Capital Punishment Ethics Dunce: Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Stephen Hopkins

Bad decision, bad opinion, bad judge.

As regular readers here know, I strongly favor capital punishment, but only when there is no doubt whatsoever about the facts and the guilt of the convicted defendant, when the crime is so cruel, horrific and premeditated that normal murders seem tame in comparison, and when the procedural due process is followed to the letter.

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Rep. Cawthorne And The Cross-Dressing Future Congressman Principle Question

Yes, this is a funny controversy, but not entirely trivial. And you knew Ethics Alarms would be on it like hound on a hock of ham, because examining the Naked Teacher Principle [NTP]and its real or proposed extensions, sisters, cousins and aunts, have been a periodic obsession of both Ethics Alarms and its predecessor, The Ethics Scoreboard. Add to that the fact that that Madison Cawthorn (R-NC.), is both a Christian values-spouting politician and a mega-jerk, and the photo above, showing him cavorting in lingerie, cannot be ignored (or, once seen, unseen).

The Principle states that a secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result.

It is important to remember that even the Naked Teacher Principle does not hold that teachers necessarily should be dismissed if old photos surface of them online that show more of them than parents and schools want students to see, but that it is their own carelessness that created their career crisis, and that the decision to dismiss them is ethically defensible. Most recent posts on the topic involve whether the NTP can be applied to other professions.The last time it was discussed, in 2012, involved a nurse who made money on the side by posing provocatively on a sexually themed website. The conclusion here was was that there was no “Naked Nurse Principle,” and that her firing was unjust.  The previous NTP-related post involved, almost a year before that one,  rebutting the argument that there are similar principles regarding police and firefighters. Some of the more interesting versions that have been explored on Ethics Alarms include The Female Bodybuilder Firefighter Principle, The Drag Queen Principal Principle, The Online Porn Star Teacher Principle, Naked Naval War College Professor Principle, and more.

So now we must ask, “Is there a Cross-Dressing Future Congressman Principle”? Continue reading

Baseball Hall Of Fame Ethics: This 2016 Post Just Became Ripe And Moot At The Same Time

The sportswriters who decide who is admitted to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame voted in David Ortiz yesterday. The Red Sox and Boston icon (Carl Yastrzemski once said that while Ted Williams was the greatest Boston baseball player, Ortiz was the most important, and he was right) sailed into the Hall in his first year of eligibility, an honor few players have ever been accorded.

It was no surprise. In addition to having unquestionable statistical qualifications, “Big Papi” is also personally popular. That matters, a lot; the writers this year rejected Boston pitching ace Curt Schilling who also has impeccable Hall qualifications, because they don’t like him. Schilling is opinionated, combative, religious, and worst of all, politically conservative. Can’t have that. On the plus side, the writers also rejected steroid cheats Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez, as well as almost certain steroid cheats Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Gary Sheffield.

In 2016, anticipating and dreading yesterday’s news, I wrote a post titled, “The Wrenching Problem Of David Ortiz, The Human Slippery Slope.”

Here it is again.

Ethics conflicts force us to choose when multiple ethical principles and values point to diametrically opposed resolutions.  Often, a solution can be found where the unethical aspects of the resolution can be mitigated, but not this one. It is a tale of an ethics conflict without a satisfactory resolution.

I didn’t want to write this post. I considered waiting five years to write it, when the issue will be unavoidable and a decision mandatory. Today, however, is the day on which all of Boston, New England, and most of baseball will be honoring Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who will be playing his finale regular season game after a 20 years career.  His 2016 season is quite possibly the best year any professional baseball player has had as his final one; it is definitely the best season any batter has had at the age of 40 or more. Ortiz is an icon and a hero in Boston, for good reason. Ortiz was instrumental in breaking his team’s infamous 86-year long “curse” that saw it come close to winning the World Series again and again, only to fail in various dramatic or humiliating ways. He was a leader and an offensive centerpiece of three World Champion teams in 2004, 2007, and 2013. Most notably, his record as a clutch hitter, both in the regular season and the post season is unmatched. You can bring yourself up to speed on Ortiz’s career and his importance to the Red Sox, which means his importance to the city and its culture, for nowhere in America takes baseball as seriously as Beantown, here.

