Category Archives: The Internet

Ethics Hero: Popehat’s Ken White

sunshine-through-the-clouds

I can’t really say Ken White is a friend. We have never met, though we have spoken on the phone. I sent him a copy of my book. He has cited my posts and I have (often) cited his; we have disagreed and argued. I think he’s still ticked off at me for asserting here that well off, smart, educated professionals (like him) who argue for drug legalization share responsibility for the fates of the poor, uneducated or not so smart people who ruin their lives using the junk because the elite have proclaimed that the laws are foolish. (I still believe that, by the way, more today than ever.)

Ken also advised me wisely when I was being threatened with a lawsuit. I am eternally grateful for his kindness. We share a profession and the avocation of blogging, as well as a professional interest in ethics. We are both fervent believers in the First Amendment, but Ken is a true warrior on the front lines, while I just occasionally submit a dispatch from the battlefield. We both adopted children from overseas, and have some similarly warped strains to our humor. One thing I do not share with Ken is clinical depression, thank goodness. He suffers from it, I don’t. Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Health and Medicine, The Internet

Comment of the Day: “What’s Going On Here?” Ten Ethics Observations On The Miami Beach Police Force Racist E-mails”

praise

Nothing makes me consider  shouting praise to the skies like the situation I just experienced. I find myself in a hotel, away from home, waking up feeling sick, having to prepare for a two hour ethics lecture to young lawyers and knowing that writing a new Ethics Alarms post will either make me frantic or result in a product even more riddled with typos than usual. And there it is! A worthy Comment of the Day, allowing me to present high quality ethics content that I don’t have to write myself, giving me time to work, get back home and think. (Unless I die first, because boy, do I feel lousy.)

The perfectly-timed COTD in question is by the commenter formerly known as  Penn, and involves a topic that I am speaking about this morning, e-mail. I don’t even mind that he doesn’t agree with the statements that sparked his comment: that police should be required under threat of dismissal to report racist -mails from colleagues, and that workplace e-mails have to be monitored by responsible supervisors. Here is SamePenn’s Comment of the Day on the post, “What’s Going On Here? Ten Ethics Observations On The Miami Beach Police Force Racist E-mails.”

And thank you, thank you, thank you! Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Rights, Science & Technology, The Internet, Workplace

What A Surprise: The Patriots Cheated. Now Comes The Integrity Check For The NFL And Its Fans

deflated-football

From the New York Times:

…On Wednesday, the N.F.L. released its report on its investigation into the scandal surrounding the surreptitious and rule-violating practice of deflating game-day footballs. Using detailed accounts and circumstantial evidence, it implicated Brady as part of the operation, saying he surely knew that the two employees, McNally, 48, and Jastremski, then 35, were purposely deflating footballs to a level beyond the permissible threshold for Brady’s benefit.

“There is less direct evidence linking Brady to tampering activities than either McNally or Jastremski,” the report said. “We nevertheless believe, based on the totality of the evidence, that it is more probable than not that Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski.”

The N.F.L. report absolved other top Patriots officials, including Coach Bill Belichick, the owner Robert K. Kraft and the equipment manager Dave Schoenfeld, saying that there was “no wrongdoing or knowledge of wrongdoing” on their part….

I wrote the headline before I remembered: the NFL has no integrity, and neither do its fans. It was very clear that the Pats had cheated to get to the Super Bowl, and had the NFL cared anything about integrity, it would have completed its investigation in time to tell the Indianapolis Colts that they, and not the New England Serial Cheats, were going to the biggest game of the year, since it had lost the chance to a dastardly opponent. Instead, the league basked in the marquee match-up and one of the best games ever, and waited until now, four months later, with football as far out of mind as it can be, to announce that the New England Patriots, again, had cheated. Clever. Too clever.

I wrote a lot about this when it occurred, and had to put up with the predictable “innocent until proven guilty” crowd, the “it’s only a game ” crowd, the ” they would have won anyway” crowd, the “everybody cheats” crowd, the “it’s not like he invaded Iraq” crowd—essentially Barry Bonds defenders, Obama enablers, and Bill Clinton fans with football jerseys and Patriots beer mugs.  Now I get the Hillary Clinton crowd, who will ask, “What difference, at this point, does it make?” The NFL can make billions being as corrupt as it is, maiming athletes and turning colleges into shams, because so many, many Americans value a visceral rush on winter Sundays over fairness, justice, and honesty.

