Tag Archives: compassion

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/6/ 2018: “Remember the Alamo” Edition” (#2: “The Option”))

Commenter Zanshin returned to expand on his answer to the hypothetical I offered a Boy Scout troop based on one of my late, lamented professional theater company’s many dilemmas over the years. Here is the situation again…

The Option

Your professional theater company has limited funds, so it offers its actors an option. They may choose a flat fee for their roles, or get a percentage of the show’s profits, if there are any, on top of a much smaller base fee.

The company just completed an extremely profitable production, the biggest hit your theater has ever had. Nine of the show’s ten cast members chose the percentage of profits option, a gamble, because most of the shows lose money. One, the star, who you know could not afford to gamble, took the flat fee for the role. After the accounting for the production is complete, you realize that every member of the cast will make $1000 more than the star, because of the show’s profits.

Question 1: What do you do?

  1. Give him the extra $1000. It’s only fair.
  2. Pay him the flat fee. A deal’s a deal.

Question 2: You remount the production, and the exact same thing happens. The actor chooses the flat fee, the show is again a huge money-maker,,and the rest of the cast will make much more than him because they chose the percentage. Do you give him the extra amount again?

  1. No. Now he’s taking advantage of me.
  2. Yes. Nothing has changed.

You can read the initial responses here, and check the poll results.

And here is Zanshin’s Comment of the Day, on the post Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/6/ 2018: “Remember the Alamo” Edition:

Here are my reflections on this ethical (hypothetical) issue.

Question 1: Some personal background influencing my thinking: In the early years of my career I worked at a small company (about 40 employees). After having worked there for 2 years the owners sold the company, probably for a very good price, because they decided to give every employee about $ 200 for each year that he had worked with the company. Some of my colleagues worked with them for 15 years and more.

For me it would be a nice $ 400 but to my surprise I received $ 1.000 with a handwritten note which stated something like, “We’ll give you $600 extra because we are very pleased with your performance with us. Please do not discuss this with your colleagues.”

Back to the question.

I would go for a third option. First, Pay him the flat fee. A deal’s a deal.

But at the same time, give him in some personalized way, about $500 extra.With personalized I mean, fitting the situation. Why couldn’t he gamble with his reward? For instance, his car is broke, he needs it very bad for whatever reason. Offer to pay a part of the bill, etc.

Question 2: In my opinion the set-up of the first situation (question 1) was already tainted. Just as we expect of journalists that they don’t “interview people who are drunk, drugged, impaired, or not in a mentally or emotionally stable state.” one should also not ask an employee who you know could not afford to gamble to just do that, gamble with his income. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Workplace

Ethics Hero: Ken White Of Popehat

I haven’t featured Ken White lately, in part because Popehat’s posts are sporadic, unlike those of mad bloggers who habitually post multiple essays a day. However, Ken’s most recent post is the epitome of  ethical blogging at its best. It is long, but absolutely worth the time to read. His subject is the internet pile-on against a mentally ill writer named Kenneth Eng, who, Ken points out, was obviously not well, and yet was mercilessly attacked and mocked. Fox News even exploited his illness for some sensational cable moments—shades of Sam Nunberg!  Ken, who has written frankly and courageously about his own battles with clinical depression, takes a hard ethics inventory, finds himself and the internet community lacking, and does a superb job—as usual—of clarifying a difficult issue.  I have had my differences with Ken, but at his best, White is as ethically astute and clear a writer as there is online, with an almost unfailing ability to point us in the right direction.

He writes in part, Continue reading


Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Health and Medicine, Race, U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/8/2018: Tolstoy And The News,” (Item #4)

Frequent commenter Otto vanished from the wars for many weeks, and then nailed a Comment of the Day on his first day back. Boy I hate that: it’s as if he can register a sharp, thought-provoking analysis at will, like he’s toying with us. This time, his topic was illegal immigration, as he responded to the item about Nancy Pelosi thanking the parents of “Dreamers” for breaking our immigration laws.

Here is Otto’s Comment of the Day on the illegal immigration item in the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/8/2018: Tolstoy And The News :

…The only reason persons would immigrate to the U.S., legally or illegally, is hope for a higher quality of life than they could have in their home countries. Any positive differential between what they would achieve in their home country and what they would achieve in the U.S. with the same output of effort can only be attributed to living off the fat (wealth, capital, productiveness) of the American people (past, present, and possibly future). If their effort would achieve the same results (or better) in their home country, they would not immigrate. It is that simple.

While this is true, I don’t believe we should even consider the economic benefit to the U.S. when determining who should and should not enter the U.S. or become citizens – it sounds too much like using a person as means to our own ends. However, if we do consider economic benefit, Humble Talent is correct that we must include opportunity cost in our calculation. If admitting a farmer from Guatemala as a citizen precludes us from admitting a physician from Germany as a citizen, we must include any differential in productivity (economic benefit) between the two persons as a cost (or benefit) of admitting the farmer.

Of course, the myriad avenues of opportunity cost are not the only costs of illegal immigration. Assuming illegal immigrants purchase food, clothing, housing, and other commodities, their demand for these commodities puts upward pressure on prices that must be paid by all U.S. citizens. Assuming illegal immigrants seek employment, their supply of labor puts downward pressure on wages, a cost suffered by all U.S. citizens. If illegal immigrants seek an education, they contribute to classroom crowding and greater expense of education, which is a cost to all U.S. citizens. If illegal immigrants drive vehicles anywhere, they contribute to wear and tear on infrastructure, a cost to all U.S. citizens. If illegal immigrants receive any type of governmental benefit, it is a cost to U.S. citizens. If illegal immigrants receive any type of pseudo-private benefit (such as reduced rates on utilities), it is a cost to U.S. citizens. Continue reading


Filed under Character, Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

Comment Of The Day (And Poll Results!): “Meet The Passionate Ethics Dunce Confronting Public Figures With Their Immigrant Histories…”

I decided that this one was too stupid for the poll…

I want to express my gratitude to veteran Ethics Alarms commenter and previous Commenter of the Year texagg04 for another of his epic contributions, this one following up on my poll asking readers to vote for the worst of 15 commonly used justifications for tolerating illegal immigrants. Rather than choose the worst—“stupidest,” in Tex’s parlance that I approve of in this matter—he ranked them from stupidest to least stupid, after commenting on each and explaining what each signifies.

The Most Stupid in his ranking is also the most sinister and the most important: “Opposing illegal immigration is racist/xenophobic.” The entire pro-illegal immigration movement has adopted the strategy of impugning opponents as racist or xenophobic  to both stifle legitimate debate while demonizing the rule of law and immigration restrictions.

The poll that ended the January 22 Ethics Alarms post about Jennifer Mendelsohn , who thinks that if you had a legal immigrant in your lineage you are a hypocrite to advocate enforcing immigration laws attracted 239 votes, and Ethics Alarms record (multiple choices were allowed). The final results with percentages of votes cast:

“Opposing illegal immigration is racist/xenophobic.” 19.67%

“We stole their country, so it’s really theirs to use as they please.” 12.55%

“We’re a nation of immigrants.” 11.3%

“The words on the Statue of Liberty!” 7.95%

“They do jobs Americans won’t do.” 7.53%

“Think of the children!” 6.69%

“Illegal immigration is an act of love.” 5.44% (tie)

“They just want a better life.”  5.44% (tie)

“They aren’t hurting anybody.” 5.44% (tie)

“Our economy depends on them.” 5.02%

“They aren’t really criminals.”  4.18%

“We’re a compassionate people.” 3.77%

“You would do it too, if you were them.” 2.93%

“It’s a dumb law.”  2.09%

Here is texagg04′ s Comment of the Day on the poll included in Meet The Passionate Ethics Dunce Confronting Public Figures With Their Immigrant Histories As If It Proves Anything: Continue reading


Filed under Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

Compassion! Crime! Betrayal! Law vs. Ethics! Illegal Aliens! Christmas Spirit! The Golden Rule! Five Golden Rings! (Okay, Only Three Rings, And One Was Junk, But Still…) The ‘Awwwww Factor’! Could This Be “The Greatest Ethics Quiz Ever Asked”?

[Special thanks to my friend (and the inventor of The Three Circles) lawyer/legal ethicist John May for alerting Ethics Alarms to this one.]

Sandra Mendez Ortega, a 19-year-old maid, stole three rings worth at least $5,000 from a house she was cleaning in Fairfax City, Virginia. Lisa Copeland, the client of the cleaning service, discovered her engagement and wedding rings were missing from the container where they were usually kept. The two rings were appraised at $5,000 in 1996, and a third less valuable ring was taken along with them. Fairfax City police  interviewed the three women who had cleaned the home, and they all denied seeing the rings, much less stealing them. Ortega, however, subsequently had second thoughts, and confessed to the theft. She told her boss that she had the rings and turned them over to him. He contacted the police,   Mendez Ortega confessed to them as well, saying she returned the rings after learning they were valuable. (Thus she only took them because she thought they weren’t valuable. Okaayyyy…) The police told her to write an apology letter to Copeland, in Spanish, in which she said in part, “Sorry for grabbing the rings. I don’t know what happened. I want you to forgive me.”

(I’m sorry, but I have to break in periodically so my head won’t explode. ” I don’t know what happened?” She knows what happened! She stole the rings because she thought she could get away with it.)

Copeland says she has never seen that letter, and that Mendez Ortega has never apologized to her in person. The maid was charged with felony grand larceny. At the trial, the jury found her guilty. (If she had confessed and was remorseful, why did she plead not guilty?)

But we are told that they felt sympathy for the defendant, who was pregnant with her second child, during the sentencing phase. “The general sentiment was she was a victim, too,” the jury foreman, Jeffery Memmott, told the Washington Post. “Two of the [female jurors] were crying because of how bad they felt.”  Although the  jurors convicted the maid of the felony, they agreed among themselves that it was just a “dumb, youthful mistake.” So they decided that her punishment would be only be her fee for cleaning the house the day of the theft, $60. Then they took up a collection and raised the money to pay the fine, plus and extra $20.

(Yes, she made money on the transaction. Crime pays.) Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Law & Law Enforcement, Quizzes, Workplace

“Next Time”… Our Thanksgiving Ethics Botch

Yesterday, faced with the prospect of a tiny Thanksgiving, which I find only reminds me of the former table-mates lost forever, and having the extra excuse of our wedding anniversary, Grace and I decided to take our increasingly otherwise occupied son and have Thanksgiving dinner at the Prime Rib, a ridiculously expensive restaurant. The meal was lovely and low stress for a holiday dinner, a feature especially welcome right now.

The restaurant was filled with family groups without kids, many in gowns and formal wear. Also filling the air was happy banter of the sort that holidays typically inspire. Over to my right, however, sat a well-dressed man in his late 60s or seventies, dining alone. I found myself thinking about him throughout the meal. What a lonely, solitary, depressing way to celebrate Thanksgiving, I thought. If I get to the state where I am so bereft of family and friends that I find myself in a five-star restaurant dining alone on Thanksgiving, just hit me over the head with cinder block. He looked a little like Alan Greenspan, and I still felt terrible for him.

After dinner, and he had left the restaurant, I mentioned all of this to my wife.

“I was thinking the same thing,” she said. “We should have invited him to join us.”

Ugh. I had considered that. But our family gets the opportunity to eat together so seldom, and this was an anniversary celebration too. My son also has a tendency to clam up around strangers, and he seemed relaxed and happy for a change. I had quickly talked myself out of even raising the possibility of inviting a fourth to our Thanksgiving/ 37th Anniversary table.

Yet of course that’s what we should have done, isn’t it? Isn’t it? Maybe the man was having a great time by himself. Maybe we would have embarrassed him. Heck, I don’t know. It’s also possible that he would have jumped at the chance. Who knows? All I do know is that I would have appreciated the offer, and will, unless someone gets behind me with the cinder block before I have the chance. It was still the kind, considerate, compassionate, ethical thing to do.

“Next time, let’s make sure we invite someone like that,” Grace said. I agreed.


Next time.


Filed under Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Family

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/9/17: Everyone Behaving Abysmally Edition

Let’s scream “Good Morning!” to the sky!

1 The FBI is now complaining that it’s too difficult to break into smartphones, since the Texas maniac, Devin Kelley, had one that has so far resisted cracking. By all means, let’s make sure we have no privacy from government intrusions into our lives and relationships. I’m sure—I really am sure—that the “think of the children!” mob and the “if it saves only one life!” brigade will happily surrender the right to privacy, which is, per the Supreme Court, is also in the Bill of Rights, just like the rights of free speech and the right to bear arms.

The solution is right in front of the FBI anyway.  Just take Kelley ‘s body on a plane trip to Bali, manipulate his dead thumb, and use it to unlock the phone.

2. I see little to choose from ethically between Facebook selling space for deceptive ads to the Russians and CNN selling time on their newscasts for a billionaire to make his personal, dishonest and ignorant demand that President Trump be impeached. I had heard and read about the ad, which is basically Maxine Waters’ warped version of the Constitution and the impeachment clause, with a little Richard Painter thrown in, but I assumed I would have to go online to see it. Nope, there it was this morning during a break on Headline News. Respectable news sources, not that CNN qualifies any more, have traditionally rejected factually misleading political ads from private interests, and a Constitutionally moronic rant from a rich guy with money to burn surely should qualify.

The rich guy is Tom Steyer, who apparently once was an intelligent human being even as you and I. His ad claims that “Donald Trump has brought us to the brink of nuclear war, obstructed justice, and taken money from foreign governments. We need to impeach this dangerous president.” Let’s see: the first is pure hysteria and an attempt to criminalize policy and international poker (I’d argue that the weak response to North Korea by the U.N. and previous administrations has been what has “brought us to the brink,” as well as, of course, the rogue country threatening nuclear attacks and firing missiles over Japan).

The second is a gonzo anti-Trump resistance theory that would be tossed out of any court, except maybe in Hawaii. The third is intentionally dishonest: this is the Emoluments Clause fantasy that holds the discredited theory a hotel owner has to be impeached if he doesn’t sell his hotels. Steyer’s ad also says that that Trump should be impeached for various tweets, half-baked opinions and comments. As one would expect from a  Democratic mega-donor, he apparently believes that speech qualifies as a high crime when it annoys progressives.

Naturally, again as one would expect, Steyer implies in his ad that Bill Clinton, who really did commit a crime as President and really did obstruct justice, was impeached by a Republican Congress for “far less.” This disqualifies him as a serious person.

3. Baseball fans know that Roy Halladay, a near-Hall of Fame pitcher with the Blue Jays and Phillies renowned for his durability until his arm fell off (metaphorically speaking), was killed this week when he crashed his single engine plane into the Gulf of Mexico. Observers say he was flying recklessly, and there is evidence that he wasn’t properly experienced to be operating the plane as he was. In Boston, radio sports jockey Michael Felger went on an extended rant excoriating the dead pitcher for being irresponsible, especially as a husband and father.  Here’s a sample: Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Rights, Science & Technology, Workplace