That’s only half the story for Ortiz. Much of his impact on the team, the town and the game has come from his remarkable personality, a unique mixture of intensity, charm, intelligence, generosity, pride and charisma. After the 2013 terrorist bombing of the Boston Marathon, which shook the city as much as any event since the Boston Massacre, Ortiz made himself the symbol of Boston’s anger and defiance with an emotional speech at Fenway Park. Then he put an exclamation point on his defiance by leading the Red Sox, a last place team the year before, to another World Series title. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “On Transgender Competitors Being Permitted In Women’s Sports: Is It Possible To Be More Ethically And Logically Muddled Than This?”

In this Comment of the Day, the first of two this morning, Extradimensional Cephalopod provides useful perspective on the logical and ethical flaws inherent in the trans athletes fiasco, as well as the weak arguments presented by advocates of biological males competing in girls’ and women’s sports. [That’s transgender female powerlifter Janae Kroc above, before (when she was Matthew Kroczaleski, and after. He/she calls himself/herself “gender fluid,” so when feeling feminine, Janae competes against women. She does…well.]

Here is EC’s COTD, on the post, “On Transgender Competitors Being Permitted In Women’s Sports: Is It Possible To Be More Ethically And Logically Muddled Than This?”

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The nature of most sports is a form of the liability of conflict: uncertain motivational obstacles. People want to be uncertain about the outcome of a sporting event, such that much of what decides the outcome is the motivation, the character, and the efforts of the competitors. That’s why weight classes in wrestling and boxing exist. If one competitor is larger and more physically powerful than the others, and that makes a predictable difference, that moves the event into the realm of scarcity: known physical obstacles, and out of the realm of sports.

If we want to spend the money to decouple gender and ability in sports, well and good. As long as they’re tied together, though, ability must be the priority for arranging match-ups, or else it stops being sport. (Testosterone treatments are a separate factor that would probably need to have its own class, because they’re artificial treatments that cause muscle growth.)

Due to budgetary constraints, only a subset of the most physically capable (cisgender) students are usually able to compete in academic sports, which rules out most students. (Sometimes there are also the equivalent of the Paralympics, to allow people with physical impairments to compete in sports with other athletes of similar physical ability.) Everyone who doesn’t make the team does other things, and sometimes they do amateur sports. People aren’t entitled to be on the school team, though. Continue reading

A “Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right” Episode For The Ages: Trans Female Swimmer Lia Thomas Is Finally Beaten…by a Trans Male Swimmer…Competing As A Female

What ethical principles are we supposed to glean from this crazy story?

Lia Thomas, a biologically male swimmer who has transitioned to female, has been unfairly crushing all female collegiate competition while being allowed to compete as a transgender athlete. Ethics Alarms has covered the story in more than one post. Lia herself is unapologetic, and her Machiavellian coach is reportedly thrilled. Thomas’s teammates and opponents are not so thrilled, but so far have lacked the courage to take any meaningful action to preserve the integrity of their sport, fearing to end up like J.K. Rowling but without all the money.

So was ex-man Thomas unbeatable as a current woman? No! Yale female swim team star Iszac Henig defeated her in the women’s 100-meter freestyle with a time of 49.57 seconds. In fact, Thomas finished fifth with a time of 52.84 seconds. (How did THAT happen? Sounds like she “took a dive” to me, no pun intended…) In the 400-freestyle relay, Henig completed her leg in 50.45 seconds versus Thomas’ 51.94.

There is a catch, however. Henig is also a trans competitor, except that she is in the process of transitioning from female to male. In order to illustrate this with a dramatic gesture, the 20-year-old pulled down the top of his swimsuit to reveal the absence of breasts, which she-soon-to-be-he has had removed. A UPenn parent remarked, “I wasn’t prepared for that. Everything is messed up. I can’t wrap my head around this.”

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‘Making An Example’ Ethics: The Condemnation Of Eddie Slovik

Eddie Slovik

Last year, when I noted this story in the December 23 warm-up, I was asked if there would be more on the topic. Here is more. It deserves it.

