Monthly Archives: August 2010

Ethics Alarms Presents “The Mosquies”…the Best and Worst of the “Ground Zero Mosque” Ethics Train Wreck

As I previously noted, the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy is an epic “ethics train wreck” that has spread its destruction far and wide, across regional, ideological and national borders, leaving confusion, misunderstanding and bad feelings in its wake. Now is as good a time as any to take stock of the situation, and to recognize those who have distinguished themselves during the carnage, for good or ill. To this end, Ethics Alarms presents its first annual  (and hopefully last ever) awards for outstanding ethical and unethical conduct during the whole mess, “The Mosquies.”

The envelope, please… Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Citizenship, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Professions, Race, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

Ignorant Juror, Malfunctioning Jury, Dysfunctional Justice

It was bound to happen, which is not to say that there is any excuse for it.  A juror during on a day off from trial, told the world via Facebook that she had already decided the defendant was guilty, writing that it was “gonna be fun to tell the defendant they’re guilty.” This statement, in addition to showing a disturbing lack of compassion and empathy, not to mention meanness, also was a violation of her duties as a juror. The trial wasn’t even finished, the jury hadn’t deliberated, and yet Hadley Jons, 20, had already decided on her vote and was bragging about it. Continue reading

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Revisiting the Obligation vs. Charity Issue in Baseball Retirement Benfits

In a recent post, Ethics Alarms discussed that demands of a group of former Major League baseball who receive inferior retirement benefits, because the changes made to the game’s pension and health insurance qualifications in 1980 were not made retroactive. The group has argued that it was unfair for the baseball clubs and players union to have voluntarily extended benefits to  pre-1947 players—players who played before there were any retirement benefits at all—and not them. The post argued…

“…The inclusion of the older players, from before 1947, was not the same: the group included many of the game’s greatest players, who could legitimately say that they were essential in building the industry that had made the current players so wealthy.  Leaving all the older players without any pensions or medical plans from Major League Baseball looked like ingratitude toward the men who, quite literally, helped make the teams and players rich. The sport owed them, and it was right for them to help the veteran group…[The 1948-1979 group], by definition, were not stars; for the most part, they were…journeyman spare-part players who barely held on to their jobs…The fact that players with one day of service in the big leagues today qualify for a health insurance no more entitles the Moonlight Grahams of the Seventies to the same than the million dollar salaries of today’s second-string catchers entitles retired catchers who made $30,000 a year to insist on retroactive pay at today’s pay scales. Baseball players are paid what their rarified talents are worth, and those who create today’s multi-billion dollar industry are worth much more than the players who toiled before the big cable contracts and merchandising kicked in…The fair thing is for people to live with the deals they freely agreed to as conditions of their employment, and when a future employee negotiates a better deal for the work you once did, the fair thing is to say to him, “Good for you!” It would be generous and kind for the Major League teams and players to close some of the disparity in benefits; I hope they do it. Nevertheless, they have no obligation to do it, and it is not a breach of fairness if they don’t.” [You can read the entire essay here.]

The post attracted a strong comment from Craig Skok, one of the players in the 1948-1979 group. He is an excellent representative of the plight of this group, because he just barely missed the cut-off for full benefits. He wrote… Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: Beau Friedlander

Beau Friedlander is a contributor to the Huffington Post who decided it was time to show just how vicious, uncivil and unhinged a committed progressive could be, there being ample evidence of these qualities on the other side of the political spectrum. So…

1. Friedlander wrote an angry and hate-filled rant slandering Tea Party members, Mormons, and Republicans and the American public generally;

2. He included, as the piece’s centerpiece, this:

“I hereby offer to negotiate a $100,000 payday to the person who will come forward with a sex tape or phone records or anything else that succeeds in removing Glenn Beck from the public eye forever. I am not offering the cash myself, but I will broker the deal and/or raise the money for what you bring to the table. (And it better be good.) If you have the goods, or if you want to contribute to a slush fund to buy more takedowns (probably not tax deductible), please contact me at: glennbecksextape@gmail.com.” Continue reading

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Charging Your Parents Interest: Ethical?

An inquirer to the Christian Science Monitor’s financial blog “The Simple Dollar” poses this real life scenario:

“I’m 22 and have very robust finances…My dad recently suggested to me that instead of paying his credit card company interest (~20%, he thinks) on his balance (~$4000), I could lend them the money to pay it off in exchange for something like 10%….This is money I can afford to lose, and would otherwise be sitting in a money market or bond index fund. So my question: is it unethical to charge my parents interest, at least more than I’d earn otherwise? While 10% is much lower than their current payment, it’s much higher than I’d earn otherwise. If I’m willing to lend them the money at a lower rate, am I ethically obliged to?” Continue reading

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Direct TV’s Commercials For Hateful Jerks: NFL Sunday Ticket

The ad campaign for Direct TV’s NFL Sunday Ticket raises the question: if it is despicable, unethical and wrong to do something hateful to another individual because of his race,religion or national origin, can it be cute, funny or socially acceptable to take the same action against someone because of his pro football loyalties?

