Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/22/18: Nanoo Nanoo, And The Oxford Comma”[Item #3]

Observations:

1. I love it when I am out of the office all day and return to find that my desperately rushed post in the morning spawned multiple donnybrooks.

2.  If this were baseball, Mrs. Q would be leading the Ethics Alarms League in batting average. Her Comment of the Day/Comments average leads the pack.

3. This quote…

“If someone were to ask me “what do you want most from our society today?” I’d answer, to have people mind their own business, not assume I’m needing a leg up, and honor those who honor family, faith, and free thought.”

…is as smart, powerful and profound a statement as any that have appeared on Ethics Alarms in nine years.

Here is Mrs. Q’s Comment of the Day on #3 in the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/22/18: Nanoo Nanoo, And The Oxford Comma: 

How do we as a society make things more fair for a variety of minorities, based on a history of unnecessary biases?

I don’t think it’s possible to make everything equal for everyone forever and always. It’s a nice idea but I’m called to remember the book “The Lathe of Heaven” where the therapist manipulates his patient into “making the world a better place” with disastrous results. For example in trying to solve overpopulation, millions die. In another, an attempt at solving racism turns everyone grey.

The song by Tears for Fears, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” highlights another dilemma in attempting to make things as we wish:

“All for freedom and for pleasure
Nothing ever lasts forever”

There is simply no way to obliterate prejudice. There will always be poor folks, enslaved folks, downtrodden folks, and people who get treated like crap for one reason or another. Obviously this doesn’t mean we stop caring or making effort to be kinder people, which includes examining institutional racism, homophobia, etc. However any “peace” we make won’t last in the next generation or the one after that because some other disparity will always present itself. This is the way of life and the evidence of history from the Egyptians to the Jews to women today being trafficked. So how do we balance the scales for minorities here in the US? Continue reading

Here’s Something The News Media Hasn’t Explained Regarding The Weinstein Scandal: Those Victim Confidentiality Agreements Are Unethical, And Maybe Illegal

Rose McGowan, the new Sexual Harassment Fury on social media, says she was raped by Weinstein and had to accept a $100,000 settlement with a confidentiality agreement as a condition of the deal. That means that if she subsequently told her story and accused Weinstein, she would be liable for damages, and would have to return the money. Right?

Not exactly. Most of the accounts in this sordid series of events make it seem like confidentiality agreements are iron clad and enforceable. Often they are neither. McGowan’s almost certainly wasn’t.

Debra Katz, an attorney specializing in sexual harassment law suits, recently explained that if employees or former employees came forward with information about Weinstein participating in criminal misconduct, their non-disclosure agreements or confidentiality agreements would probably be unenforceable, saying,

“These kind of very broad NDAs or confidentiality agreements typically violate public policy. Employees have to have the legal ability to discuss any concerns about unlawful behavior in the workplace … These broad provisions that would effectively silo people, make them feel like they can’t speak about this, are simply an instrument to put fear in people.”

My position has always been that lawyers who construct such agreements, knowing that they are unenforceable, are committing sanctionable ethical misconduct. The lawyer for the employee being silenced, moreover, has an obligation to let the client know that the requirement is unconscionable. Of course, it’s the client’s decision whether she wants to take the money.  It is also unethical to make an agreement you have no intention of honoring. Continue reading

“Racial Wealth Gap Persists Despite Degree, Study Says”…Now What?

The story ran as the front page lead in the New York Times more than a week ago, and was promptly ignored as the more pressing matter of criticism Donald Trump’s erudition in condemning the violence in Charlottesville obsessed the media:

“The long-term trend is shockingly clear,” said William R. Emmons, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and one of the authors of the report. “White and Asian college grads do much better than their counterparts without college, while college-grad Hispanics and blacks do much worse proportionately.”

A college degree has long been recognized as a great equalizer, a path for minorities to help bridge the economic chasm that separates them from whites. But the report, scheduled to be released on Monday, raises troubling questions about the ability of a college education to narrow the racial and ethnic wealth gap.

“Higher education alone cannot level the playing field,” the report concludes.

Great. What will level the playing field, and if the only solutions are ethically flawed, can the nation ethically accept that the playing field cannot be leveled? Is it necessary that all races achieve identical levels of success? Does the fact that a race, or an ethnic group, either exceeds or falls short of statistical parity signal that draconian measures must be undertaken by the government? Are we really committed to results based policies, or opportunity-based policies?

