Monthly Archives: March 2011

Ethics Quiz: The Re-cycled Sperm Trick

I think we all will agree that a woman obtaining a man’s semen via oral sex, secretly saving it, and using it to impregnate herself is unethical, correct? And that even if some fool court requires the deceived man to pay child support, the entire episode is outrageously dishonest, irresponsible and unfair?

This apparently happened to a Chicago man five years ago, and he is suing his former Lewinsky for the infliction of emotional distress. This seems inadequate. The use of a man’s sperm to produce his child without his consent in a surreptitious, deceitful manner should probably be a criminal offense—applying the Ethics Alarms principle that the law must often step in when ethics fail—and your challenge is to determine:

  • What conduct should the theoretical law prohibit?
  • What is an appropriate punishment for violating the law, as in the Chicago case?
  • How, if at all, should the law address the welfare or the innocent child?

Or do you think there should be a law at all?

My answer, after I’ve absorbed all of your wisdom, will follow.

On a related note, one upside of this revolting incident may be that it ends the ridiculous, Bill Clinton-fertilized argument that fellatio isn’t sex. I sure hope so. If only this had happened to Bill…what a great Lifetime movie it would have made!

[Again, thanks to Jeff Hibbert for the tip.]

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Filed under Bioethics, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

The Giffords Fiasco, Continued: “Gaby Giffords For Senator”

Would Arizona Democrats run El Cid for the Senate?

The Gaby Giffords saga has officially moved from irresponsible to offensive.

If Rep. Giffords, shot in the head by Jared Loughner in January, is able to return to her challenging job after such a violent brain injury, she will be the first such victim to do so in medical history. She has been incapacitated for three months, and her inability to return to her duties for the rest of 2011, one-half her term, is assured barring a miracle of Biblical proportions. But no effort is being made to fill her de facto empty seat, and it increasingly looks as if her staff, party and supporters are determined to keep her in a job she cannot perform, Arizona and the Congress be damned, for her entire term.

This is irresponsible enough, but now there is this: the New York Times reports that Giffords’s aides, backers and supporters are seriously laying the groundwork for Giffords—who currently cannot speak, except in short sentences—to run for retiring Senator Jon Kyl’s  seat 2012: Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Leadership, Professions

The Teacher’s Pilgrimage

KHAN!!!!!

In August 2008, nine months after starting her job as a middle school math teacher in Berkeley, Ill., Safoorah Khan asked her school to give her three weeks off in December for a pilgrimage to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. Though a Muslim is supposed to make the pilgrimage, called a hajj, once in a lifetime and Khan was under 30, she insisted that this was the time for her to go, and believed that the school’s refusal—it argued that having to replace her for that length of time in the middle of the school year was unfair to the students and a burden on the school’s budget—was discriminatory. She quit, made her pilgrimage, and thus infused with the wisdom of Allah is suing the pants off of her former employers. Her lawsuit alleges that by refusing to make a “reasonable accommodation” to her request, it was discriminating against her on the basis of her religion.

Meanwhile, Eric Holder’s Justice Department is joining the case on her side. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Education, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunce: NBC

An Ethics Dunce, in ten easy steps

  1. General Electric Co. earned $14.2 billion in worldwide profits last year, including $5.1 billion in the United States, and paid exactly zero dollars in federal taxes.
  2. This especially interesting because Jeffrey Immelt, G.E’s CEO, is also the Obama’s administration’s link to corporate America.
  3. The story was widely reported by the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, ABC, CBS, Fox, CNN, and thousands of lesser media outlets.
  4. NBC is owned by General Electric.
  5. NBC could not find room in its news broadcasts for the tax story. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Professions

The Fireman, the Cheater, and Media Muddling

Come on, Robert! It's less embarrssing than Joey's gonorrrhea poster!

One of the reasons I launched The Ethics Scoreboard and later Ethics Alarms was that I felt  the media did not recognize ethics stories and failed to cover them. Well, more ethics stories are finding their way into the news, but true to the warning “Be careful what you wish for,” the reports usually botch them, and get the ethics lessons wrong. The saga of Enzo and the “Barefoot Contessa” was a particularly nauseating example, but there have been others recently. For example… Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Education, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Professions, U.S. Society

What Your Boss Shouldn’t Ask You To Do

"And I won't dress like that, either!"

Reading all the comments from readers who think sick children and their mothers have the right to demand our time and attention, no matter what our own needs and responsibilities may be, made me think again about a persistent issue in the workplace. What constitutes a reasonable and fair request from an employer to his employees, other than to do their jobs diligently, honestly and well?

I have encountered this issue several times in my career, and it impeded that career, such as it is, more than once. For example, I do not believe that an employer can tell you, or even ask you, to participate in a charity of the employer’s choosing. He, she or it cannot demand that you spend your weekends painting the houses of the poor, either. Nor is it ethical for an employer to make you play softball or climb mountains under the bizarre conviction that these activities improve office performance. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, Workplace

The Strange and Telling Case of the Illiterate Novelist

True, it was a lousy book, but at least the sentences were grammatical.

I have noticed of late a disturbing trend, the literary equivalent of those who play their car radios and sound systems at ear-splitting volume with the windows down, or youths who converse in shouts in public places. The trend is proliferation of the proud and unapologetic illiterates,  authors of e-mails, blog posts or even published material who regard the basics of punctuation, grammar, spelling and rhetoric as an annoying inconvenience, and who not only pay little heed to these archaic matters, but also display no regret about the barely readable products that result.

