The Topless Stepmother Conundrum: When Ethics Work Better Than Laws

MOM?!

A lawyer for Utah’s chapter of the ACLU asked Utah Judge Kara Pettit to rule that the state’s lewdness law violates the Constitution by treating women differently than men and thus violating the Equal Protection Clause. The  statute makes it a crime to expose “the female breast below the top of the areola” in the presence of a child in a private place “under circumstances the person should know will likely cause affront or alarm.”

Tilli Buchanan, 27, faces imprisonment, fines and the requirement to register as a sex offender for 10 years if convicted of violating the law, which she certainly did. Buchanan and her husband had been installing drywall in the garage, and they had taken off their shirts that had become scratchy from the fibers, she told reporters.  When her stepchildren, aged 9, 10 and 13, walked in, she “explained she considers herself a feminist and wanted to make a point that everybody should be fine with walking around their house or elsewhere with skin showing,” her lawyers wrote in court documents. Here’s Tilli…

Just kidding.

Lawyer Leah Farrell of the ACLU says the law requires women to do a “mental calculation” about whether going topless would cause alarm. But men can go shirtless without violating the law and without making that calculation. “That really sets up an unequal and unfair dichotomy,” Farrell says.

Prosecutors say that Buchanan stripped in front of the children and  was under the influence of alcohol at the time. They also claim she said she would put her shirt back on if her husband showed her his penis.

Ick. Continue reading

Veteran’s Day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/11/19: Wishing My Dad Hadn’t Died Before He Figured Out How To Comment On Ethics Alarms…[CORRECTED]

Pop Quiz:

How many military veterans are currently running for President in 2020?

Answer: Two…Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

[Correction notice: I forgot about Pete in the first version of the post. Thanks to Jutgory for the catch, and thanks to Mayor Buttigieg for his service.]

1.  Here’s that “violating democratic norms” Big Lie again. This one was flagged by Ann Althouse (Thanks, Ann!)

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman,  an appointee of President Bill Clinton,  said in a speech at  the annual Thomas A. Flannery Lecture in Washington, D.C. last week, “We are in unchartered territory. We are witnessing a chief executive who criticizes virtually every judicial decision that doesn’t go his way and denigrates judges who rule against him, sometimes in very personal terms. He seems to view the courts and the justice system as obstacles to be attacked and undermined, not as a coequal branch to be respected even when he disagrees with its decisions.'”

Althouse comments,

How do you get to be a federal judge and think the expression is “unchartered territory”? That’s a written speech too (presumably). Did he visualize some entity that issues charters authorizing people to speak about the courts in a particular way? You don’t need a license to speak in the United States, and to require one would, ironically, violate our norms. The expression is “uncharted territory,” which would simply mean that Trump is venturing into a new area of speech that we haven’t previously explored and therefore have not mapped…Now, I agree with the idea that Trump’s speech about law is unconventional, but what determines that he has violated all recognized democratic norms? It’s often said that the judiciary is the least democratic part of the government, that it’s countermajoritarian. So what are the norms of democracy that say a President should not criticize the courts?! You might just as well call this purported norm a norm of anti-democracy.

Anyway… the weasel word is “recognized.” It takes all the oomph out of “all.” Trump’s speech about judges violates “all recognized democratic norms.” Who are the recognizers? The judges? Judges certainly have a role talking about democratic norms, which are often part of the determination of the scope of the judicial role: Judges refrain from doing what is left to the processes of democracy. But part of democracy is speech about government — which includes the judges — and that speech is not limited to flattering and deferring to them. It does not violate the norms of democracy to criticize and attack judges.

Bingo. And it is because of judges whot say these sorts of things that the President is not unreasonable to accuse the judiciary of  bias. Ann chose not to mention that this was also a “norm” breached by Barack Obama, more than once, but I will, the point not being “everybody does it,” but that to this judge and others, what Obama did was apparently only objectionable when Trump did it too—a common theme in the anti-Trump propaganda of the last three years. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 11/5/2019: A Whistleblower’s Biases, A Technology’s Risks, And A Thinking Actor’s Values

Hi!

