Tag Archives: justice

Ethics Quiz: What’s Fair Punishment For The Chick-Fil-A Video Vigilante?

Oresdtes thought the Furies were tough, but today's internet Furies never stop...

Orestes thought the Furies were tough, but today’s internet Furies never stop…

I previously wrote about Adam M. Smith, the ex-CFO of  a Tucson medical supplies manufacturer who filmed himself dressing down a Chick-fil-A drive-in employee and placed the video on YouTube. I said in part…

“He’s a vile bully and a jerk, who thinks it appropriate to embarrass and abuse an innocent employee of a restaurant because he happens not to agree with the politics and moral positions of the company’s owner…The video served to alert millions to beware of this rude, rabid and self-righteous champion of gay rights, who equates faith-based advocacy for the current law of the United States of America with “hate.”

I was more accurate than I knew. Now we learn that since that August, 2012 fiasco which cost him his job, Mr. Smith has fallen on hard times. His self-posted indictment of his own character has poisoned his reputation and career. When he found a new job, he was later fired for not alerting his employers about the incident. When he has raised the video to potential employers, they have declined to hire him. Where he was once earning a six-figure salary, had $1 million in stock options, and lived in a stylish home, he now lives in an RV with his wife and four children, and is existing on public assistance.

It all sounds like the plot of an Adam Sandler movie.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz today is…

Is Adam M. Smith the victim of excessive social media punishment for one ill-considered act?

Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Etiquette and manners, The Internet, U.S. Society, Workplace

The Petraeus Deal and Justice In America

broadwell

I’m in a rush to get ready for a law firm seminar, so I’m going to mostly let Ken White at Popehat do my work for me, as he is very qualified to do in this case. In his comments on the David Petraeus plea deal, Ken quite appropriately raises questions of why such serious crimes as the acclaimed general and former CIA head engaged in do not warrant prison time, and he answers thusly: Petraeus is rich, famous and has powerful friends.

Ken obvious believes those aren’t good reasons, and I agree with him. Nor are the other rationalizations that the general has suffered enough, that he isn’t really a criminal, that the nation owes him, or that he is a valuable resource for the nation that we are better served by not storing behind bars.

I believe that Petraeus has less excuse for his conduct than the typical defendant, and that as a celebrity, war hero and tole model, his defiance of the law is more serious, and more deserving of punishment, than the majority of non-violent criminals who go to jail. Indeed, Petraeus had styled himself as a moral exemplar. I read yesterday—I don’t have time to find the link—that Edward Snowden’s lawyers sent a cheeky message to prosecutors that Snowden would be happy to accept a similar deal to Petraeus’s.  Exactly.

These incidents do terrible damage to the public’s trust in the justice system’s fairness, and they should. Plea deals like this, bought with lawyer fees, bias and influence, are unequivocally wrong.

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Literature, War and the Military

A New, Seductive And Sinister Way To Be Unethical: Shoplifter Extortion For Profit

CEC

If you are accused of shoplifting in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas, Houston, San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, and a growing number of other cities, you may face an unexpected choice. If the store you were shopping in participates in a program operated by  the Utah-based Corrective Education Company, you will be asked to choose between talking to the police, with the risk of being arrested, or leaving the store without facing law enforcement, after you sign an admission of guilt and agree to pay $320 to take an online anti-shop-lifting course.

What??

Slate informs us that about 20,000 people around the country have faced versions of this dilemma since CEC began operations, and chose option B—enriching CEC, and the stores as well. The interesting approach was started by two Harvard Business School graduates—that figures—and is sold as a win-win-win-win:

“It saves retailers time that they would have to spend dealing with the police; it frees up law enforcement resources that could be spent on higher priority cases; it reduces the likelihood that a shoplifter will come back to the store to steal again; and it gives second chances to offenders who would otherwise be saddled with a criminal record for life.”

Right.

