Tag Archives: moral luck

AGAIN: Irresponsible Gun Owners Must Be Charged

"...but since this is a .357 magnum, the most powerful handgun on Earth, and will blow your head clean OFF.... I think I'll go shopping with my little boy with this in the holster, unfastened, and bullet in the chamber!"

“…but since this is a .357 magnum, the most powerful handgun on Earth, and will blow your head clean OFF…. I think I’ll go shopping with my little boy with this in the holster, unfastened, and bullet in the chamber!”

CBS informs us that in Wassila, Alaska, where you know who dwells, a 4-year-old boy was shot in the leg Saturday on a public sidewalkwhen his mother’s .357-caliber handgun fell out of its holster, struck the pavement on its hammer and fired.

No one has been charged, we are told.

Well, that’s cretinous, and as a society, our law enforcement has to send more responsible messages than that.

Again, as I noted here and here and here, all since the dawn of 2015, the fact that the child or an innocent bystander wasn’t killed by this reckless and stupid gunowner was pure chance, moral luck. As far as her conduct goes, there is no difference. She is the equivalent of a drunk and speeding driver. This isn’t an accident that “can happen to anyone.” This can happen to idiotic gun owners who don’t know basic gun safety and allow guns to be in the close vicinity of children. Why was her holster unfastened? Why did the gun have a bullet in the chamber? Why wasn’t she aware that what she was doing might make the gun fall? Why did she feel she had to carry a cannon of a hand-gun with her on a weekend outing to beautiful downtown Wasilla?

Charge her, prosecute her, throw her in jail, take away her gun privileges, and have child protection services investigate the home.

This has got to stop.

[But don’t call her a gun owner. She isn’t a real gun owner. Real gun owners don’t act like this. To call her a gun owner gives her dignity that she doesn’t deserve, and promotes bigotry against true gun owners, who by definition are responsible, peaceful, and observe gun safety principles at all times. If you don’t believe me, just ask the President. He understands. This is how he thinks, after all.]

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Filed under Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, Childhood and children

One More Time As A Child Finds A Gun And Kills: Prosecute the Parents

DSC_1306

This time the locale was Elmo, Missouri, and it was a five-year old pulling the trigger. The victim was a 9-month-old boy, but it’s basically the same tragic, stupid story….just like in the Idaho Walmart, where the two-year-old shot his mother, or the Albuquerque motel room where another toddler shot both of his parents, who were just lucky and lived. (They have been charged with child abuse. Good.) A gun owner negligently, recklessly, criminally leaves a firearm, loaded, where  young children are and a tragedy results.

Alexis Widerholt, the mother of the children, called 911, and when emergency crews arrived they found that her the baby had been shot in the skull with a .22-caliber magnum revolver.

Somebody has to go to jail for this, maybe several people. Authorities say the gun belongs to a relative, but not the mother. If she knew the gun was in the house, she’s accountable. Anyone responsible for putting the loaded gun where a kid might find it is accountable. Charge them with manslaughter, convict them, send them away. Unless the mother didn’t know about the gun (she originally told the police it was a paint gun, either out of panic, confusion, or ignorance), she needs to lose the right to parent them, at least for a while. Continue reading

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Filed under Family, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Wait–What Idiot Thought We Wanted A Sequel To The Idaho Walmart Shooting?

Does this graphic look familiar? It should: I used it only a month ago, and for the exact same reason.

Does this graphic look familiar? It should: I used it only a month ago, and for the exact same reason.

From the Washington Post:

“A toddler reaching for an iPod in his mother’s purse grabbed a loaded gun instead before shooting both his parents in an Albuquerque motel room on Saturday, according to news reports. Police said the bullet hit the father in the buttock and the mother, who is eight months pregnant, in her right shoulder, but did not strike a 2-year-old child who was also in the room, according to Fox News.”

Gee, I guess Monique Villescas and John Reynolds, the lucky parents in this near tragedy, were so amused at the death of Veronica Jean Rutledge at the hands of her toddler that they just couldn’t resist trying the old “let’s leave a loaded gun where a small child can reach it” trick themselves. Or, I suppose, they might just be irresponsible fools.

Observations:

1. Two of these incidents in a little more than a month ?! What are the odds that Rutledge and these boobs were the only Americans leaving loaded guns within the reach of young children? Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Ethics Quote of the Week: Senator Rand Paul

Senator Paul, forever young.

Senator Paul, forever young.

“I think that’s the real hypocrisy, is that people on our side, which include a lot of people who made mistakes growing up, admit their mistakes but now still want to put people in jail for that. Had he been caught at Andover, he’d have never been governor, he’d probably never have a chance to run for the presidency.”

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky), in reaction to Jeb Bush’s admission that he smoked marijuana heavily as a student. Bush currently opposes the legalization of medical marijuana.

Oh, great: Rand Paul is 16 years old.

