A Missing Dollar, a Jackpot, and Seven Lousy Friends (UPDATED)

Gordon Gekko was full of it. Greed isn’t good, and the Hacienda Hills Country Club lottery ticket affair proves it. It is also an example of when the legal resolution of a controversy is very complicated, but the ethical verdict is a cinch.

For nine years, 72 year-old Jeanette French was part of the group of retirement community residents and employees at the Villages’ Hacienda Hills Country Club that pooled money each week to buy Florida lottery tickets, each putting in a dollar. She didn’t make it to the Golf Shop where the group met one lottery day, but that French didn’t think that was a problem: the established practice was that another member of the group would put in a dollar for the missing member, who would pay him or her back the next day. The day that Jeannette had other commitments, her group bought what turned out to be the winning ticket, to the tune of $16 million in the Florida lottery.

Yippee! Jeanette’s seven good friends, however, now argue that she has no right to a share of the winnings, because nobody put in that dollar for her. Continue reading

SyFy and the Absence of Integrity: A Case Study

At TV.com, there is a fascinating account of the evolution of the Sci Fi Channel, once cable’s reliable source for science fiction programming, into SyFy, which is nothing of the sort. As the article points out, the two individuals who have run the channel since 2002, Bonnie Hammer and Dave Howe, appear not to like, understand, or trust the genre their channel supposedly was dedicated to advancing. Now, having cancelled the two shows its science fiction fans most enjoyed, “Caprica” and “Stargate Universe,” SyFy is a bona fide whatsis, with a schedule that includes professional wrestling, cheesy horror movies, ghost hunter and psychic reality shows, and whatever else Hammer and Howe think will attract what they regard as a non-geek audience.

Here is the problem: Continue reading

Gee, Thanks a Bunch, Chris…Big Lie Ethics and Obama’s Birth Certificate

Great. Now Chris Matthews is giving support to the birther conspiracy theory.

The excitable MSNBC host recently asked why President Obama doesn’t just put the suspicion and rumors to rest by giving the OK for Hawaii to release his original birth certificate, thus proving that he was born a U.S. citizen and ending the claims that Obama is really foreign-born and never was eligible to become President of the United States. By lending his credibility and perceived legitimacy to the lament of the birthers, Matthews has engaged in irresponsible conduct and done a disservice to the President, the office of the President and the nation. Continue reading

Observations on “The Psychic’s Code of Ethics”

I was surprised to find a long dissertation about ethics posted on a website for self-designated psychics. [UPDATE: The link that I originally supplied here no longer works.] The post itself was also full of surprises, such as the revelation that there is a “Tarot Certification Board of America’s Client Bill of Rights,” which declares, among other things, that…

“Tarot readers are not qualified to give medical advice unless they are physicians. Tarot readers are not qualified to give financial advice unless they are qualified financial advisors. Tarot readers are not qualified to give legal advice unless they are attorneys.”

This is all good ethical advice. Notably missing, however, is the statement that “Tarot readers are not qualified to tell individuals what the future holds in store for them since it is impossible to discern this from reading novelty playing cards.” Continue reading

“True Grit” Ethics

I haven’t seen the remake of “True Grit,” but I know I will, and like many other fans of the original 1969 version, I’m trying to conquer my biases. The latest effort by the usually brilliant Coen brothers creates ethical conflicts for me, and I am hoping I can resolve them right now. Can I be fair to their work, while being loyal to a film that is important to me for many reasons?

The original, 1969 “True Grit” won John Wayne his only Oscar for his self-mocking portrayal of fat, seedy law man Rooster Cogburn, 

who is hired by a young girl to track down her father’s murderer. I love the film; I saw it on the big screen nine times, in fact. Remaking it with anyone else in the starring role feels like an insult, somehow, as if the Duke’s version was somehow inadequate.

Intellectually, I know that’s nonsense. Artists have a right to revisit classic stories and put their personal stamp on them, and they should be encouraged to do it. Every new version of a good story, if done well, will discover some unmined treasure in the material. Why discourage the exploration? Continue reading

Ethics Progress: America Kicks Its Kennedy Addiction

For more than 60 years, descendants of tycoon/bootlegger/diplomat/influence-peddler Joseph P. Kennedy have held elite elected positions of power in the U.S. Government. The reason for this has not, in most cases, been the remarkable talents of the family members involved, nor their accomplishments, wit or demonstrated expertise on anything related to public affairs. Voters have elected the Kennedys because of their last name, because too many of them were lazy celebrity worshippers rather than responsible citizens. Continue reading

Campaign Contributions During Key Votes: Call It Bribery

The quote from Sen. Max Baucus’s spokeperson instantly becomes a leading candidate for “Lie of the Year.”

“Money has no influence on how Senator Baucus (D-Montana) makes his decisions,” Kate Downen told the Washington Post. “The only factor that determines Senator Baucus’s votes is whether a policy is right for Montana and right for our country.” Is there any American so naive as to still believe this, not just about Baucus but about any member of Congress? The Post reports that despite Senate and House rules forbidding it, campaign contributions routinely spike when important bills are about to be voted upon. The sources of the sudden gifts to the lawmakers? Individuals, organizations and corporations who will benefit from the law’s passage or defeat. Continue reading