Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Wed Apr 20, 2011 9:26 pm

Eigenbasis wrote:
Raccoon wrote: But what do you mean by "punished"? It's one thing to say that the defendant may have committed a tort (i.e., a civil wrong) for which he should pay compensation to the victim (or victim's estate). This seems to be what you have in mind from the privacy tort discussion that follows. It's altogether different to say that the defendant should be punished through the criminal process, which is what seems to be happened now.
Well, he's being charged with a hate crime right now. If this wasn't a bias incident? I really don't know what would be just. Maybe manslaughter with the degree corresponding to how responsible he was.
Seriously?

Manslaughter means that you believe the defendant had the mental state to support an intent to kill, mitigated by some kind of heat of the moment passion. Whatever else you think about this kid, and I don't defend what he did, it's absurd to charge him with any kind of intentional homicide.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by thacon » Wed Apr 20, 2011 9:51 pm

I'm with Raccoon here. You can't be held responsible for the irrational actions of another. If a cashier short changes me and I flip out and kill myself, that cashier shouldn't be charged with killing me. I was glad to hear that this kid wasn't indicted on manslaughter charges, but I find the invasion of privacy charge interesting. He was watching his own webcam set up in his own room. Is one right to expect privacy in a shared room?

I once left my webcam on to watch my dog while I was at work. Had my super come in to, say, fix the air conditioner, and did something embarrassing, would I be guilty of invading his privacy if I saw it? I know it's not the same, but it was my own laptop in my own room.

Like I said, I find this case really interesting. People tend to have strong opinions on both sides.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Eigenbasis » Wed Apr 20, 2011 9:56 pm

Why do I even bother with a lawyer...

Isn't manslaughter actions that lead to death without malice aforethought? Could this be construed as involuntary criminally negligent manslaughter? Okay, it's a stretch. Sorry that I hadn't thoroughly researched manslaughter before I put that one word in my post. I assumed it was the lightest thing you could charge someone with while still making them responsible for the death.

Okay, what punishment would you suggest for a man who mercilessly taunts someone until they commit suicide? What if every action they performed was not criminal but the sum of them indisputably led to the victim committing suicide? Is that in the books somewhere?

Thacon, "reasonable" is a purposely subjective term because every situation is different. That's what lawyers argue about. I would argue that you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in your own bedroom where you know who is physically present and who is not. The AC repairman does not have that privilege because it is not his home.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by thacon » Wed Apr 20, 2011 10:03 pm

Eigenbasis wrote:Okay, what punishment would you suggest for a man who mercilessly taunts someone until they commit suicide?
Are you asking about a hypothetical or this case in particular? Because:
...the suicide, which took place in the first few weeks of school...
I would think that if they had just moved in together, the logical action would be to try to switch dorm rooms - not kill yourself.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Eigenbasis » Wed Apr 20, 2011 10:11 pm

That was a hypothetical.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by thacon » Wed Apr 20, 2011 10:14 pm

In that case, yes, I can see a scenario where charging someone over someone else's suicide might make sense, but I'm going to need to see a lot of evidence of a sustained campaign of psychological torture. When it gets to the point where I can envision a rational person taking their own life due to another person's actions, that other person becomes guilty of murder (or manslaughter, etc.). It takes a lot to get to that point though.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by top1214 » Wed Apr 20, 2011 10:27 pm

Eigenbasis wrote:
Okay, what punishment would you suggest for a man who mercilessly taunts someone until they commit suicide? What if every action they performed was not criminal but the sum of them indisputably led to the victim committing suicide? Is that in the books somewhere?
I would think that there isn't. Remember (or maybe not since it wasn't your state) the Missouri mother and daughter that pretended to be a cute boy online, interested in some classmate, only to turn on her, causing her to commit suicide? They couldn't charge the mom (whom, if I remember correctly, did most of the "cyberbullying") with anything more than breaking the rules on myspace by pretending to be someone else.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Omri » Wed Apr 20, 2011 10:36 pm

thacon wrote:I'm with Raccoon here. You can't be held responsible for the irrational actions of another. If a cashier short changes me and I flip out and kill myself, that cashier shouldn't be charged with killing me.
thacon wrote:In that case, yes, I can see a scenario where charging someone over someone else's suicide might make sense, but I'm going to need to see a lot of evidence of a sustained campaign of psychological torture
Thacon is saying pretty much dead on what I was going to. Except in somewhat extreme circumstances, if you kill yourself, you're the one primarily responsible for your death.

