Ethics Audit: the Deep-Water Oil-Drilling Ban Saga

President Obama’s ban on deep-water oil drilling in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil disaster pits important ethical values against each other: fairness vs. responsibility. On both sides of the equation is prudence. New Orleans federal judge Martin Feldman over-ruled the ban and issued an injunction against it, saying in effect that there was no contest: the ban isn’t fair, prudent, or responsible.

The Obama Administration’s ethical argument supporting the ban goes something like this: Continue reading

The Perfect Wedding Reception

Let’s see: was it dumb, unethical, or dumb and unethical?

Time.com’s food writer Josh Ozersky had several major chefs do the cooking to celebrate his May 23 wedding, and then wrote a column suggesting to readers that it was a better way to go than traditional catering.

Especially if all of them cook for free, and the  food as well as the venue are provided free of charge, because you happen to be a food writer for Time.com. But Ozersky left out that part.

Go figure. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Geraldo Rivera

Geraldo Rivera has declared that Rolling Stone Magazine is a journalistic miscreant for not treating comments that weren’t expressly “on the record” as “off the record,” and reporting the derogatory comments of now-deposed Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his staff regarding  President Obama, Vice-President Biden, and others.  The upcoming article’s contents, he reasons, do no good and much bad, and are irresponsible…”a terrible thing.”

Some news media reporting in times of war are indeed irresponsible and unethical, as when the New York Times has published the details of intelligence operations. This is not such a case. Continue reading

Ethics Challenge: the Fisherman and the Pole Vaulter

Many readers disagreed with Ethics Alarms on its verdict in the women’s track and field tournament story, where the championship-winning pole vault was disqualified after the opposing coach complained that the vaulter was wearing a bracelet, which was specifically banned by the rules. I argued that the rule was clear and unambiguous, that the coaches had the duty of making sure each competitor followed it, and that simply pretending that the rule didn’t exist because the result of enforcing it was harsh was not an ethical option for the referees. The coach who flagged the rules was well within ethical limits by making sure that his team, which obeyed the rules, wasn’t defeated by a team that didn’t, even if the rule violated didn’t help it succeed.

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to explain why this recent scenario, in a very different sport, should be looked at differently from the track meet, or not. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: CNN

Eliot Spitzer, disgraced New York Governor, law-breaking lawyer, spectacularly unfaithful husband and hypocrite for the ages, is just perfect, in CNN’s eyes, for trenchant and probing news commentary. He will be co-hosting a new talking head show on the network, partnered with conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, who as far as we know hasn’t operated any prostitution rings, not that it would matter to CNN.

Thus will the venerable cable news network adopt the strategy that has worked so well for Fox News and too many other media organizations: find infamous people who have thoroughly humiliated themselves and betrayed those who have trusted them—individuals who by all principles of justice and fairness deserve to be relegated to permanent obscurity until they have proven by hard work, good deeds and appropriate contrition, that they may again be worthy of trust—and give exposure, celebrity and employment to these anti-role models rather than to any of the large number of more deserving, talented, honest, reliable and admirable professionals who are available and capable. Continue reading

Easy Ethics Call: Gen. McCrystal Must Go

Ignore, for the time being, the fact that several other high-ranking Obama officials richly deserve to be fired for egregious failings of honesty and competence. Gen. McChrystal, the commander in charge of  U.S. combat in Afghanistan, has followed in the unfortunate footsteps of General Douglas McArthur, who openly criticized President Harry Truman and lost his command as a result. McChrystal has to go too. Continue reading

The Center for Science in the Public Interest=Self-Righteous Bullies of the Month

We will begin with a proposition: “Toys do not make children fat.”  Certainly eating too much makes children fat.  Eating exclusively high-caloric foods makes children fat. Failing to exercise and sitting around playing video games all day can make children fat. Over-indulgent or unassertive parents, who allow their children to develop and continue bad eating and exercise habits, can help children get fat. But toys will not make children fat. Even if the kids eat the toys, they won’t get fat.

Nonetheless, the Center for Science in the Public Interest is threatening to sue MacDonald’s if it doesn’t stop putting little toys in its “Happy Meals.” The “You’re Going To Eat Tofu and Like It!” consumer group has sent a letter to the fast-food company, long a convenient villain for those who want to control our basic right to eat what we want to, giving them due notice that either they take those “Shrek” promotional toys out of the “Happy Meals,” or  it’s “see you in court.” Continue reading

Nursing Strike Ethics and the Coolidge Principle

“There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.”

Long before he was famous for his abrupt and verbally stingy one-liners, Calvin Coolidge’s best known quote was this one, and we forget it at our peril. The line probably made him President: its context was the Boston police force strike of 1919. Coolidge, then Governor of Massachusetts, sided against the strikers, who despite legitimate demands for better pay and working conditions, lost their jobs. The next generation of Boston police officers, mostly hired from the ranks of veterans of World War I, got the benefits the strikers sought.

Coolidge’s sentiment is still valid, though unpopular, as ever, with organized labor and public servant unions. It was the philosophical and historical basis for President Ronald Reagan’s firing of the striking air traffic controllers during his first term, despite stong public sympathy for their stand. Like the Boston Police in 1919, they also lost their jobs for ever.

12,000 nurses in Minnesota Nurses Association are eligible to vote today on a potential indefinite strike. Continue reading

Some Ethics Catch-Up Due on Climate Change

It is clear that the Obama Administration, if only to bolster the fading support of its most Left-ward constituency, is going to try a full-court press to get some form of carbon tax or “cap and trade” bill. These were once referred to as “climate change” measures, but since polls are showing that the American public’s belief in Al Gore’s jeremiad is waning fast, now these are “prevent more oil spills like the one going on now” bills. Obama, much to the global warming zealots’ dismay, only snuck in one little “climate” in his Oval Office speech, and that was without “change.”

This is all just politics, but the fact is that the American public has some straight talk coming, and it doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the horizon, or even the Deep Horizon. In the past year, the Climate Change Express has pretty much jumped the rails, with the collapse of international summit; the East Anglia “Climategate” revelations that supposedly objective scientists were blocking dissenting conclusions and hiding inconsistencies,  the uncovering of evidence of unprofessional  practices at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),  and some embarrassing pronouncements and predictions that appeared to be off by hundreds of years or so, or wrong entirely.

Despite all this, the U.S. media has been caught in a time warp, with no major news organizations altering their previous official conviction that the fact of catastrophic climate change and the main cause of it–human activity—are “settled science,” even though this is just plain false. Continue reading

What’s Wrong and Not Wrong About the BP CEO’s Yachting Weekend

Tony Heyward. the beset and beleaguered BP CEO who has become the public face of the oil company blamed for the devastating Gulf oil leak, took the weekend off to attend a yacht race off the Isle of Wight. For this he is being pummeled with more criticism, from Rahm Emanuel to Sen. Richard Shelby to angry bloggers on the Left, Right, and Center. Is going to a yacht race really that wrong, in ethical terms? Does it breach any duties or obligations? Here is the score card on what’s right, or at least “not wrong” about his conduct, and what is worthy of legitimate criticism. Continue reading