The President’s London Terror Tweets

I’ve GOT it! Make Trump move to the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center! Problem Solved!

Flat learning curve. That’s really the most alarming thing about President Trump’s tweet barrage over the weekend, as he responded stupidly, irresponsibly and offensively to the terror attack in London. It proved that he hasn’t learned a thing, despite repeated Twitter-assisted catastrophes that in the past have turned potential victories into embarrassments, mere mistakes into disasters, and whimsy into large clubs for his enemies to beat him bloody with. How could he not be wary when he considers a tweet? What happened to “Once burned, twice shy?” How about 6,348 times burned? How analytical do you have to be to think, after hitting yourself in the head squarely with a 2 X 4 and realizing that it is permanently dented (the head, not the board), “Wow! That hurt! I sure don’t want to do that again!”?

And yet here we are.

I can’t say I’m surprised, and that itself is depressing. But I’ve dealt with enough alcoholics in my life who I have asked, following particularly devastating relapses that placed everything they cared about (or should have cared about) in jeopardy, “Why would you do that, after all you have been through?”…and watched them shrug, shake their heads, and say, in various words, “I can’t explain it, and you’ll never understand.”

After the two attacks on Saturday, the President’s tweets weren’t all terrible. The second one read, “Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the U. K., we will be there – WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!” Then, like a binge drinker out of rehab who takes a small sip of chablis at a reception, POTUS was on a Twitter bender—a Twender. He began exploiting the tragedy to lobby for his stalled travel ban. He blamed the attacks on political correctness. He mocked the Mayor of London. He somehow saw the episode as revealing the hypocrisy of gun control advocates. Metaphorically, the President of the United States was reeling and staggering all over the street, singing “Barnacle Bill,” stopping traffic and vomiting on pedestrians. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit”

There is an Ethics Alarms post “going viral” right now, at least as viral as any post on an ethics blog is likely to go. For two weeks now, my post at the end of July about how the “urban legends” site Snopes had descended into  dishonest, spinning, fact-distorting partisan/ left “factchecking” hackery has lapped all others here, and been shared to record levels on Facebook (nearing 11,000 shares) and Reddit.

This is nice, of course. It has brought a few (though not many) new commenters to the blog, and presumably more readers who stayed to peruse other topics. It has made August 2016, usually a fairly dead month, the most heavily trafficked month in Ethics Alarms annals. The post alerted some people to why Snopes is untrustworthy, though not, apparently, the Washington Post, which cited it as authority just a few days ago. It also prompted, on Reddit and Facebook, several thousand smug “this is not news, I’ve known this for years” comments. Where were your blog post, jerks?

The post’s wide circulation through the web also made me aware that a conspiracy theory holding that Democrats and the Hillary Corrupted maintain a team of attack commenters who go to blogs and attempt to muddy the waters when the truth about Clinton threatens to break through the denial dam might be accurate. I have received four or five almost identical comments on that post attempting to deny my dissection of Snopes’ pathetic attempt to prove that Hillary didn’t defend a child rapist, didn’t discredit his young victim in the process, didn’t know he was guilty when she did it, and didn’t laugh about the case in a recorded interview. None of the four commenters  read all of my post, which echoed a previous one in pointing out, as I always do, that a lawyer defending a criminal is not unethical, that the attacks on Hillary for doing so were ignorant and unfair, and that Hillary Clinton has nothing to apologize for in this case. Never mind: all four of these commenters ( and some others which never made it onto the blog) shifted into similar boilerplate language claiming I was attacking her too,  and preceded to repeat Snopes’ dishonest “factchecking” as if the documentation of its falsity I presented in the post didn’t exist.

Nonetheless, the Snopes revelation was not the Ethics Alarms post I would have chosen to “go viral.” There have been many essay in the last six year that I was, and am, especially proud of and believe were original, perceptive and important, and that have been barely read by anyone, never linked to or shared, and that have had all the impact of a shell thrown into the surf. How I wish my warning to the Republican Party , for example, urging it not to permit Donald Trump to participate in the primaries, had received similar attention. Not a single editorial board or pundit saw the peril looming, or at least  they didn’t write or talk about it if they did, because having The Donald spouting his inanities would be good copy and “fun.”

