A “I Must Be Missing Something” Ethics Quiz: Arizona’s Execution Option [Corrected]

gas chamber

Usually ethics quizzes on Ethics Alarms involve borderline ethics conflicts or dilemmas that I can’t make up my own mind about. Not this one: on this one: my mind is virtually made up. The arguments that the Arizona plan to use cyanide gas in future executions is an ethics outrage because of previous uses of cyanide gas seem contrived, emotional, and, frankly, weird, with no ethical validity whatsoever. But the intensity of these arguments make me wonder if I’m missing something, and Voilà! An Ethics Quiz!

The state of Arizona allows condemned inmates to choose the gas chamber, rather than lethal injection, if they committed a capital offense before November 23, 1992. Arizona’s attorney general, Mark Brnovich, is seeking to complete the execution of two men who committed murders before that date, and Arizona officials are reconditioning the state’s mothballed gas chamber in case they pick gas over a shot. Arizona authorities plan to use, if it comes to that, hydrogen cyanide to concoct the fatal agent of death. Cyanide gas is a particular gruesome way to die. It takes almost 20 minutes, in some cases, and this is a problem for some people.

Not for me: I find the obsession with making sure executions of the upper tier monsters who earn capitol punishment as pleasant as a spring day to be incomprehensible, and always have. We’re killing someone. It might hurt a little, and it won’t be pretty. An 18 minute judicially sanctioned death isn’t “cruel and unusual,” especially if the subject chose it. What I find cruel and unusual is the way our endless system of appeals dangles executions over the heads of Death Row inmates like a Sword of Damocles from Hell.

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PM Ethics Medley, 5/26/2021: It’s A Strange, Strange World

Pastiche

1. Priorities! Major League Baseball has placed Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway on its ineligible list through at least the 2022 season, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced. The league made the decision after investigating Callaway for sexual sexual harassment allegations reaching back several years, with several female sporstwriters among the alelged victims. The Angels fired Callaway this afternoon. Opines a major baseball news site: “Callaway is facing a year-plus ban, and it seems hard to believe any MLB team will hire him when he’s eligible to return.”

Hmmmm…

Alex Cora was suspended and fired as manager by the Boston Red Sox after a one-year suspension, then immediately hired back by the team. All he did was play a major role in devising a cheating scheme for one team, the Houston Astros, that extended through the play-offs and World Series, then oversaw a second team, Boston, that was found to have engaged in cheating, though less extensively, the next season. Cora’s cheating scheme with Astros was unprecedented, and cost two other professionals their jobs and the Astros millions in fines,while seriously scarring the integrity of the game. The conduct Callaway engaged in has been routine among professional athletes for decades, though in his case it was apparently 1) a bit more extreme than the norm and 2) “unwelcome.” After all, he was just a coach. So far, nobody has accused a player making more than $10 million a year of making sexual advances that were “unwelcome.’

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End Of Day Ethics, 4/7/2021: “Ick,” Ethics, And Law

And as we bid farewell to April 7 and good morning to April 8, I want to wish my wonderful, kind, talented and tolerant wife of 40 years a happy birthday. I owe everything to her.

1. Well, you can’t accuse satellite radio of being politically correct…the Comedy Legend Sirius channel is a welcome oasis in the woke era humor desert, with routines old enough to remind one what it was like when comedians only had to worry about being funny to the audience at hand—and yet there are limits. At least, there should be. Today I heard an old Louis C.K. routine about his childhood. You recall how C.K. became a #MeToo arch-villain, costing him his show, bookings, and essentially his career, don’t you? He set a new low for celebrity sexual harassment by masturbating in front of non-consenting female visitors to his hotel room, and on more than one occasion. Ick. Also sick. In the routine featured on Sirius-XM, the comedian was reminiscing, to audience hilarity, how he showed his penis to a girl with Down Syndrome when he was nine. I don’t know that I would have ever found that story funny, but hearing C.K. tell it in light of his later revealed proclivities was an experience I could have lived my whole life without having. Since it is now clear to me that whoever programs that channel can’t be trusted to apply any discretion or common sense at all, I’m not sure it is safe for me to drive with it playing…