Observations: Continue reading

20 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Leadership, The Internet, U.S. Society

There Is No “Debate”: Graffiti Artists Are Vandals, And The First Step To Stopping Them Is To Eliminate The Myth That They Might Be Anything Else

Rattlesnake Canyon "art": Breathtaking!

Rattlesnake Canyon “art”:
Breathtaking!

Since I don’t get out to the ol’ hiking trail that often, being chained to my desk, I was blissfully unaware that a group of lawless and arrogant vandals masquerading as “graffitti artists” are moving their ugly misappropriation of public spaces to the wild.

From the L.A. Times:

Andre Saraiva is an internationally known graffiti artist. He owns nightclubs in Paris and New York, works as a top editor of the men’s fashion magazine L’Officiel Hommes and has appeared in countless glossy magazines as a tastemaker and bon vivant. Two months ago he showed up on the decidedly un-fashionista website Modern Hiker, along with a photo of a boulder he tagged in Joshua Tree National Park. Since then, Saraiva, who lives in France and is known by his fans as Mr. Andre and Mr. A., has been scorned by American nature lovers and thrust into a highly charged debate. Saraiva is of a new generation of graffiti artists who regard nature — not just the built environment — as their canvas. They tag national parks, then post photos of their work on the Internet.

The Times—they are so open-minded in California!—goes on to say that “those acts infuriate outdoor enthusiasts,” as if there is any reason for the acts not to infuriate every thinking and reasoning human being on the planet. This is the awful journalistic device I have flagged in a political context, minimizing clearly unethical conduct by suggesting that only those with an agenda see it as wrong. “GOP critics assail Hillary Clinton for foreign donors,” for example, is a misleading characterization suggesting that one would and should only object to blatantly unethical conduct if one was a Clinton foe. Wrong. There is something ethically rotten about anyone who doesn’t see Clinton’s conduct as seriously unethical, just as everyone, not just “outdoor enthusiasts,” should recognize that defacing rocks, trees and landscapes is indefensible, ethically and legally.

Andre Saraiva is a fick–a person who acts unethically and celebrates it shamelessly. He is an art fick, a sub-species Ethics Alarms has not encountered often.

Jonathan Turley, a hiking enthusiast as well as a Constitutional scholar, makes his conclusion crystal clear, in the embodiment of the Ethics Alarms principle that “where ethics fail, law steps in”: Continue reading

32 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, The Internet, U.S. Society

Unethical Website Of The Month: GoFundMe

GoFundMe thinks the 6th Amendment is heinous, apparently...

GoFundMe thinks the 6th Amendment is heinous, apparently…

A about a week ago, I designated the crowd-funding website GoFundMe an Ethics Dunce. Now it’s clear that it is worse than that. It’s an unethical website, period.

After the six Baltimore police officers were prematurely charged with serious crimes before the investigation into the death of Freddie Gray was complete, the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police created a GoFundMe page for their defense. Less than an hour later, it was taken down, with GoFundMe citing the same dubious policy it used to cut off support for a bakery driven out of business by vengeful same-sex marriage supporters:

“‘Campaigns in defense of formal charges of heinous crimes’ are prohibited by our terms . . . GoFundMe cannot be used to benefit those who are charged with serious violations of the law.” Continue reading

12 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, The Internet, U.S. Society

Emoji Ethics…Oh, All Right, I Won’t Be Coy: The Unethical Firing Of Chad Franks

Screen-Shot-2015-04-28-at-10.50.42-PM

Would you fire someone based on that tweet? Is it so horrible to you, so seering to your senses, that it warrants harming a human being’s career and welfare? Can you even detect what it was that got its author fired? Could the person doing the firing believe that he or she would deserve firing for such a tweet, as in, say, The Golden Rule?

Has the world gone mad?

