Category Archives: Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity

Professional Chauvinism At “Above The Law”

Clooneys

Lawyers really need to get over themselves. This post, by Staci Zaretski at the legal gossip site “Above the Law,” was introduced in my e-mail inbox with this line:

“Amal Clooney’s lifetime achievements are far greater than those of her husband, George Clooney. Where’s her award?”

The flip answer would be: “George Clooney.” But to the point: one has to have an enhanced regard for the profession of the law and a dismissive and culturally ignorant attitude towards the arts to state that “Amal Clooney’s lifetime achievements are far greater” than those of George Clooney.” Zaretski is welcome to her biases, but by any fair measure, the lifetime achievements of an actor of Clooney’s popularity, daring and prominence far outstrips those of a lawyer like Amal Alamuddin Clooney.  “Above the Law” makes its case thusly:

“Amal is a human rights lawyer who worked on the Enron case, was an adviser to Kofi Annan regarding Syria, and was selected to a three-person U.N. commission investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza Strip.”

Hundreds of lawyers worked on the Enron case(s): you will have to prove to me that she had some special impact that another lawyer with similar skills, and there are thousands, would not have. So she was an adviser to Kofi Annan regarding Syria: is Zaretsky aware that Annan’s misguided and naive efforts to broker a Syrian peace saved not a single life, and may well have blocked more substantive and effective initiatives? Then she served on a commission “investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza Strip.” Translation: she is a willing participant in the U.N. effort to demonize Israel for defending itself from Hamas shelling.  She also is defending Julian Assange. I don’t hold that against her: he’s a criminal, but he deserves a defense. Would he have not gotten one without Amal Clooney? Of course he would have. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, Romance and Relationships

Just In Time For Christmas, Here Are All The Bad Arguments And Rationalizations Against Tipping So You Can Feel Self-Righteous About Being A Scrooge

See? The rest of the world knows how to deal with you sexist, racist, aristocratic poverty perpetuating, self-esteem destroying bastards!

See? The rest of the world knows how to deal with you sexist, racist, aristocratic poverty perpetuating, self-esteem destroying bastards!

Vox has published an entertaining screed against tipping, massing all the contradictory, facile rationalizations and faulty arguments against demonstrating one’s gratitude when someone serves you well. This is Vox, remember—Ezra Klein’s uber-progressive website with an agenda. Think about what the alternative to tipping is, and where the critics of tipping are going with these claims. Hint 1: It has nothing to do with democracy or individualism. Hint 2: The piece argues that tipping is classist, racist, sexist, “lookist”…the works.

The full illogical, ethically confused character of this junk has to be read to be fully appreciated, but here is a quick overview:

1. Hoary old quotes. There are these, for example:

English author Lynne Truss on visiting New York: “In this great financial capital … tips are not niceties: give a ‘thank you’ that isn’t green and foldable and you are actively starving someone’s children.” No, Lynne, you’re being cheap, that’s all.

The Village Voice’s Foster Kamer: “It reinforces an economically and socially dangerous status quo, while buttressing a functional aristocracy.”   Ah. You see, if lower paid service professions are treated like robots and underpaid, they will rise up and overturn this monstrosity called capitalism.

 Michael Lewis: “I feel we are creeping slowly toward a kind of baksheesh economy in which everyone expects to be showered with coins simply for doing what they’ve already been paid to do.” Who is being “showered with coins?”

2. “Tipping lets employers off the hook.” Translation: It gets in the way of the progressive “living wage” campaign. Mandatory salary levels drive businesses out of business and reduce jobs. Want to see all restaurants go to the iPad, self-ordering, system running rampant at airport restaurants—and no, I don’t tip a runner who just carried my food to the table—by all means, force restaurants to pay “a living wage.”

3.  “Tipping is undemocratic.” This is the George Orwell, “Peace is War” argument. The government should stop me from giving my money to whoever I want in the name of democracy. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, U.S. Society, Workplace

Ethics Quiz: The 90-year-old Scofflaw Humanitarian vs. The Heartless Mayor Who Isn’t Really

Seiler

[Fred, one of my two regular ethics issue scouts (Alexander Cheezem is the other, and what I would do without their assistance, I do not know: thank you, thank you, thank you, guys!), flagged this classic ethics conflict several weeks ago.]

Some sources reported that a “90-year-old man was arrested for feeding the homeless.” This set off typical fact-free indignation on the social media and talk shows, not to mention the angry e-mails from around the world: Charity illegal???  A kind old man arrested just for trying to help the poor! Cruelty!!! ARGGGHHH!!!

Naturally, this was not what really happened.

For 23 years, since he was 67, 90–year-old Arnold Abbott and his non-profit organization, Love Thy Neighbor, have provided food for the homeless at a public beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Wednesday of every week at 5:30 p.m. This year, on October 21, the City of Fort Lauderdale Commission passed an ordinance that banned such food distributions in public. The ordinance required that organizations distributing food outdoors would have to provide portable toilets for use by workers and those being fed. It’s a health and safety regulation, for the benefit of homeless and vulerable. A few days after the ordinance took effect, on a Wednesday, at a bit after 5:30 PM, Abbott  was approached by police officers and cited for violating the ordinance. He was not arrested. He was told that he must appear in court.

After Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler was called everything from a monster to a Republican (he’s a Democrat), someone finally asked him what the ordinance was all about and questioned his police department’s treatment of the kindly senior. “We hope he feeds, ” Seilor said. “He has a very valuable role in the community. All we’re saying is he can feed the next block over. He can feed at the church. We want them to be in safe secure settings. We wanted them to be in a sanitary matter. We them to have facilities available before and after.” That seems reasonable.

Seiler has also offered an explanation for the ordinance, which was backed by the Chamber of Commerce, that sounds more, well, Republican, saying that  providing the homeless food in public only enables homelessness, and that Fort Lauderdale wants the homeless to use government and church services. “If you are going to simply feed them outdoors to get them from breakfast to lunch to dinner, all you are doing is enabling the cycle of homelessness,” Seiler says. Well, that’s debatable, but it isn’t unreasonable.

Still,  it’s hard to teach old humanitarians new tricks, and Arnold is defiant. Continue reading

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Filed under Charity, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, Quizzes, U.S. Society

Ethics Hero Emeritus: Edna Gladney (1888-1961)

Edna Gladney

I am ashamed to admit that I never heard of Edna Gladney before I chanced upon a late night Turner Movie Classics showing of the 1941 biopic “Blossoms in the Dust,” which earned the great Greer Garson one of her many Academy Award nominations for her portrayal of Gladney (that’s Greer as Edna on the left). I was unaware of Gladney’s amazing life, legacy and contributions to society because 1) I’m not from Texas; 2) it is hard to learn about great people that society forgets about, and 3) feminists aren’t doing their job, perhaps because a strong and indomitable woman whose life was devoted to saving unwanted children rather than preventing their existence doesn’t interest them as much as it should.

Yet Gladney is exactly the kind of woman whose life should inspire young girls today, and young men too, for that matter. Still,  I recently asked 18 randomly chosen friends and acquaintances who Edna Gladney was, and not one of them knew.

And most of them didn’t know who Greer Garson was, either.

Sigh. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Heroes, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Public Service, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, U.S. Society

The Harvard Law Student’s Formula For An Ethical Life

Yes, I hate my job, and yes, my clients are the scum of the Earth, and yes, my life sucks. But think of all the kids I can help get de-wormed!

Yes, I hate my job, and yes, my clients are the scum of the Earth, and yes, my life sucks. But think of all the kids I can help get de-wormed!

When I heard about the Harvard Law Record’s essay by law student Bill Barlow titled “Want To Save The World? Do Biglaw,” I mistakenly  assumed that he had made a persuasive, or at least coherent, utilitarian argument. After all, some fairly distinguished blogs took notice, and set about rebutting him. I was shocked when I actually read the piece. From what I can tell, Barlow understands nothing he was writing about—not the profession of law, not charity, not careers, not values, not law firms, not ethics, not money, not life. Why is someone who thinks like this in law school? What are law schools accepting people capable of writing this? Why is Harvard allowing someone this naive and shallow to display a Harvard degree?

This is literally all there is of substance to the article:

“So there you have it—be a corporate lawyer, donate 25% of your post tax income to charity, and save 150 lives a year, or de-worm 25,000 kids.  Alternatively, go into Public Interest, Government, or Academia, and feel warm and fuzzy about yourself.  Sadly, when people at this school talk about public service, they mean the latter, rather than the former.  If only people applied the same amount of cognitive skill used in just one LSAT logic game to the most critical question of what to do with their law degree, hundreds of lives could be saved.”

Ugh. Where to begin? Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Charity, Childhood and children, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, Workplace

Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck Monday Morning Update: Taking Sides

When do competent, rational, fair, responsible, ethical citizens, officials, journalists and organizations take sides in a racially charged controversy involving a law enforcement officer and an individual shot and killed by that officer in an incident where the circumstances and provocation have  yet to be verified?

Simple: they don’t.

So how do we explain and characterize the decisions of so many citizens, officials, journalists and organizations to take sides in the Michael Brown shooting by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson? That’s simple too.

They are neither competent, rational, fair, responsible, nor ethical.

Thus we add to the passenger list of the Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck the following, who publicly took sides this weekend and today:

  • The Obama Administration. Three White House representatives will attend Brown’s funeral. This signals an official acceptance of the Brown family narrative, at this point completely unverified, that police misconduct and racism were involved in the death of their son, or if not, and I’m sure the White House will have some spin to dispute this, that is how it will be perceived by activists and how the White House wants it to be perceived. This may be good politics (though I don’t think intentional divisiveness is good, but the White House and I differ on that point), but it is horrible leadership, and a slap in the fact to all law enforcement, which is now being told by those representing the President of the United States that it is presumed to be in the wrong when there is a controversy over the exercise of force involving an African American

Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, Race

The Ethics Scrooge On The Starbucks Pay-It-Forward Ponzi Scheme

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

The Ethics Scrooge here.

If you think I’m going to get all misty eyed about the “random acts of kindness” fun and games Florida Starbucks customers have been amusing themselves with lately,  you are sadly mistaken.

The happy-talk story of the week—and I admit, the nation needed one—concerned a St. Petersburg, Florida Starbucks where an early morning customer at the drive-through window decided to “pay it forward” and buy coffee for the next person in line.That customer emulated the spirit of the Kevin Spacey weepie,  and bought a drink for the next person in line at the drive-through, and so it continued throughout the day, with 378 customers purchasing drinks for the strangers in line behind them, a so-called altruism chain that lasted 11 hours.

Awww. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity