The Ethics Of The Ground Zero Mosque

The proposed Ground Zero mosque should be a straightforward ethics issue, but it is not. Now it is bound up in a thoroughly confusing  debate that confounds and blurs law, ethical values, history, rights, and human nature.  Everyone is right, and everyone is wrong.

Yes, it’s an Ethics Train Wreck, all right. This one is so bad I hesitated to write about it—ethics train wrecks trap commentators too—in the vain hope that it would somehow resolve itself with minimal harm. That is obviously not in the cards, however; not when the Anti-Defamation League weighs in on the side of religious intolerance, thus forfeiting its integrity and warping its mission. The wreck is still claiming victims, and there is no end in sight. Continue reading

John Avlon’s “Ten Congressmen Who Should Be Fired”: Too Short, By Far

John Avlon, a senior political correspondent at The Daily Beast and author of  the book Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America, has posted his list of “Ten Congressmen Who Should Be Fired.” Though Avlon’s definition of “wingnut” is too often “conservative,” and picking the ten most embarrassing members of Congress is like choosing the ten most offensive reality TV stars, it’s a reasonably good list, if far too short and only the beginning. The members on it seem to split into four main categories: outrageously uncivil, clearly incompetent, corrupt, and too outspokenly conservative for Avlon, who regards all Tea Party sympathizers, for example, as dangerous “wingnuts.”

Here’s the list, with highlights of Avlon’s reasons: Continue reading

Bottled Water Ethics

The Nation, with some good links, makes the rather easy case that giving up bottled water is the most ethical course, not to mention the frugal and logical one.

The one exception where bottled water can be justified is for air travel, since one can’t bring bottled anything through security and the airlines are stingy with drinks. Even in that case, there is a more responsible alternative: bringing  empty water bottles and filling it from a water fountain after going through security.

If only I could remember to take the damn thing…

The Left’s New Black Panther Rationalizations

“All looks yellow to the jaundiced eye” (Alexander Pope, 1711)  could have been written about the media handling of the New Black Panther voter intimidation case. To conservatives, it is ominous proof of race-conscious law enforcement in the Obama Justice Department. To liberals, it is more proof that the Right is determined to stir up racial suspicion about Barack Obama’s administration.

I don’t think the incident proves anything conclusively at this point, except this: liberal journalists and commentators are embarrassing themselves and misinforming the public by arguing that the case is trivial, and employing intellectually dishonest arguments to do it.**

Whatever the case is, it isn’t trivial. Voter intimidation isn’t trivial; it strikes at the core of our system of government. I would argue that the government should be unequivocal, strict and unyielding regarding the prevention and punishment of it, by white or black, no matter how manifested. If you don’t think so, then I challenge you to explain why. If there is any conduct that should receive no tolerance by law enforcement, this should be it. There is no excuse for it.

Nevertheless, supposedly respectable commentators like columnist E.J. Dionne feel compelled to make excuses for the Justice Department’s actions while intentionally or incompetently misrepresenting the facts.  Continue reading

Ethics and the San Francisco Pet Ban Proposal

San Francisco is considering accessing its inner PETA by enacting a ban on a the sales of any pet with fur, hair or feathers, meaning that little Scotty will have to make do with a boa constrictor, an iguana or a guppy if he wants a non-human companion to cheer him through grade school. The measure began as a ban on pet store sales to stick it to unscrupulous puppy mills, then gradually morphed into a nearly China-like proposal  to ban almost all pets. True, the city’s proposal would still allow the adoption of dogs and cats from shelters, but don’t bet on that being the final result. PETA-ism, once it gains a foothold, won’t be satisfied until we are all tofu-sated and pet-free.

A Los Angeles Times story on the public debate over the ban concentrated on the business angle, for pets are big business. This is, however, an effort by the city government to set ethical values and standards, a legitimate government role when  necessary and reasonable. Protecting innocent and vulnerable animals is an important government function; the question is whether it is necessary to protect animals from those who love them as well as those who abuse them.

Well, why not? There are slippery slopes all over this issue, in all directions. Laws ban the sale of exotic animals like tigers, wolves and chimps in many jurisdictions, because keeping them in private captivity is viewed as inherently cruel. Hmmmm…more cruel than keeping Shamu in that small tank? More cruel than keeping a polar bear in a Washington D.C. zoo? The logic for banning birds and small mammals as pets is pretty much the same: it’s inherently cruel. Does the life of a hamster deserve as much protection as the life of a leopard? Why stop at hamsters, then?

Are ant farms cruel? ( I know what happened to mine, and I don’t want to talk about it…) Continue reading

Gallup Poll: Trust in Freefall

The Gallup poll has released its survey of the public’s trust in various institutions, and also shows whether the public’s trust has increased and decreased over the past year. No surprises: virtually every institution has lost public trust, with only the medical system and big business (which hit a historic low in 2009) improving more than a percentage point.

The bottom of the barrel? Why Congress, naturally. You had to ask?

And the biggest drop in trust since last year, by far, goes to the institution of the Presidency, down 15%. No other institution declined half as much.

For a system of government uniquely dependent on mutual trust, this poll is more than bad news. It is a warning. Continue reading

The Arizona Statute Injunction Ethics Verdict: Judge—Right; Arizona—Right; Federal Government—Unethical

I was waiting at a long line in a local CVS, with no clerk in sight. It was late at night; a couple of my fellow customers actually shouted for assistance. We had been there with no service for more than ten minutes, and not a single employee was in evidence. Finally, I stepped out of line—past a police officer, who was also waiting, grabbed the microphone on the counter, turned it on, and announced in stentorian tones: “There is a long line at the check-out counter! Will a CVS employee please report to the front of the store? Thank you!”

The line of people applauded. The police officer smiled and gave me a thumbs up. The clerk, full of apologies, arrived and began taking our money.

Did I have a legal right to use the microphone? No, I did not. But I still did the right thing, and I would do it again.

This is, I believe, the proper way to think about the federal judge’s decision today to block the key provisions in the Arizona anti-illegal immigration law until further examination by the courts. Continue reading

Lincoln Chafee’s Unethical Attack on Curt Schilling

Former G.O.P. Senator Lincoln Chafee, now running for Governor of Rhode Island as an Independent, did a despicable thing yesterday, and almost certainly has no idea why it was so wrong.

During a radio interview, Chafee criticized a deal state economic development officials approved with 38 Studios, a game development company owned by former Red Sox pitcher and World Series hero Curt Schilling. Chafee, who is not alone in his criticism of the loan, argued that too much taxpayer money is being entrusted to a company that has no proven track record. That’s a legitimate point. But to hammer home his point, Chafee decided to attack the character, career accomplishments, reputation and integrity of Schilling, a man he has never met…based on nothing at all. Continue reading