Mid-Day Ethics Madness, 8/19/2020: Susan B., Fauxahontas, Utah…And “Gordie”

When I was looking through the 2012 posts yesterday, ultimately stumbling upon the long discourse about Barack Obama’s disastrous Presidency, I was struck by how, even in an election year, so many non-political ethics issues were discussed here. This is something that was already driving me crazy about 2020. Thanks to the pandemic, there is virtually no popular culture news. Legal ethics news is drastically reduced, as are reports from other sectors of society and culture. In this warped environment, politics spreads like kudzu, or killer bees, or snakeheads—you can choose your favorite invasive species or opportunistic organism analogy. I’m trying, I swear, but my over-all impression looking back on 2012 is that writing, and I presume reading, an ethics commentary blog was a lot more fun.

I’m sorry.

1. Today’s rejected Ethics Alarms comment comes from “Gordie,” was opining on the post on Ellen De Generis’s late hit accuser. He wrote,

Ellen was an a$$ to this boy and shes paying for it now. All you lip huggers need to wake TFU and rejoice when you hear truth no matter how unsavory or unpalatable you find it. Be a bully, get bullied. Dont you all see that Karma train pullin up? And with enough hands to slap every butt as it goes on by toot toot

Observations:

  • Welcome to my world. This is why so few new voices are added to the commentariat here.
  • Does anyone know what a “lip-hugger” is?
  • Tells in the comment that let us know the writer can’t tell an ethics from fuzzy slipper: mentioning “karma,” and the statement, “Be a bully, get bullied.”

2. Here is some non-political legal ethics news, and it’s important, if technical.

Before this week, only the District of Columbia, where I am licensed, allows non-lawyers to be partners in law firms. The majority position in the profession is that non-lawyers inevitably have a different alignment of values from the legally trained, and thus are not likely to be as sensitive to duties to clients, like confidentiality, and conflicts of interest. Pure “investors” are also banned from buying a share of law firm profits, because they are deemed likely to be governed by financial needs and motives rather than the best interests of clients.

When the D.C. bar decided to break the mold decades ago, everyone assumed that other jurisdictions would follow its lead, and soon doctors, engineers, scholars and accountants, among others, would be joining firms and allowing them to add new services. (Europe and Australia already allow  such “multidisciplinary firms.”) It didn’t happen.

Now, however, the dominoes might be starting to fall.  From the ABA Journal: Continue reading

The Banjo/Damien Patton Affair: Can You Ever Escape A Disgraceful Past? Should You Be Able To?

Damien Patton is the the 47-year-old co-founder and CEO of the rising data gathering startup Banjo. The combination of the company’s success and its founders’ inspiring life story has made him the subject of many tech media and business publication profiles, for it is the kind of gutter to boardroom story on individual bootstrapping America has always celebrated.  He has described an abusive childhood that caused him to run away from home at age 15. He joined the U.S. Navy, then worked as a NASCAR mechanic before learning the craft of crime-scene investigation.  He  learned to code, and then became a co-founder of Banjo as he raised  nearly $223 million in venture capital for the Utah-based company.

However, Americans don’t like their rags-to-riches stories to begin too deep in the gutter. The tech news outlet OneZero uncovered transcripts of courtroom testimony, sworn statements, and more than 1,000 pages of federal records revealing that before he turned to coding, Patton was a member of the Dixie Knights, a Ku Klux Klan group active in the Nashville area in the late 1980s and early 1990s,  and not a passive one. He was was involved in shooting up a synagogue, for example. Understandably, this detail was something Patton did not highlight in his inspirational speeches before aspiring entrepreneurs.

