There are times, not many, but a sufficient number to make my existence significantly grayer than I wish it to be, when I feel as if my professional endeavors have been in vain, and indeed, a waste of time. One such instance was the widespread defense of torture during the Bush administration. Another has been the reaction of some readers here to my post about Israel razing the homes of the families of presumed terrorists. I do not see how anyone who grasps the basic principles of ethics as they are explored and explicated on Ethics Alarms daily can pronounce such a policy as justified, justifiable, or anything other than unethical. If regular readers hear can come to a different conclusion, I am either not doing my job well, or the job itself is not worth doing.
Yesterday, Human Rights Watch called on Israel to stop razing the homes of Palestinians accused of attacking Israelis. The group called it a war crime, and I don’t like the concept of war crimes generally. The New York based organization’s argument, however, is irrefutable:
“Israel should impose an immediate moratorium on its policy of demolishing the family homes of Palestinians suspected of carrying out attacks on Israelis. The policy, which Israeli officials claim is a deterrent, deliberately and unlawfully punishes people not accused of any wrongdoing. When carried out in occupied territory, including east Jerusalem, it amounts to collective punishment, a war crime.”
Putting the war crime label aside, it is wrong enough that the act punishes those who have done nothing wrong other than be associated with a wrongdoer. There is no ethical system under which such an act is ethically defensible. It is an abuse of power. It fails any standard of Kantian ethics, using human beings as a means to an end, and proposing a standard that would, if universally adopted, send civilization into barbarism. It even fails extreme utilitarian ethics, for this means doesn’t even achieve a desirable end. The Israeli army believes that the razings do nothing to stem terrorist attacks, and there is no way that contention can be disproved. It is simply Old Testament justice of the most irrational and brutal kind. Continue reading
“Nothing personal, you understand. It’s just your dead son we’re angry at.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed a harsh response to the recent terrorist attack on a synagogue in Israel by two Palestinians wielding meat cleavers and a pistol. Four rabbis and a policeman were killed in the attack. What does he consider “harsh”?
“I have ordered the destruction of the homes of the Palestinians who carried out this massacre and to speed up the demolitions of those who carried out previous attacks,” Netanyahu said.
Yeah, I’d call that harsh.
Hours after his announcement, Israeli forces razed the east Jerusalem apartment belonging to the parents of another terrorist youth, Abdelrahman Shaludi, who intentionally rammed his car into a crowd of pedestrians on October 22, killing a young woman and a baby. Shaludi was shot by police at the scene and later died.
There is no indication that Shaludi’s parents were complicit in the attack, except for, I suppose, spawning him.
Israel seems to think that’s justification enough.It had used house demolitions as draconian retaliation for years in the West Bank but ended the policy in 2005 after the army decided that the tactic had no apparent deterrent effect and made violence more likely rather than less. Hmmm…I wonder where the fact that the tactic is just indefensibly wrong figured in that calculation? It obviously isn’t on Israel’s ethical radar now, as the government has reinstituted the indefensible measure.
The Netanyahu government, says commentators, feels that it must show the Israeli public that it is punishing its enemies. But human rights groups are again condemning the practice, arguing that this is unjust collective punishment targeting not the perpetrators but their innocent families…which is exactly what it is. Continue reading
Thanks to the efforts of Arthur King, I was tapped this morning for an interview on WGAN’s morning news show, hosted by Mike Violette and Dennis Bailey, standing in for Ken Altshuler. The topic was the Jonathan Gruber matter, and they were taking the cue from my most recent post on it.
You can listen to the podcast for the segment, which was about 15 minutes, here.
I was just watching “The Firm” again after many years—my old friend and the terrific actor, the late Bart Whiteman, played “Dutch”—to get the ick of “Cabin Fever 3″ out of my head. (It was part of last night’s Halloween triple feature at my house.)
Pay attention, Tom…
In an early scene in the film, Harvard Law student Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise) is being courted by big law firms offering perks and cash. Then a small Memphis firm he never heard of —later, he learns that it is run by the Mob— blows him away with an offer he can’t refuse. The firms partners tell him that they wanted him so much, they bribed the clerk at Harvard’s placement office to learn what salaries the other firms had offered Mitch, then matched it plus 20% more. Tom is impressed, and flattered, and greedy, and takes the offer, even though the firm had openly revealed itself as unethical and proud of it.
He should have seen this as signature significance of a dangerously unethical culture in a profession with high ethical obligations, and walked out the door. A young lawyer with well-maintained ethics alarms would have. Who knows? Maybe this was a test the corrupt firm used to weed out ethical associates.
I always thought Mitch was just unlucky, but in the film, at least, he ended up in a bad firm because an ethics alarm wasn’t working.
You should know by now that about a hundred actresses have had their nude photographs hacked from private accounts and posted for the world to drool over. As is often the case in such incidents, the ethical instincts, or lack thereof, of various individuals have been exposed in the wake of the event:
Ethics Dunce: Perez Hilton.
No surprise here: Hilton, a web gossip columnist and a different species of hack than the ones at issue, showed himself to have dead ethics alarms. After eagerly posting the uncensored photos of Victoria Justice and Jennifer Lawrence on his celebrity gossip blog, Hilton was condemned far and wide on social media, so he first proved he didn’t get it by keeping up the photos but censoring the women’s naughty bits, and then taking them down entirely, explaining that “At work we often have to make quick decisions. I made a really bad one today and then made it worse. I feel awful and am truly sorry.” Continue reading
Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Heroes, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Quotes, The Internet
(Normally a story like this would make my head explode, but my head is apparently too disgusted to blow.)
This incident sounds like a sick joke in “Policy Academy 6″ that ended up on the cutting room floor, but unfortunately, it really happened.
Dispatched to a home to deal with a feral mother cat and her five adorable kittens discovered in the yard, Bob Accorti, the Humane Officer for the North Ridgeville Police Department, told the homeowner that the animal shelters were full but that he would make sure that the cats went to “kitty heaven.” He then too out his revolver and shot the five kittens, estimated to be between 8 and 10 weeks old. The homeowner’s children, aged 5 months to 7 years, watched in horror from inside the house.
The mother cat escaped during the slaughter.
After a complaint of animal cruelty was raised by the Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, NRPD Chief Mike Freeman responded that no discipline was necessary or appropriate, as he reasoned that “animal organizations accept shooting as an acceptable means of euthanasia.”
The chief did concede that Accorti could have communicated better with the homeowner about how the kittens would be killed.
Be thankful for small mercies: Accorti was the Humane Officer. I assume one of the non-Humane officers would have stomped the kittens to death.
Was shooting the kittens necessary?
With so many terrible news stories going on around the world, it is not surprising that a bumper crop of strange and stupid ones this week went almost unnoticed. In Indiana, a truck crashed and spilled 45,000 pounds of butter, whipped cream and other dairy products on an interstate. In the skies, an elderly woman went berserk on an airplane and began beating everyone is sight with her artificial leg. This, however, wins the prize: the annual Comic Con “Zombie Walk” in San Diego went horribly wrong when a group of rogue zombie portrayers, dressed like rotting corpses and moaning, carried their method acting too far and swarmed a car containing a family with young children—a deaf family with deaf children. Ignoring the obvious alarm and terror on the faces of the car’s occupants, the Walking Dead Wannabes pounded on the car, broke its windshield, and one zombie jumped onto the hood. At that point the driver panicked, and tried to pull away from the crowd, running down a 64-year-old woman who was seriously injured as a result. Continue reading