Comment of The Day: The Same-Sex Marriage Wars


The Inquiring Mind left a plaintive and provocative comment on an earlier post regarding the gay marriage controversy, now once again above the fold, and it was apparently swallowed by my spam file. I haven’t see much of an uptick in Ethics Alarms comments lately (and tgt is on semi-hiatus), but the spam has gotten out of control: apparently this post was deleted, even though I try to check the spam comments (about 500 a day now) to make sure legitimate ones don’t get thrown out with the bath water. I apologize to IM, and am posting the recovered comment partially in compensation, and also because he expresses a sentiment that I have heard and read from others.

I’ll be back at the end; in the meantime, here is Inquiring Mind’s Comment of the Day regarding the tactics of gay marriage advocates:

“Jack, since the aftermath of Prop 8, I have always wondered – is the thuggery/coercion and thought control a “bug” associated with the push for gay marriage, or is it a “feature” that comes with the enactment of gay marriage?

“I just want to review the conduct of gay-marriage supporters: Continue reading

Ethics Poison From Nike and Tiger Woods

Woods AdWoods Ad2

…and not for the first time, in either case.

But Woods’ new ad for Nike in the wake of his resurgence in his sport, is audaciously unethical, braying a dangerous, corrupting message into the cultural atmosphere, endorsing, in five simple-minded words, consequentialism, the Star Syndrome, the King’s Pass, non-ethical considerations over ethical ones, and “the ends justify the means.” That’s a pretty impressive load of ethics offal in so few words: congratulations to the soulless ignoramus who devised it.

The assorted miscreants, past and present, who would have gladly stood in for Tiger in his damning ad include dictators, despots, mass murderers, gangsters and corrupt politicians like Richard Daley, Marion Barry, Charley Rangel and Tom DeLay, corporate bandits, assassins, robber barons, Wall Street criminals, athletic cheaters like Lance Armstrong and Barry Bonds, serial fathers like the NBA’s priapic stars, arrogant social misfits like Charley Sheen, con artists and liars in all walks of life, and of course, our most popular politician, the man whose entire career is based on Nike’s new motto, William Jefferson Clinton.

I almost forgot the terrorists. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Month: Alexandra Pelosi

“I don’t ask for permission. I think anytime you have to ask for permission your project is doomed.”

—-Alexandra Pelosi, political documentary film-maker (and daughter of you-know-who), speaking about her embrace of the unethical philosophy, “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission,” or in her version, “It’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” Pelosi employed a bait-and switch ruse to made former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreavey the subject of her latest documentary.

Mother taught her well...

Mother taught her well…

If Pelosi is correct, then she is in an inherently unethical profession, and shameless about it. If Pelosi is correct, then all documentary film-makers are indistinguishable from other manipulative deceivers like Sasha Baron Cohen, James O’Keefe, Michael Moore, and her. She is not correct, however. There are many celebrated, honest, straightforward documentary makers who get proper permission from subjects before they put them on camera, respecting their autonomy and privacy and engaging with them fairly. The fact that Pelosi sees no need for this tells us all we need to know about her documentaries.  She believes that the ends justify the means, so she can’t be trusted. She will employ chicanery, deception, and lies in order to make a commercially viable film, which will be worth approximately as much, from a documentation standpoint, as her word: nothing.

The context of Pelosi’s smug endorsement of deception as her SOP was the description of how she filmed McGreavey in his new life since resigning as governor and announcing that he was gay. Pelosi persuaded McGreevey to let her follow him around, but not to make a documentary, which McGreevey’s partner, Mark O’Donnell, opposed. Pelosi told Politico, “I don’t think he thought I was making a movie. I think he thought I was just hanging around.” Then, after the documentary was completed, Pelosi says she told her unwitting and deceived star,  “You have a choice. You can support the bigger picture of what the movie is trying to say, which is about the theme of redemption and second acts, or you can not sign a release and this film will go to waste.” McGreevey should have said, of course, “Go to hell. You lied to me. You won’t have my release, and if you show it to anyone, I’ll sue you right back to living in your mother’s house.” Pelosi, however, as master con artist must, chose her victim well. Though “he was not happy,” McGreevey signed the release. Continue reading

Out Of A State Lottery, A Golden Rule Moment

We're NOT going to be selfish and exclusive, even though we can and you expect us to!

“We’re NOT going to be selfish and exclusive, even though we can and you expect us to!”

It never seems to work out this way, and thus it is interesting to speculate why the office lottery pool at Keller Williams Partner Realty in Plantation, Florida treated a dilemma so differently, and so much more ethically, than the key participants here, or here.

Jennifer Maldonado had only been working as an administrative assistant at the company for two weeks, and because she hadn’t received her first pay check, she decided not to join the office Powerball pool when she was approached. The organizer even offered to loan her the money: nope, insisted Maldonado. Not this time; maybe next. Naturally, the pool not only won that week, but won big: a million dollars to be divided among the 12 person staff…except Maldonado, of course.When Maldonado showed up for work and saw everyone screaming, crying and celebrating, she thought they were playing a practical joke in her to teach her a lesson. “I knew I was the only one who hadn’t put in the money, so I thought they were pranking me and going out of their way to make me feel something,” she recalled, that “something” presumably being “rotten.”

