I’m watching “It’s A Wonderful Life,” Frank Capra’s ultimate ethics movie. Don’t forget to review its ethics dilemmas, conflicts and conundrums with the handy
Tag Archives: moral luck
From the Washington Post:
“It started with the loneliest of pleas: “Large, 54 y.o. Christian, homeless male is looking for a person, family or couple to share Thanksgiving day with,” Neal Shytles wrote in an online ad. Last year he spent the holiday at a shelter, and although probably 200 other men were there eating turkey, “you sit down, you eat, you get up and leave,” he said. “Every day of the year is pretty much lonely for me, but Thanksgiving, Christmas is the worst time to be alone.”
So when a stranger, Ashley McLemore, offered to take him to her family’s home in Newport News for the holiday, he burst into tears. She did, too.
But that was just the beginning. His story resonated with people in Norfolk, where he has been staying at Union Mission Ministries, across Virginia and as far away as Europe and the South Pacific.”
“I always try to find something good that comes out of conflicts like this, and perhaps people realize that this is not a Ferguson problem at all; it’s a problem around the country. And as long as people feel awkward and embarrassed in talking about the racism that exists, we can never, never, never attack it…The indifference of the patrol officer’s an indication that good people ought to say that you should be sorry when you take anybody’s life. It’s not just the question of what you thought of whether you were afraid…. his total indifference just polarized that community, and I only wish that — that they had not vented themselves in a violent way and taken advantage of people coming together, white and black, and saying that you should at least be able to say you made a hell of a big mistake at least.”
—–Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), wandering confused in the ethics wilderness while discussing the Ferguson mess on MSNBC.
I supposed we should expect Rep. Rangel to be completely muddled when it comes to ethics, given his own history. Still, seldom have I seen such a dog’s breakfast of responsible sentiments and ethics ignorance in the same set of comments:
- Congratulations are due to Rangel for admitting that this Ethics Train Wreck unfairly settled in Ferguson, which is being made to suffer disproportionately for the conduct of many communities and elected officials across the country, as well as the political opportunism of civil rights activists.
- However, public officials have an obligation to be clear. What “racism that exists,” exactly? Anywhere in the U.S.? Absolutely: let’s talk about it. In the shooting of Brown? No racism is in evidence at all: if that’s what Rangel is referring to, and many will assume its is, the statement is irresponsible. Was he talking about the grand jury decision, which was the context of the interview? Prove it, Charlie. Otherwise, stop planting distrust with a population that is paranoid already.
- Michael Brown’s actions, from Wilson’s point of view, forced him into a situation that has resulted in his career being ruined and life being permanently marred….and Rangel thinks Wilson should apologize? This is completely backward. Wilson owes no apologies to Brown, and certainly none to Brown’s parents, who have been carrying on a vendetta against him, calling him a murderer while expressing no acknowledgment that the son they raised had any responsibility for the confrontation that took his life. If anyone owes anybody an apology, it the parents who owe Wilson. Rangel thinks Wilson should apologize for trying to do his job, for not letting Brown take his gun, for not letting him resist arrest, for not letting himself be attacked, and that is ridiculous.
On the host of CNN”s unreliable media ethics and criticism show, Reliable Sources, slammed Fox News:
STELTER: Boy, has Fox News spent a lot of time over the past two years focused on the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, and I mean a lot of time. […] But when a new Benghazi report came out on Friday, there was hardly a peep, and maybe that’s because the report, which was Republican led, it was by the , debunks many of the myths that have run rampant on Fox News and in conservative media circles. […] So I have to wonder: will Fox will stop aggressively pushing its theories about Benghazi? Probably not. With its audience largely in the dark about the latest findings, the myths may, and perhaps will, live on.
