OK, I’m Convinced: There Is No Bottom To This Barrel

Look out, guys! Those mutant horsemen behind you are REALLY scary!

Look out, guys! Those mutant horsemen behind you are REALLY scary!

I am giving up my clearly futile and misguided search for the most unethical conduct imaginable, even in the relatively narrow category of horrible mothers. My last foray into this quixotic realm was met with convincing rebuttals from many of you, particularly referencing the horrendous conduct of couples engaged in divorce and child custody battles. I am convinced. The human species knows no limits to its corruption, viciousness, selfishness and cruelty.

This story clinched it for me, a case of virtual mother-daughter rape. Continue reading

Too Late For That Legacy, Sen. Baucus: Why Not Just Resign?

Sen. Baucus and, uh, staff...

Sen. Baucus and, uh, staff…

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana) has announced that he won’t be seeking re-election in 2014, and the alert national media has spun this into many themed stories: how it further endangers the Democratic Party’s chances of holding the Senate; how it will remove one of the purported experts on the tax code from possible tax reform efforts; how, as Washington Post columnist Stephen Stromberg put it, Baucus has a chance to leave “an admirable tax-reform legacy” by negotiating a deal on a carbon tax. All of this misses the Tyrannosaurus in the room, and worse than that, leaves the impression that it doesn’t matter. Baucus is one of the most corrupt and untrustworthy members of the Senate, which is no small accomplishment, if not exactly an admirable legacy. He should resign now, as he should have resigned years ago. The fact that his colleagues didn’t force him to resign (like his former, similarly corrupt Republican colleague, Sen. Ensign) shows just how unworthy of the American public that body is.

Since he was last elected by the good people of Montana, Baucus…

  • Carried on an inter-office, and adulterous, affair with staffer Melodee Hanes
  • Blatantly favored her in the course of business, giving her an excessive raise and taking her along with him on costly junkets
  • Nominated Hanes to be a U.S. attorney, a plum job Hanes withdrew herself from consideration for after their clandestine affair was revealed
  • Probably pulled strings to get her a high-ranking job in the Justice Department, after the couple divorced their respective spouses and got married in 2011… Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Harley Tragedy

I’m sure PETA thinks this is fair; I’m not sure that I do.

No goldfish for you!

No goldfish for you!

Tammy Brown,47, a disabled Moon Lake, Florida woman trying to make ends meet on her $508-a-month government check, argued that she was not able to afford veterinary care for Harley, her 14-year-old dog who had a painful ear infection as well as skin problems, periodic tumors, heartworms and ear mites. Because she did not get treatment for Harley, however—the fact that she tried to treat the dog’s problems with over the counter ointments wasn’t enough to mollify the judge— Brown was convicted of felony animal cruelty. She spent more than a month in jail awaiting sentencing, and then received six months of house arrest, 300 hours of community service, three years of probation, and $1,000 in court costs. Circuit Judge William Webb also commanded, “I don’t want you to own any animals. Not even a goldfish!” (Hartley had been euthanized.)

Apparently Harley’s physical condition was shockingly poor, so much so that jurors found photos hard to look at. An Animal Services officer testified that Harley couldn’t stand up without support. The prosecutor wanted Brown imprisoned.

Has society become so animal-sensitive that it has lost its priorities? Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is this: Assuming that Harley’s lack of treatment was due to lack of resources and neglect rather than malice…

Was Tammy Brown’s sentence fair, or was it excessive and cruel? Continue reading

Obama’s Leadership Incompetence, Now Getting Dangerous

Bad poker bluff

Nice hand, Mr. President.

Not everybody should be a leader, and it is no shame if you have no talent for it.  It is tempting to think that all intelligent, educated, articulate people within a certain range of emotional stability and sanity can learn to be effective leaders, but history and experience tell a different story, and it has many tragic chapters.