Jennifer obviously didn’t know her co-workers yet. Not only weren’t they trying to make her feel badly, they had held a meeting and decided to give her a cut of the winnings even though she hadn’t opted in to the enterprise—not a full share, but a significant amount. Jennifer didn’t expect anything, wasn’t going to sue them or hold a grudge, and yet they made her part of the group’s good fortune anyway. This is the Golden Rule exemplified. It is also exemplary ethics: generosity, kindness, empathy, and inclusiveness. The staff”s gesture said, and eloquently, “Welcome to the family! You can trust us. We care about you. We look out for each other, and we handle each other’s mistakes.”

Perfect. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: National Journal Writer Matthew Cooper (And Boy, Am I Sick Of It!)

Matt Cooper apparently thinks Clarence represented murderers because he LIKED murderers. That's not how it works, Matt.

Matt Cooper apparently thinks Clarence represented murderers because he LIKED murderers. That’s not how it works, Matt.

Matthew Cooper, like so many before him who should know otherwise, confounds the role of an attorney with the views of the individual serving as an attorney. This is a disturbing chunk of ignorance for a prominent journalist to pass on to the public, and as I have before, I am honor bound to point it out, and also to say: Understand what you’re writing about, journalists!  That’s one of your ethical duties.

In a National Journal piece about Ted Olson, who argued against Proposition 8 and for same-sex marriage before the U.S. Supreme Court, Cooper writes,

“While most folks were surprised by his support of gay marriage, I wasn’t. Yes, he was a conservative. But he had also defended the press as the longtime lawyer for the Los Angeles Times and in other First Amendment cases. He’d agreed to represent Tim Phelps, a Newsday reporter, in the Anita Hill case even if Phelps’s work was damaging to the conservative Clarence Thomas. He was conservative, but not reflexively so.”

Why is this old, basic and simple principle so difficult to grasp: a lawyer does not adopt his or her client’s views by virtue of representing them or advocating for them in court or the public square! The lawyer’s views are presumed to be irrelevant to the position he or she takes for a client. As the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct state (and legal ethics has held for centuries),

“A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities.” Continue reading

Predatory Service: A Tale


Once upon a time in Greater Washington, D.C., there was a family-owned hardware, home remodeling and garden store chain. They were big warehouse stores, and pretty much synonymous with hardware, flowers, lawns, leaky pipes, Sunday shopping excursions, and earnest, if not always rapid, service, for decades. The old chain was pretty much the only game in town too, except for a few small stores scattered around in various town squares.

Then, seemingly over-night, several new, big, warehouse hardware, home remodeling and garden stores appeared across the area. They seemed a little cheaper, but not much; what they had, however, was this fantastic service model. The place was crawling with eager young experts who not only helped you find what you needed, but who also knew how you should build it, cultivate it, paint it, or tear it down. The usual “what the hell am I doing and where is that stuff?” anxiety of a visit to the old hardware chain was replaced by a feeling of confidence and being in the hands of friendly masters of their trade. It was wonderful. Continue reading

Sandy Hook Ethics Train Wreck Classic Quote: “A Foolish Consistency Is The Hobgoblin of Little Minds…”


I hear Ralph was good with a knife.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, who uttered the title above, would have loved the Federal government, for which consistency in logic or policy is often alien indeed. In the midst of a mass effort to disarm the American people of guns with the dubious logic and arrogant presumption that they don’t need powerful weaponry since, after all, the government will save us, the TSA, it has been revealed  to me by my observant son, has secretly adopted exactly the opposite position, using polar reasoning.

My son, who likes knives almost as much as he likes guns, showed me several potential weapons in his collection that would legally pass through the new air travel regulations. He notes that officials defending the lifting of the ban on blades that could do as much damage as the box cutters of 9/11 have pointed to the self-reliance of air passengers, who have subdued several mid-air threats. “Don’t you get it?” my son says. “They’re arming passengers! They won’t say that directly, but it’s pretty obvious. The passengers on Flight 93 had to boil water and use food carts. Now hijackers might be facing a hundred angry people with knives.”

I get it! An armed and ready populace is a good thing! When the government says so, that is. So…. it makes sense to arm untrained air passengers when they face a deadly threat without police nearby, but schools should be “gun free zones” and it’s nuts to arm untrained teachers…indeed, trained and law-abiding gun owners should be disarmed lest they shoot Harvey Milk. I hearby predict that the little knife policy will last until a child gets killed by a mad airplane coach passenger wielding one, whereupon President Obama will invoke his “save just one child” rule, Rep. Rangel will declare that millions of children are being killed by little knives, and Jim Carrey will tweet that nobody who cares about children would oppose a little knife ban. The knives will then be not only prohibited again on airplanes, but will be confiscated by edict, since there’s no Bill of Rights provision protecting little knife ownership.

The behavior of our elected officials is consistent after all.

Emerson’s quote applies perfectly.