Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/7/2020: The Day That Will Live In Infamy

Pearl Harbor

Today, of course, is the anniversary of the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

At 7:55 a.m Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber emerged out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. 360 Japanese warplanes followed in a devastating attack on the unsuspecting U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. The U.S. Pacific fleet was nearly obliterated: Five of eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were sunk or severely damaged; more than 200 aircraft were destroyed; 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 were wounded. Japan lost just 30 planes and fewer than 100 men. By the sheerest luck, all three Pacific fleet aircraft carriers were out of the harbor and at sea on training maneuvers, allowing the U.S. to use them to turn the tide of the Pacific war against Japan at the Battle of Midway six months later.

I always felt connected to the tragedy at Pearl Harbor through my father. At the dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., Dad introduced me to a veteran who had survived the attack, and just shaking his hand was a moving experience I shall never forget.

1. I’m glad I’m not a South Korean ethicist, because this would make my head explode. More than 200,000 young men each year​ have to interrupt their studies or careers in South Korea to join the military, for mandatory conscription is seen as crucial to the country’s vigilant defense against North Korea. Men must enlist for about 20 months once they turn 28. Last week, however, pop star Kim Seok-jin, the oldest member of the global K-pop phenomenon​ BTS​, turned 28 knowing that he could keep on singing, recording, touring and making money: South Korea’s Parliament passed an exception to the country’s Military Service Act​ to allow top K-pop stars like Mr. Kim postpone their ​military ​service until they turn 30.

There’s just no excuse for this classic “laws are for the little people” move, only rationalizations. “It’s a sacred duty to defend our country, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to carry a weapon,” Noh Woong-rae, a senior lawmaker in the governing​ Democratic Party, ​said in a fatuous statement supporting the special treatment. The bill to craft pop stardom exception the Military Service Act was first introduced in September, after BTS became the first South Korean group ever to top the United States Billboard Hot 100 singles chart with its song “Dynomite.”

Here is the song that helps defend South Korea:

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/19/2018: Double Standards And Greed

Time for a Good Morning song!

1. Life on Facebook. A lawyer friend who should know better posted a comment that began, “You wouldn’t think that posting something like ‘Taking children away from their parents and sticking them in cages is wrong’ would be controversial, but in almost every case where one of my friends has said something like this, at least one of his/her friends feels the need to argue about it…” Later he compared the statement “Taking children away from their parents and sticking them in cages is wrong” to “Torturing kittens is wrong.” I told him that as a lawyer, he should be objecting to and explaining the transparent deceit of “Taking children away from their parents and sticking them in cages is wrong”—a half-truth designed to stifle argument, not attacking those who are correctly pointing out the emotionalism and dishonesty of that tactic.

I should count up the number of lawyers whose comments on Facebook on this issue are pure “Think of the children!” with no substantive legal and policy analysis whatsoever. My friend also made the typical suggestion that only Trump voters—you know: morons—would argue with “Taking children away from their parents and sticking them in cages is wrong” as a fair and conclusive verdict on the current policy.

2. Theranos.  Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, as well as Ramesh Balwani, the company’s former president ( and Holme’s love interest, were indicted yesterday on charges of conspiracy and wire fraud. The Theranos debacle is a classic corporate fraud story on par with Enron, if not as wide-reaching.

I missed it. This is embarrassing for an ethics blog, and for someone who thinks he scours various news sources thoroughly enough to catch the major ethics stories. I blame Donald Trump, but I also blame the various news sources in 2015 that chose to report fake news, trivial news, future news and theoretical news rather than give a major corporate scandal the attention it deserved. If I missed the story, and I’m looking for it, what chance do normal people with sensible occupations have?

The civil fraud charges in the case were filed in March by the Securities and Exchange Commission, though the scandal had broken earlier, when the Wall Street Journal published its 2015 exposé.  Holmes and Balwani allegedly raised millions of dollars using false statements about how well the company’s  blood-testing device worked, while using  a contract with the Department of Defense and a partnership between Theranos and the pharmacy chain Walgreens to con pharmacies, doctors and the public. The apparent scam created a Business of Cards that, at its peak, had more than 800 employees and a paper valuation of $9 billion.

There is a book out about the Theranos scandal by the reporter who broke the story… Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Looney Tunes Cartoon Disclaimer

Warner Brothers Warning

Above is the disclaimer shown at the beginning of each DVD in the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 4, Volume 5, and Volume 6 sets, as well as the Daffy Duck and Foghorn Leghorn Looney Tunes Super Stars sets and the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Academy Awards Animation Collection:

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is the warning that introduces the Warner Brothers classic cartoon videos fair and responsible?

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CBS: Ethics Corrupter

Rehire Charlie Sheen?! What could CBS be thinking?

Barry Bonds goes on trial for perjury today. He is one of our society’s prime corrupters. Bonds cheated, lied, broke the law and helped drag major league baseball’s integrity  into the depths, all with the objectives of breaking records by players better and more honest than he, and becoming rich and famous. He accomplished all of these things, with no appreciable negative consequences; as of now, his career and life carry the lesson that cheating works, and anyone who lets things like rules, laws, or ethics stand in the way of success is a fool. Perhaps the trial will change that. I can dream.

Now CBS has stepped up to be a prime corporate ethics corrupter. Reportedly, it is negotiating with Charlie Sheen to get him back on the air, either in his now defunct show “Two and a Half Men,” or in something else. Continue reading

It’s About Time! Dept.: Charlie Sheen, Ethics Uber-Dunce, Gets What He Deserves

Charlie Sheen, The Amazing Human Ethics Train Wreck

Up until yesterday, the message CBS and Warner Bros. had been sending to the culture by its handling of the ongoing Charlie Sheen embarrassment was this: you can break laws, try to strangle your wife, publicly betray multiple spouses, neglect your children, dive drunk, use illegal drugs, generally behave like a spoiled, anti-social ass without showing  any remorse or contrition, and corporations will still pay you a million dollars a week and tell America you are a terrific guy as long as you keep making  them big profits. Continue reading