One such post dates back to the first full year of Ethics Alarms: The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit, from August 2010. In six years, it has amassed about the same number of views that the Snopes piece amassed in half a month. Yet the topic, how mouthwash manufacturers profit significantly by hiding the widespread use of their product by alcoholics who use mouthwash to conceal their destructive disease from family members and co-workers, is barely mentioned  on the web—a few places, and almost all of them since the post. Still, Congress hasn’t held hearings, regulatory agencies haven’t noticed, and the products still carry warnings that fool non-alcoholics into believing that the stuff is poison, so nobody drinks it. Lives could be saved, marriages rescued, and endangered businesses might survive, if what I wrote was generally known

I’ve done the original research and put the problem out there. At least I’ve tried, and I will continue to write about the problem, which I have learned about first hand.

My efforts  haven’t been completely futile. I have received some gratifying comments and off-site e-mails from family members who read the article, discovered that a loved one was secret drinker, and got them help. I have also received a few responses that confirmed my work, though none quite like this one from new reader Dave, an alcoholic himself.

Here is his remarkable and  cryptic  Comment of the Day on the post, The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit. Is it intentional irony? Is it sarcasm? Is it support, in the form of criticism? You decide:

Halfway through your article I decided it would be a good idea to go to shoppers and grab myself a bottle. I’d been so triggered today, only being a week sober prior. It’s great, you know, the mouthwash deception as you call it. I spend roughly $3.50 on a bottle of Life brand yellow mouthwash and it gets me radically twisted, with zero hangover. So not only does it make it easier for me to be a functioning alcoholic based on its inexpensiveness and zero hangover qualities, it is also amazingly convenient in that within 10 minutes I have three different 24 hour grocery stores I can go to in order to get a bottle.

Alcoholism is a shitty disease, believe me, I have lost much at the expense of it.

Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Smokeless Tobacco Ban

Chicago recently became the fourth city—Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco—to enact a ban on using smokeless tobacco in sports stadiums. I initially ignored it, in part because I never use the stuff and have never known anyone who did, and in part because I knew that Major League Baseball has been trying, with some success, to discourage its ballplayers from chewing and especially spitting on camera, since it is a) disgusting and b) encourages impressionable tykes to take up an ugly and perilous habit. I’m inspired to make the issue an ethics quiz because of the pronouncements of law professor-blogger Jonathan Turley on the issue and the vociferous debate his comments sparked on his blog.

Turley wrote…

This is a lawful product like smoking tobacco. People have a right to make choices about their lifestyle so long as they do not harm others. That is why I always supported the bans on smoking in public areas due to the second-hand smoke research. That is an externalized harm. What is the externalized harm of smokeless tobacco?

…I happen to deeply dislike smoking and I find chewing tobacco disgusting. I also do not question the link to serious health problems like cancer. However, that should be the subject of an educational campaign by the government and MLB. Yet, in the end, people need to be able to make choices in our society rather than go down the path to paternalistic legislation regulating our good and bad choices.

His supporters on the blog were typified by this comment by Beth (not our Beth, I presume)…

“Tobacco, in all forms, is NOT a singular activity that affects no one else. Tobacco use weighs very heavily on the public at large in the form of health care costs, higher insurance premiums, toxic litter, poisoned air and ground spit. To suggest that limiting tobacco, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes should not be controlled substances goes against all manner of policy for the public good. Wrong stance, Mr. Turley.”

This comment, from “wonderer,” is a fair summation of the other side, which mostly came from the libertarian side of the metaphorical aisle:

“The efforts to ban “icky” behaviors are of a piece with the bans or taxes on sugared beverages. What seems to be happening is that some people want to push bans on behaviors of “out of favor” groups. Those “big soda” people are Walmart denizens, so they clearly need to be told what to do. But keep hands off urban bicycling. As risky as that is, it’s one of the things “enlightened” people do. Bans (at least here in California) seem to be all about the condescension.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is a ban on smokeless tobacco in ballparks an abuse of government power and an unethical breach of personal choice, autonomy and liberty, or is it a responsible use of government power to encourage public health and safety?

