Ethics Dunce: Trijicon Inc

Once again, being an Ethics Dunce and being a regular, garden variety dunce goes hand in hand.

Last week it was reported that Trijicon Inc of Wixom, Michigan, the company that makes the scopes on rifles used by U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, has been engraving them with a Biblical reference. The reference is 2COR4:6, short for 2 Corinthians 4:6, which reads: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Terrific idea, guys. As Americans fight conflicts in the Middle East while maintaining to the Muslim world that we are in not engaging in a war against Islam, you send our soldiers into battle with Christian quotations on their weapons.  Continue reading

When the Police Lie to Convict the Guilty

Gene Weingarten, the Washington Post columnist, wrote about his recent experience as a juror. It was a trial of a man accused of selling $10 of heroin to an undercover officer. Weingarten professed to be annoyed that such a small amount would justify an arrest and trial; he’s just wrong about that. Dealing a dangerous prohibited drug is still dealing, no matter what the amount. I know this is the kind of case that gets the legalize-drugs-so-we don’t-put-so-many-people-in-jail crowd all self-righteous, but “a smidgen of heroin dealing” still supports a destructive social problem, and law abiding citizens don’t deal even a little smack.

That’s not really the issue here, however.

Weingarten was convinced that the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He was also convinced that the police were lying. Continue reading

Jean Simmons and Sexual Harassment

Jean Simmons has died at the age of 80. She was a marvelous actress, one who began as a child star and had major roles in three classic films before she turned 20. Today we remember her primarily as the beautiful slave who bore the son of Spartacus in Stanley Kubrick’s sword and sandal blockbuster, and perhaps as playing herself as the movie star who sends Felix Unger gaga in a memorable episode of “The Odd Couple.” We do not remember much more;  her career never reached the heights predicted for it, primarily because she fell victim to sexual harassment by a powerful, unscrupulous man. Continue reading

“The Ethicist” Strikes Out Again

I’ll make a deal with Randy Cohen,”The Ethicist” of The New York Times Magazine: I’ll stop criticizing his column when he stops justifying dishonesty. Lately, Cohen has not only been advising his correspondents to avoid telling the truth but headlining the questions where he does so.

Lie proud, Randy!

This week’s endorsement of forked tongues surrounded the sensitive issue of designating a guardian for one’s child. Parents had asked their good friends, another married couple, if they would agree to care for their daughter in the event that the parents perished while she was a child. After the couple enthusiastically agreed, the parents learned that their friends were not sufficiently responsible with their finances, and liked to “live large.” They no longer trust the couple with their daughter’s welfare, and want to re-assign the responsibility of being emergency guardians to relatives. This will require the parents to change their wills.

Their question to “The Ethicist”: Do they have to tell their friends? Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Conan O’Brien

I know I just used one of Conan’s farewell comments as the Ethics Quote of the Week, and I know saluting him again risks my being called a Conan booster, which I am not. (Full Disclosure: Conan and I graduated from the same college, and my mother thinks that should matter to me. It doesn’t.) I have also been accused of not having enough Ethics Heroes, and it is a fair beef. I would be remiss not to give Conan that designation for a segment of his “Tonight Show” farewell that I left out of the earlier post. It was this: Continue reading

Believe it Or Not: An Unethical Sorority Dress Code

Abuse of power comes in all shapes and sizes. Witness the sorority Pi Phi, which apparently is hell-bent on proving that “Mean Girls” was a documentary. The fashion website “Fashionista” got its cyber hands on the sorority’s dress code, which makes West Point look lenient.

Here are some examples from the six page manifesto, the invention of Pi Phi’s rush chair: Continue reading

The Ethics Verdict on Haitian Luxury Cruises

Luxury cruise lines and their passengers are being condemned in some quarters for continuing to dock their ships at Haiti’s private beaches while the rest of Haiti is in the midst of destruction, death and horror. “Royal Caribbean is performing a sickening act to me by taking tourists to Haiti,” one critic wrote one poster on CNN’s “Connect the World” blog. “Having a beach party while people are dead, dying and suffering minutes away hardly makes me want to cruise that particular line,” wrote another. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week

“Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”

—-Former “Tonight Show” host Conan O’Brien, bidding farewell in his final show. O’Brien was shabbily treated by NBC, beginning with its bait-and-switch game that kept him behind Jay Leno even after his “promotion” to the prestige late night show,  and ending with its making him the scapegoat of a ratings  debacle entirely caused by the cheap and incompetent management of the NBC brass. Conan still managed to preserve his dignity and integrity while keeping his justified anger in control, and exited “Tonight” as gracefully as humanly possible.

Media Ethics and Haiti

  • Rebecca Solnit has written a powerful piece questioning the news media’s accounts of “looting” in Haiti. She argues that people in the midst of a disaster with a breakdown of infrastructure and government assistance are acting reasonably and justifiably when they take food and other necessities from abandoned stores. She believes that media accounts emphasizing looting warp the public perception of what is happening, vilifies the victims of the disaster, and prompts excessive measures against the “looters,” who are only trying to survive. She has a point. You can read her whole piece here.
  • There is something oppressive and coercive when so many networks and cable channels interrupt regular programming to carry a telethon, as they did last night. It turns an appeal for help into a demand for help. Continue reading