Tag Archives: ethics

Ethics Alarms Encore: “Aesop’s Unethical and Misleading Fable: The North Wind and the Sun”

north-wind-and-the-sun-story-oil-painting

[ I vowed that the next time I got a comment on this post, I would publish it again. It hails from four years ago, when  Ethics Alarms got a quarter of the traffic it gets now. I confess that I wrote it on a whim, having been talking with my wife about how Aesop’s Fables were joining Mother Goose stories,  Edward Lear limericks and American folks song in the Discarded Bin of our culture and then stumbling upon a fable I had either never read before or forgotten about.  To my surprise the post attracted intense criticism from fans of the story—I even had to ban a commenter who got hysterical about it—and the post joined a very eclectic group of early essays here that get considerable and consistent readership every week. Apparently there are a lot of Sun-worshipers out there. Anyway, since you probably missed it the first time, here it is.]

Today, by happenstance, I heard an Aesop’s Fable that I had never encountered before recited on the radio. Like all Aesop’s Fables, at least in its modern re-telling, this one had a moral attached , and is also a statement of ethical values. Unlike most of the fables, however, it doesn’t make its case. It is, in fact, an intellectually dishonest, indeed an unethical, fable.

It is called “The North Wind and the Sun,” and in most sources reads like this:

“The North Wind and the Sun disputed as to which was the most powerful, and agreed that he should be declared the victor who could first strip a wayfaring man of his clothes. The North Wind first tried his power and blew with all his might, but the keener his blasts, the closer the Traveler wrapped his cloak around him, until at last, resigning all hope of victory, the Wind called upon the Sun to see what he could do. The Sun suddenly shone out with all his warmth. The Traveler no sooner felt his genial rays than he took off one garment after another, and at last, fairly overcome with heat, undressed and bathed in a stream that lay in his path.”

The moral of the fable is variously stated as “Persuasion is better than Force” , or “Gentleness and kind persuasion win where force and bluster fail.”

The fable proves neither. In reality, it is a vivid example of dishonest argument, using euphemisms and false characterizations to “prove” a proposition that an advocate is biased toward from the outset. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Education, Literature, Religion and Philosophy, War and the Military

And Now, How A RIGHT Wing “Watchdog” Views The World…

PRinc_rm_photo_of_jaundiced_eye

In commenting on today’s early post about Mediaite inexplicably neglecting to mention that the “ethics watchdog”now accusing Rep. Louis Gohmert of skimming off his campaign funds is in fact part of the Media Matters left-wing hit squad, commenter Steve-O-in-NJ observed…

“As has been pointed out many, many times on this site both by yourself and others, most Americans have some shade of partisan goggles on that makes it harder to see ethical violations by those they are sympathetic to and easier to see them by those they are not. It doesn’t help that there are any number of partisan dyes (racism, sexism, patriotism) we can release to further cloud the waters we swim in with these goggles on. Eventually there’s so much dye in the water and the lenses become so tinted that everyone forgets what clear water actually looks like.”

Truer words were never uttered. To prove Steve’s point from the other side of the political spectrum, I present Newsbusters, which holds a higher level of esteem from me than CREW by being transparent about its skewed perspective: the site, part of arch conservative Brent Bozell’s empire, acknowledges that it exists to show liberal bias in the news media, and Lord knows, there is plenty to show. Unfortunately, Newsbusters is addicted to the same silly routine its counterpart Media Matters employs, the “X spent this much time on this story but only this much time on this story that exposes the rank incompetence and corruption of a politician/program/party we hate” bit. The complaint has legitimacy when the news media is deliberately burying an important development and hiding facts from the public, as the mainstream media has done with the IRS scandal and attempted to do with Jonathan Gruber’s revelations, or as Fox did with results of the Congressional investigation of Benghazi. More often, however, the real complaint is “Why don’t the biased news sources adopt our biases instead of their biases?”

Today brings a classic example on Newsbusters: Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Ah, Mediaite? CREW Is NOT An “Ethics Watchdog Group,” It’s A Partisan Media Matters Hit Group

See, Congressman, it works this way: if you were a Democrat, CREW would ignore your junket to London, and so would Mediaite. Fox News, however, would be all over your ass...

See, Congressman, it works this way: if you were a Democrat, CREW would ignore your junket to London, and so would Mediaite. Fox News, however, would be all over your ass…

Did Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Tx)*, one of the prominent conservatives in the Republican-led Congress, misuse over $6,000 in campaign funds on a speaking trip to London? Maybe; it sounds like one of those typical gray election law controversies, and one of the lesser ones, except that Gohmert is on a lot of partisan hit lists. If he did misuse the funds, I’d want to see him fined, or whatever the violation warrants, and chastened too.

