Category Archives: Health and Medicine

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/19/2018: Thinking About Things That Matter While Ignoring The Royal Wedding Hype Edition

I can’t say it’s a good morning..

…since it’s been raining for three days already, with no end in sight..

1. I wonder how long before he’s fired? Instead of renewing his earlier call to repeal the Second Amendment, resurgent lone conservative New York Times op-ed columnist Bret Stephens spoke truth to abused power by condemning the news media in today’s column. He writes in part,

When Donald Trump takes his swipes at the “disgusting and corrupt media” and tens of millions of Americans agree, it’s not as if they don’t have examples in mind. Consider this week’s implication by major news organizations that the president described all illegal immigrants as “animals” during a White House roundtable with California officials. That would indeed be a wretched thing for him to say — had he said it. He did not. The Associated Press admitted as much when it deleted a tweet about the remark, noting “it wasn’t made clear that he was speaking after a comment about gang members.” Specifically, he was speaking after a comment about members of the Salvadoran MS-13 gang, infamous for its ultraviolent methods and quasi-satanic rituals. To call MS-13 “animals” is wrong only because it is unfair to animals….We have a president adept at goading his opponents into unwittingly doing his bidding. They did so again this week. Those who despise him for his deceits should endeavor to give no impression of being deceitful in turn.

Bingo.

2. Briefly noted…Today’s Times editorial is a graphic about how “Congress has dithered as the innocent get shot,” despite the fact that no “sensible gun control measures” would have prevented yesterday’s shooting in Texas…just gun confiscation, if that were possible, which it isn’t. Two letters in the letters section make the same contradictory, yet probably sincere, point. “Another day with the reality that sane gun control is a national emergency.” Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Childhood and children, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

Blue Monday Ethics Warm-Up, 5/7/2018: Fake Brain Death, Horrible History, Bad Bills And Worse Journalism

It’s Monday!

1  In thousands of little ways...Insidious, biased, deceitful, distorted and unfair information is fed to the public by the news media, unflagged or corrected by editors, presented as legitimate punditry and journalism either intentionally to warp public opinion for leftward political gain, or out of pure incompetence, depending on how much one accepts Hanlon’s Razor. The little ones, like the tiny repetitive concussions that over time give NFL players brain disease, may be more insidious than the whoppers.

Here is a typical example. Progressive op-ed writer David Leonhardt concludes his column about how Amazon is a dastardly monopoly endangering his beloved book stores by writing,

“Once the country emerges from the Trump presidency, I hope we will have a government that takes monopolies seriously.”

It takes magnificent gall to lay the power of Amazon at Trump’s doorstep. The internet giant built its virtual monopoly to its current power on Obama’s watch, with a Justice Department that looked the other way. Why? I wonder if it had anything to do with the massive co0ntributions Amazon magnate Jeff Bezos sent the Democrats’ way, or the fact that his newspaper, The Washington Post, was a reliable cheer-leader for Obama through is entire administration. Never mind: Leonhardt’s editors allow him to mislead readers into believing that Amazon is being allowed to do its worst because of Donald Trump.

Oh…did you notice the conflict of interest disclaimer pointing out the Post-Bezos-Amazon connection for those readers who might want to know that the Times’ rival for national newspaper primacy is owned by Amazon’s CEO? Neither did I. Maybe when the Times emerges from its fake news and blatant partisanship stage, it will start taking ethics seriously.

2.  Today’s Fox News incompetence note. I literally stopped on Fox News for 45 seconds this morning, and heard a lovely, buxom, Fox blonde clone report this story by saying, “the boy was brain dead for two months, then woke up.” [The original typo had “bot” instead of boy. A good time was had by all]

No, you idiot. He was not brain dead at all, because when you are brain dead, you’re dead, and you don’t wake up.  Doctors may have thought he was brain dead. He may have seemed to be brain dead. But he wasn’t brain dead.

Fake news, and stupid news.

Fox News.