I’ll hold my fire on this one until sufficient numbers weigh in. Remember, the issue here isn’t policy, but ethics.

 

 

Ethics Observations On The GOP New Hampshire Debate

Rubio meltdown

Two ethics controversies occurred before the ABC debate (transcript here) even began.

  • DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz really is a shameless and audacious hack. Does anyone seriously defend her? After being justly criticized in the news media for unabashedly hiding the Democratic candidates debates, staging them on weekends and against football games to smooth the road for Hillary, she actually had the epic gall to accuse the GOP of doing the same thing in a tweet yesterday, which read:

“Hmmm, wondering why @GOP trying to hide their #GOPdebate on the Saturday of #SuperBowl weekend no less?!”

Is she that lacking in self-awareness? Was she mocking herself? Is she an idiot? After she was blasted left and right for the tweet, she either revealed her real objective or concocted a face-saving retort:

“.@TheDemocrats debates set viewer records. Both parties’ broadcast network debates on wknds. Replies to SuperBowl #GOPdebate make my point,”

Whether this was her original intent of a U-Turn, it was also her trademark, a ridiculously transparent lie. “TheDemocrats debates set viewer records” is deceit: all the debates by both parties have exceeded previous viewer levels, but the Republican debates have significantly out-drawn the Democrats. There is no doubt that the Democrats would have drawn more had they avoided weekends like Republicans did, and that the fact that they did not was entirely intentional.

Why do Democrats tolerate a sleaze like Wasserman Schultz? It is natural to judge a party by its leadership, and she is neither bright, nor honest, nor effective,  nor appealing.

The other issue was the unfairness of leaving Carly Fiorina out of the debate. I don’t pretend to understand the formula used to demote the candidates, but since all of the other potential debaters–Gilmore, Graham, Huckabee, Santorum, Paul—had dropped out, either Fiorina should have been given a chance to debate herself for two hours, which would have been fun, or be in the main debate. Her New Hampshire poll numbers are equivalent to several who debated last night.

Debate observations: Continue reading

Two Stories To Look Back Upon Ruefully When The Nation Has Gone To Pot And It’s Too Late To Reverse Course

Once heroin is legal, there will be no more heroin problem...

Once heroin is legal, there will be no more heroin problem...

One of the horrible results of the coming election—not as horrible as the possibility of electing Ben Carson, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump President, perhaps, but horrible still—will be the nation’s final capitulation to the movement started in the 1960’s to keep the country, the culture and the poor stoned. Cognitive dissonance will ensure it on the Republican side, as opponents to legal pot will be the same old fogeys who proclaim that gay marriage will destroy the earth, causing a valid and correct argument to be destroyed by a senseless one. Others in the party, caring about staying in power more than our society’s welfare, will just give in, citing the usual ethically inert rationalizations that legalizing drugs is the lesser of two evils and that we need to use treatment, not punishment. Meanwhile, Democrats will pander to its pot-loving base, while also stumping for state governments legalizing the crap to close budget deficits created by their fiscally irresponsible policies. Heck, even I would rather see the pot industry taxed instead of me.

And we will be bombarded by the pairing of pot legalization with the allegedly racist “mass incarceration problem,” which is really and truly the “too many African Americans break laws and expect to get away with it because their parents and culture don’t send the message that its a big deal” problem. The big deal they, and we, are now being told is that they get punished for breaking laws, which is racist because Black Lives Matter.

I was in court watching sentencings a couple months back in Northern Virginia. While the crimes the defendants being sentenced for were not drug related, every single one of those sentenced–-every one—had either  a pot charge dropped in favor of a guilty plea for a more serious crime, had record of drug arrests, or had tested positive for pot during while awaiting sentence or on parole. Bernie and Hillary and the gang (the gang including journalists, who like their weed) would have us believe that the prisons are just teeming with otherwise law-abiding black citizens who are there because they engaged in harmless recreational drug use and nothing else. The new paradigm, pushed by the President (of course), is that prison should only be for violent felons, not habitual scoff-laws who often dabble in violence too.