The Direct TV campaign, depicts the fans of various NFL teams expressing their anger and dismay over the fact that the satellite television service allows neighbors who have recently moved to their area can continue to root for their home town football teams by subscribing to NFL Sunday Ticket. In each commercial, a fan expresses his or her hatred for the newcomer by inflicting some form of surreptitious insult,  indignity, or attack: Continue reading

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Unscrupulous Rep. Johnson, Lying Through Her Teeth

Which is the more unethical conduct for a U.S. Congresswoman: handing out non-profit money to relatives and friends, or lying about it so flagrantly that it insults the intelligence of everyone within earshot? It’s a tough call. Luckily, we really don’t have to decide in the case of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), because she’s done both. Continue reading

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The Trouble With Auto-Tune

The British show that launched “American Idol,” X-Factor, admitted that it had used Auto-Tune, an audio processor that corrects a singer’s pitch and tone. An 18-year-old contestant named Gamu Nhengu sang just a little too well in the show’s seventh season premiere, and fans and critics started hinting at conspiracy on the web, especially via the show’s Facebook page. Finally, a spokesman for “X-Factor” confessed that Auto-Tune was used to fix disruptions caused by the many microphones used on stage during the telecast, but that the judge’s decisions were definitely based on the actual, non-Auto-Tuned performances of contestants. The show’s producers, he assured the public, only used the processor to “deliver the most entertaining experience possible for viewers.”

I’m sure that is true. This is exactly the reason TV executives rigged the quiz shows in the 1950’s. It is the reason why TV reality shows are scripted, and why NBA stars get away with game fouls that referees call against lesser players. Any competition’s entertainment value is enhanced by better competitors and more suspenseful action. The problem is that once spectators know or suspect that they are being manipulated, they stop watching at all. The fact that Simon Cowell’s UK hit would use the device immediately roused “American Idol” conspiracy theorists, and  Cowell to immediately announced an Auto-Tune ban. Continue reading

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What Was Right and Wrong With Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” Rally

The pundits of the airwaves, newsprint and blogosphere have issued their assessments of the Glenn Beck rally at the Lincoln Memorial with predictable results: those who admired Beck before the rally liked it, and those who detest him ridiculed it. The New York Times, in its inimitable fashion, showed contempt for the proceedings by relegating its account to page 15, even though every past D.C. rally and march of equivalent or lesser size (especially those advocating social or political positions popular with the Times staff) received more prominent coverage. To Times columnist Frank Rich, Beck’s rally was part of a racist conspiracy hatched by billionaires—yes, Frank, sure it was. John Avlon, who long ago branded Beck as a wingnut, reasonably pointed out that it was a wee bit hypocritical for Beck to preach against divisiveness when his own cable show is one of the most polarizing, even by Fox news standards. And John Batchelor, who may be the most serious, erudite, and balanced public affairs radio talk show host in captivity, dismissed the rally as harmless and Beck as a clown:

“I think of him now and again as Quasimodo Lite, a deaf bell-ringer swinging from the Notre Dame of Fox, a man who is eager to confess his own unsightly warts—“I’ve screwed up most of my life”—and who is also heroically delighted to be our slightly stooped “Pope of Fools,” because this accidental role, in this Festival of Fools called 2010, wins the cheers of the crowd.”

Even less charitable was the Baltimore Sun’s TV critic, who accused Beck of “stealing Martin Luther King’s moral authority.” Less charitable still was MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who seems to have been driven a little mad—or at least a little unprofessional, perhaps— by the fact that Beck had the audacity to hold his rally on the anniversary of King’s iconic “I have a dream” speech. Matthews’s hyperbole was, well, Beck-like:

“Can we imagine if King were physically here tomorrow, today, were he to reappear tomorrow on the very steps of the Lincoln Memorial? “I have a nightmare that one day a right wing talk show host will come to this spot, his people`s lips dripping with the words ‘interposition’ and ‘nullification.’ Little right wing boys and little right wing girls joining hands and singing their praise for Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. I have a nightmare!”

Was Beck’s bash really a nightmare? Political biases aside (Chris), the question for Ethics Alarms is what was right and wrong about the “Restoring Honor” rally. Continue reading

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More Spam Ethics

Increasingly, specialty blogs are sporting posts asking whether particular practices are ethical. That is a good thing. The unfortunate part is that too many of the posters lack the tools to answer the question.

You would think the proprietor of a website called “Pro Blog Service,” for example, would be capable of at least spotting the ethical issues in his query about blogging, but no. In a post entitled “Is It Unethical To Edit Spam Comments?“, he describes the common spamming practice of sending in a comment to a blog post that expresses bland and non-specific praise for the original post in order to get a URL publicized. He asks, Continue reading

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