1. So now we know…The mysterious “whistleblower” is almost certainly Eric Ciaramella,  a CIA analyst, former National Security Council staffer,  and  a career intelligence officer.who has served in both the Obama and Trump administrations. It would have been nice and reassuring if he were not so strongly tied to the Dark Side, meaning the Democrats and various “resistance” figures, but he is. That doesn’t mean he had an agenda, but somehow all of the leakers and rebels who have been instrumental in keeping the Left’s coup fires burning have aspects of their backgrounds that justify skepticism.

From the generally useful and fair article about in Heavy:

Ciaramella has worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for several years and was assigned to the White House during the end of the Obama administration. He worked closely with Biden in his role as an expert on Ukraine. Ciaramella also has ties to Sean Misko, a former NSC co-worker who now works for Representative Adam Schiff and the Intelligence Committee. According to The New York Times, the whistleblower first went to a CIA lawyer and then to an unnamed Schiff aide before filing the whistleblower complaint. The aide told the whistleblower to follow the formal process, but conveyed some of the information he learned from him to Schiff, without revealing his name, The Times reported.

“Like other whistle-blowers have done before and since under Republican and Democratic-controlled committees, the whistle-blower contacted the committee for guidance on how to report possible wrongdoing within the jurisdiction of the intelligence community,” said Patrick Boland, a spokesman for Schiff, told The Times.

The whistleblower’s ties to Democrats, including Biden, Schiff, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of Intelligence James Clapper and former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, have created controversy, with Trump and Republicans using his past work with them in an attempt to discredit him.

I did say generally fair. The fact that this guy who created the path to the latest impeachment excuse just happens to be a Democrat with connections to a veritable nest of anti-Trump zealots does and should discredit his objectivity to some extent. An “attempt” shouldn’t be necessary.

2.  Geewhatasurprise…. From the MIT Technology Review:

A study published today in JAMA Pediatrics warns that kids’ literacy and language skills suffer with screen use, and MRI scans of their brains appear to back up the findings…. Forty-seven 3- to 5-year-olds took a test to measure their cognitive abilities, and their parents were asked to answer a detailed survey about screen time habits. …The scans revealed that kids who spent more time in front of screens had what the authors call lower “white matter integrity.” White matter can be roughly thought of as the brain’s internal communications network—its long nerve fibers are sheathed in fatty insulation that allows electrical signals to move from one area of the brain to another without interruption. The integrity of that structure—how well organized the nerve fibers are, and how well developed the myelin sheath is—is associated with cognitive function, and it develops as kids learn language. …Lead author John Hutton of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital told MIT Technology Review there’s a clear link between higher screen use and lower white matter integrity in the children his team studied. That structural change appears to be reflected in the results of the cognitive test the kids took as well, which showed high screen time associated with lower levels of language and literacy skills. “The effect size is substantial, as these findings also rigorously controlled for multiple comparisons across the brain,” Hutton says.

One easy and ethical remedy would be for parents to make sure their kids don’t see them constantly staring at their phone.

3.  A terrific, ethical, extemporaneous speech from Richard Dreyfus. No, Richard Dreyfus is not, and has never been, a typical Hollywood knee-jerk leftist. Glenn Beck’s conservative website “The Blaze” was “astonished” when actor/educator Richard Dreyfus recently told Fox News host Tucker Carlson,

“You were talking about the speakers on university campuses. And I am totally, incontrovertibly on your side about this. I think any intrusion into freedom of speech is an intrusion into freedom of speech. And when one of the presidents of one of the colleges said, ‘this is a school, not a battlefield,’ I said, no, it is a battlefield of ideas and we must have dissonant, dissenting opinions on campuses and I think it’s political correctness taken to a nightmarish point of view

I have withdrawn from partisan politics. I am a constitutionalist who believes that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights must be central and the parties must be peripheral. What’s most important for me is what you just mentioned haphazardly, we are over 30. Civics has not been taught in the American public school system since 1970. And that means everyone in Congress never studied the constitution and the bill of rights as you and I might have. And that is a critical flaw because it’s why we were admired and respected for so long, it gives us our national identity, it tells the world who we are and why we are who we are, and without a frame that gives us values that stand behind the bill of rights, we’re just floating in the air and our sectors of society are not connected.

What’s really important is that the assumptions of the left and the right are all skewed wrong. We have to find areas of agreement and areas that we share. And we do share the notion that education accomplishes certain things. One, it turns students into citizens. And, two, it teaches students how to run the country before it’s their turn to run the country. And, three, it teaches the values of this nation.

