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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/13/18: You Can’t Get Much More Ethics Issues Variety Than This!

Good Morning!

[Mickey is really playing that piano. Boy he was amazing…]

1 A Russian Jumbo!  And it worked! In Russia, Irina Kudinova was charged with mocking the Church after she  posted a photograph that prosecutors alleged was obscene and thus constituted the “deliberate desecration of a religious object” and “insulting the feelings of believers.”   Gee, I can’t imagine why anyone would think THAT..Here’s the photo:

The judge ruled that it was merely a photo of an Easter cake and nothing more. Elephant? What elephant? Or maybe “What elephant phallus?” would be more accurate. Kudinova was awarded 20,000 rubles in a court action for false accusations.

Few cases better illustrate the principle that in Bizarro World attempts at ethical acts become unethical. The problem is that Russia has laws that discourage free speech. In order to undermine an unethical law, the judge in this case made a ruling that is obviously contrary to reality, and what anyone can see with their own eyes. If judges can ignore evidence and deny reality to protect citizens from an unjust law, then they can do the same to unjustly punish citizens who break no laws at all.

I’m happy for Kudinova, but the Russian judge is a well-intentioned ethics dunce. His solution does as much damage as good.

2. “Thanks, Mom and Dad…and bite me.” The parents of GOP Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson each gave $2,700, the maximum allowed, to the primary campaign of the Democrat their son is challenging, Senator Tammy Baldwin. Continue reading

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Rewarding Violence And Vigilante Justice: The Unethical Glorification of Randall Margraves

That’s Margraves on the left, with Nassar, his target, cowering in red…

During the sentencing hearing for sexual predator Larry Nasser in an Eaton County, Michigan courtroom, Randall Margraves, the father of three daughters who were all molested by the former USA Women’s Gymnastics doctor, shouted “You son of a bitch!” and rushed Nassar.  He was tackled and placed in handcuffs. Before the attack, Margraves asked Judge Janice Cunningham to grant him “five minutes in a locked room with this demon. Yes or no.”  Perhaps he thought she was Ingham County Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who might have granted his request based on her words at his previous sentencing hearing. Cunningham, however, refused the request.

After the father’s attempt to take the law into his own hands, Michigan Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis told the stunned courtroom, “We cannot behave like this. This is letting him have his power over us….You cannot do this. I understand Mr. Margraves’ frustration, but you cannot do this. Use your words, use your experiences. Do not use physical violence.” Judge Cunningham added,

“We cannot react by using physical violence and assault against someone who has performed criminal acts. What Mr. Nassar did is horrible. It’s unthinkable, but please let the criminal justice system do what it is supposed to do and issue the punishment he should get.”

Nonetheless, no charges were filed against Margraves. Wrong.  This is irresponsible and hypocritical, as well as cowardly. (We know any punishment will be unpopular with the “Think of the children!” and the “What if it was your daughters?” crowds as well as the “Punch Nazis in the face”  constituency) If the message really is that a society can’t give in to vigilante justice and let citizens employ physical violence as extra-legal means to exact vengeance against criminals, then those who behave this way must be punished.  If they are not, then the opposite message is sent: “Well, when someone is really bad, and hurts someone you really care about, we sympathize. We understand how you feel.” What if Margraves had reached Nassar and delivered a punch to his face, fracturing his jaw? Or ripped his lips off? That he didn’t was just moral luck. Would the father have been charged then, as millions around the nation shut down their ethics alarms and cheered?

For the justice system to remains coherent and maintain integrity, the father had to be charged. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/27/2018: “If You Want It, Here’s How To Get It” Edition

Good Morning (and I hope you all feel better than I do).

1 Tide Pod Update: If you want more libertarians, here’s how to get them.  At the Fortune site, Harold I. Ziegler writes,

Recently, videos have circulated on social media showing teens deliberately eating Tide Pods laundry detergent packs. All of this is part of what some call the “Tide Pod Challenge.” These pods contain highly concentrated laundry detergent under pressure and explode when bitten into, releasing their toxic contents and causing rapid ingestion and inhalation of dangerous chemicals. In my capacity as a toxic chemical researcher and consultant, I have investigated and seen several instances of the horrendous consequences that result from laundry pack ingestion: permanent burning of the mouth, throat, digestive tract, and lung tissue, and in some cases even death.Procter & Gamble (P&G), the manufacturer of Tide Pods, as well as other companies selling laundry detergent packs, have acted in the past to stem the misuse of their products. But these safety measures have failed.