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Ick or Ethics? The Cool Diorama Controversy

Lion_Attacking_a_Dromedary

Boy, as a kid, would I have loved the diorama “Lion Attacking a Dromedary” at The Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh! Things like that—by “like that” I mean cool, stimulating exhibits that fired my curiosity—got me interested in all sorts of subjects growing up: paleontology, zoology, history. The creation of French naturalist and taxidermist Edouard Verreaux and his brother was made for the Paris Exposition of 1867 and has been at the Pittsburgh museum since 1899. I wish it had been lodged at the Peabody Museum in Cambridge, Mass., where I used to spend long, leisurely Saturdays with my best friend, Peter Bena.

But now, fully in the grip of what I call “The Great Stupid,” the Carnegie Museum’s interim director says the exhibit is being “reconsidered,” because the exciting scene has disturbed “some.” After all, it depicts violence against a man described as an Arab courier. Also, the victim’s garb has been determined to be “derived from” at least five separate North African cultures. So that’s bad. I’m not sure why, but it’s bad. I’m sure PETA thinks the scene encourages cruelty to camels.

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Ethics Quiz: The Robot Dog

Robot seals work too, apparently…

From a recent New York Times story:

When Linda Spangler asked her mother, in a video chat, what she would like as gift for her 92nd birthday, the response came promptly.

“I’d like a dog,” Charlene Spangler said. “Is Wolfgang dead?” Wolfgang, a family dachshund, had indeed died long ago; so had all his successors. Ms. Spangler, who lives in a dementia care facility in Oakland, Calif., has trouble recalling such history.

So Linda, who is a doctor, got her mother a dog.

Well, Mom thought it was a dog, anyway. It was a robot dog. Sensors allow it to pant, woof, wag its tail, nap and awaken, and users can feel a simulated heartbeat.

Hmmm.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Was this ethical?

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Ick Or Ethics? The Nauseating Social Media Meme

I have a long-time friend whose spouse has the above Facebook meme as a social media avatar. As a result, I have serious reservations about having any further interaction with either of them.

Once again, I am bedeviled by the phenomenon of public virtue-signaling, a non-virus epidemic that mostly manifests itself among smug progressives. There is no question in my mind that such ostentatious declarations are obnoxious and nausea-inducing, and thus offensive. But are they unethical?

The last time I addressed this issue was when these signs, mercifully short-lived, starting popping up on my neighbors’ lawns.

Then, I see that I was adamant, writing in part, Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Hymnal, 2/23/2020: Bernie Freakouts, And Other Amusing And Unsettling Ethics Phenomenon

It’s a glorious Sunday in Alexandria!

I hope you have the same good fortune wherever you are…

1. What a fun season the Astros are facing...Yesterday, in their first Spring Training game, the Houston Astros were booed by their own “home” fans in West Palm Beach, Florida. They will have an overhwelming amount of pressure on them this year in addition to being  pariahs in every ballpark in te American League. If they don’t win their division again, or approach the 100+ wins the team has amassed ever season since 2017,  the narrative will be that tis proves that it was the team’s cheating, not its superior talent, that had made them champions. Of course that will be a false conclusion, since there are many factors that could diminish the Astros in 2020, such as the loss of their best pitcher, Gerrit Cole, to free agency.

There were other ethically dubious moves by the Astros yesterday. Although teams are required by an MLB directive to include at least some team regulars in Spring Training games, since spectators are paying substantial amounts to attend, manager Dusty Baker had only minor leaguers in the line-up, apparently wanting to delay and minimize the fan abuse heaped on his team. Thus a line-up of players who had absolutly nothing to do with the sign-stealing that marred the Astros’ 2017 season and World Series victory absorbed the anger of the fans intended for the no-shows.

Meanwhile, ball park personnel confiscated signs brought by some fans to express their disapproval. The signs weren’t obscene or vulgar, just critical, like “Houston” with an asterisk,  implying that the Astros’ 2017 World Series title would be forever blemished by the team’s cheating. That sign is telling the undeniable truth.

Can’t have that.

2. Now here’s an old tradition that does not need to be revived...

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From The “Things I’d Prefer Not To Think About” Files: The Daughter’s Breast Milk

Georgia on the right, her two patrons on the left…

An ABC News story from 2009 turned up on my ethics radar.

