August 2005 "Easy Calls"

  • Environmentalist and author Rob Gelbspan is just one of the more prominent advocates of global warming policy to exploit the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina to panic the inattentive and convince the uncritical. In an Op-ed piece in the Boston Globe, Gelbspan declared the monster storm that devastated the Gulf coast was unequivocally the bi-product of global warming and proof of same, even though responsible scientists, historians and meteorologists have stated pretty unanimously that it's not, and isn't. The tactic, which is apparently running wild in European papers, will be familiar to any readers of Michael Crichton's contrarian novel "State of Fear," which tracks a plot by "climate change" zealots to use well-timed natural disasters to build public support. It is a cynical, deceptive, and intellectually dishonest exercise, the full repulsiveness of which can be put into focus by recalling how Newt Gingrich once attempted to exploit Andrea Yates' murder of her children to make points in the culture wars, claiming that pro-abortion, anti-family liberals had created an environment that produced the slaughter. Katrina has killed a lot more people than Andrea Yates, and efforts to blame those deaths on the Bush administration or U. S. energy policy are exactly as tasteless, far-fetched and outrageous as Gingrich's attempt to lay the bodies of Yates' drowned kids on the Democrats' doorstep. Whether the climate is changing or not, gleefully leaping to score political goals by assigning blame for natural and unnatural disasters is a despicable exercise. Gingrich paid dearly for his statements, and Gelbspan and his ilk deserve no better. (8/31/2005)

  • Fresh from violating the Sixth Commandment (or at least one of its corollaries, "Thou Shalt Not Advocate Assassinating the Duly Elected President of Venezuela"), Pat Robertson is moving on to bearing false witness. Incredibly, he now claims that he was "misinterpreted" when he said (this is on tape, remember) "If he [Chavez] thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it."

    "I said our special forces could take him out. Take him out could be a number of things including kidnapping," Robertson said on his "The 700 Club" television program. Well, yes…in the next sentence Robertson did say, "We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability." Somehow, following on the heels of a sentence in which the televangelist clearly stated his belief that the US ought to assassinate Chavez, it is hard to conclude that "take him out" in this context meant "buy him a nice dinner and take him to a movie" or even "kidnap him." Robertson's craven denial is reminiscent of the old punchline, "Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?" He has now shown the world that he advocates murder, practices dishonesty, and lacks both integrity and courage to be accountable for his own words. Welcome to "The 700 Club"! But you can find better ethics on "The Simpsons."(8/28/2005)

  • Too easy a call, really, but too outrageous to ignore is TV minister Pat Robertson's suggestion that it would be a good idea for the U.S. to assassinate the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. Murder is, to say the least, unethical. State sponsored murder of the duly elected head of a country with which the US is not at war is also unethical, not to mention illegal. For a minister and former presidential candidate with a large following and a substantial TV audience to attempt to confer legitimacy on such conduct by using air time to promote it charts new reaches in the territory of irresponsibility. This was an abuse of free speech. Whatever set of warped values Pat Robertson is pushing these days, they sure aren't Christian, they sure aren't American, and they sure aren't ethical. (8/24/2005)
  • This one is truly an easy call…unless you are a newspaper editor. Someone surreptitiously taped New York Governor Pataki, his wife and aides in private phone conversations, and sent the tapes anonymously to the New York Post. There is no evidence of a crime contained in them (though the taping itself may indeed be a Federal crime); the tapes are merely embarrassing the way many of our private conversations would be embarrassing to us if they were made public. It was unethical to make them, unethical to send them to the press, and unethical of the New York Post to print them. The right thing to do would have been for the Post to send them to the Governor without even listening to them. This, of course, never occurred to the Post staff, or if it did, the impulse toward decency was quickly squelched. The Ethics Scoreboard hopes that somehow, somewhere, a newspaper exists in America that would not publicize such tapes. But if there is one, we have no idea where it is. (8/23/2005)
  • For 20 years, Ezzy Dame claimed to be one of the original Oompa-Loompas from the 1971 Gene Wilder film classic, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." His home-town papers in Reno, Nevada did several stories about it over the years, but it wasn't until a July mention prompted by the premiere of Tim Burton's remake of the film that one of the real Oompa-Loompas blew the whistle on him. In a poignant confession to the Reno Gazette-Journal picked up by the Associated Press, Ezzy came clean…sort of. "It was not for fame or glory," he said. "I never made a profit or earned a financial gain from this. There is something so special when a child looks at a little person and they're not scared or feel that they're looking at a freak. When you say you played that part, they look at you and smile. They see you as a human being." It's a touching story, but it is also a lie. Dame admits that he began claiming to be an Oompa-Loompa when his agent told him to pad his resume by claiming the "Willy Wonka" credit. Resume padding, by definition, is lying for financial gain. The fact that Dame "never made a profit or earned a financial gain" from his misrepresentation doesn't mean he didn't try.

