Category: Ethics

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Be Better Neighbors

Yesterday, I wore my Alienware T-Shirt, with the company’s logo on the front—an alien, of course. For some reason, I got several questions about it. So I said: “Well, this is my illegal alien. He’s afraid of getting sent back to his home planet, and I’m protesting with him.”

There’s truth to what I said. I’m unfavorable to the hardline US legislators are taking with this immigration bill. I just don’t see turning all these immigrants into criminals, or turning them away. As one of the sixth graders pointed out today in the Sunday school class I teach, most Americans are immigrants. And to the Native Americans here 400 hundred years ago, the off-continent settlers were the illegals and, as it turned out, invaders, too. 

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Theory Isn’t Fact

I find the ongoing debate about evolution versus creationism to be quite exhausting. Neither perspective really makes any sense, but strong philosophical and cultural biases play to favor one position or the other. The creationist’s biases are clear:

The Biblical seven-day account of the world’s creation; there are writings, supposedly inspired by God, which by their divine inspiration are indisputable. Evolutionists offer plenty evidence of dispute, such as the universe being more than 6,000 years old (I don’t doubt a much longer period of existence). 

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More Battles Than Stars

From the critics corner: “Battlestar Galactica.” To recap, the last half-season concluded with some wicked female violence and an attempted rape (all in the name of killing the evil Cylons). Two weeks ago, the show opened with more violence against women and the young male fantasy catfight, where one woman (OK, robot) shoots the other woman (and evil authority figure) in the head. Maybe the presumably young-male audience appreciates the the show’s assault on women.

This week’s episode, “Epiphanies,” took position on some of the most fiercely-debated philosophical and moral issues dividing U.S. liberals and conservatives. 

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I Don't See the Justification

Yesterday’s SouthCoastToday.com story about a student’s investigation by the Department of Homeland Security is breath stopping. Apparently, the “senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung’s tome on Communism called The Little Red Book“. I have to admit that Mao’s communist manifesto wouldn’t be on my reading list, but like this kid I probably would want it for research on a college paper about communism.

Cold War is over, right? The war on terror is against Muslim extremists. Right? Last I checked, Muslim extremism doesn’t have much in common with atheistic communism. So why is a kid filling out a university library book request on communism, “leaving his name, address, phone number, and Social Security number” getting “visited at his parents’ home in New Bedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security?” And I have to ask: The Feds are monitoring library book requests now? 

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Copyright, Copy Wrong

I don’t see how the Bush Administration’s proposal to stiffen copyright laws synchs with the intentions of the framers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Last decade’s Copyright revisions were bad enough and prostitute the whole-purpose concept of public domain. My concern is bigger than copyright expiration. These laws designed to protect intellectual property, particularly with the Internet and digital distribution as justification for revision, increasingly are threats to free speech.

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It’s Miller Time No More

Earlier today, the New York Times officially dismissed reporter Judith Miller. In a to-the-point, bare-most-of-the-facts story, Times reporter Katharine Seelye writes of her colleague’s departure. While the Times and Miller “reached an agreement yesterday that ended her 28-year career,” it was a dismissal, as far as I’m concerned. The story carries tomorrow’s dateline.

I cheered for Miller when during summer she went to jail rather than give up a source. But since, oddities emerged about her involvement in the CIA leak case, her real reasons for going to jail, and her eventual testimony before a grand jury. 

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No Direction Forward

I recorded the PBS special on Bob Dylan, “No Direction Home” and finished the first part last night. The film left me with a sense of loss about the state of American culture.

Dylan started making music at a time of counterculture poetry and song, the Greenwich Village crowd, that still had some lifeblood even through the early 1980s. My question: Where is the interest in arts for arts sake today? I recognize this isn’t exactly a new problem. The term counterculture is explanation enough for a longstanding problem. 

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Math Racial Profiling

A few years ago, I was appalled to read a New York Times story about a proposed new math program for New York schools that would promote guessing as a means of doing math. Kids would learn a way of estimating answers. The rationale was to cater to minority students, many of them Hispanics.

I read in shock. The whole concept of estimation made no sense to me. Worse, it looked to me like the liberal school system was really doing racial profiling, essentially saying the minorities are too stupid to learn basic math. Geez, get a life. 

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The Wrong Gulf

On Sunday, I gassed up my 1989 Volvo 740 for $2.69 a gallon–the good stuff–and moaned about high prices. Yesterday a friend IMed and told me to gas up before prices jumped 40 cents a gallon. Too late, $3.19 when my wife got the pumps. She paid more today, $3.49 a gallon, or a delightful 80-cent increase in just two days.

I predict the situation will get a lot worse. New Orleans is now the equivalent of a Biblical epic—disaster that will keep on going. The death, the destruction, the economic impact will be like another 9-11, except as an Act of God (Why should he get the blame, anyway?) rather than act of terrorism. Few weeks back, I blogged about the housing bubble. Katrina, that vicious bitch, put a hole in the bubble, I think. 

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The Wrong Lesson

My wife is prepping my daughter for home school. She was surprised that my daughter couldn’t identify one U.S. state. “We were supposed to learn last year in social studies,” my daughter said. Apparently, the teacher couldn’t get to it. While I am largely satisfied with what the public school teachers taught my daughter, the incident reminded me of something that happened late in the school year.

One Friday, my daughter asked about Napster. She knows that I have gotten songs from Napster and wanted to know about stealing music. Problem: Her confusion over the original Napster filing-sharing site and Napster 2.0, which sells music or offers it on subscription basis. Her fifth grade teacher was source of the confusion. 

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Like Father, Like Son

Yesterday I sat near the water fountain adjacent to the Lakeforest Mall kids play area, while my daughter and two friends romped around nearby. Maybe 10 minutes after I plunked down near the water, a chunky kid, probably nine or 10 years old, ran by and spotted a penny on the carpet. “Is this yours?” he asked. I said, “No”. Up ran another kid, much smaller and no older than six years old. “It’s mine!” He grabbed the coin, threw it in the water and ran up the stairs.

“What a little liar”, I thought, completely taken back. I knew for a fact, the coin didn’t belong to this kid, who clearly had just arrived at the play area. Not just a liar, but he took the coin from a much bigger kid, too. The exchange really bothered me, and I wondered what kind of adult this kid might become. 

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Journalist’s Trust is Inviolate

This week, I saw the movie “Shattered Glass” on cable for the second time in a week. The film unravels the deceptions of Stephen Glass, the former New Republic writer who made up quotes and even whole stories. If I correctly recall, the magazine found problems with 27 of the 41 stories he wrote while working there.

The film got me to thinking a whole lot about ethics, the temptations journalists sometime encounter and dangerous deceptions. When a reporter for CNET News.com I worked out of a home office for four years, which meant only modest supervision. If I had ever wanted to fabricate anything, probably no one would have noticed. I never did, of course, or else you wouldn’t be reading this post.