Monday Morning Summary Of What Would Have Been In The Sunday Ethics Warm-Up That I Was Supposed To Post But….Aw, Forget It. Here’s Some Ethics Stuff…

Good morning.

Boy, am I glad THAT week is over.

1. Moral luck saves the 2019 baseball post-season…for now. MLB missed a major disaster when an umpire missed a clear strike three (he ruled a foul) on Yankee slugger Gary Sanchez in a tied and crucial game between the Houston Astros and New York.  It was the 11th inning, meaning a tie-breaking run would mean a likely Yankee victory.  THAT would have meant that the Astros would have lost the first two games of a seven game series at home, a hole that very few teams in baseball history have been able to overcome.

Sanchez  struck out on the next pitch, and a Carlos Correia home run in the bottom of the inning sent the Astros to Yankee Staudium in a series tied 1-1. The botch was moot, and will soon be forgotten. But if he Sanchez hit a home run or otherwise led the Yankees to a decisive score, the ALCS might have been completely turned by a blown call captured on video for all to see.

And there would be no excuse: the rules allow no appeal on that kind of play, but there has to be.

Yes, it was “moral luck” again. The fact that the worst didn’t happen doesn’t change the seriousness of the fact that only luck saved the day and prevented a blot on the integrity of the whole 2019 post-season. Maybe it would have been better if the bad call had altered the game, the series, and the World Series. Maybe then baseball would stop waiting for the high-profile disaster caught on video that will force it to have ball and strikes called by technology. It took an umpire’s obvious blown safe call in what should have been the last out of a perfect game to make baseball go to replays, and anyone who watches many games knows how many times a reversal changes game outcomes. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 10/24/2018: Catchers, Judges, Photographers, And Journalists Behaving Badly. Then There Are The Bombers….

Good afternoon!

You might as well know: I’ve been what they euphemistically  call “under the weather” recently. Ethics is getting in the way of my naps…

1. About those bombs…Not much that needs to be said about the explosive devices sent to Soros, the Clintons, Obama and—it fits–CNN, except this: it was inevitable. With conservatives being harassed and attacked in public places, Fox News offices and Republican offices being vandalized, and Democratic leadership and the media openly feeding the hate while rationalizing extreme incivility ( Philippe Reines, former adviser to Hillary Clinton, on MSNBC regarding mobs harassing Mitch McConnell and others: “People are doing these things because it’s all that’s left.” Gee, I guess there were some other tactics left after all, eh, Phil?), that some unstable wacko would decide to bring a gun to knife fight was a near certainty. Naturally, the news media and Democrats want to blame Republicans for the crimes. That’s not going to defuse the situation, and it’s also wrong.  The blame falls on all of those who have encouraged the rhetoric of hate and uncivil conduct rather than conducting political debate in a manner that doesn’t shame democracy.

You can make that list as easily as I can. When the Oklahoma City bombing occurred, the extreme anti-government rhetoric—by the standards of those times, at least–of the Right was fairly accorded the bulk of the blame for raising anger to a dangerous level. This time, the hate machine is being operated around the clock by the Left, and for two years without a break or a significant easing on the accelerator—indeed, it is pretty much the Democratic theme of the 2018 elections.

2. It’s a huge bat! It’s a black-robed blur! It’ SUPER JUDGE! In Chehalis, Washington, Judge R.W. Buzzard left the bench and chased  after two handcuffed inmates when they made a run for it from his Washington state courtroom. 22-year-old Tanner Jacobson and 28-year-old Kodey Howard bolted for the door and down  four flights of stairs, but the judge grabbed Howard just as he was about to exit the courthouse, and Jacobson was caught by police apprehended Jacobson a few blocks away.

As with the cases of bank tellers and grocery clerks who spontaneously play vigilante, the judge was exceeding his authority and interfering with law enforcement. This wasn’t his job, and is not the kind of image the judiciary wants to project. He should be disciplined, but probably won’t be.

Sheriff Rob Snaza said of the incident, “These things don’t happen very often.” No kidding. And they shouldn’t happen at all.
Continue reading

“The Ethicist” Endorses Vigilantism

No, you can't scam the scammers....

No, you can’t scam the scammers….

I haven’t been monitoring the New York Times’ “The Ethicist” column as much as I once did. After the original author of the feature, Randy Cohen, was jettisoned, the various ethicists, pseudo-ethicists and imaginary ethicists the Times recruited to fill his  slot have ranged from inconsistent to incompetent, and I stopped checking regularly until recently. Now the column has a real ethicist, for once: Kwame Anthony Appiah teaches philosophy at N.Y.U., and wrote “The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen.”  He seems to be thorough and explains his analysis using valid ethical systems. He’s a vast improvement over his immediate predecessors, but he goofs too.

A questioner asked about how he should handle scammers who tricked his father out a check. He wrote offering a threat and a settlement. They were to  return half the money, or he would report them to the consumer-affairs division of their state’s attorney general’s office and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, register complaints on websites and generally see that they suffered for their fraud.  His demand: send  a certified check, made out to his father, by the deadline. It worked; he got the amount requested, and the check cleared.

“But it was not certified, and it arrived after the due date,” he wrote. “Do I have an obligation to uphold my end of the deal, by not registering complaints about an outfit that is clearly scamming elderly people?”  Continue reading

On Preventing Web Mobs: The Prisoner’s Dilemma And “Tit For Tat” Reconsidered

prison

As I expected, it took all of ten minutes for my post about the web vigilante attack on Dr. Walter Palmer to bear fruit, as in tomatoes tossed at my metaphorical face. The reason, as I calculated in advance, was my decision to employ a Tit for Tat strategy in responding to what I believe is a deadly trend on the internet that requires a strong response to restrain it. A would-be commenter attempted to make my blog party to web mob efforts to do financial, personal and even physical harm to the hapless hunting dentist by publicizing various addresses and phone numbers. I published his e-mail address.

