Comment Of The Day: “Open Forum!”

Aaron Paschal’s Comment of the Day is on a topic that comes up here often, the distinction between having a right to do something, and claiming it is right to do it. It also is relevant to the weekend post about objections at my ethics seminar to my referring to Harvey Weinstein as an asshole. The student Aaron describes in his comment also earned that sobriquet, and it is descriptive, not uncivil, to employ it. (Aaron uses the lesser term “jackass,” which I view as inadequate under the circumstances.)

Here’s Aaron’s Comment of the Day from the recent “Open Forum!” (I’ll be back at the end):

My wife took my son to his college registration day yesterday. The parents were separated out from the kids, and so she sat her laptop down by a balcony outside the Starbucks at the student center.

While she sat there working, a young college – I’ll call him a guy – walked up to her, complimented her laptop, then proceeded to climb on top of her table to scale the balcony wall and reach the Starbucks. She protested “can I help you?!?” As he stood, to which he only responded “nah, you’re just in my way”

Shortly after this, he placed his order and stood at the balcony rail over her head, and struck up a conversation with a friend on his cell phone about anal sex and the delightful anal rape videos he had watched online recently. A nearby man shortly had enough of this, as he was visiting with his 3 year old and 7 year old children, who were also listening to the conversation.

Upon being confronted, the young college student exploded in indignation, affirming that he had first amendment rights to say what he wanted in public, and how the others were racist against him due to the fact that he was gay. When asked to calm down, he began chanting “free speech” and “you don’t have a problem with your president talking about PUSSY, do you?” Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Unethical Times Op-ed Of The Week?”

Timothy Egan’s spectacularly dishonest op-ed for the Times, The Founders Would Gag at Today’s Republicans: The cult of Trump has embraced values and beliefs that Jefferson, Washington and Lincoln abhorred,” was one more conservative- and Trump-bashing exercise disguised as a history lesson, albeit for Americans who know little about history and foolishly assume that they can trust pundits like Egan to enlighten them. Of course, all such exercises in time-traveling appeals to authority are inherently dishonest. 18th century minds, even those as sharp and creative as the Founders possessed, would go into shock at most of what they saw today if somehow provided the opportunity, and would take a while to understand why things have evolved as they have.

Frequent commenter JutGory sat down and treated Ethics Alarms readers with an analysis of developments the Founders would have had trouble with without indulging in the sort of cherry-picking and distortion Egan did to pander to the Times’ progressive readership. The result of what Jut called his “retro-prognostications” is a genuinely educational post, and a distinguished Comment of the Day.

Here it is:

If we are doing retro-prognostications, I bet I could do better:

Disclaimer: the Founders would probably be a bit mystified at the technological advances in general.

They would not be surprised by the abolition of slavery. They would be half-surprised that it took a war to do it (“We put in an amendment process for pretty much this reason, people!”)

They would probably be surprised at how much power the Supreme Court (the weakest branch) wields. Of course it only wields that much power because the other branches have gotten more powerful. To wit:

They would be surprised by the 16th Amendment (income tax), as it is a direct tax of the individual by the Federal Government, but okay (“Yay, Amendment process).

Of course, money is power, so, with more tax money comes more power.

They would be completely baffled by the 17th Amendment (direct election of Senators). That opens the Senate up to national influences, instead of influence from a small group of state legislators. That was kind of the whole point of the Senate: to represent the States, not its citizens.

But, you can’t pass a farm subsidy bill if Senators answer to their legislatures.

Can’t get universal healthcare if Senators stand in the way.

But, you change the Senate selection process, you get popular candidates, supported by national appeal and no specific understanding of the needs of the State (Hello, Al Franken!)

The power grab of the Commerce Clause would puzzle them. Continue reading

Comment of the Day on “Ethics Dunce: Professor Lara Bazelon” (3)

There are at least two more Comment of the Day candidates in the comment threads following the Bazelon post, which makes five out of 25 total comments, highest percentage ever. Here is #3, by doctormoreau, perhaps my favorite Comment of the Day on “Ethics Dunce: Professor Lara Bazelon”:

My dad was a truck driver and an alcoholic. He was gone for weeks at time and when he was around you wish he wasn’t. I decided early on to be a different parent.

According to the Federal government my family lives in poverty. There are 8 of us, and I make less than $43,000. Yet our quality of life is excellent.
Both of my vehicles are paid for. Yes, my “newer” auto is 8 years old, but it runs well and has never given us any issues. My old truck, purchased to make fixing our house easier, is ugly and rusty but paid for and also reliable.

My wife and I both have cell phones-we replaced our land line years ago. Once upon a time food was our biggest expense, but the growing monstrosity that is health care has passed that. We still get by just fine, though. Beans and rice can be made many ways. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Professor Lara Bazelon” (2)

The second (of three, so far) memorable comment generated by the Lara Bazalon post here on the lawyer’s essay, I’ve Picked My Job Over My Kids : I love them beyond all reason. But sometimes my clients need me more,” came from Ryan Harkins.

Here is his Comment of the Day on “Ethics Dunce: Professor Lara Bazelon”:

My wife left her work as a process engineer at the refinery where I work when she became pregnant with our first child. (We actually agreed she could quit so that we had the chance of conceiving. Long story short, when we agreed she could quit, she tested pregnant mere days later!) Since then, she has received a great deal of scorn from friends, family, and acquaintances because she is not a working mother. She has devoted herself to raising our kids despite having a lucrative career ahead of her. Even worse in the eyes of those around us, we’ve chosen to homeschool our children, which means that burden falls mainly on her while I work most of the day.