In the Times print version, there was a chart that labelled, among other things, Asian families as “over-represented” among wealthyl households headed by a college grad. “Over-represented” is a provocative word, suggesting that something is wrong with Asian American achieving beyond what pure statistical analysis would predict. Is it so unimaginable that the group itself may have something to do with its success—that its culture and values may allow it to be “over-represented”?

No, it isn’t unimaginable, but it is inconvenient and politically explosive. If culture and values can explain over-achievement, it will be difficult to avoid the conclusion that culture and values also play a part in under-achievement as well. The Times report (I haven’t read the whole study)  doesn’t hint at such a conclusion, while citing many other potential causes:

Researchers have repeatedly found discrimination in the job market. When two nearly identical résumés are sent out, for example, it has been documented that the candidate with a white-sounding name receives more callbacks than the applicant with a black-sounding name.

Discrimination like this and other factors contribute to the persistent and substantial pay gap between whites and minorities. Blacks, for instance, hold a disproportionate share of government jobs — a sector that has shrunk in recent years and provides fewer opportunities for big wage gains. Blacks have fewer advanced degrees, and the ones who do are more often in lower-paying fields or graduates of colleges with lesser reputations.

“Blacks and Latinos at all education levels, including college and advanced degrees, earn less than their white counterparts, which means lower lifetime earnings” and less ability to save, said John Schmitt, research director at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, who reviewed an advance copy of the report.

Blacks and Hispanics are also less likely than whites to inherit money or receive help from their parents to cover a tuition bill or a down payment on a house.

William A. Darity Jr., a professor of public policy at the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University, points out that a family headed by a black college graduate has less wealth on average than a family headed by a white high school dropout.

That last fact is especially discouraging.

The relative disinterest of the news media in the implications of the report is troubling, or perhaps I should say its disinterest in pursuing an open and honest discussion of what the implications are, and what new policies should be considered. The status quo, with historically oppressed and disadvantaged groups perpetually lagging behind and perpetually blaming white society for their persistent plight, is a recipe for chaos, generating shrill and divisive prescriptions like this one, from Chanelle Helm,  a Black Lives Matters leader in Louisville:

Some things I’m thinking about that should change (in that Southern, black grandmama voice):

1. White people, if you don’t have any descendants, will your property to a black or brown family. Preferably one that lives in generational poverty.

2. White people, if you’re inheriting property you intend to sell upon acceptance, give it to a black or brown family. You’re bound to make that money in some other white privileged way.

3. If you are a developer or realty owner of multi-family housing, build a sustainable complex in a black or brown blighted neighborhood and let black and brown people live in it for free.

4. White people, if you can afford to downsize, give up the home you own to a black or brown family. Preferably a family from generational poverty.

5. White people, if any of the people you intend to leave your property to are racists assholes, change the will, and will your property to a black or brown family. Preferably a family from generational poverty.

6. White people, re-budget your monthly so you can donate to black funds for land purchasing.

7. White people, especially white women (because this is yaw specialty — Nosey Jenny and Meddling Kathy), get a racist fired. Yaw know what the fuck they be saying. You are complicit when you ignore them. Get your boss fired cause they racist too.

8. Backing up No. 7, this should be easy but all those sheetless Klan, Nazi’s and Other lil’ dick-white men will all be returning to work. Get they ass fired. Call the police even: they look suspicious.

9. OK, backing up No. 8, if any white person at your work, or as you enter in spaces and you overhear a white person praising the actions from yesterday, first, get a pic. Get their name and more info. Hell, find out where they work — Get Them Fired. But certainly address them, and, if you need to, you got hands: use them.

10. Commit to two things: Fighting white supremacy where and how you can (this doesn’t mean taking up knitting, unless you’re making scarves for black and brown kids in need), and funding black and brown people and their work.

I read this, and find myself wondering if one of the reasons for that discouraging study’s results is the increasing influence of voices like Chanelle Helm’s.

The Audacious And Everlasting Hypocrisy Of Al Gore

In June, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Al Gore about his apparent energy-use hypocrisy:

TAPPER: This is a criticism we hear from conservatives all the time when talking about people like you or Elon Musk or Leonardo DiCaprio, that you, yourself, have a large carbon footprint.

