Sunday Ethics Insomnia, 11/29/2020: No Wonder I Can’t Sleep!

1. I hate 99.9% of the petitions offered at Change.org. but I’m signing this one . It reads,

Professor Dorian Abbot, a tenured faculty member in the Department of Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago, has recently come under attack from students and postdocs for a series of videos he posted to YouTube expressing his reservations about the way Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts have been discussed and implemented on campus.
In these videos Prof. Abbot raised several misgivings about DEI efforts and expressed concern that a climate of fear is “making it extremely difficult for people with dissenting viewpoints to voice their opinions.” The slides for each of Prof. Abbot’s videos can be found here, and his own account of events and his opinions can be found here. Nowhere in these materials does Prof. Abbot offer any opinion that a reasonable observer would consider to be hateful or otherwise offensive.

Shortly after uploading the videos, Abbot’s concerns were confirmed when 58 students and postdocs of the Department of Geophysical Sciences, and 71 other graduate students and postdocs from other University of Chicago departments, posted a letter containing the claim that Prof. Abbot’s opinions “threaten the safety and belonging of all underrepresented groups within the [Geophysical Sciences] department” and “represent an aggressive act” towards research and teaching communities.

[Pointer: Pennagain]

2. “Hello, Newman...” According to the Postal Service’s own records, more than 150,000 mail-in ballots were not delivered in time for them to be counted on election day. This is, of course, as I and anyone else who was paying attention expected and predicted, because the USPS is undependable

I am surprised that the number was that low.

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Flipping Off The President, And Proud Of It (With A Poll!)

Remember Julie Briskman? She flipped off the President’s motorcade in  November, and was so proud of that eloquent statement that she posted a photo of her gesture on Facebook. He company, A government contractor, promptly fired her. I wrote at the time,

Flipping a middle figure to the President’s motorcade is protected speech. Flipping said finger to the President when one works for a company dependent on government contracts and plastering photos of one doing this on social media is not what I would call wise, and Julie Briskman should have reasonably expected her employers to admonish her to keep the company’s public image in mind the next time she was tempted to bite the hand that feeds it. Akima LLC, however, a Virginia-based company, fired her.

They have every right to do this, but it was a gross and cruel over-reaction. Worse, the company wasn’t even honest about its rationale,telling her that company policy forbade an employee having  anything ‘lewd’ or ‘obscene’ on your social media. Sure. “The finger” is undeniably rude. Obscene it’s not.

But Julie doesn’t read Ethics Alarms (obviously!), and sued for wrongful termination. Last week, Virginia judge Penney Azcarate judge dismissed Briskman’s wrongful termination claim. Her lawyers had claimed that Briskman’s employers violated public policy by forcing her resignation.

As I said, I don’t think the company was particularly fair to Briskman, who is young and like most of the resistance, lacks judgment and proportion. I doubt that anyone would take it out on her employers that they employed a rude and immature jerk as a marketing analyst. It need not have fired her. Still, Virginia is an employment at will state where you can be fired for having an obnoxious laugh. As Ethics Alarms has held here frequently regarding professors who post racist rants on social media and episodes like that of Adam Smith, the so-called Chick-Fil-A Video Vigilante who verbally abused a Chick-Fil-A employee and posted the video of him doing so, companies have every right to regard an employee whose public behavior embarrasses their employers as a liability, and to treat them as such. It isn’t kind, and it isn’t compassionate, but as I wrote about Smith,

“I can’t blame anyone who doesn’t want to be represented by a man whose judgment was this wretched and who is best known for bullying an innocent minimum wage employee because he didn’t like her boss’s take on gay marriage. Actions have consequences, and while the cumulative effects of the foolish and damning video have been excessive, no individual component of it is. Someone should be kind, obey the Golden Rule and give Smith a shot at redemption, but no one individual is ethically obligated to do so. Smith’s sad fate, which extends to his family, is still his own doing, and he alone is accountable.”

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“Trying To Bring Ethics To Project Veritas? How Dare You? GET OUT!”

James O’Keefe is the famous or infamous (depending on your point of view and whether you believe that the ends justify the means) guerrilla hidden-camera master who sets out to deceive Democrats, liberals and progressives into exposing their evil ways. He is not a journalist. He is an unethical conservative operative who has, though dishonest means, occasionally managed to expose wrongdoing or hypocrisy. He is to an ethics blog what Rice Krispie Squares are to Fine Dining Magazine.

Richard Valdes, a former top staffer with O’Keefe’s oxymoronicly named Project Veritas, reports that O’Keefe assigned an undercover employee to attend a meeting of anti-police violence protesters and to bait them by saying: “Sometimes, I wish I could just kill some of these cops. Don’t you just wish we could have one of the cops right here in the middle of our group?” Presumably he was to secretly record the responses, thus discrediting them.

The undercover agent refused, sending an e-mail to his supervisor Valdes that was copied to O’Keefe. It read,

“I will not say words that will jeopardize my entity, especially when they involve an illegal act of ‘murdering police.’ 

Valdes claims O’Keefe fired him “because he was unhappy with me for being unwilling to strong-arm the guy.” He is considering a lawsuit for wrongful termination.  Valdes is threatening to sue for wrongful termination.

A Veritas spokesman denies the allegations, saying, “Project Veritas would never do anything that we believe would incite violence against police officers. Anyone suggesting otherwise is clearly unfamiliar with our body of work.”

Observations:

1. Anyone “familiar”with the organization’s body of work..

  • …would not be surprised at anything it did, no matter how outrageous.
  • ….would not believe a spokesperson, since Project Veritas is all about lying.

2. If it didn’t happen, why did the undercover employee think this was his assignment?

3. No ethical individual would work for O’Keefe anyway. What are the damages for being wrongfully terminated from a job you are lucky not to be in any more?

4. I believe Valdes.

Unethical Gall in Norfolk: The Case of the Shameless Freeloader

"Freddy the Freeloader": Role Model

Jill McGlone was working for the Norfolk (Virginia) Community Services Board (known as CSB—an independent agency created by the state and funded with state and federal tax dollars) as an office assistant when she was involved in an internal personnel investigation.
McGlone was put on paid leave, but her case remained in limbo, without resolution. She stayed home, and continued to collect her full $29,000/year salary and benefits—for twelve years. Continue reading