Colbert King, Obama Abuse, Bias and Double Standards

Washington Post columnist Colbert King is an around-the-clock Ethics Hero, a relentless journalist investigator and critic of government corruption in Washington. D.C. He has an impeccable sense of right and wrong, as well as intolerance for public betrayal by elected officials. Yet this undeniably ethical, fair man, who eschews rationalizations at all costs while applying rigorous ethical analysis, cannot see a double standard when it is staring back at him from his own computer screen. His is a frightening tale of the power of bias.

In today’s Post, King expresses fury and pain over last week’s despicable birther drama, feelings that I share. He is revolted at the racist undertones of the “joke” photo e-mailed to friends by an Orange County Republican official as am I. He is horrified by the high percentage of Republicans polled who question Obama’s religion and national origin, as indeed he should be And without any sense of irony, King writes… Continue reading

Colorado’s Adultery Dilemma

Relax! It's're in Colorado!

In most states, adultery is one of the great examples of how something can be wrong and destructive without being illegal, a useful concept to have in mind when a corrupt politician or a crooked corporate executive  says “I didn’t break any laws!” It is also a good example of unethical conduct that is better controlled by ethics than law. A law against adultery is theoretically defensible as a deterrent of harmful social conduct, and the state definitely has an interest in preserving family stability. The problem is that regulating offenses triggered by love, lust and romance feels excessively intrusive to most of us. It has overtones of the Plymouth colony. For better of worse, minimizing adultery belongs in the realm of ethics, not the criminal law. Continue reading

Calm Down, Hannity! Superman’s Decision is Super-Ethical.

It's all for the best.

Sean Hannity is outraged at Superman for renouncing his U.S. citizenship in the upcoming issue of Action Comics. Sean, as is often the case, just doesn’t understand.

Superman’s wrenching decision, far from being a rejection of the values of his adopted homeland, is a true sacrifice, and undeniably in the best interests of the United States. His renunciation arises from the diplomatic problems that will inevitably result when a superhero attempts to fight injustices in other nations. How can Superman continue to do what he believes is right on a world stage, when his American citizenship makes his actions appear to be official U.S. policy? Obviously, becoming a superman without a country is the remedy. Continue reading

Is Flogging More Ethical Than Incarceration?

Ah, those were the good old days!

Peter Moskos is about to publish a book entitled “In Defense of Flogging.” He’s not really advocating a return to the Cat O’ Nine Tails, however, but engaging in a so-called “thought experiment”, which Moskos, an assistant professor of law, police science, and criminal-justice administration at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, summarizes at the end of his article on the topic (in the Chronical of Higher Education) like this:

“So is flogging still too cruel to contemplate? Perhaps it’s not as crazy as you thought. And even if you’re adamant that flogging is a barbaric, inhumane form of punishment, how can offering criminals the choice of the lash in lieu of incarceration be so bad? If flogging were really worse than prison, nobody would choose it. Of course most people would choose the rattan cane over the prison cell. And that’s my point. Faced with the choice between hard time and the lash, the lash is better. What does that say about prison?”

I’ll answer that:  it says that imprisonment is a better and more efficient punishment for serious crimes than flogging, and who didn’t know that? Continue reading

Ethics Hero Emeritus: Phoebe Snow 1950-2011

She sang a little too.

I thought Phoebe Snow had died long ago, when she was really just being an Ethics Hero.

In the mid-1970’s, the strong-voiced writer and singer of “Poetry Man” had two gold records at the young age of 26. She was hailed by critics as one of the most interesting and versatile singers in the pop world. “She appeared on ‘Saturday Night Live’ and recorded duets with Paul Simon and Jackson Browne. She made the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, which pronounced her voice ‘a natural wonder,’” recalled the Washington Post in her obituary today. Phoebe Snow was an entertainer and an artist, and had reached the place where all artists strive to reach but few ever do: being paid a fortune to do what she loved and was talented at doing.

In December 1975, she had given birth to a daughter, Valerie Rose, with severe brain damage and other disabilities. Most recording stars of her stature, as well as actors and those in other intense, lucrative and competitive fields in the arts and out of them, would have placed Valerie in an institution. (Arthur Miller, the moralist playwright, not only institutionalized his Down Syndrome son during his Broadway career but hid his existence from the public.) Snow, however, put her show business success on hold to care for her daughter. Continue reading

The Sex and Werewolf-Obsessed Novelist (But NOT Naked!) Teacher Principle

Could YOUR English teacher have written this?

