Category Archives: Religion and Philosophy

Comment of the Day: “Prelude: Intent, Gross Negligence, And ‘Extremely Careless’”

eyes closed driving

Long-time commenter (and blogger) Glenn Logan has authored not one but three COTD-worthy posts of late. I have chosen his commentary on the gross negligence/extremely careless distinction for the honor, but any of them would have been worthy choices. You can find the others in the threads here and here.

Before I get to Glenn, I want to point out that a recent and ridiculous news story illustrated the difficulty of the gross negligence/extreme carelessness distinction perfectly:

A North Florida woman is saying her prayers after running her car into a home — after saying her prayers.

The 28-year-old woman was driving in the tiny town of Mary Esther, located west of Fort Walton Beach in the Florida Panhandle. Deputies from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office say the driver told them she was praying and had her eyes closed before the incident took place.

According to NWFDailyNews.com, authorities say she ran a stop sign, going through an intersection and into the yard of a home. The driver tried to back out, but her car got stuck in sand and dirt around the home. No one was hurt inside the home and the driver was taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation. She was cited for reckless driving with property damage.

Gross negligence would be praying, driving, and closing her eyes knowing well that it endangered others, and doing it anyway. Extremely careless would be praying, driving, and closing her eyes assuming that no harm would come of it, perhaps because God would be driving the car. “Reckless,” however, may cover both.

Here is Glenn’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Prelude: Intent, Gross Negligence, And ‘Extremely Careless’”: Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, language, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy

The Latest Trump Embarrassment: You See, Donald, Hanlon’s Razor Provides No Protection To Presidential Candidates…

Star of David

Writing about the latest Donald Trump controversy, blogging professor Ann Althouse concluded…

This is either a revolting outrage or shocking incompetence.

Social media critics, Democrats, Jews here and in Israel and journalists who enjoy interpreting every Trump communication in the worst possible light were (and are) foaming with anger and indignation over the above re-tweet by The Donald, whose long-used press nickname is on the way to being officially changed to “The Lunkhead.” In case you are as insensitive and ignorant as he apparently is, that’s six-pointed star in the graphic, superimposed on a background of cash and referencing Hillary’s corruption. The six-pointed star, the Star of David, is associated with the Jewish people, culture and faith. When one links that symbol to money and corruption, you have the classic elements of anti-Jewish hate and bigotry. Here is a sampling of the online commentary on what some pleasantly refer to as Trump’s latest “unforced error”: The Verge, The American Spectator, The Atlantic, Hot Air, RedState, Raw Story, The Times of Israel, Gothamist, CBS New York, Mediaite, Little Green Footballs,  and ThinkProgress. Continue reading

12 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Hero: Mother Jones Pundit Kevin Drum”

There are, I think, three regular commenters on Ethics Alarms who extend all the way back to Ethics Scoreboard days, or pre-2012. One of them is Tim Levier, who unlike the other two, I have actually met while I was in his state of Colorado. Tim posted the following on my Facebook page, and I invited him to cross-post here. In his post, he addresses the “do something!” lament that appears to be thoroughly rotting the brains of our leaders in both parties as they hustle to pander to the emotional responses to the Orlando tragedy. Tim wrote a younger friend about what somethings he would do, and not all of them are relevant to guns. They all, however, are relevant to building a society in which fewer people might choose to start shooting strangers.

Here is Tim’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Hero: Mother Jones Pundit Kevin Drum.

I’m 35 and was recently talking with someone slightly younger. He had the standard call for ideas to check the “do something” box. After I did some jumping jacks to show that I did something, I buckled down and wrote some ideas.

Now, I’m usually accustomed to reading some constitutional murky stuff, so I veered a different direction. Below is my list as I wrote it to him, perhaps there’s something in it that speaks to people. My 4 ideas for improvement (not solutions, because solutions don’t exist.):

Idea #1

I’ll tell you that the #1 thing I would like to see in this country (give me some slack here, I believe everything is connected), given the state of health care…

I’d like to see a 3 tier system of medical insurance & payments. (Tier 3 will be the part that relates back.)

Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

From The Man Who Would Be President, And Who Thinks That Rationalizations Are Cogent Arguments, A Perfect #22

22

Just two weeks ago, I breathlessly announced that Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, against all odds. had pulled into a lead over Donald Trump for the 2016 Unethical Rationalizations Championship by giving us a perfect #22, the worst rationalization of them all. That’s this one:

22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”

If “Everybody does it” is the Golden Rationalization, this is the bottom of the barrel. … It is true that for most ethical misconduct, there are indeed “worse things.” Lying to your boss in order to goof off at the golf course isn’t as bad as stealing a ham, and stealing a ham is nothing compared selling military secrets to North Korea. So what? We judge human conduct against ideals of good behavior that we aspire to, not by the bad behavior of others. One’s objective is to be the best human being that we can be, not to just avoid being the worst rotter anyone has ever met.

Behavior has to be assessed on its own terms, not according to some imaginary comparative scale. The fact that someone’s act is more or less ethical than yours has no effect on the ethical nature of your conduct. “There are worse things” is not an argument; it’s the desperate cry of someone who has run out of rationalizations.

Now, Donald Trump never runs out of rationalizations; as I wrote in the Albright post, “Trump is capable of hitting the entire list of rationalizations, all 68 of them (including the sub-rationalizations) given the opportunity.” He also rose to the challenge posed by Albright quickly, for he not only gave America a Full 22, he did so in the context of arguing for an unconstitutional government breach of First, Second, and Fifth Amendment rights on a massive scale! Bravo!

On Face the Nation  yesterday, talking about the Orlando shooting,  this idiot—sorry, sorry!—Mr. Trump said..

“Well I think profiling is something that we’re going to have to start thinking about as a country.Other countries do it, you look at Israel and you look at others, they do it and they do it successfully. [DINDINGDINGDINGDING! There are two more rationalizations right there:#1, Everybody Does It, and  #3, Consequentialism, or  “It Worked Out for the Best”! I mean,this guy is a rationalization machine! ] And I hate the concept of profiling but we have to start using common sense and we have to use our heads. It’s not the worst thing to do.” Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

Comment of the Day: “Ethics (and Legal) Dunces: Hillary Clinton And Everyone Else Who Is Suggesting That The Government Should Be Able To Keep Someone From Buying A Gun By Placing Them On A “No-Fly List””

EYES of fear

From Comment of the Day auteur Chris Marschner comes more perspective on the post Orlando debate, and some of the irresponsible arguments being made. His focus: the distortion caused by fear,  and he adds a further rebuttal to the suddenly current “The Second Amendment only applies to muskets” nonsense, for which he has more patience that I. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics (and Legal) Dunces: Hillary Clinton And Everyone Else Who Is Suggesting That The Government Should Be Able To Keep Someone From Buying A Gun By Placing Them On A “No-Fly List”

What I have not seen yet is an actual deconstruction of the events that took place well before the self-proclaimed radical set his sights on the Pulse night club. Furthermore, once again one side immediately attributes the root cause of mass shootings to an inanimate object that has the capability to inflict substantial casualties or, as the New York Times editorial(s) puts it, Republican rhetoric that fuels hate toward the LGBT community and other minorities and that the pro-gun lobby is complicit in facilitating these horrific events. It seems to me that such rhetoric fuels the intransigence by the pro gun side to stick to their guns, so to speak.

Whether it’s the NRA and the millions people that make up its membership, or non-gun owners who would not know an automatic weapon from a semi- automatic weapon used by the military both sides are arguing from a state of fear.

At the heart of the problem is how do we combat that fear without sacrificing the very freedoms we want to protect. We aid, abet and give comfort to our enemies when we fight internally over these issues. By dividing us they distract us from their activities; so they win a tactical advantage. By causing us to sacrifice our fundamental freedoms they win some battles. When they force our retreat into isolation they win the war.

Irrespective of what we call it, radical Islamists or simply extremists we do know the name of the organizations that seek to inflict as much death and destruction to the civilians living in western Europe, Israel and the United States. Each has a name and a state of war can be declared on each one. Continue reading

19 Comments

Filed under Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, U.S. Society

Can Anyone Analyze The Orlando Mass Shooting Objectively?

blind men elephant

We know that Omar Mateen planned an attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. We know he used a pistol and an AR-15 rifle—which he purchased legally– to shoot over a hundred people, leaving  50 people dead and 53 injured. We know he was homophobic, that the FBI interviewed him three times,  and that he had pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State as his deadly assault began. We know that  his father is a pro-Taliban, anti-American activist. We know that the shooter’s  co-workers noticed that he was unstable, but that his bosses were reluctant to take any action for fear of appearing “racist.” We will Mateen’s ex-wife says he was prone to violence and that she believes he was mentally ill.