Wheels within wheels, deceit within deceit, hypocrisy within hypocrisy. The criticism was correct and deserved, as Fox News’ own media critic (and the former unreliable host of Reliable Sources) noted as well. It also was notable for what it left out:
- Despite being routinely ridiculed as a witch-hunting political mob, the Republicans on the Committee fought for the investigation. That it exonerated the Administration is pure moral luck: apparently CNN has forgotten Hillary’s famous shouted “what difference does it make?” The fact that there was, in the end, nothing sinister to cover up doesn’t excuse the administration for obfuscating, dragging its feet and sending Susan Rice out to lie on talk shows to avoid scrutiny, and it was that conduct that convinced many that something was rotten in Libya.
- This result does not excuse CNN’s network for its complicity in assisting the White House’s efforts before the 2012 election to pretend there were no facts to clarify. CNN failed to cover this story sufficiently before the truth was known, and had Fox News and the Republicans not kept the inquiry alive, we would not have a definitive report for Fox to emulate the liberal- biased media by burying. Stelter’s snide comments are the height of hypocrisy.
As I wrote last year about this time, the baseball play-offs make us unethical. Managers make decisions that either work or back-fire, and feed the toxic human tendency toward consequentialism thusly: when they work, the decisions werecorrect; when they don’t, the manager was an idiot, and the choicee were obviously wrong. As with judging the ethics of an act, what happens after a baseball decision is made is irrelevant to whether it was a good decision when it was made. This is almost impossible to keep firmly in mind. Our logic rebels at the idea that an ethical act can have horrendous consequences, or that the right tactical decision can result in defeat. But that’s life, as my father was fond of saying.
Hindsight bias further pushes us to confuse the making of a decision with its consequences. It is, not surprisingly, much easier to make a strong case that a decision was the wrong one after all the results are in. This, of course, is unfair to the decision-maker, who didn’t have the data the critics do when he or she acted. On the other hand, sometimes the reason the decision was the wrong one is that it was wrong, and the fact that the results were bad just support that verdict.
This morning, indeed since last night, Washington D.C. baseball fans and sportswriters have been wrestling this conundrum. The Washington Nationals, widely believed to be the strongest National League team in the post season, and quite possibly the favorites to win the World Series, find themselves down 0-2 in the best of five National League Division Series after a grueling, 18 inning loss to the San Francisco Giants, who didn’t even win their own division. The way the game went into extra innings will be debated for months if the Nats fail to rally and win the series. Nats starting pitcher Justin Zimmermann, who had pitched a no-hitter in his last outing, had been almost as good this time, pitching his team within one out of a 1-0 win that would have evened the series. He had dominated Giants hitters in every way, and had not shown any signs of weakening or, as they say in the game, “losing his stuff.” In the old days, that is, as recently as 20 years ago, a pitcher on a run like this would finish the game unless he had a stroke on the mound. Now, MLB managers are trained to be ready to go to their ninth inning specialist, the so-called closer, at any hint of trouble or even without it, and they almost always do.
As a reflex action, it makes no sense a lot of the time, other than “everybody does it.” A pitcher whom you know is pitching well is a known quantity, while a pitcher newly arrived to the game, whatever his skills, is not. If the choice is between a starter who is not just doing OK but rather mowing down batters like Samson jaw-boning the Philistines, and bringing in a new arm, logic would dictate that the latter is the greater risk.
Nats manager Matt Williams acknowledged that Zimmerman was “in the zone” by not lifting him to begin the ninth, and was rewarded with two quick outs. When he walked his first batter of the game, however, on his magic 100th pitch (they count pitches now, and 100 is the number at which pitchers supposedly turn into pumpkins), and Williams lifted him, calling on closer Drew Storen. Continue reading
Sky News host Paul Murray revealed a previously unreleased audio recording of Bill Clinton speaking to a group of Australian businessman in Melbourne (undoubtedly for an obscene fee, since the Clintons were poor as church mice back then, but I digress) on September 10, 2001. Clinton’s fascinating answer to an audience question about terrorism has raised a lot of eyebrows:
“Osama bin Laden — he’s a very smart guy, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about him, and I nearly got him once. I nearly got him. And I could have gotten, I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children. And then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn’t do it.”
Observations from an ethics perspective: Continue reading