It’s clear that laundry pods as they currently exist are too dangerous to be sold to the public. If P&G and other manufacturers can’t figure out a way to reduce the more than 10,000 injuries they cause each year, laundry packs need to be taken off the market.

If there is a better example of the thought processes that create nanny states and push society to eliminate personal responsibility, accountability and autonomy from its values, I can’t think of it. If people persist in the “Hit Yourself In The Head With a Hammer Challenge,” ban hammers.  How do intelligent, educated people end up thinking like this? More amazing still is that a consultant can put out an addled argument like this one for public consumption—Wait! Harold’s opinions make people stupid, and we can’t seem to stop people from reading them! Using Harold’s logic, we better ban freedom of expression! Or Harold!—and still be able to persuade clients to pay for his advice.

2. But if it’s more white nationalism you want, here’s how you get THAT…San Francisco Acting Mayor London Breed, an African-American, was voted out at by her colleagues Board of Supervisors in favor of Mark Farrell, who is white. The Horror.  will replace her as interim mayor until voters select a new mayor in June. As soon as it became apparent that the first African-American woman to lead San Francisco, albeit only because the elected mayor died suddenly, was being replaced by a white male, black citizens in the room erupted with rage, with many leaving in protest, and others shouting, “Shame, shame, shame.” “This is war!” some shouted as the meeting ended.

Nice.

In related news, the Congressional Black Caucus announced that it will boycott the State of the Union speech. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: ‘NCIS’ Ethics”

[ Again I am awash in Comments of the Day. There’s no question about it: the comments here are getting better, and more commenters are participating. There are also more comments being made to posts than ever before. 2017, despite a 10% drop in traffic from 2016, set a record for comments. This blog was always designed to be an interactive online colloquy on ethics. More views, links and shares would be nice, but I’ll take more and better comments over volume any day. You all are doing a terrific job. I may  have to make “Comment of the Day” a daily rather than an occasional feature. That would be progress.]

The latest Ethics Quiz was about this week’s “NCIS” episode in which the federal agency’s director got all misty eyed and proud to learn that his daughter had accepted the blame (and the charges) for her friend’s shoplifting because her friend was 18 (and a habitual shoplifter) and the offense would end her dream of college. Ethics Alarms readers were asked whether this was a responsible ethics message for Mark Harmon’s long-running procedural to send, especially to any children watching.

The quiz attracted uniformly excellent responses (my take is here).

Here is Greg’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quiz: “NCIS” Ethics:

I would say that the daughter acted foolishly and the father acted unethically.

The father has a duty to teach and protect his children, which he utterly failed to fulfill in this case. His daughter is showing disastrously poor judgment, placing her future seriously at risk, and he needed to set her straight. He should have lectured her on the enduring truth of the adage, “Lie down with dogs, rise up with fleas.” She should not be spending any time at all with an incorrigible thief. This other girl is big trouble. She has already gotten the daughter arrested once and if the daughter continues to hang out with her, the odds are high that she will do it again. The lesson that the daughter should have learned from this incident is that she needs to shun the company of this supposed friend. Instead, the incident has bound them together even more closely. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/21/2018: Bad, Worse, Worst, And Beyond Comprehension…

Good Morning, Everyone!

1 Whew! This guy was almost on the Supreme Court! Retired Harvard Law School Constitutional law prof Lawrence Tribe. whose recent misadventures on Twitter have become the cause of mirth and dismay in the legal world, tweeted this:

The premise of the 2015 post “A Nation of Assholes” was that a President Donald Trump’s crudeness, incivility and boorishness would permanently degrade the culture through the influence the office of the Presidency traditionally has on the young. Bill Clinton, for example, made blow-jobs cool to high school students.  This, Ethics Alarms held, was alone good reason to defeat him. However, I did not see his influence affecting the likes of Larry Tribe, as well as Trump’s adult adversaries in academia, the news media, and the Democratic Party, all of whom have allowed their own discourse to head into Tarentinoville because of Trump Derangement. This, in turn—you morons!-–minimizes and normalizes Trump’s vulgarity.

The President has not, unlike Tom Perez, Senator Kamala Harris and others, used any vulgar words in his public utterances or tweets. The infamous “shithouse” line was used, if it was used, in a private meeting, whereupon CNN took it into the living rooms of America an estimated 200 times.

And by the way, Professor, #SchumerShutdown is accurate, and TrumpShitdown isn’t even clever unless one is about 11.

