Saturday Night Ethics Dump, 8/31/2019.

Still trying to clear the ethics Augean stables…

1. Fox News headline: “The Dangers of Vaping.” Fake news! The story following that headline explained that teens were falling ill of serious lung difficulties after using what we once called “electronic cigarettes” to inhale THC. There is little convincing evidence that using e-cigarettes as they were designed to be used causes any lung problems. Thus the headline is as accurate as leading off a story about tainted beef with “The Dangers of Eating.”

2.  Another old ethics question comes around again. In 2017 I questioned the wisdom of the Miami Marlins baseball team loudly honoring the memory of Jose Fernandez, a rising pitching star who got himself and others killed by driving his speed boat while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. died July 1 in his hotel room

There is a level of recklessness, irresponsible conduct, arrogance and stupidity that cannot be excused, and whatever the level is, Fernandez exceeded it. The fact that he was killed himself was moral luck: imagine if only he had survived. Fernandez would be facing homicide charges and serious prison time….and would deserve it all. He had a family, a child, a city, a baseball team, and a sport all relying on him, and he decided to risk it all for coke, booze, and a speed boat ride, killing not only himself but two other human beings, who had families and responsibilities of their own. He was  no hero. He was a deadly, selfish, asshole.

No other message should be sent to the kids who once admired him that that one. Honoring Fernandez now would be a particularly ugly example of The King’s Pass or The Star Syndrome, Rationalization #11 on the list. A non-celebrity did what Fernandez did would be guaranteed posthumous infamy. The fact that the pitcher was a baseball star doesn’t make him better than that; if anything, it makes him worse.

Now we learn that Anaheim Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, a 27-year-old Angels pitcher who died on July 1 in his hotel room,  perished because he had mixed multiple opioids with alcohol. The Red Sox are playing in Anaheim, and the Angels players are all wearing tributes to Skaggs on their uniform, a prominent “45.” True, Skaggs didn’t get others killed by his irresponsible behavior, but his death was still the result of conduct that needs to be discouraged, condemned, and certainly not romanticized. The Angels can honor their dead team mate privately, but a public display that suggests that Skaggs’ death was anything but a self-made tragedy send a dangerous and irresponsible message.

3. Our trustworthy social media giants: Hackers took over the Twitter account of Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, yesterday and used the account to broadcast a string of racist messages and bomb threats.  Yes, the social media platform that assured Congress, out of the mouth of Dorsey, that it adequately protected Twitter users couldn’t adequately protect itself. I have a Twitter account that does nothing but tweet links to Ethics Alarms essays (you know, what Facebook won’t allow me to do), but I’m wondering if the ethical move is to get off Twitter entirely. I do use the account for research, but Twitter does more bad than good in our society, and perhaps its time to leave.

4. She is an Ethics Dunce, of course, but its so obvious that I don’t want to waste a full post on her. Madeleine Westerhout, President Trump’s personal assistant and director of Oval Office operations,  quit last week before she could be fired. It was revealed that Westerhout got drunk at a dinner with and dished about the President’s family and other matters. The episode raises legitimate questions about what else she has leaked during her three years in the job.

The President depended on Westerhout’s loyalty, professionalism and discretion. Her breach of confidentiality was no less than a rank betrayal of her country as well as her boss. Spins the Times, trying to somehow impugn Trump when he is the victim,  “In Trump world there are leaks you can get away with, and there are leaks you cannot get away with. Anything having to do with the family falls into the second category.” In the world generally, a personal assistant cannot leak, or tell anyone what he or she is privileged to know as the one with constant access to an executive, and that’s an absolute.

Now let’s see if she sells out completely, with a book or a contract with one of the Trump-bashing news networks. My guess: she will.

5. Speaking of Ethics Dunces…Kirsten Gillibrand dropped out of the Democratic Presidential sweepstakes this week. She positioned herself as the uber-feminist in the field; in fact, she was the most obvious anti-male bigot, as she has been throughout her Senate tenure, from promoting “Mattress Girl’s” efforts to brand an innocent Columbia student as a sexual predator, to driving Al Franken out of the Senate for behaving like a politically incorrect comedian when he was a politically incorrect comedian. (Not that I miss Al.) That, based on my conversations with local Democrats, soured many progressives on her candidacy, but she was wholly unqualified in every way.

If only what remains in the field was notably better….

21 thoughts on “Saturday Night Ethics Dump, 8/31/2019.

  1. “…Thus the headline is as accurate as leading off a story about tainted beef with “The Dangers of Eating.””

