should presume to play if they aren’t any good at it either.

3. “My son and his partner are in their 20s and in perfectly good health. But they run cold and crank up the thermostat to 72 degrees when they visit us during colder months. My husband and I prefer to wear layers and keep the thermostat set at 65. It’s a small attempt to save the planet for future generations. What is socially correct here?” asks “Kay.”

My admittedly visceral reaction: ARRRGH! A VERY small attempt to save the planet…indeed, virtue-signaling and grandstanding. If you want to freeze in your own home do so, but if you lecture me on my thermostat setting as my guest—or lay your hands on it— be prepared to feel the cold quickly, after I kick you to the curb. As a host, if your idea of social responsibility makes your guests uncomfortable and you act on it anyway, shame on you. A few degrees higher for a day or two won’t flood Miami in the year 2525.

Phillip’s advice: “As guests, your son and his partner probably don’t pack all the cozy accouterments that you and your husband enjoy: thick cashmere socks, fleece-lined slippers and sweaters for layering. Stock the guest room with warm supplies. Maybe your coldblooded guests will take to them.”

4. Finally, there is this, from “Stan”:

As a would-be host, how can I withdraw a dinner invitation that I made five days ago in person? The invitee has yet to respond, and the dinner is 10 days hence….The failure to respond makes me suspect that the invitee is waiting for a better invitation. Am I wrong to feel ill-used?

Stan, you’re a jerk.

The columnist: “Isn’t it more likely that your friend simply forgot about the invitation? ….How about calling or texting and asking if dinner at your place is on? No harm in a reminder…”

Me: Yes, Stan, you are. You’re lucky if anyone wants to have dinner with you.

Oh, let’s have a poll: