Monday Morning Ethics, 4/8/19: Is Ethics Really As Hard As These People Make It Seem?

Good morning!

(That’s Jimmy’s old vaudeville partner Eddie Jackson singing with Jimmy. Eddie was a one-trick pony and never destined for stardom, though he did appear in the Zigfield Follies. After Jimmy became a big star, he still kept Eddie on his payroll, well into Eddie’s old age. Introduced by Durante as his “partner,” Jackson would come strutting out midway through the live or TV show, singing “Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey?” in his unremarkable voice. Sometimes Jimmy joined in, sometimes Eddie just strutted off stage to end the number. This courtesy went on for decades, until Eddie was too feeble to perform.)

1. Baseball ethics: showboating. This happened yesterday…

Why? Well, Chris Archer, the Pirates pitcher, was peeved because the Cincinnati Reds’ Derek Dietrich hit a home run, dropped the bat, and stood stock still and stared at it as it left the field. This is known as showboating and showing up the pitcher; it’s a fuck you move. Archer retaliated in Dietrich’s next at bat by throwing a fastball behind Dietrich near his head, widely considered to be taboo as unacceptably dangerous. The fight ensued.

The episode raised questions about MLB’s controversial PR campaign with the slogan “Let the Kids Play!”, endorsing the flamboyant on-field celebrating and styling brought to the game by Latin players,  Archer is one of the prime “playing” players, famous (or infamous) for dancing off the mound after a strikeout, kissing his arms, and other displays of self-admiration. Since that is his act, many, including me, feel that it is the height of hypocrisy for this pitcher to take offense when a batter treats him the same way he treats batters when he wins their duels.

On the other hand, what Dietrich did was the equivalent of taunting.

Exuberance is one thing, bad sportsmanship is another, and that’s what this was. The “kids”can play as long as they remember that real kids are watching and learning. I don’t think Roy Hobbs’ pennant-winning home run in “The Natural” was any less dramatic because he didn’t flip his bat, watch the ball go and pump his fist going around the bases.

2. Who’s the most unethical New York Times op-ed columnist? There are so many to choose from, but Michelle Goldberg is climbing fast. I highlighted her indefensible op-ed on the Mueller report recently, but I just stumbled an older column that was worse. In this one, Goldberg bemoans that Freedom House only give the United States an “86” score in ranking how democratic a nation is, dropping the US behind such places you wouldn’t want to live in like Croatia, Latvia, and Greece (Sorry, Yaya), and it’s all Trump’s fault. The score is down from 94 in 2009, when every international organization was hailing anyone and anything connected to Barack Obama, and using numerical scoring to measure something like democracy is obviously nonsense, unless the score furthers your agenda. This is similar to journalists calling organizations “hate groups” because the Southern Poverty Law center say so. It’s pure appeal to authority with an authority that has no credibility: a  logical fallacy.

Does Goldberg persuasively explain why the U.S. is suddenly less democratic? Oddly, she doesn’t mention the collapse of a responsible, trustworthy press—sure that’s worth subtracting at least 12.38 points. She also doesn’t mention how the American Left has been trying for three years to undermine elections and the elected President , or as Victor Davis Hanson writes,

“Are such efforts in the future to be institutionalized? Will the Left nod and keep still, if Republicans attempt to remove an elected Democratic President before his tenure is up? Are appeals to impeachment, the 25th Amendment, the Emoluments Clause, the Logan Act, and a Special Counsel the now normal cargo of political opposition to any future elected president? Is it now permissible in 2020 for Trump’s FBI director to insert an informant into the campaign of the Democratic presidential nominee?”

What do you think, another—let’s see—18.47 points down? Goldberg doesn’t think so: she focuses on such things as Russiagate, though she nods that there have been some positive developments on that front: “Several of the criminals who helped Trump get elected either have gone to prison or soon will.”

Love it. Later Goldberg says that Trump’s attack on fake news somehow made other nations start censoring the news media there. That statement above is an outright lie. None of the individuals Mueller indicted had any role in “helping Trump get elected,” as we now know. But she writes that the report gives us two reasons to worry:

The first is that it usually takes more than two years for a democracy to collapse. “Elsewhere in the world, in places like Hungary, Venezuela or Turkey, Freedom House has watched as democratic institutions gradually succumbed to sustained pressure from an antidemocratic leadership, often after a halting start,” the report said— an increase in corruption and a decrease in transparency — both hallmarks of this administration — are “often early warning indicators of problems in a democracy,” undermining public faith in the legitimacy of the system.”

What corruption is she talking about? The Secretary of State selling influence to foreign power through her fake non-profit? No, it can’t be that. An administration using its Justice Department to illegally try to sabotage an opposing party’s Presidential candidate? What about transparency? Even many liberal commentators say that Trump’s administration is more transparent than Obama’s. And who is undermining faith in the legitimacy of the system more than people like Goldberg, who support baseless Democratic conspiracy theories about a traitorous President and a stolen election?

And reason #2:

“Second, if Americans increasingly ignore Trump’s words, foreign leaders don’t. Authoritarianism is on the rise all over the globe — according to the Freedom House report, this is the 13th consecutive year that global freedom has declined. Trump’s presidency is a consequence of this trend, but it’s also become an accelerant of it.”

It’s the 13th consecutive year according to Goldberg’s dubious source, but Trump’s tweets the past two and a half years are really at fault.

Why is this “fit to print”?

3. If our democracy is failing, here’s one of the real reasons:

In Long Island,  11-year-old Bella Moscato said that she was going to choose the President for a sixth-grade assignment at Samoset Middle School to write about a personal hero. The teacher told her that President Trump was not an appropriate choice, and suggested–guess who!—Barack Obama instead.

Bella’s mother, Valerie Moscato says what the teacher did amounts to intimidation and censorship. Yes, and also indoctrination.

Sachem Central School District Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Graham issued a denial, saying,

It is not accurate that this student was told that they were not allowed to conduct research or report on any individual for a school assignment, including President Trump. To the best of our knowledge, by choice the student is still conducting their project of President Trump.

The school board is supposedly looking into the matter. The Moscatos want an apology, and if he is smart, the Superintendent will grab the chance to get off easy.  That teacher, however, should be fired.

 

 

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 1/27/2019: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Good Morning!

1. Covington Catholic Students Ethics Train Wreck update. I’ve decided to cover this topic in the Warm-Ups because it will be repetitive if I don’t: this, like the Kavanaugh debacle, has signature significance. Attention must be paid and the American public’s dangerously short attention span has to be overcome. Imagine: pundits, elected officials, academics journalists and celebrities from the Left—and don’t quibble over that label, because that’s where they are, and from that source oozes the increasingly unethical values that are driving them—are deliberately denigrating and attacking a teenager by name for doing absolutely nothing wrong by any objective standard. The non-objective standards—bigotry and racism—that are being applied, however, find him guilty of supporting a President the Left hates and a cause, the rights of the unborn, they find inconvenient to think seriously about; not retreating when an obnoxious  activist began beating a drum in his face; being caught smiling in a manner they chose to link to all manner of subconscious and malign motives, being male, and being white. And, incredibly, these vicious, vicious people are being defended, when they should be, and must be, shamed and shunned. This is not a partisan or an ideological position Ethics Alarms is taking here. It is a civilized, non-partisan and ethical mandate, if we want to live in a free, decent and civil society.

  • On Friday’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” on HBO, Maher, an alleged adult operating under the protection of the First Amendment, with a weekly platform and an audience of knee-jerk hooting fools, called the randomly selected child victim of Native American activist Nathan Phillips, student Nick Sandmann,  a “prick” and a “smirkface” with a “shit-eating grin” :

I don’t blame the kid — the smirking kid. I blame lead poisoning and bad parenting, and, oh yeah, I blame that fucking kid. What a little prick — smirkface. Smirkfaces. Please, I mean, like that’s not a dick move, stick your face in this elderly man’s (face).

As anyone who watched the video knows, Sandmann didn’t “stick his face” anywhere. He left it where it was when Phillips stuck his drum in the students’ face, but then Big Lies and repeating false narratives is one of the partisan tactics on ugly display. Classy as ever,  Maher ended his attack with, “I don’t spend a lot of time — I must tell you — around Catholic school children, but I do not get what Catholic priests see in these kids.”

Here’s a definition of “punching down”: A nationally known comedian using a cable show to call a high school student names in public. I cancelled my HBO subscription in part because I refuse to support a company that tolerates conduct like that from a prominent employee. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Pronouns

 

(Why am I up writing at this hour? All I will say is that its is unwise to frustrate a Jack Russell Terrier. That’s all.)

Peter Vlaming, a high school teacher in West Point Virginia, refused to use the pronouns demanded by 9th grade student who had announced that she was a female transitioning to male, was fired this week.  The West Point School Board fired him after a four-hour hearing, and its position was that Vlaming was fired for insubordination.

Some news reports on the matter fail to note that there was no allegation that the  West Point High School French teacher insisted on referring to the student using female pronouns in class. Apparently he used her name only. No, he apparently slipped when when the student was about to run into a wall, and Vlaming told others to stop “her.” When discussing the incident with administrators, Vlaming said he would not use male pronouns, because  his Christian faith prevented him from doing so.

