Greyhound Racing Is Dying. Good.

greyhound racing

The Washington Post informs us that greyhound racing, a  once popular form of gambling that as recently as 1991 brought in $3.5 billion and was operated at more than 50 tracks in 15 states, is in freefall and headed to oblivion. Betting on the dogs netted only $665 million in 2012, and just 21 tracks remain in seven states, with some of them already on borrowed time. Any decline in state sanctioned gambling is good news (yes, I am shedding no tears over the closing of one casino after another in Atlantic City, even the ones not owed by Donald Trump), but dog racing was always a particularly unsavory and unethical breed of the malady. Good riddance. The sooner that last greyhound has chased his last mechanical rabbit, the better off we are.

I have a bias here, it is true. My uncle, the youngest brother of my mom, was addicted to dog racing in Massachusetts, where the “sport” was banned in 2010, but not in time to save Uncle Charlie. He had a wife and two sons, and worked hard as a truck driver, but threw away an unconscionable percentage of his limited resources betting on racing canines. Maybe he would have crippled his prospects and harmed his family by finding other ways to waste his money if there had been no greyhound racing; probably he would have. Nevertheless, it was this corrupt, ugly, stupid gambling industry that wrecked his life. I hate it.

Dog racing was initially linked to allowing slot machines, another evil beast, to become legal, as little by little—first lotteries, then casinos—the states abandoned their ethical duties to embrace the cheap income that could be made by enticing the poor and the stupid to blow their paychecks on false hopes of a big jackpot. One they were hooked on the instant gratification of video poker and credit card one-armed bandits, however, greyhound racing became too slow a method of losing money. “It’ll take you half an hour to lose $50 at a racetrack. You can do it in five minutes sitting in front of a slot machine, ” said an insider interviewed by the Washington Post. This is called progress. Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Sports

Dunces, Heroes, and Fools In The Wake Of The Great Nude Actress Hack

Perez Hilton Yecch.

Perez Hilton
Yecch.

You should know by now that about a hundred actresses have had their nude photographs hacked from private accounts and posted for the world to drool over. As is often the case in such incidents, the ethical instincts, or lack thereof, of various individuals have been exposed in the wake of the event:

Ethics Dunce: Perez Hilton.

No surprise here: Hilton, a web gossip columnist and a different species of hack than the ones at issue, showed himself to have dead ethics alarms. After eagerly posting the uncensored photos  of Victoria Justice and Jennifer Lawrence on his celebrity gossip blog, Hilton was condemned far and wide on social media, so he first proved he didn’t get it by keeping up the photos but censoring the women’s naughty bits, and then taking them down entirely, explaining that “At work we often have to make quick decisions. I made a really bad one today and then made it worse. I feel awful and am truly sorry.”  Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Heroes, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Quotes, The Internet

The Double Standard Files

double-standardsA misguided commenter (or perhaps he was just trying to annoy me) challenged my assertions regarding Michael Sam by claiming that I was advocating a double standard in his case, while I have condemned the prevalence of double standards elsewhere on Ethics Alarms (like here.)  I pointed out, none too gently, I must admit, that this was an unjust complaint. The requirement that trailblazers in sports, politics or any other field have to either establish high levels of performance, character and trustworthiness or fail—and not only fail, but set their causes back significantly—is not a double standard, but a separate one that applies in unique circumstances. I find it difficult to believe that most people fail to understand this.

Just to be clear, however, I began this morning searching the news for true double standards, for which the accompanying word should always be “hypocrisy.” I did not have to look very far:

 Double Standard #1 

“Take back America”: Racist for Republicans, Fine for Democrats Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: The Strange Case Of The 2902 School Shooting Victim

Who knows what dark thoughts lurk in the imagination? And does it matter?

Who knows what dark thoughts lurk a teacher’s imagination, unless he tells us? And should  it matter if he does?

Patrick McLaw, an eighth grade language arts teachers at Mace’s Lane Middle School in Cambridge, Maryland, has been placed on indefinite administrative leave by the Dorchester County Board of Education and the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office. This measure was taken after it was discovered that McLaw had serveal aliases, two of which he has used to write novels. One of those novels was about the largest school shooting in the country’s history, set in the year 2902.

Because these books terrified parents, apparently, Dorchester County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Henry Wagner felt it necessary to announce that  the Dorchester County Board of Education had moved swiftly, saying, “We have advised our community that the gentleman has been placed on administrative leave, and has been prohibited from entering any Dorchester County public school property.” That’s not all that happened. McLaw was taken into custody for an “emergency medical evaluation.” The same day,police swept Mace’s Lane Middle School for bombs and guns.

This sounds like a Kafka novel. Of course, if Kafka had been a middle school teacher in Cambridge Maryland, parents probably would be afraid that he was going to turn their kids into cockroaches.

How can this hysterical reaction to a teacher’s novel be justified, legally, logically or ethically?

Your Labor Day Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz  involves yet another possible variation on “The Naked Teacher Principle”:

Is there an “Alarming Novelist-Teacher Principle” ?

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Education, Government & Politics, Quizzes, Rights, Workplace

Roshomon, Good Citizenship And Ethics: The Case Of The Concerned Stranger And The Indignant Father

gates-family

“O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!”

—Robert Burns

Jeff Gates, a writer and adoptive father, contributed a thought-provoking column in the Washington Post’s Outlook section this weekend, describing what seemed to him to be a traumatic experience at Cape May. It begins…

“After my family arrives on the Cape May ferry for our annual vacation to the Jersey Shore, I take pictures of our two daughters on the ferry’s deck as we leave the harbor. I’ve been doing this since they were 3 and 4 years old. They are now 16 and 17. Each photo chronicles one year in the life of our family and our daughters’ growth into the beautiful young women they have become….On that first day of vacation, the sea was calm and the sky a brilliant blue. As I focused on the image in my camera’s viewfinder, the girls stood in their usual spot against the railing at the back of the boat. I was looking for just the right pose…Totally engaged with the scene in front of me, I jumped when a man came up beside me and said to my daughters: “I would be remiss if I didn’t ask if you were okay.”

He goes on:

“It took me a moment to figure out what he meant, but then it hit me: He thought I might be exploiting the girls, taking questionable photos for one of those “Exotic Beauties Want to Meet You!” Web sites or something just as unseemly. When I explained to my daughters what he was talking about, they were understandably confused. I told the man I was their father. He quickly apologized and turned away. But that perfect moment was ruined, and our annual photo shoot was over.”

Many of us might laugh off the experience as a funny anecdote, but not Gates, and not his daughters. He is Caucasian and they are both of Chinese heritage, having been adopted as infants in China by Gates and his wife. He obsessed about the incident for a while, and worked up sufficient indignation to track down the man and confront him, saying “Excuse me, sir, but you just embarrassed me in front of my children and strangers. And what you said was racist.” Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Citizenship, Daily Life, Etiquette and manners, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Race

The Michael Sam Botch: Back To Square One…Or Worse.

You must remember this: A kiss can be a miss...

You must remember this: A kiss can be a miss…

Sportswriters are gamely putting a positive spin on it, but they are lying or deluded: Michael Sam’s failure to make the St. Louis Rams squad and the subsequent decision of every other team (there are 32 of them) to pass on his services as well means that Sam’s quest to become the first openly gay player to be drafted by and make the roster of a pro football team was not just a failure, but may have even set his cause back a year or ten.

Or maybe that wasn’t his cause at all. Maybe a gay player whose skills left him a borderline draftee at best made a calculated decision that his best chance was to shame the NFL into drafting him by announcing his sexual orientation, and gamble that he could shine enough in camp to make the team. The genius of this strategy, if that’s what it was, is that even if he didn’t make the team, Sam would become a celebrity, and in some circles, an icon.

Well, that part worked. What doomed the rest of the plan were, in order of importance,

  • Sam isn’t good enough to be a trailblazer.
  • The media made certain that such a big deal was made over Sam’s sex life that no NFL team could avoid wondering, “How much will having this guy around get in the way of winning football games?” From Ethics Alarms in February:

The irony is that it is the mostly positive media obsession with Sam’s status as a potential trailblazer, rather than the anti-gay hate-mongers, who diminish Sam’s chances of success with their every word. This is obvious, or should be, yet the articles and rants keep on coming. I have to believe that it is a case of sports journalists engaging in the ultimate hypocrisy, making themselves look fair, unbigoted and devoted to the cause of full gay inclusion in American life (all while making their deadlines) while simultaneously and knowingly undermining the athlete they claim to be supporting. They have to shut up, or Sam is doomed.

They couldn’t help themselves, of course, and sure enough, Sam was doomed. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Sports, U.S. Society

Angelina Jolie’s Worse-Than-Useless Syrian Lament

JolieAngelina Jolie has a solution to the Syrian civil war, the strategy Barack Obama is searching for! She said, solemnly, I’m sure:

“We need to see a new attempt to resolve the conflict and greater efforts to support more than 13 million Syrians who are in desperate need. The reputation and credibility of the international system is at stake with so many thousands of lives threatened in Syria.

Yes! Why didn’t anyone think of that? We need to resolve the conflict! Of course, Jolie would never approve of armed intervention, because she believes in non-violence. No, what is needed is, well, an attempt. You can read the rest of her noble, fatuous, narcissistic plea here.

I’m certain this will further enhance Ms. Jolie’s status as a humanitarian among the actress’s many sensitive, peace-loving followers. It would not surprise me if she adds to her list of awards because of it. Her words are worthy of the Pope, but to be fair, making empty, inspiring statements full of non-committal goodness is his job.

Whatever Jolie thinks she is accomplishing by making such an obvious, useless, pointless statement and having the news media duly report it as if she knew anything whatsoever about geopolitical tensions or could begin to suggest what “attempts” would consist of,  what she is in fact doing is exploiting an international tragedy to gild her own perceived virtue. Her statement advances no objective or contributes any wisdom. Indeed, it interferes with legitimate efforts to deal with this difficult situation, because such statements mislead the public about the painful, indeed ugly trade-offs and choices necessary to deal with despots and evil in the world.   I’m sure, if pressed to suggest what attempts she, in all her Hollywood-infused wisdom regarding foreign affairs, would advocate, she would insist that they be humanitarian in nature, and take into consideration the needs of all parties, as well as the root causes that lead to such violence and disruption. In other words, something. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Character, Government & Politics, Quotes, War and the Military