During World War II, U.S. Army Pvt. Eddie Slovik was tried for desertion. On this date in 1944 he was found guilty in his court martial and condemned to death by firing squad. It was the first such sentence against a U.S. Army soldier since the Civil War, and Slovik was the only soldier executed for desertion in World War II. In the intervening years between then and now, his death has become a point of ethical controversy, never resolved, and generally debated before the public from an emotional rather than an ethical, legal or even a military perspective.

I was first told the story of Eddie Slovik by my father, a decorated army veteran and officer during the war. A fervent admirer of General Eisenhower, he still disagreed with Ike’s much criticized decision to allow Slovik’s execution by firing squad to go forward. Dad was not supportive of the command principle of using a particularly blatant example of a crime to send a message to others considering similar conduct, and having had several Eddie Sloviks to contend with under his command, he did not like the resolution of the Slovik dilemma.

I argued the point with him many times over the years. “The question isn’t whether it was fair for Slovik to have been shot,” I told him. “It was. The question is whether many more deserters should have been shot as well.”

Private Eddie Slovik was a draftee, and not a good bet to be a good soldier. He had been classified 4-F because he had spend time in prison for a felony (grand theft auto), but was deemed draftable as the Allied war effort required quantity even more than quality as the conflict dragged on. He was trained to be a rifleman, though Slovik claimed that he hated guns.

In August of 1944, the Army shipped Slovik to France to fight with the 28th Infantry Division, which had suffered massive casualties. When he experienced being under heavy fire for the first time, Slovik concluded that he would not make it in combat. Though the current trend is to say that he and a friend “got lost,” it seems more likely that they were hiding before they turned themselves in to the Canadian military police. The Canadians returned the two to the Americans after about a month and a half.

Slovik asked the company commander if “getting lost” again would be considered desertion. Despite being warned that it would be, he went AWOL, then the next day turned himself in at a nearby field kitchen. He handed the cook this statement:

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Ethics Dunce: Brooke Shields

Brooke-Shields-barbara-walters

This post pains me. I am a long-time admirer of Brooke Shields. She navigated the perilous waters of child stardom as well as anyone, survived an overbearing (and often unethical) stage mother, and managed to turn her childhood and teen super-modeling career into long and variegated show business success that included several Broadway shows and a successful TV sitcom, all while appearing to maintain at least the appearance of sanity and good sense. However, during a recent interview with Dax Shepard on his “Armchair Expert” podcast, Shields decided to attack legendary broadcast journalist Barbara Walters for an interview she did of the then-15-year-old in 1981.

The podcast was following the trail of an October interview the current version of Shields, the one that is 56, did for Vogue. In that one, Shields expressed anger at the famous Calvin Klein ad that immediately preceded her intense cross-examination by Walters, the naughty TV spot that had the leggy teen clad in skin-tight jeans saying provocatively, “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.”

In Vogue Shields said of the ad, “I was very naive. I didn’t think it had to do with underwear. I didn’t think it was sexual in nature. I’d say that about my sister, nobody could come between me and my sister… they didn’t explain [the double-entendre] to me.” As for the interview discussing the ad with Walters, Shields described her questions probing Shields’ sexuality as “practically criminal.”

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On Fairness To Kyle Rittenhouse

accept reject

There will be various ethics matters to consider in coming days regarding the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, but for now I am occupied with a hypothetical ethical dilemma.. Ready to board the Kyle Rittenhouse Ethics Train Wreck?

I heard a member of Rittenhouse’s family speaking about how Kyle could now get on with his life. He’s going to college, or intends to. Hmmmmm….

If you were involved in the admissions process of a relatively competitive college with a national reputation, would you favor admitting Kyle Rittenhouse? Let’s assume that he has good enough grades and test scores to be admitted to your school, but neither such outstanding credentials that he is a lock, nor a dearth of qualifications that would normally justify rejecting him even if he wasn’t a divisive and controversial figure.

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Trevor Bauer Is Guilty Until Proven Innocent, And His Punishment Will Be Complete Before Such Proof Can Occur

Bauer

This is what #MeToo has wrought.

Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer, last year’s Cy Young winner as the best pitcher in the National League and currently the game’s highest paid player, hasn’t been able to pitch for his team since late June. The reason: he has been accused of domestic abuse. Accused.