Principal Jonathan Hochman testified that he ordered  Vlaming to use male pronouns in accordance with the student’s wishes. Vlaming’s attorney, Shawn Voyles, says his client offered to use the student’s name and to avoid feminine pronouns, but Voyles says the school was unwilling to accept the compromise.

“That discrimination then leads to creating a hostile learning environment. And the student had expressed that. The parent had expressed that,” said West Point schools Superintendent Laura Abel. “They felt disrespected.” Although the school’s  policies were updated a year ago to include guidance regarding gender identity,  gender pronoun use was not included. Vlaming’s attorney argues that the school cannot require his clients to speak words that violate his conscience. This is undeniably true. Vlaming says he is being fired for for having views held by “most of the world for most of human history. That is not tolerance,” Vlaming said. “That is coercion.”

He has not decided on his next steps.

Yikes. I do not see how speaking words that are not blasphemy can qualify as a breach of faith. I do not see how calling a student by name rather than pronoun can be called discrimination or create a “hostile environment.” I do see how a teacher calling an apparently female student by male pronouns could confuse other students, suggest that gender is more flexible than it is healthy to believe, and be something parents could legitimately object to. I think that the First Amendment pretty clearly prevents a government institution like a school from demanding that a teacher use specific pronouns simply because a student wants him to do so, when using the opposite pronouns are still arguably accurate and the teacher is willing to use the student’s name only.

I think that’s sufficient background to ask this perplexing Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz question of the day:

Was it ethical for the teacher to refuse to use the student’s preferred pronouns in referring to that student?

Ethics Dunce (Again!): The Daily Caller

 

Yeah, I know…”She can play on my violin any time she likes…”

Tucker Carlson’s toy, conservative website “The Daily Caller,” headlined the story I mentioned in today’s warm-up about a teacher who sent naked photos of herself to a teen-aged former student, this way:

“Former Miss Kentucky Arrested For Assaulting 15-Year-Old Teen’s Eyes With Her Naked Body.”

I’ve called Carlson’s site on this kind of idiocy before. It’s the brainless, macho, “yeah, I sure wish a teacher had mistreated me like that when I was a kid” jerkism that seeds the next generation of Harvey Weinsteins and Matt Lauers, as well as perpetuating the still flourishing double standard that sees a male teacher who has sex with female high school student  as a rapist, but a male student who is seduced by his female teacher as lucky dog.

This is one of many reasons I don’t watch Carlson’s popular show on Fox.  I really don’t care what assholes with those kinds of warped values have to say about anything. Teachers cannot use their position to prey on students, and it doesn’t matter how attractive the teacher is or how appreciative her victim is.  The fact that so many conservatives gravitate to Carlson’s frat boy attitudes is one reason to be wary of conservatives.

I haven’t checked…let’s see if the comments on this article express the usual Daily Caller reader perspective… Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 11/4/2018 (Part I): Gary Hart’s Prophesy, Media Values, And High School Babylon [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

I’m headed to Boston this afternoon for one of my semi-monthly ethics seminars for new Mass. bar admittees. I have been having bad luck with keeping up on the blog while traveling of late, so I’m going to post a two-part Warm-Up to try to avoid falling too far behind.

1. Maureen Dowd made my head explode with her ridiculous profile of Gary Hart—you know, Donna Rice, “Monkey Business”—so I’m going to rely heavily on Ann Althouse’s analysis which parallels mine. Her head is just more resilient, apparently. [Tangent: I wonder how Ann’s traffic is doing? I have noticed that progressive commenters have virtually disappeared from her blog as well, where a couple of years ago they were equally represented. I don’t consider Althouse a conservative at all: she is relentlessly objective and non-partisan, and mostly serves as the web’s best bullshit detector. She has, however, defended the President against unfair attacks and hypocrisy, and called out the news media for fake news, fake headlines, and bias. That’s asking for a boycott, apparently.) Hart makes this statement:

“If all that stuff had not happened and if I had been elected, there would have been no gulf war. H.W. wouldn’t have been president. W. wouldn’t have been president. Everything would have changed. I don’t say that to aggrandize myself. It’s just, history changed. And that has haunted me for thirty years. I had only one talent and it wasn’t traditional politics — I could see farther ahead than anybody.”

I could write a long essay about this arrogant nonsense with my eyes closed. Ann had the same instant reaction I did: Funny, you weren’t able to foresee that daring reporters to check on your martial virtue would result in your being caught adultery-handed in Clintonesque trysts, you big dummy. (My words, not Ann’s.) And if hindsight is 20-20, hindsight aternate future readings are even better. Gary needs to study Chaos Theory  a bit more closely, and watch that old Star Trek episode. For all he knows, his election would have resulted in the world being taken over by Mole People.

