Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/19/2017

1. The number of pundits, talking heads and formally respectable citizens on social media who have implied, suggested or come outright and said that Rep. Steve Scalise deserved to be shot because of the political positions he espouses should be an ethics alarms trigger for progressives and Democrats, but so far has not been. MSNBC’s Joy Reid:

“[I]t’s a delicate thing because everybody is wishing the congressman well and hoping that he recovers, but Steve Scalise has a history that we’ve all been forced to sort of ignore on race,” Reid said. “He did come to leadership after some controversy over attending a white nationalist event, which he says he didn’t know what it was.

He also co-sponsored a bill to amend the Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. He voted for the House healthcare bill, which as you said would gut health care for millions of people, including three million children, and he co-sponsored a bill to repeal the ban on semi-automatic weapons.

Because he is in jeopardy and everybody is pulling for him, are we required in a moral sense to put that aside at the moment?”

What? What’s a “delicate thing?” Absolutely opposing and condemning people shooting elected officials they disagree with is a delicate thing? It’s not a delicate thing at all. It is an ethically mandatory thing. Reid, and all the seriously ethics-deficient people on Facebook calling Scalise’s shooting “karma” are rationalizing assassination and violence, using weasel words. They are beneath contempt at this point in their lives, and need to be told so, repeatedly, until they get some help. They are directly validating violence as a legitimate political tactic.

2.  It will be very difficult to convince me that the horrific increase in opioid addiction and related deaths is not at least partially fueled by the surrender of the culture to the pro-pot lobby. I have long predicted this would happen once the government gave its blessing to recreational drug use on any level. The logical jump from “using this drug that incapacitates you and makes you unproductive, stupid, and a burden on society is just fine,” to “using this drug that makes you even more unproductive and might kill you is a crime  because it’s bad for society” is too great for a lot of people, and we already knew that. Never mind: the  well-to-do pot heads will never admit they were wrong, and this is an especially vicious genie that will not be tricked back into its bottle.

Salon has a list of proposed policy measures to combat the opioid epidemic. Not surprisingly, “Stop glamorizing and enabling recreational drug use” is nowhere to be found.

3. Relevant to this issue are two posts by “The Ethics Sage,” who is really Steve Mintz, Professor Emeritus, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I recommend his blog highly, and forgive him for no longer dropping by Ethics Alarms to comment as he did once did. His analysis of the legal controversy over marijuana legalization is here, and his subsequent ethics analysis of the issue is here.

I am again reminded that among the three rationalizations I am overdue posting on the Rationalizations List is “We’re just giving people what they want!”

4.  This happened on April 30, and I missed it somehow. A man arranged to have his proposal of marriage shown on Fenway Park’s big screen during a game, and almost 35,000 fans saw the love of the man’s life tear his heart in two and stomp on it, rejecting him while a full ball park gawked.


Anyone who would turn a private moment like that into a public spectacle without his significant other’s consent, and apply the coercion of public scrutiny to what ought to be a once-in-a-lifetime decision deserves this treatment, and richly. Maybe the woman later accepted, with the caveat that he never, never put her in a position like that again. That would be nice.

She also may have concluded, with justification, that anyone who shows so little respect for her is a jerk royale, and she would be nuts to bet her life on him.

If the Fenway Fiasco scares off all future grandstanding proposals, several of which have been discussed on Ethics Alarms, that young man’s heart will not have been crushed in vain.

5. Last but not least, top ethics issue scout Fred just sent me the link to the Army’s latest manual on leadership development.


41 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/19/2017

  1. A little help with the army doc? It’s 188 pages and the only issue I saw right away was the motivator saluting with a cock-eyed cover.

  2. 1a: Don’t shoot people, even bad ones.
    1b: Do protest if it pleases you. Signs and banners and chanting, the whole hog.
    1c: Do vote them out of office, run against them for office, donate to their opponents or otherwise engage the political process to advance your agenda and retard theirs.
    1d: Do feel free to leave them off the guest list for any dinner parties, soirees, shindigs, cookouts, camping trips or softball games you might arrange.

    2: Am I the only American who doesn’t like opioids? Hallucinations are not fun, they’re disturbing. Seeing colors jump off of things and having every little sound intensify just makes a bad day worse. And the withdrawal is hell. Will argue with the next doctor who tries to give me some.

    4: see 1d.

    • did I miss 3? /snark

      …run against them for office, donate to their opponents
      I noticed that the latest race in Georgia has a progressive who does not live in the district, and the vast majority of donations are coming from outside of Georgia. How do you feel, V, about money being dumped into local elections to defeat one side or another?

      Serious question, and not a trap. I am conflicted.

      • 3: Never touched the stuff, don’t plan to, can’t give informed commentary.

        Serious question, and not a trap. I am conflicted.

        I haven’t devoted any real energy to the question and can’t offer anything other than an uninformed knee-jerk opinion, if I wanted to do that, there’s always Breitbart or 4chan. Finer controls on campaign finance aren’t happening any time soon. I can only tilt at so many windmills at a given time.

        • As a native Texan who doesn’t even live there anymore, I find its laws on campaign contributions apparently left a stain on me. For the most part (other Texans weigh in with more recent data?), you CANNOT accept outside of TX money. If I recall correctly, this was what they were planning to nail Tom DeLay with (but he retired before anything happened). There’s plenty IN TX to get, depending. I haven’t actually lived there in decades now, but the idea of giving money to a specific race that isn’t ‘yours’ grates on me. I guess it’s extra weird for someone to run IN a race for a district in which they don’t reside. That’s the whole idea behind representative democracy, right? That those who ARE somewhere get someone FROM there to go represent them? Different localities clearly get to set their own laws regarding that. I know in Montgomery County, MD, there was a move afoot to require people on the county council to reside in specific spots, I think by zip code. I don’t think it went anywhere, though.

          • Okay no answers but a question to your question. Political parties sending resources to candidates. Various industries doing the same, say tobacco sending to someone running in Vermont, where it isn’t grown. Private citizens in Maryland sending to a candidate in Arizona. Straight up superpacs like MoveOn or Americans for Prosperity.

            Sending resources to a superpac that supports a candidate instead of the candidate.

            To your mind is there any difference between these things?

            • Therein lies the difficulty. In my mind, they are all the same. But some of those are long accepted practices, and how do you address that?

              In a perfect world, local races would be local. The citizenry elect one of it’s own to represent them at the next level. Modern communications prevent yesteryear’s status quo.

              How do you view these?

              • With all of a day of this bouncing around in my head and no real research, my off the cuff shooting the shit answer.

                I see the political party sending resources as different, probably because the candidate is a member. They’re probably all bad but I’d rank them from least to worst at parties, private persons, industry, superpacs. Industry gets off lighter than superpacs because straight up bribery is honest in its own way and everyone does know where the money is coming from and how much.

                • I think we should get all the corporate bucks OUT of all the races. I am not often nostalgic for older stuff I didn’t actually experience, but the smaller politics time when they spent THOUSANDS of dollars, not billions, sounds like a better way to run a democracy. If the party gave x dollars to every candidate in every race, and the other party did the same; fair war, let’s go. But that’s not how it’s run anywhere, even in small races like the proverbial DOGCATCHER anymore. I think of the Hamilton part where they all call out Burr for ‘actively campaigning’ against Jefferson. Because it wasn’t *done* then. He glad-handed and kissed babies and the Founding Fathers were disgusted. So we’ve traded the issues of then (who got to vote, lack of information to voters, etc.) for the current situation where a nobody like Mr. Smith could never get to Washington. Because no one would give him enough money. I have no solutions. Sigh.

                  • Oh, and will this lead to some reforms in state-wide requirements for residence IN a district? Or perhaps a federal guideline on what qualifies as residence?

                    • Seems to me that is placing a lot of faith in politicians to work against their own best interest. Foxes and hen houses come to mind, Becky.

                      They LIKE the system they have. It gives them power and makes them rich.

                      This is why term limits and a Constitutional amendment stating that Congress and the Government ‘shall pass no law, rule, or policy to which they are exempted.”

                  • To figure out a solution, we need to ask ourselves what the money is used for in the first place, and whether there’s a functional substitute. Could a candidate get as far on word of mouth and social media?

                    Ultimately there’s no way we can structure a system to be better as long as humans stay the same, but we may be able to figure out a way to subvert the prevailing forces in the current system for the time being.

                    • we may be able to figure out a way to subvert the prevailing forces in the current system for the time being.

                      From your lips, …er, fingers, to God’s ear. I will take something drastic to get those who profit (literally) from the current system to change it.

                      ‘Drastic’ ranges from revolution, firing squads, and invasion to the Zombie Apocalypse.

                    • The issue is that I don’t think we understand that money corporations have available to donate to campaigns doesn’t just disappear if campaign donations by corporations are prohibited.

                      Those corporations would have to figure out something to do with that money. Odds are it’s all just extra money after internal investments and future investments have been made. Best guess is the corporations will mere turn around and “pay” the leadership even more. Best guess is then the leadership will just donate that money to their preferred campaigns.

