Category Archives: Quizzes

Ethics Quiz: The Obamas’ “Private Party”

prince

President Obama and his wife, Michelle invited about 500 guests to a White House party where pop icons Prince and Stevie Wonder entertained guests. Among the guests were Al Sharpton, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his date, singer Ciara, Jon Bon Jovi, James Taylor, Tyler Perry, Connie Britton, Angela Bassett, Gayle King, Tracee Ellis Ross, fashion designer Naeem Kha, American Express exec Ken Chenault,  former Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, as well as about 480 others of doubtlessly equal glitter who didn’t squeal about the blow-out on Twitter or Instagram or who weren’t mentioned by other guests who did.

The party was not mentioned on the President’s official schedule, and it almost managed to occur without publicity until the White House news briefing on Monday afternoon, when Josh Earnest was grilled about it. The White House spokesman said two interesting things, one audacious in its blatant dishonesty and Orwellian logic, and the other ….interesting. The first:

“I think the fact that we’re talking about a private event and the fact that details of this are known is an indication that the president is committed to being transparent. At the same time, the president and first lady are going to reserve the right to host private parties at the White House, and they did it on their own dime.”

Further proving how transparent the President was, Earnest announced that no guest list would be provided to the press or the public. Now that’s transparency. The other statement:

[T]”he President and First Lady are going to reserve the right to host private parties at the White House, and they did it on their own dime. I think that’s consistent with the kinds of values that they have talked about.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

“Are there any ethical problems with the Obama’s “private party”?

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Ethics Quiz: Hillary And Margaret

Making Ayn Rand seem like Shirley Temple...

Making Ayn Rand seem like Shirley Temple…

Many organizations find themselves conflicted when they accord proper respect and gratitude to their founders. The older an organization is, the more likely that its founder, however brilliant and accomplished, had scary skeletons in his or her closet, and worse, espoused views that modern minds find repugnant. The United States is awash in such founding dilemmas, beginning with Thomas Jefferson, whose private life, and some of his public life too, hardly met the high ideals and aspirations that lit the way for our nation’s creation. Revolutionary hero and “Father of the American Navy” John Paul Jones was an infamous pederast, and the man who built the F.B.I, J. Edgar Hoover, was a racist and extortionist who would have been right at home, perhaps more at home, with the KGB (except for his hatred of communists). There are many more, founders and creators of institutions in every sector of American life.

Margaret Sanger (1879-1966), however, is an especially hard case. The founder of the predecessor of Planned Parenthood openly and vigorously espoused beliefs that would make her a pariah today, and an embarrassment to the pro-choice movement. She was a racist, a white supremacist, a believer in eugenics, forced sterilization, and government prevention of the proliferation of the “unfit.” It is true that many of her most repulsive beliefs were considered acceptable and even progressive among intellectuals and activists of the time. It is also true that she was vocal in espousing them, and the work she is most honored for as a birth control advocate and an early feminist cannot be easily separated from her other, less admired positions.

Here are some of her more alarming quotes; you can research her writings and speeches more deeply here. Personally, I think she makes Ayn Rand look like Shirley Temple: Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Character, Childhood and children, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Quizzes, Quotes, Race, Rights

Morning Pop Quiz On Ethics And Leadership: What’s Wrong With White House Spokesman Josh Earnest’s TSA Quote?

Here’s the quote, from Earnest’s  statement on behalf of the President:

“The President does continue to have confidence that the officers of the TSA do very important work that continues to protect the American people.”

Your pop quiz:

What’s wrong with it?

(It is very wrong.)

I’ll give you a minute (It took me 3 seconds) “Final Jeopardy” style:

Got it?

Here we go…. Continue reading

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A Niggardly Principle Quiz: The Politically Incorrect Statue

Jesuit-Missionary-Pierre-Jean-De-Smet-slu

A  statue in the middle of the campus of Saint Louis University, a private Jesuit institution, depicted famous Jesuit missionary Pierre-Jean De Smet S.J. praying over two Native Americans dressed in traditional clothing. There had been increasingly intense demands from some faculty and student activists to remove the statue. Summarizing the objections, a student editorial recently argued that the statue sent an unacceptable message to Native Americans and others that

“You do not belong here if you do not submit to our culture and our religion…The statue of De Smet depicts a history of colonialism, imperialism, racism and of Christian and white supremacy.”

[ The editorial also said that “As the protests surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner have shown us, just because racist policies are off the books doesn’t mean that racism is no longer practiced.” I am trying not to allow that fatuous, counter-factual and ignorant statement cause me to regard the writer and his piece as unworthy of serious consideration.]

Naturally, as is almost always the case, the spineless, path-of-least-resistance driven administrators at the university capitulated, and moved the statue into some museum.  Note that this is a Jesuit university, and teaching is one of the primary things that the Jesuit order does.

De Smet was a remarkable individual who, far from imposing his beliefs on Native Americans, began his obsession with starting far West missions for the native tribes in the U.S. after the Salish and the neighboring Nez Perce sent four delegations to St. Louis, where he was stationed, to find a “black robe” to live among them. Continue reading

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Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Worst Grandmother of the Year”

"If the only tool you have is a hammer, every kitten looks like a nail..."

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, every kitten looks like a nail…”

The Ethics Quiz concerning the grandmother who disciplined the children under her charge by killing a cat and her kittens with a hammer prompted a superb thread with many able participants. It also explored many rich ethics topics—child abuse, animal abuse,  property, child-rearing, discipline, punishment, law vs. ethics, and more. The entire thread is well worth reading, and it also generated a Comment of the Day that summarized and expanded on the themes and issues discussed. texagg04 has provided several COTD, but I don’t know if any have been better than this one. As a bonus, tex’s comment has persuaded me that I need to add another rationalization to the list. That should be up later today.

