Labor Day Ethics Break, 9/7/2020: Ironically, Somebody Needs To be Fired In All Of These Stories….

1. “Boy, he’s strict!”* Novak Djokovic, the top seeded player, defaulted from the United States Open after the ball he hit toward the back of the court in frustration hit a line judge in the neck. This violated the Grand Slam rule book’s  “physical abuse” provision, which states that players “shall not at any time physically abuse any official, opponent, spectator or other person within the precincts of the tournament site.” The  fine for this is to $20,000 for each violation of this rule, with the possibility of even more if it is deemed a “major offense.” In a statement, the United States Tennis Association said: “In accordance with the Grand Slam rule book, following his actions of intentionally hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences, the U.S. Open tournament referee defaulted Novak Djokovic from the 2020 U.S. Open. Because he was defaulted, Djokovic will lose all ranking points earned at the U.S. Open and will be fined the prize money won at the tournament in addition to any or all fines levied with respect to the offending incident.”

As I read it, if the ball bounced back and missed the line judge, the rule wouldn’t apply. If it did hit the judge, even though the result was unintentional, then the player gets the full penalty. What a moronic rule! I guess they’ve never heard of moral luck in the tennis world. Either it should be a serious offense to slam the ball anywhere on the court in anger whether someone is hurt or not, or it should be a violation to intentionally harm and official. The rules is incompetent and unethical.

Naturally, none of the stories about the episode point this out.

2. Oh no! Not this again! Seventh grader Isaiah Elliott of the Grand Mountain School in t just south of Colorado Springs. Colorado, was attending on online art class when a teacher saw Isaiah’s  toy gun a neon green and black plastic “weapon” with an orange tip with the words “Zombie Hunter” printed on the side. The teacher, an idiot, hysteric and bully,  notified the school principal, and Isaiah was suspended for five days. The school also called the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office to conduct a welfare check on the boy without calling his parents first. Here’s the toy:

This is even more idiotic than this story, which was discussed here in June, about the kid whose teacher called the cops on him because she saw his BB gun.

The teacher should be fired and the principal should be fired. Isiah’s parents appear to be raising  hell. Good.  They would be terrible and irresponsible parents if they didn’t. There is an ethical  duty to confront this creeping state child abuse and indoctrination. Continue reading

The Court Ruling I’ve Been Waiting For Since 2011

In a June 30 decision, B.L v. Mahanoy Area School District, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals  ruled that a Pennsylvania  high school violated a cheerleader’s First Amendment rights when it kicked the young woman off the squad for a message she had posted on SnapChat. A distruct court judge had ruled last year for the ex-cheerleader, whose  post pictured the teen and her friend holding up their middle fingers accompanied by the eloquent sentiment , “fuck school fuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything.” She was  upset because she had only made the junior varsity cheerleading squad, rather than the varsity team.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania argued the case for the girl, so at least sometimes the organization  still puts its partisan politics aside to do its traditional job of looking out for the First Amendment. The group called the ruling a “landmark decision,” finally barring schools from policing students’ off-campus speech using the claim that it might disrupt school activities.

The Supreme Court decision on campus speech, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, did not apply to off-campus speech. Tinker held that student speech could be regulated by schools only if it would substantially disrupt school operations or interfere with the rights of others. That case involved a school disciplining students when they wore black armbands to class as a protest against the Vietnam War.

The 3rd Circuit majority ruled .“We hold today that Tinker does not apply to off-campus speech—that is, speech that is outside school-owned, -operated or -supervised channels and that is not reasonably interpreted as bearing the school’s imprimatur,”

Because the teen’s speech was outside the school context, Tinker did not apply. The cheerleader’s speech “lies beyond the school’s regulatory authority,” the court said.

The ACLU’s  press release stated that the decision was important “because it recognizes that students who are outside of school enjoy full free speech rights, not the diluted rights they have inside the schoolhouse.”

Bingo.