The chip off the old libertarian block Ron Paul (who would legalize heroin, ecstasy, LSD, you name it) now proves that he has no idea what hypocrisy is. It is troubling: Senator Paul is an MD, and can be an articulate and powerful speaker;  he can take bold strategic political steps that his Republican colleagues are too timid to try, like correctly charging Hillary Clinton with complicity in her husband’s sexual predation,  but he repeatedly conveys the impression that he’s just not all that bright. This quote is a sterling example. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Professions

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Alarms Encore: ‘Aesop’s Unethical and Misleading Fable: The North Wind and the Sun”

AESOPSFABLNever let it be said that we aren’t eclectic on Ethics Alarms! Today’s Comment of the Day is a thoughtful response to my objections to Aesop’s “The North Wind and the Sun,” a 2011 post that I republished this week in fascination over how it continues to draw traffic. The thread here and on the original has touched on many diverse topics, including theology; commenter Rich (in CT), however, just submitted the most interesting analysis yet.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Alarms Encore: “Aesop’s Unethical and Misleading Fable: The North Wind and the Sun:

”The comparison of God and Satan in Job to the Sun and Wind is an apt comparison, because the fable relies on “divine privilege”. An exercise of divine privilege should not be taken as an example of behavior that non-divine entities should emulate. Rather, they are external parameters that set up a hypothetical environment to illustrate the lesson of the story.

I specifically say “lesson”, because the objective of the story need not be a superficial “moral”. The “moral” that was selected here was a lazy plot device by an author who attempted to pigeon-hole the fable into his limited definition of a fable. While the particular moral in the version you share is useless, the fable perhaps might better illustrate both the use of strategic thinking and well as illustrate the role of moral luck in one’s success. A more apt “moral”, if any, might be to be clever, but acknowledge the limit of cleverness.

Ethical behavior never takes place in a vacuum, but must balance certain principles with the current circumstances. In the fable, an arbitrary task is selected, and the two actors use the tools at their disposal to attempt to achieve the task. The wind has two tools: blow hard or soft; the sun has analogous tools: beat hard or soft. Given the task, arbitrarily set up as a competition, only one had tools that could creatively solve the task.

The tale here thus illustrates a few important principles that are of value to a child; creative use of ones tools can lead to success, and that not everyone has a every tool available. A non-lazy author might use the fable to teach the value of cooperation, pooling a group’s tools to complete a task.

The particular task is irrelevant, and is set up as an exercise of divine privilege. Mere mortals have no right to manipulate the weather, but the fable’s embodiment of the solar rays and moving air manipulate these elements in an ethically neutral manner. The selection of a mere mortal as a target of task, might be to lead the reader indirectly, through empathy, to the conclusion that some circumstances are arbitrary and beyond one’s control. The objective might be to teach humility, that one is never entirely responsible for one’s success, no matter how clever one might be.

I thus agree that the particular version of the fable shared is unethical. This is, however, the result of a lazy author. The premise, if used wisely, is ethically neutral; Aesop, or some other interpreter, could use the premise of the story to teach a valuable lesson if so desired.

 

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Filed under Childhood and children, Education, History, Literature, Religion and Philosophy

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

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

Hard Lesson Of The Walmart Tragedy: Bad Ethics Kills

5-year-old-with-a-gun

A two-year old sitting in a shopping cart shot his mother dead at point blank range in a Walmart, after finding a loaded pistol in the mother’s open purse. It is such a horrible story that journalists are reluctant to call attention to its obvious lessons. Veronica Jean Rutledge engaged in grossly irresponsible conduct as a mother, a citizen and a gun owner. If her actions, which constituted child endangerment of all four of the children in her charge, as well as a public menace to unsuspecting shoppers in a public store, were to result in anyone’s death or injury, she was the best possible victim. This was all her fault.

The analogy might be a parent who leaves an infant locked in over-heated car, but this is far, far worse. Carrying a loaded gun in public without observing gun safety principles—safety off, for example— posed a threat to everyone around Rutledge. (UPDATE: It is apparently illegal in Idaho to carry a concealed, loaded gun.) Leaving any gun accessible to children is criminal negligence. She was lucky—yes, lucky—that her toddler didn’t shoot one or more of the three girls, all under 11, participating in the shopping trip, or himself. Now the boy will live with the trauma of knowing that he killed his own mother. He will be lucky not to be psychologically scarred for life.

Who knows how many times Rutledge had left her firearm, safety off, within reach of children? I find it hard to believe this was the first time. I find it difficult to believe that she didn’t regularly leave her child in peril, if she would do this even once. Allowing a child access to a loaded gun ready to fire is the equivalent of leaving an open bottle of rat poison within reach of an infant, allowing a child to share a home with a pet wolf, leaving a child alone without supervision while the mother partied and got stoned, or perhaps letting a toddler run free in a home meth lab. If any of these resulted in the death of the child,  public outrage against the parent would be merciless and deafening. It should not be any less intense in this case, simply because moral luck took a relatively merciful turn.

Veronica Jean Rutledge was an unforgivably unethical gun owner, citizen, caretaker and mother, and it killed her.

If there had to be a victim, she was the right one.

UPDATE: From the Washington Post 12/31:

Rutledge isn’t just sad — he’s angry. Not at his grandson. Nor at his dead daughter-in-law, “who didn’t have a malicious fiber in her body,” he said. He’s angry at the observers already using the accident as an excuse to grandstand on gun rights.

“They are painting Veronica as irresponsible, and that is not the case,” he said.

  • That link from Post reporter Terrence McCoy comes right back to this post. I’d like to know where “gun rights” are mentioned or even implied above, much less used to “grandstand.” I can’t even figure out what gun rights point McCoy thinks I’m trying to make (I’m for them, by the way.)
  • VERONICA WAS NOT IRRESPONSIBLE????? This is res ipsa loquitur: if you get shot by a toddler because you left your loaded pistol, safety off,  where he could get it while you are in a public place with 4 kids under your care, you ARE irresponsible: negligent, incompetent, reckless, ignorant of gun and safety obligations, careless. The facts speak for themselves; no further proof is necessary.

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Filed under Childhood and children, Ethics Dunces, Family