                      It may sound cynical, but something tells me the money will still make it to the campaigns.

                      If we are worried that too much much money goes to particular campaigns or to word it another way: that a single seat in the house of representatives costs too much money…maybe we should flood the market with seats in the house representatives. Maybe we need more than one representative per 730,000+ citizens.

                      Hell, get the ratio down to an actually Representative amount and you may just find that ordinary shmoes can start winning seats because campaigns won’t cost nearly as much.

                      Win for the people.

                    • I’m leery of a plan that makes it easy for “ordinary schmoes” to end up in government. In terms of “what does the money do anyway, I meant more along the lines of item 2 here: The only reason money matters so much in the first place is because people allow themselves to be distracted by the things it can buy, instead of paying attention to what can’t be bought.

                    • Tex,

                      I do not disagree with you per se, but have some thoughts off the cuff at some of your comments

                      maybe we should flood the market with seats in the house representatives.

                      We have a hard enough time getting anything done in Congress as it is… will adding more Reps into the mix help? I am in favor of rescinding the 17th Amendment (in addition or instead) and returning Senators to appointment of State Legislatures. This was corrupted, true, but the will of the people (expressed through their local elections of State Reps) was more closely followed, IMHO. Senators cared more about what was good for a) their state and b) the nation than is true today (Hillary Clinton being my first example of how this goes wrong, but there are many, many others)
                      The corrupt popularity contest we have today has degraded that chamber of Congress.

                      ordinary shmoes can start winning seats because campaigns won’t cost nearly as much.

                      Is that ever a two edged sword!

  3. They are directly validating violence as a legitimate political tactic.

    …unless (and until?) a progressive is the one ducking bullets. Then it will be jackboot time.

    This idiot Hodgkinson had a superior weapon and all the time in the world to train. His effectiveness was deplorable, from a combat perspective. Many, if not most, progressives are much the same, from my experience. Their narrative of ‘pop tarts in the shape of guns are evil‘ means they do not understand nor are familiar with guns. They are not likely to have served in the military. Contrast this with many on the right, who hunt and shoot as part of their lives, and may well have had military training.

    Lee Harvey Oswald shot a moving target at a downhill angle with an antique bolt action rifle. He got off 3 shots in less than 5 seconds and hit his target twice.
    Charles Whitman took a common bolt action deer rifle up the Bell Tower in Austin and shot 45 people at ranges of 270 to 500 yards (14 killed).

    What do these have in common, besides using non-military weapons? Military rifle training. They were not ‘snipers’ or ‘special forces:’ they simply went through basic training and learned how to shoot.

    When this gets pushed, when murder is an acceptable political tactic, the Left loses harshly, IMHO. As I posted on another thread today, what viable choice does the right have, given the ethical choices have not worked in decades? Sit down and be massacred? Have their politicians murdered and victims blamed for it?

  4. Well, this is just some preliminary googling, but
    >It will be very difficult to convince me that the horrific increase in opioid addiction and related deaths is not at least partially fueled by the surrender of the culture to the pro-pot lobby

    Why not, lets give it a try, eh?

    >Objective To determine the association between the presence of state medical cannabis laws and opioid analgesic overdose mortality.

    >Conclusions and Relevance Medical cannabis laws are associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates. Further investigation is required to determine how medical cannabis laws may interact with policies aimed at preventing opioid analgesic overdose.

    Am I trying to convince you that Medical “Pot” is a good thing and making the world a better place? No. Am I trying to suggest that one study should undo your entire belief that legalizing a (non opioid) drug is causing an increase in Opioid drug addiction and related deaths?

    Am I trying to plant a seed of doubt in your mind, and stir you to perhaps look at more studies and journals in the next few days when you’re bored?

    Sure, I will myself as well, see what I can find.

    Mind you this study may be biased itself, this was the first one I found.

    • It is a post hoc ergo propter hoc matter, so I have more than a seed of doubt. Then again, when I say, “if X happens, Y will happen because of it, and X happens, and then Y happens, there is a prima facie case already.

  5. On 2…

    I don’t know if this will convince you, but the increase in deaths related to opiod use is almost entirely because of the introduction of carfentanil into American markets. Fentanil is an opiod that people have been using and overdosing on for generations, but only in this age of global markets and ingenuity, would drug dealers think to instead start marketing the infinitely more potent version that was meant for elephants to people. Carfentanil is so potent that it’s packaged as a blotter… Kinda like acid… Which makes it easier to slip past customs. And best of all: It’s dirt cheap.

