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The Seventh Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Best of Ethics 2015, Part II

DavisHand

The Awards continue (Part I is here)….

Most Important Ethical Act of the Year:

The US Supreme Court’s Decision in  Obergefell v. Hodges in which the Supreme Court considered whether states had to recognize a right to same-sex marriages, and narrowly decided that they must. The prejudice against homosexuality is ancient, deep, and complex, mixed up in confounding ways with morality and religion, and deeply divisive. Nonetheless, I felt that the opinion should have been unanimous; it’s a shame that it was not, but in the end, this will not matter. The result was preordained from the moment gays began coming out of the shadows and asserting their humanity and human rights. Since the Stonewall riot, the nation and the culture has learned a great deal about the number of talented and productive gay men and women in our society and our history, the pain, ostracizing, discrimination and mistreatment they have suffered, and the falseness of the myths and fears that lead to this suffering.  In the end, as Clarence Darrow said about blacks, it is human beings, not law, that will make gays equal. No topic immediately causes such emotional and intense debate, on this blog or in society, as this one, but the Supreme Court’s decision is a major step toward changing the ethical culture, by asserting  that gay men and women have the same rights,  in the eyes of the state, to marry those they love and want to build a life with, and by implication, that the beliefs of any religion regarding them or their marriages cannot eliminate that right.

Outstanding Ethical Leadership

Senator Rand Paul.   I am neither a Rand Paul supporter, nor an admirer, nor a fan.  However, his June filibuster-like Senate speech against National Security Agency counter-terrorism surveillance was a brave, principled,  important act, and a great public service. The point Paul made needs to be made again, and again, and again:  there is no reason to trust the NSA, and no reason to trust the current federal government either. The fact that on security matters we have no real choice is frightening and disheartening, but nevertheless, no American should be comfortable with his or her private communications, activities and other personal matters being tracked by the NSA, which has proven itself incompetent, dishonest, an untrustworthy.

 

Parent of the Year

Tonya Graham

Toya Graham, the Baltimore mother caught on video as she berated and beat on her son in the street for participating in the Freddie Gray rioting and looting. Continue reading

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The Seventh Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Best of Ethics 2015, Part I

Sweet Briar montage

Welcome to the Seventh Annual Ethics Alarms Awards, our blog’s retrospective of the best and worst in ethics over the past year, 2015.

It was a rotten year in ethics again, it’s fair to say, and Ethics Alarms, which by its nature and mission must concentrate on episodes that have lessons to convey and cautionary tales to consider probably made it seem even more rotten that it was. Even with that admission, I didn’t come close to covering the field. My scouts, who I will honor anon, sent me many more wonderfully disturbing news stories than I could post on, and there were many more beyond them. I did not write about the drug company CEO, for example, who suddenly raised the price of an anti-AIDS drug to obscene levels, in part, it seems, to keep an investment fraud scheme afloat. (He’ll get his prize anyway.)

What was really best about 2o15 on Ethics Alarms was the commentary. I always envisioned the site as a cyber-symposium where interested, articulate and analytical readers could discuss current events and issues in an ethics context. Every year since the blog was launched has brought us closer to that goal. Commenters come and go, unfortunately (I take it personally when they go, which is silly), but the quality of commentary continues to be outstanding. It is also gratifying to check posts from 2010 and see such stalwarts who check in still, like Tim Levier, Neil Dorr, Julian Hung, Michael R, and King Kool.  There are a few blogs that have as consistently substantive, passionate and informative commenters as Ethics Alarms, but not many. Very frequently the comments materially enhance and expand on the original post. That was my hope and objective. Thank you.

The Best of Ethics 2015 is going to be a bit more self-congratulatory this year, beginning with the very first category. Among other virtues, this approach has the advantage of closing the gap in volume between the Best and the Worst, which last year was depressing. I’m also going to post the awards in more installments, to help me get them out faster. With that said….

Here are the 2015 Ethics Alarms Awards

For the Best in Ethics:

Most Encouraging Sign That Enough People Pay Attention For Ethics Alarms To Occasionally Have Some Impact…

The Sweet Briar College Rescue. In March, I read the shocking story of how Sweet Briar College, a remarkable and storied all-women’s college in Virginia, had been closed by a craven and duplicitous board that never informed alums or students that such action was imminent. I responded with a tough post titled “The Sweet Briar Betrayal,” and some passionate alumnae determined to fight for the school’s survival used it to inform others about the issues involved and to build support. Through the ensuing months before the school’s ultimate reversal of the closing and the triumph of its supporters, I was honored to exchange many e-mails with Sweet Briar grads, and gratified by their insistence that Ethics Alarms played a significant role in turning the tide. You can follow the saga in my posts, here.

