Alexander Cheezem contributed an informative and well-argued comment challenging my ethical conclusions in the case of “Jasmine Tridevil,” who supposedly had a surgically constructed third breast attached between her two natural ones in an effort to become a reality TV star. Her story turned out to be a scam, but the ethical analysis is still worthy of consideration. Ethics Alarms doesn’t have many medical ethics dilemmas to ponder, and it is a fascinating area. As I considered Jasmine’s titillation, I suspected it might be a hoax, but from the standpoint of honing ethics alarms, it doesn’t matter. I’m kind of relieved, frankly. Continue reading
Month: September 2014
Ethics Hero: Derek Jeter
Once upon a time, there were three young shortstops.
They arrived in the majors nearly at the same time, completely different in style and skills, but each carrying the promise of greatness. Nomar Garciaparra, with the Red Sox, was the flashy and charismatic one. Alex Rodriquez was the youngest, and held the most potential. Derek Jeter, of the New York Yankees, was a finished player from the moment he stepped on a major league field: poised, purposeful, and a winner.
While once it seemed certain that all three would meet at the Hall of Fame, it was not to be. Garciaparra won two batting titles, but his aggressive moves and spidery form made him injury prone. His reign as an elite shortstop ended prematurely, and so did his career. Rodriquez, as he matured, went from The Kid to A-Rod to A-Fraud, his reputation and life scarred by controversies, illegal steroids, lies and the habits of a sociopath. He sat out this season, at a time in his career when he had been expected (and paid) to be chasing the all-time home run record, with a humiliating suspension. He is the most unpopular player in baseball, and one of the most reviled of all time.
So then there was one shortstop, Jeter, and his life on and off the baseball field has been extraordinary enough to make up for the disappointments left us by his former shortstop colleagues. Last night, at the age of 40, he played his final home game at the position for the Yankees. His career statistics show no batting or home run titles, it is true, but shine brilliantly nonetheless: a .309 lifetime average, 3461 hits (3000 makes a player a lock for the Hall of Fame even if he doesn’t play the most difficult position on the field, as Jeter has ), just short of 2000 runs scored (10th all-time), twelve All-Star games, five Golden Gloves (as the American League’s best fielding shortstop), five Silver Sluggers (as the best hitter at his position), and most of all, seven World Series, five of them on World Champions.
Apart from the stats, awards and titles, Jeter was just as exemplary. He played in an era when it is impossible to hide as a celebrity: if you are a jerk, everyone will know it. He wasn’t a jerk. He was, in fact, the personification of the perfect sports hero. Jeter has been a leader and teacher by example to his team mates and his admirers, though his one-time friend, Rodriguez, would not absorb the lessons. He has had no personal drama, no tawdry sexual episodes, no bastard children. He was never arrested or suspected of using drugs, performance-enhancing or recreational. There were no DUI charges or petulant interviews. Derek Jeter never had to ask “Do you know who I am?” because he never acted as if he was special, because he made himself special by never acting that way, and because everyone did know who he was. In every way imaginable, from his public comportment to his ability to rise to the occasion under the pressure of a national audience, a rich contract and the hopes of millions, Derek Jeter has embodied the ideal of the athletic hero. Continue reading
Someone At “Cracked” Has A Good Ethics Alarm
A “Cracked” video highlights four examples of irresponsible, cruel and disrespectful conduct that have been widely cheered on the internet. It is spot on. See for yourself:
The one that most interest me is the first: the Burger King customer who was annoyed at the child whining about wanting an apple pie behind him, so he bought out all of the pies in the store and ate one in front of the kid to teach him a lesson. On a Consumerist poll, less than five percent of respondents thought the guy was wrong.
Game, set, match, “Cracked”:
1. It’s not a bystander’s job to discipline someone else’s child.
2. The guy left the mother to cope with the now thoroughly upset kid, as he walked of with the pies.
3. There might well have been several other customers who wanted one of those pies. Ah, yes, the old shotgun approach, and collateral damage to innocents be damned…
4. This was gratuitous cruelty, excessive for the transgression. What a jerk.
Of course, the story was related on Reddit, and is likely fake. Never mind: the web shouldn’t be applauding unethical conduct. That was Cracked’s point, and also mine.