I’m not sorry.

The  issue raised by my conduct involves integrity. By giving out the e-mail address of a commenter (because the commenter unethically attempted to publicize personal contact information regarding Palmer and his family) when I state on the site that I will not do so, I both violated my own policies and engaged in conduct that this blog specifically declares unethical: Continue reading

#freebree = Lawlessness, Vigilantism And Hypocrisy

"let's run her up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes!"

“Let’s run her up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes!”

Various anti-gay marriage zealots vowing to defy the Supreme Court and the law of the land are un-American and wrong, but a woman who decides to unilaterally make a decision that only the elected representatives of the citizens of South Carolina are authorized to make is a hero. Such is the muddled state of thought, ethics and civics among America’s progressives. Disobey the laws you don’t like, condemn the character of those who disobey the laws you favor. No integrity, no principles, no responsibility, no coherence, just grandstanding and anarchy, aimed at cheering ideologues incapable of proportion or restraint. This is an ethics vacuum masquerading as virtue.

“Bree,” which is what pole-climbing flag-grabber Brittany Ann Byuarim Newsome calls herself, is under arrest, as she should be, charged with defacing a monument and facing a fine. Good. She deserves one, and no accolades whatsoever. The Confederate flag is already under siege and on the verge of a permanent cultural taboo. Her actions would have constituted genuine civil disobedience and courage had it come before the flag was magically assigned blame for the murder of nine Charleston African Americans, to call attention to its symbolic defiance of civil rights. Coming now, Bree’s stunt is just  self-promoting vigilante theater, seeking and receiving support from the likes of Michael Moore.

There was nothing brave, productive or necessary about the flag stunt. The was a lot wrong about its message: don’t wait for the government process to work, don’t allow democracy and civil discourse to prevail, just unilaterally do what you “know” is right, and let the “ends justify the means” embracing mob celebrate. No doubt, this is the anti-Constitutional attitude the President has encouraged, but it recklessly risks fraying the seams of our democratic government, and erodes the rule of law. Continue reading

Tip Shaming Fraud On The Web: NOW Do You See Why Applebee’s Was Right To Fire Its Vigilante Waitress?

bad-tip-fraud

At the beginning of the year, we had a real donnybrook on Ethics Alarms over my contention that Applebee’s correctly fired a waitress for web- shaming a customer who refused to tip another server on the grounds, as the customer wrote on her credit card receipt, that the automatic tip of 18% was excessive since she (a pastor as well as a jerk) gave God only 10%. The indignant waitress posted the receipt on Reddit, which led to locals recognizing the pastor’s handwriting and appropriate antipathy being directed her way. Since the waitress’s conduct was a clear violation of Applebee’s employment terms and because publicly shaming customers who exercise their right not to leave tips is a poor customer relations strategy, she was sacked. Subsequently the unapologetic waitress received a lot of sympathy, while equally misguided observers vowed to punish Applebee’s for not wanting to be known for having  waitresses on the payroll who are prone to misappropriate customer receipts and post them online to bring opprobrium down on the niggardly diners’ heads.

I think Applebee’s is looking prescient and wise right now. Ask Red Lobster, which did not fire Christina Jenkins, a 19-year-old African-American server at the Red Lobster restaurant in Franklin, Tennessee. Jenkins served a $44.53 order to Devin Barnes and his wife. Barnes wrote the word “none” by “tip, ” and, Jenkins claimed, wrote “Nigger” on the receipt as well.  Jenkins then posted a photo of the racist receipt on her Facebook page, writing, “This is what I got as a tip last night…so happy to live in the proud southern states. God Bless America, land of the free and home of the low class racists of Tennessee.” Going the Applebee’s vigilante one better, Jenkins allowed Barnes’ signature to be visible on the receipt.

The photo, and story, went viral on the web and the news media gobbled it up. Mr. and Mrs. Barnes denied that they would write such a thing (they didn’t tip because the order was a carry out), but nobody believed them. After all, everyone knows that white customers in southern states are likely to write “nigger” on receipts, just as everyone knows that sort-of white neighborhood watch members racially profile black kids in hoodies for carrying bags of Skittles. Jenkins, in contrast, was besieged with sympathy and cash contributions: the latest tally was $10,749. A handwriting expert hired by Barnes, however, proved that “nigger” was not written by the customers, but by the waitress herself. Now Jenkins and Red Lobster are being sued by the Barneses, who have been subjected to harassment and threats.

And that’s not all… Continue reading

The Steubenville Ethics Train Wreck: So Far, So Bad

steubenville

There has been no mention here of the awful Steubenville, Ohio rape case before today, and there was a reason for that. This is a massive ethics train wreck that is not only still rolling and accumulating passengers and victims, but is also too full of debris and wreckage to fully understand. At the end of this month, a grand jury will begin examining the looming question of whether others besides the two high school football players already convicted of the rape should be indicted.  The town is also doing an investigation of its own. These will help. My hesitation in diving into this gothic American nightmare is that recounting the obvious instances of miserable, heartless, ethically incomprehensible conduct by participants, observers, public officials and commentators doesn’t begin to make sense of it.  We will be analyzing and discussing this episode for a long time—we will have an obligation to do so. It is every bit as important and alarming as the Penn State scandal, and more significant than the infamous New Bedford pool table rape case, which was adapted into the Academy Award-winning film, “The Accused.”

The crucial cultural questions that will have to be answered are these: Continue reading