It’s unethical you know. I wonder if the company knows? Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, The Internet

The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Best of Ethics 2014

abstract door grand jury room

The Ethics Alarms Awards for the Best in Ethics 2014—sorry for the tardiness— are about 30% of the length of the Worst. Does this mean that the nation and the culture, not to mention the world, are doomed?

Not necessarily. I am well aware that most of the country is ethical, substantially fair and honest, diligent, and embodies ethical values in their every day dealings with you and me, and the world. We primarily hear, and to some extent, take note of, the corrupt, the irresponsible, the manipulative, the untrustworthy and the foolish. The Best Ethics list is smaller in part because only exemplary ethics gets publicity. I also should note that calling attention to unethical conduct and discussing it often does more to advance the mission of Ethics Alarms than confirming that right is right, though I sure wish there was more exemplary ethics to celebrate. Maybe the dearth of award winners here is my fault, and the result of my biases.

Boy, I hope so.

Here are the 2014 Ethics Alarms Awards for the Best in Ethics:

Most Important Ethical Act of the Year:

The Ferguson grand jury resisted public and media pressure to deliver a verdict of no indictment against police officer Darren Wilson, upholding the integrity of the justice system despite the injection of emotion, politics and race into a tragic incident where none of these belonged. Though the available evidence could never have supported a guilty verdict, it would have been easy and popular for the grand jury to make Wilson stand trial anyway, just as George Zimmerman did. Their reward has been to be attacked as fools and racists, but they did the right thing, when the wrong thing must have seemed very attractive.

Outstanding Ethical Leadership

The New York Yankees. (Bear with me now.) The Yankees are the most famous team in professional sports in the biggest sports market in the world. They make money without even trying. Yet when the team had a bad year and missed the play-offs in 2013, it committed nearly a billion dollars to re-building the team, a move that only makes sense in the quest to win games, not to maximize profit. Thus they prominently chose loyalty, mission and sportsmanship over greed. (The Yankees still missed the play-offs in 2014, too.) Then all year long the team placed a spotlight on Derek Jeter, their retiring hero, whose career and character single-handedly refutes the cynicism of sports critics fed up with the lack of character displayed by the Armstrongs, the Rices, the ARods, the Belichicks, the Winstons, the Paternos, and so many, many others. Finally, when two New York City police officers were assassinated after Al Sharpton, and the “Hands Up!” protestors, with the city’s own mayor’s support, had vilified the profession as violent, racist and untrustworthy, who will pay for the fallen officers’ children to go to college? The New York Yankees’ Silver Shield Foundation.  Add charity, compassion, civic duty and gratitude to the list of ethics values the New Your baseball club modeled for us. I know it seems odd and even trivial to follow up last year’s winner in this category—the Pope— with a sports franchise, but to paraphrase Babe Ruth’s famous rejoinder when the Yankees balked at his salary demands in 1930, saying he wanted to be paid more than then-President Herbert Hoover (“I had a better year that Hoover!”), the Yankees has a better year than the Pope.

Outstanding Sportsmanship

Jose Altuve, Houston Astros secondbaseman and American League batting champ….the right way. He began the final day of the 2014 season hitting .340, three points ahead of the Tigers’ Victor Martinez. If Altuve didn’t play in Houston’s meaningless last game, Martinez would have to go 3-for-3 to pass him, giving the DH a narrow .3407 average compared with Altuve’s .3399. By playing, Altuve risked lowering his average, providing Martinez with a better chance of winning the batting championship. Many players in the past have sat out their final game or games to “back in” to the prize, rather than give the fans a chance to watch a head to head battle injecting some much-needed drama into the expiring season.  Altuve, however, gave Martinez his shot. He played the whole game, had two hits in his four at-bats, and won the American League batting title on the field, not on the bench, as Martinez went hitless. The conduct, simple as it was, embodied fairness, integrity, courage, respect for an opponent, and most of all, respect for the game.