That’s not my concern right now, though. What interests me is that the alleged misuse of funds was flagged by Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and in reporting it, Mediaite said, in a story headlined, Ethics Watchdog Accuses Gohmert of Misusing Campaign Funds:

“An ethics watchdog group has filed a complaint against Rep. Louie Gohmert, accusing the Texas Republican of misusing campaign funds to foot the bill for a trip to England that included a 5-star hotel and a $200-plus taxi ride.The complaint, filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), was addressed to the staff director and chief counsel of the Office of Congressional Ethics and demands an investigation into whether Gohmert violated House rules by using campaign money for a trip that seemingly had nothing to do with his campaign.”

CREW, as I have repeatedly pointed out for years, is no “ethics watchdog.”  Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

Ethics Observations On The Dartmouth Cheating Scandal

DartmouthSixty four Dartmouth students have been charged with cheating in a special religion and ethics class that was designed for student athletes. The details can be found here.

1. The reports quote the professor as saying,

“Part of the reason I designed this course was that I had the sense that some athletes coming here to Dartmouth might have felt just a little bit overwhelmed or intimidated academically. I wanted to design a course that would appeal to their interests and allow them to have an early success in the classroom, and I’d hoped that they would be able to build on that success throughout their time at Dartmouth.”

Translation: The students were accepted for their athletic prowess, and this was a baby-steps course just for them.

Why is Dartmouth admitting students who need such phony courses?

2. An admittedly non-challenging course to allow athletes an easier route to graduation sends the clear message that integrity isn’t valued at the institution. The professor’s expressions of disappointment and sadness are either naive or disingenuous. The university was cheating to keep them in school: why should he be shocked that they would cheat in return? Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Sports

Comments Of The Day: “Remembering Christmas Music”

Xmas music

This is a rare collaborative Comment of the Day, as texaggo4 and Penn combined for a fascinating discourse on the trend in Christmas holiday music and its significance in response to my December 23 post, prompted by listening to one too many renditions of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause” and “Santa Baby.” It’s a wonderful job by both participants here, reinforcing my conviction that the the debates following the posts are as valuable, or more so, than the posts themselves.

First up is tex, followed by Penn’s response. Here is their combined Comment of the Day on “Remembering Christmas Music”:

Christmas only exists because of Christ. That being said, pull the religion out of the holiday and ultimately the holiday disappears and all of its associated trappings.

Christmas music has several “genres”, not classified nor exclusive:

1) Theological or religious: directly communication the story or the theology of the Incarnation.

2) Modern references to the festivals associated with the Christ-Mass.

3) Modern references to the neo-pagan Christmas folklore…Santa Claus, Saint Nick, Father Christmas, etc.

4) Modern references to the American folklore… Frosty the Snowman, etc

5) Modern references to the post-materialist Capitalist associations with Christmas— Christmas party songs.

6) Modern references to the post-narcissist associations with Christmas…songs about sex….

great.

We all saw this coming…it is predictable. take the religion out of a religious holiday and you can only assume that artistic messages (songs included) pertaining to the Holiday will have less and less to do with the ethical message of the holiday until eventually, watered down, it isn’t even worth playing the secular versions of that Holiday’s music.

What are the secularists complaining about? They asked for this.

Here is Penn’s reply: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, Popular Culture, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

Jack and The Christmas Gasoline Can

gas-can

OK, it’s not exactly “The Homecoming,” but the way they’re scraping the barrel for cable Christmas movies, you might see this one on LMN yet. I just hope I’m not played by Wallace Shawn

Everything was going swimmingly this Christmas morning. We had opened presents, and now Grace and I were making our contributions to the family dinner later today at my sister’s house. A main feature was Grace’s mother’s recipe for a holiday salad that was part of her family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for decades, and now ours. The recipe:

Two bags of cranberries, chopped

2 chopped navel oranges, with peel

2 chopped Red Delicious apples, also unpeeled

2 cups of chopped walnuts

2 diced celery hearts

1-2 cans of cranberry juice concentrate

Sugar to taste, or not (we leave it out.)

All was well until I cored the apples, bought supposedly fresh yesterday at Harris Teeter. They went “squish,” despite being all shiny and crisp on the outside. This would not do, so I was dispatched to the store to pick up suitably fresh apples, without which grandmother’s famous salad just wouldn’t be right.

I jumped into our car (the one that replaced its predecessor that  had burst into flames for no apparent reason in a mall parking lot—one of the many delightful events of our 2014). The gas-tank-low light was on, as it had been the day before. The gauge now said that I had five miles left, and the nearest station was only a bit more than two away. Well, these things aren’t perfect: my car stopped about 200 yards from the exit to the station, and in the middle of the street.

I called home, and my wife and son prepared to take his car to the station to get enough gas to let me drive the last leg of the journey, but his car, as is its wont, was dead. Meanwhile, I tried to push mine out of the middle of the street on my own, realizing too late that cars in neutral tend to pick up quite a bit of speed going down a grade, and are remarkably hard to steer and brake from outside the vehicle. I was barely able to stop the car from plowing into a parked Volvo by turning it to roll over the curb onto someone’s lawn. I was loath to leave it there untended while I hiked to the gas station, and I didn’t feel like paying fifty bucks or more for roadside assistance, but I was running out of options. Also time, if I was going to find fresh apples while a grocery store remained open.

I hadn’t seen a single car on the road, until an SUV stopped next to me. The driver, a woman in her thirties who was accompanied by her two teenaged sons, asked it I needed help. I explained my plight, and the two young men assisted me in rolling my car off the lawn into something approximating a legal parking space.

“Stay here: we’ll be right back,” the woman said. She was as good as her word, for she soon reappeared, with one of her sons carrying a festive red plastic gas can filled with fuel. The older son helped figure out how to work the damn spout, which had to be assembled. “See, here’s the flaw,” I explained. “The device solving this problem should not require more intelligence to operate than someone getting into this stupid situation is likely to have.” He agreed, politely. Then he poured all the gasoline into my empty tank.

I prepared to reimburse this family of Good Samaritans, but they refused. “Just pay it forward,” the mother said. “We’re glad we could help out.” I shook her sons’ hands, and hers, and wished them all a Merry Christmas. Then I got the apples, and the salad was perfect.

In the Marshall household, this will forever be known the Miracle of the Christmas Gas Can.

Let us sing!

(to the tune of “Good King Wenceslas” :

1. Jack’s wife said “You must go out.
We’ve an apple crisis!”
Never would he dare refuse ;
Better to fight ISIS.
So he set out in his car,
Though t’was low in fuel
Til it sputtered to a stop
(Boy was he a foo-oo-el!)

2. Shifted into neutral then,
It rolled t’ward disaster.
Jack would soon be chasing it,
As the car rolled faster.
Pulling hard with all his might,
He changed its direction
Rested then on somebody’s lawn
Waiting for collection.

3. Up now rolls an SUV
Driven by a stranger
“Trav’ler, tell us, how can we
Help you stave off danger?”
Her sons helped him move the car;
There would be no ticket.
Jack composed a secret wish,
As if he could pick it.

4. “Find a can, and bring me gas
This would be a blessing.
Yet I’d be a total ass
Their Christmas to be messing.”
Suddenly they all drove off,
Telling him to stay there
Still he doubted they’d return
Heeding his mayday there.

5. Damn! The time was running out,
And the stores were closing.
Should he not get gassed up soon
Hope would be foreclosing.
Hark! The SUV returns,
With a gas can brimming
Welcome sight more lovely than
Firs with all their trimming.

6. “Let me pay you,” Jack implored.
For I owe you greatly.”
“No, my friend, just pay it for’d.
That’s what’s right innately”
Therefore learn the lesson well
Be you high or lowly
If we all are ethical
Every day is holy.

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Filed under Daily Life

Unethical Quote of the Week: Dick Cheney

Hello, I'll be your torturer today. Now, if you are innocent, please understand, on balance this works.

Hello, my name is Skug, and I’ll be your torturer today. Now, if you are innocent, please understand, on balance this works.

“I’m more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that, in fact, were innocent.”

—Former V.P. Dick Cheney, giving his reactions on “Meet the Press” regarding the Senate’s critique of the Bush Administration and the CIA’s interrogation methods.

I try to be fair to Dick Cheney, whose character has been distorted beyond all recognition by his partisan foes. Sunday, however, he was apparently attempting to validate all the most terrible things anyone has said about him, as well as providing future students of ethics real life examples of ethical fallacies.

The one quoted above is the pip: so much for the jurisprudential principle that It is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer.”   Chuck Todd reminded Cheney that 25% of those detained were apparently innocent. The Cheney variation: “It is OK if some innocent persons are unjustly punished as long as the bad guys get what they deserve.”

It is hard to pick the most unethical assertion, however; there are so many horrible statements to choose from. Such as: Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Dunces, U.S. Society, Law & Law Enforcement, Government & Politics, Literature, Ethics Quotes, War and the Military, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee