Unethical App of the Year: BuyPartisan

The un-American app at work. Just what we need...more help at being divided.

The un-American app at work. Just what we need…more help at being divided.

One thing we can be sure of in our capitalistic, entrepreneurial culture: if there’s toxic conduct that somebody can make a buck out of facilitating, someone will.

BuyPartisan is a new smartphone app and the inspiration of app developer Spend Consciously. It allows users to receive an instant ideological score on every product, designating the manufacturer or service provider as virtuous or evil, or, as this sick, hyper-partisan, hyper-polarized, disintegrating culture would have it, Republican or Democratic, conservative or liberal.  After the self-righteous, hating-the-other-side-of-the-political-spectrum user scans the bar code on products with his or her phone camera, BuyPartisan (Get it???) accesses campaign finance data and analyzes contributions from the company’s board of directors, CEO, employees and PACs. This allows the happy, political aparthied-loving app user to stick it to any company that doesn’t comport with the user’s narrow, but absolutely right beyond question, view of the world.

Yecch. I want an app that tells me who uses this app, so I can avoid them whenever possible. Continue reading

LEGO Ethics: When Political Correctness Doesn’t Hold Up To Reality

LEGO is under fire from gender equality activists for offering a feminine-oriented version of the brightly-colored construction blocks, dubbed the Friends line, that is aimed to appeal to the tastes of little girls. This special  version of plastic bricks and mini-figures was launched in 2011:

“Unlike the bright primary colors of the regular Lego sets, the Friends colors tend toward pink and purple and soft pastels. The comical mini-figures of the regular Lego lines have been replaced by five slender and stylish plastic tweens of various ethnicities, each with her own narrative story, along with puppies, kitties, “My Little Pony”-style horsies and baby animals ranging from penguins to lions. Little girls are encouraged to build things, all right: patios, cozy kitchens, cafes, beauty shops, doghouses for the puppies, stalls for the horses, all characterized by a level of decorative detail unknown in the regular Lego universe.”

And guess what? Girls like it! LEGO had found that its market was 90% male, so it came up with LEGOS that indeed do engage little girls more than the traditional sets.  Friends ended 2012 as LEGO’s fourth-best-selling product line. The number of girls playing with and enjoying LEGOs tripled. Continue reading

Rep. Wu and the Scourge of Government by Ventriloquist Dummies

I have a 90% completed post tentatively entitled “Why We Are Doomed” sitting in my drafts file, and I can’t bring myself to finish or post it. I don’t want to believe we are doomed, so the Golden Rule keeps telling me that I shouldn’t be trying to convince others we are doomed. I believe in hope. I believe that cultures, especially this culture, can do the right thing and still be successful, provided that they can find leaders and role models who represent and encourage ethical values.

On the other hand, I really do believe we, that is to say, the United States of America, are probably doomed.

A story unfolding now, a sad saga that has really been unfolding for a long time, illustrates one of the factors I lament over in my languishing draft. Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) has been accused of an “unwanted sexual encounter” with the teenage daughter of a longtime friend. We have to be careful here, but there seems to be little doubt that the “encounter” occurred.  The Oregonian has reported that sources aware of the incident say that Congressman Wu, who is 56, “acknowledged a sexual encounter to his senior aides but insisted it was consensual.”

Wu has been a train wreck waiting to happen for a long, long time. Continue reading

The Ethics Hero Odd Couple: Ann Coulter and Howard Dean

Two impolitic, frequently uncivil, ideologically zealous and widely disliked public figures just picked up Ethics Hero credentials by bucking the worst tendencies of their natural political allies, and making a stand for more understanding and less mindless partisan combat.

First, Ann Coulter, the political commentator/performance artist whose acid comments about the liberal establishment would make Rush Limbaugh blush: She was kicked off the bill for the ultra-conservative WorldNetDaily’s “Taking America Back Conference” in Miami because she agreed to speak at Homocon, an event organized by gay Republican group GOProud. Continue reading

San Jose State, Blood, and Misguided Ethical Absolutism

The Food and Drug Administration will not permit you to donate blood if you have engaged in certain high risk activities associated with a greater likelihood of contracting the HIV virus.  This includes same-sex intimate relations between men. “FDA’s policies on donor deferral for history of male sex with males date back to 1983, when the risk of AIDS from transfusion was first recognized,” says the agency’s website. “A history of male-to-male sex is associated with an increased risk for the presence of and transmission of certain infectious diseases, including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.”

Officials at San Jose State University regard this as invidious discrimination against gays.  For that reason, the University has banned blood drives at the school in protest of the F.D.A. policy since 2008, and has announced that the ban will continue. The school’s logic is simple, or perhaps simple-minded. Banning men who have sex with men from donating blood constitutes discrimination, and discrimination is always bad. Thus San Jose State, a good school that abhors discrimination, will maintain its virtue by refusing to participate in a discriminatory practice. Continue reading