Finally. Continue reading

Zoom Ethics: And You Thought The School Board President Who Had To Resign Because He Drank A Beer In His Home During An Online Meeting Was Crazy…

This is even worse.

The post about the scandalous swig of beer was less than a month ago, but in comparison to the events of the last couple weeks, the Covina, California story doesn’t seem anywhere near as nuts as as it did at the time. Then, Ethics Alarms was concerned with privacy and officious inter-meddlers dictating how citizens get to behave in their own homes. I even called the incident a “freakout”! Now we know what a real freakout looks like.

The poll on whether poor Brian Akers, the ex-president of the Charter Oak Unified School Board who impulsively guzzled a beer while on camera during a remote board meeting was unfairly maligned was pretty decisive:

I won’t bother to poll today’s Zoom ethics story. If I did, my question might be, “How could you justify continuing to let your child go to a school with employees like this?”

In Baltimore County Maryland, a 5th grade teacher at the Seneca School saw a BB gun hanging on the wall in an 11-year-old student’s bedroom.  The Horror. She notified the principal, who alerted the school safety officer, who then called the police, who made an unannounced visit to the student’s home.

The child’s mother, Courtney Lancaster, a military veteran, has extensive knowledge of guns, how to use them and how to store them, and she is ticked-off. Continue reading

Is There An “Incompetent At Zoom Porn Site-Frequenting Teacher Principle”?

No, but apparently the University of Miami thinks there is. The school’s business analytics professor John Peng Zhang was teaching a remote class on Zoom when he inadvertently revealed a bookmark on his internet browser that read, “Busty college girl fu…” to the class. One student pointed out the tab to others and  the students began taking photos and videos. Someone sent a complaint to the University’s ethics hotline.

The incident was investigated by the Office of the Provost, its Title IX investigator and the Miami Herbert Business School. A statement by the university said that the “University of Miami aggressively investigates all complaints of inappropriate behavior or sexual harassment,” according to NBC News.

Zhang resigned under duress or was fired.

Some students who have registered a petition on Change.org  laid out some of the reasons  why this decision is unfair: Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Iowa State Senator Dennis Guth (R-Klemme)

I really looked hard to find a non-creepy photo of this guy. This was the best I could do.

How does Congress end up with so many ignorant jerks with malfunctioning ethics alarms? This is how: states elect legislators like Dennis Guth.

Guth drafted  legislation after being upset by the story of one of his constituents whose marriage fell apart because her husband turned out to be gay. Naturally, it’s up to government to solve every problem, so Guth’s brain child, Senate File 2130, requires applicants for a marriage license  to specify whether they are bisexual, heterosexual, homosexual, questioning, or “unsure.” Those who later engage in conduct contrary to that declaration would be considered by law to be liable for the dissolution of the marriage, and their transgression could result in their losing custody of their children. The Senate bill would make “sexual orientation fraud” a crime  on the same level as spousal abuse. If a member of a couple refuses to answer this intrusive question, the couple could not get a license. Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/29/2019: Updates, Coincidences And Suspicions [CORRECTED]

The same as what?

I heard this song yesterday for the first time in many years, and immediately wondered how many people  my son’s age (he’s 24) or even older would know what “Spanky and Our Gang” referred to. Then I made the mistake of briefly watching HGTV’s “A Very Brady Renovation” and saw to my horror that all the “Brady Bunch” kids are senior citizens. “Who’s that old lady? OHMYGOD It’s JAN!!!!”

1. Well, it was nice while it lasted...Traffic here increased by about 30% over three days last week after Facebook slipped up and allowed a link to one Ethics Alarms—it violates Facebook community standards, don’t you know— post to be circulated on among users.

2. Here’s a poll on the previous post, about a controversial joke related to the Texas governor’s disability that was made by a female judge. Governor Abbott has been in a wheelchair ever since he was struck by a falling tree almost 40 years ago. Noting that Texas Republicans have opposed proposed environment-minded legislation, “even local tree ordinances,”  the judge quipped to her partisan Democratic crowd, “Governor Abbott hates trees because one fell on him.”

