My Confession, Just In Case The FBI Investigates…

The scene of the crime…

In an earlier post about the Kavanaugh debacle, I introduced a poll with this:

Memory I: As a junior, I engineered an elaborate prank to steal a sofa from two classmates and friends who had swiped a sofa from two other students in their dorm. It almost worked, too: the pay-off was going to be when they visited our suite and saw their sofa there. The plan fell apart, and the original owners even got their sofa back.

Question: Should this episode, which technically involved attempted theft, disqualify me for some positions as an adult and professional?

The polls results:

Several commenters have admitted that their votes were tongue in cheek, so I don’t believe for a minute that there were really 13% of voters who believe that the episode when I was 20 should bar me from being an ethicist, a lawyer, or a SCOTUS judge, and needed to be investigated by the FBI. Just in case, however, I feel I should tell the whole, sordid story about what came to be called “The Great Sofa Caper,” and which is a tale told and retold at every reunion of my room mates.

It was the end of winter, and spring cleaning of sorts at the Harvard dorms. I lived in a suite at Lowell House with five other juniors, and was visiting friends and fellow classmates “Oscar” and “Felix” across the campus in the high rise dorms, Leverett Towers. “Oscar” was a theater friend who looked like a dissipated cross between Omar Shariff and Teddy Roosevelt; “Felix” looked like a pint-size Rodney Dangerfield. Shortly after I entered their abode, Felix said, “Hey, what do you think about the new sofa we swiped?” Indeed, prominently displayed in the main room was what appeared to be a very new, very nice, fully upholstered  sofa.

“You swiped it?” I said, and Felix laughed. “No, I was just kidding. Some upperclassmen were changing rooms, and this was left out in the hall for anyone to take. Nice, eh?”

“You swiped it! That’s brand new! Nobody would throw that out. Come on!” I said. Indeed, furniture and other junk was often being left out for communal expropriating in such moves, but this seemed like wilful, contrived ignorance by my friends to me. Nonetheless, Felix and Oscar swore that they would never steal anything, and that the brand new sofa was abandoned property.

Right.

I went back to Lowell House deep in thought and ethics conflict, wondering what the right thing to do was. I couldn’t report my friends for what was, even if it was theft in the real world, pretty standard college silliness. Still, I felt this was excessive. Then I hit on my plan. It would be both a good practical joke and a lesson for Felix and Oscar. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Prosecuting Juliet In “Romeo And Juliet 2017”

Last month, on March 14, 11-year old Tysen Benz  read text messages saying that his 13-year-old girl friend had committed suicide. In apparent grief, the 11-year-old boy from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula hanged himself.  In reality, the girl had sent the fake news as a joke. Or as a cruel trick. Or because she was 13.

In the Shakespeare play, to fake her death Juliet took a sleeping potion that made her seem dead. (They didn’t have text messaging then.)

Now, if this was really “Romeo and Juliet,” Juliet would have killed herself too after learning that her boyfriend was dead. Instead,  she is facing criminal charges. Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Wiese says that she is responsible for Tysen’s death, so he is charging her with malicious use of telecommunication service, punishable by up to six months in juvenile detention. He is also charging “Juliet” with using a computer to commit a crime, which carries a sentence of up to a year.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Is this a fair, just and ethical prosecution?

Continue reading

Now THIS Is An Unethical Joke…

Ohio couple Micah Risner and his fiancée Nataleigh Schlette, mad wags that they are, decided to play an elaborate  practical joke on their families. The two pranksters staged gory photos of Schlette’s supposedly mutilated body (that’s one of them above) and sent the fake murder scene to family members. Risner texted his sister saying, “Please help me! I really didn’t mean to. I don’t remember. We was arguing and I woke up to this.” (His sister advised him how to cover up the murder. She wasn’t joking. I wonder if she also advised him to learn basic grammar? )

Other family members called the police, and when officers arrived to the abode where Risner and Schlette resided,  Schlette was alive and well!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Morons.