We will undoubtedly learn more. Still, that’s a lot of data. Isn’t it possible to objectively, dispassionately weigh and measure causes and effects and come to fair and reasonable conclusions that can guide policy without partisan gridlock?

It is possible to at least try, but so far, pundits, elected officials and activists aren’t trying. They are allowing confirmation bias to dominate their thoughts; what matters isn’t what caused this tragedy, but what they want to believe caused it.

To arch conservative pundit Michael Walsh, for example, the problem is that the United States allows Afghanis and Muslims to be citizens:

Ah, Afghanistan, the land of sexually primitive boy-molesters who channel their aggression into wife-beating and mass murder…That’s par for the course for marriages to Muslims, as many real American women who’ve married one of them knows. Flowers, limos, candy… and the second after the vows, domestic prison and beatings for life or until they can escape….The Florida shooter is Exhibit A why the notion of “birthright citizenship” — he was an Afghan Muslim who by sheer chance was born in New York — needs to be drastically curtailed in light of changed circumstances.

Continue reading

167 Comments

Filed under Citizenship, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, U.S. Society

The Unethical Ethicist And Yale: If Bill Cosby Were A Famous Ethicist, He’d Be Prof. Thomas Pogge

The Accuser and the Ethicist

The Accuser and the Ethicist

Here is the short version:

Yale’s Thomas Pogge is a world famous Yale professor of philosophy and ethics who is especially renowned for condemning the terrible human rights effects caused by disparity of resources between rich countries and poor ones. His books, lectures and a well-recieved TED talk argue that the power imbalance between rich countries and poor countries is so great that poor countries cannot reasonably be said to “consent” to agreements between them. Pogge has also accumulated many credible accusations of exploiting, harassing, and taking sexual liberties with his female students in multiple institutions. In the case that has led to this contrast becoming public, Yale offered a female accuser, a Yale graduate named Fernanda Lopez Aguilar, $2000 in exchange for ending the matter and keeping the story out of the news media.

The long version is here. Because the publisher is BuzzFeed, which is not widely regarded as a sterling source of trustworthy journalism (to say the least), the detailed and apparently well-researched report will be easy for Pogge and Yale to ignore and shrug off. However, other publications, including the Yale Daily News, have investigated the work of author Kaitie J.M. Baker, and so far it has held up to scrutiny.

Pogge has responded, less than convincingly, I would say, to the Lopez Aguilar allegations here. I say unconvincingly because he does not address the previous accusations made against him at Columbia University, and if there is one common characteristic of sexual harassers and abusers that stands out above all others, it is that they are habitual and repeat offenders. Anyone who has spent any time in academia (like me) is well aware that the culture permitting professors, especially male professors, to use the student body and bodies as a sexual perk of the job is widespread and only weakly restrained, if at all. Does that prove that Pogge is one of the professors who partakes in the lusty opportunities presented to him as an object of trust and admiration? No. There is, however a lot of smoke surrounding him, and the smoke has been issuing for a long time.

Yale’s institutional conduct is more than smoke. Yale appears to be another example of a trusted institution deciding that it is preferable to cover up the possible, likely or proven misconduct of a valuable employee than to risk damaging the reputation of that institution, or alienating the loyalties of other employees, by addressing it openly and decisively. I’m sure you can name other infamous examples of this phenomenon, broadly covered by the rationalizations “The King’s Pass” and “The Saint’s Excuse” on the Rationalizations List. Among the most infamous of these are the Catholic Church’s decades, perhaps centuries-long enabling of child sexual predators in the priesthood, the Watergate cover-up by the White House, and Penn State’s failure to stop a known child predator from using the school’s football program and its campus as a base of operations. Yale’s particular variety of this unethical choice is an especially unsavory one, closer to the Joe Paterno/ Sandusky and “Spotlight”scandals, because it intentionally  places future innocent victims at risk of harm.

I accept that there is a possibility that Pogee is an impeccable  professional and as pure as the driven snow, and thus himself a victim of a smear, though this seems unlikely. What I am more interested in now is to address the questions asked in the BuzzFeed piece, which relate to how we should regard unethical ethicists as well as other prominent figures who defy, in their actions, the wisdom they are celebrated for dispensing to others—the Bill Cosbys of the world.

I have some additional questions of my own, but for now I will restrict myself now to those posed in the article. Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy, Workplace