Category Archives: Comment of the Day

Comments Of The Day (3): “An Especially Ugly Ethics Quiz: Cam Betrayed”

There have been many excellent posts on the Ethics Quiz about the couple that executed their apparently loving therapy dog, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier named Cam. Three comments stand out (I could easily have selected twice this many, however) , one by Paul W. Schlecht, another by slickwilly, and a third by Elizabeth II. They cover some common ground, and together show the complexity and breadth of this issue, which goes beyond mere animal cruelty to our society’s emotional connection, confusion and hypocrisy about animals generally. I decided that they complement each other, and am posting them as a set.

First, here is slickwilly’s Comment of the Day on the post, “An Especially Ugly Ethics Quiz: Cam Betrayed”:

Growing up rural, animal management is a way of life. You care for ‘commercial’ animals and you care for ‘pets.’ Confusing the two causes problems with regards to ‘final disposition.’ You never torture the animal (as this was considered a lack of character and a sign of a dangerous person) but attempt to make the act as painless as possible. (Note this is why you never hunt deer with an insufficient caliber, or take low probability shots that may wound but not quickly lower the target’s blood pressure to induce unconsciousness. Not only is is more humane, but also prevents the meat from being tainted or lost.)

A good working definition of a commercial animal versus a pet is driven by what type of profits are earned on the animal. We (generally) keep and pay for pets for emotional reasons (a type of profit), and do not expect monetary profit. Commercial animals are for food and profit. The line can blur, as in the case of military bomb dogs or ‘barn’ cats, but this generally is the case. It is a pet if you cannot bear to think of eating it. Cows can be pets. Dogs can be junk yard guard animals. The owner’s feelings make the difference.

I remember some folks who were unable to kill their show chickens, pigs, sheep, (or whatever) for delivery to the buyer (who did not bid on a live animal, and paid well over market value to support the college aspirations of the seller.) The Ag teacher’s advice was to never name a meat production animal, if you intend to sell it. Reluctance to complete the life cycle of such animals indicated the person was not suited to that sort of rural agricultural activity. Go grow corn if you like, but don’t raise beef. There was no shame in this: find what you like to do and do it. But make no mistake: anyone who has cared for 20 pigs knows they are NOT pets, and they EAT a lot, which has to be paid for.

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Filed under Animals, Around the World, Business & Commercial, Character, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, U.S. Society, Workplace

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce, Judicial Division: Arkansas Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen”

The post about the absurd Arkansas judge who saw nothing wrong with taking part in some anti-death penalty protest theater shortly after halting some scheduled executions. Can we say “objectivity”? Sure we can!

The impetus for Steve-O-in NJ’s Comment of the Day was what could be called dicta in the original post about the dubious role models for judicial conduct currently sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here is Steve-O-in-NJ’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Dunce, Judicial Division: Arkansas Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen:

I agree that SCOTUS needs an ethics code, but, in all fairness, did Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, or Nixon ever attack the SCOTUS or a decision in a speech or an address? FDR was far more politically powerful than Obama ever could hope to be, but even he knew when to back off the SCOTUS. That said, I wonder if he knew from the get-go he was going to break the 2-term tradition and just wait the court out, as justices either died or retired and he replaced them with like-minded judges.

What do you think of an age limit for Federal judges, setting either 70 or 75 as a mandatory retirement age? Although Article III judges serve for the term of their good behavior, arguably that Article didn’t conceive of Federal Judges living well past 70 regularly and living and serving into their 80s and 90s uncommon but now certainly not unheard of. If we can revisit Presidential terms of office, which we already have, if we can revisit the Electoral College, which we already have once and some are asking us to again, and if many vocally want us to revisit both the First and especially the Second Amendments, all of these due to changing circumstances (breach of the 2-term custom, the emergence of political parties, alleged hate speech, and the evolution of firearms beyond single shot muskets) then arguably we can revisit Article III as well.

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Comment Of The Day: “More Ethics Observations On The United Flight 3411 Ethics Train Wreck”

Public discussion and media reports is finally waning regarding United’s cascading botch of a full and fully seated flight in which the airline wanted to get four seats back and had neither the law, nor policy, nor sufficient justification to acquire them. Thus its agents lied, exceeded their authority, mistreated a passenger, called in police, and they further escalated the fiasco, badly injuring the victim in the process. (Their conduct was similar in some ways to that of the police officers who killed Eric Garner.)

Even now, however, many people still believe this arose from an overbooked flight. Some misguided pundits are still blaming Dr. Dao. The news media has not taken responsibility for its terrible reporting on this incident, and still hasn’t done a good job explaining what really happened. Meanwhile, Delta has taken advantage of United’s pain by announcing that it will pay up to $10,000 to bumped passengers in the future. And Southwestern won itself an all time record for audacious cheekiness with the above ad, which United deserves. [UPDATE: Apparently this is a hoax, not a real ad. Too bad.]

Here is brian’s Comment of the Day on this ethics train wreck in the sky:

The I don’t think you’re being overly cynical here. I have seen multiple responses from media, politicians, and the CEO all following the basic pattern, propose solutions that do not address what went wrong. A handful of employees acted incompetently, and United (and probably most airlines) didn’t think through their carriage contract, police were ill trained, and the culture of United is horrible in general. But instead of addressing any of those issues, they all have motivated reasons to misconstrue the issues and offer ‘solutions’ to problems that don’t exist.

Things that could be done:

1) CEO comes out and says we are going to train and empower our staff to deal with more and varied types of situations as they arise. We also recognize that our current customer facing staff do not have the appropriate level of customer service training, which is entirely the fault of management. We are going to fix this starting now. We have pulled together XYZ resources and will be meeting weekly for the next 12 weeks to generate a comprehensive plan to begin changing our culture. You can expect an interim report in 4 weeks.

2) CEO says, we are going to set up a true reverse auction, paying cash, for all situations when we have to either remove or deny a paying customer due to reasons beyond their control. We will train all gate staff and front line managers on how to conduct this easy and straight forward auction. We should have been doing it already, because the value of the additional seats we can sell by overbooking far outweigh the costs we incur from the small portion of riders who we must justly compensate for any inconvenience.

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Comment of the Day, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising

Comment Of The Day (1): “Thank The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team For Illuminating The Muddled Ethics Of Wage Gap Arguments In Women’s Professional Sports”

I’m not sure this photo fits exactly, but I’ve been dying to use it for years, so what the heck…

Are women inherently worth as a much as their male counterparts in similar or the same jobs?

Here is reader slickwilly’s Comment of the Day on yesterday’s post, “Thank The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team For Illuminating The Muddled Ethics Of Wage Gap Arguments In Women’s Professional Sports”:

This is rich… equal pay for an equal job… when the job (and skills) are equal.

Years (decades) ago, I was a trainee engineer for a large company. Part of the job was installation of large racks of equipment involving a fully stocked tool box, weighing between 35 and 50 pounds.

Many of the buildings we installed in did not have elevators, so you carried tools and supplies up flights of stairs.

Another trainee was a slip of a girl, likely 125 lbs soaking wet. She was good once on site, but could not carry her own toolbox up a single flight of stairs, or help when major upper body strength was needed to move equipment into position. Yet she got the same pay and incentives the guys did, for less work (she sat around while the guys lugged stuff up the stairs.) There was no offsetting brilliance that compensated for her lack: just plain competent work when she could perform it. Don’t think the guys did not grumble about doing her work in addition to theirs!

To add insult to injury, she was promoted out of the field first because a)she was black; b) she was a she; and c) the work supervisors wanted a stronger person working the jobs (they did not get extra time to do the job when she was on the crew, either) and could not fire her because of the optics of a) and b). This was a corrupt form of the Peter principle, and my first exposure to such.

Another take: in the Army, each person in a platoon must carry his weight and be able to carry a wounded teammate to safety… unless that person was female. Females could not carry their own equipment, depending on their role, and most likely could not carry a man out of battle. And the standards by which they are judges are not the same. You must be able to pass a fitness test of a certain number of push ups, sit ups, and be able to run two miles under a certain time. This scale slides down by age (an 18 year old must do more than a 35 year old to pass, and rightly so) but the scale is significantly reduced for a female soldier. So a female might be able to do 12 push ups, but get a higher test score for those than an 18 year old who could do 40 push ups)

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Comment of the Day, Gender and Sex, Rights, U.S. Society, War and the Military, Workplace

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quiz: Is This Question Easy?”

I intensely disagree with some of this comment regarding illegal immigration and the laws surrounding it, but it is still thoughtful and provocative. I’ll be back at the end.

Here is slickwilly’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Quiz: Is This Question Easy?”

“But sometimes the law itself is evil.

Agreed, and a good observation. Laws are made by men, many times men with hidden agendas who stand to profit from those laws. What I think Glenn is getting at is that ‘illegal’ is seen as equal to ‘immoral,’ which many equate with ‘bad.’ Is it immoral to disobey a law? In the strict sense, by the definitions involved, I think so. In practice, I am not so certain. What if the ‘law’ is written by an un-elected bureaucrat who has no effective over site from lawful entities? When petty rules have the enforcement power of law, democracy falls into tyranny.

Of course, immigration laws are a necessary evil. We have to have them. But we need to get more serious about whether the ones we have now are ethical, sensible, and productive.

Many of the laws we have now benefit those in power, or those who paid them to make the law a certain way. This is generally bad for everybody else, taken as a whole. Immigration laws do not punish those who create the situation for corporate (and private) greed, and even when they do provide punishment for such as these they are not enforced. The first thing that must change is that this class starts suffering for their crimes by lawful enforcement and new laws to address that situation.

I will agree that MOST immigration laws (including ‘how one becomes a legal resident’) are unethical, nonsensible, and unproductive. To those, I will add unfair to all involved but those that crafted them. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Comment Of The Day: “From The Ethics Alarms ‘Do The Ends Justify The Means?’ Files: The Breast Cancer Survivor’s Inspiring Scam”

Glenn Logan took off from the post about Paulette Leaphart’s self-promoting breast cancer awareness 1,000-mile walk and CNN reporter Jessica Ravitz’s strangely equivocal exposé to muse on the toxic influence of social media. It’s a great post, as usual for Glenn, and I’m especially grateful because I’m behind on posts today but I have an ethical obligation to watch the Red Sox Opening Day game. (Pirates-Red Sox tied 0-0 in the 5th.)

