Tag Archives: privacy

Ethics Quiz Of The Day: The Two-Way Peanut Butter Treat…Ick Or Ethics?

Described in news reports as a “baffling oversight,” Canada only bans bestiality if it involves penetration. This means that there is a lot of oral sex going on between humans and moose, or something, so while reminding her colleagues that a Canadian sex freak  used this very loophole to escape conviction last year, Calgary MP Michelle Rempel has introduced Bill C-388 to add one line to the Criminal Code defining bestiality as “any contact by a person, for a sexual purpose, with an animal.”

This of course, would mean that doing business with Harvey Weinstein would be illegal in Canada.

Said Rampel in a statement, “I am disturbed that the government has not yet corrected this glaring void in our criminal code….This is a non-partisan issue.”

Ah, but is it a stupid issue? Or an ethics issue?

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is this vital question:

Is it unethical to spread peanut butter on your genitals and then encourage your pet Newfoundland to lick it off?

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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

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Further Ethics Observations On The Kevin Spacey Scandal [Part 2]

[Continuing the reflections on the accusation against Kevin Spacey and its aftermath…Part One is here.]

I have always assumed that Spacey had endured some kind of serious trauma that explained his aversion to confirming that he was gay, since, really, it was so, so obvious. Many actors become actors because of familial abuse and self-loathing: if you think about it, it makes sense. They don’t like who they are and what real life has been, so they seek the fantasy life of being someone else on stage, films and TV.  Maybe Spacey’s long obsession with performer Bobby Darrin provided a clue. (Spacey eventually played Darrin in his own vanity film project. “Beyond the Sea.”) You have to be really unhappy with yourself to fantasize being in the shoes of Darrin, the talented, troubled heterosexual  actor-singer who died before he turned 40. Thus I was not surprised when Spacey’s brother Randall Fowler, 62, a limo driver and professional Rod Stewart impersonator, described the home in which he, Kevin and their sister were raised as resembling the plot a  horror movie.

  • Fowler says he and his brother were both sexually abused by their father, Thomas Geoffrey Fowler (whom the children called “The Creature”), and that their mother knew about their treatment at his hands. Their older sister, Julie, was also abused before she fled home when she was 18. In a 2004 interview, Spacey’s brother described how their ultra-right-wing father was a member of the American Nazi Party. He was so enamored with Adolf Hitler, Fowler claimed, that he trimmed his mustache to resemble Der Fuehrer’s.

“I grew up in a living hell. There was so much darkness in our home it was beyond belief. It was absolutely miserable,” Spacey’s brother said then. “Years later, our mother actually wrote a letter to all three of us, trying to justify what had gone on by saying she was abused as a child and so was our father. Kevin tried to avoid what was going on by wrapping himself in an emotional bubble….He was so determined to try to avoid the whippings that he just minded his Ps and Qs until there was nothing inside. He had no feelings.”

Fowler described his younger brother was an “empty vessel” who had never been in a real relationship with anyone. “Neither of us had a chance growing up with two such damaged parents, ” he concluded.

No, I don’t know that what a Rod Stewart imitator and publicity-seeking sibling of a famous actor says is completely true, exaggerated, or a fabrication.  But it fits. Spacey should be given the benefit of the doubt, and accorded some compassion. We all deserve that. Continue reading

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Further Ethics Observations On The Kevin Spacey Scandal [Part 1 of 2]

The comments regarding yesterday’s ethics quiz have been varied and vigorous. As to the quiz question itself,

Is [Anthony] Rapp’s public accusation [against actor Kevin Spacey alleging that Spacey sexually assaulted him 30 years ago when Rapp was only 14] fair, responsible, and ethical?

I have arrived at my answer, and am abashed that I didn’t see it immediately.

No, the accusation was not fair, and it was unethical. It fails all ethical systems. It is a Golden Rule breach: What Rapp did to Spacey is not how he, or anyone would want to be treated. The fair and decent thing would have been to confront Spacey privately.  Maybe Rapp has distorted the incident over time; maybe Spacey is as remorseful and embarrassed by the incident as Rapp has been traumatized by it. All of us would want at least a chance to explain or make amends before being exposed…in Buzzfeed(!?).

Other observations, as Spacey is being metaphorically disemboweled by an angry mob…

  • Rapp also stomped on Kantian ethics, which forbids using human beings as a means to an end. Rapp says his goal was “to try to shine another light on the decades of behavior that have been allowed to continue because many people, including myself, being silent.” Wait: is there a shred of evidence that Spacey engaged in such conduct over “decades”? Is there any indication that Rapp is protecting future teens from his assaults? No, he’s just jumping on a train, joining a virtue-signalling mob engaged on what appears to be a scalp-hunting expedition. His late hit on Spacey didn’t stop a predator (as with Weinstein), didn’t report a crime to authorities (the statute of limitations is long past), didn’t accomplish anything postive and productive involing Spacey at all. I was just symbolic, and Kant, correctly, holds that it is unethical to destroy real human beings to make a political, social or culotural point, in this case the point being, “Don’t stay silent for 30 years if you have been abused, harassed or molested!”