Althouse also flagged the Dowd section where the Queen of Snark writes,

“As we fantasize about a parallel universe, where America is not a joke and our president cares about other human beings, the same questions keep swirling in our heads. What has happened to this country? Can he be stopped? When will it end? How the hell did we get here?”

Wow, Talk about bias making you stupid. To many of us who are at least as smart as Maureen, America is a joke when it embraces open borders and edicts by international organizations, when it warps the Constitution by declaring that men and police can be guilty until proven innocent if a member of a favored group accuses them, and allows a partisan news media to control public opinion. It’s not a very funny joke, though. Some trenchant comments on Ann’s post:

“I don’t know why I’m still surprised by liberals’ inability to do any real soul-searching. You’d think by now, after many hundreds of “how did we get here, why aren’t smart people like me listened to by the stupids?” articles, I’d give up hope that they will ever open their eyes and see what’s right in front of them. But then I remember, I’m a pollyanna. I can’t give up on anybody.”

***

“It would seem obvious to me that Trump does care about human beings, but not the ones Dowd think he should be caring about. And maybe her friends consider America a joke, and maybe that’s why we got were we are..”

***

“Dowd’s perspective is Technocratic. Society needs to be supervised by an educated elite. Democracy is just mob rule that will lead to ruin. But, we have to put on a facade so that the deplorables will accept our edicts. So we do the election thing, but the real rules are set behind the scenes by career bureaucrats. Politicians and the medias’ job is to set the agenda and influence popular opinion towards the “correct” attitudes”

Bingo. Bingo. Bingo. Continue reading

Teachers Have No Ethics Code. Here’s One Example Of Why That’s A Problem…

In Tarboro, North Carolina, a 5th grade teacher punished a student for calling her “ma’am” in class. Parents of the child, an African-American boy, brought the incident to the administrators of the North East Carolina Preparatory School after he brought home for their signatures a sheet on which he had been required to write “ma’am” nearly two- hundred times.  The parents said their children were taught to refer to elders as “ma’am” and “sir,” and that their son was obviously not intending to be disrespectful. Upon their request, he was removed from the class to that of another teacher. The school has refused to comment further on the incident, other than saying in a statement, “This is a personnel matter which has been handled appropriately by the K-7 principal.”

That’s not correct. This is an education profession issue that should be addressed by the profession as well as the school. And moving the student, who did nothing wrong whatsoever, sends the wrong message. The school and the teacher should have apologized to the student as well as his parents, and disciplinary action ought to have been taken against the teacher. Moreover, other parents have a right to know who  this teacher is, and have the opportunity to have their children removed from her oversight. If that makes it impossible for her to continue teaching, since any responsible parents would insist on her being kept as far away from children as possible, then she might have to forfeit her job.

Good.

One purpose of professional ethics codes is that they prime the ethics alarms by putting core ethical principles related to the profession into black and white. Here’s one that might have saved the boy from his undeserved ordeal:

No students should be subjected to punishment without understanding what they are being punished for, and why. The punishment should be proportionate to the offense, which should be substantial enough to warrant more than a verbal warning or admonishment. Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Pick-Me-Up, 8/14/2018: Fools, Knaves And Hypocrites

Good afternoon!

1. Unethical tweet of the week, right wing nut division: Jerry Falwell Jr, who heads Liberty University. The acorn that didn’t fall far from the tree tweeted:

Are there any grownups w/ integrity left in the DOJ? When I was a kid, I watched Repubs join Dems to force Nixon out. Now Dems won’t join Repubs to lock up Comey, Lynch, Ohr, Rosenstein, Strzok, , & maybe even despite damning evidence!

Here’s an ethics tip for college age students and their parents: if the leader of a school has this tenuous a grip on basic Constitutional law, pay tuition to some place, any place, else.

2. Then we have the left-wing Pro Publica, which is trying to fuel the desperate Democratic efforts to find dirt on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and thus issued this…

3.  Which political party is more deranged today? Well, an  Ipsos public opinion survey claims that 43 % of self-identified Republicans agreed that “the President should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.”  Only 36% of surveyed Republicans disagreed with giving a President the power to shut down news outlets like CNN and The Washington Post.

First of all, this primarily raises legitimate concerns regarding the educational level and intelligence quotient of Americans.  99% of those polled could advocate repealing the First Amendment, just as a majority could proclaim its belief that the national language ought to be Finnish. It’s not happening. Professor Turley’s take-away is that “Trump has truly and irrecoverably changed the party and much of the country . . . and, in this case, not for the better.” Baloney. The fact that journalists have exposed themselves as being partisan operatives uninterested in conveying facts to the public in a fair and unbiased manner has changed the public perception of the value of the news media, and not for the better. Whether the change is “irrecoverable” depends on whether American journalism sees the dangerous error of its path over the past several decades, and becomes trustworthy again. Continue reading