Ethics Heroes Of The Year

Dog Train

Eugene and Corky Bostick, Dog Train Proprietors. OK, maybe this is just my favorite Ethics Hero story of the year, about two retired seniors who decided to adopt old  dogs abandoned on their property to die, and came up with the wacky idea of giving them regular rides on a ‘dog train” of their own design.

Ethical Mayor Of The Year

Thomas F. Williams. When the Ferguson-driven attacks on police as racist killers was at its peak (though it’s not far from that peak now) the mayor of Norwood, Ohio, Thomas F. Williams, did exactly the opposite of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in response to activist attacks on the integrity of his police department. He released a letter supporting his police department without qualification. At the time, I criticized him for his simultaneously attacking activists as “race-baiters.” In the perspective of the year past, I hereby withdraw that criticism.

Most Ethical Celebrity

Actor Tom Selleck. In a terrible year for this category, Selleck wins for bravely pushing his TV show “Blue Bloods” into politically incorrect territory, examining issues like racial profiling and police shootings with surprising even-handedness. The show also has maintained its openly Catholic, pro-religion perspective. Yes, this is a redundant award, as “Blue Bloods” is also a winner, but the alternative in this horrific year when an unethical celebrity is threatening to be a major party’s nominee for the presidency is not to give the award at all.

Most Ethical Talk Show Host

Stephen Colbert, who, while maintaining most of his progressive bias from his previous Comedy Central show as the successor to David Letterman, set a high standard of fairness and civility, notably when he admonished his knee-jerk liberal audience for booing  Senator Ted Cruz

Sportsman of the Year

CC Sabathia

New York Yankee pitcher C.C. Sabathia, who courageously checked himself into rehab for alcohol abuse just as baseball’s play-offs were beginning, saying in part,

“Being an adult means being accountable. Being a baseball player means that others look up to you. I want my kids — and others who may have become fans of mine over the years — to know that I am not too big of a man to ask for help. I want to hold my head up high, have a full heart and be the type of person again that I can be proud of. And that’s exactly what I am going to do.”

Runner-up: MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who dismissed the ethically-addled arguments of Pete Rose fans to reject his appeal to be have his lifetime ban for gambling lifted.  For those who wonder why football never seems to figure in this category: You’ve got to be kidding.

Ethics Movie of the Year

SpotlightTIFF2015

“Spotlight”

Runner-up: “Concussion”

Most Ethical Corporation

Tesla Motors, the anti-GM, which recalled all of its models with a particular seatbelt because one belt had failed and they couldn’t determine why. Continue reading

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Reflections On The Ethical Holiday

Christmas

 

“Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.”

—G.K. Chesterton.

“It’s Christmas Eve. It’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year we are the people that we always hoped we would be.”

— Frank Cross (Bill Murray) in “Scrooged”

CHARLIE BROWN: I guess you were right, Linus. I shouldn’t have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I really don’t know what Christmas is all about. Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?

LINUS: Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about.  Lights, please?

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them. And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, goodwill toward men.’”

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

—Charles M. Schulz

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”

― Laura Ingalls Wilder

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

― Dr. Seuss, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”

“Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.”

― Steve Maraboli, in “Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience”

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”

― Bob Hope

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,’ returned the nephew. ‘Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

― Fred, Scrooge’s Nephew, in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” Continue reading

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An “Awww!” Ethics Dunce: Vidal Valladares

vidal

People who stage elaborate public ambush proposals of marriage in sports stadiums, using airplanes and other instrumentalities are inherently unethical, as well as narcissistic  jerks who warrant embarrassing rejections but never get them. This figures, since the women have been dating these tools and are usually jerks themselves. Few such stunts are quite as audacious in their jerkishness as that planned and executed by Vidal Valladares, 24, who shut down the Gulf Freeway, one of the busiest thoroughfares in Houston, to propose to Michelle Wycoff, 23, in the middle of the highway.  The Houston Chronicle, local TV station KTRK and other media outlets treated the stunt with a sympathetic “Awww!”—Ain’t love grand? Who could criticize these love birds, who, but for the vagueries of moral luck, could have caused one or more accidents and  death and destruction, hopefully just to them and not innocent commuters, but you never know.

