Naming Ethics: The Gaylord Affair

My short summary of this ethics controversy is: This mother is nuts.

A woman, 24, is due to have her first child in August, and, she says,  the first born son of everyone from her side of the family has been named Gaylord since the early 19th Century. She is determined to carry on the  tradition, though her husband is horrified, maintaining that to name any boy “Gaylord” is child abuse.

That’s probably overstating it, but just a bit. Gaylord is not a common name (it’s from the Old French gaillard meaning “joyful” or “high-spirited”), but Wikipedia lists 25 famous or accomplished Gaylords, only one of which I had ever heard of, the baseball player on the list (of course). That’s Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry, who won over 300 games during a 21 year career in which he was famous for throwing spitballs, an illegal pitch.  Perry is one of the three Gaylords on the list who is still alive, including a French long-distance runner named Gaylord Silly.

Now that’s child abuse..

But I digress. The mother says she offered her husband a compromise, agreeing that young Gaylord would go by “Gail” in school “so that he doesn’t have to deal with bullies.”

What? Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 6/23/19: War, Law, Silly Names And Silly Movies


1  Every President should be hesitant to go to war.  It is amusing watching Democrats and the news media (B.I.R.M.*) trying to thread the needle and criticize the President for pulling back on the decision to retaliate against Iran with a military response, when the Left virtually always protests military action of any kind. It is particularly amusing since the whole Iran confrontation exposes how irresponsible, dishonest, cynical, and cowardly the “solution” to the Iran problem was that President Obama secretly engineered: the “Let’s give Iran billions of dollars back to cause terrorism and chaos throughout the world in exchange for a promise not to nuke Israel until I’m rich, retired, and can’t be expected to do anything about it” plan.

2. About the Massie case. Nobody took the bait and wrote about the Massie Trial in last week’s open forum, so allow me to explain why it’s relevant.

The legal and academic world is still reeling from Harvard’s punishing law school professor Ronald Sullivan for representing Harvey Weinstein, who, the supposedly educated student citizens of Harvard have apparently been taught to believe, doesn’t have a right to a fair trial and a zealous legal defense. In the Massie case, Clarence Darrow  came out of retirement in 1932 to defend Grace Fortescue, a rich Southern heiress who had traveled to Hawaii in order to seek justice for her wild and unreliable daughter, who accused five Hawaiian men of raping her. The trial resulted in a mistrial due to a deadlocked jury,  ramping  up racial tensions between whites and native Hawaiians. Fortescue paid to have one of the native Hawaiians her daughter accused, Joe Kahahawa , kidnapped and brought to her home in Honolulu, where he was tortured and shot. Grace Fortescue, Thomas Massie, and Edward Lord. Deacon Jones were arrested at the scene and charged with murder. Darrow, 74 and long absent from the courtroom, agreed to defend Grace even though she was obviously guilty, a racist, and the kind of rich, privileged bully that he has spent his career opposing.

L to R: Clarence Darrow, Edward Lord, Deacon Jones, Sheriff Ross, Grace Fortescue, Thalia Massie, Thomas Massie, and George Leisure

Why would he do it? Two reasons, said Darrow: he had been wiped out by the Great Depression and needed the money (he was paid $30,000) and he had always wanted to visit Hawaii. Darrow, you see, knew that every defendant deserved the best possible defense, even rich racist murderers. Continue reading

Noonish Ethics Warm-Up, 11/30/18: The Trouble With Sloth, Bing Misplaced, And Reader Pointers

Hi there…

1. Thank you to the readers who immediately took my call for tips and links to heart. This post ends with three of them, and there are more on the way.

 2. Can we have a little Christmas music station integrity, please? There are currently three holiday music channels on Sirius-XM: an all instrumental channel, aka. department store muzak; “Holly,” which is supposedly “contemporary” Christmas music, meaning either bad songs, endless covers of “Last Christmas,” or horrific versions of classics so stylized that they are unrecognizable, like Destiny’s Child’s jarring version of “O Holy Night;” and “Traditions,” which is the all-dead people channel, with actual tunes, occasional references to Jesus, angels, and Bethlehem, and only a couple of songs written before 1963.

But it’s complicated. John Lennon is dead, but his awful Christmas song shows up on “Holly.” Paul NcCartney’s awful Christmas song has been on both channels: he’s alive, BUT the song is crap. However, I nearly drove off the road just now when Holly featured Bing Crosby singing “Mele kalikimaka” with the Andrews Sisters, whose recording of the same sone without Der Bingle turned up yesterday on Traditions. I don’t get it.