    What does all that mean?

    People who were already doing fentanil are now being sold a cheaper more potent version of their habit, sometimes without being told, and that’s killing people, there’s no evidence that new people are picking up the habit, at least more than the average addiction rate normally and there’s no evidence that people who smoke pot (a depressant) would take the legalization as an opportunity to start taking opiods (stimulants).

    • Related anecdote on Fentanil…

      My mother has been on Opioid painkillers for over 12 years due to chronic pain management needs.

      She currently uses a Fentanil patch. While it’s fine for her as she has a very high tolerance for it, and it does work wonders for the pain, I used to pick up the prescription for her and was told to be extremely careful, as despite being a 270lb 6’4″ male, just touching the underside of the small square patch would deliver enough Fentanil to kill me in a few hours.

      Scary stuff

      • It’s becoming such a problem here in Winnipeg that we’re hearing PSAs about not touching or going near people that are overdosing, and a couple months back there was a big radio piece about getting Naloxone doses if you know high risk people (Naloxone is the opiod overdose epipen… For lack of a better understanding.).

  6. 5. Last but not least, top ethics issue scout Fred just sent me the link to the Army’s latest manual on leadership development.

    I’ve got limited time for the near future, so I’ll have to read it slowly. This should be a fun read for me. 😉

      • First detailed read through completed this evening. One more complete read through with a highlighter sometime in the next week and then comes a some study time with specific selections and another leisurely read through to make sure I didn’t blow over anything. As a person who long ago trained Officers and Privates in the US Army, this is actually interesting stuff for me and this is one of the ways that I chose to instill this kind of material in myself prior to standing in front of a classroom full of tired Cadets.

        If anyone has ever wondered why United States Military Officers are so sought after as potential hires by many business owners and HR departments after the Officer leaves the military, this TRADOC Field Manual should help give you a better understanding. You do not get this kind of leadership training in any undergraduate or graduate school, some do get it from the honored school of hard-knocks, and then there are some just never “get it”. To be completely honest; Officers in the military are not the gold standard by any means and there are Officers in the military that never “get it”; but they all get the training and most of the “bad” ones are weeded out in the lower officer ranks – don’t take that as any Officer that leaves the military at a lower rank is a “bad” one, just because they choose to leave doesn’t mean they don’t “get it”.

        *COLLEAGUES: Yes in a very real way I really do consider all of you colleagues on topics regarding ethics regardless of whether we agree or not. To me this is remarkably like sitting around a large table in a business discussing specific things to make “things” better. You should sit in meetings I’ve had over the years where we were bantering about with one thought after another until a agreed upon reasonable consensus was achieved. If we open our minds, we can all learn from each other, sometimes we simply learn to “argue” better, and that knowledge can then be spread beyond this environment in ways that you may not expect hopefully in a positive way.

        I’ll be back in a few days when I get caught up with that annoying thing called life.

  7. 1. I was initially confused at how many “Steve Scalise is a bigot” tweets I saw last week, then increasingly uncomfortable. I have no idea what his history of bigotry has to do with his shooting or why anyone would think this a useful time to bring it up. The people I saw bringing it up said they were not trying to justify the shooting, and I believe that’s not what they were trying to do…but some were absolutely suggesting (or outright saying) that this history justifies us not extending sympathy to him and his family, which is not quite as awful but still really shitty. That kind of hatred and division will get us nowhere.

    Last night there were conservatives tweeting about the mosque that was attacked in London, saying that the mosque was a hotbed of radicalism (this doesn’t appear to be true). Many liberals correctly pointed out that this seemed to be victim-blaming and justifying the attack. I wonder how many thought the same thing about the Scalise post.

    4. My girlfriend is on record as saying that if I ever proposed to her publicly, she would say no. This is a conversation people need to have before a proposal. “Surprise” is overrated; this is a decision that will affect the rest of two people’s lives, and people like this choose to blow it for one “perfect moment” that the romance-industrial complex has convinced them is a necessary measure by which their relationship will be judged.

    • My girlfriend is on record as saying that if I ever proposed to her publicly, she would say no.

      THIS. Chris, my wife would have killed me. She already was thrilled/mortified at how I proposed.

      I have a new favorite phrase: “romance-industrial complex” If you came up with this, you should copy right it quick. I have already stolen it from you, and others are sure to follow. I have visions of low paid third world assembly line workers pushing greeting cards down the line filling big trucks that deliver to shady Dollar stores all over the world.

