Comment Of The Day: Comment Of The Day: “Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 3/23/2020: Examining The—OH NO! I TOUCHED MY FACE!!”

I may start calling these awkward “Comments of the Day on Comments of the Day” tag-team Comments of the Day. coming up is the tag section of Steve-O’s epic, a follow-up by Glenn Logan.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Comment Of The Day: “Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 3/23/2020: Examining The—OH NO! I TOUCHED MY FACE!!”…

Everyone these days is so … tribal. We fostered this thinking and romanticized it in fiction and documentary, the whole “brothers in arms” thing. This person is asking for America to abdicate to communism so they can be safer, and using the occasion to slander genuine camaraderie with his/her anti-capitalist grievances.

They don’t see the sacrifice of every day people who are out of work, out of money, and out of prospects for the immediate future of regaining the means to pay their mortgage or car payment or insurance or children’s clothing, needs and food. The government will step up and help, but to many that means a tiny portion of their salary or income, and not enough to keep all their needs funded.

Nobody is asking health workers to work for free. They get paid very well for what they do, and nobody can make them work if they don’t want to. So if you are afraid of catching the disease, then quit your job and join one of my bests friend in the unemployment line. That, at least, shows you are willing to sacrifice your livelihood for your safety — certainly understandable in some cases. In many other cases, it is simple cowardice, but I won’t even judge. Just stop demanding others sacrifice more on your behalf than you are willing to sacrifice yourself. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Boston’s A-Rod Dilemma

newsday-AROD

This is a really, really hard one.

Over the weekend, as reported here, Yankee superstar/pariah/cheating jerk for the ages Alex Rodriguez announced that he would “retire” after next Friday night’s game. He’s not really retiring, of course. Like almost everything involving A-Rod, lies and cover-ups reign. Since the Yankees were going to have to pay the rest of his contract to the tune of 27 million bucks either way, they told Alex that they could release him, thus ending his career on a sour note, or allow him to pretend to make the decision to leave the game himself, which would be better PR for all concerned.

However, the announcement presents a problem for the Boston Red Sox. A-Rod’s next-to-last game is Thursday night in Fenway Park, and a player with Rodriguez’s astounding career on-field achievements would typically warrant an on-field salute, like the Sox gave Yankee icon Derek Jeter when he retired. The problem is that Red Sox fans don’t like or respect A-Rod, and they shouldn’t. No baseball fan should. He disgraced the game with his drug use and lies; was an unsportsmanlike presence for most of his career, and will not reach the Hall of Fame despite one of the best careers ever unless the Hall junks all of its character requirements.

Yet reciprocity raises its ethical head. David Ortiz, the beloved Red Sox slugger, is also retiring after this season, and the Yankees have planned to give him a big send-off when Big Papi plays his last game in Yankee stadium. How can the Red Sox snub A-Rod, and expect the Yankees to honor their hero? If the Red Sox do hold a ceremony for Rodriquez, will Sox fans use it as an opportunity to heap well-deserved abuse on Alex one last time? If Sox fans fill Fenway with boos, will Yankee fans reciprocate by ruining Ortiz’s moment in New York? (I would give my guess on this, but it might expose a long-held bias against Yankee fans.)

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

What is the most ethical way to handle this awful situation?

Continue reading

The Syrian Refugee Controversy: For The US Government, An Easy Ethics Call

Syrian refugees

That does not mean that it is an easy call for Barack Obama, whose perception of his duties and the stakeholders in his decisions is often confused.

The Question: Is it competent and responsible (ergo ethical) for the  the U.S. accept 10,000 Syrian refugees (or 65,000, as Hillary Clinton advocates) in the U.S., knowing that it is statistically certain that some of them will carry the threat of Islamic terrorism with them?

The Answer: No. Of course not. How can a rational person advocate such a foolish policy?

The answers to the last question are fascinating to speculate upon, and range from 1) “A rational person won’t,” to 2) “Willful blindness to reality” to 3) “Because of a profound misunderstanding of  the ethical priorities of government and leadership” to 4) “That’s a rational policy if the policy maker-wants  terror attacks.”

The proper analogy is admitting a refugee population with members suffering from a highly-communicable, infectious, incurable and fatal disease. No responsible government would risk bringing a plague into its population without being able to make certain—certain—that none of the refugees carried it. Thus there would be a quarantine period imposed on the refugees showing no symptoms, and those infected would not be allowed to enter the U.S. population at all. This is the same situation, except that the infectious, fatal, incurable contagion is radical Islam.

Dishonest and manipulative politicians like Hillary Clinton tacitly acknowledge the plague model when they say that refugees must be admitted to the U.S. but only after they are “thoroughly vetted.” They cannot be thoroughly vetted, however. Records from Syria are neither reliable nor available. Thus what such politicians are really saying is either “I don’t support taking Syrian refugees, but want you to think I do” or “I’m hopeless detached from reality.” The first is Hillary; the second is Barack Obama, who said yesterday,

“Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values. Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both.”