While we’re on the subject of polls, the Ethics Alarms readers were strongly opposed to the course of action discussed here, here, and here, with about 88% holding that a Swedish man should not have allowed a doctor to euthanize his sister despite her past consent to the procedure, because she was resisting.

Continue reading

Ethics Quiz (And Poll): The Cop And The KKK Application

Either our nation is committed to the principles of freedom of thought, speech, expression and association,  or it is not.

With that preface, here is the kind of gray area, bizarre fact pattern controversy that puts ethical analysis to the test.

In the Muskegon County (Michigan) town of Holton, African-American  Rob Mathias, accompanied by his wife and children, was walking through the home of Charles Anderson, a local police officer, with the intent of possibly purchasing it.  Then he saw a framed Klu Klux Klan application hanging on a wall, as well as several Confederate flags. He and his family immediately left the property.

Later he posted a photograph of the KKK application on Facebook, (above) explaining later that he felt it was something the public had a right to know about, especially if the officer had a history of questionable interactions with African Americans.  Mathias wrote that Anderson “was one of the most racist people” in the community and “hiding behind his uniform.” The post was also personal and threatening, concluding with “I know who you are and will be looking for resources to expose your prejudice.”

The Facebook post triggered an internal investigation of Anderson, and he was placed on administrative leave. “We do take this sort of issue, seriously, and we are working hard to understand if/how this may impact his ability to safely and fairly police our community,” Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson reporters. Muskegon County NAACP President Eric Hood piled on, saying, “We want a thorough investigation to be sure that when he goes out there and puts on that uniform and performs his duties as an officer that he’s being fair and impartial.”

“I’m still disgusted by it. I’m hurt,” said Mathias “You can’t serve your community and be a racist. You can’t. There are people of all different colors, of all different nationalities … out there that you have to serve and protect. You can’t just protect one group of people.”

 Rachel Anderson, the officer’s wife, told reporters that her husband is not and never was a KKK member. She said he was a collector, and called the uproar a misunderstanding.

Mathias’ wife said in rebuttal,

“I like antiques, but I collect things that I represent. You can go in my basement, we have Detroit Lions, Red Wings, Michigan stuff, everything we associate ourselves with.So why would you collect something you don’t associate with yourself?” 

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Has this situation been handled fairly, responsibly and ethically? Continue reading

Thank You, FaceApp!

Were you aware of FaceApp? It was a suddenly popular mobile face-editing application for your smartphone that would take your photo and show how might age over the next half century. It was all the wave, until there was a contemporaneous story about law enforcement going into facial recognition software big time. Oh oh…”Minority Report”! Suddenly someone read the app’s privacy policy. The company was based in Russia! It could sell your face to be used in subway gonorrhea ads, and there was nothing you could do about it! The Democratic National Committee freaked, and sent out an alert imploring those who work on presidential campaigns to delete the app from their phones because FaceApp’s creator, Wireless Lab, is based in St. Petersburg, Russia. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer then went overboard, as Chuck is wont to do, and demanded that FBI and the Federal Trade Commission  investigate FaceApp, because the company could pose “national security and privacy risks for millions of U.S. citizens.”

ARRRHHHHH!!!!

The app’s creators rushed to contain the damage. FaceApp’s CEO swore that the company’s servers are not based in Russia,  that no user data is sent there, the photos will not end up in  facial recognition databases.  FaceApp does not, it is told, “sell or share any user data with any third parties.”