(Again, as others said, the kid certainly certainly performed reprehensible acts which should not be condoned, but manslaughter is another thing entirely)

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by NardoLoopa » Thu Apr 21, 2011 6:56 am

Omri wrote:. . . if you kill yourself, you're the one primarily responsible for your death.
This could be another whole debate thread in itself.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Tue Jun 14, 2011 12:10 am

A new ethical question!

Mrs. Raccoon is a pretty savvy timeshare purchaser. With one exception, she's always bought our timeshare/vacation clubs on the resale market, often at severely discounted prices compared to the developer-sales. She researches the timeshare beforehand to make sure that either it's a place we can use (for that reason, we like the "system" places, like Worldmark) or can trade weeks to get into other places we'd like to visit. On our recent trip to the coast, the developer was offering a free hot buffet breakfast AND a $100 Amex gift card for attending an "owner's presentation." It was pitched as a time for us to be able to learn more about Worldmark and to get questions answered, but of course the real purpose is to try to sell us more WM points. Now, I remain deliberately ignorant enough about timesharing that I can plausibly defer everything to Mrs. Raccoon, and she would resolutely refuse to buy from the developer. So she didn't feel it appropriate to attend the session just for the breakfast and the $100. (Whether the $100 is worth sitting through the presentation is a different matter.) I was okay with attending or not attending, because I suppose you could look it as the developer is paying $100 for the opportunity to overcome our resistance. But I could see also that one might think it wrong to take the $100 when you're certain you won't be swayed.

Thoughts?
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by stupac2 » Tue Jun 14, 2011 12:40 am

High-pressure sales tactics are unethical no matter what you give the person in return.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Tue Jun 14, 2011 1:21 am

stupac2 wrote:High-pressure sales tactics are unethical no matter what you give the person in return.
LOL. I don't think these were particularly high-pressured. But also, in case you aren't just messing with me, I was wondering whether it would be ethical for *us* to show up just for the $100. . . .
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by lostcalpolydude » Tue Jun 14, 2011 5:00 am

I know people that go to those regularly for the free stuff. The various companies involved limit you to one presentation (for free stuff) every six months, even when you walk in and the presenter already knows who you are and that you aren't buying. If they really wanted to cut you off and not continue to try to sell you on the product, they would stop giving you stuff, or make it once every 5 years or something.

Based on that, I'm pretty sure that they do eventually convert some people and make money off of the "never going to buy" crowd. Therefore I think it's ethical to go.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by thacon » Tue Jun 14, 2011 8:05 am

lostcalpolydude wrote:Based on that, I'm pretty sure that they do eventually convert some people and make money off of the "never going to buy" crowd. Therefore I think it's ethical to go.
Agreed. From what I've heard about these things, almost everyone shows up expecting to turn down the offers. Some people end up getting convinced to buy and those people cover everyone else's $100.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by NardoLoopa » Tue Jun 14, 2011 8:06 am

It's part of the business model that some people will come with zero interest in buying into the timeshare. The company knows this up front. Assuming they are a rational and good company, they also believe either the probability they will crack one of these nuts is worth it, or that setting the bar higher to rid themselves of these freeloaders is detrimental to luring in suckers. In any case, the business model works for them. You're just reducing their profit margin on the suckers.

This of course brings us to the modern question: what is the relationship between business and morality? And furthermore, why is it that consumers seem to have a greater moral obligation than companies? (why can companies default on loans as a part of normal business practices, and consumers are immoral if they do so? etc)

My parents use to "do the loop" as they called it. I think my sister got a Mickey Mouse telephone out of it, and I got a sleeping bag. After 10 years of doing this they caved and now own a timeshare in NC. They enjoyed it for 5 years and have been trying to unload it for the last 5.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Eevilcat » Wed Jun 15, 2011 2:47 am

It is far easier to make a sale in a packed room of potential buyers than an almost empty room of those that actually will buy something. Consider the $100 as reasonable payment for your time to create the illusion of interest and competition for the product on offer. You'll probably find that the freebies also cost the timeshare company considerably less as they provide a selective marketing opportunity for the 3rd party - after all why mailshot an entire neighbourhood when you can get a specific target demographic to come to you.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by JParmar44 » Mon Jun 27, 2011 3:30 pm

Go along and take his money. If overall it doesn't work he'll learn a lesson and not carry on with wasteful business practice, if it works out he sells a timeshare and you're a $100 richer

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by NardoLoopa » Tue Apr 03, 2012 10:07 am

I hope Rac won't mind me guest-posting on his thread.