Ah, yes, this is all going to work out so well.

I  encountered two stories on the web that show the path we are on as well as the muddled thinking and dishonesty that got us there. Continue reading

Let Us All Bow In Gratitude To Colorado For Generously Sacrificing Its Children And The Safety And Welfare of Its Citizens To Prove What Responsible People Knew Already: Pot Should Stay Illegal

Hey, Que pasa! You idiot...

Hey, Que pasa! You idiot…

I’m probably going to stray a bit from strictly professional rhetoric here, but this really makes me angry.

According to a report released this month by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, there has been a 29% increase in marijuana-related emergency room visits and a 38 % increase in pot-related hospitalizations during retail marijuana’s first year in Colorado.

[ NOTE: This is a correction. The original version of the post gave the wrong impression that hospitalizations were up: this was not my intent. Thanks to Humble Talent for being persistent. Ethics Alarms apologizes for the error. We’ll try to do better.]

Now 11% of Colorado’s 12 to 17 year-olds use pot,  56% higher than the national average.There has also been a 40% increase in drug-related suspensions and expulsions in school, primarily from marijuana.

Mercy, what a surprise! Who could have predicted that? Well me, for one, as well as others neither dedicated to getting their periodic recreational buzz nor addled by moldy Sixties cant.

Of course making pot legal and widely available for adults would cause an epidemic of use by kids, who, the evidence increasingly shows, may suffer long term adverse effectsOf course it is causing accidents. Of course adding a third harmful legal drug to the devastating and deadly duo of alcohol and tobacco is going to make society dumber, less safe and less productive. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “US Priorities: Make War On Cheese, Not On Drugs”

smoking_weedThe articulate squid commenter, Extradimensional Cephalopod, weighed into the contentious discussion over the wisdom of pot use and government approval there-of with this thought-provoking piece.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post: US Priorities: Make War On Cheese, Not On Drugs.

I’ll have a few comments at the end.

Full disclosure: I have not used marijuana, but I have had its effects described to me in detail by people who have. My understanding of it is that it has at least two separate and notable effects, which can vary based on the particular strain. One of them is a relaxing effect, although some strains actually increase anxiety at some point after use. However, the relaxing effect makes it suitable for medical purposes such as treating seizures. The other effect I am aware of is an increase in the brain’s divergent thinking patterns; that is, it increases random association, enhancing creativity and making experiences more vivid. A user can increase this effect deliberately by increasing the quantity inhaled or ingested to the point where coherent thought is difficult, but this requires very high levels of intake. I am told that it is not chemically addictive, or toxic except inasmuch as inhaling smoke in general is toxic, but more on the level of incense rather than cigarettes.

In my opinion, people have a right to use the substance provided they do not take actions that put others at risk by doing so, such as driving. I see no reason to ban the substance, but one can certainly ban taking actions that become dangerous under its effects. As a transhumanist, I see nothing inherently wrong with using a form of technology to alter one’s mental state artificially. Marijuana does not seem like a harmful or dangerous way to do so, as long as one is responsible. I agree that people who use marijuana, or alcohol, for that matter, can become very boring and less able to have interesting conversations, although sometimes the opposite happens; it depends on who the person was to begin with and how they react.

On the other hand, the ethics system that I subscribe to and through which I come to the above conclusions is based on promoting consciousness. One of the root problems with this world is that humans get very easily addicted to mindsets, experiences, or control. Addictions are blind spots, limitations that a consciousness has picked up that allow it to be manipulated by the world instead of being its own master. An addiction occurs when a mindset, experience, or form of control automatically becomes a person’s first priority in certain situations even where the person would intellectually judge it to be subordinate to a more important goal. It is possible to get mentally addicted to pretty much anything: alcohol, marijuana, candy, sex, adrenaline, attention, solitude, et cetera. To a certain extent we all have addictions in that when our lives are changed we feel uncomfortable and stressed, but toning addictions down is part of empowering ourselves.

