Tag Archives: chaos

Now THIS Is An Untrustworthy Legislative Staffer…And Incidentally, We’re Doomed

In March of 2016,  Stacey Plaskett, the delegate to the United States House of Representatives from the United States Virgin Islands’s at-large congressional district. entrusted her iPhone and its password to staffer Juan McCullum, who copied nude images and videos of legislator after offering to take the phone to an Apple store for repairs.

After he left Plaskett’s office, McCullum created a Hotmail account and “sent at least eleven e-mail messages to multiple persons, including politicians, members of the media, and other persons known to [Plaskett].” The e-mails contained “one or more of the nude images and videos,” according to this week’s indictment against McCollum. He also created a Facebook account, uploaded the visual content, and then Facebook-friended people in Plaskett’s district to spread the nude images far and wide.

A few questions: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Facebook, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Science & Technology, Social Media, U.S. Society, Workplace

The Ethics Lessons In The Tragic Death Of Harambe The Gorilla

The primary lesson is this: Sometimes bad things happen and nobody deserves to be punished.

The tragedy of Harambe the Gorilla is exactly this kind of incident.

In case you weren’t following zoo news over the long weekend, what happened was this. On Saturday, a mother visiting the Cincinnati zoo with several children in tow took her eyes off of a toddler long enough for him to breach the three foot barricade at the Gorilla World exhibit and fall into its moat. Harambe, a 17-year old Lowland gorilla male, took hold of the child, and zookeepers shot the animal dead.

Then  animal rights zealots held a vigil outside the zoo to mourn the gorilla.  Petitions were placed on line blaming the child’s mother for the gorilla’s death. Other critics said that the zoo-keepers should have tranquilized the beast, a member of an endangered species. The zoo called a news conference to defend its actions.

Lessons:

1. Animal rights activists are shameless, and will exploit any opportunity to advance their agenda, which in its craziest form demands that animals be accorded the same civil rights as humans. Their argument rests equally on sentiment and science, and takes an absolute position in a very complex ethics conflict. This incident is a freak, and cannot fairly be used to reach any conclusions about zoos and keeping wild animals captive.

2. Yes, the mother made a mistake, by definition. This is res ipsa loquitur: “the thing speaks for itself.” If a child under adult supervision gets into a gorilla enclosure, then the adult has not been competent, careful and diligent in his or her oversight.  The truth is, however, that every parent alive has several, probably many, such moments of distraction that could result in disaster, absent moral luck. This wasn’t gross negligence; it was routine, human negligence, for nobody is perfect all the time. You want gross negligence involving animals? How about this, one of the first ethics essays I ever wrote, about the late “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin holding his infant son in one arm while feeding and taunting a 12-foot crocodile? You want gross negligence amounting to child endangerment? Look no further than the 6-month-old waterskiier’s parents. Taking one’s eyes off of a child  for a minute or two, however, if not unavoidable, is certainly minor negligence that is endemic to parenthood. Zoos, moreover, are not supposed to be dangerous. Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Bioethics, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement

The Protest Ethics Check List And The Ferguson Demonstrations

APTOPIX Police Shooting Missouri

Protests are an American tradition, with protective rights enshrined in the Constitution, and a distinguished legacy that includes the Boston Tea Party and Martin Luther King’s civil rights marches and rallies. They are also perhaps the most misused and abused device in national politics. Most of them are useless, many of them are stupid, and too many of them do tangible harm.

The Obama Administration’s crisis of the hour is the Ethics Trainwreck in Ferguson, Missouri, where a perfect storm arose when an an inept, distrusted and untrustworthy police force and a poor and frustrated African-American population clashed over the Rashomon shooting of an unarmed black teen. Now there are demonstrations every day in Ferguson; several people have been killed, and the demonstrations have spawned rioting and looting.

What is the purpose of all of this? It better be a good one, given its cost, and the protesters better be right. The problem is that the protesters can’t possibly be right at this point, because the facts aren’t known. We are told that the reason for the demonstrations is larger than mere anger over the shooting of Michael Brown; that it’s about police harassment, abuse and violence against African-Americans and their lack of accountability for it. That would only be a sustainable justification if in fact the death of Brown was an unequivocal, clear-cut example of the phenomenon being protested. It is not, not yet, and it may never be. So again the question has to be asked: is it ethical to be protesting in Ferguson at all? Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Ethics Train Wrecks, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Rights, U.S. Society

Unethical Quote of the Week: New York Times Op-Ed Writer David Brooks

“Besides, the legitimacy of a war is not established by how it is organized but by what it achieves.”

—-David Brooks, writing in the Times about the messy United Nations coalition now intervening in the Libyan civil war.

This is blatant consequentialism, and Brooks is incredibly mistaken to write it. Would Lincoln’s war have been “illegitimate” if it had resulted in a defeated North and two nations, one still clinging to slavery? W.W.II “achieved” virtual slavery for million of Europeans whose freedom was conceded to the Soviet Union, the frying of two Japanese cities full of civilians, the opportunity for Mao to launch the worst genocide in human history, and 40 years with a very real risk of a nuclear war that might have exterminated humanity. Was that war legitimate?

The legitimacy of a war is measured by whether its cause is just, and its objectives are both vital and beyond accomplishing by any other means. What any war ultimately achieves is determined by events and factors impossible to know when the war is commenced, as well as pure, dumb luck..

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Filed under Around the World, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, History, War and the Military

Tony C., Chaos, and the Ethics of Blame

“And then one night

The kid in right

Lies sprawling in the dirt.

The fastball struck him square—he’s down!

Is Tony badly hurt?”

Just about everyone who lived in Boston, Massachusetts in 1967 knows that bit of doggerel, an epic poem written to commemorate the Boston Red Sox miracle “Impossible Dream” pennant that year. Tony, “the kid in right,” was Tony Conigliaro, or Tony C. for short, the 22-year-old Italian stud from nearby Swampscott who was ticketed for the Hall of Fame. Tony had everything: looks, talent, an adoring hometown public and a flair for the dramatic—everything but luck. On August 19, 43 years ago today, an errant pitch from Angels starter Jack Hamilton struck him in the face, nearly killing him. The beaning began a series of events that turned “The Tony Conigliaro Story” from a feel-good romp to an epic tragedy. He was never quite the same after the beaning, though he bravely played three more seasons with a hole in his vision he never told anyone about. He quit, tried pitching, actually made a second comeback that was derailed by injuries, and quit again. He was about to become the Red Sox cable TV color man when he suffered an inexplicable heart attack that left him brain-damaged and an invalid until his death, at only 45, in 1990.

Since 1967, there has been a storyline connected with Tony C.’s beaning, and it resurfaces every year. Let’s have an enthusiastic Red Sox blogger tell the tale: Continue reading

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Filed under Daily Life, History, Religion and Philosophy, Science & Technology, U.S. Society

Abortion Debate in the Senate: Inconvenient Ethics

It will be major irony if the Senate health care reform bill, an irresponsible, cynical, dishonest piece of legislation (any legislation that is 2000 pages, unreadable, and largely unread by those voting for it is, by definition, irresponsible, cynical and dishonest), fails because of its position on abortion. The bill is an abomination and deserves to fail, but not because of that. Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Religion and Philosophy, Science & Technology, U.S. Society