Tag Archives: moral luck

The Seventh Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Best of Ethics 2015, Part I

Sweet Briar montage

Welcome to the Seventh Annual Ethics Alarms Awards, our blog’s retrospective of the best and worst in ethics over the past year, 2015.

It was a rotten year in ethics again, it’s fair to say, and Ethics Alarms, which by its nature and mission must concentrate on episodes that have lessons to convey and cautionary tales to consider probably made it seem even more rotten that it was. Even with that admission, I didn’t come close to covering the field. My scouts, who I will honor anon, sent me many more wonderfully disturbing news stories than I could post on, and there were many more beyond them. I did not write about the drug company CEO, for example, who suddenly raised the price of an anti-AIDS drug to obscene levels, in part, it seems, to keep an investment fraud scheme afloat. (He’ll get his prize anyway.)

What was really best about 2o15 on Ethics Alarms was the commentary. I always envisioned the site as a cyber-symposium where interested, articulate and analytical readers could discuss current events and issues in an ethics context. Every year since the blog was launched has brought us closer to that goal. Commenters come and go, unfortunately (I take it personally when they go, which is silly), but the quality of commentary continues to be outstanding. It is also gratifying to check posts from 2010 and see such stalwarts who check in still, like Tim Levier, Neil Dorr, Julian Hung, Michael R, and King Kool.  There are a few blogs that have as consistently substantive, passionate and informative commenters as Ethics Alarms, but not many. Very frequently the comments materially enhance and expand on the original post. That was my hope and objective. Thank you.

The Best of Ethics 2015 is going to be a bit more self-congratulatory this year, beginning with the very first category. Among other virtues, this approach has the advantage of closing the gap in volume between the Best and the Worst, which last year was depressing. I’m also going to post the awards in more installments, to help me get them out faster. With that said….

Here are the 2015 Ethics Alarms Awards

For the Best in Ethics:

Most Encouraging Sign That Enough People Pay Attention For Ethics Alarms To Occasionally Have Some Impact…

The Sweet Briar College Rescue. In March, I read the shocking story of how Sweet Briar College, a remarkable and storied all-women’s college in Virginia, had been closed by a craven and duplicitous board that never informed alums or students that such action was imminent. I responded with a tough post titled “The Sweet Briar Betrayal,” and some passionate alumnae determined to fight for the school’s survival used it to inform others about the issues involved and to build support. Through the ensuing months before the school’s ultimate reversal of the closing and the triumph of its supporters, I was honored to exchange many e-mails with Sweet Briar grads, and gratified by their insistence that Ethics Alarms played a significant role in turning the tide. You can follow the saga in my posts, here.

Ethics Heroes Of The Year

Dog Train

Eugene and Corky Bostick, Dog Train Proprietors. OK, maybe this is just my favorite Ethics Hero story of the year, about two retired seniors who decided to adopt old  dogs abandoned on their property to die, and came up with the wacky idea of giving them regular rides on a ‘dog train” of their own design.

Ethical Mayor Of The Year

Thomas F. Williams. When the Ferguson-driven attacks on police as racist killers was at its peak (though it’s not far from that peak now) the mayor of Norwood, Ohio, Thomas F. Williams, did exactly the opposite of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in response to activist attacks on the integrity of his police department. He released a letter supporting his police department without qualification. At the time, I criticized him for his simultaneously attacking activists as “race-baiters.” In the perspective of the year past, I hereby withdraw that criticism.

Most Ethical Celebrity

Actor Tom Selleck. In a terrible year for this category, Selleck wins for bravely pushing his TV show “Blue Bloods” into politically incorrect territory, examining issues like racial profiling and police shootings with surprising even-handedness. The show also has maintained its openly Catholic, pro-religion perspective. Yes, this is a redundant award, as “Blue Bloods” is also a winner, but the alternative in this horrific year when an unethical celebrity is threatening to be a major party’s nominee for the presidency is not to give the award at all.

