Weekend Ethics Round-Up, April 15, 2023: Remember Jackie Robinson!

April 15 is one of the more momentous dates in history, and not just history, but ethics history:

  • Abraham Lincoln died in the early morning hours of April 15, 1865, after being shot in the head by John Wilkes Booth.
  • ” The Titanic” sank in 1912, killing more than 1500 passengers and crew, with almost too many ethics-related episodes to count, from the head of the White Star lines grabbing a seat in a lifeboat while many of America’s rich and famous stayed on board to allow “women and children first,” to the negligence and hubris that led the ship’s owners and captain to allow an inadequate number of life boats, to the so-called “mystery ship” that ignored the “Titanic’s” calls for help while the captain of the “Carpathia” risked his own vessel to race to pick up survivors, and much more, the disaster is one of the richest subjects for ethics discussions of all.
  • The Boston Marathon bombing occurred in 2013, as two Muslim brothers planted pipe bombs that killed three of the assembled spectators while injuring 260, many of whom lost limbs. The young men acted, it is now believed, entirely on their own, motivated by “extreme Islamic beliefs.”

The greatest ethical impact of all on this date, however, may have come from Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s apartheid in 1947 by stepping onto Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn and ending 50 years of discrimination in the sport, while establishing an advance in civil rights generally that propelled the crucial movement forward. You know all about Jackie, don’t you? You should; so should your kids, grandchildren, sisters, cousins and aunts. He’s enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and also in the Ethics Alarms Hall of Heroes as an Ethics Hero Emeritus.

Today was Jackie Robinson Day around the MLB ballparks, with every player wearing Robinson’s retired uniform number, 42.

1. What the heck is going on at Newton North High School? Last month, as discussed here, the once-celebrated Boston area high school, got caught racially segregating auditions for the school play, telling white students that their talents were not needed. This month, the same school hosted “Missy Steak,” a drag queen, as she spoke to and sang to students in a 30-minute assembly celebrating of “Transgender Bisexual Gay and Lesbian Awareness Day.” The Boston news media seems to think it is decisive that more supporters of promoting non-conventional sexual behavior in school showed up than protesters. After all, ethics is based on “majority rules,” right?

I see no competent or responsible argument for any sexual behavior to be promoted as part of public education, other than essential law and ethics.

2. What? Justice Alito didn’t automatically side with the radical, loose cannon judge trying to ban abortion pills approved by the FDA? The New York Times reports:

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. issued an order on Friday temporarily ensuring that a common abortion pill would remain widely available while the Supreme Court considered whether to grant the Biden administration’s emergency request to preserve the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the drug.

The order was meant to maintain the status quo while the justices studied the briefs and lower court rulings, and it did not forecast how the court would ultimately rule in the most important case about access to abortion since its conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade last June.

Justice Alito set a brisk schedule for the court’s consideration of the case. His order, an administrative stay, instructed the groups challenging the F.D.A.’s approval of the abortion drug, mifepristone, to file their brief by Tuesday at noon.

The stay itself is set to expire on Wednesday at midnight, meaning the court is very likely to act before then and could in the coming days further curtail access to abortion, even in states where it is legal.

Justice Alito did this because, though he is probably the most conservative member of the Supreme Court who shouldn’t have resigned by now, he still is a competent jurist who knows garbage judging when he sees it. There is no way that Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk‘s unethical ruling will stand; nevertheless, Times SCOTUS reporter Adam Liptak couldn’t resist implying that a judicial restriction on abortion is in the wind. This is pure fear-mongering and partisan manipulation of public opinion.

3. Speaking of the Honorable Judge Kacsmaryk, the Washington Post revealed that as his Senate confirmation hearings for Federal judge approached, he had his name scrubbed from a law review article he had submitted. As part of the confirmation process, Kacsmaryk was required to list all of his published work on a questionnaire submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, including “books, articles, reports, letters to the editor, editorial pieces, or other published material you have written or edited.” The article, titled “The Jurisprudence of the Body,” was published in September 2017 by the Texas Review of Law and Politics, a conservative legal journal that Kacsmaryk had edited as a law student at the University of Texas. But he did not l list the article for the Senate, obviously feeling his views in it might endanger his confirmation.

He should resign too.

5 thoughts on “Weekend Ethics Round-Up, April 15, 2023: Remember Jackie Robinson!

  1. RMS Titanic’s sinking was pretty close to an ethics “perfect storm.” From bumped Second Officer David Blair accidentally keeping a key to the crow’s nest locker to binoculars weren’t available, to radiomen refusing warning messages because they were busy sending private messages for passengers, to reckless speed in icy waters, to the launching of limited lifeboats half-empty, where does it stop? BTW, some folks consider Second Officer Charles Lightoller some kind of hero for strictly enforcing the “women and children first” rule as “women and children ONLY,” to the point of threatening men with a pistol (which was actually not loaded, and which he later discarded to prevent his own drowning) to prevent them from boarding lifeboats, but I think he was a bonehead (for launching unfilled boats) and a hypocrite (for later boarding a boat. During the First World War, in command of the Destroyer HMS Garry, he and his men sank UB-110, then machine-gunned the survivors, only stopping when neutrally flagged ships appeared on the scene.

  2. In regards to the court dealing with the abortion drug:

    Is there a point where the courts can change and FDA ruling and that it will be a good thing?

    If so, I have seen that mifepristone has a serious side effect rate of 19-26%, according to a recent study. Is that high enough to cause people to ban a drug, be it for abortion (so kills about 50% of the people who receive it anyway by design) or for any other drug that actually intends to help people? Obviously one would have to consider how reliable the study was and I have too much on my plate to read it this weekend, but if (and only if) those are the facts, would it really be stupid to ban such a drug that the FDA approved?

    • It is not the Court’s job to second-guess the FDA. So, no.

      Having said that, there are valid grounds for the Court nullifying administrative action.

      We have seen those. If the administrative body exceeds its authority in promulgating regulations, the Court can and should step in. (I believe it did this recently with some EPA action, and the CDC’s eviction moratorium(?).)

      Also, it can step in if the administrative body did not follow procedure in promulgating a rule. (I think they took that approach when Trump tried to eliminate DACA (and maybe when Obama tried to roll-out DAPA).)

      But, the FDA has been given authority to approve drugs, there is no indication that the approval process was not followed, and it has been approved for a long time.

      If there is a problem with the drug, it is the role of Congress and the executive branch to get to the bottom of it through the administrative process.


      • Thank you. I have actually seen arguments that say the FDA did not follow procedure to approve this, but again, I did not read them. I hope the Supreme Court follows their reason for existing and does not overstep their bounds. I would also hope the FDA delegitimizes the drug, but I would hate for that to be because of an activist judge.

  3. An issue with the stay on mifepristone is that it has uses outside of abortion – for Cushing’s Syndrome and as adjunct to misoprostol for managing (naturally occurring) early pregnancy loss. There are alternatives to mifepristone as treatment for these, but as it stands mifepristone is part of a provider’s assumed repertoire for the conditions.

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