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

“Million Dollar Drop” Ethics: Not So Fast, Fox— Fork Over Some Money!

It’s one thing for Fox to post misleading headlines on its website and for Fox hosts to slander an international philanthropist but now its game show ethics have crashed and burned. An ethicist can only stand so much, dammit!

In the very first episode of the latest Fox effort to attract a prime time audience without adding anything of value to the culture or American thought—a combination quiz and gambling show called “Million Dollar Drop”—a couple bet $800,000 that they knew whether Post-It notes or the Sony Walkman  was “sold in stores” first. As the audience held its collective,breath, rooting for Gabe Okoye and his girlfriend, Brittany Mayti  to win big money in advance of their approaching wedding, game show host Kevin Pollack revealed that they were—awwwww!— wrong. The Walkman hit the stores first. Shortly thereafter, the couple lost the rest of their money (the show “gives” its constestants a million dollars that they have to risk on a series of questions) and went home poorer and dumber. Why dumber? Because the show’s researchers had arrived at the wrong answer, not Okoye and Mayti. Post-Its were sold first, though only regionally. Continue reading

Christmas: the Ethical Holiday

Benjamin Franklin recognized the importance of regularly focusing one’s attention on ethical conduct rather than the usual non-ethical goals, needs, desires and impulses that occupy the thoughts of even the most virtuous among us. He suggested that every morning an individual should challenge himself to do good during the day. In the 21st century psychologists call this “priming,” a form of beneficial self-brain-washing that plants the seeds of future choices.

The Christmas season operates as an effective form of mass population priming, using tradition, lore, music, poetry, ritual, literature, art and entertainment to celebrate basic ethical virtues and exemplary conduct toward other human beings. Continue reading

“Books for Christmas?!” A Christmas YouTube Ethics Lesson…For Parents

Last year, a three-year old opened a Christmas present and told off his parents when he discovered a book instead of a toy. So amuses were the parents at their offspring’s absence of gratitude and manners that they put the video of his disappointed response on YouTube. This Christmas, the video has gone suddenly viral, and there are dozens of web posts all over cyberspace holding the little ingrate up as an exemplar of all that’s wrong with Christmas, children, America, materialism, and more. Many commenters are suggesting just desserts for this budding illiterate, like no Christmas presents at all, nothing but books as presents from now until puberty, or nothing but books by Dean Koonzt, Sarah Palin, or  Marcel Proust. That’ll teach him. Continue reading

Unintended Consequences of Carelessly Written Ethics Rules Dept: Alaska Admits That Palin Was Victimized

Once she had annoyed the Left and  sparked a media vendetta against her during the 2008 presidential campaign, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was a marked woman. She had made some serious ethical missteps in the handling of her ex-brother-in-law’s employment with the state, but most of the ethics complaints made against her—there were over twenty-five—were pure harassment, generated by political foes. Unfortunately, Alaska has previously responded to its long history of official corruption by establishing a system that allowed any citizen to file an ethics complaint against a governor and trigger an investigation, leaving the targeted official to foot the bill. Nothing in the procedure prevented frivolous or malicious complaints, and that’s what most of what the complaints against Palin were.

Now, as of December 22, the law has changed. Continue reading

Hero, Villain or Hypocrite: The Dilemma of the Undercover Dog-Fighter

The limits of absolutism and the drawbacks of utilitarianism both come under scrutiny in assessing the strange saga of Terry Mills, whom the ASPCA recently appointed as its Animal Fighting Specialist.

Beyond question, this is a job he is uniquely qualified to hold. In 2008, Mills worked for the FBI’s domestic-terrorism task force, and went under-cover for more than a year to expose and break up a national dog-fighting ring. His efforts resulted in many arrests, and the rescue of more than 500 animals. Accomplishing all of this, however, required Mills to become part of the culture he was attacking. He trained and fought his own dogs, engaging in the very cruelty he was working to prevent. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: President Obama

According to a tweet today from Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, President Obama has quit smoking,

A president’s habits, be it “the vigorous life” of Teddy Roosevelt, not wearing a hat, like Jack Kennedy, or regarding fellatio from interns as “not sex,” as Bill Clinton did, have the power to change public attitudes and conduct for better or worse. This must have been an especially difficult time for Barack Obama to quit his long-time smoking habit, which typically is a response to stress. Despite perhaps the most stressful period in his life, the President did the right thing, and as good leaders must, to set an example.

We will never know for sure how much or how many, but his responsible conduct will undoubtedly change some behavior, and save some lives.