The question is, now what? What does this mean today? What should it mean? Continue reading

Hurry-Up Saturday Ethics Round Up, 2/29/2020: “Happy Birthday Frederick!” Edition [Corrected And Updated]

 

Yes, it’s Frederick’s 41st birthday.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should. Frederick is the overly duty-conscious and somewhat dim-witted hero of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” one of the Savoy duo’s so called “Big Three,” the Victorian operettas that have been performed the most over the years. (The other two are “H.M.S Pinafore,” and the currently unfairly besieged—but arguably the best of them all—“The Mikado.”) They aren’t my three favorites, mind you, but like seven of the other G&S masterpieces, they are damned good, and have aged better than most American musicals, especially the Rogers and Hammerstein classics. Poor Frederick was apprenticed to a pirate until his 21st birthday, but due to a cruel twist of fate and legalistic nit-picking, his 21st birthday didn’t arrive until 1940, because he was born on leap year. Today is his 41st birthday, though he is 164 years old.

I apologize for the stupid subtitles in the clip from the movie. Unlike most G&S performers, the diction of Kevin Klein, Rex Smith and Angela Lansbury is excellent.

(I’m hurrying because I’ve learned from cruel experience that traffic on Saturday after 12:30 slows to crawl..)

1. Thus ends Black History Month. I do not favor tribal distinctions in our days and months. It is inherently divisive, and Black History Month smacks of honors affirmative action. The history of black Americans is American history, inextricably intertwined with the history of the rest of us. Our entire history ought to be taught and learned without bias and spin, and no race or ethnic groups should hesitate to take pride in the accomplishments of other Americans regardless of their color or ancestry.

NOTICE of CORRECTION! Item #2 below has now been shown to have been based on a hoax. More after…

2. Res ipsa loquitur:

Obviously the  note in Chuck’s tickler file came up: “Today transition from saying Trump was doing too much in response to the Corona virus to saying that he isn’t doing enough.”

What awful, awful hacks these people are.

They are still awful hacks, but I hate being caught by these hoaxes. This one was especially sinister, because the fake tweet is completely consistent with what the Democrats and the news media had been saying about the President’s move to stop travel from China. However, insisting that a faked message is still “true enough” is what Dan Rather did in the scandal that ended his career as a respectable journalist.

We now know that the tweet is a hoax because ProPoblica, a nonprofit journalism organization, maintains a database of tweets deleted by politicians called Politwoops that uses Twitter’s Streaming API to find tweets from politicians that have been deleted.  Schumer’s tweet  is  NOT in the database, thus we know it wasn’t posted.

I apologize for being caught this way, AGAIN.

3.  The rest of the story: Remember Tilli Buchanan, the Utah stepmother who paraded around the house topless in front of the kids? She was arrested and charged under Utah law with three misdemeanor counts of lewdness involving a child. Iwrote that this should be an ethics question, not a legal one:

[T]here are the Tilli Buchanans among us, who want to tear down social norms, not really knowing what the consequences will be over the long term, just for the hell of it. In addition to being irresponsible and disrespectful, they are also lousy citizens.

They are not, however, criminals. She should be able to walk around naked in front of her children, just as we allow parents to engage in all sorts of other dubious practices. That she can doesn’t mean she should, but this is part of a long, long list where we must rely on ethics rather than law.

Facing  being placed on a sex offender registry for 10 years,  Tilli agreed to a plea deal with her pleading guilty one class B misdemeanor lewdness charge and paying a $600 fine while serving probation. The charge will be dismissed if Buchanan can keep her shirt on for a year.

4. More “The rest of the story,” uber-jerk division. In 2018, Saturday Night Live performer Pete Davidson mocked GOP Congressional candidate Dan Crenshaw for his eyepatch, the result of a combat wound. Davidson said that he looked like “a hitman in a porno film” and dismissed the origin of his disfiguring injury as something he got in “war or whatever.” Veterans, their families and others who don’t usually pay attention to SNL anymore since it has become partisan, shrill, and lazy protested loudly, and Davidson apologized while Crenshaw appeared on a later show, where he was funny, gracious, and forgiving

It was obvious to me (and, I’m sure, Crenshaw) that Davidson was forced to apologize, but it takes a special breed of jerk to come back after he has left the scene of his insults and say so.

In Davidson’s new stand-up special, “Alive from New York,” Davidson, says,

“So I made fun of this guy with an eyepatch and then, like, I kind of got forced to apologize. My roommate thought I should apologize so that I didn’t get shot in the face. People were like, ‘You hate America!’ And I’m like, ‘No, I just didn’t want to be incorrect about how he lost his fucking eye. Is that a crime?! The only thing I did do, which I am guilty of — and I apologize for — is I did make that guy famous and a household name for no reason, right? I did what, like, Ariana Grande did for me, right? I sucked his dick at ‘SNL.'”

This is what you lost your eye for, Dan.

5. You could show this to your Bernie Bros friends, but I doubt they could understand it.  At the Foundation for Economic Education, J. Kyle de Vries does an excellent job of explaining the Social Security cheat, and why it has to be reformed. The system no longer makes sense, but the socialist enablers refuse to consider the problem. de Vries writes in part,

Millennials and Generation Z: Do you want to fund my Social Security benefits with higher payroll taxes than I paid in the past? Especially when the likelihood is high that your benefits are not going to be as lucrative as mine?

I am lucky. My Social Security benefits will be funded by you and other workers, and I plan on living to 140. If you are younger, that should concern you. Right now, you and your employer are forced to contribute 12.4 percent of your income into a fund that goes into a black hole, financing some other guy’s retirement. Wouldn’t you rather put that 12.4 percent into a fund you manage?

…Assume a self-employed 25-year-old makes $75,000 this year. Further assume she is required to set aside 12.4 percent of her income into a protected, tax-deferred trust, just as she must do for Social Security. But this is her account, managed by her, just like a 401k plan. If she realizes a 3 percent increase in income each year and can earn 6 percent on a conservative mix of stocks and bonds during her lifetime, her trust will accumulate to over $3,500,000 at age 70. At 8 percent growth, that number will be an astounding $6,142,000.

Would you rather have accumulated these much larger sums to augment your retirement income than get the average $1,500 per month Social Security check issued today? Lesser potential income is just one of the problems with the present system.

…Contrary to popular belief, payroll taxes are not invested in a fund to secure benefits like most other pension plans. Since the beginning, payroll taxes went first to make payments to current retirees with the balance “borrowed” by the feds for spending on things other than Social Security benefits. For most of the program’s history, the amount of payroll taxes the feds received was much higher than the Social Security payments, meaning the feds had a lot of money to spend on other things. Because of demographics, that situation has changed perilously, threatening the future of the Social Security system.

…What all this means is millennials and Gen Zers will see higher taxes for Social Security across the board, perhaps many times. They will also most likely see reductions in promised benefits, especially if they accumulate a lot of money over their working lifetimes.

…Wouldn’t you rather have your own retirement fund you manage yourself instead of the flimsy promise of government IOUs? Increasing payroll taxes today only delays the day of reckoning. The current unfunded liabilities for Social Security are over $34 trillion. Let’s not double down on a failed experiment that will bankrupt our country in the future and leave millions destitute in retirement.

Wouldn’t it be nice if Donald Trump was articulate enough and organized enough to explain this in a debate, or in a national address to the public? Wouldn’t it be nice if young voters would pay attention, and if the news media could report on the issue fairly?

Wouldn’t it be nice if I could fly to Disney World by flapping my arms really hard?

Ethics Quiz: The Sixth Grade Dance

A furious mother is making an issue out of a Utah middle school’s policy requiring sixth-graders to agree acquiesce when a classmate asks them to dance.

