Ethics Dunce: Rapper and Hip-Hop Music Mogul Ryan Leslie

I wouldn't mess with this guy. No way.

I wouldn’t mess with this guy, Ryan.  No way. But be my guest…

The real mystery for me in this silly scenario is why the rapper would think he could publicly promise a $1 million reward and not have to make good on it. Any rational theories will be received with pleasure.

Ryan Leslie, who has penned a hit song or two and performs as a hip-hop artist himself, had his laptop and external hard-drive stolen while he was on tour in Cologne, Germany two years ago. Apparently he felt that the demos and songs on the equipment had potential, because he offered $20,000 for the laptop and hard-drive’s return. When that didn’t work, he upped the reward to $1 million. A man named Armin Augstein found the computer while walking his dog in a park not far from where the computer had been taken, and he turned it over to German police. When the man claimed his reward, Leslie refused to hand it over, claiming that Augstein must have been involved in the theft, though police found no evidence supporting that allegation. Continue reading

The Ethics Agony of Angus T. Jones

How could such a lucky kid complain?

Angus Jones, the “Half” of CBS’s resilient sitcom “Two and a Half Men, ” is receiving heavy doses of criticism and mockery in entertainment circles (and Blog World, of  course) for being so ungrateful and graceless as to post a YouTube video condemning the very TV show that has made him rich and famous over the last nine years, taking him from childhood to majority. The video was posted by the Alabama-based church Forerunner Chronicles, which apparently Baptized Jones recently. “You cannot be a true God-fearing person and be on a television show like [‘Two and a Half Men’]. I know I can’t. I’m not okay with what I’m learning, what the Bible says, and being on that television show.” He goes on to say,

“I’m on ‘Two and a Half Men’ and I don’t want to be on it. Please stop watching it. Please stop filling your head with filth.”

Is this disloyal and ungrateful conduct toward a show, a cast and employers that have given Jones wealth, celebrity and fame? Undoubtedly. If he had come by this station in life through his own efforts and fully informed choices, I would agree with the Hollywood chorus accusing the 19-year-old of “biting the hand that feeds him.” Jones, however, was indentured to “Two and a Half Men” at the age of ten, which is to say that he had little say in it or his life path so far. His parents, like the parents of most child actors, decided that his innate performing talent was worth a lot of money to them and him, and that this was reason enough to launch him into a field with a century-long track record of turning children into dysfunctional celebrity addicts, often setting them on the road to addiction, isolation, depression, failure, and death. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: Sen. Lindsey Graham

“If you can give nothing but bad information, isn’t it better to give no information?”

—- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), during a press conference on Nov. 27th, during which he reiterated his position that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice had knowingly and intentionally misled the American public regarding the fatal attack on the Benghazi compound on 9/11, in her appearances on multiple news shows five days later repeating “talking points” to the effect that the attacks had been spontaneous and sparked by an anti-Muslim video.


Even many liberal commentators are now conceding that Rice was being a “good soldier” on September 16, carrying a technically accurate but intentionally misleading message that seems to have been designed by Obama campaign strategists to make sure the death of an American ambassador in Libya wasn’t seen as a refutation of Obama’s claims to a successful handling of that nation’s struggles or a contradiction of the argument that “his” killing of Bin Laden had Al Qida on life support. After all the attacks on Republicans Senators McCain, Graham and Kelly Ayotte for their condemnation of Rice for her part in the Obama campaign’s spinning, including accusations of racism from Congressional Black Caucus members and the affirmatively weird complaint by President Obama (which seems to be that as long as Rice was repeating what she had been programmed to say by others she shouldn’t be held personally responsible for the content of her own public statements),Graham in particular has refused to back off his criticism, and cheers to him for that. Continue reading

What’s Wrong With The “Crews Missile”

Nick Crews, trying tough-love without that tricky “love” part.

I was happily unaware of the e-mail that retired Royal Navy officer Nick Crews sent to his son and two daughters in February, expressing his and his wife’s disappointment in them, until an attorney brought it to my attention during my legal ethics seminar yesterday. Apparently the screed made Crews something of a folk hero in Great Britain. In other news, the Brits elevate jerks to folk heroes just like we do.

