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

Keep It Up, Vulgarians

This morning I was listening to a CNN reporter in New Hampshire interviewing an ordinary, middle aged woman who is a Trump supporter, and she dropped a word inappropriate for TV live. The interviewer said, “You just said a cuss word!” and she just ignored him. In Phoenix, Don Harris, the head of Arizona’s largest NAACP chapter, was discussing the somehow national scandal over six white teenage Desert Vista High School students posting a photo of themselves aligned so the letters on their T-shirts spelled N-I-*-* E-R when he just couldn’t resist saying that a TV reporter who had just interviewed him had “nice tits”as he was speaking to another TV interviewer.

The recording was posted, and Harris had to resign as Chapter president. Called about the incident by another reporter, Harris said, among other things, “I’m really fucking sorry. I’m going to slash my wrists . . . Better yet, I’m going to throw myself out of a fucking window, except I’m on the first floor . . . I’m one of the best goddamned people in the state. They’ve seen me now, they’ve seen what I’ve done. I’ve given up my law practice. I’m down here six, seven days a week. That’s what my commitment is. I support NOW, the women’s organization — goddamn! — are you shitting me? Are you going to write this up?”

Why yes, Don, you vulgar fool, they are.

Harris and the dumb New Hampshire woman (I did say she was a Donald Trump supporter, right?) are victims of the crude and ugly culture of rudeness and incivility being imposed on the culture. If you don’t fight back, you will be sucked in: your civility and decency ethics alarms will become rusted and useless. At the 2016 Golden Globes awards, knowing they were on live TV and in front of an audience of adults, various presenters and award winners used the words cunt, sugar tits, fuck and fucking (twice). Speaking like this in private or controlled workplace surroundings is as old as the hills, but somewhere the principle has been lost in which such gutter discourse was understood to be ugly, lazy and the mark of an unmannerly lout when it leaks into more formal, or public settings. Who thinks this is a positive development? Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Virginia Democratic Lieutenant Governor Candidate Ralph Northam

Democratic Party candidate Ralph Northam cannot possibly lose the Virginia Lieutenant Governor race today; in fact, he should win by a landslide. His Republican opponent, African-American minister E. W. Jackson, is so conservative he makes his running mate, gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, look like Saul Alinsky, and I’m only exaggerating a little bit. From the pulpit, he has made statements that sound like they were ghosted by Pat Robertson in one of his crazy moods, like when he seemed to be suggesting that children with birth defects were being punished for their parents sins. Jackson doesn’t believe in evolution, thinks that government programs have done more harm to blacks than slavery, and could fairly be described as homophobic.

Still, he is a citizen, a candidate and a human being, so when he offered his hand to his soon-to-be victorious opponent Northam following a TV debate, there was only one decent, civil, ethical, statesmanlike response for Northam: take it, and shake it. That is traditional, civilized, and polite, and for Northam to do what he chose to do instead—ignore Jackson and his hand and snub the Republican, refusing even to look him in the eye—on live TV, no less!— shows him to be an arrogant, unmannered, uncivil jerk of the breed that has brought American politics, government and discourse to a new low. Continue reading

Celebrity Encounter Ethics

You're welcome. But now I'll never know what Eddie Murphy is really like!

I run into a lot of celebrities when I travel. I assume everybody does who travels very often; I know that I am better at recognizing them than the average person because my celebrity knowledge spans multiple generations, I have a good memory for faces, and I have always watched way, way too much television. And it happened again today: I was having my usual battles with an airport self-service check-in kiosk, this one in Atlanta, when I realized that the traveler enduring similar annoyances (“We have no record of your itinerary. Please enter the code that we call something other than what it is called on your ticket receipt before you get frustrated and have to wait in line to speak with an agent, because you know that’s what is going to happen.”) was the young actress-singer, Raven-Symone.

She was traveling alone, and it seemed clear that nobody around us had any idea who she was. Strange: doesn’t everyone watch “The Cheetah Girls,” “Dr. Doolittle 2” and re-runs of “That’s So Raven” on the Disney Channel? The encounter immediately sent me into Marshall Celebrity Recognition decision mode: what is the ethical way to treat the rich and famous if you are insignificant and lowly, and close enough to assassinate them? Continue reading

Rush, E-Cigarettes and the Niggardly Principle

Rush Limbaugh was enjoying himself hugely yesterday, as he usually does, relating one more way that he has devised to tweak America’s Enemies of Freedom.

The radio talk show king’s topic was electronic cigarettes, those increasingly popular devices that deliver a nicotine jolt while emitting faux “smoke” (it’s only odorless water vapor), all while looking like a real cigarette—the tip even glows red when you puff it. Rush keeps the things handy, he explains, to provide a balm to his nicotine cravings when he is in public places, but even more so, it seems, to annoy anti-smoking zealots. Rush gets a rush when he pulls out the plastic devices and observes reflexive coughs and frowns from those in his vicinity who regard cigarettes as the equivalent of rotting cats. Continue reading

The Indignity of Security Procedures, Civility Standards and Our Duty To Enforce Them

Perhaps it is because I had to suffer two of the new airport security feel-ups last week, but by willingness to tolerate surliness, hostility and rudeness from security personnel is officially over. Oh, the TSA’s trained molesters are not the problem in that regard; they are almost always cheerful, polite and deferential, more so now, since they have to virtually thrust their gloved hands into my nooks and crannies. It is the security personnel controlling access to public buildings who are too often lacking in congeniality and professionalism, and I’m not putting up with it any more. You shouldn’t either. It is our duty not to put up with it Continue reading