GORE: Yes. Well, I don’t have a private jet. And what carbon emissions come from my trips on Southwest Airlines are offset. I live a carbon-free lifestyle, to the maximum extent possible.

As Ann Althouse noted at the time, for  a carbon-based organism like Gore to claim to be living carbon-free is a demonstration of shocking ignorance by someone who has been making his millions as an earth-science huckster. To me, the amazing thing was that after repeatedly showing that he couldn’t pass a middle-school science test (as when he declared on national TV that the core of the Earth was “several million degrees”)

After he found himself the official guru of global warming hype, Gore should have had the sense and discipline to educate himself and really learn about the topics he was purporting to be an expert on. He obviously didn’t bother; like the similarly lazy Sarah Palin, he figured that the people who agreed with him weren’t going to be that discerning, so mastery of facts wasn’t worth the trouble.

The other infuriating aspect of Gore’s answer to Tapper  was his “offset” excuse. That just  meant “I’m rich, so I pay to for all my carbon pollution.” Gore really believes that leaving a carbon footprint the size of Godzilla is responsible conduct for a climate change shill telling the peasants that they must change their life-style, because he can “offset” it. He really believes that’s fair and honest.

In the wake of Gore’s sequel to his error and hype-filled climate change alarmist documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” the National Center For Public Policy Research, which had embarrassed Gore with its 2007 revelations after his first documentary, checked to see if Al, as he promised at the time, had addressed his own polluting ways. It checked Gore’s electricity usage information through public records requests and conversations with the Nashville Electric Service (NES), and found.. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Barefoot Bandit Cashes In, Sort Of…

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You may remember Colton Harris-Moore, aka “The Barefoot Bandit,” who while still a teen in 2009 went on a wild, two-year crime spree involving more than a hundred burglaries, thefts, and destruction, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and property, including a plane, a boat, and automobiles.  When Harris-Moore was sentenced to six and a half years in prison in 2012 , U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said, “The plea agreement makes very clear that he will not profit directly or indirectly nor will he help anyone else to profit from these crimes.”

I’d like to see the agreement. For Harris-Moore has signed a movie deal with 20th Century Fox, “waiving” the rights to his life story in exchange for the film company paying up to $1.3 million toward the $1.4 million he owes as restitution to his victims. Now I’d call this “profiting.” If someone pays what I owe on my mortgage, I benefit. I profit.

I’m sure the argument for permitting this deal, which is the kind most states and the federal government regard as contrary to public policy and prohibit with so-called “Son of Sam laws,” is that Barefoot’s victims are needy and innocent  beneficiaries, since it is unlikely that they would ever get much, if anything, in payments from the imprisoned felon. Thus the usual objective of keeping criminals from turning their crimes into cash and celebrity should yield to the greater good.

Today’s Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Should the Barefoot Bandit be allowed to make this deal?

I’ll leave this one to you.

But I’m dubious.

Unethical Mothers Day Quote Of The Year: Joanne Samuel Goldblum

diapers

“On Mother’s Day, many moms do not get taken out to brunch or presented with potted plants. For them, Mother’s Day is just like any other day – a struggle to get by. There is one gift we can collectively give them, though: We can stop judging. We can throw away the good mother/bad mother distinction. We can recognize that most mothers genuinely want to do what is best for their children. It is simply much easier for some of us than for others.”

—-, a social worker and the executive director of the National Diaper Bank Network, in Washington Post column titled “Stop judging poor moms. Bad policies hurt their kids — not bad parenting”—also a strong candidate for “Sweeping Generalization of the Decade.”

There’s an old Chinese proverb that goes, “When the only tool you have is a diaper, every problem looks like a baby’s butt.”

Or something like that. runs a laudable and necessary social service that provides diapers for families that can’t afford them. That’s a wonderful service and a wonderful charity, and she and her colleagues are doing a service for humanity. Unfortunately, her unique perspective on the problem of negligent and irresponsible parenting has produced her column in the Post, which uses a stream of rationalizations, logical fallacies and rhetorical deceits to reach an absurd and societally dangerous conclusion.