Ethical Dilemma: You are the program manager for a 100person contract to the govt. The Govt has asked you to perform some work that can be much more efficiently performed by a competing program of 10 people in the same amount of time for a very reduced cost. Bringing this to the govt's attention would lose your program the work and directly cause 20 of your employees to lose their jobs. If you stay silent and take the work the competing program and its 10 people just continue to work on other things in their queue.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Verdigris97 » Tue Apr 03, 2012 10:40 am

NardoLoopa wrote:I hope Rac won't mind me guest-posting on his thread.

Ethical Dilemma: You are the program manager for a 100person contract to the govt. The Govt has asked you to perform some work that can be much more efficiently performed by a competing program of 10 people in the same amount of time for a very reduced cost. Bringing this to the govt's attention would lose your program the work and directly cause 20 of your employees to lose their jobs. If you stay silent and take the work the competing program and its 10 people just continue to work on other things in their queue.
Smartass answer: how well do you really like those 20 people? (I would never, ever think that in RL. Well, okay, there's this one guy...)

Genuine attempt: Could you reduce your bid a little bit and subcontract to the smaller organization, and use your 20 "at-risk" people to help manage the other talent (instead of all 100, reducing overhead)? Then you save the gov't money, you keep the contract (and cover some jobs), and you foster a good relationship with colleagues you might want to hire again in the future.

Shoot-the-moon attempt: Buy the smaller organization. You want efficient people like that working for you.

Honest question: What is it about those 10 people that they are ten-times as productive as the larger group? Special skills? Proprietary tech? They've "done this kind of thing before?"

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by lostcalpolydude » Tue Apr 03, 2012 11:10 am

Apparently this government person gets to pick an inefficient group to do a job, and they don't have to put it up for some bidding process that would at least somewhat increase efficiency involved. Is there no ethical obligation to report to someone higher up the chain that they are wasting taxpayer money? Hopefully there are details missing that make it not quite so much of a failure on their part.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by thacon » Tue Apr 03, 2012 11:14 am

Isn't this how most government contracts work?

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by NardoLoopa » Tue Apr 03, 2012 11:33 am

lostcalpolydude wrote:Apparently this government person gets to pick an inefficient group to do a job, and they don't have to put it up for some bidding process that would at least somewhat increase efficiency involved. Is there no ethical obligation to report to someone higher up the chain that they are wasting taxpayer money? Hopefully there are details missing that make it not quite so much of a failure on their part.
Yes, there is an obligation to report wasteful spending. There's even a number to call -- though I think it actually rings at Tea Party HQ.

The reason the 10 are more efficient than the 100 is because it would build on years of work they have already finished. The 100 would be starting from the beginning. The govt doesn't understand this -- which is the key piece of information the PM of the 100 has in his/her pocket.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Eigenbasis » Sun Apr 08, 2012 2:54 pm

NardoLoopa wrote:I hope Rac won't mind me guest-posting on his thread.

Ethical Dilemma: You are the program manager for a 100person contract to the govt. The Govt has asked you to perform some work that can be much more efficiently performed by a competing program of 10 people in the same amount of time for a very reduced cost. Bringing this to the govt's attention would lose your program the work and directly cause 20 of your employees to lose their jobs. If you stay silent and take the work the competing program and its 10 people just continue to work on other things in their queue.
I stay silent and take the job. As the manager I have an obligation both to my company and to my employees to stay in business. I am being paid to make my company money, and if I rat out to the government then I should be fired. Taking this to its extreme, should every company that makes an inferior product voluntarily shut down?

If not reporting this is actually illegal for some reason that does change things a bit, but then that turns in to more of a whistleblower scenario (which seems like a very different question).
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Mon Apr 16, 2012 5:37 pm

I'm late to Nardo's dilemma, but I think it's okay to leave the burden on the government official to figure out the need for competitive bids, etc.