2. And speaking of assholes… Bill Maher had a blinding moment of clarity, and ranted this yesterday on his HBO show (I have to rely on Ann Althouse for this quote, because I would no more watch Bill Maher than I would chew off my foot):

“I’m down with #MeToo. I’m not down with #MeCarthyism. Something is way off when Senator Kirsten Gillibrand can go unchallenged saying ‘when we start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping, you are having the wrong conversation.’ Can’t we just be having an additional conversation? Can we only have one thought now? I get it that Al Franken had to become roadkill on The Zero Tolerance Highway — a highway, it seems, only Democrats have to drive on — but do liberals really want to become The Distinction Deniers, the people who can’t tell or don’t want to see a difference between an assault in a van and a backrub by the watercooler? Masturbation is normal and healthy. But not in the park. Giving up on the idea that even bad things have degrees? That is as dumb as embracing the idea of ‘alternative facts.’ I get it when Trump’s side doesn’t want to talk. He only knows 88 words. But we are supposed to be The Conversation People. Justice requires weighing things. That’s why Lady Justice is holding a scale, not a sawed-off shotgun. Senator Gillibrand went on to say, ‘You need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is okay.’ Yes. Agreed. But we can’t walk and chew gum anymore? We can’t agree that groping and rape are both unacceptable and one is worse?…”

Not quite Ethics Hero material, but for a hero of the young Left to make this point can’t be anything but good. Maher isn’t really a progressive, and he’s certainly no feminist (Does Proudly Promiscuous Bill fear the knock on his own door from #MeToo in the middle of the night? I’d bet on it…); he’s a self-serving libertarian who hates Republicans. Nevertheless, he knows, as my father would say, which side of the bread his butter is on, so for him to challenge the witch hunters is, for him, principled and courageous. Quick observations:

  • Did Senator Gillibrand really say that?
  • Why did Senator Franken have to become roadkill, Bill? Because those wild-eyed progressives you pander to are ruthless and obsessed, that’s why.
  • Bill’s periodic virtue-signals during his rant are obvious and undermine the force of his message. “A highway, it seems, only Democrats have to drive on”—what does that mean, exactly? That Republicans should have to drive on the same highway Bill is condemning? No, that makes no sense. That Democrats are being absurd, and Republicans are being reasonable? No, Bill doesn’t want to say that. What then? Oh, Bill has no idea, he just knows that if it sounds like Republican-bashing, that’s good enough for his typical, half-stoned fans.
  • I am about to add the “alternative facts” jibe to my list of misleading comments that I am pledged to correct every time I hear it. This was a live TV gaffe, not by the President but by Kellyanne Conway. Repeating it ad nauseum as if it was an official statement of policy is a lazy cheap shot at this point.
  • In Althouse’s comments, someone claims that Maher’s reference to “88 words” was a coded reference to Trump being a Nazi (H is the 8th letter, so “Heil Hitler” is “88”) Is Maher really that slimy?

3. Why would it be wrong to use the death penalty on the Turpins? My position on capital punishment is that it is an essential tool for society to establish what it regards as the worst possible violations of societal and cultural standards, the crimes that civilization must reject in the strongest possible terms if it is to survive.  Treason, terrorism, mass and serial murder, and kidnapping children for ransom are reasonable crimes to ethically justify death by execution. What David Allen Turpin and Louise Anna Turpin reportedly did to their 13 children is arguably as bad or worse than any of these. We just don’t have a name for the crime. It would have to be some combination of torture, imprisonment, child abuse, depravity, and sadism–and even that doesn’t describe it.

I believe the nation, our jurisprudence and civilization would benefit if what the Turpins did henceforth was punishable by death, even if, as I hope, the opportunity to use the law never occurs.  Unfortunately, there is no law on the books now to permit killing them.

Too bad. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “From The Ethics Alarms ‘It’s NOT Okay To Be White?’ Files: The Blacks-Only Opinion Section”

Prolific commenter johnburger2013 issued this epic two days ago, but I confess, I didn’t have a chance to read it until today.Knowing john and his work, I expected to be impressed, and I was.

This is one of my favorite genres of comment: the personal ethics odyssey with fearless self-evaluation. Such comments require bravery, honesty, and objectivity, and the author displays all of these here. This comment is especially helpful to me today, for I am going over a confrontation I had today during a seminar that left me annoyed and questioning my response.

Ethics audits of an episode, a day, a relationship, a crisis, a problem or a life are invaluable tools on the way to building a more ethical approach to human existence. I encourage everyone to do what johnburger2013 does here as frequently as they can. If you are willing to share it with us, I will be grateful.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, From The Ethics Alarms “It’s NOT Okay To Be White?” Files: The Blacks-Only Opinion Section:

Alright, Ethics Alarmers. I must declare that I had one miserable weekend. Apropos of absolutely nothing, and related to nothing on this post, I thought I would relate the weekend’s experiences, simply to show that Ethics Alarms is having a positive impact on your humble correspondent. This is long, so bear with me.

It all began this past Friday evening. Our son is 13, in eighth grade, and is considering high school choices. The top three are Catholic, and the main differences are the cultures within the schools. The top two choices are all-boy schools, one Jesuit and one Basilian. The other is co-ed. Great schools. Friday night’s descent into madness began with a declaration that the Basilian school is his preferable choice to the Jesuit, resulting in a very strange argument, with hurt feelings, confusion, chaos, and shouting (handled very well by little ol’ me, oh yes, indeed! Sheesh.). On an ethics scale, my handling of the situation is still being calculated as it has passed more than -3500 on the Kelvin Scale of Absolute Stupidity, perhaps setting a new world record.

Anger and recriminations festered until the next morning. I took The Boy to his HSPT prep class. Ah, yes. The exalted HSPT. The all-important, all-consuming, all-destructive HSPT upon which the entire fate of humanity rests. Discussions en route to the class included such observations as, “Great! You left your notebook at home. That shows real organization skills and concern for you to do well, son.” Ethics Score: 2.9, or possibly a 3, if you discount the yellow-to-red light I rolled through.

Then, I returned to home to get some stuff done before picking The Boy up from the class. I was already on edge, and discovered that the pooch had decided to enjoy some of my wife’s lovely tree ornaments and left the resulting elation in shreds in the middle of the living room. That lead to a stern pooch reprimand. Considering that his mind is simply a buzz with constant low-level static, he wagged his tail and asked for a treat. Considering the torn apart ornament, he did not get a cookie. Ethics Score: 6, as I realized that he is still a puppy, the red-coated Santa ornament looked an awful lot like his favorite stuffed jalapeño toy, and was hanging in the perfect spot so he couldn’t resist the temptation.

Aggravated by having to fix a door latch, which took longer than I expected, and cleaning up the destroyed ornament, and a host of other nuisances, I was late picking up The Boy, well, by 2 minutes and nobody was annoyed. The trip to get him though, completely fails to register on the Ethics Score Board because of the many cursings and deleted expletives still echoing in my car. Rush’s “Hemispheres” could not fix that problem. Wow.

After leaving school, I had to get new screws for the door latch. That is when things got really ugly. Mind you, all of this happened between 8:30 am and 12;30 pm. A mere four hours. See? Awful.

I intended to go a local hardware store to get larger flat-headed wood screws and sanding paper to fix the mess I made on the door’s frame. A ten minute drive took well over 30 minutes because of traffic (horrendous), bad drivers (way too many), incessant stop lights (why can’t they be synchronized to ensure traffic flow?!), and already frayed nerves. Now, this hardware store is where you go to get things you won’t find in big stores, and is generally a wonderful experience (except for that damn parrot that shrieks when I walk by, but that is a different story), and the employees are wonderful. For some reason, the entire city of Houston, Texas, decided to be in the store and the same time. I needed two screws and two anchors. Is that too much to ask? They remodeled since the last time I was in the store and moved everything around so I couldn’t find the screw section. The aisle markers hadn’t been changed so I was wandering around looking for screws. I give the store a two-point deduction for that.

At this point, I am no longer rational. I asked a fellow who I believed worked at the store where the screws were. He couldn’t tell because he didn’t work there. I hang my ethics head in shame at my response. I was rude, inconsiderate, and terribly unkind to this man, who was as pleasant as a person could be. I was completely in the wrong. He did not deserve my response. But, I was too committed to being a tool to stop. I walked away in disgust, and then found the damn screws and anchors, which I bought. Then, it dawned on me: I insulted a man with no justification. I had to make it right. Ethics Score: Zero. F-.

I searched the store for the man, and upon seeing him, I could tell he was thinking, “Here comes that jerk.” I approached him, and said, “Sir. I need to apologize to you. I was terribly rude to you and you did not deserve it. I sincerely apologize for my behavior. I am having a bad day and I took it out on you without any justification. Hope I haven’t ruined your day. Please accept my apology.” His response: Instead of giving me a much-deserved tongue lashing and possibly a kick in the ethics backside, he said, “Apology accepted. I could tell you were not having a good day. I hope your day gets better.” His Ethics Score: A+. My response: “Sir, you are very kind and I truly appreciate your considerate response.” We shook hands, and smiled, him patting me on the back, reassuring me that “this, too, will pass.” A very nice fellow.