Congratulations and thanks to all the Ethics Alarms readers who weighed in so thoughtfully on this story. Tex’s honor here is in part yours as well.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quiz: The Worst Grandmother of the Year:

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Filed under Animals, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Quizzes, Rights, U.S. Society

Sliding UP The Slippery Slope: NO To Forced Sterilization, And A Belated NO To Forced Vasectomies Too

"OK, now this is entirely your free choice..."

“OK, now this is entirely your free choice…”

This has turned into Revisiting Old Posts Day on Ethics Alarms.

Last July, I posted an Ethics Quiz regarding a Virginia judge’s sentence offering a profligate and irresponsible serial father to choice between an extra four years in jail and a vasectomy at his own expense. After asking readers whether they thought the sentence was ethical, especially in light of the state’s ugly history of forced sterilizations, I demurred, writing,

I am not ready to make a call on this one. Since neglected children often become the responsibility of taxpayers, the argument that the state has no legitimate interest in regulating profligate reproduction by irresponsible parents falls flat. Is taking away someone’s ability to have more children (after seven) really a greater intrusion on his freedom than locking him up? Yet this sentence seems to cross lines that government should cross with caution, if at all. I’m not sorry that Herald won’t be inflicting more of his line on us. I am uneasy, however, with the way this result came about.

I am now ready to make an ethics call in the quiz in light of this news report: Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Quizzes, Rights, U.S. Society

Ethics Quiz: The Case Of The Fabricating Anchorman

The key question in any ethics problem is usually “What’s going on here?” With Brian Williams’ bizarre admission that he had been telling a false story involving his experience covering the Iraq War for over a decade, it’s impossible to say with confidence what is going on.

We know this: Williams told viewers on his evening news broadcast last week about an incident when he was covering the Iraq war, saying that a helicopter he was flying in was hit and forced down by an RPG. After the broadcast, soldiers began complaining on Facebook:

Screen-Shot-WilliamsScreen-Shot-Williams 2

“Stars and Stripes” noticed, investigated Williams’ account and found it to be false. Williams quickly apologized, both on Facebook and in his Wednesday broadcast. Here is his Facebook recant:

“To Joseph, Lance, Jonathan, Pate, Michael and all those who have posted: You are absolutely right and I was wrong. In fact, I spent much of the weekend thinking I’d gone crazy. I feel terrible about making this mistake, especially since I found my OWN WRITING about the incident from back in ’08, and I was indeed on the Chinook behind the bird that took the RPG in the tail housing just above the ramp. Because I have no desire to fictionalize my experience (we all saw it happened the first time) and no need to dramatize events as they actually happened, I think the constant viewing of the video showing us inspecting the impact area — and the fog of memory over 12 years — made me conflate the two, and I apologize. I certainly remember the armored mech platoon, meeting Capt. Eric Nye and of course Tim Terpak. Shortly after they arrived, so did the Orange Crush sandstorm, making virtually all outdoor functions impossible. I honestly don’t remember which of the three choppers Gen. Downing and I slept in, but we spent two nights on the stowable web bench seats in one of the three birds. Later in the invasion when Gen. Downing and I reached Baghdad, I remember searching the parade grounds for Tim’s Bradley to no avail. My attempt to pay tribute to CSM Terpak was to honor his 23+ years in service to our nation, and it had been 12 years since I saw him. The ultimate irony is: In writing up the synopsis of the 2 nights and 3 days I spent with him in the desert, I managed to switch aircraft. Nobody’s trying to steal anyone’s valor. Quite the contrary: I was and remain a civilian journalist covering the stories of those who volunteered for duty. This was simply an attempt to thank Tim, our military and Veterans everywhere — those who have served while I did not.”

Research has revealed that Williams has been telling various versions of the story for over a decade, sometimes saying he was in a helicopter behind the one hit by fire, sometimes saying, as he did on the David Letterman show last year, that he was actually a passenger on the helicopter forced down. Thus his Facebook apology is misleading, and the one he gave last night even moreso. At Powerline, John Hinderaker explains:

This is the statement that Williams read on-air tonight:

“After a groundfire incident in the desert during the Iraq war invasion, I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago….”

No: Williams has been telling the false story since shortly after the incident occurred. He told it for the last time, not the first, last week.

“It did not take long to hear from some brave men and women in the air crews who were also in that desert….”

Not since last Friday, but it took a decade or more since Williams first told the false story.

“I want to apologize. I said I was traveling in an aircraft that was hit by [rocket-propelled grenade] fire. I was instead in a following aircraft. . . .”

Again, Williams tries to mislead: his “following aircraft” landed an hour after the one that took the hit from the RPG.

“This was a bungled attempt by me to thank one special veteran and, by extension, our brave military men and women, veterans everywhere, those who have served while I did not…”

A bungled attempt last Friday evening at the Rangers game. Williams implies, once again, that this was the first time he has told the false story. But he is on video telling the same story at least 13 times since 2003.

Williams’s on-air apology, like the Facebook version, was disingenuous. I doubt that it will help him in the long term.

Hinderaker, a prominent conservative political blogger, believes that Williams is certain to be fired as a result of the controversy, the convoluted details of which you can read about here, here, and here in addition to the Washington Post story linked above.

I’m not so sure that he will. Should he?

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is…

“Can Brian Williams be trusted after this?”

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