Best Apology

JESSICA_URBINA

 The Level #1 apology, according to the Ethics Alarms Apology scale, issued by Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep in San Francisco.The school had cruelly and needless embarrassed graduating senior Jessica Urbina (above), rejecting her inclusion in the yearbook because she chose to be photographed in a tuxedo rather than a dress, as the school’s dress code, which had not been previously made clear, demanded. I wrote…

“The rule is sexist, archaic, unthinking, prejudicial, arbitrary, cruel and wrong. The best way to change a rule that is sexist, archaic, unthinking, prejudicial, arbitrary, cruel and wrong is to break it, and see if those in charge have the sense and compassion to do the right thing. The administrators of Sacred Heart Cathedral High School flunked. I doubt that Jessica was even trying to provoke a confrontation: like any normal student, she wanted her image in the most important piece of memorabilia of her high school years to accurately portray her as she was, not as some alien ideal dictated by the Catholic Church. There was nothing to be achieved by banning the photo.”

The school reversed itself with grace and compassion. The apology is long, but a more humble or complete one would be unachievable. It achieved an ethical end to an ugly episode. You can read it here. Runner up: Writer Henry Rollins lovely and wrenching apology for his initial reaction to Robin Williams’ suicide.

Hero of the Year

Michael DeBeyer.  De Beyer has decided to sell his restaurant, which he opened more than 15 years ago and is worth an estimated  $2 million, to pay for whatever medical treatments are necessary to save the life of Brittany Mathis, 19. Brittany works for De Beyer at his Kaiserhof Restaurant and Biergarten in Montgomery, Texas, and  learned, in December 2013, that she has a 1.5 inch brain tumor.  She couldn’t afford the operation to find out whether the tumor was benign or malignant, and didn’t have health insurance. “I couldn’t live with myself; I would never be happy just earning money from my restaurant knowing that she needs help,” Michael told local reporters.

That’s what makes ethics heroes; really, really loud ethics alarms, combined with courage and caring.

Parent of the Year

NBA Star Kevin Durant’s Mom.

Most Ethical Celebrity

Matthew McConaughey. In a field notably sparse on exemplary ethics by celebrities, the 2013 Oscar winner for Best Actor stands out for a speech that was inspirational, thoughtful, and rife with ethics wisdom. It is worth recalling. Here it is:

Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you to the Academy for this—all 6,000 members. Thank you to the other nominees. All these performances were impeccable in my opinion. I didn’t see a false note anywhere. I want to thank Jean-Marc Vallée, our director. Want to thank Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, who I worked with daily.

There’s a few things, about three things to my account that I need each day. One of them is something to look up to, another is something to look forward to, and another is someone to chase. Now, first off, I want to thank God. ‘Cause that’s who I look up to. He has graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand. He has shown me that it’s a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates. In the words of the late Charlie Laughton, who said, “When you’ve got God, you got a friend. And that friend is you.”

To my family, that who and what I look forward to. To my father who, I know he’s up there right now with a big pot of gumbo. He’s got a lemon meringue pie over there. He’s probably in his underwear. And he’s got a cold can of Miller Lite and he’s dancing right now. To you, Dad, you taught me what it means to be a man. To my mother who’s here tonight, who taught me and my two older brothers… demanded that we respect ourselves. And what we in turn learned was that we were then better able to respect others. Thank you for that, Mama. To my wife, Camila, and my kids Levi, Vida and Mr. Stone, the courage and significance you give me every day I go out the door is unparalleled. You are the four people in my life that I want to make the most proud of me. Thank you.

And to my hero. That’s who I chase. Now when I was 15 years old, I had a very important person in my life come to me and say “who’s your hero?” And I said, “I don’t know, I gotta think about that. Give me a couple of weeks.” I come back two weeks later, this person comes up and says “who’s your hero?” I said, “I thought about it. You know who it is? It’s me in 10 years.” So I turned 25. Ten years later, that same person comes to me and says, “So, are you a hero?” And I was like, “not even close. No, no, no.” She said, “Why?” I said, “Because my hero’s me at 35.” So you see every day, every week, every month and every year of my life, my hero’s always 10 years away. I’m never gonna be my hero. I’m not gonna attain that. I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.

