Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Ethics Of Harvard’s “Racist E-mail” Scandal

The whole sad, sordid story of a Harvard Law student’s racially provocative e-mail that is now circling the web like the deadly virus in The Stand can be read over at Above the Law. The simple facts are these: At a dinner discussion at Harvard Law School, a law student expressed openness to the possibility of future research showing that blacks were, as a group, genetically inferior to whites in intellectual ability. After dinner, she made a fateful decision to elaborate on her views in an e-mail to two “friends” who had been involved in the discussion.

The e-mail said, in part…

“…I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. I could also obviously be convinced that by controlling for the right variables, we would see that they are, in fact, as intelligent as white people under the same circumstances. The fact is, some things are genetic. African Americans tend to have darker skin. Irish people are more likely to have red hair…” Continue reading

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Filed under Daily Life, Education, Ethics Scoreboard classics, The Internet

Charlie Crist, Martyr for Civility

Florida’s beleaguered governor, Charlie Crist, has decided to bolt the Republican Party as the only way to continue his quest for the U.S. Senate. Tea Party darling Marco Rubio’s advantage has been “ideological purity,” much prized these days by conservatives who long for a new Ronald Reagan, conveniently forgetting that Reagan was as capable of choosing pragmatism over purity as any other successful leader. Crist, his critics say, is a chameleon, and can’t be trusted to stay in the conservative camp when the poll winds blow west.

Maybe. But what started the downfall for Crist, just months ago a rising star for the G.O.P., was his physical “embrace” of President Barack Obama last year when Obama came to Florida to stump for his stimulus package.  Continue reading

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Filed under Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Leadership, U.S. Society

Silliest Animal Ethics Argument Not Made by PETA

Read it here, on the Discovery website: an article by Jennifer Viegas, illustrated by a photograph of Galapagos tortoises engaged in sex: “Do Nature Films Deny Animals Their Privacy?”

This better not be a late April Fool’s hoax.

I will retract the accusation that the article is silly if it turns out that Jennifer is, in fact, a Galapagos tortoise herself.

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Filed under U.S. Society

Unethical Website of the Month: Eater.com

I would not have been able to resist giving the the Unethical Website title to Gizmodo [see previous post] unless there was a more typical candidate (as in “not criminal”) available. Thanks to a tip from Ethics Alarms quote-maven Tom Fuller, I give you Eater.com. It hasn’t stolen anything. It just sold out the interest of its own readers—lovers of fine foods and patrons of excellent restaurants—for a splashy feature destined to attract a flood of traffic, and to stick a knife in the backs of its competition. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Daily Life, Etiquette and manners, Journalism & Media, The Internet, U.S. Society, Unethical Websites

Gizmodo and Gawker: Guilty, Greedy, and Unethical

Count Ethics Alarms with those who hope Gawker and its affiliated gadget site Gizmodo get as many books thrown at them as possible if the iPhone theft case gets to court.

As is always the case with Gawker, a completely ethics-free operation that has snickered about its participation in other outrages—such as its “Gawker Stalker” feature allowing people to alert the world to the exact location of any celebrity who is out, you know, trying to live—the sites management is crowing about doing wrong. “Yes, we’re proud practitioners of checkbook journalism,” tweeted Nick Denton, founder of Gawker Media. “Anything for the story!” Anything including fencing stolen goods, it seems. Nicely, the law often has a way of making unethical people wish they were more ethical, and this should be an example of that.

If you have somehow missed the story all the gadget geeks are tweeting about, Gawker released a scoop photo spread on Apple’s yet-to-be-released iPhone after an Apple engineer stupidly, carelessly and unethically left a prototype that he was entrusted with in a bar. It was found by someone who understood its value and who it belonged to, and who also had no more scruples than, well, Gawker. That meant that this California law applied… Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Daily Life, Etiquette and manners, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Science & Technology, The Internet, U.S. Society

The Unethical Ethics Attacks on Arizona

The anger, ridicule and threats being heaped on Arizona for its illegal immigration enforcement law defies fairness and rationality, and has been characterized so far by tactics designed to avoid productive debate rather than foster it. Now, with the help and encouragement of professional bullies like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, Arizona is facing an economic boycott, which, like all boycotts, carries the message “we’re going to force you to do what we want, whether we’re right or not.” Meanwhile, all of the over-heated rhetoric diverts the focus to side issues rather than the major problem that prompted the Arizona law in the first place: out of control illegal immigration, and its very obvious—and very serious—negative consequences to the entire nation.

Whether they know it or not, opponents of Arizona’s law are using a common ethics misconception to its advantage. Illegal immigration enforcement is an ethical conflict, which occurs when two or more ethical principles dictate different results, and thus have to be weighed against each other. The attacks on Arizona, however, have framed the argument as an ethics dilemma, defined as a problem in which the ethical course is clear, but powerful non-ethical considerations make rejecting it seem attractive. This allows the opponents of Arizona’s law to inaccurately place themselves in the moral high ground, sniping at Arizona as it supposedly wallows in a pit of greed, meanness, nativism and bigotry….non-ethical considerations all. Much of the media, to their discredit (but the media has so much discredit now that they don’t seem to care any more), is accepting this spin.

The spin, however, is nonsense. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Daily Life, Family, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society, Workplace

Proof That Republicans Are Led By “The Bad Man”

If there is a Republican out there who does not want to hang his or her head in shame after reading this story, 1) I want to know why, and 2) don’t vote for this individual, no matter whom they are running against., or for what.

For this is the mark of the constitutionally unethical, the same warped comprehension of right and wrong that allows Goldman Sachs executives testify before the Senate, under oath, that they see “nothing wrong with” and have “”no regrets” about selling products to clients that they knew were terrible investments. It represents the credo of  Oliver Wendell Holmes’ famous “Bad Man,” whom he described in his speech, “The Path of the Law,” a citizen whose only interest in obeying the law is avoiding penalties, and who can be counted on to lie, cheat and do others harm whenever gaps in the laws permit. And, of course, it typifies the political style of Michael Steele, who, by definition, could never lead an ethical organization, because any organization that will tolerate someone like him must not care about ethics.

Get this: Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, U.S. Society