Category Archives: Family

Ethics Quiz: Punishing The 12-Year-Old Killer

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Texas Monthly this month has a troubling profile of Edwin Debrow, who is 37 years old,  has been behind bars since he was 12, and may have to stay there until he is 52. On September 21, 1991, Debrow shot a San Antonio school teacher named Curtis Edwards in the back of the head. Edwards’ body was found sprawled across the front seat of a taxi that he drove part-time at night. Edwin, police determined, had shot Edwards during an attempted robbery. Above is the photo of the 12-year-old in custody.

Texas law, you will not be surprised to learn, allows very harsh punishment for  juvenile offenders.Other states will sometimes try 12-year-olds as adults. Last year’s documentary “Beware the Slenderman” tells the strange story of Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls who attempted to stab another 12-year old girl to death in 2014. Under Wisconsin law, Weier and Geyser will be tried as adults for attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and if convicted, they could be sentenced to up to 65 years in state prison.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is this:

Is it ethical for society to punish children with such long prison sentences, no matter how serious the crime?

Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Family, History, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Presenting The First New Rationalization Of 2017: #32A Imaginary Consent, or “He/She Would Have Wanted It This Way”

roxieThe addition of  New Rationalization #32A Imaginary Consent, or “He/She Would Have Wanted It This Way” to the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List became obligatory after it got a work-out over the holidays. Disney turning long dead character actor Peter Cushing into a zombie performer for the new “Star Wars” film was defended with the claim, which was almost surely also used by his heirs who were paid handsomely for the use of Cushing’s CGI avatar.

And that’s always the way this rationalization arrives. Someone wants to profit through some dubious scheme or transaction, and uses the argument that a revered and quite dead family member, personage of importance or icon “would have approved,” or “would have wanted it.” Like its progenitor 32. The Unethical Role Model: “He/She would have done the same thing,” which employs misdeeds of presumably admirable figures of the past as precedent for misdeed in the future, this is an appeal to irrelevant authority. Worse, Imaginary Consent presumes what cannot possibly be determined without prior express statements from the deceased.

This is one reason why DNR (“Do not resuscitate”) orders are essential. Using a fictional consent to absolve a decision-maker from actual responsibility is both a dodge and cowardly, as well as dishonest. I remember the horrible day that my sister and I were called upon to decide whether to terminate my mother, who was unconscious, on life support and beyond recovery. We made the decision quickly, and what my mother “would have wanted” was never a factor. (She had delegated the decision on her own DNR to my sister.) What my mother wanted, we both agreed, was to live forever. She would have been willing to have her comatose body waiting for a miracle or a cure until the hospital crumbled around her….in fact, that’s why she delegated the decision without instructions. Sure, it would have been easier to fool ourselves with #32A. But it would have been a lie.

The other true story this rationalization makes be think of is the time the elderly parents of a friend decided to euthanize their wonderful, bounding, big and joyful dog Roxie, some kind of a felicitous hybrid between a boxer and a freight train. They were moving into a resort where dogs were not allowed.  I was aghast, but they insisted, “We just know Roxie wouldn’t be happy living with anyone else.”

I argued(they did not appreciate it), “You know what? I bet if she could talk, Roxie would say, ‘You know, I really like you guys, really, and I’ll miss you a lot, but on balance I think I’d rather keep living, thanks. I’ll miss you, but I’m pretty sure I’ll get over it. Have a great time in Florida.'”

They killed her anyway.

#32A is a way to pass off responsibility for an ethically  dubious decision on someone who is beyond participation in that decision, and sometimes even the victim of it. It is cowardly, unaccountable, and based on an assertion that may not be true.

___________________

Special Thanks to Reader/Commenter Zoltar Speaks!, who suggested the new entry.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Family, Health and Medicine

Ethics Hero: Former President Jimmy Carter

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As its stands now, only Jimmy Carter among the four surviving former Presidents of the United States will be attending Donald Trump’s inauguration in Washington, D.C. on January 20. The others, Bill Clinton and the two George Bushes, will not, if their failure so far to RSVP to their official invitations means what most think it means.

President George H.W. Bush can be given a pass due to his advanced age and and precarious health; not so his son and Bill Clinton. Their absence will be petty and unpatriotic. Jimmy Carter knows what his duty is, and will do it. Good for him.

The inauguration of a new President is a national ritual and a vital one, signalling the support of the nation for a  leader duly elected to take the mantle of Washington, Lincoln and the rest. It is a tradition to celebrate the nation and its remarkable  system of peaceful transfer of power, and not, as I will soon explain to the Rockettes, the individual who will be President when the ceremony is over. It is a day to unite the country after an election, not to further divide it.

For former Presidents Bush and Clinton not to recognize this is no less than disgraceful…specially these Presidents, one who himself won office while losing the popular vote, and the other who never received a majority of votes cast in two elections. We know why Clinton and Bush are sulking. President Elect Trump, in his ugly campaign, personally insulted both Bush 43 and his younger brother Jeb, and Jeb may well regard his brother’s attendance at the Inaugural a betrayal. Well, Jeb needs to grow up. January 20 is about the United States of America, not hurt feelings or family solidarity. George Bush has an obligation to be there, not back in Texas snubbing the nation to get back at Trump. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Family, Government & Politics, Leadership, U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day: “From The ‘When Ethics Alarms Are Devoured By Hysteria And Partisan Hate’ Files: Jezebel Readers React To The JetBlue Harassment Of Ivanka Trump”

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Happy Holidays!

There will be at least two Comments of the Day posted today, and this is the most recent, but I felt that getting this one up was particularly urgent.