People come from all over the world or are born into this nation without the values that we have here. That’s why they came here, to get them. And what are they? You can put them in opportunity, rise by merit, mobility, and freedom. That’s what we sell. And if you don’t want that, you’ve chosen the wrong place. And you don’t get a pass by being born here, you have to learn it. Even the Ten Commandments are not known at birth. You must learn them. And we must learn our values and if we don’t, we are fatally, fatally wounding ourselves. We will not have any way to really combat the ideas behind ISIS because we won’t know our own. And we have to.

Exactly.

Fox News should give Dreyfus a show.

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/4/2019: Mass Shootings, Teddy’s Grace, Skaters’ Peril, California’s Cheat

“Never on a Sunday” just doesn’t apply to the ethics biz.

Historical note: in 1960, the English language version of the title song from the hist Greek comedy “Never on a Sunday” was constantly on the radio. My friends were singing it; the song won the Oscar for Best Song. Nobody seemed to mind, or bothered to tell all the kids singing the cheerful earworm, that the song was about a prostitute who wouldn’t accept payment to be boinked on a Sunday. The translated song’s word “kiss” was a euphemism.

1. That bastion of ethics, California! Senator Kamala Harris has come under fire for pursuing aggressive prosecution policies while California Attorney General, in stark contrast to he campaign rhetoric regarding mass incarceration of minorities.  Now the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has removed many of the more controversial arrest records during her term in office. from the  Washington Free Beacon:

The department removed public access to a number of reports on incarceration in the state, including when presidential candidate Kamala Harris (D.) was California’s attorney general. Twice a year, the CDCR releases information about the number of new individuals incarcerated in the California prison system as part of its “Offender Data Points” series. These reports provide important information on demographics, sentence length, offense type, and other figures relevant to criminal justice and incarceration.Until recently, these reports were publicly available at the CDCR’s websiteA search using archive.org’s Wayback Machine reveals that as of April 25, 2019—the most recent indexed date—ODP reports were available dating back to the spring of 2009. As of August 2019, the same web page now serves only a single ODP report, the one for Spring 2019. The pre-2019 reports have been removed….the reports contain information about Harris’s entire time as state A.G., 2011 to 2017.

As John Travolta memorably says in “Face-Off”: “What a coinky-dink!”

Is this a partisan abuse of power designed to keep information away from the public and the media in support of favored candidate? It is. An ethical recipient of this assistance would condemn it and demand the State records be restored.  In this case, however, it would be more in character for Harris to have requested the purge.

2. Another shooting, another misleading stat. Today’s shooting in Dayton, coming right on top of last week’s El Paso Walmart massacre, has revived the “mass shooting a day” trope that was used repeatedly in 2018. Thus USA Today wrote today that there have been 250 “mass shootings” in 216 days this year. That’s deliberately misleading and deceitful.

The trick seems to be based on the non-partisan Mass Shooting Tracker, which uses the definition of “mass shooting” that includes any time four or more individuals are shot, excluding the shooter. Thus the number is inflated with gang shoot-outs, domestic violence, and incidents like this one, from a high-crime section of President Trump’s favorite city, Baltimore, last month:

“Police responded to a triple shooting in Northwest Baltimore late Saturday that left two males with serious injuries. Shortly before 10:30 p.m., police were dispatched to the 2800 block of Boarman Avenue for a shooting. They found three males with gunshot wounds. One victim was shot in the leg, an injury that was not life-threatening.”

Do you think of the Gunfight at the OK Corral as a mass shooting?  It was by the USA Today standard, though only three men were killed. Two of the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday were shot, so it was a “mass shooting.”

When media outlets and politicians point to a true mass shooting like the one in El Paso, where 20 died and many were wounded by a madman, and say “this is the 250th Mass shooting this year,” that sounds like “we have had 250 shootings like this in 2019.”

And that’s what you are supposed to think. All the better to scare you into giving up your right to personal protection.

3. Teddy Roosevelt and “Mr. Dooley.” In Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “The Bully Pulpit,” she tells the story of how Finley Peter Dunne, the social critic, pundit and humorist who wrote in the voice of the fictional Irish barfly, “Mr. Dooley,” wrote a scathing review of then New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt’s account of his exploits in the Spanish American War, “The Rough Riders.” Dunne mocked Teddy as representing the war as a virtual one-man triumph, and suggested that the book would be better titled, “Alone in Cuba.”