Ethics Alarms first reported on his story here, writing,

“A restraining order was taken out against Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer, last year’s National League Cy Young winner. Bauer is a sportswriter favorite for his outspoken social media presence and progressive politics, so this will be a blow to the sportswriting woke. The woman making the allegations had what started as a consensual relationship with the pitcher, but in a 67-page document, alleges that Bauer assaulted her on two different occasions, punching her in the face, vagina, and buttocks, sticking his fingers down her throat, and strangling her to the point where she lost consciousness twice, an experience she said she did not consent to. After the second choking episode, the woman awoke to find Bauer punching her in the head and face, inflicting serious injuries. She contacted police, and there is now an active investigation of Bauer by the Pasadena, California police department. If any of her account is true, Bauer faces serious discipline from baseball, which has been (finally) cracking down on domestic abuse by players in recent years.”

I seriously miswrote, and should have known better. Baseball has a well-established tradition of taking action against players regardless of whether accusations have been proven. Indeed, the eight Chicago Black Sox who were accused of throwing the World Series in 1919 had been acquitted by a jury (They were guilty as sin, but then so was O.J.) were banned from baseball for life anyway. Pete Rose was banned for betting on baseball games before the evidence was definitive (Pete eventually confessed years later).

The next time I wrote about Bauer‘s case was a month later:

“Dodgers pitcher and reigning Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer, remains in limbo and under administrative, paid leave while baseball investigates the horrific allegations of abuse against him. Meanwhile, the Dodgers players have told reporters that they don’t want him back, though whether this is because he is an infamous pain in the neck or because he beats up women is unclear. Since the MLB policy appears to be based on “believe all women” and a “preponderance of the evidence” standard rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” I find it ethically troubling. (It resembles the way the Obama and Biden administrations want campus sexual abuse matters to be handled.) If, and I think this is doubtful, Bauer escapes charges and is still suspended, he is an excellent bet to challenge MLB’s “guilty until proven innocent” approach in the courts. Pains-in-the-necks have their uses.”

Last week, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association agreed to extend the Bauer’s administrative leave (he’s still being paid) through the end of the World Series, which the Dodgers still have a fighting chance to be part of should they make the play-offs. There has been no new evidence since June; the accusations against Bauer remain just that. He denies them, saying that the rough sex he had with his accuser was entirely consensual, and that he is the victim of a shakedown.

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A Baseball Ethics Quiz: Moral Luck And The Deflected Ball

BARTMAN-jumbo

I was surprised to find how often I have written about the Steve Bartman incident (shown above) here. For those of you who missed it (and if you are not a baseball fan, couldn’t care less) the episode is rife with ethics lessons.

Bartman was the hapless young Chicago Cubs fan in 2003 who unintentionally interfered with a foul ball that might have been catchable by Cubs outfielder Moises Alou in the decisive game of 2003 National League Championship Series. Bartman’s mistake (it didn’t help that he was wearing earphones and watching the ball rather than the action on the field) began a chain of random events that ended in a complete collapse by Chicago in that very same half-inning, sending the Miami Marlins and not the Cubs, who had seemed comfortably ahead, to the World Series.

Bartman issued a sincere and pitiful apology but it didn’t help. He was widely vilified by Chicago fans, who at that point had not seen a pennant-winning team in their lifetimes. Sportswriters joined in, and he was literally run out of town. Bartman’s name then became part of Cubs and baseball lore, one more chapter in the sad saga had been called “the Billy Goat Curse,” the uncanny inability of the Chicago National League team to win it all. The Cubs finally broke the imaginary curse in 2016, and in a show of kindness and remorse, privately awarded Bartman  an official Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series Championship ring.

That was nice, but Bartman’s life had already been, if not ruined, seriously degraded by the incident. I thought about poor Steve last night, when a foul ball nearing Fenway Park’s “Green Monster” left field wall wafted its way down the foul line. As Sox outfielder Danny Santana tracked it, so did several fans in the seats that look over the grandstand onto the field. Their eyes were on the ball, and as it moved way from foul territory into fair–maybe: in Fenway Park at that point, it is only a matter of a few feet’s difference—one fan lunged for the ball, deflecting it away from Santana’s glove.

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