Alicia Hobson’s 11-year-old daughter, Azlyn was asked to dance by a boy she thought was icky. She “politely” refused, but the principle at Rich Middle School in Laketown, Utah,  intervened, telling the couple to get out onto the dance floor. Was the boy short, fat, covered with acne, bad-smelling, a bully, afflicted with Down Syndrome? Was he poor, have a lisp, or Muslim? Was there a cool boy Azlyn was waiting to play Prince Charming? Never mind: As the principal, Kip Motta, later explained in a letter to Alicia Hobson, the school has a policy requiring students to accept dance invitations, and sticks by it. Motta wrote,

“We do ask all students to dance. It is the nice thing to do and this will continue to be our policy. There have been similar situations in the past where some students have felt uncomfortable with others, and, as stated prior, the issues were discreetly handled. This allowed all students to feel welcome, comfortable, safe, and included.”

Hobson equates the policy with “rape culture,” and is prepared to take the issue to the Utah Board of Education. “Girls HAVE to learn that they have the right to say no and that those around them have to respect that,” Hobson wrote on Facebook. “I’m not going to quietly stand by while my daughter and all of her classmates are being wrapped up in rape culture. No way.”

Ethics Alarms dealt with a similar issue in a different context in this post, about children accepting kisses and hugs from repulsive family members.

Before I pop the quiz question, I have three observations. The first is that that the principal’s fad use of the word “safe” has just got to stop. That’s not what “safe” means, and if we keep using “safe” to mean “insulated from any event, feeling or experience that someone might prefer to avoid,” the word will cease to have any communication value. The second is that equating the social obligation to accept an invitation at a supervised dance with “rape culture” is a hyperbolic crock, and should be identified as such immediately.

The third observation is that the “Today” headline is intentionally misleading and unfairly supports the mother’s inflammatory framing. “School policy forbids kids from saying ‘no’ when asked to dance” presumes the conclusion Hobson wants. “School policy requires students to be kind and considerate when asked to dance” promotes  the school’s rationale. An ethical and responsible headline would be, ““School policy requires students to accept an invitation to dance.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz today :

Is the school’s policy wise and ethical?

Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Upsetting License Plate

The Utah Division of Motor Vehicles lists standards for vanity plates, based on a statute that “forbids any combination of letters or numbers that ‘may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency or that would be misleading.’”

Plate letter and number combinations that reference drugs, that are “sexual, vulgar, or derogatory,” that  suggest ideas “dangerous to public welfare” or disrespect “race, religion, deity, ethnic heritage, gender, or political affiliation,” are not permitted.

Thus it was that Utah high school English teacher Matt Pacenza, driving home, spied  a vanity plate reading “DEPORTM.” As a concerned citizen, he snapped a photo of the personalized plate and posted it to Twitter. (Note: I’m more concerned about drivers taking photos while operating their motor vehicles than about what their plates say, but I’m weird, or so I’m told). The resulting cocial media comments attracted the attention of some state senators as well as the Utah State Tax Commission, which oversees license plate approval. Now the commission says it is reviewing whether the plate violates department guidelines.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the weekend is…

Is there anything wrong with having that license plate on your car?

Continue reading

The Topless Stepmother Conundrum: When Ethics Work Better Than Laws

MOM?!

A lawyer for Utah’s chapter of the ACLU asked Utah Judge Kara Pettit to rule that the state’s lewdness law violates the Constitution by treating women differently than men and thus violating the Equal Protection Clause. The  statute makes it a crime to expose “the female breast below the top of the areola” in the presence of a child in a private place “under circumstances the person should know will likely cause affront or alarm.”

Tilli Buchanan, 27, faces imprisonment, fines and the requirement to register as a sex offender for 10 years if convicted of violating the law, which she certainly did. Buchanan and her husband had been installing drywall in the garage, and they had taken off their shirts that had become scratchy from the fibers, she told reporters.  When her stepchildren, aged 9, 10 and 13, walked in, she “explained she considers herself a feminist and wanted to make a point that everybody should be fine with walking around their house or elsewhere with skin showing,” her lawyers wrote in court documents. Here’s Tilli…

Just kidding.