Google also swears that it won’t read our email. And don’t get me started about Facebook…

FaceApp’s privacy policy asks for “irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully paid, transferable sub-licensable license” for the pictures of your face. That should set off ethics alarms, or better yet, privacy alarms, for anyone who reads it, which means virtually nobody. I’m hardly any better: many years ago I used a Simpsons app to convert my photo into Simpsons Jack… Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Notables. 5/18/2019: More Social Media Partisan Censorship, A-Rod’s Potty And Ian’s Potty Mouth…

Why, I asked, on such a beautiful May day, am I inside writing about ethics? And my wife turned into Hymen Roth…

1. PLEASE stop making me defend Alex Rodriguez, who is one of my least favorite human beings, never mind former athletes, on the planet, and yet…this is a strict Golden Rule issue. The ex-Yankees (also Texas and Seattle) slugger  was photographed sitting on his toilet in his luxury apartment’s bathroom. The shot was apparently taken by a rogue photographer in a high rise office building next to the apartment building where A-Rod shares a  $17.5 million apartment with Jennifer Lopez, whose movies are now beneath those of Adam Sandler and Tom Arnold on my playlist.

Legal precedent in New York suggests than  Rodriquez has no case, because in 2015, an appeals court ruled that a gallery show of images snapped through less famous New Yorkers’ windows by an “artist” was not a privacy violation. (I wrote about that photographer here; perhaps the title gives you a sense of where I came out on my analysis: “Why Photographer Arne Svensen Is An Unethical Creep”]

Fine, I see the legal point. If you don’t want people taking photos of you, then keep your window blinds down. However,just because you can do something crappy to another human being doesn’t make it right.

Even if it’s a crappy human being. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/5/ 2019: An Intersex Revolutionary War Hero! An Unethical Feminist Trailblazer!

Good Morning!

Well, it was nice while it lasted. Thanks to prurient interest in a minor “Naked Teacher Principal” post, traffic on Ethics Alarms this week resembled those heady days of 2016, before ultra-Trump polarization, liberal commenter cowardice and Facebook’s ban took over. Incidentally, despite many thousand of “clicks,” the post in question didn’t get a single comment from the first-time visitors, meaning that said clicks were meaningless and useless.

1. About “Ma” Fergusen. As promised yesterday in my note about “The Highwaymen”, here is the “Ma” Fergusen saga, which is an ethics feast, though not a tasty one. (Source: Texas Politics)

Miriam Amanda Wallace (“Ma”) Ferguson (1875-1961), was the first woman governor of Texas. She served as the first lady of Texas during the gubernatorial terms of her husband James Edward Ferguson,  who was impeached during his second administration for extensive corruption. When James  failed to get his name on the ballot in 1924, Miriam entered the race for the Texas governorship, promising that if elected she would essentially be guided by her husband and that Texas thus would gain “two governors for the price of one.” She defeated the Republican nominee, George C. Butte, and was inaugurated fifteen days after Wyoming’s Nellie Ross, Miriam Ferguson became the second woman governor in United States history. Thus “Ma” helped set the precedent for future examples of wives being elected (irresponsibly) to offices they were not qualified for as substitutes for their husbands. “Ma” wasn’t the feminist pioneer she has sometimes been represented as. She was the opposite–you know, like Hillary Clinton.

Ma Ferguson (the “Ma” comes from her initials) pardoned an average of 100 convicts a month, and there was considerable evidence that she and her puppeteer husband  were taking  bribes of land and cash payments. The Fergusons also appear to have leveraged highway commission  road contracts into  lucrative kickbacks. Though an attempt to impeach Ma failed, these controversies allowed Attorney General Daniel James Moody to defeat her for renomination in 1926 and win the governorship. She (that is,  puppetmaster Pa) was back in  office in 1932, as she won the governorship again on the wave of discontent over the Great Depression.

The portrayal of “Ma” as a strong, independent executive in “The Highwaymen” would have to be judged misleading.

2. Speaking of women, sort of...An intersex  hero and role model may have emerged through the dim fog of history. Scientific researchers at Georgia Southern University claim that after years of study, their examination of skeletal remains of Revolutionary War hero, General Casimir Pulaski, ‘the Father of the American Cavalry’ has revealed that he  was biologically female.

Imagine if these had been George Washington’s remains… Continue reading