Category Archives: Comment of the Day

Comment of the Day: “Unethical Quote of the Month: Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady”

"Is this a deflated ball I see before me?"

“Is this a deflated ball I see before me?”

“Inflategate”—-the developing NFL scandal about the New England Patriots’ under-inflated, more easily thrown footballs in the team’s last play-off win and perhaps others—is a big deal to 1) people who hate the Patriots; 2) football fans who care about whether their game has any integrity and 3) people like me, who think there is no justification for cheating, in sports, in business, or in life. Those who argue that it’s “much ado about nothing,” usually without being able to quote a line or explain a plot turn from the Shakespeare comedy they’re alluding to, do so because 1) they are Barry Bonds fans; 2) they don’t know the difference between a football and a plantain, and don’t care. except that they wouldn’t want to eat a football by mistake; 3) they are typical NFL football fans and want to “oh, pshaw!”  anything that reflects badly on the sport that gives their brutal lives meaning, 4) they are John Edwards, or 5) they are members of the New England Patriots organization, and perhaps were involved in the ball deflation.

Pats quarterback Tom Brady (that’s how you know I’m from Boston: I call the team the “Pats”) gave a highly unconvincing press conference yesterday in which he maintained that he would never notice that the tool of his trade that he has plied approximately since he exited the womb felt different than usual, and, like his coach, the brilliant and soulless Bill Belichick, has no idea how the team’s balls got deflated. The credibility of that claim was severely undermined for me by Brady’s use (“This isn’t ISIS…”) of my least favorite rationalization of them all on the Ethics Alarms compendium, the infuriating #22:

The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things” : If “Everybody does it” is the Golden Rationalization, this is the bottom of the barrel. Yet amazingly, this excuse is popular in high places: witness the “Abu Ghraib was bad, but our soldiers would never cut off Nick Berg’s head” argument that was common during the height of the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal. It is true that for most ethical misconduct, there are indeed “worse things.” Lying to your boss in order to goof off at the golf course isn’t as bad as stealing a ham, and stealing a ham is nothing compared selling military secrets to North Korea. So what? We judge human conduct against ideals of good behavior that we aspire to, not by the bad behavior of others. We should each aspire to be the best human being that we can be, not to just avoid being the worst rotter anyone has ever met.

Behavior has to be assessed on its own terms, not according to some imaginary comparative scale. The fact that someone’s act is more or less ethical than yours has no effect on the ethical nature of your conduct. “There are worse things” is not an argument; it’s the desperate cry of someone who has run out of rationalizations.

(Or someone whose coach had the equipment guy deflate the footballs.)

Now comes blogger Windypundit to expand on my derision of Brady’s embrace of #22 from a different and useful perspective. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Unethical Quote of the Month: Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady”:

In a way, Brady has a point, but it’s not what he thinks it is, and it doesn’t cut in his favor. In the grand scheme of things, nothing that happens on the field of play is very important. In fact, most of the rules of sports are arbitrary — the location of the free throw line, the number of bases the runners have to tag, the pressure in the football. The rules don’t have any higher meaning. And that’s precisely why there’s no excuse for not following them.

The big issues — when you can disconnect the life support, when a cop can shoot an unarmed person, when the President can order a drone strike — are full of complications and nuance. It’s hard to come up with a clear set of rules that will apply in every possible situation. You may think you have it all figured out, and then a scenario arises that you never thought of, and your simple set of rules, if followed blindly to the letter, would produce a terrible result. So maybe after you think through all the consequences, you decide that you’ve found a valid exception, and you change the rules. Or maybe, if the matter is important enough and you believe the rules are immoral, you break the rules as an act of conscience.

But I can’t see that happening much in sports. There is no greater good that could be used to justify breaking the rules. What terrible result could arise from blindly following the rules of football to the letter? A team loses a game? That might cost the team a bit of money, and I can see where crazed fans would get upset, but you know what? Nobody dies if the Patriots don’t make the playoff. This isn’t ISIS after all.

 

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Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Sports, War and the Military

Comment of the Day: “A Failure To Understand Legal Ethics Kills”

armchair quarterback2

It shouldn’t shock anyone to see yet another Comment of the Day here authored by texaggo4. He has been the most prolific commenter—other than me, and he’s ahead of me so far in 2015— since the legendary tgt went into voluntary keyboard retirement, and has led all visitors in commentary the past two years. Last year, he contributed a staggering 3, 048 comments, more than twice as many as runner-up Steven Mark Pilling, who was hardly a piker with 1,082. (The rest of the top five: Ablativemeatshield/Scott Jacobs close behind at 1, 079—he would have finished #2 if he hadn’t quit the field in a pro-pot snit; Beth, with 881, and dragin-dragon at 809. Thanks, everyone, and all other commenters too. That’s a lot of quality content, some of the best on the web anywhere.)

The list is especially relevant to this COTD, as tex rebuts an accusation of “Armchair quarterbacking” against Beth from new commenter gokafilm. Beth had offered a comment to the post about Tampa lawyer Gienevee Torres, who called 911 to report a deranged client—he was wearing pajamas and thought she was God– who had just left her office with his 5-year-old daughter after making an ominous comment. The police decided that the man was harmless despite her warning, and the man eventually dropped the girl off a bridge. Beth wrote:

“I am furious at this lawyer — not the police. She should have said something like, “Yes, I am God. He commands you to give me your child and leave my office now and run to the nearest hospital.” I would have happily stood before the Bar Committee defending my actions if it meant that I had saved a child’s life.”

Gokafilm replied:

Easy to say Beth from the safety of your home/office/wherever. She had to be concerned for her safety and her staff as well. This most likely is a split second decision. Get the individual out and call the authorities…Did she not have a responsibility to herself and her staff to consider their safety as well? What’s to say he wouldn’t have harmed them if they forcibly tried to keep the girl. This lawyer did the right and only thing she could have. Got the individual out of her office, and contacted both 911 and DCF in order to protect the child. Any other conclusion is merely arm chair quarterbacking from the safety of your computer screen.

Another term for “armchair quarterbacking” is hindsight bias, the tendency to judge a difficult decision unreasonably harshly when it doesn’t work out well. “Obviously” conduct is “wrong” after the results are known. My response to Beth’s comment was that the whole, horrible incident was moral luck: if the lawyer had done the same thing and the girl had been rescued as a result of her violating client confidentiality, everyone would have said that her actions were appropriate and even heroic.

On the other hand, post-event analysis is invaluable; this website is based on it. The argument that nobody should criticize an individual’s conduct “unless he’s walked a mile in his shoes” is a lazy cop-out that impedes cultural wisdom and learning from the mistakes of others. I don’t completely agree with many, perhaps most, Comments of the Day, but I concur with this one.

Here is texaggo4’s Comment of the Day on the post, A Failure To Understand Legal Ethics Kills: Continue reading

16 Comments

Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “Of The Good Muslim, Paris, ‘1984’, And The Compulsion To Deny The Truth”

Mulsim women

Left-of-center Ethics Alarms follower deery gets a lot of heat on Ethics Alarms, but he has a much-valued knack for spawning edifying exchanges. In this reply to one of his comments arguing that Christianity and Islam near equivilency in their more extreme positions, Ulrike delivers the Comment of the Day, in the battle following the post, “Of The Good Muslim, Paris, ‘1984’, And The Compulsion To Deny The Truth.”

Here it is:

I’d like to make the claim that 1300 years ago, in almost any society women were the losers but now the distinction can be seen by anyone who has eyes. Christians moved on from those times and their nations became successful world powers. On the other hand, oil seems to be the main driving force behind anything in the Arab League.

And yes, in the beginning Islam had a positive influence on the scientific community in so far as it united the Arabic world which up to that date was splintered into tribes. Arabic became the lingua franca and facilitated the trade of knowledge and commodities. The Arabs become the driving force in translating ancient Greek literature – I could go on and on, the list is long, but I’m too lazy. So while we still lived like Neanderthals, the Arabic world had flourishing cities that were the trade centers of the Orient.

Now here’s the rub: The decline of science and the renunciation of modernity can also be attributed to Islam. How can that be, when I just stated that it was a major factor in the rise of science. Well, not Islam as a religion facilitated this rise but its role in uniting the arabic world economically and territorially. But when the Muslim faith came to be the established force behind everything and anything its disciples started to consolidate the belief that science was equal to renouncing Allah.

If you set yourself the task to name any invention in medicine, chemistry, physics or engineering from the last two hundered years that originated in the Arabic world – you have your answer which faith benefited progress more. Christian society developed towards modernity and Muslim society turned away from it… Continue reading

11 Comments

Filed under Comment of the Day, Gender and Sex, History, Religion and Philosophy

Comment of the Day: “Pop Quiz: The Bottom Of The Slippery Slope”

islamic-symbol

Going far afield from the post it followed, the Comment of the Day from taxaggo4 examines the tricky question of whether militant, radical or extremist Muslims can be fairly regarded as representative of the faith. Taking off from a comment by Penn (in the blocks), tex examines various ways of analyzing the problem, in a long and fascinating exposition. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post “Pop Quiz: The Bottom of the Slippery Slope.”