So, to any of us, whatever those things are, whatever it is we look up to, whatever it is we look forward to, and whoever it is we’re chasing, to that I say, “Amen.” To that I say, “Alright, alright, alright.” To that I say “just keep living.” Thank you.

Most Principled Politician

Thomas Menino

The late Thomas Menino, Boston’s beloved Democratic mayor for two decades (the longest in tenure in the city’s history), who retired last January and  died of cancer nine months later. Somehow I missed giving him the ethics send-off he deserved. Amazingly, he was the first Italian-American mayor in Boston’s history: the job has always been won by the city’s Irish machine. While mayors around the nation were embroiled in scandals and embarrassments, Menino undeniably improved the city, led it admirably in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, and left office with the admiration of conservatives as well as liberals despite being an aggressive agent of progressive policies.  His passion caused him to make some ethical missteps, such as joining other liberal mayors in telling Chick-Fil-A that it “wasn’t welcome” in Boston because of its owner’s anti-gay marriage sentiments. He joined Michael Bloomberg in creating Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and must share responsibility for some of the dubious tactics and misrepresentations of that organization. He also had a scandal or two involving political favors, but in 20 years, by my count, he had fewer than most Boston mayors had every year. In 2012, polls found that he had an approval rating over 80%, and left his position more popular than he entered it.  Boston is liberal, but it isn’t that liberal.

Most Ethical Company

Don’t ever let me do that again.

I just reviewed over a hundred posts about businesses and corporations from last year, and not one of them celebrated ethical conduct. The closest was, believe it or not, the Washington Redskins, for having the guts, orneriness and principles to stand against the forces of censorship and political correctness to refuse to change the name of their team and organization. It has been targeted as a symbolic scalp that race-baiters, grievance-hucksters and progressive bullies are determined to have hanging from their belts; the opponents of the team have recruited the U.S. government, and the pressure is tremendous. It would be so easy to change the name now, when support for the perpetually rotten team is at low ebb in Washington, D.C., but the principle is worth the battle. However, my gag reflex will not allow me to give this award to an NFL team, since by definition it must be engaged in so much else that is wrong.

So for a second straight year I’m going to send you to Ethisphere’s list of the most ethical companies in the world. Their criteria isn’t mine, but there’s got to be a genuinely ethical company of two on there somewhere. Let me know if you find it. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Quotes, Family, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Love, Popular Culture, Professions, Sports, The Internet, U.S. Society

Wanetta Gibson, The Limits Of Forgiveness, And The Most Unethical Facebook Friend Request Ever

"Come on. Let's hang out. I'm more mature now."

“Come on. Let’s hang out. I’m more mature now.”

Brian Banks, the once-promising high school athlete whose life was upended by a classmate’s false rape accusation that sent him to prison for five years, is now  back on his feet, working for the National Football League, and, by the evidence of his recent profile in the New York Daily News, impressively beyond anger and bitterness. He does tell a stunning story, however, of a day in 2011 when he received an unexpected Facebook friend request from Wanetta Gibson, the woman who, for no apparent reason, did this terrible thing to him. Banks says that she wrote…

“I was hoping we could let bygones be bygones. I was immature back in the day, but I’m much more mature now. Let’s hang out. I’d love to see you. I’ve seen your picture on Facebook. You look real good. I would love to hook up.”

I’ve been trying to think up a fanciful equivalent for this “I know I tried to wreck your life, now will you please let me back into it?” request. Would it be John Hinckley Jr. asking President Ronald Reagan for a job? Edward Snowden replying to an NSA RFP? Maybe V. Stiviano asking Donald Sterling for a job recommendation? I’m not sure any of them would be as bad. “Let bygones be bygones.” Among other things, what an insult this is. How stupid does Gibson think her victim is?

Then there is this chilling statement: I was immature back in the day, but I’m much more mature now.” Translation:  “Yes, now I’m a fully mature vicious sociopath. Don’t you want to renew our relationship?”

