Ethics Quiz: The Re-cycled Sperm Trick

I think we all will agree that a woman obtaining a man’s semen via oral sex, secretly saving it, and using it to impregnate herself is unethical, correct? And that even if some fool court requires the deceived man to pay child support, the entire episode is outrageously dishonest, irresponsible and unfair?

This apparently happened to a Chicago man five years ago, and he is suing his former Lewinsky for the infliction of emotional distress. This seems inadequate. The use of a man’s sperm to produce his child without his consent in a surreptitious, deceitful manner should probably be a criminal offense—applying the Ethics Alarms principle that the law must often step in when ethics fail—and your challenge is to determine:

  • What conduct should the theoretical law prohibit?
  • What is an appropriate punishment for violating the law, as in the Chicago case?
  • How, if at all, should the law address the welfare or the innocent child?

Or do you think there should be a law at all?

My answer, after I’ve absorbed all of your wisdom, will follow.

On a related note, one upside of this revolting incident may be that it ends the ridiculous, Bill Clinton-fertilized argument that fellatio isn’t sex. I sure hope so. If only this had happened to Bill…what a great Lifetime movie it would have made!

[Again, thanks to Jeff Hibbert for the tip.]

The Giffords Fiasco, Continued: “Gaby Giffords For Senator”

Would Arizona Democrats run El Cid for the Senate?

The Gaby Giffords saga has officially moved from irresponsible to offensive.

If Rep. Giffords, shot in the head by Jared Loughner in January, is able to return to her challenging job after such a violent brain injury, she will be the first such victim to do so in medical history. She has been incapacitated for three months, and her inability to return to her duties for the rest of 2011, one-half her term, is assured barring a miracle of Biblical proportions. But no effort is being made to fill her de facto empty seat, and it increasingly looks as if her staff, party and supporters are determined to keep her in a job she cannot perform, Arizona and the Congress be damned, for her entire term.

This is irresponsible enough, but now there is this: the New York Times reports that Giffords’s aides, backers and supporters are seriously laying the groundwork for Giffords—who currently cannot speak, except in short sentences—to run for retiring Senator Jon Kyl’s  seat 2012: Continue reading

The Teacher’s Pilgrimage


In August 2008, nine months after starting her job as a middle school math teacher in Berkeley, Ill., Safoorah Khan asked her school to give her three weeks off in December for a pilgrimage to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. Though a Muslim is supposed to make the pilgrimage, called a hajj, once in a lifetime and Khan was under 30, she insisted that this was the time for her to go, and believed that the school’s refusal—it argued that having to replace her for that length of time in the middle of the school year was unfair to the students and a burden on the school’s budget—was discriminatory. She quit, made her pilgrimage, and thus infused with the wisdom of Allah is suing the pants off of her former employers. Her lawsuit alleges that by refusing to make a “reasonable accommodation” to her request, it was discriminating against her on the basis of her religion.

Meanwhile, Eric Holder’s Justice Department is joining the case on her side. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: NBC

An Ethics Dunce, in ten easy steps

  1. General Electric Co. earned $14.2 billion in worldwide profits last year, including $5.1 billion in the United States, and paid exactly zero dollars in federal taxes.
  2. This especially interesting because Jeffrey Immelt, G.E’s CEO, is also the Obama’s administration’s link to corporate America.
  3. The story was widely reported by the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, ABC, CBS, Fox, CNN, and thousands of lesser media outlets.
  4. NBC is owned by General Electric.
  5. NBC could not find room in its news broadcasts for the tax story. Continue reading

The Fireman, the Cheater, and Media Muddling

Come on, Robert! It's less embarrssing than Joey's gonorrrhea poster!

One of the reasons I launched The Ethics Scoreboard and later Ethics Alarms was that I felt  the media did not recognize ethics stories and failed to cover them. Well, more ethics stories are finding their way into the news, but true to the warning “Be careful what you wish for,” the reports usually botch them, and get the ethics lessons wrong. The saga of Enzo and the “Barefoot Contessa” was a particularly nauseating example, but there have been others recently. For example… Continue reading

What Your Boss Shouldn’t Ask You To Do

"And I won't dress like that, either!"

Reading all the comments from readers who think sick children and their mothers have the right to demand our time and attention, no matter what our own needs and responsibilities may be, made me think again about a persistent issue in the workplace. What constitutes a reasonable and fair request from an employer to his employees, other than to do their jobs diligently, honestly and well?

I have encountered this issue several times in my career, and it impeded that career, such as it is, more than once. For example, I do not believe that an employer can tell you, or even ask you, to participate in a charity of the employer’s choosing. He, she or it cannot demand that you spend your weekends painting the houses of the poor, either. Nor is it ethical for an employer to make you play softball or climb mountains under the bizarre conviction that these activities improve office performance. Continue reading

The Strange and Telling Case of the Illiterate Novelist

True, it was a lousy book, but at least the sentences were grammatical.

I have noticed of late a disturbing trend, the literary equivalent of those who play their car radios and sound systems at ear-splitting volume with the windows down, or youths who converse in shouts in public places. The trend is proliferation of the proud and unapologetic illiterates,  authors of e-mails, blog posts or even published material who regard the basics of punctuation, grammar, spelling and rhetoric as an annoying inconvenience, and who not only pay little heed to these archaic matters, but also display no regret about the barely readable products that result.

At this point, I am less concerned with why so many of those who communicate in writing are so shamelessly sloppy, and more interested in what the trend signifies for our society. Perhaps some insight can be gained by examining a recent exchange between a grammar and spelling-challenged novelist and a reviewer of her work on a book review blog called “Books and Pals.” Continue reading