I know many readers think that I get great joy out of criticizing President Obama for his lack of leadership skills and instincts, but in truth I find myself consciously avoiding writing about this almost every day, because the problem is on display that regularly*, and this isn’t a Bash Obama blog. I do find it remarkable that such an obviously intelligent man is so immune to leadership instincts, and that he hasn’t resolved to at least try to learn from his more naturally leadership-gifted predecessors. For example, the White House made a point of noting that the President was a great admirer of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals,” which recounts how Abraham Lincoln assembled a Cabinet made up of political enemies, adversaries and rivals whose perspective and abilities he managed and used to great advantage. Yet Obama’s choice of Cabinet members and advisors, as even his supporters have pointed out, is unusually insular, passive and narrow, with the same loyalists being recycled into position after position (Hillary was the exception). True, this may reflect the President’s recognition of his own leadership limitations, for Abraham Lincoln, a once-in-a-century example of a born leader, is a daunting model. This is a pattern, however. When various voices in the Obama-worshiping media, such as did the New York Times last week, lament that Lyndon Johnson would have been able to get gun control measures through Congress, they are commenting on the same phenomenon. LBJ was a natural leader, and Obama, whatever his other virtues, is not. Continue reading

On The Duty To Snuff Out Web Hoaxes

nigerian prince“Today’s” web page has a well-considered feature dealing with the common situation of a friend on Facebook or e-mail who is spreading a web hoax, false rumor or bad information. It’s threshold query: do you have an obligation to correct it? The short answer is yes, but with caveats. You can’t spend all your time knocking down web nonsense, and there are some hoaxes that aren’t important enough to devote much time to killing.

A few years ago, a smart and canny lawyer friend circulated an e-mail advising people who were in the throes of a heart attack to intentionally cough, citing a source that had given this as a helpful survival tip. One of those on her distribution list immediately e-mailed her and everyone else alerting them that the advice was completely wrong, and potentially deadly. That timely correction may have saved a life.

It is also prudent and kind to be especially protective of seniors and others you know who may be new to the internet. That damned Nigerian prince and your friend who is stranded in a foreign country and needs money to get home still fool nice, gullible people after all the warnings and articles. It’s a jungle out there, and we all have a duty to warn each other when we see predators lurking.

The Today article, “Friends Spreading Internet Hoaxes?…” is here.


Pointer: Fark

Source: Today (NBC)

If We Could Trust The Government To Take Care Of Us, There Wouldn’t Be Idiotic Laws Like This One

"You have to take it this time, honey, because the law says you're a nuisance if you call the cops again..."

“You have to take it this time, honey, because the law says you’re a nuisance if you call the cops again…”

Did you know that many cities and towns across the country have what are called “nuisance ordinances,” “crime-free ordinances,” or “disorderly behavior ordinances,” that subject landlords and tenants to fines when the police respond to a proscribed number of “disorderly behavior” complaints within a designated period of time?  Such ordinances specifically include “domestic disturbances” as among the forms of disorderly conduct that be punished under the law.

What are the predictable consequences of such laws? Landlords evict tenants who cause them to be fined…including women who call the police because they are being beaten by their husbands or boyfriends. The laws, therefore, penalize the victims of domestic abuse, and create a powerful disincentive for them to report it, since they must, in effect, choose between a beating and homelessness. They also tend to affect single mothers and those who live in poor neighborhoods.

Wait…what? What idiots would pass such a cruel and stupid law? The answer, unfortunately, is lots of idiots, because elected officials, as a general rule, are wretched at ethics chess, among other skills. They don’t think about the unfair and irresponsible results of their well-meaning, bone-headed, poorly drafted and ill-conceived laws by considering their likely consequences two, three and four moves ahead, which is what ethics chess requires. A law can have unethical and unintended outcomes that render it far worse than whatever it is the measure was intended to address, but determining what those outcomes are takes more care, diligence, intelligence and patience than most of our elected officials can muster. Continue reading

Concept Stealing Or Creative Evolution? “The Trip To Bountiful” Controversy And The Ownership Of Conceptual Innovation

"Pay up! Timothy Wilson owns that color!"

“Pay up! Timothy Wilson owns that color!”

The late playwright Horton Foote’s gentle drama (all of his dramas are gentle, come to think of it) “The Trip To Bountiful” is being revived on Broadway, and is stirring up the kind of nasty controversy he would have detested. (You probably know Foote better as the screenwriter who brilliantly adapted “To Kill A Mockingbird” into the classic movie it became.) The production has an all-black cast starring Cicely Tyson, and some are arguing that director Michael Wilson stole the idea of presenting Foote’s tale as the story of an African American family.They also claim that he owes Timothy Douglas, the professional director who first staged the play this way (in Cleveland, in 2011) public acknowledgment, and possibly compensation. Alisa Solomon lays out the theatrical ethics controversy here, and explores many related issues, including the murky distinction between colorblind casting and non-traditional casting.