These are the situations where someone inevitably argues that Americans believe in redemption, and when I inevitably respond, “You are out of your friggin’ mind.” Some people, not many, but some, are bad to the bone, and the social pressure to forgive the worst of the worst—Did you read the words “I’m sorry” anywhere in that request?—is a trap, set up by those who won’t have to live with the consequences of another betrayal of trust.

Banks, of course, rejected Gibson’s overtures.

Two years later, she recanted her withdrawal of her rape accusation.

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, The Internet, U.S. Society

The NYPD Turns Its Back On De Blasio: What’s Going On Here?

NYPD backs

The rift between New York Mayor de Blasio and his city’s police department  is more than an internal spat. It has the potential to divide and harm the city and citizens, not to mention crashing the Mayor’s already self-jeopardized political career early in his term. Both sides if this dispute committed hostile acts that the other considers grievously disrespectful. Neither combatant appears ready to apologize.

De Blasio crossed what many of his department’s officers consider an uncrossable line when he suggested, in the immediate wake of the grand jury’s decision not to indict in the Eric Garner case, that his own bi-racial son was at risk of harm should he be apprehended by the NYPD. As I have written before, this was not, as the spinners would have it, just a case of a mayor being candid about genuine problem in community relations. This was a tacit endorsement of the “hands up” protests and their contention that Garner, Mike Brown and others were the victims of police racism, that police are killing, likely to kill, want to kill, black kids. It doesn’t matter that de Blasio may not have intended that implication: under the circumstances and in the context of events, this is what police officers interpreted his remarks to mean. He was siding against them. He was suggesting that the grand jury was wrong not to indict. He was suggesting not that some NYPD officers were racially biased, but that black children like his son “may not be [Translation: “are not“] safe from the very people they want to have faith in as their protectors.”

The police have responded with multiple demonstrations of anger and contempt for their boss. Most recently, there were boos and jeers when De Blasio spoke at a police graduation ceremony this week. Over a hundred officers symbolically turned their backs when the mayor spoke at the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos, who was assassinated by a man who suggested that he was seeking vengeance for the deaths of Garner and Brown. That had followed the theme of an airplane-towed banner over the city that read,“Our backs have turned to you,”which in turn was inspired by the spontaneous gesture by officers present when de Blasio visited the hospital where the bodies of Officer Ramos and his partner lay.

The New York Times, which has been guilty of bolstering the “hands up” lie by carelessly linking the deaths of Brown and Garner as well as Trayvon Martin, none of which can be fairly blamed on racism based on available evidence, has come down squarely against the police, writing in an editorial: Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Public Service, Race, Workplace

The “Non-Violent Protest” Lie

Image:

The leaders and participants in the protests related to incidents of excessive police force and violence—real, imagined, manufactured or equivocal—are creating an environment of racial distrust, fear and hate that cannot avoid  resulting in violence. Yet astoundingly, they not only deny the natural consequences of their words and rhetoric but feign indignation (and racism, of course) when the effort, long underway with the assistance of such accomplices as Eric Holder, Barack Obama and Bill De Blasio, is properly condemned as the dangerous and reckless attack on society that it is.

I am not sure which amazes me more: that demagogues like Al Sharpton would have the audacity to proclaim that his organized campaign of hate against police, accusing them of being both racist executioners and the embodiment of a racist justice system, or the caliber of pundits who have rushed to Sharpton’s defense. How can this be? African-Americans are told, for years now, that whites with guns are hunting them; that police are determined to kill them, that the justice system is rigged to let the carnage continue. The carriers of this message includes members of Congress, celebrities, civil rights activists, the Attorney General and the President of the United States. False accounts that support this gross characterization of  disparate incidents, each with unique circumstances, are turned into rallying cries, such as “Hands up! Don’t Shoot!”  The left-biased media openly endorses the narrative, which says that black Americans are being hunted coast-to-coastby an armed force, determined to kill their children.

But the protest is “non-violent.” Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, The Internet, U.S. Society, Unethical Blog Post