That being said, my ethics system leads me to disapprove of the use of marijuana (or other drugs, for that matter) as a means to induce apathy to escape the stress that would otherwise lead a person to self-improvement. My worldview draws a distinction between joy and well-being. Joy is a positive feeling towards one’s current circumstances. Well-being, however, I define as regularly developing new abilities or improving one’s point of view, or any sort of change that results in a person having a more harmonious relationship with the world and being able to promote harmony for other individuals. Here is where the “it’s the journey, not the destination” cliche comes in. Joy may be the destination that people try to reach because it is associated with a state of increased harmony, but consciousness, the process by which people try to reach asymptotically-increasing states of harmony, is what makes us people in the first place, with all the associated awareness and abilities, and it is consciousness that I prioritize.

Long story short: it’s okay to use drugs to augment one’s ability to improve oneself (especially if one has a disability that requires the use of drugs to bring mental functions within human normal), as a tool (yes, sometimes a crutch) to access mindsets you want to use but can’t invoke at will, or as a neutral form of recreation. Using drugs as a substitute for self-improvement so that one can stagnate without feeling bad about it is pathetic and not empowering at all.

I hope this post has been coherent, but I have an internal vocabulary that has developed in partial isolation, so if there is any confusion that you want resolved, please let me know.

It’s me again. Just a few notes:

  • One thing I always appreciate about EC is that he never makes a typo. I am awash in envy.
  • I have been shocked at how many commenters on the main post never have used pot. Either I am not as strange as I always thought I was, or this blog does not attract anything close to a representative cross-section of America.
  • I should have mentioned in the original post that the Federal government still regards pot as illegal. However, with its first confirmed former pot-head as President ( Clinton didn’t inhale, remember), and the “base” of the Democratic party as well as most reporters clearly in favor of Stoned America, I think the eventual legalization is a certainty.
  • Alcohol is not chemically addictive either, except for the minority of the population that doesn’t metabolize booze properly, those we call alcoholics. However, there are many alcohol addicts who are not alcoholics, and they are psychologically addicted, and seriously so. Psychological addiction to a drug can be and often is both indistinguishable from the physical kind, and just as destructive to them and those who depend on them.
  • I am dubious about the substantive beneficial effects of pot, John Lennon and Timothy Leary notwithstanding. The use of marijuana for genuine palliative purposes is obviously valid; it is also obviously being abused.
  • I endorse the Squid’s penultimate sentence, but I think that this kind of drug use should never be discussed without the adjective “irresponsible” prominently displayed. For this is why discouraging such use is a legitimate, indeed crucial, government function, and a function the government cannot perform while approving the conduct, and, as we all know is coming, profiting by it. The government has to promote responsible conduct from its citizens, because irresponsible conduct does material harm to society.

Spreading the Word: “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit”

"Bottoms up!"

“Bottoms up!”

I am moved to re-post the early Ethics Alarms entry from 2010, titled “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit,” for a few reasons.

It raises an important and shamefully under-reported topic, one that despite my exhortations then has yet to be adequately examined in the media. If one googles various combinations of “mouthwash,””Listerine,”‘alcoholism,” and “alcoholic,” the first result is, sadly, my post. Most people who are not afflicted with the disease of alcoholism have no idea that mouthwash is a popular stand-in for liquor, or that is used to deceive family members who think an addict is no longer using or intoxicated. None of the recommended policy changes I suggest in the post have been implemented, either.

Last week I chanced to mention the use of Listerine by alcoholics to a friend who is a doctor who treats alcoholics. He was shocked, and had no knowledge of this at all. “Eww!” he said. “Isn’t that poison? You can drink it? I had no idea.” And he is a professional who keeps up  with the literature. (But obviously doesn’t read his friend’s blog.)