What I want to know is how I missed this story, which is almost two months old. Or did I just miss one of the e-mail alerts from my invaluable scouts, Alexander and Fred? If so, I’m sorry guys. If not: how did you miss this? You catch almost everything else!
Pointer: Tim LaVier
Ethics Quote of the Week: Ken White of Popehat
“…Our freedoms are recognized or denied based on court rulings. Our understanding of those court rulings often derives from media coverage of them. When we do a lousy job of covering law, or when we put up with journalists doing so, we’re doing a lousy job as citizens.”
—-Attorney-Blogger Ken White, after meticulously exposing how the media, old and new, completely misrepresented a Texas court’s striking down an overly broad statute as protecting “upskirt” photographs.
Ken White has delivered another masterpiece, expertly debunking the news media’s criminally ignorant analysis of a Texas Court opinion. I must admit, when I saw the headline “Texas Court: Ban on ‘Upskirt’ Photos Violates First Amendment Rights” and its ilk around the web, I just assumed that reporters were being sensational and dumb as usual, and moved on to other things. Thank goodness Ken was on the case, and properly flagged the danger in lawyers reacting this way. We have a tendency as a profession to think, “Well, there they go again, completely misunderstanding the law, poor dears” when we should be working overtime to set the record straight. I admonish my seminar attendees for doing this regarding the public’s distorted view of legal ethics, and fell into the same trap myself.
Ken’s dissection of the flat-out wrong reporting on this case is frightening: it is clear that most reporters are incapable of understanding what court opinions mean, yet there they are, writing nonsense and making the public more ignorant, not to mention making them think taking upskirt photographs is legal and constitutionally protected.
Counselor White has had a busy year that has kept him from providing his usual volume of daily enlightenment. He is back in top form, and we should all be grateful.
Indocrinating Our Students With Apathy, Cowardice and Selfishness: No Wonder We Won’t Help The Ukraine…
Day by day, moment by moment, our ethically incompetent schools inculcate the wrong values in our young, undoing centuries of American traditions and unraveling the unique character that made the United States the hope of the world.
When he witnessed another student at Chicago’s Elmwood Park High School beginning to bully a smaller, weaker colleague, high school athlete Mark Rivera pulled the aggressor aside and said something in the manner of “Do that again, and you’ll have to deal with me, got it?” As a result, he was suspended.
The principal told reporters, “You can say stop it or leave him alone but if that doesn’t work, get an adult involved.” Ah. Object without intending to do anything to back up the objection. Do nothing, and, say, go play golf. Or leave it to someone else.
Mark Rivera is an Ethics Hero, even though, if the cultural polluters in chrage of our institutions aren’t stopped and replaced, future generations of the wan, timid, self-absorbed nation that was once the United States won’t think so.
Slate’s Amanda Hess’s Very, Very Embarrassing Essay About Why It’s “Very, Very Stupid To Compare Hope Solo To Ray Rice”
A Forbes columnist wrote a clumsy essay that managed to make it sound like all incidents of campus sexual abuse were the fault of co-eds who can’t hold their liquor. It was almost instantly taken down, and he was sacked in disgrace, for some opinions are just not fit for open debate in politically correct America, it seems. Self-censorship is the order of the day, or fear the wrath of the War on Women Warriors. You can read the piece here: in my view, there was enough that was thought-provoking in it to allow the dumb and offensive parts to be taken care of by astute commenters, critics and bloggers. But women are the new unassailable icons right now (oh my God, I nearly wrote “sacred cows”! My career just flashed before my eyes…). It will be fascinating to see how long this delicate and fanciful balance can be maintained in the culture without someone breaking out in uncontrollable giggles: women are equal in every way to men, but are too pristine and delicate to accept or endure criticism of any kind, and if you dare offend them, you are toast.