Tim Browne, a retired teacher and musician from Wiltshire, England, was diagnosed with colon cancer. He was operated on a week before his daughter’s wedding, but  the cancer had spread to his liver and lymph nodes. Doctors said it was terminal.

While he was undergoing chemotherapy, his daughter suggested an unconventional treatment: her breast milk. She had seen a TV report about an American man who had  made a miraculous recovery from prostate cancer by drinking it. Soon Tim was having his morning cereal with daughter Georgia’s milk.

Georgia was nursing her 8-month-old son Monty and offered to set aside a few ounces of milk every day for Browne. Browne started calling Monty his “milk brother.” “If I have a lactating daughter, why not take advantage of her? As long as Monty didn’t mind,” Browne said.

There’s no evidence that breast milk really does treat cancer, but doctors said that as long as Browne believed it did, the succor might have a genuine placebo effect.

What do we properly call a father consuming his daughter’s breast milk? Is that too close to incest for comfort?Does it matter if it’s close, as long as it isn’t quite? Continue reading

What’s Unethical About This Picture?

Maybe nothing.

Let’s see.

Is shooting a big, beautiful male lion who was minding his own business ethical?

The two lovebirds are Canadians Darren and Carolyn Carter, who like killing big, beautiful wild animals. They also are in the taxidermy business, so they create the “art” of preserved beautiful dead animals for those who also either enjoy killing them or who like having the stuffed dead creatures, or just their heads, as trophies or decoration.

It is fair to say that at this time in human culture in North America, simply killing big game for the thrill of it is considered cruel and wrong. The fact that the Carters are taxidermists gives them a little more ballast in a utilitarian argument. In general, killing anything just to kill it is unethical: it ends a life, and life has positive value. Killing an animal to eat it helps balance out the ethical considerations, as we regard human life as having higher value than animal or plant life. Killing a lion to save a human life—as in the situation where a lion is deliberately stalking and killing people, like the two “Tsavo Man-Eaters” responsible for the deaths of construction workers on the Kenya-Uganda Railway between March and December 1898 (dramatized in the film, “The Ghost and the Darkness”) would also be ethical.(Those lions are stuffed and on display in the Marshall Fields Museum in Chicago.)

If one doesn’t deny the value of taxidermy as art, furnishings or as museum exhibits for historical or educational purposes, then maybe the practice has  sufficient value to human life to sustain the argument that killing even a harmless lion to stuff it is ethically defensible. Personally and professionally, I find that to be a weak and rationalization-stuffed argument, but let’s give the Carters the benefit of the doubt for now.

The killing was legal. It was, however, the result also a so-called “canned hunt” in South Africa, where a company called Legelela Safaris arranges  opportunities to shoot magnificent wild animals for a fee. If it’s sport, it’s barely sport, and, of course, there are many, many sports that do not require killing anything. If one can do something without causing harm (like killing a living creature), it is unethical to deliberately do it while causing harm. Yes, the circumstances surrounding the kill are  ethically dubious at best.

What about that kiss? Continue reading

Icky And Unethical: The Dead Cadet’s Child

A New York judge  ruled that the parents of  West Point cadet Peter Zhu, 21, who was declared brain-dead after a skiing accident, can take sperm harvested from his body with “no restriction.” The parents say they want  to fulfill  their son’s lifelong desire to have children and continue the family name.

Lauren Sydney Flicker, a bioethicist and expert in post-mortem sperm retrieval at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx [there is such a thing as being an expert in post-mortem sperm retrieval?]  told the New York Times,

“Here is the ethical debate, and it will be different for different people: Is it a greater ethical burden to prevent someone from having the opportunity to be a father by passing along their genetic material? Or is it a greater ethical burden to have a man father a child, without his consent, that he wouldn’t be around to raise?”

Huh? I’d say the burden of not living pretty much wipes out the burden of not being a father, and renders it moot. Absent explicit instructions that the young man wanted his sperm used to spawn a child after he died,  the cadet’s desires regarding a family while he was planning on being alive are rendered moot by his death. Continue reading