We can’t do both. It can’t be done. His first sentence is pure demagoguery, and demonstrates, yet again, how shockingly ignorant the President is regarding the duties of his office. His essential duties are  to do what is in the best interests of the United States, its citizens, and its mission of promoting human rights in the world. When those objectives are in conflict, the President must put the welfare and security, long term and short term, of the citizens who elected him and the nation he leads above all else.

Why can’t Obama see that? I don’t know. I’ve given up trying to understand the man.

Objectively, the question of the Syrian refugees is an ethics conflict, when warring  ethical principles and systems contradictory results.On the side of accepting the refugees and the undeniable risks they carry, we have altruism, The Golden Rule, fairness, kindness, decency, tolerance, acceptance, compassion, and caring.

On the side of rejecting them, there is utilitarianism, responsibility, loyalty, process, competence, trustworthiness,  prudence, and due diligence.

For a leader, the choice is obvious, because for a leader, it can’t be a question answered objectively. The President of the United States is not permitted the luxury of altruism, or objectivity. He holds an office of trust, and is trusted to place  citizens above others. This decision involves more than values. It is a matter of leadership and government ethics.  However much Obama or anyone else believes that assisting the Syrian refugees, of any number, is objectively the “right thing to do,” the United States Government cannot regard it that way. It is bound by its own duties, standards and priorities to be partisan: this country comes first. The Syrian refugees present a real and existential peril that cannot be avoided, except by keeping them out.

Easy ethics call.

At least it should be.

Other points:

1. Nonetheless, it is Obama’s call. The 28 state governors who have announced that they will “not permit” Syrian refugees in their states are either ignorantly or for effect asserting a power they do not have. States cannot reject immigrants and refugees duly and lawfully admitted into the country by the Federal government. (According to the Obama Justice Department, they can’t reject illegal immigrants negligently admitted into the country by the Federal government’s incompetence and corruption, either.) These announcements of defiance are a bluff, but have undeniable political power. Continue reading

A Lawyer Argues “Do No Harm” Should Be Added To The Legal Ethics Rules, Thus Proving Herself To Be A Hopelessly Unethical Lawyer

This is Alexa. She'll let you know if your client is good or bad, and whether you should help him. Just ask.

This is Alexa. She’ll let you know if your client is good or bad, and whether you should help him. Just ask.

Lawyer Alexa Van Brunt contributed a jaw-dropping op-ed to the Washington Post over the holidays. It was titled “The ‘torture’ memos prove America’s lawyers don’t know how to be ethical,” and argued that the legal profession needs the equivalent of the medical profession’s “First do no harm” ethical standard.

It was irresponsible for the Post to print such a piece, because it made its readers, most of whom are thoroughly confused about legal ethics already, even more confused. So far, I have yet to find any lawyer who regards Van Brunt’s theory as anything other than laughable, tragic, shocking, or proof that ideology rots the brain. She cannot possibly understand legal ethics or even what the duties of the legal profession are and compose such an embarrassing piece.

Alexa Van Brunt is, we are told, an attorney at the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, a Clinical Assistant Professor at Northwestern University Law School and Center, and a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project. This explains a lot. She is a public interest lawyer on a mission, and thus represents only causes that she thinks are good, right and important. Apparently she missed the part of law school where you learn that one of a lawyer’s jobs is to assist non-lawyer clients as they try to accomplish their goals, which they believe are good, right, and important. These often involve engaging in controversies with others, and zero-sum results. Someone is going to suffer “harm.”

In medicine, what “do no harm” means is frequently clear: make the patient better, not worse. There are usually not competing patients, where a limited amount of health must be allotted among suffering human beings. Thus a doctor will not ethically take a healthy heart from a living patient to give to another. In law, however, “Do no harm” would render many disputes beyond legal assistance. Is a defense lawyer who refuses to let a guilty client be convicted by insufficient evidence, jury bias and wrongful interpretation of the law doing harm by freeing a criminal, or is it harm to allow prosecutions to violate due process? Is a real estate lawyer who assists as a company purchases virgin land for the building of a factory doing harm to the environment, or is the lawyer for the environmental group that tries to block it doing harm to the economy?

Van Brunt’s primary focus is the torture issue, but even there, what is “harm” is muddy. Those who supported the use of torture believed that precluding it would place the U.S. population at risk. Alexa defines “harm” as violating international law and the Constitution, but the Constitution, some scholars believe, does not prohibit torture as the CIA practiced it, and in war, doing harm is necessary to win. Who decides whether a litigant who wants to sue for police brutality is going to do harm to public safety, or whether defending a police officer accused of murder will encourage police executions of unarmed men? Who decides, when it comes to  finding that a lawyer violated this new, sensitive ethics rule, what constitutes “harm”?