    These damned forks and spoons made me fat !

      • There has been a dramatic rise in teens vaping, and some are worried this will led to a dramatic rise in smoking or nicotine infused vaping addiction. I think the pearl clutching is blowing it a bit out of proportion, but it’s not a completely harmless pastime.

  2. 2. Saw a headline (did not want to read the article) that the Skaggs family is going to sue the Angels organization for their son’s death. Some theory that the team or the medical staff should have known or were otherwise culpable in his opioid overdoes death. Not a good look for the parents, the survivors, or the ambulance chaser involved. I thought it was a little dicey for all of MLB to memorialize the guy before the autopsy report was out. And why did the autopsy take so long? Couldn’t they have done a blood test shortly after discovering the body to determine drug and alcohol levels. I wonder whether MLB delayed the results for image purposes. I’m not sure there was such an orchestrated mourning for the Angels pitcher killed in a car wreck a few years ago. Fishy. I bet the team and the family knew he had a drug or alcohol problem. Aren’t they tested all the time?

  3. 5. I’ve never understood how Democratic women of white political privilege (like, oh, say, Nancy Pelosi or Kirsten Gillibrand) aren’t dinged for their privilege? Or Kennedy kids or Gavin Newsome or Jesse Jackson, Jr. Or Al Gore or John Kerry. Oh, wait, they’re not Republicans. I get it.

    • OB
      When you can be used to leverage your privilege to obtain a desired outcome for the underprivileged you are welcome to assist. The moment you have no leverage you become that which you railed against.

  4. I tried e-cigarettes to help me quit smoking. I had very little luck with them. I believe their is a big difference between e cigarettes and vaping products. E-cigarettes come preloaded with the active ingredients from the factory. Vaping products rely on the user filling the unit with the liquids to be atomized and inhaled. In short, you cannot introduce THC into the lungs with E- cigarettes but you can with the clunky vaporizers you see people use.

    I found the best way for me to quit smoking was to just give up all forms of nicotine. The positive reinforcement I gave myself was knowing that I would not be giving a substantial amount of money to the state tax collector. An average smoker in MD pays more money to the state than he or she pays in city, county and state property taxes combined.

    • Dammit – it is there not their. My phone’s autocorrect does not correct obvious errors but changes things that are not incorrect.

        • Shortened is a relative term. I know smokers who defy actuarial tables and non smokers that die prematurely from heart disease.
          Neither are conclusive given the myriad permutations of chemicals we encounter daily. Nonetheless, cigarettes were referred to as coffin nails as far back as the forties for good reason. It is for that reason I think sanctimonious State AG’s who sued big tabacco claiming the makers withheld data demonstrating the health risks used their power to shake down the companies.

          I started smoking at 13 because I wanted to adopt the behaviors of adults who appeared to at ease with others socially. No cigarette ad ever caused me to take it up. If anything it would have been the adults around me and James Bond movies that influenced me . Others used beer to serve as a social lubricant. The difference for me was that smoking did not result in me feeling awkward around others after getting blitzed and making an ass if myself or killed in auto accidents like others I knew. I never drank socially until I was much older.

          States that profit through cigarette taxes are no better than the companies they condemn. Such revenues are no more than a gauranteed profit for the state with no investment.

  5. I would point out that nicotine is NOT a carcinogen. It is classed as an anesthetic, and can be very toxic in remarkably small quantities. It does not cause lung cancer. My guess is that the largest culprit in the “tars” that ARE carcinogens is the brown sugar used in curing tobacco.

    • While I never got the habit of smoking, I have experimented with nicotine. My research found that there is no good research establishing that by itself nicotine is addicting. THC and other chemicals produced when tobacco is burn are, and also can contribute to cancer. But not nicotine. I bought nicotine gum (which one can get without an Rx in Texas) to see how it impacts me. It worked as a stimulant, which is what I was looking for during a stressful time (dad dying of cancer, wife health problems, three teen kids at once…)

      So I started using nicotine in therapeutic amounts… as a topical drug. Overuse made me jittery, so knowing how much to use and how often was easy. Then the pressure eased off, and I no longer use it.

      Responsible use of drugs is important. My well controlled experiment made me more open to medicinal uses for CBD oil and hemp (THC less than .3%). My wife now claims CBD oil alleviates or lowers chronic pain due to bone spurs against spinal nerves.

      Wacky Tabacky is not as wacky as I was raised to believe. Nicotine can be used responsibly. Who knew?

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