The fact that public policy may not do enough to help stressed mothers or minimize the damage caused by the irresponsible, negligent, dangerous or self-destructive—or just plain stupid—decisions by women that made them mothers in the first place, cannot mean that society should stop “judging mothers.” intentionally uses “judging” as a pejorative term (evoking the Biblical rationalizations), and with that tactic sides with the ethical relativists. Without critical judgment, there can be no standards. Without public conclusions regarding ethical behavior and unethical behavior, what conduct we encourage and what conduct we condemn, there can be no culture, no shared values, and no internal or external controls to limit destructive behavior. Everyone has a societal obligation to judge their own conduct, and that of everyone else. Judging conduct does inherently reflect on the purveyors of that conduct, but pointing out destructive conduct by mothers does not and must not preclude compassion, fairness, respect and charity.

Goldblum’s initial attack on anyone who dares to suggest that women should not have children they can’t afford to care for and that will permanently cripple their chances at success, proceeds by paring such critics with those who oppose the work of her organization.

“One man called me screaming that impoverished moms should “just use newspaper!” to diaper their infants. In letters and phone calls, others have accused us of encouraging mothers to keep “breeding.” (Barnyard animals breed, mind you. Women have babies.) Our critics believe the women who come to us are bad mothers who should not have had children in the first place. (We rarely get criticism of fathers, as if women become pregnant all by themselves)”

Breathtaking. She begins with the fallacy I call “The Bad Lawyer,”concluding from the fact that a proposition has some foolish advocates that the proposition itself is incorrect. Yes, anyone who advocates endangering a baby’s health by using newspaper as diapers is too mean and dumb to be in civilized society, but using that position to characterize critics or irresponsible mothers is dishonest debating. The suggestion that women decide to have babies they can’t afford because they are confident that they can get free diapers is similarly idiotic,but the position that it’s irresponsible to have children when you should know you can’t care for them is not only not idiotic, it’s blazingly obvious. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The 90-year-old Scofflaw Humanitarian vs. The Heartless Mayor Who Isn’t Really

Seiler

[Fred, one of my two regular ethics issue scouts (Alexander Cheezem is the other, and what I would do without their assistance, I do not know: thank you, thank you, thank you, guys!), flagged this classic ethics conflict several weeks ago.]

Some sources reported that a “90-year-old man was arrested for feeding the homeless.” This set off typical fact-free indignation on the social media and talk shows, not to mention the angry e-mails from around the world: Charity illegal???  A kind old man arrested just for trying to help the poor! Cruelty!!! ARGGGHHH!!!

Naturally, this was not what really happened.

For 23 years, since he was 67, 90–year-old Arnold Abbott and his non-profit organization, Love Thy Neighbor, have provided food for the homeless at a public beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Wednesday of every week at 5:30 p.m. This year, on October 21, the City of Fort Lauderdale Commission passed an ordinance that banned such food distributions in public. The ordinance required that organizations distributing food outdoors would have to provide portable toilets for use by workers and those being fed. It’s a health and safety regulation, for the benefit of homeless and vulerable. A few days after the ordinance took effect, on a Wednesday, at a bit after 5:30 PM, Abbott  was approached by police officers and cited for violating the ordinance. He was not arrested. He was told that he must appear in court.

After Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler was called everything from a monster to a Republican (he’s a Democrat), someone finally asked him what the ordinance was all about and questioned his police department’s treatment of the kindly senior. “We hope he feeds, ” Seilor said. “He has a very valuable role in the community. All we’re saying is he can feed the next block over. He can feed at the church. We want them to be in safe secure settings. We wanted them to be in a sanitary matter. We them to have facilities available before and after.” That seems reasonable.

Seiler has also offered an explanation for the ordinance, which was backed by the Chamber of Commerce, that sounds more, well, Republican, saying that  providing the homeless food in public only enables homelessness, and that Fort Lauderdale wants the homeless to use government and church services. “If you are going to simply feed them outdoors to get them from breakfast to lunch to dinner, all you are doing is enabling the cycle of homelessness,” Seiler says. Well, that’s debatable, but it isn’t unreasonable.

Still,  it’s hard to teach old humanitarians new tricks, and Arnold is defiant. Continue reading

Al Gore, Hustler

Gore Hustler

Al, as he is portrayed by the climate change skeptic community. He has no one to blame but himself.