    All together now!

    Oompa Loompa Dibbidy-Dong,
    Resume padding simply is wrong!
    When you put phony roles on your sheet,
    It's an Oompa-Loompa Chibbidy-Cheat!

    (8/16/2005)

  • Los Angeles is buzzing because the wife of Dodgers pitcher Derek Lowe announced that a female sports reporter covering the team has been having a torrid affair with her husband. Lowe, like any unfaithful spouse, is guilty of dishonest and disloyal conduct, but the reporter is doubly culpable for not one but three ethical fouls: cavorting with a married man (thus harming his family); developing a conflicting relationship with an object of her reporting about whom she can no longer be objective; and interfering with the team she's supposed to be covering by becoming part of a news story involving one of its key players. Lowe is a cad, and she may be a home-wrecker, but she's also an unethical journalist. Strike three. (8/15/2005)
  • Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announced he was outraged in the wake of an arbitrator's ruling that Selig's twenty game suspension of Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers for assaulting a cameraman was excessive. After arbitrator Shaim Das reduced the Rogers suspension to thirteen games, Selig said, "I strongly disagree with arbitrator Das' decision. It sends the wrong message to every one of our constituents: the fans, the media and our players." But Das, like any good arbitrator, evaluated the harshness of Rogers' suspension in the light of baseball's disciplinary standards, and he could hardly ignore the fact that Rafael Palmeiro's proven use of a banned steroid just rated only a ten game suspension, despite the fact that steroids are almost unanimously conceded to be the most serious threat to the game, its legitimacy, and the health of its players. The message sent to "fans, the media and…players" by the disparate sentences meted out to Rogers for a temper tantrum and Palmeiro for cheating was that pushing around a TV cameraman is twice as serious as using illegal performance enhancing drugs and lying about it. It's not the arbitrator who has his values out of whack; it's baseball. (8/10/2005)
  • The Scoreboard's recent commentary on record company payola is, upon reflection, wrongly silent on the ethical rot displayed by the recipients of Sony's bribes, the disc jockeys and station programmers. Bribery takes two, and those who accept bribes are every bit as wrong as those who give them. The piece's closing condemnation of the ethics of the recording business was too specific. The entire recorded popular music business, from those who pay the talent to those who sell their records to those who broadcast them, all the way down the line to those who steal them over the internet, is corrupt, and has been for decades. (8/8/2005)

  • Apparently the Scoreboard missed another brewing air travel ethics controversy: an increasing number of passengers who watch pornography on their portable DVD players, thus upsetting those nearby. This is just a new wrinkle on an old problem, that of passengers who chose to read magazines with centerfolds containing various degrees of nudity. The verdict on the new problem is the same as the old…inconsiderate, boorish, and rude. A passenger should not have to avert his or her eyes while flying. As for those sensitive or politically obsessed souls who feel that books by Ann Coulter or Al Franken are more annoying to the eyes than Pamela Anderson au natural…sorry. The rule of thumb is that if it isn't too offensive for Larry King or Joe Scarborough to have on the air, it's OK to have on an airplane. (8/6/2005)

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