Here is Spartan’s Comment of the Day on the post, From The “When Ethics Alarms Are Devoured By Hysteria And Partisan Hate” Files: Jezebel Readers React To The JetBlue Harassment Of Ivanka Trump.

I think everyone needs to call a time-out. Emotions are running high, as is evidenced by “Angry Steve-O-In-NJ’s” appearance the other day. Right now, I am giving everyone a pass (be they left or right) on angry, emotional, or hurtful outbursts. We’ve gone through a crazy election cycle, have had a rough year generally (just about every important or talented person has died), we are living in uncertain times, and we’re now in the midst of the holiday season — and holidays can be rough for people in the best of situations.

This might sound like crunchy-granola-liberal-touchy-feely-mumbo-jumbo, but I am trying to respond to all family and friends with love and understanding right now. And it is working. First of all, I feel better and it is making me a happier person. So right there, I can count it as a win. Second, they (or at least some of them) feel better. No good comes from fighting with family, friends, or random people in airports. Listen to what other people have to say and if they espouse different beliefs, don’t challenge or ridicule them, people can have civil discussions without them becoming contests of wits. And call out (gently) anyone who is espousing hateful rhetoric. It immediately dials down the emotions — which is a good thing.

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Family, Love, U.S. Society

Ethics Observations On The Trump Sons’ Influence Peddling Story

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To catch you up: Celebrity gossip website TMZ  hyped the launch of new Texas nonprofit led by Donald Trump’s adult sons Donald Jr. and Eric based on what it called a “draft” of a soon to be released event brochure. The non-profit was offering, we were told, access to the new President during inauguration weekend  in exchange for million-dollar donations to unnamed “conservation” charities.  Prospective million-dollar donors to the “Opening Day 2017” event on  January 21, the day after inauguration, were to receive a “private reception and photo opportunity for 16 guests with President Donald J. Trump,” a “multi-day hunting and/or fishing excursion for 4 guests with Donald Trump, Jr. and/or Eric Trump, and team, ”as well as tickets to other events” and “autographed guitars by an Opening Day 2017 performer.”

The Center for Public Integrity was on this like a shot…and so was the news media. I received a link in an e-mail from someone who archly noted that “You seem to be interested in influence peddling,” a reference to my many posts about the real purpose behind the Clinton Foundation, “so perhaps you will find this of interest [Unsaid but understood: “…you Donald Trump enabling, racist, fascist bastard!”] In the link, TIME took the hand-off from the Center, and got a series of quotes from critics, like Larry Noble, the general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign reform organization.“This is problematic on so many levels,” Larry said.  “This is Donald Trump and the Trump family using a brand new organization to raise $1 million contributions for a vague goal of giving money to conservation charities, which seems a way of basically just selling influence and selling the ability to meet with the president.”

Noble cautioned that the details of the event and its association with the new nonprofit listing the Trump brothers as directors were still unclear. “It’s really hard to identify all the problems when they’re so vague,” he said.

True. As of today, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are no longer listed as directors of a that non-profit. Papers removing their names from the Opening Day were processed by the state of Texas,  a spokeswoman for the Texas secretary of state told CNN Money.

Never mind!

Observations: Continue reading

17 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Family, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Ethics Hero: President Barack Obama

President Obama granted clemency to 231 deserving individuals, yesterday, the most individual acts of clemency granted in a single day by any President inU.S. history. He also issued 153 commutations, and has now commuted the sentences of 1,176 individuals, including 395 life sentences. The President also granted pardons to 78 individuals, bringing his total number of pardons to 148.

Good.

The pardon and clemency powers of the President are underused, and until the last two years, Obama underused them more than any modern President. Now, presumably in a last minute flurry to enhance his legacy, Obama has embraced these acts of mercy as one thing he can do that Donald Trump will not be able to reverse. Obama’s motives are irrelevant, however. The “quality of mercy is not strain’d…” and it also shouldn’t be criticized. We must assume that the beneficiaries of Obama’s mercy are deserving, and that there aren’t any Marc Rich-types in the group.

There is so much that is right with Obama’s commutations and pardons. They match the spirit and ideals of the season; they provide second chances to Americans who need them; it returns citizens to their families. Let’s hope that he has begun a permanent competition, and that every President will now strive to exceed the number of official acts of mercy of his or her immediate predecessor.

Thank-you, Mister President.

You just made the United States  a little more ethical.

A lot, in fact.

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Family, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

Now THIS Is A Conflict Of Interest…Or Is It?

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Is it a conflict of interest for a lawyer to represent a client suing herself? Lawyers are all forbidden to bring adverse actions against their own clients; it is the conflict of all conflicts, a pure breach of loyalty. Does this mean, then, that even when a statute requires a plaintiff to sue herself as a defendant, it can’t be done without breaching the ethics rules?

The case is Bagley v, Bagley, and both Bagleys are the same Bagley.

State Farm Insurance Company handled Barbara Bagley’s car insurance. She was driving when her car flipped and killed her common law husband.  To compel State Farm to indemnify her, Bagley, in her dual capacities as sole heir and personal representative of the estate of her husband, was required to bring this suit against herself as the negligent driver. Bagley as plaintiff and as her husband’s heir brought a cause of action pursuant to Utah Code section 78B-3-106, Utah‘s wrongful death statute, alleging that the defendant—her— negligently caused her, that is, the plaintiff’s husband’s death, thereby depriving his sole heir –the plaintiff, but also the defendant—of his “love, companionship, society, comfort, care, protection, financial support, pleasure, and affection.”  She also brought a second cause of action pursuant to Utah Code section 78B-3-107, Utah‘s survival action statute, alleging that the defendant—her again— negligently caused the deceased to experience pain and suffering prior to his death, entitling Bagley’s late husband’s estate to other damages. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Law & Law Enforcement