Most Ethical Talk Show Host

Stephen Colbert, who, while maintaining most of his progressive bias from his previous Comedy Central show as the successor to David Letterman, set a high standard of fairness and civility, notably when he admonished his knee-jerk liberal audience for booing  Senator Ted Cruz

Sportsman of the Year

CC Sabathia

New York Yankee pitcher C.C. Sabathia, who courageously checked himself into rehab for alcohol abuse just as baseball’s play-offs were beginning, saying in part,

“Being an adult means being accountable. Being a baseball player means that others look up to you. I want my kids — and others who may have become fans of mine over the years — to know that I am not too big of a man to ask for help. I want to hold my head up high, have a full heart and be the type of person again that I can be proud of. And that’s exactly what I am going to do.”

Runner-up: MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who dismissed the ethically-addled arguments of Pete Rose fans to reject his appeal to be have his lifetime ban for gambling lifted.  For those who wonder why football never seems to figure in this category: You’ve got to be kidding.

Ethics Movie of the Year

SpotlightTIFF2015

“Spotlight”

Runner-up: “Concussion”

Most Ethical Corporation

Tesla Motors, the anti-GM, which recalled all of its models with a particular seatbelt because one belt had failed and they couldn’t determine why. Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Arts & Entertainment, Bioethics, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Heroes, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, History, Journalism & Media, Love, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Popular Culture, Rights, Sports, U.S. Society, War and the Military

The Tamir Rice Fiasco And “Ethics Zugzwang”

Gun comparison

There are circumstances in which all ethical options have been eliminated by poor choices and bad luck. Henceforth Ethics Alarms will refer to this dilemma as ethics zugzwang, zugzwang being a chess term for the situation where a player must make a move, and any move will worsen his position.

By the time the killing of Tamir Rice got to the grand jury, it was ethics zugzwang. The grand jury’s decision not to charge the two officers involved is troubling, and a decision to charge would have also been troubling. To get anything out of this utter and fatal fiasco, a lot has to change, and we have to recognize what in order to make those changes occur. It won’t be easy. I think it may be impossible.

There is no way that the justice system can do its job objectively and well when every police shooting involving a black victim is instantly labelled racist and murder by vocal activists, pundits and and social media, with the implied threat of civil unrest. If an indictment is handed down as in theFreddie Gray matter in Baltimore, it appears as if mob passions are manipulating the system, and, in the Gray case, it was. Such a result, in turn, makes it more difficult for the next accused cop to get justice. It estranges the police force from the government entity it serves, and makes police wary and less likely to assume the risks associated with their vital and inherently dangerous  job.

These considerations create their own impetus making a failure to indict more likely. A city cannot afford to be seen as not supporting the police, even when they make a deadly mistake in judgment. District attorneys are on the same team as police, and automatically share their perspective; it is important that the police recognize that. The police receive the benefit of every doubt, and the deserve that. Yet a failure to indict, especially now that police shootings have become high profile matters that every blogger and pundit prejudges according to their own biases and agendas, will inevitably be used to indict the system instead. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Social Media, U.S. Society

Ethics Observations On My 2013 Ethics Observations On The “Affluenza” Sentence, Now That The Teen Sociopath Is On The Lam

Ethan Couch

Ethan Couch

You may recall the so-called “Affluenza” case of 2013, which I wrote about here.

Ethan Couch a Texas teenager from a rich family, killed four people in a drunken-driving crash (he also had no license) and crippled a friend riding with him. Instead of jail time, the 16-year-old was given probation mandating expensive counseling and treatment by a judge who found herself vilified far and wide. Now this, from his lawyers, Reagan Wynn and Scott Brown:

“We have recently learned that, for the last several days, the juvenile probation officer has been unable to make contact with Ethan or his mother with whom he has been residing.”

A video surfaced showing Couch playing beer pong, which is a violation of probation that could send him to prison. The assumption is that he had fled to avoid that result, and may have even left the country. The Washington Post reports that The FBI and U.S. Marshals Service have joined the search for Couch, who is now considered a fugitive.

So, I am asked, how do the Ethics Alarms observations on the original sentence stand now, since it is clear that the judge’s attempt to reform Ethan without locking him up has failed?

The answer is, having read what I wrote initially again, that I wouldn’t retract a word.