Around the same time Forbes was declaring Bill Frezza’s essay a blight on humanity, Slate’s Amanda Hess was posting a column of at least equivalent nonsense content, and I would argue, more embarrassing. It is a desperate plea for a distaff double standard regarding domestic violence, responding to articles like mine, pointing out that soccer star Hope Solo is garnering faint condemnation for the pending charges against her, while the same sports writers and social commentators ignoring her are attacking the National Football League and its several abusers, alleged abusers, and charged abusers with gusto. Hess calls her opus “No, Women’s Soccer Does Not Have a Domestic Violence Problem, Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.“ If this didn’t guarantee a ticket to spend a lonely weekend with Frezza lamenting the end of their gigs, nothing will. Slate disgraced itself by publishing it, because it adds nothing to the public debate regarding domestic abuse except rationalizations, excuses, and of course, the exalted double standard that women can do no wrong, or at least no wrong anyone should get upset about.
Before I expose the utter dishonesty and incompetence of Hess’s essay, let me just state for the record why I and anyone else who is objective and paying attention compares Solo to Rice (and the other NFL players recently disciplined), or to be more precise, compares the obligation of U.S. Soccer to treat its accused abusers exactly like the NFL is doing now: Continue reading
Making Us Suffer For Their Incompetence: The Secret Service and the Barn Door Fallacy
A mentally ill veteran got inside the White House Friday. He could have had a bomb, or a gun, and the President and his family might have been targets. How did this happen? Mass incompetence and a break-down in security. Multiple “rings” of protection failed. Was it because the system was inadequate? No, it was because the Secret Service screwed up.
1. A plainclothes surveillance team stands guard outside the White House fence, and its job is to spot fence-jumpers and sound a warning before they go over. The team wasn’t paying attention.
2. Omar Jose Gonzalez climbed over the fence to the lawn, where a Secret Service officer was supposed to intercept him. Gonzalez got past him.
3. At that point, an attack dog was supposed to be released to bring the intruder down. It wasn’t.
4. A SWAT team is next in the series of obstacles, but it was late to the party, trailing the intruder, and being apparently unwilling to shoot him as procedures dictate.
5. Gonzalez reached the White House door. A guard is supposed to be directly in front of the door. Not this time. (And still no fire from the SWAT team…I can’t imagine why a white SWAT team member would hesitate to shoot an apparently unarmed black man, can you?)
6. The door was supposed to be locked. Nope.
Of course, no system is better than the human beings working within it. Like so many agencies in the Obama Administration—the NSA, HHS, Justice, the IRS, the Veteran’s Administration, the State Department, Homeland Security, the GSA—the Secret Service had shown unambiguous signs of poor discipline, lax management and poor oversight, so its performance on this occasion should not surprise anyone, though it is cause for alarm. The Secret Service’s response to a fiasco of its own making is to place blame elsewhere, in this case, in the systems it didn’t execute properly, with new burdens falling on those who had nothing whatsoever to do their collapse.
The agency is floating a proposal is to keep people off the sidewalks around the White House, to add barriers to the perimeter, and to screen visitors as far as a block away from the entrance gates. This is immediately recognizable as the Barn Door Fallacy, in which adopting excessive and draconian measures that might have prevented an unusual disaster or near disaster is used by those responsible to distract from the real reasons for the event—bad luck, stupidity, incompetence—and make sure that what has already happened can’t happen again, with concern for the cost to others and other considerations being discarded entirely. Thus the fact that Boston’s Logan airport didn’t follow its existing security procedures and allowed planes to be hijacked by terrorists resulted in billions of dollars of national airport security and endless inconvenience for law-abiding passengers—to stop what had already occurred. Thus a deranged young man using an elementary school for a shooting spree was used to justify arguments to ban firearms from purchase by non-deranged, honest and trustworthy citizens. Now the fact that the Secret Service can’t perform the tasks they are supposedly trained to do—and an embarrassing episode arising from the Service’s procrastination in dealing with an existing inadequacy–is being used to continue the transformation of the nation’s capital into an eyesore of barricades being prowled by secret police, so a disturbed veteran who belonged in a mental hospital won’t elude agents, dogs and doors to burst into the home of the President. Continue reading
Obama’s Coffee Cup Salute “Gotcha!”