Mild-mannered  Judy Buranich has taught high school English in Pennsylvania’s Midd-West School District for 33 years, always with the accolades of parents and students. Until recently, however, she had successfully kept a very different second occupation secret: under the pen name “Judy Mays,” she has forged a niche in the genre novel field, writing erotic fantasy suspense tales about lusty women who are typically involved in complex love-triangles where one or more participants are outer space aliens, vampires, or especially werewolves. On the Judy Mays website, a synopsis of her latest novel, “Undercover Heat,” reports:

“Melody Gray has a dilemma, two of them really. First, a CIA agent name Nick Price has appeared at her detective agency looking for a former client of hers named Jake Fields….What Nick isn’t telling Melody is that he’s really searching for Jake because his superior believes he’s a werewolf, not that Nick believes in them….What Melody isn’t telling Nick is that Jake Hurley is really Garth Gray, her brother.  She knows exactly why Nick Price is hunting her brother.  After all, Garth is really a werewolf.  So is Melody for that matter…. Continue reading

Don’t Cheer Mississippi’s Westboro Baptist Tactics Too Loudly: You Never Know Who Might Hear You

"Demonstrators? Just leave them to us."

Sgt. Jason Rogers, who was killed in action in Afghanistan, was buried two weeks ago in Brandon, Mississippi. As is its custom, the Westboro Baptist Church, fresh from U.S. Supreme Court-confirmed constitutional protection, was prepared to sully Sgt. Rogers’ funeral with its usual hateful chants about how God kills our soldiers to punish our sinful, homosexual-loving ways. Its plans were foiled, however, by a little bit of traditional Mississippi social control ingenuity.

A couple of days before the funeral, one of Fred Phelps’ vile cultists boasted about the upcoming protest while visiting a Brandon gas station, and the good citizenry on the scene gave him the sound beating they felt his sentiments warranted. Continue reading

The Ethicists, Backing Judge Walker and Gay Marriage, At An Unacceptable Price

"Oh, all long as we like the decision."

Thanks to the Judge Walker controversy, now have proof that the best legal ethicists in the nation are human. I suppose that’s something.

My colleagues in the legal ethics field are arguing—decreeing, really— that Judge Vaughn Walker’s decade-long same-sex relationship didn’t need to be disclosed before he ruled against Proposition 8 (California’s voter-approved gay marriage ban) because, they say, it created no reasonable doubts about his impartiality. Coincidentally, they also really, really like his decision. But then, so do I. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “The Hazing Abuse of Michael Warren”

Reminding us that one or even several incidents can’t give us the full whole measure of an organization, Hartwick College alum Fred Stoss recalls an act of courage and principle by the fraternity that hazed Michael Warren. Let Fred tell the story:

“I cannot defend the actions of what happened to Mr. Warren. I am a member of Alpha Delta Omega Fraternity, having pledged in 1969 and served as its President from 1971 to 1972. During this time our fraternity was a rather diverse community of whites, blacks, browns, Protestants (Hartwick was then a Lutheran College), Catholics, and Jewish. There is, however, a piece of ADO history (taken from the ADO FaceBook site) that deserves mention: Continue reading

The Incredible Self-Disproving Rationalization!

A Chicago scene website is highlighting businesses serving citizens of the Windy City that market lies.  It focuses on three of the breed. The first, The Alibi Network, was one of my Unethical Websites of the Month years ago. For a fee, it will concoct and document elaborate support for excuses, fake illnesses, adulterous getaways masquerading as business trips. It’s the kind of enterprise George Costanza might have started; if you have a strong stomach, you can read about it here.  The second is “Rent-a-Date,” which is less objectionable than it is sad, an escort service with no sex, for guys who can’t get a date and want to impress employers, old classmates and other shallow people by hiring one and pretending that the relationship is real. You know, George would have used this one, too.

The third of these slimy businesses, however, is truly awful, an outfit called “The Reference Store”
The business creates phony former employers, complete with websites and local phone numbers, for job seekers worldwide. (You know, George could have used this service to give credibility to his favorite fake reference, “Vandelay Industries”! It’s a George Costanza Tri-fecta!) Continue reading