At this point, I am less concerned with why so many of those who communicate in writing are so shamelessly sloppy, and more interested in what the trend signifies for our society. Perhaps some insight can be gained by examining a recent exchange between a grammar and spelling-challenged novelist and a reviewer of her work on a book review blog called “Books and Pals.” Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Education, Etiquette and manners, Journalism & Media, Literature, Popular Culture, Professions, The Internet, U.S. Society

The Ethics of Nailing Barry Bonds

Is Barry Bonds getting the Al Capone treatment? Should we care?

Baseball’s all-time home run king Barry Bonds is finally on trial for perjury and obstruction of justice relating to his 2003 testimony before a grand jury that he never knowingly used steroids. It looks like he may get convicted too, even though the one man who could harm him most, his trainer and childhood pal Greg Anderson, once again has refused to testify and is in jail for contempt of court. (Many—including me— believe that Anderson has a promise of a pay-off from Bonds.)

Essentially everyone who isn’t actively trying to protect Bonds, completely ignorant of the facts of his career, or mentally handicapped knows he was lying and knew it at the time of the grand jury hearings. Barry has been both lucky and relentlessly dishonest, however, seemingly happy to spend the millions he made while cheating and permanently damaging his sport, and pleased with himself for retiring in possession of baseball’s most prestigious home run records, the most homers in a single season, and the most homers in a career.  That Bonds achieved these, and several of his Most Valuable Player awards, while enhanced with the surreptitiously induced body chemistry of a Bulgarian weight-lifter in the 1972 Olympics doesn’t seem to faze him at all. Meanwhile, critics are dredging up the old rationalizations to defend Bonds, none of which apply to his current fix. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Professions, Science & Technology, Sports, U.S. Society

Ethics Uber-Dunce: Jose Canseco

Jose Canseco...or is it his twin?

Mere Ethics Dunce is an inadequate title for former baseball slugger Jose Canseco, somehow. He has dabbled in extortion and assault, but his real contribution to making the world worse was serving as a one-man steroid epidemic, using the performance-enhancing, testicle shrinking drugs himself to win an American League  Most Valuable Player award, then making sure that as many players as possible on the various teams he played with used them too. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Dunces, Family, Popular Culture, Professions

Comment of the Day: “The Barefoot Contessa and the Compassion Bullies…”

Today’s Comment of the Day needs some background. The first comment regarding yesterday’s controversial post “The Barefoot Contessa and the Compassion Bullies…”, asserting the right of a celebrity to decline a sick child’s request, was by reader Nancy Simpson, who wrote…

“Obviously we have different beliefs about what constitutes “ethics”. The first duty of all persons in a civilized society is to care for the children. My ethics say that for the optimum function of society, we care for children unless what they ask for will cause physical or emotional harm to them.

“Short of confinement in a leprosy ward, this woman has no excuse for her unkindness to a child. If the “too busy” excuse is true, then she is just greedy. No law against being greedy, is there? She has no duty to be concerned with anything other than her money.

“The other place we have ethical differences is that it against my ethics to criticize control and blame a sick child’s mother. Talk about hit below the belt. Shame on you.

“Celebrities are not mandated to give back–they may bite the hand that feeds them any time they like. And I decide who gets my hard earned money, and it will not be her or Food Network.

“I don’t pay people who hurt children.’

I was, I admit, rather severe with Nancy, writing in response…

“No, Nancy, you are completely wrong. Obviously we do have a different understanding or ethics, because you have very little and you also didn’t really read or think about the post. If a stranger walks in your home and demands that you care for her child, are you ethically required to do it? What gives “Make A Wish” or Enzo, his mother or anyone the right to finger this one woman because he happens to watch her show and put her in the position of either having to make a major effort to please him—not cure him, not actually make him well, but just give him a good time—at the threat of being condemned by self-righteous uninvolved bystanders like you? Ridiculous.

“Maybe she had a brother with the same disease and spent years in therapy trying to conquer the depression his death caused…and the prospect of getting close with Enzo risks her long term mental health. Does her refusal pass your approval process then, or is she obligated to harm herself because a stranger’s child has a “wish”? How can you judge her actions when you have no idea what motivates her? Granting these things is usually a PR bonanza….I doubt her motivations are crass at all.

“Maybe she is especially emotional around sick children. You have no basis to criticize her. She is not Enzo’s slave, she is not his doctor, she is not his plaything. She has a right to say “no.” There is a difference between exemplary ethics, and ethics. It would be great if she decided to grant his request, but it is not unethical not to. I know—you don’t understand. Well, you can revel in your ignorance without telling me that I don’t understand.

“I DO have basis to criticize Enzo’s mother, and I hereby throw your silly “shame!” through your window.

“She set out to harm a woman who owed her nothing. She sicced the internet on someone for pure revenge. I sympathize with her, but her actions were unarguably wrong. If you think certain classes of people like “mothers of sick children” get special passes to act badly and harm others, go start a Cindy Sheehan fan club—you don’t have a clue what ethics are.

‘You know what rationalizations and excuses are, however.”

Now, today, new reader Yao added a very provocative Comment of the Day: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Health and Medicine, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, Religion and Philosophy, The Internet, U.S. Society