Despite my frustration that what I regard as a true exposé that should have sparked an equivalent article in a more widely read forum has remained relatively unknown, I am encouraged by the effect it has had. Most posts have their greatest traffic around the time they are posted, but since 2010, the page views of this article have increased steadily every month. More importantly, it has drawn comments like this one, from yesterday:

“Am looking after my twin sister who is a chronic alcoholic. She has been three days sober and then she just walked in and I couldn’t work out what the hell happened. She was in a stupor , but there was no alcohol and I am dispensing the Valium for detox period and she smelt like mint!! Found three bottles of it !!! This is my last big push to help her and she pleaded innocent and no idea it had alcohol in it! Hasn’t had a shower for two days but keeps her month fresh and sweet !! Thanks for the information. Much appreciated XXX”

Most of all, I am revolted that what I increasingly have come to believe is an intentional, profit-motivated deception by manufacturers continues, despite their knowledge that their product is killing alcoholics and destroying families. I know proof would be difficult, but there have been successful class action lawsuits with millions in punitive damage settlements for less despicable conduct. Somewhere, there must be an employee or executive who acknowledges that the makers of mouthwash with alcohol know their product is being swallowed rather than swished, and are happy to profit from it.

Few had discovered Ethics Alarms by April of 201o. I hope that by re-publishing the post now, it might find its way to more social media pages and even be sent to some investigative reporters. As I ended the original post, spread the word. Mouthwash is killing your friends and family members, or if not yours, those of someone not far away.

Thus, for the second time and hoping for more impact than the first, here is “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit.” Even if you read it the first time, refresh your memory.

People are killing themselves right under our noses, and we are being thrown of by the minty smell of their breath.

Continue reading

Did Amy Winehouse Cheat the World?

 

A mark of failure, or betrayal?

I appreciated Amy Winehouse’s talent rather than enjoyed it. Nevertheless, her death-–many have said her completely predictable death—of a drug overdose at 27 once again causes me to ponder the recklessness with which gifted artists who can give so much to the world throw their lives away.

As an ethicist who never hesitates to hold individuals ethically responsible for conduct that harms others, I have not completely worked out in my own mind how to characterize the many artists and performers whose self-engineered destruction have robbed the world of laughter, enlightenment, and joy. Every time I watch John Belushi in “Animal House” or an old Saturday Night Live clip, I get angry at him—I admit it. I know Belushi didn’t want to die young any more than I wanted him to die young, but he treated his life as if it was disposable and without value, when it really was of extraordinary value. When Belushi sacrificed it in a stupid drug binge, it was more than a tragedy for his friends, lovers, colleagues and family; it was a tragedy for the art and history of comedy. Much the same can be said of Amy Winehouse—and James Dean, Jimi Hendrix, Billy Holiday, Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, River Phoenix, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis. Continue reading

The Compassion Thieves

From The Guardian:

“Anyone following her updates online could see that Mandy Wilson had been having a terrible few years. She was diagnosed with leukaemia at 37, shortly after her husband abandoned her to bring up their five-year-old daughter and baby son on her own. Chemotherapy damaged her immune system, liver and heart so badly she eventually had a stroke and went into a coma. She spent weeks recovering in intensive care where nurses treated her roughly, leaving her covered in bruises.

“Mandy was frightened and vulnerable, but she wasn’t alone. As she suffered at home in Australia, women offered their support throughout America, Britain, New Zealand and Canada. She’d been posting on a website called Connected Moms, a paid online community for mothers, and its members were following every detail of her progress – through updates posted by Mandy herself, and also by Gemma, Sophie, Pete and Janet, Mandy’s real-life friends, who’d pass on news whenever she was too weak. The virtual community rallied round through three painful years of surgeries, seizures and life-threatening infections. Until March this year, when one of them discovered Mandy wasn’t sick at all. Gemma, Sophie, Pete and Janet had never existed. Mandy had made up the whole story.”

Apparently Mandy is a strange, but not so uncommon, variety of internet scam artist, one who uses the anonymity of the online community to steal, not money, not identities, but sympathy, compassion, and time from the most generous and trusting of people across the globe by pretending to be sick. Continue reading