3. The logic of Hollywood anti-gun zealots in a horror movie. A decent horror move could be made about the San Jose Mystery House, where Winchester rifle heir Sarah Winchester built a maze of rooms and stairways to keep her personal demons at bay. “Winchester” isn’t it, because its mission was to bludgeon audiences for two hours with perhaps the silliest anti-gun message ever devised. You see,  rumors persisted while Sarah was alive that she was building rooms for all the ghosts of victims of her father-in-law Oliver Winchester’s repeating rifle to reside. Thus workmen claimed the site was haunted. “Inspired by real events,” as the film says (the “real events” being the sensational tabloid tales), “Winchester” posits that the ghost of a Confederate soldier whose two brothers were killed in the Civil War has returned to get revenge. Sarah is racked with guilt, because, she says, the Rebel muskets were no match for the North’s repeating rifles, and “they never gave them a chance.”

Yup, those are the rules in war, all right: always give the soldiers trying to kill you a chance. Later, all the angry victims of the evil Winchester come out to glare: Native American, children, suicides, slaves. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/4/2018: White Artists, Black Artists, Brain Damage And The Mad Midnight Pooper

Good Morning!

(On the way to lovely Annapolis, MD to present my Clarence Darrow legal ethics program, along with D.C. actor Paul Morella, the real star of the day and the best Clarence Darrow portrayer alive. Paul starred in my 2000 original one-man show about the iconic lawyer-rogue, and has been performing it for lawyer groups and bar associations ever since.)

Déjà vu!  I would write a full post about this, but you can essentially go to all the football head trauma essays, search and replace NFL with NHL, and you’ll pretty much have it. The New York Times reports on a 53 year old ex-pro hockey player whose brain yielded evidence of CTE, and evidence is mounting the the violent sport is doing damage to players similar to what the NFL denied for so long. Right now, the National Hockey League is denying it too:

To the N.H.L. and its commissioner, Gary Bettman, the diagnosis is likely to be the latest piece of evidence to dismiss or combat. Even as links build a chain bridging the sport to C.T.E., the degenerative brain disease associated with repetitive head trauma, and some of the game’s most revered names push the league to take a more open-minded approach, the N.H.L. has denied any connection between long-term brain damage and hits to the head.

The N.F.L. did the same, for many years, until the evidence became too overwhelming, the numbers too much to counter with plausible deniability. Facing a huge class-action lawsuit, the N.F.L. eventually admitted to the connection and agreed to a roughly $1 billion settlement with former players. (That has not kept the sides from continuing to fight over the payouts, amid accusations of fraud and intimidation.) The N.H.L., following the N.F.L.’s strategy of about a decade ago, still contests any role in the burgeoning science of C.T.E., in the courts of law and of public opinion.

What’s going on here? Violent pro sports are popular and profitable, so they will continue maiming players and devastating their families until the public finally refuses to have blood on its hands. It will take a while, and many lives will be destroyed, but in the end, football and hockey are going to have to be responsible, and also held responsible for the carnage their greed has caused.

2. Yeah, I’m being unfair and partisan when I accuse progressives of being hostile to free speech and diversity of views… A hip-hop and R&B radio station in Detroit has announced that it won’t play Kanye West’s music. The alleged justification was the rapper’s dumb remarks about slavery. On “TMZ Live,” West said,

“When you hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years? That sounds like a choice. Like, you were there for 400 years and it’s all of you all? You know, it’s like we’re mentally in prison. I like the word prison ’cause slavery goes too — too direct to the idea of blacks.”

That’s pretty stupid for sure, but hardly any more stupid than the kinds of things West has been saying his whole career as his fans cheered him on. He’s welcome to hijack a telethons to say, for example, that President Bush intentionally let blacks die after Katrina, but this goes too far. (Someone please explain to me exactly what he thought he was saying, if you have time.) Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/2/18: Dictators, Wizards, Liars and Abusers [Updated]

Good morning!

1 Housekeeping matters. For some reason, I know not what, there was an outbreak of contentious discussion regarding Ethics Alarms administration in a couple of threads yesterday. I think everything covered or complained about is covered in the Comment Policies above, but just for the record:

  • I handle the moderation here. Only me.
  • Though it might appear otherwise to some, I do not spend my day glued to Ethics Alarms. Thus on days like yesterday, when I had an early morning CLE session to teach in D.C., followed by one  law firm client emergency after another, I did not see any comments at all from 1am to 6 pm. Thus the hysterical and indignant “Why did you delete my comment?” outbursts and the “How dare you allow that rude comment to stay on the site?” and the ultimata springing therefrom were especially silly, unfair, and ill-informed.
  • I am not your Moderation Monkey. Don’t command me on how to police my own site. Thank you.
  • As I have written many times, occasionally a comment from an approved participant gets spammed for no good reason. Sometimes WordPress, for no apparent provocation, starts spamming the comments of visitors here who have been commenting for years. Sometimes such commenters have had to change their screen names as a result. None of this has anything to do with me: I can’t control it, or predict it. The calm, reasonable commenters faced with this crisis generally e-mail me, then I search the spam archives, find the lost post, send it to moderation, and approve it.
  • I do not delete posts from approved commenters. The exception is when I ban a commenter permanently, or give one a time out, which is a temporary ban or suspension, in which case the commenter is always warned in advance.
  • I expect discourse here to be civil, but will excuse momentary and periodic lapses and outbursts from veteran commenters (and me, of course), in direct proportion to their time here, level of participation and constructive value to the mission. Individual quirks will also be taken into consideration.

2. Remembering the David Manning Liar of the Month: A commenter who hails from the old Ethics Scoreboard days recently referenced the feature there called the David Manning Liar of the Month. A David Manning-style lie is a statement that the speaker or writer can’t possibly expect anyone to  believe, thus raising the question of whether it is a lie at all. (Sony spawned the award by excusing its use of a fake film reviewer it named David Manning to rave about terrible movies in ads,  claiming that nobody believed such excerpts anyway.) If Ethics Alarms had the same feature, President Trump would obviously dominate it, as I was reminded this morning. The President’s ex-physician, Dr. Harold Bornstein. bitter over his ejection from the Trump Court, revealed that Trump himself had dictated the absurd letter in which the doctor attested, Continue reading

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The Paid Expert Witness Problem

“Check enclosed…”

When a lawyer’s expert witness testifies in a trial, the opposing counsel will always ask, “You’re being paid for your appearance today, isn’t the true?” The one time I was asked that question, I answered, “I’m being paid for my time, not my opinion.” Of course, many experts—yes, even ethics experts—are accepting payment for their opinion. The case of a Houston lawyer’s recent conduct, however, is the worst example of this reality crossing the ethics lines, hard.

Lawyer Mark Lanier had presented father-and-son orthopedic surgeons to the court and the jury as unpaid experts, emphasizing that they were testifying pro bono while the defendants’ experts had been bought. Naturally, this made them seem more credible to the jury. After the trial, however, and after the jury had awarded Lanier’s client  a handsome verdict and damages of $151 million, it was discovered that Lanier made a $10,000 charitable donation to the father’s favorite charity before trial, and sent “thank-you” checks totaling $65,000 to the surgeons after the trial, accompanied by notes of gratitude.

But they weren’t being paid for their testimony—at least, not when they were asked about it. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/7/2018: #2: “Williamson No Longer Of The Atlantic’”

This is an epic Comment of the Day using an unusual approach. Michael West explores aspects of public discourse that is at the core of ethical misunderstanding and ethics malpractice by focusing on a multi-party twitter exchange regarding an issue discussed on Ethics Alarms, the firing of former National Review writer Kevin Williamson after he doubled-down on an extreme position regarding abortion: he believes it is murder, and therefore believes that capital punishment is a fair punishment for what should be considered a crime. Moreover, he said that because of the violent and depraved nature of the crime, a violent execution, like hanging, would be appropriate for the women who allowed their fetuses to be aborted.

Michael also used his comment to highlight a concept we have not used on Ethics Alarms, at least by name, “the Overton Window.” That is defined as “The spectrum of ideas on public policy and social issues considered acceptable by the general public at a given time.” Of course, what the “window” is can be tricky to determine. Donald Trump broke the alleged window repeatedly. My preferred approach to this “window” is to challenge it, and to try to expand its boundaries, consequences be damned. I equate the Overton Window with de facto censorship and thought-control.

I am especially glad that this comment again raises the Williamson firing and the related ethics issues. These are rich topics, and yet the matter fled the blogs and commentary sites quickly, paved over by successive outrages of the day.

Here is Michael West’s Comment of the Day on #2 in the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/7/2018: “Ruggles Of Red Gap” And “Williamson No Longer Of The Atlantic’.”  This is a bit challenging to read, but worth the effort. For clarity, Michael’s commentary is in bold italics.