What kind of epithets does she receive? That she’s lazy, that she’s spoiling our kids, that she’s wasting her life. When it comes to the homeschooling, she’s told endlessly that she’s ruining our kids’ chance of having a social life or any normal interaction in society. The animus directed toward mothers who stay at home is intense and unrelenting.

So maybe we’re a bit defensive about the topic. And maybe we’re just as judgmental, looking at what other people do with their kids. We’ve seen numerous speakers who demonstrate that, unless the mother is making a significant wage (like an engineer’s salary, to be fair), the cost of day care, and cost of continually taking time off of work to care for a sick child, and so on, eventually outweighs the monetary compensation of the second job. But even more, we witnessed friends who grew up with both parents working, and the anecdotal evidence at the very least suggests that those friends tended to get into trouble more and tended to have greater relational troubles. And the psychology says that those kids go out looking for affirmation (or at least attention) that they don’t get at home. We want our kids to know they are loved, they are worthwhile, that they have our dedication to them. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Professor Lara Bazelon” (1)

The Ethics Dunce post highlighting prominent lawyer and legal commentator Lara Bazelon’s op-ed celebrating her decision to place her career and the welfare of clients over the best interests of her own children didn’t attract a lot of commentary, but the comments that arrived were excellent and often moving, and readers related her dilemma to their own lives. There have been three Comments of the Day so far. I’m going to post them in the order in which they arrived.

Here is JP’s Comment of the Day on “Ethics Dunce: Professor Lara Bazelon”:

About 8 ½ years ago, I became a father. As I looked down at my newborn son, I couldn’t help but note was how small he was. How beautiful he looked. How unprepared I was to be in this situation. It’s funny the way life teaches us lessons. For example, did you know an 18-month-old could lock you out of your house? Or that a 2-year-old could operate an elevator? How about a 3-year-old using deception to win a game of hide and seek? Maybe that a 4-year-old could teach himself to swim?

It hasn’t been easy taking care of my oldest. From the beginning of his life, he has always been too interested in what was going on to care about being held or even staying in one place. His confidence has given him a unique perspective on the world where everything is a new adventure. It seems that he always must be in the thick of things. But here I am, trying to keep up, increasingly more aware that I am falling further behind and time is running out. Continue reading

Comments Of The Day: “Open Forum…Again!” (Reparations Thread)

This week’s Open Forum was epic. All four major topics raised—children allowed to attempt dangerous challenges, Southern Democrats, Artificial Intelligence, and reparations for slavery, led to excellent, varied and provocative debates. I feel a bit guilty for co-opting the child exploitation thread with a full post; several of the comments in that thread were COTD quality, especially A.M. Golden’s at 8:12 am on the 20th.

The A.I. thread was one of the very best on any topic in the history of the blog. I started out  trying to choose a Comment of the Day from that discussion, and after realizing that there was one  great comment after another, considered re-publishing the whole sequence, but it is too long. I urge anyone who hasn’t done so already to read it all. The participants were adimagejim (who gets credit for opening  the topic), Michael R, Steve Witherspoon, Alex, johnburger2013, and Bad Bob.

I chose the reparations thread to highlight the comments because the topic was recently the subject of a hearing on the Hill, and because I think the “debate” is and has always been intellectually dishonest on the part of “reparations” advocates, who, I suspect, know exactly how impossible their demands and proposals are. Nonetheless the news media treats the arguments with reverence, and are happy to assist when naysayers are accused of insensitivity and bigotry. The Comments of the Day that follow  effectively show just how absurd—and unethical—the reparations case is.

Steve Witherspoon: Continue reading

Comments Of The Day: “Dear Ethics Alarms: I Am An Advice Columnist Who Is Ignorant And Phobic About Guns….”

“Am I holding it right?”

In the comments to yesterday’s post discussing the jaw-dropping ignorance and anti-gun bias displayed by a popular advice columnist, the question again arose as to why anti-gun advocates remain so uninformed about their own passion, and don’t bother to educate themselves sufficiently that they won’t sound like idiots—like, for example, “Ask Amy,” who confused hollow-point bullets with armor-piercing bullets, said the hollow-points were “exploding bullets,” referred to a common and popular handgun as the kind of weapon criminals use, and suggested that owning a gun was a dangerous sign of hidden criminal activity.

Glenn Logan, in the first of the two  Comments of the Day that were sparked by “Dear Ethics Alarms: I Am An Advice Columnist Who Is Ignorant And Phobic About Guns. When I Get A Question About Guns, What Should I Do?, theorized thusly…

I think perhaps because they believe it unnecessary and irrelevant. Guns are bad regardless of the use or competence of the person owning them, and that badness is imputed, in large degree, to their owner. It’s a kind of guilt by association — if you own a gun, there is something fundamentally wrong with you based on that fact alone. Guns = Bad, and how they or their ammunition works is just a meaningless detail that couldn’t possibly interest an enlightened person.

You can tell by the way firearms opponents argue their points that they neither know nor care about the function of firearms. They don’t think all that stuff matters, and in their minds, no amount of facts can overcome the one simple judgment that firearm ownership is undesirable in advanced societies.

It is possible that the gun-haters actually fear knowledge about firearms — they fear they may be seduced by their apparently powerful evil, and thereby tempted to become what they not just despise, but actively want to despise. Continue reading