Lawyer Leah Farrell of the ACLU says the law requires women to do a “mental calculation” about whether going topless would cause alarm. But men can go shirtless without violating the law and without making that calculation. “That really sets up an unequal and unfair dichotomy,” Farrell says.

Prosecutors say that Buchanan stripped in front of the children and  was under the influence of alcohol at the time. They also claim she said she would put her shirt back on if her husband showed her his penis.

Ick. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/13/2018: The Serena Winds Continue To Blow, Along With A Lot Of Other Unpleasant Things

Good morning!

There’s Hurricane Hysteria in the Washington area, with everyone freaking out and clearing the store shelves, and the news media making it sound like this is the End of Days. Did you know that BOTH Chicken Little and the Boy Who Cried Wolf lived in Washington, D.C.? Thanks to a late summer repeat of what goes on every time there’s a rumor of  nascent snow flake during our winters, nobody’s working, returning emails and phone calls, or doing anything, it seems, except, I assume,  trying to figure out a way to blame whatever happens on President Trump.

Incidentally, this was going to be an afternoon post yesterday, until my car blew a radiator hose on Route 395 at rush hour.

1. Yes, more on the “racist cartoon.” Reader Michael B. reminded me of some of the liberal editorial cartoonists’ attacks on Condoleeza Rice. Here was one such cartoon, from 2005, that I found online.

Here’s the real Condoleeza:

I’ve been challenged to post a poll on this cartoon too, but that’s tricky. The two cartoons are not equivalent. I don’t think either is racist, but if I were in the business of race-baiting, the Rice cartoon is worse for several reasons. To begin with, Serena really did throw a tantrum on the U.S. Open court, and it was ugly, thus theoretically justifying an ugly graphic portrayal. There was never an incident analogous to what the cartoon Condi is shown doing. Moreover, she never exhibited anything approaching the snarling, aggressive demeanor portrayed by the cartoonist, at least not in public. I think the face given Rice is also vaguely simian, and if a similar spoof of Michell Obama had been published, all hell would have broken loose.

There were some complaints about racist caricatures of Rice during the Bush years, but all from conservative organizations and commentators, none from the NAACP, and nothing on the scale of the uproar over the Williams cartoon.

My position is…

….that both the Williams and the Rice cartoon are within the acceptable range of an art form I detest and find inherently unethical, editorial cartooning.

….that the indignation over either cartoon is driven by bias toward the targets.

….that anyone who wasn’t vocal about “racial insensitivity” toward Rice in various cartoons is not the most convincing advocate for the position that the Knight drawing is racist.  Yes, such a person might have changed their point of view, but he or she has the burden of proof to demonstrate that this is the case. I’m skeptical.

So here are TWO polls..

 

2. I find it difficult to believe that as Democrats are revealing the total ethical void in their current strategy, polls show voters favoring a Democratic Congress in the upcoming election. Of course, it helps that the mainstream news media won’t communicate to the public fairly so they understand what’s going on:

  • During his hearings, Bret Kavanaugh said, speaking of the position of the plaintiffs in a case, “In that case, they said filling out the form would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs that were, as a religious matter, objected to.” This was immediately distorted in the news media and by anti-Kavanaugh activists as  Kavanaugh referring to birth control as “abortion-inducing drugs.” Hillary Clinton (to be fair, I assume that she was reading second hand accounts—you know, like everyone criticizes Trump for doing with Fox News) then beclowned herself by tweeting:

I want to be sure we’re all clear about something that Brett Kavanaugh said in his confirmation hearings last week. He referred to birth-control pills as “abortion-inducing drugs.” That set off a lot of alarm bells for me, and it should for you, too.

[Pointer: Zoltar Speaks!]

  • CNN tweeted this (Pointer: Instapundit):

I think this qualifies as going beyond deceit to pure lying. The texts themselves were evidence. It’s like a defense attorney saying “The prosecution, without evidence, suggests that the murder weapon with the defendant’s fingerprints on it links him to the killing!”