Here’s what I wrote, and my comments now: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

An “Awww!” Ethics Dunce: Vidal Valladares

vidal

People who stage elaborate public ambush proposals of marriage in sports stadiums, using airplanes and other instrumentalities are inherently unethical, as well as narcissistic  jerks who warrant embarrassing rejections but never get them. This figures, since the women have been dating these tools and are usually jerks themselves. Few such stunts are quite as audacious in their jerkishness as that planned and executed by Vidal Valladares, 24, who shut down the Gulf Freeway, one of the busiest thoroughfares in Houston, to propose to Michelle Wycoff, 23, in the middle of the highway.  The Houston Chronicle, local TV station KTRK and other media outlets treated the stunt with a sympathetic “Awww!”—Ain’t love grand? Who could criticize these love birds, who, but for the vagueries of moral luck, could have caused one or more accidents and  death and destruction, hopefully just to them and not innocent commuters, but you never know.

Reportedly traffic was stopped for less than a minute as Valladares  got down on bended knee to propose (to his ex-wife whom he divorced in June) while the automobiles waited. “I never really thought about causing an accident,” Valladares told a local  paper. “I thought about my girlfriend.”

Awww!

How romantic!

You’re an idiot.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office is charging the couple with “obstruction of highway, a Class B misdemeanor.

Good.

_______________________

Pointer, Source, and Graphic: Houston Press

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Journalism & Media, Love, Romance and Relationships

“Chicago Med’s” Stupid Gun Tricks

leafblower

Dick Wolf’ (Law and Order) has a new NBC show, “Chicago Med” (one of a series, including “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago Pet Shop,” or something: I can’t keep track). Tonight, the liberal activist’s hospital drama gave its audience a plot involving an NRA member’s wet dream gone horribly wrong. A man with an assault-type weapon bursts into a movie theater, sparking a mass panic and stampede and causing many injuries and at least one death. A mild-mannered, bespectacled young man in the audience (think Bernard Goetz, because that’s who the series wants you to think of) pulls out his pistol and shoots the gunman. He’s interviewed on the scene by an eager news media, and hailed as a fast-thinking hero.

Ah, but all is not what it seemed, or did seem. The “gunman” was a teen prankster with a website, who was filming material, and carrying not a weapon, but a leafblower. The hero, who had a concealed carry permit (he had been mugged in the past), wasn’t a hero at all, but the shooter of an unarmed kid—you know, just like all these trigger-happy cops. (The Mad Leaf Blower almost dies, but is saved by a liver transplant from a woman who died in the panic he started. Give-me-a-break. ). Now everyone at the hospital is looking at the one-time hero like he smells bad. He is overcome with remorse, and being relentlessly attacked on social media.

So he steps in front of a car, and is killed. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Government & Politics, Popular Culture, Rights

Ethics Observations On The San Bernardino Massacre

shootout1

1. Curse you, Moral Luck. Unless this attack turns out to have been coordinated with ISIS or other international terrorists, its timing and the fact that at least two of the suspects are Muslims and American citizens could easily be the result of random chance. Ethical analysts, pundits, advocates and politicians should resist any temptation to make this incident part of any larger narrative or use it to support any political agenda.

2.  Unfortunately, if the ethical analysts, advocates and politicians shut up until they know something, all we will hear from is the unethical ones, who are far more numerous. Anti-gun zealots will immediately say, “See? Now we’re having a mass shooting every day! Ban guns!” Donald Trump will say, “See? Muslims are dangerous and out to kill us! Ban Muslims!”

3. We have yet to hear from Trump, but President Obama, as is his habit, already proclaimed the root cause of the shooting that has cost 14 lives so far. It’s all the guns. This is certainly the canny argument to make in order to mobilize the anti-gun forces while emotions run high; it signals the Post Sandy Hook Propaganda Push, Part II. That doesn’t make it right or responsible. Continue reading

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Filed under Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Have A Happy Thanksgiving Everyone, And Don’t Forget To Review The Ethics Alarms Complete “It’s A Wonderful Life” Ethics Guide Before The Annual TV Screening!

It’s right here!

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Family, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Love, Popular Culture, Romance and Relationships