July 2006 "Easy Calls"

  • Smitten with his lovely new acquaintance's charms, a love-struck man sent a long, rambling, romantic email to a London woman named Kate Winsall. Lonely or desperate or knocked batty by love at first sight, the man produced a love message that was both sincere and excessive. Windsall paid her admirer back by sending his note to her sister for laughs, and her sister sent it on a worldwide journey to mailboxes everywhere. Now the man has been humiliated across the globe, the subject of articles in newspapers and the object of bloggers' ridicule. His offense? Trying to tell a young woman that she had caught his fancy and touched his heart, and asking for a date. He never imagined that the seemingly wondrous creature he had met and praised to the skies in his note was really an inconsiderate and mean-spirited jerk, who would betray his trust and turn him into an international laughingstock. The Ethics Scoreboard's sympathy goes out to this unlucky romantic, whose name it will not publish because this site does not want to be an accomplice in Ms. Winsall's unethical conduct. You shouldn't be either. If someone sends you a copy of the e-mail (now entitled "How to ask a girl out (in a round about way)". by Winsall's oh-so-witty sister), don't circulate it, and suggest to whoever sent it to you that they shouldn't circulate it either. If ever the Golden Rule applied, this is it. [7/26/2006]
  • Republicans and Democrats alike---at least those who care about the ethics of elected officials---should be celebrating the defeat of former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed in the Republican primary for Georgia lieutenant governor. Reed's likely victory over his relatively unknown opponent Casey Cagle was regarded as a slam dunk until accounts of Reed's shady dealings with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff surfaced in the press. Reed had rallied Christian voters against Indian casinos, but was secretly receiving 4 million dollars through Abramoff from other gambling interests to do so. The revelation that Reed was both on the take and a hypocrite was too much for his supporters, and his huge lead in the early opinion polls turned into a decisive drubbing at the ones that counted. Good. Sure, many GOP voters may have been voting more with their heads than their consciences, as Reed looked like a certain loser in the general election. Nevertheless, Reed's forced exit stands as a high profile warning to ethics-challenged politicians, and now there is one less deceitful and conflicted candidate that needs to be jettisoned into a different career path. One down, and about 700 to go. It's a start. [7/26/2006]
  • Carriel Louah made a surprise visit to her parent's Darlington, Wisconsin home last January as a birthday treat for her mother. But after she injured herself slipping and falling on their icy driveway, Carriel's daughterly affection wasn't enough to keep her from suing her loving parents for negligence. Bolstered by a letter of apology she received from her folks ("Wait a minute, honey, let's have our lawyer check out the note on that Hallmark card to make sure we haven't admitted legal liability!"), Louah is now suing them for $75,000, alleging that they knew they had a faulty gutter for years and still let it spill water on the driveway, leading to her fall. Her parents deny it, claiming that she can't prove the driveway was icy. The case is going to a jury. All right: we know it's really the insurance companies fighting this out now, not the daughter and parents. Carriel is within her legal rights to sue, presuming that she was really injured and that she really believes that her parents were at fault. She's still a venal ingrate to do so. The debt a child owes to a parent for a lifetime of love, care and sacrifice is a whole lot more than $75,000. Tearing at the fabric of a family relationship to get compensated for an accident is indefensible conduct. The parents may be wrong as well: if they were at fault, and their daughter has financial limitations that make the accident a special hardship for her, they should feel an obligation to help her out. But using the legal system to force them to do so is just a terrible way for a child to treat a parent. Bonds of love should dictate that these kinds of disputes are settled rationally and fairly within the family. It's a misuse of the resources of the legal system to resort to a lawsuit, but more important, it's an abuse of a lifetime relationship in which a child has a duty to exhibit forgiveness, kindness and gratitude. [7/21/2006]
  • The New York Times recently reported the alarming fact that more than two-thirds of the original officials from the Department of Homeland Security have left the department for lucrative lobbying positions with industries seeking contracts from the beleaguered agency. Why alarming? Congress has long recognized the danger of allowing this sort of incestuous personnel exchange, as it has the potential of distorting decision-making that ought to be based on merit rather than personal relationships: back in 1962, it passed a statute requiring a one year cooling-off period before a former government employee could lobby his own agency. But far-sighted Homeland Security staff managed to get a big loop-hole passed in 2004, dividing the department into seven areas with the one-year ban only extending to the particular area where each employee worked. One result: contacts and access that companies seeking contracts are willing to pay for. Another: a clear conflict of interest for current Department executives, who have a constant temptation to improve their post-government employment prospects by favoring potential private sector suitors. It is likely that far fewer government officials yield to these temptations than the Times and others would have the public believe, but never mind: the Time is 100% right that this situation is ripe for abuse, looks terrible, and cannot be justified. The 2004 loophole needs to be closed. [ 7/12/2006]
  • The "innocent until proven guilty" apologists suffered another well-deserved setback when Philadelphia Phillies president Dave Montgomery admitted that it was "a mistake" to let pitcher Brett Myers pitch against the Red Sox a day after being arrested and charged with hitting his wife in the face on a Boston street. At the time, the Phillies took the position that no adverse action would be taken by the club until there was a legal resolution of the issue (After police responded to 911 call from a witness to Myers battering his wife, they found her with her face swollen and bruised). "The decision to allow Brett to pitch was wrong," Montgomery said. "And the reason I believe it was wrong was that an unintended message was sent that we are somehow indifferent to the matter of spousal abuse. ... It created in the minds of others that there was a condoning of what [allegedly] took place." Exactly. Just because a person hasn't had his day in court does not mean that it is appropriate or right to pretend that nothing happened in circumstances where it is obvious something did. On a related subject, Barry Bonds' personal trainer Greg Anderson has risked contempt charges by refusing to testify before a federal grand jury regarding matters that Bonds may have lied about in his own grand jury testimony. This, of course, impedes the justice system in its efforts to establish legally whether Bonds used steroids and lied about it, but the only reasonable non-legal interpretation of Anderson's refusal is that Bonds used and lied. As with Myers, Bonds should not be playing baseball. The right thing would be to keep him off the field until he is, inevitable, proven in court to be the unprincipled felon and cheat that he has already been proven to be out of court, beyond any reasonable doubt. [7/6/2006]

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