Roosevelt wrote him soon after, saying, “I regret to state that my family and intimate friends are delighted with your review of my book. Now I think you owe me one; and I shall expect that when you next come east you pay me a visit. I have long wanted the chance of making your acquaintance.” They eventually met at the Republican Convention in 1900, and Roosevelt handed him a news scoop:  he would accept the nomination as President McKinley’s running mate.

They remained friends and correspondents even though Dunne, as Dooley, continued to lampoon Teddy. Dunne wrote later, “I never knew a man with a keener humor or one who could take a joke on himself with better grace.”

This is the mark of both a secure and a wise leader, as well as one with a sense of humor and proportion. We have had few such leaders, and fewer such Presidents. Imagine how much better off President Trump would be if he had treated critics like Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee the way Teddy treated Dunne.  Imagine how much better off we all would be.

4. What? Young female athletes handed off by their parents to adult coaches and into unsupervised interaction with older male athletes are often sexually abused? How could that be?  Three-time United States skating champion and Olympic meal winner Ashley Wagner said  this week  John Coughlin, a male figure skater who commited suicide in January,  had sexually assaulted her when she was 17. (Wagner is  28 now.) Writes the Times, “The accusations have further raised concerns that the dynamics of figure skating feed a culture in which young women are all too vulnerable.”

Gee, ya think? It is, has been and will always be irresponsible parenting to send young athletes out of parental oversight into the clutches of strangers because the parents lust for vicarious fame and direct fortune.  At best, even if they avoid the molestation that is too common to ignore, they have been deposited into an unhealthy life path. Today’s Times recounts the story of how young Natalie Wood, being showcased to Hollywood studios by her aggressive stage-mother, was raped twice at an audition when she was 16. Her mother never reported it, lest Natalie be blackballed by the many Harvey Weinsteins in the industry. Women’s sports are no different.

As child star activist Paul Petersen wrote in the only guest post ever to appear here,

“In the Common Law, children are the property of their parents who, in law, “are entitled to the custody, income and services” of the child. The presumption is that parents will not willfully take advantage of their child’s vulnerability, and their inability to disobey. Sadly, the reality faced by children in today’s world is at odds with this presumption.”

This is a much a child endangerment problem as a sexual predator problem.

 

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/30/2019: The More Edition

 

More anti-gun posturing, more diversity deceit, more sympathy for parents who kill their kids in hot cars….more.

1. Leadership Ethics: California Gov. Gavin Newsom shows how not to respond to a tragedy. It has been apparent for some time that Newsom’s objective is to make Jerry Brown look like a thorough and moderate professional by contrast. His reaction to the fatal shooting in Gilroy, California, over the weekend, which took the lives of three people (including two children)  was a) to immediately politicize the tragedy; b) blame Trump, which is pandering gold; c) engage in outrageous hyperbole; d) recycle the silliest of anti-gun tropes, and e) do so while lacing his comments with profanity, because cursing makes bad arguments more persuasive, or something.

Most of his statement before the cameras was inarticulate, stuttering and emotional. Forget about the competent leader’s duty to show calm and professional demeanor so the public knows a capable adult is in control. This is how you signal virtue, and that you care. Once  the honorable Governor of California began talking in complete sentences, this was his approach:

“It’s just an outrage. I can’t put borders up — speaking of borders — in a neighboring state where you can buy this damn stuff legally. How the hell is that possible? [ Comment: How is it possible that states make their own laws, and California doesn’t get to dictate to Nevada? Let’s have a show of state hands to see how many states appreciate Gavin’s state creating a magnet for illegal immigrants, who then can proceed to travel where they wish.] I have no problem with the Second Amendment. [Note: That’s an obvious lie, but we can assume Newsom would say that he supports “sensible gun control,” which in eventually means “no guns.”] You have a right to bear arms but not weapons of goddamned mass destruction. [Note: No rifle, much less single shot rifle, is a weapon of mass destruction, and certainly not a goddamned weapon of mass destruction. This is disinformation, but hey, the governor is hysterical, so give him a break.] You need these damn things for hunting? Give me a break. [Note: The argument that the Second Amendment exists for the benefit of hunters is false, and dishonest, but anti-gun demagogues, especially Democratic governors—New York’s Governor Cuomo has made similar statements—keep recycling it. It convinces ignorant people, you see.] It’s just sickening… the leadership today that just turns a blind eye and won’t do a damn thing to address these issues. [ Translation: “Do something!”] What’s goddamned absent in this country right now is moral authority. [Comment: Whatever that means coming from an official of a party that ridicules and marginalizes religious faith.] California’s doing its part, but Jesus, these guys, the folks in the White House have been supporting the kinds of policies that roll back the work that we’re doing,. [Note: the “policies” Newsom refers to are known as the Bill of Rights.] It keeps happening, over and over and over again, on their damned watch. [Clarification: The shootings happened on Newsom’s watch as well, and before 2017, President Obama’s watch. Newsom didn’t make the “watch” argument then, for some reason]

