“Trust Us, It Only LOOKS like Bribery!”

Imagine, if you will, that I post an enthusiastic testimonial to the superior depilatory virtues of  Braun electric razors as compared to Norelco Triple-headers. Then suppose that you learn that, prior to the publication of my pro-Braun rave, Braun had sent Ethics Alarms a generous contribution “to support its good works in support of ethical consciousness.” Not only that, but also imagine that this contribution was brokered by an organization paid by Braun because it guaranteed that it could get good reviews of for its clients’ products on ethics websites. If I subsequently claimed that my razor review rave and the felicitous gift from Braun were absolutely unrelated, that I recommended Braun’s razor purely because of the product’s wonderful qualities  was influenced not one whit by the payola and the implicit promise of more, would you believe me?

If you would, you would be…well, I think the technical term would be “an idiot.” Yet that is the gist of the most recent outrage from the House of Representatives ethics committee, which  issued a report clearing the late Rep. John Murtha as well as Reps. Jim Moran (D-VA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Norm Dicks (D-WA),  Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), Todd Tahrt (R-Kan.) and Rep. Bill Young (R-FL) of acquiring lucrative earmarks for government contractors after the same contractors had sent them huge “contributions.”  Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Liev Schreiber, an Actor Who Understands the Duty to Act

The rescue situation is finally beginning to come into focus. If you are in need to be rescued in a public venue, you don’t want to have to depend on the rapid response of off-duty EMT’s or the assistance of on-duty security personnel. No, what you need nearby is a good, professional, quick-thinking, courageous Broadway actor.

Liev Schreiber, the star of the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s drama “A View From the Bridge,” rushed to the aid of an audience member who lost consciousness during a performance. The man’s wife began screaming for help, and when the theater house lights were turned on, Schrieber could be seen emerging from backstage and running down the aisle to where the unconscious man was sitting. The actor tried to offer aid to him until a physician emerged from the audience, and eventually the stricken audience member was placed in the care of paramedics. Continue reading

Marco Rubio Trips an Ethics Alarm

Florida Republicans have a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the proper response to a bracing ethics alarm. They can vote against Marco Rubio, the Tea Party-backed opponent of Governor Charley Crist in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate.

Whatever Rubio’s virtues, ideological or otherwise, he set off the alarm with this: according to a carefully researched story in the Miami Herald, Rubio used his party credit card—his business credit card, issued to him by the GOP to use for party-related expenses only—to pay for things like: Continue reading

To Ethics Alarms Readers: Apology Time

Boy, there were a lot of typos today! I think I fixed them all, but I want to apologize to the many readers of the original versions. The fact that I was writing posts while running around like a headless chicken was my problem, not yours, and my duties of competence and diligence, not to mention professionalism. required me to either meet proper editing standards or not post at all.

I thank you all for your tolerance, and will strive to do better, because you deserve better.

It would sure help if I could learn to proofread.

Ethics Hero: Johnny Depp

Hollywood celebrities frequently lend their prominence and notoriety to causes that are dubious or even harmful; Jenny McCarthy’s passionate promotion of now-discredited links between vaccines and autism are a recent and disturbing example. At other times, celebrities assert expertise on complex topics far beyond their competence or comprehension; this was a theme in Michael Crichton’s attack on global warming hysteria, State of Fear. Johnny Depp, however, has got it right. As his highly anticipated film “Alice in Wonderland” is about to be released and he has the media following his every move, Depp is using his fame and following to focus attention on what may be an egregious miscarriage of justice.

It is the case of the West Memphis Three. In 1993, police discovered the bodies of  three 8-year-olds, and there was immediate speculation that their killings had been part of a satanic ritual. Satanic cults were big in 1993, and long-haired Damien Echols became a suspect as much for his demeanor and reputation as for anything substantive. Indeed, there was no evidence tying him to the crime until a cognitively impaired boy named Jessie Misskelly Jr. told police that he helped Echols and Jason Baldwin kill the boys. Continue reading

The Dishonest or Cowardly Joke Excuse

An enthusiastic commenter to the post on Tony Kornheiser’s suspension by ESPN bases his defense of the suspended sports commentator on what I call “the joke excuse”: poor Tony was only joking when he insulted colleague Hannah Storm on his syndicated radio show, and that should insulate him from any negative consequences because humor is subjective, and we don’t want people without senses of humor snuffing out laughter in the world.

