ARRRGH! Outrageous Ethics Malpractice By “The Ethicist”!!!!

Well, you did it again, made my head explode. But now I have a place to keep my keys...

Well, you did it again, made my head explode. But now I have a place to keep my keys…

It’s time for Chuck Klosterman, the New York Times’ designated amateur who now handles “The Ethicist” advice column, to hang it up, and let some randomly chosen unemployed New Yorker take a shot at the job. Since assuming his post, Chuck has had good moments and bad, but this botch is embarrassing, and signature significance—no one who isn’t a bona fide Ethics Dunce could make such a terrible call.

Get this: Klosterman was asked whether surreptitiously taking cuttings from plants owned by a shopping center was unethical:

“…While walking through our local shopping center, we noticed a particular plant that we both liked and decided to get it for our patio….My wife thought she could grow it from cuttings, so we went back and took about three or four cuttings from one of the many plants that were scattered around the shopping center. The plant was not hurt or damaged in any manner or form, but my gut instinct told me that this was wrong. Was it?”

Does this question really need asking? Apparently, because the fraud masquerading as an ethicist at the Times thinks it’s a “thorny” question (Chuck likes puns…maybe the column should be called “The Punster”) about an “unethical act that has a positive impact.” ( Helpful hint to Chuck: the issue is stealing.Klosterman then embarked on a rationalization orgy: Continue reading

Comment of the Day: Ethics Bob Asks: “Did Torture Lead Us To Bin Laden”? My Answer: “So What If It Did? It Was Still Wrong.”

How did we end up discussing torture on Christmas Eve?

Sorry about that.

timebombHere is a stimulating comment by Zoebrain in the “Zero Dark Thirty” torture thread. I’m especially fond of it, because as theoretical and probably impossible as her resolution would be in practice, it neatly addresses the central problem conflict in the “torture is an absolute wrong but you might have to use it to save the world” scenarios, like the familiar “ticking bomb” hypothetical.  In her analysis. one violates the absolute rule, but accepts a proportional penalty for doing so.

I advocate a similar approach in legal ethics in situations where a lawyer decides as a matter of personal conscience that he or she must violate core legal ethics values, like keeping the confidences of a client, in furtherance of a higher objective not recognized be the Rules of Professional Conduct, such as keeping a serial killer from going free.

Here is Zoebrain’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Bob Asks: “Did Torture Lead Us To Bin Laden”? My Answer: “So What If It Did? It Was Still Wrong.” Continue reading

Ethics Bob Asks: “Did Torture Lead Us To Bin Laden”? My Answer: “So What If It Did? It Was Still Wrong.”

It's all for the best.

It’s all for the best.

The last time my friend “Ethics Bob” Stone blogged about ethics, it was way back in August, and he was writing about some guy named “Romney.” Now he’s back on the job, thank goodness, with a comeback post titled “Zero Dark Thirty: Did torture lead us to Osama bin Laden?”. And he’s ticking me off.

“Zero Dark Thirty” is Hollywood’s treatment of the search, apprehension and execution of Osama Bin Laden. The film suggest that methods of torture were employed by the CIA to uncover crucial intelligence that led to the terrorist mastermind’s demise. Torture opponents, including some U.S. Senators, are alarmed by this, and disputing the film’s account. (Imagine that: a movie that misrepresents history!) Meanwhile, conservatives, neocons, Bush administration bitter-enders, talk radio hosts and admirers of Dr. Fu Manchu and James Bond villains are citing the film as confirmation that they were right all along: torture is a wonderful thing.

I am puzzled that Bob got in the middle of this debate as an ethicist. “It worked!” and “It came out all right in the end!” are not valid ethical arguments or justifications. The first is an embrace of a pure “the ends justify the means” rationale, a favorite tool of Auric Goldfinger and Dr. No. The other is consequentialism. When ethicists and principled opponents of torture allow the issue to be adjudicated on this basis, they are surrendering their principles at the outset. “Torture doesn’t work” is a pragmatic argument, not an ethical one. If the societal consensus regarding torture is going to be determined by how much we can benefit by returning to the rack and wheel, then ethical considerations have already been jettisoned. Continue reading

Romney, Firing, Leadership, and Ethics Bob’s Lament

Yes, yes, firing people is one thing Donald Trump does well too. Shut up.

Ethics Bob Stone sent in a comment late last night that I replied to, but that I think deserves more discussion, on several points. Responding to my Ethics Hero designation for Ron Paul for coming to his adversary’s defense over Romney’s now infamous remark about firing people, Bob wrote:

“…I think Romney’s “I like to fire people”–even taken IN context–displays an inner heartlessness. I know about creative destruction, and I myself have taken actions to lay off people, and even fired a couple face-to-face. I did what needed to be done. No apologies.

“But did I like it? I HATED it.

“Romney’s comment seems of a kind with his strapping the family dog on his car roof for a 500-mi trip, or his advocacy of breaking up families to deport the parent or child who’s illegal. Gingrich was right.”

There are several issues here, some minor. Continue reading

Occupy Wall Street: Unethical Demonstration, Unethical Supporters

If this is the level of your comprehension, I really don’t care what you think.

“Ethics Bob” Stone recently posted about the ethics of mass demonstrations like “Occupy Wall Street,” noting that long-term, open-ended demonstrations begin crossing ethical lines once they accomplish the goal of sending a message and hang around anyway, creating fertile ground for violence, and, though Bob doesn’t mention this, inconveniencing the public, wasting scarce municipal funds, and tempting pundits to make fools out of themselves.

Even with this, Bob is giving the Occupiers more credit than they deserve. A group that imposes its presence on the public, law enforcement, and local governments is entitled to express a minority and even a crackpot viewpoint. There is an ethical obligation, however, not to abuse the right of assembly and the precious time of everyone else by creating a big disturbance that means nothing, conveying a message that is irresponsible because it is based on ignorance.

New York Magazine quizzed the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, and discovered that: Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

The fact that David Vitter is still stinking up the Senate means that it makes sense to let Anthony Weiner stick around and stink up the House. Yes, that's really the best the Democrats can come up with.

“It’s hard to see what the Ethics Committee would hang its hat on here to say that this conduct would violate the ethics rules. Others have said maybe it’s the lying. What! So no politician has ever lied to us before? That’s the kind of thing we see all the time. So he did behave discreditably (!!) but I don’t think it’s enough for a full-fledged ethics censure. David Vitter is still there.”

—-Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, making excuses for Rep. Anthony Weiner on Lawrence O’Donnell’s MSNBC liberal love-in show.

As“Ethics Bob” writes, “If you’re a Democrat and you want an ethics pass, go see Melanie Sloan.”  Bob muses on what kind of behavior Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington “would consider irresponsible or unethical.”

It sure wouldn’t be Sloan’s own conduct, though she infamously used CREW to promote the client of a lobbying firm that she later jumped CREW to join (also conduct that is seen in D.C. “all the time,’ though not usually by heads of so-called ethics watchdog groups).* The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics does some good work, but it has always leaned heavily toward criticizing Republicans. Sloan’s statement to O’Donnell, however, is a new low, a disgrace for anyone who purports to take ethics seriously. Continue reading