As an ethicist and a professional stage director, I have a simple and direct answer for what Solomon seems to believe is a complex question: Baloney. Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Officials Of The Month: The U.S. Congress

"Oh, THAT..."

“Oh, THAT…”

We know that our elected officials don’t think it is important for them to read the bills they vote for (or against.) That’s irresponsible, but this is illegal: as pointed out by Thomas Beck in the Wall Street Journal, both Houses of Congress, but especially the Senate, defy the most basic Parliamentary rule of all, one that is mandated in the Constitution. The requirement: having  more than 50% of members present, a quorum, in order to do business.


“Congress has ignored the quorum requirement for decades, yet neither the president nor the courts has questioned the practice. The one time the Supreme Court was called upon to apply the quorum requirement was in the 1892 case of United States v. Ballin. A statute was challenged on the basis that, while a majority was present in the House when the act was passed, a majority didn’t cast votes on it. A unanimous Supreme Court explained that what matters is whether a majority is present: ‘All that the Constitution requires is the presence of a majority, and when that majority are present the power of the House arises.’ Continue reading

Audrie Pott, Web-Shaming And Moral Luck

Audrie Potts, in a photo she didn't mind others seeing, in a way she wouldn't mind being seen

The late Audrie Pott, in a photo she didn’t mind others seeing, in a way she wouldn’t mind being seen

Before we consider the tragic story of Audie Pott, let’s return to an earlier, certainly less tragic tale, that of the annoyed Applebee’s waitress who posted on Reddit an ungenerous female pastor’s obnoxious scrawl on her meal receipt, apparently refusing to tip the pastor’s server. Imagine that instead of demanding that the waitress be fired, the publicly humiliated pastor slit her own throat in despair and shame, but not before pinning a sad note to clerical robe reading, “I am so, so sorry! I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. I am disgraced forever before my Church and my God, and my life is worthless.”

Presumably this result would have splashed a little cold water on the enthusiastic supporters of the vigilante web-shaming waitress, but it should not have. Either taking someone’s conduct, words or appearance that was not intended for public consumption and publishing it to the world, knowing they will be embarrassed, is ethical, or it is not. The fact that the victim of this treatment takes it unexpectedly hard, even irrationally hard, is irrelevant to judging its ethical nature. If you really think that the pastor deserved to have her stupid and mean note, intended,for only the eyes  one or two individuals, used to make her a nationwide pariah, then the fact that she killed herself over it shouldn’t change your view at all. “Too bad, but she had it coming,” should be your response.

Now let’s consider Audrie Pott, the victim in an ugly variation on the Steubenville rape. She was a 15-year-old Northern California girl who killed herself a week after three teenage boys allegedly assaulted her at a party while she was passed out, drunk. They violated her (though there may have been no actual rape), wrote crude things on her naked body and breasts, and took photographs. After the party, when Pott realized that the photographs, text-messages and e-mails describing her assault were circulating among her friends and others, she took to her Facebook page to write, “worst day ever….The whole school knows…My life is like ruined now.” A week later, she committed suicide. Three 16-year-olds have now been arrested on suspicion of sexual battery against Audrie, and the fact that their callous treatment of her culminated in her death has greatly intensified the public outcry against what they did. But it should not, in fairness and logic. If Audrie had been a hardier young woman, vowed the see the boys punished and resolved to learn from the incident and go on to a happy and productive life…indeed, even if her criminal mistreatment at the hands of these heartless young men proved to be a catalyst that propelled her to such a life, it wouldn’t make what they did any less miserable and heinous. Continue reading

Fire Brandi Hucko

The Horror.

The Horror.

Let’s stop being mild and measured, shall we? Heads need to role, messages need to be sent, and a culture needs to be saved.

Fire Brandi Hutto.

If she can’t be fired because a union insists that fools and hysterics be allowed to abuse our children and warp our culture, then parents have to boycott the school, while flooding local papers with letters and petitions protesting the lunatic who is running the Garden Gate Elementary School in Cuperino, California. That is, unless this silly, incompetent, stupid, stupid woman gets down on her knees and begs forgiveness from young Braden Bandermann and his family, while also apologizing to his class and the schools itself for making the child feel like a criminal and trying to turn all the other children into trembling, terrified, weenies.

Fire Brandi Hutto. Continue reading