Why Alexa, of course! She and all those other good people who know with absolute certainty what is right and just in every case—they know what harm is. Just ask them. Meanwhile, client confidentiality is out, because sometimes a lawyer keeping his client’s secrets may cause harm to others. Providing legal advice to banks, defense contractors, auto manufacturers, gun-makers, processed food manufacturers, McDonalds, pharmaceuticals, the Defense Department, the CIA, pro-life organizations (abortion providers don’t harm anyone, of course), the NRA, the Republican Party, this all causes harm…by Alexa’s standards, and she knows best. We don’t need judges or juries, just let the consciences of lawyer and their associations decide which clients are virtuous enough to be worthy of legal representation.

The op-ed is not just absurd, but ignorant and alarming. How can anyone this warped and lacking in understanding of the law and the ethical duties of the profession be teaching at a law school, where she can assist in the minting of new lawyers as ignorant, arrogant and unethical as she is?

Talk about doing harm.

 

Ethics Quiz: Is This Racism, or Just Business?

The Mother Jones headline is designed to provoke a gasp: George Lucas: Hollywood Didn’t Want To Fund My Film Because Of Its Black Cast.

The headline is literally accurate. Lucas tells the magazine that he had trouble finding backers for “Red Tails,” his upcoming film about the fabled Tuskegee airmen, because the studios told him that films without white protagonists didn’t draw a wide enough audience, especially overseas, to make his film a good investment for them. Presuming that the film-makers know their business—and presuming their real reason for rejecting Lucas was not that the movies he’s produced lately were god awful, —Lucas’s story raises this Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Question, which you may answer if you dare:

Is a studio that refuses to fund a movie with an all-black cast engaging in racism, or just practicing business responsibly? Continue reading

“Give Back” Ethics

Excellent! But is he giving, or "giving back"?

John Stossel, the ABC house conservative who yielded to the inevitable and finally migrated to Fox News, takes issue with what he sees as corporate America’s capitulating to the distorting rhetoric of capitalism-bashing. On his website, Stossel cites with approval this letter, sent by George Mason University  Economics Professor Don Boudreaux to the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain:

“Dear Ritz-Carlton:

“Thanks for your e-mail celebrating your and your employees’ participation in “Give Back Getaways” – activities in which you and your employees (along with some of your customers) “give back to the community.”

“Have you taken something that doesn’t belong to you?  If so, by all means give it back!…If, though, you’ve not taken anything that doesn’t belong to you, you possess nothing that you can give BACK. Continue reading

Comment of the Day:”Yes Julea,You Have A Right To Your Beliefs; You Just Don’t Have A Right…”

An Ethics Alarms heartfelt thank you and “I owe you one!” to Ethics Sage, for cutting to the other core ethical point about what was wrong with Julea Ward’s refusal to counsel a gay student, and why she should have been dismissed from the university course as a consequence. It wasn’t just failure of responsibility, which my post was fixated on, but also failure of caring, compassion, and our shared duty as human beings to help each other even if our religion encourages us to regard those human beings as immoral.

Ethics Sage shows his handle ain’t just horn-blowin’ with this Comment of the Day, on the post “Yes Julea,You Have A Right To Your Beliefs; You Just Don’t Have A Right…”

“Julea Ward’s refusal to counsel a gay student is despicable on many levels. What if the student’s life had been threatened and he went to counseling to get some advice? How can anyone not act to help a person in that kind of situation or others we can think of that may or may not have anything to do with being gay? By refusing to counsel the gay student, Ward failed miserably not only to meet the requirements of the course but to act as a human being with compassion for another.”

Yes Julea,You Have A Right To Your Beliefs; You Just Don’t Have A Right To A Job That Your Beliefs Won’t Let You Do. Why Is This Not Obvious?

There are some issues where conservatives are just ethically, logically and legally misguided, and the issue of exercising “religious conscience” in the course of performing specific duties and services is one of them.

Julea Ward was dismissed for failing to meet the requirements of her course when she  refused to counsel a gay student while studying counseling at Eastern Michigan University. Ward later sued, saying that she told her supervisor at EMU she believes homosexuality is immoral and being gay is a choice, and that she could not in good conscience counsel a gay client. A federal court dismissed the case in July, but Ward’s lawyers have asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District to step in. She claims that her right to worship as she pleases is being infringed. Continue reading

Happy Meal Ethics and the Heart Attack Grill

The Heart Attack Grill, in Phoenix, Arizona, has a medical theme, in keeping with its name. Waitresses dress in skimpy nurses’ uniforms; customers, who come to gorge themselves on super-high calorie fare like Double Bypass Burgers and lard-fried french fries, wear hospital gowns over their clothes and are referred to as patients. The menu features no diet drinks. The new “model” for the Grill is Blair River, a former high school wrestler who stands 6 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 600 pounds (he’s also a financial adviser at the University of Phoenix.) River now has a $100-an-hour contract to pose for ads and TV commercials for the establishment, including a recent YouTube video which invites anyone over 350 pounds to eat for free. And, apparently, if you are over 500 pounds, they pay you. Continue reading