  • A man cursing Donald Trump attempted to stab Republican Rudy Peters,  running for the House in California, with a switchblade over the weekend.This kind of thing does not happen every day, nor in every Congressional race. Democrats have increasingly been suggesting violent measures be used against conservatives and Republicans, and there has already been one armed attack that nearly killed Rep. Steve Scalise and threatened other GOP officials. Yet when Rep. Eric Swalwell, Peters’ opponent, appeared on  CNN host Erin Burnett’s show “Erin Burnett Outfront” last night, she never asked Stalwell about the attack or its implications. That’s journalistic negligence, and likely bias.

3. Please explain this to me. Anyone? Karen White, a transgender man “transitioning” to female, was accused of repeatedly raping a woman in 2016 and had been previously been jailed in 2001 for a sexual assault on a child. After telling the authorities that he identified as a woman, Karen, who still has her penis, aka her weapon of choice when engaged in sexual assault,  was remanded into HMP New Hall near Wakefield, West Yorkshire, an all female facility.

She then sexually assaulted four female inmates a few days later. Who could have predicted such a thing? The prison’s spokesperson said: “We apologize sincerely for the mistakes which were made in this case. While we work to manage all prisoners, including those who are transgender, sensitively and in line with the law, we are clear that the safety of all prisoners must be our absolute priority.” Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: Jeremy Lam And The Cultural Appropriation Police

Utah high school student Keziah Daum posted a picture of herself looking lovely in a prom dress, and thanks to the warped values and cracked ethics of a young social justice warrior tweeter named Jeremy Lam, was set upon by the social media Furies.

Here is the tweet:

The tweet received 179 THOUSAND likes, and was retweeted 60 thousand times. Yes, a young woman going to her high school prom was condemned by all those strangers for liking and wearing an Asian-themed dress.

I don’t know what broken-chromosome mutation of progressive thought creates Americans like Jeremy—who is living in our culture, which is an amalgam of all cultures, but better—but the fact that he could attract such support with his divisive, segregated version of what our society should be is one more sign that the hard-Left is getting more anti-American by the hour. David French nicely puts this episode in perspective:

“Just so we’re clear, the radical progressive position is (1) America’s borders should be flung wide open to people from every culture in the world; (2) when American white people encounter people from those hundreds of different cultures, they need to stay in their lane; and (3) white people staying as white as possible will help our nation totally unify and diversity will be our strength.”

That’s about right. Kaziah Daum is the victim of racism here. Reasonably for someone unfairly thrust into the culture wars without justification or warning, she responded that she wasn’t trying to upset anyone; she just thought it was a pretty dress. The rest of  us, French suggests, need to be more assertive: Continue reading

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

Question: Is There Any Justification For A State Censoring Vanity Plates? (And What’s Wrong With “KAIJUU”?)

My answer to the first question? Absolutely not.(  My answer to the second is, “I have no idea.” ) If a driver can put a sign in his rear view mirror or a bumper sticker on her bumper without state sanctions, then a driver should be able to have whatever he or she chooses on a vanity plate.

Utah, for examples, bans vanity plates with profanity, “derogatory language,”  drug references,  sex talk, references to bodily functions, “hate speech,” targeting a particular group, or advocating violence advocates, as well as alcohol references and the number combo “69.” Ethics verdict: None of their business. These are words and numbers, and the state is declaring content and intent impermissible. When I see a car with an obnoxious vanity plate, I’m grateful. This is useful information. Racist or vulgar plates translate into “I am an asshole, and want you to know it!”

Thank you, sir! I appreciate the heads up.

Below are the plates banned by Utah over the past five years. Most of them fly right over my head. If you have to be a cryptographer to figure out why a plate is offensive, then it’s not offensive.

The less our governments interfere with freedom of expression, the safer we are.

Here’s the list (the  pointer marks indicate spaces): Continue reading