      That kind of hatred and division will get us nowhere.

      Actually, it will get us somewhere. We just do not want to go there.

      Good comment, Chris.

      • We may say we don’t want to go “there,” and “there” is objectively not a good place to be, but I think we are already at the threshold of “there” if we haven’t crossed it. 71% of Clinton voters polled said they can’t respect a Trump voter at all. 40% of Trump voters polled said they can’t respect a Clinton voter at all. You SHOULD be uncomfortable with this Twitter hatefest and denial of basic sympathy for someone who was targeted for murder strictly based on his political alignment. Next time it might be a Democratic politician or a gathering of progressive folks that gets targeted, or it might be YOU that’s targeted if you are outspoken enough. Do you really want the internet exploding with the uninformed venom of complete strangers at a comparatively not too well known Congressman, or a teacher who was somewhat active in her union, or at you just because somebody decided to avenge this latest outrage? It’s a $3 cab ride from there to The Troubles.

        As for public proposals, yuck. I have never had a gf to propose to, but if I did I wouldn’t be so dumb as to do it with all eyes on us even if I was guaranteed a yes. To this day my cousin refuses to reveal the circumstances of his proposal to his wife of 16 years, and I think that’s how I’d like to keep it myself. Let others wonder if it was (more likely) a stumbling few words in her apartment, or (yeah right) both of us naked right after mind-blowing sex.

  8. “Last night there were conservatives tweeting about the mosque that was attacked in London, saying that the mosque was a hotbed of radicalism (this doesn’t appear to be true). Many liberals correctly pointed out that this seemed to be victim-blaming and justifying the attack.”

    Yech. People are still people.

    I do wonder… How much more of this we’re going to see, especially in Europe, where it seems like every Monday on the drive in to work, the news channel starts off by talking about that weekend’s terrorist attack. This isn’t meant to blame the victims… Just like with the attacks on free speech… It does no good to abandon your principles when the shoe is on the other foot… I just have the feeling that these “retaliatory” attacks are going to be more common pushing forward.

    • I posted elsewhere that I think this is going to be the opening salvo for organizations like the English Defence League and Britain First to start fighting back, and it’s going to descend to Belfast-level very fast. When the authorities are perceived as being unable to protect the people, the people may start trying to protect themselves. I dislike Islam, I will freely admit, because I believe some of its philosophy is incompatible with the Western way of life, but I believe plowing a car into worshippers whose only issue is belonging to that religion is both wrong and the act of a madman.

      • I’ll eat my shoes if Sadiq Khan tells Muslims that “Terrorism is part of living in a big city” after this last attack, like he said about last week’s attack.

        I think part of the reason why this is going to be more common, is that people are afraid… You can call them irrational if you want, but that doesn’t change the fact that they feel insecure, and as opposed to assuaging their fears, there are people in government who mock and belittle them. That mockery is back lit by attacks on a weekly, basis, heck… Breaking News, there’s a situation developing involving a fatal stabbing in London, my impression, fresh as it is is that it’s a Muslim attacker.

        I don’t think we should be very surprised that people who feel like their concerns are being ignored are taking the situation into their own hands. It doesn’t make them right, or smart, or cool… But I’m not going to pretend I’m shocked either. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened more.

        • More like choke on having said those words. They are going to get thrown in his face a few times. None of this shocks me either, and it could bring Theresa May down in favor of a tougher sounding PM.

        • “I’ll eat my shoes if Sadiq Khan tells Muslims that “Terrorism is part of living in a big city” after this last attack, like he said about last week’s attack.”

          The shoe is on the other foot. Will the progressives come down more harshly on the mosque attackers, or treat both sides the same? Is it jackboot time in Great Britain?

          A progressive favored group has been attacked, as opposed to, oh, average concert attendees. The reaction will determine further escalation. If government starts cracking down on the favored group, against politically correct doctrine, The Troubles could be held at bay.

          If not, all bets are off.

  9. Aggressors tend to get off the hook once the oppressed/abused party starts fighting back. It becomes a “conflict” with “atrocities on both sides.” Never mind who committed the first six-dozen or so atrocities, or who committed the vast majority of them overall.

    For that reason alone, it is not practical to “fight fire with fire,” in addition to it being very, very wrong morally. I’d hoped to heaven we wouldn’t see mosques attacked in Europe, or right-wingers using “no-platforming” attacks…but here we are. It was unavoidable once the powers-that-be refused to crack down on the original unacceptable behavior of the aggressors (quite often being that they are secretly rooting for them to win.)

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