As anyone who actually has read the contents of this blog (the commenter in question has clearly not), I tend to be in general sympathy with the concept of giving humor free reign. The problem with its application here is that I see no evidence that Kornheiser was joking. His words:

“Hannah Storm in a horrifying, horrifying outfit today. She’s got on red go-go boots and a catholic school plaid skirt … way too short for somebody in her 40s or maybe early 50s by now. She’s got on her typically very, very tight shirt.She looks like she has sausage casing wrapping around her upper body … I know she’s very good, and I’m not supposed to be critical of ESPN people, so I won’t … but Hannah Storm … come on now! Stop! What are you doing?”

I’ll pause a second so you can catch your breath from uncontrollable laughter at Tony’s wit, deft use of irony. brilliant wordplay and creative absurdity. Continue reading

TGIF Ethics Round-up: Killer Whales, Palin-Hatred, MagicJack and More

Brief ethics notes on a wild week…

  • How dare the killer whale be a killer?…Tilikum, the killer whale who either playfully or maliciously killed his trainer at Orlando’s Sea World this week, will apparently stay in the facility. Some pundits (the ones I have heard were of the foaming-at-the-mouth conservative fanatic variety) regard it as absurd not to put down a murderous whale when a dog, bear or tiger that similarly ended a human life ( Tilikum may have ended three) would routinely be destroyed. One doesn’t have to be a PETA dues-payer to see this as advocacy for blatantly unfair retribution. Let’s see: Sea World takes a top-of-the-food-chain predator out of the oceans out of its natural environment, earns admission fees by making it perform tricks for the amusement of humans in a theme park, pays relatively tiny and fragile trainers to interact with the three ton beast, and when the predators does what it is naturally designed to do—kill—we blame the whale? Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week

“Let me just make this point, John, because we’re not campaigning anymore.  The election is over.”

———-President Barack Obama at the so-called “Health Care Summit” at Blair House, in response to Sen. John McCain’s complaint that the process used to craft the Presidents’ health care reform bill expressly violated promises Obama made during the 2008 campaign. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce Revisted: Jay McGwire

About a year ago, over on the Ethics Scoreboard, I made former baseball slugger Mark McGwire’s brother, Jay McGwire, an Ethics Dunce. At that time Mark McGwire was still mum about his widely-suspected steroid use, and his brother was  peddling a book proposal that supposedly exposed his home run-hitting bro’s cheating ways. I then wrote…

“… Brother Jay says he has written the book “out of love” for his brother, who no longer sees, speaks to him, nor, presumably, gives him hand-outs. Right. Jay McGwire is selling out his brother for cash. This is not a courageous whistleblower alerting a company to crime in its ranks. This is not a family member doing the right thing by refusing to help a parent, sibling, or offspring get away with child abuse, treason, fraud or murder. There is nothing admirable, selfless or courageous here. Jay McGwire wants money, and he is willing to embarrass and exploit his brother to get it.” Continue reading

The Paterson Scandal: Another Governor Bites the Ethics Dust

For weeks, rumors have been swirling around New York Governor David Paterson, indicating that the New York Times was about to drop a scandal bombshell that would mortally wound his political career. The rumors themselves became a story, bringing some sympathy to Paterson as a political figure being smeared by whispers and innuendo. Paterson, who became governor when his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, disgraced himself and his office by patronizing exactly the kind of prostitution ring he made his reputation prosecuting, was already unpopular and hadn’t helped himself any by claiming his unpopularity was fueled by media racism.

The good news for Paterson: from this point on, he needn’t worry about racism being the cause of his low approval ratings.

The bad news: The New York Times did have a scandal to investigate, and it shows the governor to be almost as great a hypocrite as Spitzer, as well as an abuser of his power and position. Continue reading