This also fails any Millsian or Benthamist test of utilitarianism. The ends accomplished by Rapp’s accusation consist almost entirely of destroying Kevin Spacey. What else? I suppose its a warning too: anything you did that society will regard as worthy of making you a pariah can be revealed by an angry, vindictive or politically motivated alleged victim at any time, and you will have no recourse. Call it the Anita Hill Principle. That’s not enough of a “benefit” to society to destroy someone’s life. We have the Weinstein example, and the Bill Cosby saga. They were–are?—both serial offenders. Taking out Kevin Spacey based on one very old incident is not a means justified by any end.

  • Upon examination, Spacey’s response was a mistake and an ethics botch on multiple levels. Here it is again:

First, here we have another example of why Twitter is dangerous. Spacey is a smart guy, yet he foolishly, in his rush to deal with this crisis, authored his own rapid response on social media. In the old days, as my late friend Bob McElwaine, Hollywood publicist for Danny Kaye, Dean Martin, Robert Mitchum and many other stars, told me, he job was to make sure nothing attributed to his Hollywood clients was authored by them. Continue reading

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Someone Needs To Remind Poor California That It Is Just Another State, And In Need Of Therapy

It isn’t just your Democratic friends that Donald Trump’s election and presidency have caused to obsess in an unhealthy manner. The entire state of California just can’t move on with life. Bitter and angry, it is somewhere between the second and third stages of grief ( denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance).  If the state had knees, it would be going down on one, and screaming.

The legislature has passed a law requiring that Presidential candidates who want to appear on the California ballot would have to release their previous five years of tax returns. Tax returns are part of the impeachment crowd’s imaginary smoking gun evidence package. As with the emoluments clause, the Russian conspiracy theory and the “he’s not sufficiently like other Presidents so he must be insane” argument, the Trump-Obsessed are certain that if we just knew the truth about what was in the President’s tax returns, reversing the election would just be a few creative steps away.

Senate Bill 149 passed on September 15, and it is waiting for Governor Brown’s signature. Brown has not always been a fan of releasing candidate tax returns, like his own, for example.  He released his tax returns in his first two gubernatorial races, but not in 2010 or 2014 , after his opponents refused to  release theirs. I’m sure Brown will sign the bill, though. He has shown less and less inclination to restrain his increasingly alienated state’s political over-reach. Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: Harvard’s Anti-Meme Vendetta

…or not

Harvard College rescinded admissions offers to at least ten anointed members of the Class of 2021 after it discovered that the prospective students traded sexually explicit memes and messages in a private Facebook group chat. Some of the memes apparently mocked and denigrated minority groups.

The admitted students had formed the messaging group, “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens,”on Facebook in late December, 2016.

The members of the group sent each other memes and other images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children, among other topis.  Screenshots captured and obtained by the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, revealed that  some messages joked that abusing children was sexually arousing, while others had punchlines targeting ethnic or racial groups, like one that called hanging a Mexican child “piñata time.”

Harvard administrators were alerted  to the existence and contents of the chat and sent the students an e-mail that read,

“The Admissions Committee was disappointed to learn that several students in a private group chat for the Class of 2021 were sending messages that contained offensive messages and graphics As we understand you were among the members contributing such material to this chat, we are asking that you submit a statement by tomorrow at noon to explain your contributions and actions for discussion with the Admissions Committee. It is unfortunate that I have to reach out about this situation.”

A week later, at least ten members of the meme chat group were sent letters from Harvard announcing that their admission offers were no longer valid, and that the decision was final.

“As a reminder, Harvard College reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission under various conditions including if an admitted student engages in behavior that brings into question his or her honesty, maturity, or moral character.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Day

Was Harvard’s action fair, reasonable and proportionate?

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Incompetence Saturday Begins: That Annoying “Ten Concerts, One’s A Lie” Facebook Game

It’s a relief to know that I occasionally pay attention to what I teach.

When so many of my Facebook friends started rushing like lemmings to play the viral “Name ten concerts you attended, with one phony one” game yesterday, I hesitated, and not just because listing Al Jolson, Enrico Caruso and  Jenny Lind would reveal my true age. I had just been explaining to a group of Pennsylvania lawyers that they probably weren’t as competent in using technology and social media as they thought they were, and that if there was one thing of value to extract from the last Presidential campaign, it was a searing lesson in the consequences of being naive, lazy and gullible while using the internet. (Yes, I’m looking at you, John Podesta!)

By purest coincidence, yesterday also marked my four hour efforts, involving four phone calls, three phones, two websites, three passwords and a consultant (my son), to switch my e-mail address from Verizon to AOL, since AOL has purchased Verizon’s e-mail business. As I neared the finish line of this ordeal, I encountered AOL’s list of “Secret Security Questions.” One of them was “What was the first concert you attended?

Hmmmm… Continue reading

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