Thomas Boswell’s Outrageous Ethical Breach

In the first installment of Ken Burns’ latest addendum to his epic documentary “Baseball”, there is a considerable discussion of baseball’s steroid problem, and its effect on the game, its image, and integrity.  Washington Post sportswriter Thomas Boswell is one of those interviewed, and caused quite a few PBS watchers, including me, to drop their jaws when he volunteered this:

“There was another player now in the Hall of Fame who literally stood with me and mixed something and I said ‘What’s that?’ and he said ‘it’s a Jose Canseco milkshake.’ [ Note: Star outfielder Jose Canseco was widely believed to be a steroid user from early in his career, and he finally admitted it after retiring.] And that year that Hall of Famer hit more home runs than ever hit any other year. So it wasn’t just Canseco, and so one of the reasons that I thought that it was an important subject was that it was spreading. It was already spreading by 1988.”

Boswell, who knew exactly what the player meant by “Jose Canseco milkshake,” never reported the apparent use of steroids—illegal in 1988, as it is now— to the team, Major League Baseball, or the public. Continue reading

The Right Lesson From The Rutgers Sex Video Suicide

The tragedy can be blamed on moral luck.…bad moral luck. The two Rutgers students who humiliated a classmate by secretly taping a gay sexual encounter between him and another young man and live streaming it onto the internet couldn’t know that their sensitive victim would jump off a bridge to his death in despair. Most students would not react this way. Some might have a breakdown; some might seek revenge. Some might not even care. Raunchy teen hi-jinx gross-out comedies often feature equally awful “jokes” or worse, depicted as just part of the carefree, amoral life among uninhibited youths. This time, however, the prank killed. Everyone will look at students Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei as monsters now, because of the unpredictable result brought about by their cruel violation of a fellow student’s dignity and privacy. Continue reading

Chris Plante and the Cupcakes: Why You Can’t Trust Talk Show Hosts

A new Gallup poll shows that the public’s trust in news media has plunged to discouraging new (but completely deserved) levels. One of the side effects of this, the inevitable and correct result of  the incompetence, arrogance and bias of journalists and editors every single day, is that the public has begun to trust even less trustworthy sources. For example, a large proportion of twenty-somethings get their primary news information from the Daily Show, which is today’s equivalent of using Bob Hope’s monologues as a current events resource. This is foolish beyond words, because Jon Stewart’s professional obligation is to be entertaining, provocative and funny, not fair, accurate, or responsible. Indeed, if he has an opportunity to make a hilarious joke and doesn’t do it because it would require distorting the truth, he’s breaching a professional duty. He’s accountable to no one; he has no ethical standards to meet. It is unfair to rely on Jon Stewart for the news. He doesn’t want your trust: don’t trust him.

Others…older, but no wiser…go to public issue talk shows as their primary news sources. These people are not journalists either. They may be lawyers, former military men, spooks, authors, agitators, stealth political candidates,  or pundits; they may also be comedians, satirists, blowhards, ignoramuses, idiots, misanthropes, radicals, cynics, phonies or bigots. Among their ranks are too many agendas to count, in addition to those they all share: they want you to listen to them and adopt their views of the world. Those agendas are not conducive to truth either.

Some of the talk show hosts are less trustworthy than others. Take Chris Plante, for example—a B-list conservative talk show host whose primary tools are smugness and mockery. Continue reading

Ethics Heroes: “The American Muslim’s” American and Canadian Muslims

On the website The American Muslim, a statement has been posted that condemns the threatening and violent acts by Muslim extremists. Signed by approximately 200 Muslims so far, many of them distingusihed leaders and intellectuals in the Muslim community, it is welcome, helpful, and courageous.


“The Good Wife” Ethics, Season #2: Alicia, Kalinda, and Pretexting

The acclaimed CBS series “The Good Wife” premiered last night, with an episode called “Taking Control.” The title is ironic in one respect. Because the legal profession regards lawyers as being in control of the non-legal staff that works for them, good wife and whiz-bang attorney Alicia Florrick (played by Juliana Margulies) violated one of the most important legal ethics rules in the very first episode. This was far from unrealistic, however. Her ethical breach is not only a common one, but also one that many lawyers are careless about. It is also unethical conduct that the public assumes is standard practice for lawyers…because movies and TV shows make it seem that way. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: “Dancing With The Stars” Judge Bruno Tonioli

Bruno Tonioli, one of the judges on “Dancing With The Stars,” gave celebrity dance contestant Michael Bolton a lousy score for his lousy quickstep to the tune of “Hound Dog”with partner Chelsie Hightower, and reportedly Bolton’s  fellow dancing celebrities were “enraged”—especially since Tonioli said the performance was the “worst” dance he’s seen in 11 seasons. That may have been a little harsh, but not by much. His dancing was arguably not worse than, say, Tucker Carlson of a few seasons back, who never got out of a chair. Still, among past dance-challenged contestants who actually got on their feet, Bolton was about as bad as it gets. He made Kate Gosselin look like Cyd Charisse by comparison. Continue reading

Three Strikes—Wait—Four? Five? on Christine O’Donnell

At some point, the Tea Party stalwarts are going to have to accept the fact that Christine O’Donnell is an untrustworthy, credential fabricating dud, much like Mark Kirk, the G.O.P. Senate candidate in Illinois who has been caught embellishing his resume with fantasy and exaggeration. Continue reading

Mayhill Fowler and The Ethics of Quitting

The internet creates unfortunate opportunities for the fired, rejected, under-appreciated and disgruntled to do all sorts of harm to their previous employers and themselves. Former Huffington Post blogger Mayhill Fowler has considerately given us an object lesson in how not to leave a job, though at some personal sacrifice. Continue reading

Despite Evidence, Obama’s D.O.J., Democrats and News Media Stonewall Black Panther Case

The bizarre conduct of the Obama-Holder Department of Justice in refusing to to fully prosecute a 2008 instance of blatant voter intimidation at the polls by members of the New Black Panthers in Philadelphia has been denied by D.O.J. (despite a video that proves the Voting Rights Act violation ), ignored or buried by most major news sources (despite Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander chiding his own paper for failing the public with inadequate coverage of the story) and attacked as manufactured by Republicans by partisan Obama defenders  (despite the fact that, well, it just isn’t.) It is both disturbing and depressing that this conduct persists, long after the event itself, months after one Justice Department Civil Rights attorney quit to expose the episode publicly, and while the non-partisan U.S. Commission Civil Rights holds hearings on the case.

At issue is racial bias in Attorney General Erik Holder’s Civil Rights Division, which the Obama Administration must not permit, tolerate or excuse, but appears to be anyway. Continue reading

9-11 Conspiracy Claims: The Hate Crime We Cannot Stop, But Must Not Tolerate

The stated belief that the United States government murdered its own citizens and military personnel on September 11, 2001 is, if sincere, proof that an individual possesses intractable misconceptions, hatred and disrespect for America’s history, culture, and ideals. If the belief is not sincere, then the claim that the Bush administration orchestrated (or allowed) the Twin Towers and Pentagon attacks is an effort to harm our nation by destroying its reputation and honor, dragging it into the swamp of other nations to which murder and dictatorship are traditional. The First Amendment requires that we allow these individuals, be they deranged, sinister, irresponsible or merely stupid, to deny what makes the United States unique and slander its elected leaders, but it does not require that we accord them respect or tolerance. Continue reading