This was pure, irresponsible demagoguery. As usual, the news media didn’t help by refusing to clarify that the “assault-type weapon” used in the shooting was not the  automatic, military  version of the AK-47 which is illegal, but the legal, single shot version. (“Assault-type” and “assualt-style” mean that the gun looks like an automatic, but isn’t. It is pure deceit. )That would require, however, exposing how ridiculous and dishonest the “weapons of mass destruction” line was. Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/29/19: A Meme, A Sub-Heading, And A Risky Tradition

Let’s pray for a more ethical culture…

1. Unethical meme of the last couple hours or so...Esteemed Ethics Alarms commenter Curmie (Where have you gone Curmie? Ethics Alarms turns its lonely eyes to you… Oo-oo-oo…) posted this on Facebook, I assume in a tongue in cheek mood, since I know that he has a brain:

Sadly, it was greeted with cheers from the Facebook Borg as if the message was profound. This is a good illustration, however, of the intellectual rigor of the open borders crowd, which, please note, includes almost all of the Democratic Presidential hopefuls. How can you argue seriously with people this silly and shallow?

2. And an unethical sub-heading! Socialist propaganda turns up where you least expect it, which I guess is the idea. It’s insidious, and works on young brains like that bug Ricardo Montalban put in Chekhov’s ear in “The Wrath of Kahn.”

In this Sunday’s “Social Q’s” column, a weekly trove of ethics insight and blunders, a teacher complains about moving to a region where teacher salaries are much lower than what he is used to.  The culture shock was required in order to accommodate his wife’s career opportunity to achieve her “dream job.” He says that he is obsessing about earning so much less, and even though he says he did not get into teaching for the money, and that his wife has the primary income in the family, he’s wondering if he will still be motivated to do his job at the drastically reduced salary.

Columnist Phillip Gallane’s answer is far too kind. What I would have said is that if your motivation to do the job you have contracted to do in your chosen profession is based on your compensation,  you are in the wrong field, and you are letting non-ethical considerations dominate ethical ones to te detriment of those who have to trust you.

There’s nothing quite like making a sacrifice for a loved one and then being bitter about it afterwards. Gallanes does point out that since the teacher’s salary clearly isn’t crucial, he shouldn’t “stress about it” and should take satisfaction from allowing his wife to get her “dream job.”

The sub-heading for this segment in column: “It’s almost as if Capitalism is…broken?” Continue reading

From The “Things I’d Prefer Not To Think About” Files: The Daughter’s Breast Milk

Georgia on the right, her two patrons on the left…

An ABC News story from 2009 turned up on my ethics radar.

Tim Browne, a retired teacher and musician from Wiltshire, England, was diagnosed with colon cancer. He was operated on a week before his daughter’s wedding, but  the cancer had spread to his liver and lymph nodes. Doctors said it was terminal.

While he was undergoing chemotherapy, his daughter suggested an unconventional treatment: her breast milk. She had seen a TV report about an American man who had  made a miraculous recovery from prostate cancer by drinking it. Soon Tim was having his morning cereal with daughter Georgia’s milk.

Georgia was nursing her 8-month-old son Monty and offered to set aside a few ounces of milk every day for Browne. Browne started calling Monty his “milk brother.” “If I have a lactating daughter, why not take advantage of her? As long as Monty didn’t mind,” Browne said.

There’s no evidence that breast milk really does treat cancer, but doctors said that as long as Browne believed it did, the succor might have a genuine placebo effect.

What do we properly call a father consuming his daughter’s breast milk? Is that too close to incest for comfort?Does it matter if it’s close, as long as it isn’t quite? Continue reading