I have mixed feelings about Al Gore. On one hand, I have great compassion for the man, as one of two Presidential candidates in our history to win more popular votes than his adversary, still lose the Presidency, and fail to take the office in a subsequent attempt. I know that would make me angry, bitter and perhaps a little crazy, and in that respect, Al has handled his misfortune well.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t trust Al Gore to deliver a birthday card to John Edwards. Back when I was running a struggling national health care promotion and education non-profit, Senator Gore was the organization’s patron saint, giving us endorsements, opening doors to corporate contributors, and generally bolstering our efforts. I was warned, though, by one of his staffers, not to get too dependent on Gore’s passion. “The Senator likes to find the hot issue and lead it,” she told me. “But he’s been on health care for a while now, and if history is any measure, he’ll move on to something else soon. Don’t rely on his support.” Sure enough, Gore became the herald of “the information super-highway,” later known as the internet, shortly thereafter, and dropped my organization and the health promotion issue flat, without a warning or a good-bye. He just stopped answering our calls.

Gore finally found his perfect hot issue, literally in this case, as the front man for global warming. He has made millions from the issue and the notoriety it brought him, which is fine; he also greatly contributed to public awareness of the issue, which is a good thing: any public awareness of any real public policy issue is an improvement. On the minus side, Gore failed to follow through on his responsibilities and obligations as a spokesperson for climate change policies. He never educated himself on the science of climate change sufficiently to avoid making embarrassing gaffes, and he has continued to over-hype the topic, making apocalyptic pronouncements, treating projections and models as more conclusive than they are, making irresponsible and factually misleading statements,  and generally imitating the technique of the Bush Administration regarding Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction.”

He was at it again this week, conclusively affirming that he has crossed the line from advocate to hustler. Continue reading

Comment of the Day on “Comment of the Day: “Distracted Driving, Pot, and “The Great Debate””

Michael, whom I believe leads the field in 2011 Ethics Alarms Comments of the Day, just weighed in with an epic comment to Neill Franklin’s Comment of the Day from the lively distracted driving/marijuana post.  It restores some balance to what has been largely an Ethics Alarms vs. NORML mugging: I knew there had to be someone out there who agrees with me on the governments ethical obligation to keep drugs from further infecting American society. Here is Michael’s Comment of the Day on both Neill’s COTD and Distracted Driving, Pot, and “The Great Debate”:

“I was just a little horrified by Mr. Franklin’s comment, especially considering the source. I live in a neighborhood rife with drugs and the effects to me are evident. The effects that I see are different from those Mr. Franklin seems to care about, however. I see the wasted lives and wasted generations. If you look at the children around here, you see a generation that grew up without parents, without guidance, and without hope. They have never known adults who worked or who cared about their kids. They only know adults who are on drugs. These adults don’t play with their kids, don’t teach them. They don’t provide food, clothing, or reliable shelter and they subject their children to every form of abuse. These kids have no hope because they haven’t seen anyone like them live any other way. To escape this nightmare existence, they too turn to drugs and the cycle continues. I can’t understand how someone can advocate validating this behavior by legalizing drugs. I understand the self-serving legalization argument of the idle college student drug user and the people who somehow have lucked into good paying jobs that are easy enough to do while high, but I don’t respect them. Continue reading

How the Lack of Ethics Cripples Democracy, Reason #1: Ethical Leadership Is Neither Encouraged Nor Rewarded

 

How many elected leaders will be responsible when it means risking THIS?

Washington Post Metro columnist Robert McCartney relates the cautionary tale  of Fairfax (Va.) School Board member Liz Bradsher.  The school board, like others across the nation, was required to make some tough choices with its resources scarce and stretched to the breaking point.  The costs of renovating a high-achieving elementary school in the Fairfax County countryside  didn’t pass an objective, cost-benefit analysis, so the board voted to close it. Bradsher, whose district includes Clifton, the neighborhood served by the school, was expected to vigorously oppose the move.  But after studying the costs and enrollment forecasts, she reluctantly concluded that it made more sense to shutter the facility so the county could spend scarce renovation dollars where they would benefit more children.

She did what was best for the Fairfax community as a whole, which, as an elected official, is her duty. But rather than appreciating the courage it took to agree to close a beloved institution in her district for the greater good, she is being attacked. Anonymous postings on a popular local website have spread false rumors that she has a drinking problem and that her marriage is on the rocks. She is receiving threatening letters, and obscene e-mails.   Continue reading