I finally figured out how I can resuscitate the Ethics Alarms Awards after a five year drought. What made them impossible beginning in 2017, after eight years of announcing the Best and Worst of ethics every year, was their sheer size and the time it took to assemble them, essentially keeping me from effectively covering developing ethics events and issues in order to review old ones. I usually couldn’t get the job finished until February. Starting today, I’ll be posting at least one award each day through mid-January, 2023. Then I’ll gather them up for two summary posts. Nominations are encouraged: if you want a review of the categories—and I will always consider news ones, the 2016 Worst in Ethics awards are here, here, here; the “Best” categories can be recalled here and here.
1. I might as well get started: Here’s the Ethics Alarms 2022 Asshole of the Year.Yes, it has to be Donald Trump, though it was a closer race than I expected. The dinner with “Ye” and the ridiculous Nick Fuentes, plus Trump’s changing stories about how the dinner came to pass, locked the honor up, but the threats directed at Gov. DeSantis after Trump’s obsession with his 2020 loss helped cost the GOP the Senate had already made him the presumptive champ in this category—again. What really clinched it was that Mediaite’s Trump-Deranged, blatantly biased reporter Tommy Christopher reported today that Trump asked Kanje “Ye” West to be his running mate in 2024. I don’t believe anything Christopher writes, but I still found myself wondering if the story could possibly be true. Trump is that big an asshole. Runner-up: Liz Cheney.
2. The ethics value missing here: proportion. A real headline today: “Alcohol-fueled family game of Monopoly turns violent as furniture is overturned, gunfire erupts — and man goes to jail on assault with a deadly weapon charge”
3. There’s a great number from the musical “Li’l Abner” that comes to mind now: “The Country’s in the Very Best of Hands.” Fox News reported that Department of Education Office of Educational Technology Deputy Director Kristina Ishmael tweeted that democracy is “built on white supremacy, which I see perpetuated in education circles when BIPOC folx are being told they’re too negative by addressing real issues instead of superlatives.” Oh. I don’t even know what that means. We have DOE officials who can’t write more clearly than this? Her photo also doesn’t inspire confidence:
4. Here’s a late contender for Most Unethical Company or Organization: United Furniture Industries, which makes budget sofas and recliners for Simmons Upholstery, fired 2,700 employees in the dead of night two days before Thanksgiving, sending them cyber pink slips via texts and emails. The workers were told not to come to work the next day, and that their benefits had been terminated too.
“At the instruction of the board of directors … we regret to inform you that due to unforeseen business circumstances, the company has been forced to make the difficult decision to terminate the employment of all its employees, effective immediately, on Nov. 21,” the company said in its messages. “With the exception of over-the-road drivers that are out on delivery. Your layoff from the company is expected to be permanent and all benefits will be terminated immediately without provision of COBRA.”
It looks like the company may have also violated state laws requiring at least 30 days notice before such news.
5. And a new candidate for Unethical Lawyer of the Year: Ohio Lawyer Jack Allen Blakeslee has been accused in an ethics complaint of stuffing his, uh, his feces into a Pringles potato chip can and tossing it into the parking lot of a victims advocacy center a year ago.
The lawyer allegedly threw the uncovered, poop-filled Pringles can into the parking lot of the Haven of Hope victims advocacy center in Cambridge, Ohio, on November 2021, according to the ethics complaint filed this week.There were eye witnesses. Blakeslee pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and littering, both misdemeanors, in connection with the incident, and he paid a fine and court costs. According to the complaint, Blakeslee engaged in similar conduct on 10 prior occasions, “indiscriminately choosing the location where he throws the chip cans containing his feces.”
The complaint argues that this conduct adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law. Call me strict, but I think it may have a point.