 

Fundamentalism v Militancy

“Which brings me an item I almost ran yesterday re the specious anti-free-speech posts some people were making and/or agreeing with. I thought Beth had pretty much covered the subject but … no. As (self-confessed) Christian writer and psychiatrist M. Scott Peck – Lt. Col. who served as the U.S. Army’s Assistant Chief Psychiatry and Neurology Consultant to the Surgeon General of the Army – explained, “(T)there are different stages of spiritual maturity. Fundamentalism – whether it be Muslim, Christian, Jewish or Hindu fundamentalism – is an immature stage of development.

‘Indeed, a Christian fundamentalist who kills others in the name of religion is much more similar to a Muslim – or Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist – fundamentalist who kills others in the name of his religion than to a Christian who peacefully fights for justice and truth, helps the poor, or serves to bring hope to the downtrodden.’

If we can’t agree to differentiating fundamentalists (extremists by definition) from (comparatively) rational folks, we will continue to have straw man arguments that lump every one together under a label that is useless for discussion.”

I’ve read some of Peck’s works. Pretty good. But I think he’s inaccurate on the characterization of “Fundamentalism”. He’s fallen for the same trap in mislabelling that the main stream media uses. Certainly spiritual immaturity involves a great deal of emotionalism, which typically manifests in anger, when a person’s beliefs are challenged. Anger, which can lead to violence, is best described as “Militancy”, not “Fundamentalism”.

If religion A says “at the bare bones you must believe”: Continue reading

19 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Character, Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, Religion and Philosophy

Comment of the Day: “Of The Good Muslim, Paris, “1984”, And The Compulsion To Deny The Truth”

This was Jeff's submission for "Everyone Draw Muhammad" Day. He's a dead man.

This was Jeff’s submission for “Everyone Draw Muhammad” Day. He’s a dead man.

Long, LONG-time commenter Jeff H., himself a cartoonist, weighs in in the controversy discussed in the previous post, regarding efforts to exonerate radical Islam from any responsibility for the terrorist attack against a French satire publication.

In answer to his final question, I would respond: “It’s true, that’s all.” And yes, I think it’s clear that Muslims are more likely to engage in violent terrorism than other faiths, at least at this time.

Here is Jeff’s Comment of the Day on the post “Of The Good Muslim, Paris, “1984”, And The Compulsion To Deny The Truth”:

Here are my thoughts on it: if you think it would avail you any to talk to one of the men who perpetrated this act and say, “It’s OK! You’re not really Muslim!”, then you can go ahead and say they’re not Muslims.

If you ARE a Muslim who notices the hypocrisy in someone claiming to be a Muslim carrying out an act of terror in defiance of parts of the Koran, I wouldn’t have a problem with them saying he’s not a Muslim.

I saw someone call them “pretend Muslims,” and I sort of like that term, but that sort of implies that they don’t believe in the faith itself, and that’s not really for anyone to say. But if we’re calling them pretend Muslims because they don’t adhere to the parts of the Koran that would mitigate violence, they could call everyone else pretend Muslims for not participating in violence. Or, those who have intercourse before they’re married and trim the edges of their beards could be called “pretend Christians.” Let’s see how far that goes.

I really hate to hand it right to the jerks who will use this against the vast majority of peace-loving Muslims, but trying to deny it just kicks the can down the street. Pretending not only that it has nothing to do with it, but that it doesn’t even exist, ends up having the equal and opposite reaction on the other side that insists all Muslims secretly crave violent revolution.

What is especially bothersome is when people are like, “well, they’re Muslims, what do you expect?” I hate to cry ‘racist,’ but… that is totally racist. It is racist to assume that Muslims are not expected to control their anger, or that they cannot help themselves because of their ethnic background. This is why I was furious when I heard people hoping the perpetrators of the Boston bombing would turn out to be white.

Congratulations, you wretched tin-eared pinheads. You got your wish. The Tsarnaevs were white. They were Caucasian MUSLIMS from Chechnya. I hope that makes some kind of difference to you.

But just because jerks will use this to blame all Muslims (which is deeply regrettable), that doesn’t mean the response is to pretend Muslims are incapable of violence. That’s just carrying water for the next person of any belief who wants to do something unspeakable to their next critic.