Here is Glenn Logan’s Comment of the Day on the post “From The Ethics Alarms “Do The Ends Justify The Means?” Files: The Breast Cancer Survivor’s Inspiring Scam”:

This is yet another social media-driven disaster. We have proven ourselves unable to handle the medium, either as consumers or producers of content. In the grand scheme of things, social media has probably been the vehicle for more scams, dissociation from the real world, submersion into self-congratulatory alternate reality, fake news, and general mayhem than any innovation in my memory.

I have occasionally referred to Twitter as “the Devil,” and my loathing for Facebook knows no bounds. I still use it once a week or so just to check on friends and family (for which it is at least useful), but 99% of my input to Facebook consists of “Happy birthday, (first name here). Many happy returns” or to message Jack a link. No Luddite I, as I have been using the Internet since the early 1990’s Usenet days, and Linux as my primary operating system since 1997, so technology and I are old, old friends.

But the temptation of social media to generate attention in the name of good causes is, to me, the lesson here besides the obvious ethical wreckage caused by “the ends justify the means.” Many of us see the apparent benefits of fame, and want our 15 minutes of it very badly, usually for entirely selfish reasons. When we can achieve that in the name of a good cause, it becomes all the more insidious as a rationalization for otherwise self-serving and dishonest behavior. Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Social Media, U.S. Society

THREE Comments Of The Day (Really Useful Ones): “Tech Dirt’s Mike Masnick On The Internet Privacy Bill”

There were not one but three excellent, informative, detailed comments, one after the other,  in response to the post about the GOP’s elimination of the recent Obama FCC regulations of Big Data gathering by broadband providers. Technology competence is, I believe, the greatest looming ethics issue for the professions, and it is important for the general public as well. All three of these Comments of the Day are educational. If only the news media and elected officials were as well-informed as Alex, John Billingsley, and Slick Willy.

I am very proud of the level of the discourse on Ethics Alarms, and these three Comments of the Day on the post Ethics Quote Of The Month: Tech Dirt’s Mike Masnick On The Internet Privacy Bill are prime examples.

First, here’s slickwilly:

How to be safe with electronic data

First rule: anything online is vulnerable, no matter who secures it. It follows that any computer/device connected online is also vulnerable.

Second rule: Public WiFi is hack-able, and doing so is not that difficult. Someone just has to want to. Using it for playing games could make you vulnerable, and using it to access your financial information (banks, brokers, etc.) is stoopid

Third rule: Anything you do electronically is forever. Any tweet, snap chat, Facebook post, cell phone text or conversation, email, web post, browsing activity, and anything else may be saved by someone. Some of those are harder to get than others: browsing activity takes a snooper on the data line, or a court order to set a snooper up at your ISP. For instance, all cell phones activity is now all saved by the NSA, including where the phone was when. No, no one looks at it, not until they have a reason to research a person, perhaps years later. ‘Smart’ TVs can record you in your own home, without your knowledge, unless you take steps to stop it (electrical tape over cameras/microphones is a start, but still not enough)

Fourth rule: Any public activity can be recorded today. Besides CCD cameras everywhere and license plate readers on many roads, facial metrics can track you in most urban and many rural areas. Even going into the desert or mountains could be spotted via satellite, should the motivation be enough to look your way.

So don’t leave your computer connected to the Internet 24/7 (a power strip that stops electricity from reaching the computer helps cut connectivity when ‘off’), do nullify the ability of other devices to spy on you in your home, and never say anything electronically you do not want going public. Use complex passwords, and never the same for multiple sites. Password safes are better than written notes (and Apple Notes are silly to use for this.) How much you protect yourself depends on your level of paranoia.

Do you have something to hide? A secret you would rather not be made public? Do not document it electronically! Or use the method below.

Now, how to be safe with electronic information: Place it exclusively on an air-gapped (no network connection at all) computer. Place that computer in a heavy steel safe. Encase that safe in concrete, take it out to a deep ocean trench, and drop it overboard. Forget the coordinates where you dropped it.

The point is, nothing is fool-proof

You can take steps to lower the probability that your information gets out, but even using paper and quill pen was only so good as the physical security the document was placed under. Learn some simple steps and you will remove yourself from the radar of most predators. People are careless, apathetic, and just plain dumb, so anything you do helps keep you safer.

I keep such information in a secure, encrypted flash drive that is not stored in a computer USB slot. Could someone break the encryption, should they find the drive and wish to spend the effort? Sure. But if they want me that badly they will get me, one way or another. Why would they? I do not have any deep dark secrets or hidden crimes in my past. Even so, why should my business be available to anyone just to browse through?

Your mileage may vary, but doing nothing is unethical in my responsibilities to my family.

Now John Billingley’s contribution:

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Health and Medicine, Professions, Rights, Science & Technology, The Internet