First the basics: What the hell is an emoji? From Wikipedia:

“Emoji (絵文字(えもじ)are the ideograms or smileys used in Japanese electronic messages and Web pages, the use of which is spreading outside Japan. Originally meaning pictograph, the word emoji literally means “picture” (e) + “character” (moji). The characters are used much like ASCII emoticons or kaomoji, but a wider range is provided, and the icons are standardized and built into the handsets. Some emoji are very specific to Japanese culture, such as a bowing businessman, a face wearing a face mask, a white flower used to denote “brilliant homework,” or a group of emoji representing popular foods: ramen noodles, dango, onigiri, Japanese curry, and sushi. The three main Japanese mobile operators, NTT DoCoMo, au, and SoftBank Mobile (formerly Vodafone), have each defined their own variants of emoji. Although originally only available in Japan, some emoji character sets have been incorporated into Unicode, allowing them to be used elsewhere as well. As a result, emoji have become increasingly popular after their international inclusion in Apple’s iOS in 2011 as the Apple Color Emoji typeface,which was followed by similar adoption by Android and other mobile operating systems. Apple’s OS X operating system supports emoji as of version 10.7 (Lion).Microsoft added monochrome Unicode emoji coverage to the Segoe UI Symbol system font in Windows 8 and added color emoji in Windows 8.1 via the Segoe UI Emoji font.”

In short, they are tiny pictures increasingly used by Twitter freaks to jazz up their tweets. If you don’t look for them, you may miss them. They are, essentially, cartoons.

Chad Shanks, who ran the NBA Houston Rockets’  Twitter account as the team’s digital communications manager, posted the above tweet to celebrate the impending end of the first-round NBA play-off series with the Dallas Mavericks. The emoji of a pistol pointed at a an emoji of a horse’s head—the Mavericks’ mascot is some kind of a horse-human hybrid monster—in the upper left-hand corner was deemed by management so vile that Shanks’ head had to metaphorically roll. The shocking, PTSD triggering tweet with its reference to cartoon violence was deleted and sent to cyber Hell, and Shanks grovelled an apology, writing, via Twitter, of course, that he was no longer with the organization:

“I did my best to make the account the best in the NBA by pushing the envelope, but pushed too far for some and for that I apologize….Sometimes you can go too far. I will no longer run @HoustonRockets  but am grateful to the organization that let me develop an online voice.” Continue reading

22 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Sports, The Internet, U.S. Society, Workplace

The Kinky Law Professor Principle: “It’s No Shame To Be Kinky, But It Still Might Be Newsworthy”

We haven’t had a “Naked Teacher Principle” story to mull over for a while, and this isn’t one. It raises some parallel issues, though.

I saw the story about the Drexel Law professor who who accidentally sent her students a link to a pornographic video about anal beads. I didn’t find it worthy of a post, though I thought it was funny. It is funny. But we had covered a similar issue here, in the ethics quiz about the hapless teaching assistant at the University of Iowa who somehow managed to send her class not merely sexually provocative photos of herself, not merely nude photos of herself, but something much more kinky. Attached to a message that read “Hi Class, I attach the solutions for number 76 and 78 in this email” were a series of images showing the young woman sans clothes and sans inhibitions having a lively cyber-sexting chat with a partner in which the two were pleasuring themselves in front of video equipment while streaming to each other.

That was funnier. She was “reassigned”—a not unreasonable result of presumed reduced respect from the class.  The Naked Teacher Principle doesn’t strictly apply when the students are adults, and Lisa McElroy, the professor at Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law who is apparently an anal bead fan–the video she sent by accident was called called “She Loves Her Anal Beads”—wasn’t naked. There is no “Kinky Law Professor Principle.”

However, Prof. McElroy was mightily offended that her cyber-goof was picked up by the professional publications and websites, and that she was embarrassed as a result. She even posted a Streisand Principle-defying op-ed in the Washington Post, blaming everybody—students, bloggers, and Drexel, which briefly suspended the professor pending an investigation on the basis of possible sexual harassment—but herself. She argued that she should not have been publicly shamed, because, she wrote,

“…there was nothing newsworthy about it. What happened was, in the grand scheme, pretty trivial. My students are adults. The link was quickly removed. There was nothing illegal in the video. The post occurred in the same two-month period when the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” grossed almost $570 million worldwide. Yet, because it was porn and I’m a law professor, news organizations spread the story around the world.”

Yup. Because it was funny. I understand that the Professor doesn’t see the humor of a law professor—especially her—inadvertently sending her private porn film about anal beads, which themselves are kind of amusing, to a staid law school class. It’s still funny. Trivial? Of course. But trivial can still be funny. Would it be kind for all of us to scrupulously refuse to communicate the hilarious tales of when we do dumb things or embarrass ourselves? Yes. But society as a whole benefits from being reminded that we are all equally fallible human beings—especially the elite and privileged. A lot of people think laughing at slapstick is cruel too.

I pity them. Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, The Internet