I think this is an informative tweet dialogue on a handful of levels. For one, it reveals some informal fallacies that inevitably ruin any discourse and are especially ruinous tendencies in any summarized forum (which twitter represents the extreme end of the spectrum). It also reveals what I think is the fundamental problem with the discussion [on Ethics Alarms.]. I think we’re operating on two different meanings of “mainstream”. Simultaneously this reveals two different attitudes regarding the Overton Window.

As for the term “mainstream”, Almaqah below seems to mean it as “anything someone is willing to hear another person discuss.” I presume [commenter Chris’s]  friendliness toward Almaqah’s opinions implies [he] generally believe the same. When I use it, and I think when most others use the term, we use it as more of a quantitative assessment, where “mainstream” means “anything that a sufficient percentage of people believe”, to which it might be effective to add “that it holds enough weight to begin to sway policy discussions” …but that’s not essential.

I think Almaqah’s subsequent side-bars reveal a somewhat concerning attitude towards diversity of opinion as well as tolerance of that diversity. He seems to think that acceptable discourse should be extremely narrow and that anything outside of that window should not be tolerated one bit.

Cast of Characters (mostly from their twitter profiles):

@_Almaqah

Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) – “Oklahoman. Attorney. Contributor at @FDRLST, @dcexaminer, and other places. Keep reminding me that I’m supposed to be rising above.”

@Elwampito – “petty bourgeois”

Mollie Hemingway (@MZHemingway) – “Senior Editor, @FDRLST”

Katherine Mangu-Ward – Editor in Chief of Reason Magazine

FyodorPossibly a libertarian & probably anti-Trump… (judging from a quick scan of tweets)

@MsBaileyGurl – “fundamental human rights and fast wifi. So easy to please.”

Mark Hemingway (@Herminator) – “Senior Writer @WeeklyStandard. Husband of @MZHEmingway”

Jacob T. Levy (@jtlevy) – “Tomlinson Prof of Political Theory, McGill. RPF http://amzn.to/1osWYDC Niskanen http://tinyurl.com/gpu3rzw Opinions here are mine not McGill’s.”

Alexandra DeSanctis (@xan_desanctis) – “Buckley Fellow at National Review. Co-host of “Ordered Liberty” with @DavidAFrench. @NotreDame alum. ”

Bre Payton – “the culture and millennial politics reporter for The Federalist”

@JackFromAtlantapossibly a conservative & possibly an Eastern Orthodox Christian (judging from a quick scan of tweets)

@UrbanAchievrprobably a leftist, most probably anti-Trump (judging from a quick scan of tweets)

Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) – “senior media reporter, @CNN. writing at the intersection of media & politics.”

Kirsten Powers – “USA Today Columnist / CNN Political Analyst / Cohost of @thefaithangle podcast”

Here’s the opening salvo, as Almaqah responds to Gabriel Malor (which “El Wampito” rapidly jumps into).

@gabrielmalor – “The man just lost his job because of his political beliefs. The people celebrating it, particularly the ones who work in media, are trash human beings, not to mention completely unself-aware morons.”

@_Almaqah (two combined tweets) – “Stop convincing me “executing women who have abortions” is a conservative belief, I’m trying to be generous. Also he’ll be fine, NR will take him back. Most prolifers say they don’t want to punish women who have abortions, so it’s odd to see some of them conflate KW calling for execution with normal conservative beliefs. Which is it?”

@Elwampito – “it’s the latter”

@_Almaqah – “I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt!”

@Elwampito – “i mean, if you believe abortion is murder and support the death penalty, it would seem to fit unless you think women lack moral agency or something”

@_Almaqah – “This is true, most of them get around having to reach this conclusion by just saying women are victims of abortion too. KW was willing to say he takes their agency seriously and thinks they should be held culpable”

Here, Almaqah subtly shifts the accusation. The topic is the specific stance that women who kill their unborn children should be executed. Almaqah expands this to “Punishing women who seek abortion.”.There’s a significant difference here where his latter use of “punish” compels the person he’s arguing with to either agree or disagree to a general assertion which may or may not reveal an actual attitude towards the specific assertion. This isn’t rhetorically responsible dialogue.

@MZHemingway – “In only article pubbed @ Atlantic before being fired for being pro-life, NeverTrumper Kevin Williamson wrote enemy was @VDHanson.Interesting”

@_Almaqah – “Another person who equates ‘prolife’ with ‘wanting women who have abortions to be executed’. I’ll take your word for it!”

