Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/3/2019: “Thing’s Are Seldom What They Seem…”

Good afternoon!

1. Today’s source of maximum irritation. Remember those California wildfires at the end of last year that the news media kept reporting as proof of climate change and that prompted Democrats and talking heads to sneer in disdain at anyone, especially President Trump, who suggested that electrical equipment just might have been the cause? From NPR:

Pacific Gas and Electric says it’s “probable” that its equipment caused the Camp Fire in Northern California, the deadliest and most destructive in the state’s history.

California has not finished its investigation into PG&E’s culpability in last November’s fire that killed at least 85 people, destroyed about 14,000 structures, displacing tens of thousands of people and destroying the town of Paradise. However, the state’s largest utility, which filed for bankruptcy last month, said Thursday it expects the investigation will find that its damaged infrastructure sparked the fire.

Please let Ethics Alarms know how many of the news shows this morning mention this development.

2. Spring Training ethics note: Good news! Ethics Alarms has been campaigning for robo-umps at home plate to call balls and strikes for several years. Now MLB announces that it has finalized a three-year deal with the independent Atlantic League to have the league test rules innovations and equipment for the Show. This will include computer calling of pitches. Not so good news: it will also reportedly include moving the mound back, which is heresy.

3. Concern for Popehat’s Ken White.  There is not a smarter, more passionate, better blogger on the planet than lawyer Ken White, and while we have had our disagreements, his commentary on law and justice especially is a blessing for all Americans, even though most don’t have the sense to benefit from it. One of many reasons I admire Ken is that he has been candid about his battle with depression, a killer illness that too many people don’t understand. That malady runs in my family (or as Mortimer Brewster says in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Runs? It practically gallups!”), and has been responsible for more than one suicide. Popehat once was a collective, but now it’s almost entirely Ken, with occasional drop-ins from the acerbic Mark Randazza. The blog’s last entry was January 4, almost two months. I’m worried, as are most of Ken’s fans I’m sure, and I am officially sending Ethics Alarms best wishes and love to one of the really good people in multiple roles: lawyer, blogger, public educator. Get back as soon as you can, Ken. We need you. Continue reading

Government Horror Story: What Happens When We Expect Bureaucrats To Protect Us

Horror1

Indignant and self-righteous activists  argued that the real problem underlying the shootings at Virginia Tech, the D.C. Naval Yard, Newtown, Tucson and elsewhere—other than the Second Amendment, of course– was the failure of the health care system and the government to apprehend and stop emotional disturbed citizens before they start shooting.

This might have some validity, if it were not for a fact that Big Brother worshipers know but refuse to acknowledge. The health care system and the government are operated by people, many of them dedicated and competent, but a lot of them fearful, lazy, irresponsible and stupid. When we place power over the lives and liberty of others in the hands of such people, bad things happen.

They just happened to my family, and I am furious—both at the immediate fools who have abused us, but also the smug social architects who always think a new law and more government control over our lives is the solution to every problem.

At this moment, be warned:

I hate you people.

Stay out of my way. Continue reading

Henry Rollins Shows Us How To Apologize

MeaCulpaWriter, thinker, and philosopher  Henry Rollins wrote one of those columns that you should put aside for a weekend and think about for a while for the L.A. Weekly, essentially condemning Robin Williams for taking his own life. Reading it, I knew that he would regret it pretty quickly. It was obviously fueled by emotion and anger, and I’m familiar with that feeling. It was how I felt when John Belushi died, and it was how I felt when Philip Seymour Hoffman died—so much so that I had written one of those be-sure-to-think-about-it-over-the-weekend-posts when that great actor died, and fortunately trashed it. But I’ve had exactly the same thoughts that Rollins expressed so powerfully—he expresses everything powerfully—and I know I’ll have them again. He wrote:

“Almost 40,000 people a year kill themselves in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In my opinion, that is 40,000 people who blew it. Fuck suicide. Life isn’t anything but what you make it. For all the people who walked from the grocery store back to their house, only to be met by a robber who shot them in the head for nothing — you gotta hang in there. I have life by the neck and drag it along. Rarely does it move fast enough. Raw Power forever.”

Continue reading

Fake or Real, “I’m Still Here” is Unethical

Now, having had his film reviewed by most major critics as a genuine documentary and being widely assailed as an exploitive creep (including here), Casey Affleck is telling the media that the film is a put-on. If it is (and why anyone should believe a liar when he admits he is lying is an unanswerable question), then he exploited the audience and defrauded them into seeing a film under false pretenses. The movie isn’t funny, like “Borat,” and there is no legitimate entertainment purpose in staging a fake portrayal of a drugged out,  self-absorbed jerk, who is really only a lying, self-absorbed jerk. Just as James Frey’s  A Thousand Little Pieces was a lousy novel that attracted interest because he falsely represented it as non-fiction, “I’m Still Here” only could attract an audience if they were lied to—because nobody would care about Juaquin Phoenix’s idea of satire. Andy Kauffman he’s not. They will, however, pay to watch a human train wreck. Is Affleck trying to make the audience feel foolish? They are only foolish for trusting him. They won’t do it again.

I still think it’s 50-50 whether the hoax admission is another hoax, as a desperate effort to gin up box office. But it really doesn’t matter. Whether the film is truth or fabrication, Phoenix and his pal Affleck are despicable…just for different reasons.

Casey Affleck, Worst Brother-in-Law of the Year

Imagine that your wife’s brother, who is also one of your best friends, is in trouble. He is ruining his health, career and reputation with habitual drug use and other self-destructive behavior. He seems to be deluded, yet his business associates and friends are enabling his behavior. A tragedy is  unfolding, and no one seems to care.

What do you do? Continue reading

Ethics and the Suicidal Student

Ethics often comes down to answering  the basic question, “What is the right thing to do?” Sometimes the wrong option will be easy to identify, but finding the right action is nearly impossible, complicated by diverse stakeholders, conflicting values and legal entanglements. This is the situation universities face when a student becomes suicidal. What action is in the best interest of the student, as well as the other students and the institution itself? Continue reading