3. This is a good test as to whether the public is smart enough to know when it’s being manipulated. Paul Manfort’s plea deal about his dealings with the Ukraine and other questionable machinations unrelated to his time with the Trump campaign has nothing to do with the Russian 2016 election meddling. Michael Cohen admitting that he lies about his activities connected to the Trump organization building a hotel in Moscow also has no connection to the Left’s Russian collusion fantasies. So why is the news media hyperventilating about “big breaks” in the Mueller investigation? I’d say a) confirmation bias b) they aren’t very bright c) they don’t think the public is very bright, and d) they think they can continue to undermine the public trust by flogging this narrative. This is a fact: there was and is nothing illegal about Donald Trump pursuing a business project in Russia while running for President. It does not suggest or constitute collusion, and the fact that his ridiculous ex-lawyer lied about it is irrelevant to the Trump Presidency.

Nonetheless, here’s CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin yesterday: Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 11/4/2018 (Part II): Halloween Leftovers, Hot Yoga, And Polls

Today’s extended Warm-Up continues…

5. Halloween ethics left-overs:

  • Nah, there’s no Trump Derangement…In Hastings, Michigan, young Benny Drake wore a Donald Trump mask and costume around the neighborhood to solicit candy. At one house, the woman who answered the door threw candy at him and “asked me if she could slap me,” Drake said.

Benny should build a wall around her house.

  • Confession: I once wore a KKK-themed costume to a party. In Fort Smith, Arkansas, a Ku Klux Klan costume won a Halloween contest and a prize at the Lil’ Dude Tavern. After the photo of the costume “went viral,” the bar was attacked on social media and condemned by the local NAACP. A few points:

a) Many of the news media reports discussed the costume but wouldn’t share the photo with readers or TV viewers, presumably out of fear of upsetting some of them. This is incompetent and cowardly journalism, in the same category as writing about the Danish anti-Muhammad cartoons without showing them, or writing that an “epithet” set off a controversy without stating what the epithet was.

b) I assume the ethics issues here are the same as in the Hitler costume controversy, correct?

c) When I wore a KKK-themed costume decades ago, it was after a prominent white supremacist had been killed in a plane crash. KKK costumes always looked a lot like ghosts to me,  so I made a hybrid ghost-KKK costume and carried a travel case with the victim’s name on it and the airline’s sticker.  And I won a prize, too: for Costume in the Worst Taste.

  • I don’t understand this one at ALL.  In Vermont, a trick-or-treater received a bag of poop deposited in his candy bag. According to police, who investigated, it was just a mistake. How could something like that be a mistake? If the bag contained rat poison or an “explosive device,” would “Oops! Silly me!” still be an effective explanation? What if the kid ate the poop, and got violently ill? Same result?

Continue reading

“Dear Abby” And The Unusual Name Paradox [Updated]

The famous Hogg sisters, Ura and Ima.

Let’s begin with a related observation: The now widely accepted method of expressing disagreement with a point of view that varies from leftist (now, now, I use the term with love!) cant is to set out to destroy the point of view’s owner: after all, eliminate or intimidate all the dissenters and adversaries, and progressives no longer have to win  arguments on logic and merit. I know of what I speak: I am increasingly the target of social justice warriors (fascist division), who make formal complaints to my clients or administrative bodies when my ethical guidance doesn’t jibe with the world view their professors indoctrinated them with, thus precluding an open mind.

Thus I sympathize with “Dear Abby,” actually Daughter of Dear Abby Jeanne Phillips (also the niece of Ann Landers), who is now facing the progressive Twitter mob because she dared to opine that naming one’s baby Ifeoma, Bodhi or Laszlo might not be in the child’s long-term interests. “Not only can foreign names be difficult to pronounce and spell, but they can also cause a child to be teased unmercifully,” wrote Phillips. “Sometimes the name can be a problematic word in the English language. And one that sounds beautiful in a foreign language can be grating in English.”

The Horror. Now she is being called racist, and if her syndicate has the backbone and integrity of most organizations these days, which is to say none, she will probably be toast in a matter of weeks if not days. Writer Anand Giridharadas was among those interviewed for a Times story about Abby’s Outrage. “The reality is that a lot of this has to do not with names but with whiteness,” he said. “There are a lot of complicated names from Polish and Russian and Italian and German backgrounds that have become second nature to Americans.”

No, the issue is not “whiteness.” The questions in the ethical equation are…

Are you naming a child for your amusement, self-aggrandizement or political agenda, of for the child?

Is conduct consistent with cultural norms wise and respectful, or is it preferable to announce one’s defiance?

If data and experience shows that odd and unusual names create problems later in life, should responsible parents take that into consideration?

Is it fair and ethical to hang an unnecessary handicap on a child without that child’s approval?