Some controversies instantly inspire everyone on all sides to be petty, stupid, and unfair. This is just such a controversy.
The White House posted a video of President Barack Obama awkwardly saluting a Marine as Obama exited the presidential helicopter, Marine One. He did so while holding a styrofoam coffee cup, which he brought to his forehead as well. This sparked critical comments from Republicans, conservatives and veterans that Obama was showing disrespect for the military.
This is the epitome of a petty “Gotcha!” that guarantees sympathy for the President. I would be surprised if there are not examples of most Presidents botching return salutes, especially those, like Obama and Clinton, who had no experience in the military. (President Eisenhower presumably never had this salute problem.) Obama also was pretty pathetic when he had to throw out the first pitch in a major league baseball game. Oh, so what? Republicans really think that these deficiencies prove Obama is disrespectful of the military, or of the National Pastime? There are so many stronger indications. Continue reading
Ethics Dunce (Hyper-Partisan Hate Division): Merritt Tierce
Having just criticized Rush Limbaugh for one of his irresponsible uses of his influence, I think it’s an appropriate time to shine some harsh light on one of his unethical critics.
Merritt Tierce is a feminist author whose first novel Love Me Back chronicles her time at a high-end Dallas steakhouse. In a recent interview, she recounts how she twice served Rush and a guest. Both times the radio host left her a $1,000 in tip on bills that would normally call for a fraction of that even if she had given the best service in the history of her trade. Was she grateful? Oh, no, she says. The cash felt like “blood money” to her, she explained. Since Tierce served as the executive director of the Texas Equal Abortion Fund during her waitressing period, a non-profit group that provides financial assistance to low-income women seeking abortions, she donated the tips to her charity. “It felt like laundering the money in a good way,” she said. “He’s such an obvious target for any feminist or sane person. It was really bizarre to me that he gave me $2,000, and he’s evil incarnate in some ways.”
“You’re welcome, Merritt!” Continue reading
In Massachusetts, The Unethical Kind Of Prosecutorial Discretion
Prosecutorial discretion is a critical aspect of the prosecutorial function. There are many good reasons for a prosecutor to charge an individual with a crime in a particular case, and among the factors a prosecutor may legitimately consider in making this decision are, according to the American Bar Association’s ethical guidelines:
- whether there is evidence of the existence of criminal conduct;
- the nature and seriousness of the problem or alleged offense, including the risk or degree of harm from ongoing criminal conduct;
- a history of prior violations of the same or similar laws and whether those violations have previously been addressed through law enforcement or other means;
- the motive, interest, bias or other improper factors that may influence those seeking to initiate or cause the initiation of a criminal investigation;
- the need for, and expected impact of, criminal enforcement to punish blameworthy behavior; provide specific and/or general deterrence;
- provide protection to the community; reinforce norms embodied in the criminal law; prevent unauthorized private action to enforce the law;
- preserve the credibility of the criminal justice system; and other legitimate public interests.
- whether the costs and benefits of the investigation and of particular investigative tools and techniques are justified in consideration of, among other things, the nature of the criminal activity as well as the impact of conducting the investigation on other enforcement priorities and resources
- the collateral effects of the investigation on witnesses, subjects, targets and non-culpable third parties, including financial damage and harm to reputation
- the probability of obtaining sufficient evidence for a successful prosecution of the matter in question, including, if there is a trial, the probability of obtaining a conviction and having the conviction upheld upon appellate review; and
- whether society’s interest in the matter might be better or equally vindicated by available civil, regulatory, administrative, or private remedies.
None of these suggest that the prosecutor’s personal sympathy with the motives of the lawbreaker is a sufficient or ethical reason not to charge when a serious crime has been committed. That, however, appears to be how Bristol County (Massachusetts) District Attorney Sam Sutter sees his role: arbiter and enabler of righteous criminal activity. Continue reading