What I want to see is a statistical analysis of acts of violence like this, the alleged beliefs of the perpetrator, and see if any group of beliefs makes someone more likely to do something like this. The goal is not to attempt to smother any belief except the belief that your opinion gives you the right to hurt someone else.

Yes, those who perpetrated this attack identified themselves as Muslim. Now the question is: “So what?”

25 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Comment of the Day, Religion and Philosophy

Comment of the Day: Prosecutor Ethics, “What The Hell Were You Thinking?” Dept: Dog-Whistling “Dixie” To The Jury

Dixie

I will introduce this fascinating Comment of the Day by one of the blog’s masters of the long form comment, Chris Marschner,  by saying that I think it is only tangentially related to the post, though he would disagree. Chris is writing about the history of “Dixie” and why it should not be associated with racism. Whether I agree with that analysis or not, the fact is that the public does overwhelmingly associate the song with a longing for the simplicities of the Old South, when the darkies were singing in the cotton fields and those Northern folks weren’t sticking in their noses where they don’t belong. This is the basis of an Idaho court’s decision to overturn the conviction of a black defendant after the prosecutor gratuitously and needlessly quoted the lyrics of the song in her closing argument.  That decision was correct, because the issue is whether the comment could reasonably have been an appeal, or seemed like an appeal, or have had the effect of an appeal, to racial bias. I don’t think that conclusion is arguable.

Here is Chris’s Comment of the Day on the post, Prosecutor Ethics, “What The Hell Were You Thinking?” Dept: Dog-Whistling “Dixie” To The Jury:

The prosecutor failed her client – the people- not because she used the words of an 19th century song but because she failed to come to understand that history and culture of the US has been so bastardized that even an appellate court has no understanding and context of the origins of the song and the history and culture of the south. And, because of its misunderstanding believes the lyrics to be racially prejudicial.

“Maybe Erica is so young, color blind and historically ignorant that she had no idea that “Dixie” has been played at Klan rallies and used as the campaign theme for states rights, segregationist, white supremacy candidates since the Civil War. Maybe she didn’t recognize the cotton reference as racial.”

This song was written by a northerner named Daniel Decatur Emmett and performed in New York in an 1859 minstrel show by Emmitt in blackface. The reference to cotton is geographic in nature because cotton represented the primary agricultural commodity and wealth creator of the southern states – nothing more unless one is predisposed to finding anything related to the antebellum south as racist

Many songs have been coopted by various groups but to suggest that lyrics of Dixie are inherently racial because they are used by White supremacists is faulty logic. If a white supremacist adopted the image of Leonardo D’Vinci’s David or Venus d’ Milo or other classical work of art on their flag that would not mean that any such depiction suggests racial superiority. Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, History, Popular Culture

Comment of the Day: “Comment of the Day: ‘Hard Lesson Of The Walmart Tragedy: Bad Ethics Kills’”

Homefront-the-Revolution-592

My post about the tragic shooting incident in the Idaho Walmart continues to generate fascinating comments, not always directly related to the post. (Linking publications and websites to the contrary, I took no position on guns or gun control measures, though I have elsewhere on Ethics Alarms. The post’s positions were anti-incompetent gun ownership and anti-irresponsible parenting.) In the inevitable gun-related debates that have emerged, frequent commenter and blogger Shelly Stow opined that the need for guns to resist a government that attempts to crush individual freedom no longer exists.

This sparked the Comment of the Day, a history lesson as well as an explication for the need to have the last resort of armed revolution available, from 2014’s most prolific commenter, texagg04, and here it is, beginning with a quote from Shelly’s comment, on the post, “Comment of the Day: ‘Hard Lesson Of The Walmart Tragedy: Bad Ethics Kills’”:

“I disagree that, should our citizenry today become threatened by a government bent on tyranny, weapons in the hands of that citizenry would right the situation.”

Wait. What????

So, you are saying that IF we truly faced a tyrannical government at home THEN we aren’t supposed to do anything about it to overthrow it. And that’s precisely what you are saying if you think weapons in the hands of citizens isn’t the right situation.

What???? God knows in the face of a tyrannical government, sit-ins, hunger strikes, and demonstrations accomplish precisely nothing. Certainly no external forces would come to our succor — the UN, populated by precisely the kind of tyrannies we don’t want? No. Western Europe, which can’t even be bothered to solve it’s own problems? No…

Come now… Continue reading

12 Comments

Filed under Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, History, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society