Crews decided that he and his wife had reached the end of their ropes with their three adult children’s career and domestic misadventures, so he felt what the kiddies needed was a swift kick in the pants, old school. He wrote all of them a withering e-mail denouncing them as failures and fools. Some samples:

  • “Which of you, with or without a spouse, can support your families, finance your home and provide a pension for your old age? Each of you is well able to earn a comfortable living and provide for your children, yet each of you has contrived to avoid even moderate achievement. Far from your children being able to rely on your provision, they are faced with needing to survive their introduction to life with you as parents.” Continue reading

Untrustworthy NIH

This is what the horror movie outbreak looked like. The real one? We don’t know.

In Barry Levinson’s (terrific, scary) eco-horror movie “The Bay,” slug-like sea creatures mutated by toxic waste eat their way through the faces and bodies of the residents of a Chesapeake Bay community, as medical authorities carefully keep the story under wraps from the rest of Maryland and the nation. At the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda last year, a different kind of monster bug was on the loose: the antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as Klebsiella pneumoniae.  For six months the bacteria spread, eventually infecting 17  NIH patients, killing at least six of them. Doctors took extraordinary precautions to keep the so-called “superbug” from getting out into the population, but such measures didn’t include telling the city, county or state what was happening, or informing non-physician staff, many of whom were at risk of infection, about the bacteria outbreak. The full story didn’t come to light until August of this year, when NIH researchers published a scientific paper describing the advanced genetic technology they used to trace the outbreak. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: The Associated Press

BB is not pleased with the AP this day…

A bit more of this kind of thing will have me back on my feet in no time:

The Associated Press has changed its style book to oppose some euphemisms and loaded words. From Politico:

“The online Style Book now says that ‘-phobia,’ ‘an irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness’ should not be used ‘in political or social contexts,’  including ‘homophobia’ and ‘Islamophobia.’ It also calls ‘ethnic cleansing” a ‘euphemism,’ and says the AP ‘does not use “ethnic cleansing” on its own. It must be enclosed in quotes, attributed and explained.’ ‘Ethnic cleansing is a euphemism for pretty violent activities, a phobia is a psychiatric or medical term for a severe mental disorder. Those terms have been used quite a bit in the past, and we don’t feel that’s quite accurate,’ AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn told POLITICO. ‘When you break down ‘ethnic cleansing,’ it’s a cover for terrible violent activities. It’s a term we certainly don’t want to propagate,’ Minthorn continued. ‘Homophobia especially — it’s just off the mark. It’s ascribing a mental disability to someone, and suggests a knowledge that we don’t have. It seems inaccurate. Instead, we would use something more neutral: anti-gay, or some such, if we had reason to believe that was the case. We want to be precise and accurate and neutral in our phrasing,’ he said.” Continue reading

TV Ethics, Viewed From A Sickbed

This isn’t how I look. This guy looks BETTER than I look…

[ As regular readers here might have guessed, I am ill, and have been since Thanksgiving. I can barely read, can’t really research, and whatever appears below was composed in 10 minute increments with hours or days in between. I’m hoping to be catching up very soon. Thank you for your patience]

What do you do when any movement or exertion makes you cough your guts out, when you can’t sleep but have to rest, when your brain is so blurry from viruses and medication that you can’t even compose a blog post for three days? (Sorry.) If you are me, and I hope for your sake that you aren’t, you watch TV.

I got one jolt of legal ethics horror that I hadn’t remembered re-watching Kevin Costner’s “The Untouchables,” directed by Brian DePalma. In the movie’s climax, Al Capone’s trial on income tax evasion has come to a crisis point, as Elliot Ness (Costner) realizes that the jury has been bribed to acquit him. Despite documentation of that fact, the corrupt judge tells Costner that the trial will proceed, whereupon Costner extorts him to prompt “a change of heart.” Now the judge shocks the courtroom by announcing that he is trading juries with another trial next door. The new, un-bribed twelve will decide Capone’s fate.

This is, of course, beyond ridiculous. Adversary attorneys must be able to choose a jury in voir dire, where each potential juror is questioned. Trading juries just invalidates two trials. Even if they could trade juries, which they couldn’t, the Capone trial would obviously have to start all over again since the new jury wouldn’t know what was going on.