 The police were not amused for some reason, and arrested them—HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! –charging them under an oddball Ohio statute making it a crime to “induce panic”:

2917.31 Inducing panic.

(A) No person shall cause the evacuation of any public place, or otherwise cause serious public inconvenience or alarm, by doing any of the following:

(1) Initiating or circulating a report or warning of an alleged or impending fire, explosion, crime, or other catastrophe, knowing that such report or warning is false;

(2) Threatening to commit any offense of violence;

(3) Committing any offense, with reckless disregard of the likelihood that its commission will cause serious public inconvenience or alarm.

Prof. Turley, who found this gem, opines that the charge probably won’t stick, and I agree, especially since the family members aren’t pressing charges. This was a prank, and not aimed at “the public.” He suggests that police would have a better case if the hoax was on social media. I agree with that, too. Is it possible that the police knew this, but arrested them anyway to teach these idiots a lesson? If so, that was an abuse of power and process, and unethical. Continue reading

2017 Oscar Ethics Post Mortem

There were more ethics-related events and issues at the last night’s Academy Awards than usual, and that’s an understatement;

1. Jimmy Kimmel, the Oscars’ designated Johnny Carson this time around, automatically gave the ceremonies the stench of ethics blindness by his very presence. Kimmel, as this site has documented, delights in provoking parents to be cruel to their young children so he can present YouTube videos of the kids’ despair for his audience’s amusement. Kimmel, of course, being bereft of shame or decency, was the perfect choice to execute the Academy’s second most important mission of the night, which was insulting the President of the United States in an international broadcast. He did not fail his dark masters. One well-publicized “quip”:

“Maybe this is not a popular thing to say, but I want to say thank you to President Trump. Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist? That’s gone, thanks to him.”

Actually, the Oscars are racist, or at least racially biased, as we shall see, and there is proof. I’d like Jimmy to show me the evidence that the President is racist, however, other than the “resistance” talking points he gets in his e-mail.

2. More Kimmel: in a typical Kimmel “human beings are just props to me!” bit, he arranged for a group of unsuspecting tourists to be taken on a Hollywood bus tour that ended up at the Oscars.  The group was escorted through the back doors of the Kodak Theater with no idea what was in store, as  Kimmel had the house lights turned down. When the tourists—Awww, ordinary slobs! Look, Meryl! The little people!”—opened the doors to the stage, the lights came up and all the stars shouted, “Mahershala!” The tourists’ shocked, ope mouthed expression were broadcast live to the world, as their Hollywood betters laughed.

This is called exploitation, and using unconsenting human beings as a means to an end.  Jimmy thinks its funny. Kant didn’t. I think it’s sometimes funny, and always unethical. Candid Camera asked for written consent before broadcasting its victims’ amusing reactions to gags like this.

3. Mel Gibson, justly nominated for his direction of “Hacksaw Ridge,” which also was nominated as Best Picture, sat up front. The Daily Beast tweeted “For Shame!” when the film won a statuette for editing, which it deserved. Let’s see: the theory is that the talented film editor should be snubbed for his work because Mel Gibson is an anti-Semite?  Yes, that’s the theory. The Beast’s Amy Zimmerman wrote a pre-Oscar hate piece on Gibson, which really and truly contained these two sentences:

Hacksaw  tells the story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who enlisted as a battlefield medic during World War II. Of course, any drama that Gibson directs pales in comparison to his own behind-the-scenes odyssey: the story of an odious individual who, after years on the outskirts of Hollywood, has somehow managed to fight his way back into the mainstream.

That’s right: Amy Zimmerman thinks that the story of a religious man who volunteered to serve as a combat medic despite refusing to carry a rifle and who saved 76 wounded soldiers by dragging them to safety under enemy fire by lowering them, one by one,  on a rope device he improvised on the spot, thus winning the Medal of Honor, pales in comparison to Mel Gibson’s PR problems.

Have some damn respect for those who did risked their lives incredible things so hacks like you can write garbage like that and be paid for it, you stupid, stupid fool. Continue reading

For The Sixth Straight Year, Jimmy Kimmel Reminds Us That Child Abuse Is Hilarious

I know I’ve already condemned Jimmy Kimmel, TV’s  most revolting and  successful fick , this year, and I wish that was enough. I don’t like even thinking about the man; it depresses me profoundly that a major network pays millions to such a miserable human being to be such a miserable human being. Jimmy is a proud ethics corrupter, an advocate of parents making their children cry so they can get a sliver of fame—infamy, really—on YouTube and Jimmy’s late night show on ABC. Disney owns ABC. Disney. Disney pays this smug, cruel man to urge parents to make their children miserable for big laughs.