Reportedly traffic was stopped for less than a minute as Valladares  got down on bended knee to propose (to his ex-wife whom he divorced in June) while the automobiles waited. “I never really thought about causing an accident,” Valladares told a local  paper. “I thought about my girlfriend.”

Awww!

How romantic!

You’re an idiot.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office is charging the couple with “obstruction of highway, a Class B misdemeanor.

Good.

_______________________

Pointer, Source, and Graphic: Houston Press

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Update On “The Worst Aunt Ever” Debate

Auntie Maim and Nephew Maimer...

Auntie Maim and Nephew Maimer…

Remember the Ethics Alarms post about the favorite aunt who sued her 12-year old nephew for damages based on her injury when he jumped into her arms at his birthday party when he was 8? Remember the indignant plaintiffs lawyer who couldn’t get his mind around the fact that normal people don’t (ande shouldn’t) always see right and wrong like lawyers do, or that “it’s done all the time” (that is, The Golden Rationalization, #1 on the Rationalizations list, “Everybody does it”) and “there are worse lawsuits” ( or the worst of all rationalizations, #22, “Comparative Virtue” or “Its not the worst thing”) are not sufficient ethical defenses of a woman who voluntarily traumatizes a child who trusts her and who just lost his mother?

The Weekly Standard looks at the episode from some different angles, and writer Charlotte Allen does an excellent job providing a balanced analysis of the case (which I am now using in my ethics seminars to explain to lawyers how legal ethics alone is often not enough to make lawyers ethical). I am awash with regret that I didn’t think of the gag  “Auntie Maim” in the original post, which admittedly went a bit overboard in its condemnation as it was. Mostly, however, I am gratified that I was quoted in the piece after a well-handled interview with Charlotte, and indeed that she used my perspective to sum up the significance of the episode.

You can read it all here.

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Have A Happy Thanksgiving Everyone, And Don’t Forget To Review The Ethics Alarms Complete “It’s A Wonderful Life” Ethics Guide Before The Annual TV Screening!

It’s right here!

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Now THIS Is Hate Speech…No, Wait, It’s A Gay Writer Hating A Straight Baseball Player, So It’s All Good

Daniel Murphy

 

In March, in a post about Dr. Ben Carson’s awful apology for his ignorant statement on CNN about prison turning prisoners gay, I compared his ignorance to that of Mets second-baseman Daniel Murphy, who had just listened to Billy Bean, a former major league baseball player who is gay, and had been appointed as the sport’s “ambassador for inclusion.”  Murphy said,

“I disagree with his lifestyle.I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual. That doesn’t mean I can’t still invest in him and get to know him. I don’t think the fact that someone is a homosexual should completely shut the door on investing in them in a relational aspect. Getting to know him. That, I would say, you can still accept them but I do disagree with the lifestyle, 100 percent.”

His statement loosely translated means, “I don’t know anything about gays except what I have been told by people who also know nothing about gays but think they do.  I believed all of it, since, honestly, I don’t think about the topic much. But the question was about whether the fact that a team mate was gay would cause me to distrust him or not want to play with him, and my answer is no.”

Later Murphy elaborated,

“Maybe, as a Christian, that we haven’t been as articulate enough in describing what our actual stance is on homosexuality. We love the people. We disagree the lifestyle. That’s the way I would describe it for me. It’s the same way that there are aspects of my life that I’m trying to surrender to Christ in my own life. There’s a great deal of many things, like my pride.”

I mentioned Murphy then because he, unlike Carson, is just a baseball player, and his having ignorant ideas about gays (what does “disagreeing” with the fact that someone is gay even mean? He’s gay–you can’t “disagree.” Anyone using “lifestyle” to describe gays has just written his ignorance in sky-writing. If one knows any gays at all, the idiocy of this is manifest. What would ever make an 8 year old wake up one morning and say, “I’ve weighed the options, and made my choice: I want to be gay!” This literally never happens.) and stating the ideas out loud only hurts Murphy, while Carson’s ignorance is relevant to the job he’s seeking and his qualifications for it. Carson is a narrow, biased, irresponsible amateur, and thus unqualified to hold office. Nobody, however, should care what Murphy thinks, as long as he can hit and field his position.

For someone who is clueless, Murphy’s comments are even admirable. He’s not going to judge a man’s character based on “his lifestyle” or wish him ill, which makes him infinitely preferable to Slate’s gay issues blogger, Mark Joseph Stern. Continue reading

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