None of this occurs to Al Capone’s panicky lawyer, however, who, realizing that the jig is up, announces that “we” are changing “our” plea to “guilty.” Chaos reigns. Capone (Robert DeNiro) punches his lawyer in the face, and I don’t blame him one bit.  A lawyer can’t plead guilty against the wishes of his client! The judge couldn’t accept such a plea, and Capone wouldn’t be bound by it. This would be an embarrassing distortion of the justice system in a Warner Brothers cartoon, but for a movie based on historical figures and events to sink so low is unforgivable. (“Carrie” aside, Brian DePalma was a hack.) Continue reading

The Complete “It’s A Wonderful Life” Ethics Guide [UPDATED]

 Frank Capra’s 1946 masterpiece “It’s A Wonderful Life” is one of the great ethics movies of all time, perhaps the ethics movie of all time. In 2011 I prepared a guide through its complex ethics thicket. The post was divided into three separate posts, and I eventually combined them s0 readers can have the pleasure, if one can call it that, of watching the film like I do: having ethics arguments the whole way through. And now, here is your guide. Additions are welcome and encouraged.

1. “If It’s About Ethics, God Must Be Involved”

The movie begins in heaven, represented by twinkling stars. There is no way around this, as divine intervention is at the core of the fantasy. Heaven and angels were big in Hollywood in the Forties. Nevertheless, the framing of the tale advances the anti-ethical idea, central to many religions, that good behavior on earth will be rewarded in the hereafter, bolstering the theory that without God and eternal rewards, doing good is pointless.

We are introduced to George Bailey, who, we are told, is in trouble and has prayed for help. He’s going to get it, too, or at least the heavenly authorities will make the effort. They are assigning an Angel 2nd Class, Clarence Oddbody, to the job. He is, we learn later, something of a second rate angel as well as a 2nd Class one, so it is interesting that whether or not George is in fact saved will be entrusted to less than heaven’s best. Some lack of commitment, there—then again, George says he’s “not a praying man.” This will teach him—sub-par service!

2. Extra Credit for Moral Luck Continue reading

Lindsay Stone Scores A Jumbo: The “I Didn’t Intend To Do What I Did When I Intentionally Did What I Did” Excuse

I have to give Lindsay Stone credit. You will seldom see as pure an example of an outrageous denial of the undeniable in a public apology as the one she just authored. Brava! And good luck with the job hunt.

Stone, who is an idiot, and her friend, who is an idiot whose name has yet to be tracked down by the media, collaborated on a photo showing Stone giving an upturned middle finger to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, while yelling something by the sign there that says “Silence and Respect.” The photograph was posted on Stone’s Facebook page and naturally went viral. Thousands of protesters bombarded the website of their employer, Living Independently Forever, with demands that the two be fired. Today, they were.

Before the inevitable axe fell (more on that in a bit), Stone posted this remarkable explanation:

Continue reading

Judge Norman’s Dilemma Becomes The ALCU’s Problem

Cruel and unusual punishment? Guess again…

You’re a judge. You have power, in your sentencing, to make various miscreants suffer all sorts of creative punishments, as long as they fall well short of the rack and wheel. For example, a judge in Cleveland recently sentenced a woman (who had driven her car up the side-walk to get around a stopped school bus carrying special-needs children) to carry a sign proclaiming herself an idiot. You are faced with a troubled young man who appears to have received almost no instruction, in his 17 years, in the particulars of right and wrong. You see no productive purpose in locking him up and throwing away the key, for what he needs is a transfusion of ethics. What do you do?

In the throes of this very dilemma, Oklahoma district judge Mike Norman was sentencing Tyler Alred  for DUI manslaughter. Alred was driving his Chevrolet pickup drunk in  2011 when he hit a tree, ending the life of his passenger and friend, 16-year old John Dum. The judge gave Tyler a deferred prison sentence provided that he attend church every Sunday for the next ten years, as well as graduate from high school and welding school. Both Alred’s attorney and the victim’s family agreed to the terms of the sentence. Continue reading