Meanwhile, I've got not one but two ethical dilemmas to offer up!

First, my older son -- 8-year-old N -- has been playing soccer for a few years now and is in the league set up by the local middle school. In the fall, there are official practices, but for the spring, there are no practices, only Saturday games. Well, his team coach is, shall we say, a very intense dude who has definitely improved the level of play dramatically. However, he has also scheduled "voluntary" "kick abouts" that, in his own words, look remarkably similar to practices.

My son enjoys practicing, so it's not an issue of whether we feel compelled to take part. Rather, I'm thinking that if this were the NCAA, the coach would be sanctioned, etc. Of course, for Y8 soccer, no one keeps score, there are no tournaments, and these practices, er, kick abouts, do make the boys better players. I guess I'm suggesting that there is a competitive advantage here, but it's an advantage in a non-competitive situation.

Thoughts?

Second, I recently went to a specialty running store to get new shoes. They did a whole bunch of stuff, like check my weight distribution, record my running motion on a treadmill, and so on, before coming up with shoe recommendations. I ended up buying two pairs -- a regular running pair, and a lightweight pair for shorter runs and races. The prices weren't bad, in fact, but the store certainly offered something that Amazon doesn't. Hence, unlike, say, Best Buy, this store deserves to stay in business.

However, now that I know what kind of shoes I like, when it comes time to replace these, is it ethical to buy from Amazon if Amazon is cheaper?
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by lotsofphil » Mon Apr 16, 2012 6:03 pm

If the goal is to have kids play soccer in a noncompetitive environment, the solution is not to disallow them from playing more soccer. Noncompetitive stuff is routine for little kids. The way it's done is by things like not keeping score, having the coaches substitute in ways that prevent lopsided scores, putting the uber-kids in goalie or defense, etc.

If I am understanding correctly, you're uneasy that your child's team will inflict mental trauma on other teams due to their practice-honed skills? If that happens the cause is not the practices, it is something else. And the fixes to those other things don't diminish anyone's enjoyment of the game like cancelling practices would.

edit: I am so far from ambivalent on this. I'd love to hear an explanation of the other side.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Mon Apr 16, 2012 6:12 pm

Well, as far as mental trauma goes -- although that was not actually my concern (hey, I train people to be lawyers, so infliction of mental trauma is what I make people good at!) -- last fall, during indoor soccer, my son's team thrashed every other team so badly that the scorekeepers stopped keeping score around 5-1. . . . The boys were wondering what was wrong with the scoreboard until the coach explained at halftime that everyone knew what was happening, and there was no need to make the other team bad by rubbing the score in their face. So, no, I don't have any problems with the fact that coach has honed our boys into fine players. He doesn't run up the score intentionally and he does teach them sportsmanship.

Rather, I guess my concern is this: the rules are the rules. Maybe they are dumb rules, but the spring league is operating until "no practice" rules. Are we teaching our boys that through clever labeling that we can evade these rules? (BTW the coach is a lawyer. . . .)
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by slaphappy snark » Mon Apr 16, 2012 6:26 pm

I think it's potentially a problem if "optional" practice-like events drastically affect the play time/treatment of the kids who aren't able to attend. I'm guessing that's not really an issue here because sports for kids that age have a lot of rules about making sure everyone gets equal opportunities, so giving the kids who are interested in playing more an opportunity to do so seems full of positives, as phil said.
Raccoon wrote:Are we teaching our boys that through clever labeling that we can evade these rules?
It's not the NCAA, and it's not eating candy before dinner and calling it an appetizer--he's creating an opportunity for the kids to better develop a healthy and fun interest.

About the running shoes, I'm really not sure about the ethics (I'm pretty clear on my feelings about those first pairs, but it seems like you are, too.) I do think that if you want that store to exist to support your local running community (and you as your running needs change), you should keep that whole package in mind when you decide whether it's worth saving the money.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by NardoLoopa » Mon Apr 16, 2012 10:56 pm

Running Shoes & Amazon: I ran into this exact situation, of course. And it's a no-brainer for the first pair. However, the second pair was offered at 40% discount on Amazon. What I did was go to the store and tell them that I would love to buy from them, but they need to be competitive on these shoes. I said that if they could give me 20% off, I'd buy the shoes (I brought the print-out of the webpage). The manager agreed, and I bought 3 pair (and about $200 worth of shorts/rain gear/gel-packs).

