Remembering Ted Kennedy Fairly

Today, on the Sunday before the new year, the New York Times Magazine has its annual issue of brief profiles of famous, important, and not-so-famous-but-still-important people who breathed their last in the past twelve months. It is always a fascinating collection; for me, the exercise is a slap in the face, focusing my wandering attention upon how many remarkable lives and achievements have escaped my awareness and proper appreciation—and this is only a small, random collection. The last of the profiles, however, was about a life I knew a lot about: Ted Kennedy. In my view, the piece fails an ethical imperative. It doesn’t mention Mary-Jo Kopechne. Continue reading

Illinois: A Clash of Law, Ethics, Christmas and Festivus

Any one with lingering doubts about whether law is capable of navigating the nuances of ethics should ponder the Christmas display at the Illinois State Capital, where an effort to avoid state support of religion has resulted in an offensive mockery of it that is inappropriate for any season.

The collision of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause (and the Supreme Court’s  broad interpretation of it) with the cultural, traditional. historical, artistic and commercial aspects of Christmas have created an annual fiasco that looks silly, irritates everyone, and accomplishes nothing constructive. It would be better to have no Christmas display at all, and that fact proves the limitation of law, and the subordination of ethics. Continue reading

Well, It’s Better Than Senator Burris’s Version…

[An Ethics Alarms reflection on the Christmas Eve Senate vote passing that esteemed body’s version of health care reform…in the tradition of “A Visit From Saint Nicholas,” because 1) you haven’t read enough parodies of that poem this year, 2) it seemed appropriate, but mostly 3) the version Sen. Burris read on the Senate floor was so terrible that I had to get its taste out of my mouth.]

Continue reading

Ethics Alarms and the Brooklyn EMTs

The astounding indifference to both human life and their duties displayed by the EMTs in yesterday’s incident in Brooklyn relates directly to the title of this blog. Why…why…didn’t their ethics alarms go off when they knew that a young, pregnant woman was fighting for her life a few yards away? What could have dulled their senses of duty and humanity, disabled them, to this extent? Continue reading

A Mother Dies as EMTs Munch Bagels: Why?

In Brooklyn, New York, a pregnant woman went into cardiac arrest in front of  two EMT’s having breakfast at a coffee shop. They did nothing to help her, despite entreaties from others at the shop, reportedly because they were “on break.” And she died.

You can bank on hearing a lot more about the horrific incident in the coming days and weeks. Normally an obvious example of miserable human conduct wouldn’t be mentioned here, because there is no ethical controversy to consider. This one, however, raises important questions that have to be answered:

  • What kind of cultural values are lurking beneath the surface of our society that would lead two individuals to be so callous to endangered human life when they had the skill and responsibility to act? One person could be an aberration, but two suggests a much larger problem.
  • How can people capable of such conduct be recruited and employed by any Fire Department, anywhere?
  • It will be easy to heap condemnation on the two EMT’s who preferred to finish their bagels rather than to save a mother’s life. That won’t address the more important question of what we can and must do, not just to prevent anything like this happening again, but to identify and eradicate the toxic values in our society that could allow this to happen even once.

One thing seems certain: New York’s famous Christmas spirit isn’t what it used to be.

The “Rock the Vote” Sex Extortion Video: All’s Fair in Health Care

A new YouTube video by the supposedly civic-minded group “Rock the Vote” is so wrong, so objectionable in its attitude and unethical in its spirit in so many ways that it almost justifies the screaming rants that it is certain to provoke on talk radio and from excitable cable commentators like Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck. Continue reading

The Legal Ethics Forum’s Top Stories of 2009

It is the time for year-end lists—Ethics Alarms will post its 2009 ethics award winners  soon—and one of the best is out. From the always excellent Legal Ethics Forum comes legal ethics ace John Steele’s list of the Top Legal Ethics Stories of 2009. Even though John left out my personal favorite, it is a thorough and enlightening compendium. Even if you aren’t a lawyer (perhaps especially if you aren’t!), it is worth reading. Something on his list will affect your life sooner or later, if it hasn’t already.

Why the SEALS Must Stand Trial

It is one of those stories where Americans have to get stop thinking with their guts and use their brains instead. Guts can be useful, but not this time.

Three Navy SEALs who captured a highly sought terrorist in Iraq are facing court martials because of allegations that they abused him—speaking of guts, they supposedly punched him in his. It is unfortunate that the SEALS are being prosecuted rather than decorated, and it makes the Navy look unappreciative of their own men. The terrorist, Ahmed Hashim Abed, is believed to be behind the murder and mutilation of four Blackwater USA security guards in Fallujah in 2004. Yes, capturing him was a good thing. Continue reading