My Ethics Apology: I hope a 1, especially because I resolved to settle down and reevaluate my behavior, which I did. My nerves mended and I was less agitated for the rest of the day. That evening, in the confessional, I confessed my terrible conduct especially to my wife, son, and that poor-unsuspecting hardware fellow. The priest gave me advice, absolution, and penance. Which I did. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/4/17: Jailed For Profanity, Busted For Homophobia, Condemned For A Settlement

Good morning…

This is weird…The Wisconsin Supreme Court has upheld a mother’s conviction for swearing at her son. Ginger Breitzman had been found guilty of child abuse, including one count was for profanely berating and insulting her 14-year-old son after he burned some popcorn. The boy had been talking to a friend at the time, who heard the tirade over the phone and reported it. The mother was sentenced to six months in jail. Apparently the First Amendment was  never raised as a defense, and an issue is whether it should have been and had to be.

I don’t see how a parent or anyone can be convicted of a crime based on the content of her speech, especially private speech, but it is a gray area in ten context of child abuse. In sexual harassment,  the content of one’s speech can create a hostile work environment, but the civil violation is for the act of creating the hostility, not the speech itself. In many cases, that’s a distinction without a difference, though. A supervisor using the term “cunt” in the workplace is probably harassment, no matter how or to whom he uses it.

Check the link and the mother’s mug shot. I wouldn’t want to have her mad at me…

2. Joy Reid being hateful? I’m shocked—shocked! MSNBC’s serial race-baiting, hate-spewing host Joy Reid found herself huminahumina-ing after someone tracked down her old blog and found multiple examples of gay-bashing on it.  Notably, she mocked GOP Florida Governor Charlie Criss, a married man who has been rumored to be a closeted gay, as “Miss Charlie.” What do you think of her apology?

This note is my apology to all who are disappointed by the content of blogs I wrote a decade ago, for which my choice of words and tone have legitimately been criticized.As a writer, I pride myself on a facility with language — an economy of words or at least some wisdom in the selection. However, that clearly has not always been the case.In 2007 I was a morning talk radio host and blogger, writing about Florida politics (a blog I maintained until 2011.) Among the frequent subjects of my posts was then-governor Charlie Crist, at the time a conservative Republican, whose positions on issues like gay marriage and adoption by same-sex couples in Florida shared headlines with widely rumored reports that he was hiding his sexual orientation. Those reports were the subject of lots of scrutiny: by LGBTQ bloggers, writers and journalists, conservative blogs, a controversial documentary film called “Outrage,” and even by the comedic writers at South Park. But it was my own attempt at challenging Crist on my blog that has now raised the issue of not just my choice of words, but what was and is in my heart.

Let me be clear: at no time have I intentionally sought to demean or harm the LGBT community, which includes people whom I deeply love. My goal, in my ham-handed way, was to call out potential hypocrisy. Nonetheless, as someone who is not a member of the LGBT community, I regret the way I addressed the complex issue of the closet and speculation on a person’s sexual orientation with a mocking tone and sarcasm. It was insensitive, tone-deaf and dumb. There is no excusing it – not based on the taste-skewing mores of talk radio or the then-blogosphere, and not based on my intentions.

In addition to friends and coworkers and viewers, I deeply apologize to Congressman Crist, who was the target of my thoughtlessness. My critique of anti-LGBT positions he once held but has since abandoned was legitimate in my view. My means of critiquing were not. In the years since I went from blogger to opinion journalist, I have also learned, through brilliant friends and allies in the LGBT activist community, how to better frame my critiques of those who challenge people’s right to love who they want, marry them, and walk in the world as fully free people.

Re-reading those old blog posts, I am disappointed in myself. I apologize to those who also are disappointed in me. Life can be humbling. It often is. But I hope that you know where my heart is, and that I will always strive to use my words for good. I know better and I will do better.

It’s not terrible. I’ll give her a #6 on the Apology Scale: ” A forced or compelled [apology], when the individual (or organization) apologizing knows that an apology is appropriate but would have avoided making one if he or she could have gotten away with it.” I doubt that it’s sincere, because of lots of clues in the text. She says she deeply apologizes to Christ, then says her criticism was legitimate. She was presuming hypocrisy on the basis of rumors: how is that legitimate? She sucks up to the LGBT community; she says that at “no time have I intentionally sought to demean or harm the LGBT community,” when her rhetoric obviously was intended to demean Crist based on his presumed homosexuality; she sneaks in an “everybody was doing it” excuse. Continue reading

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