Molly Hemingway, is playing the typical journalist role of saying something triggering to her base, “Fired for being pro-life”, when she knows he was fired for having a stance about how to enforce those who have abortions. She isn’t being responsible with her tweet, and Almaqah capitalizes on this. But in reality, we know he wasn’t fired for being pro-life, but standing up *for* him and his right to hold opinions, is not an endorsement of those opinions NOR is it a claim that the opinions are “mainstream” (unless you insist on the Narrow Overton window definition of mainstream).

Here, Almaqah quotes the same Reason article, by Katherine Mangu-Ward, which [Chris] referred to and is linked in Jack’s piece.

@_Almaqah (two combined tweets) – “Kevin’s defenders would’ve been better off just saying ‘yes, punishing abortion w/execution is completely reasonable conservative belief, what of it?” instead of “he was just trolling, of course he doesn’t believe that horrible thing!” I mean, once you concede it’s a terrible thing to believe it, kind of hard to get mad when there are consequences for actually believing in it”

@Fyodor32768 (three combined tweets, bold is what Almaqah responds to) – “I think that conservatives probably believe that say the median viewpoint should be outright illegalization and that Williamson’s execution position is on the right side of the spectrum but not crazy. So by saying that his hanging position puts you outside the spectrum you are saying something about what the “baseline” opinion is that they dislike. Sort of like how a lot of mildly racist conservatives didn’t fully agree with Trump’s more forceful racism but didn’t feel it should be condemned as outside the pale because they though of their own more mild racism as the midpoint for views on minorities.”

@_Almaqah – “Yes, to them punishing abortion by execution is just a policy difference to be debated politely among friends. It’s not like Williamson called for something truly offensive like an 80% estate tax”

Almaqah, relying on the narrow, intolerant view of the Overton Window, again shifts the term from the specific “execution” to the broader term “punishment.” Fyodor does a great summary rebutting him here. Almaqah’s reponse is to belittle the notion of tolerating an individual, who while generally in agreement with most actual mainstream opinions, holds one or two more extreme ideas. This is problematic. If Almaqah’s attitude is to reign, we cannot tolerate individuals having anything other than exactly the same lock step views on every opinion we grant “mainstream” status…we must, upon discovery that one of our “orthodox” fellows, when holding even a single “out of whack” viewpoint, must be shut up and sent out of the camp.

@Herminator – “Kevin Williamson was Never Trump *and* one of the most talented writers of his generation. They still wouldn’t let him work for a a venerable liberal institution. Let that be a lesson.”

@MsBaileyGurl – “The lesson is…don’t advocate for the murder of women. Seems pretty easy for the ‘law and order’ party to get behind.”

@Herminator – “Adovocating for the murder of women who murder others is the issue at hand. This is misdirection.”

@_Almaqah – “”he doesn’t want to murder all women, he just wants to murder women who have abortions” might’ve sounded better in your head” Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/7/2018: “Ruggles Of Red Gap” And “Williamson No Longer Of The Atlantic'”

 

Good Morning…

(Do you remember when Saturday morning was fun? Stupid, but fun…)

1. Your cultural literacy note of the day. The Charles Laughton classic “Ruggles of Red Gap” was on Turner Movie Classics last night. The movie itself is wonderful—I recommended it in an Independence Day post here—but it is also a cultural literacy triumph.  In 1935, when the film was released, Lincoln’s Gettysburg address was in the process of falling out of the public’s consciousness. The film’s most famous scene, however, revived it. In a saloon, reference is made to “what Lincoln said at Gettysburg,” and all the cowboys in Red Gap ask each other, “What did Lincoln say at Gettysburg?” Then, quietly, unexpectedly, Ruggles the English butler (Laughton) and the only foreign-born man in the room, recites the speech. TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, in his post showing observations, revealed that when the film was first shown, audiences frequently stood and applauded Laughton’s rendition, and the Address itself became more widely known and quoted.

This is how popular culture works when it is in sync with national values, and not attempting to undermine them.

Here is the scene…for some reason YouTube doesn’t have it, but does have the entire film. The saloon scene begins at about the 56:09 mark:

 

 

2. The Atlantic-Kevin Williamson controversy. Unless you routinely plumb the depths of pundit wars and cultural bloodletting, you might well be completely unaware of this skirmish, but it is ultimately an ethics story. Continue reading

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