Think about it.

I have to revisit this asshole-blight on the culture, however, because this morning I watched supposedly lovable News Babe Robin Meade on HLN this morning as she showed some of the segments from the video above and laughed hysterically, along with everyone in her studio. The idea, Jimmy’s idea, after he decided to scotch the concept of asking parents to punk their toddlers by telling them that grandma was dead (just speculating here), is for parents to tell their beloved children that Mom and Dad had eaten all of their Halloween candy, and record their reactions. It’s sooooo funny! The little kids wail! They weep! They fall on the ground in abject grief! Robin couldn’t stop laughing. Child abuse is so hilarious.

Jimmy has proven that.

He’s also proven that a shocking number of  parents and ABC viewers have the ethical instincts of the Marquis De Sade. Continue reading

Behold..THE DUMBEST ETHICS STORY EVER TOLD!!!

peetoy

Are you ready?

James and Isabelle Lassiter, who hail from Texas, were visiting Murfressboro, Tennessee and stopped into a Wasabi Japanese Steakhouse recently with their children. Apparently the sense of humor at hibachi restaurants has declined precipitously since the last time I ate at one, for I am told that the gag the Lassiters endured is now common fare. One of the Wasabi chefs held up a plastic toy depicting a little boy, and when the boy-toy dropped his shorts, he squirted water in a long, thin stream, as if urinating. The children were delighted! They were especially delighted when the stream hit their mom in the face.

Isabelle Lassiter was not delighted. In fact, she and her husband called the police, and accused the chef of sexual assault. “It peed on me…basically, out of his… wee wee area,” Isabelle explained, delicately.”It really didn’t have a wiener, but you got the point.” Investigators, who briefly took the toy into custody, indeed noted that the toy wasn’t anatomically correct. An officer wrote, “I observed the toy to have no penis and just a hole for the water to shoot out.”

PLEASE don’t tell me that if the toy did have a plastic penis, the claim of “sexual assault” would have been taken more seriously.

The Lassiters agree that this detail should not matter. “Just because somebody cut off a piece of plastic…doesn’t change the fact that you’re getting peed on,” said James Lassiter. “It was a sexual style assault on my wife.”

This is not a hoax. I wish it was a hoax. Reading about it has temporarily disrupted my capability to organize my thoughts, so I’ll just note the following in no particular order:

1. It was not sexual assault, by any stretch of the imagination. Nobody “peed on” Mrs. Lassiter. The cook squirted water on her, using a juvenile, risqué version of a squirt gun.

2. If Isabelle thought even  for a second that the stream of liquid was urine, she has a cognitive problem. Isabelle, pay attention: plastic figures do not urinate. They are toys. They have no bladder or kidneys. Even if the liquid comes from the toy’s “wee wee area,” it can’t possibly be urine.

3. Calling the police was beyond an over-reaction; it was truly idiotic, and it should be punishable. I’m trying to think of any reason not to have an ordinance that declares a spurious and wasteful call for police a misdemeanor carrying a hundred-dollar fine. Of course, such an offense should only be declared in extreme circumstances…like this, for example.

4. The manager of Wasabi did issue an apology to the couple, but claims he has never had any complaints about the toy in the past. “The kids like it, they think it’s a water gun, kind of like a water gun you know,” said Mr. Huang. Ah! The old “if kids think it’s funny, it’s ethical” standard. This standard is not reliable. The Lassiter kids might well have also found it hilarious if the chef hit their surprised mother with a cream pie, a pillow, or a dead cat. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Google Shows What’s Wrong With April Fooling”

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Extradimensional Cephalopod adds to the April Fool’s Day ethics lore on Ethics Alarms, commenting on the post about Google’s “Mic Drop” debacle.I especially like the three April Fool’s Day guidelines at the end.

Here is EC’s Comment of the Day on the post, Google Shows What’s Wrong With April Fooling: Continue reading