I also bought my Garmin from them because they honored a 20% off coupon that I got in a race. I waited 3 weeks for the watch to come in. It didn't show up with the foot-pod that I'd ordered with the watch and they wanted to charge me full price for that. I saved 35% by getting that from Amazon.

If the LRS couldn't meet me half-way on the shoes, or wasn't even close to the Garmin price, I would have just used Amazon. I'm willing to pay more to support a good LRS, but I'm not sure I'm willing to just throw money at them. These are not rich people. I'm sure their margin is paper-thin.

The LRS also provides a LOT of community for our town runners: they orchestrate most of the races in town on a non-profit (or not-for-profit -- I forget the difference) basis. They also run free speed-workouts, training for the local 10miler, 4milers and marathons. Yes, these people are a valuable asset for the community.

There's another LRS that does similar, but runs things for-profit. The events always have a different feel to them. I don't shop there.

Yeah, maybe I'd support the first place even if they didn't meet me half-way. These are good people.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by lotsofphil » Tue Apr 17, 2012 8:02 am

Raccoon wrote: Rather, I guess my concern is this: the rules are the rules. Maybe they are dumb rules, but the spring league is operating until "no practice" rules. Are we teaching our boys that through clever labeling that we can evade these rules? (BTW the coach is a lawyer. . . .)
Ah, that makes more sense. I have an iconoclastic bent so I see teaching kids that dumb rules (and easily circumvented rules) are made to be spurned as a healthy life lesson :)

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by thacon » Fri Sep 07, 2012 5:59 pm

Did anyone listen to last week's This American Life?

The description is as follows:
n estate attorney in Rhode Island discovers the investor's Holy Grail: a financial scheme that guarantees only reward and no risk. All upside with no downside. The only catch? You have to die in order to get the money. But there's a loophole! Alex Blumberg from Planet Money and Jake Bernstein from ProPublica tell the story of how the attorney, Joseph Caramadre, figured out how to get someone else to die instead.
There's also a write up here.
I'd like to discuss the ethics of taking out policies like that. In my mind, as long as you aren't misrepresenting what you're doing, there's no moral fault with these policies. If you didn't need a signature and instead could just write down a person's name, I would have no problem with taking out policies on people without their knowledge. Unless I'm missing some impact on the estate or credit ratings or something, I don't see how the dying people are hurt in any way.

My wife, on the other hand, thinks it's morally reprehensible to take out a policy like this without someone's knowledge (if that were allowed) or to not give them sufficient cut. What do you think?

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by top1214 » Fri Sep 07, 2012 7:58 pm

Yeah, I listened to that. It's a weird thing, but I agree with your position, though I have sympathy with your wife's. I don't think I'd do it myself, though.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by lotsofphil » Fri Sep 07, 2012 9:53 pm

I listened to it too. The story was somewhat one-sided, so that influences things, but... I don't really see the problem with it. The story said something along the lines of "it's morbid and we don't like to talk about death." For me that sums up the negative feeling I have. Taking it to the extreme, "I'll give 100-1 odds thacon doesn't die next week. 50-1 before Christmas, who's feeling lucky?" There aren't any things I can think of that have you rooting for someone's death. The examples of funeral homes, etc seem one step removed.

Kind of reminds me of bringing a $20 bottle of wine as a hostess gift = nice. Giving someone $20 for having dinner at their house = poor form. You need that degree of separation to make it palatable?

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by electric_bolter » Tue Sep 11, 2012 9:16 pm

I side with your wife as the person who is intended to get the benefit (he or she who will die) may get no compensation for the policy. However, if a contract can be reached to provide benefit to the deceased persons family then it becomes a business transaction and regulated by law. In that case I am for it. /me flip flops.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by BC_Goldman » Sat Sep 15, 2012 6:07 pm

I tip my hat to this guy. Way to think outside the box. Now if there were forged signatures as alleged, that would make it a different story. But I still think the concept was brilliant.

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top1214
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by top1214 » Tue Apr 30, 2013 10:00 pm

To bare, or not to bare, that is the question.
The denial is relatively short, but hilarious. Read the whole thing.

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