What Phillips said is true. It’s that simple. People don’t like that it’s true, so they are condemning her. Continue reading

Naming Ethics: Carolyn Hax Gets It Right, Thank God


Over in the strange world of advice columnists, the best in the business, Carolyn Hax, just got a doozy of a question. Someone named “Confused” is about to have a baby, and her ethically-challenged family, especially the mother-to-be’s mom, is putting on a full court press to guilt the couple into naming their child “Ben.” You see, Uncle Ben, who suffered from bi-polar syndrome, killed himself a couple of years ago, and his still-surviving siblings feel guilty about it. (The expectant parents, in contrast, didn’t have much of a relationship with Ben, and hadn’t spoken to him for years before his tragic demise.) So they all got together in an orgy of crazed presumptuousness, and resolved to send their mea culpas to the cosmos by inflicting the name of the family suicide on a helpless baby. Apparently Confused’s grandfather, Old and Even More Confused,  is especially wracked with remorse over what he sees as his part in his brother’s fatal misery, and has decided that a new happy little Ben is just what the spirit of Dead Ben craves, and will make all well between the brothers, just like the old days. Or something.


Like about 99% of advice columnist letters, this one should have been a breezeto answer before it was written, as in No! What the hell’s the matter with you people? Get out of our faces: we’ll name our kid what we want, and Ben isn’t even in the running.” Still, I know how relentless mothers can be, especially when backed by reinforcements, so I suppose the writer was just seeking printed support from an expert at telling irrational people to shape up, so she could shake it in their faces. At least, I hope so. If she is seriously considering caving in to this morbid emotional blackmail, young Ben has a miserable life ahead of him in this family, and that name may end up two for two.

Fortunately, Hax comes through, as she usually does, writing,

They’re looking to dump all this historic freight on a baby — blackmailing you with your grandfather’s life! — just so they can keep dodging that painful trip to the mirror. Shame on them. You needn’t say that, though. Just this: “I agree we all need to heal. It is not a baby’s job, though, to heal us — he comes into the world just as himself, with a clean slate. I owe him that. I think we owe him that. I don’t expect you all to agree but hope you’ll respect our decision.”

Then the couple can go ahead and name the kid something else.

Like, say “Robin.”

More Name Ethics: An Incompetent Judge Blocks An Irresponsible Name

"Mom...Dad! It's your son Messiah!"

“Mom…Dad! It’s your son Messiah!”

Let us stipulate that while  parents in the United States have an absolute right to name their children whatever they please, it one of those aspects of free speech that is often horribly abused by irresponsible, self-centered or just plain dumb parents who treat their children as bumper stickers or social science experiments. Naming your boy “Sue,” (You know) or your daughter “North West,” (Kanye West) or your daughter “Fifi Trixibelle” (Bob Geldof) is unforgivably and gratuitously cruel, virtually guaranteeing that your child will be a target, a head case, or will change his or her name the second legal majority comes around. Nonetheless, the state doesn’t raise children in America—yet—and parents can still decide what they wear, watch, learn and eat, as well as the name they have to answer to. The operative term is “free country.” Many of our fellow citizens don’t like or understand that concept, which is also their right in a free country. Judges, however, must not only understand the concept but constrain their power by it.

This is why Cocke County (Tennessee) Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew needs to be a) removed from her job and b) set on a more appropriate career path, like say, taking tolls in a tunnel or orders at Papa John’s. She ruled—it doesn’t matter how or why this came about—you can read the ridiculous story here-–that the parents of a baby couldn’t name him “Messiah,” because, she said in an interview with a reporter whose mouth had to be surgically closed afterward, “The word ‘Messiah’ is a title, and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person – and that one person is Jesus Christ.”  Continue reading

And You Thought “North West” Was A Terrible Name To Give A Kid…

Alkapone and his namesake

Alkapone and his namesake

Being the daughter of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian is handicap enough, one would think, without having to go through life branded with the name “North West.” But in the annals of self-indulgent and reckless child-abuse-by-birth-certificate, what the rapper and the whatever-the-hell-she-is inflicted on their love child is small potatoes compared to the cruel and horrible name affixed to this unfortunate:

From Hawaii News Now:

“Big Island police have charged the man arrested in connection with a carjacking Wednesday night in Hilo. Alkapone Cruz-Balles, 19, who has no permanent address, was charged late Friday afternoon (July 19) with first-degree robbery and unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle…A Hilo man was ready to get into his car at the Target parking lot of on Puainako Avenue when police say Cruz-Balles brandished a weapon and threatened the victim. Police say he then took the keys and took off in the car….”

“Alkapone Cruz-Balls?” Continue reading