Dwarf Tossing Is Back. So What?

The traditional "throwing out the first dwarf" ceremony....

Dwarf tossing, a bar sport or spectacle or satire or something, was briefly in the news early last decade. Helmeted and padded little people were used as discuses or bowling balls by large, burly, often intoxicated men. It was weird; it could arguably be funny. Advocates for the unusually small got the activity banned in Florida and New York, and in Canada, while bills to ban it failed, public opinion opposing the games pretty much made dwarf tossing obsolete, like making fun of Paris Hilton.

Now comes the news that a strip joint in Ontario is reviving the sport, and  has scheduled a competition. Critics are horrified and outraged, because, well, they are horrified and outraged. Dwarf tossing, they say, is unethical.

Why? Continue reading

Easy Question With A Sad Answer: If The New York Times Is The Nation’s Most Respected Newspaper, What Does The Patrick Witt Story Say About The State of American Journalism?

Patrick Witt, rapist. Well, accused rapist. OK, he was accused of something that might have been rape.All right, all right, we can't say what he is accused of or did, but he must be a bad guy, or we wouldn't be publishing this story about what some people say he did. Because the public has a right to know. Thank god for Freedom of the Press!

The jaw-dropping Patrick Witt story in Friday’s New York Times was heavy on my mind when I wrote yesterday’s post about the collapse of the news media’s ethical standards. I decided that it needed its own spotlight. When I read the piece about Yale’s former quarterback, what kept going through my mind was, “What does the Times think it’s doing?” I still can’t figure it out.

Reporter Richard Perez-Pena uses an anonymous complaint of sexual assault levied against Witt as justification for raising questions about a young man’s integrity and character and to undermine his reputation with innuendo, speculation and rumor. The article would be outrageous if it was written about a public figure. Publishing such a cruel and unfair attack on a relatively obscure student athlete defies all reason. Obviously, it is also bottom of the barrel journalism…from America’s premier newspaper. Continue reading

Let’s Be Clear: Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal Is A Disgrace, And He Must Resign

We're praying for you, Mike---to get the Hell out.

Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal is refusing to resign his post in the wake of an uproar of his own making. In December, the legislator sent an email to his fellow Republicans asking them to pray Psalm 109,  an unusual and mean-spirited psalm that calls for the death of a leader. The Psalm says, in lines 7-12:

When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin.
    Let his days be few; and let another take his office.
    Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.
    Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.
    Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labor.
    Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children.’ Continue reading

Comment of the Day: Ethics Blindness at Joe Pa’s Memorial Service

Paterno's inaction: bliviousness...or willful blindness?

In the ongoing debate among Joe Paterno sympathizers (and I don’t mean that pejoratively) and those who believe the late Penn State icon failed his ethical obligations miserably and deserved all the criticism he received, several interesting themes have arisen, including whether “obliviousness” is an excuse, whether critics are engaging in “wahlberging”–that is, claiming that they would have handled a difficult situation better when it costs them nothing to make the claim—and whether the Sandusky incident should be permitted to cloud Paterno’s legacy at Penn State, or should be over-shadowed by it. In this Comment of the Day, Proam covers these topics in response to a commenter who wrote, “Other posters who have tried to in any way justify Paterno’s actions/lack of action – GET REAL!”  Here is his comment, to the post, “Ethics Blindness at Joe Pa’s Memorial Service.” I’ll have some reactions at the end. Continue reading

As News Media Sinks To New Ethics Lows, Some Friendly—And Urgent— Advice

One of many news story warning labels devised by Tom Scott (http://www.tomscott.com/warnings/)

The profession of journalism has now sunk to a point of incompetence and untrustworthiness that constitutes a serious threat, not only to itself, but also to the United States, which must have honest and reliable news sources to function and thrive. As currently constructed, the profession of journalism does not possess the tools or the will to address its crisis. Two recent examples should suffice.

The Saturday before Joe Paterno died, a tweet from a Penn State student-run website erroneously announced that Paterno was already dead. The tweet was immediately picked up by CBS Sports, and subsequently by the news web sites The Daily Beast and the Huffington Post. Howard Kurtz, supposedly the preeminent  media ethics watchdog, re-tweeted the false news himself. Many other journalists did the same. But it was all based on a hoax.  Paterno was still alive. Continue reading

Unethical Endorsement of the Month: Former Rep. Duke Cunningham

It's not just Duke...this guy's in Newt's corner too!

Duke Cunningham’s endorsement of Newt Gingrich’s presidential candidacy is like the kiss of death.

Here is what the former California Republican Congressman, currently in federal prison for multiple convictions on bribery, corruption and tax evasion charges, sent his former House Speaker as Newt struggled to keep his candidacy thriving while being battered by critics from all ends of the political spectrum:

“Newt, a voice out of the past. Down but not out and still fighting. First I do not want anything from you but have been watching the debates. I have 80% of inmates that would vote for you. They might not be able to but their extended families will.”

In a word—unbelievable. If Cunningham is trying to sink Gingrich, the endorsement of a dishonest pol like him, along with the news that Newt’s a penitentiary favorite, is an excellent, if under-handed and deceitful, way to do it. If Cunningham wants to help Gingrich, he could hardly be more incompetent and reckless about it. Has he never heard of cognitive dissonance? When someone most people regard as untrustworthy and dishonest endorses a candidate, that candidate will be pulled down closer to the endorser’s low level of esteem.

A few more endorsements like this—Rev. Wright and Bernie Madoff, maybe?—and that would be the end of Gingrich for President. Whatever Cunningham’s endorsement is—deluded, diabolical or stupid, it’s an unethical endorsement from an unethical man, because the endorsement of someone like Cunningham does the opposite of what endorsements are supposed to do.

Thanks and Mea Culpa

The discussion on Ethics Alarms has been especially lively, diverse and interactive this week, and I want to thank all who participated for their time, passion, reason and civility. My goal has always been to foster better ethical analysis through dialogue, and I consider what I read the past several days to be a significant advance. I am grateful to everyone, especially so because it has been a hectic and difficult period for me.

I also am aware that the typos have been proliferating again, and I apologize to all. It is irritating, not to mention confusing, to have to read posts with errors, and it is unprofessional for me to allow the errors to occur. There can be no excuse for it, and I am truly sorry. Unfortunately, I can’t type, I have always been a poor speller, and I am an even worse proof-reader of my own work. Believe it or not, I proof each post at least four times, and use two different spell-check programs. I have begun to re-proof every day’s output before I go to bed, and it is astonishing how often I find typos that slipped through. Skipping a word that I heard in my head (and then read when it isn’t there) is the most common mistake, followed by typing “ed” instead of “es” at the end of words. The typos are more common when I am on the road, like this week, and have to work on my old, small, netbook with the missing keys.

I will continue to make improving this long-time flaw a top priority, and I remain very grateful for those of you, especially the two Jeffs and my old editor Patrice, who have been especially alert and kind enough to  flag my mistakes. Meanwhile, I continue to return to past posts—all 2, 232 of them, and search for typos to fix. And, dammit, I find them, too.

Once again, thanks, everybody, both for your contributions and your patience.