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

Comment of the Day: “Make Voting Compulsory, Because We Can’t Let THAT Happen Again”

Maybe Ruth Marcus would like this system better...

Maybe Ruth Marcus would like this system better…

Theories of democracy and political science, Robert Heinlein, minimizing bias from self-interest, scientist suspicion, GIANT BUGS…okay, it doesn’t quite get to the bugs. But what’s not to like about texagg 04’s reflections and exposition sparked by the post on Ruth Marcus’s plug for compulsory voting? Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Make Voting Compulsory, Because We Can’t Let THAT Happen Again: Continue reading

Unethical Website Of The Month: Ranker

"One of these things is not like the others..."

“One of these things is not like the others…”

Lists, especially stupid celebrity lists (Worst plastic surgery…Most overpaid…Actors with famous siblings…Actresses with high IQs) are a staple of the internet, and there are sites like Cracked (which does them well), Buzzfeed (which occasionally does) and Bleacher Report (which is sloppy unless it is doing lists of hot women, in which case it is just undiscriminating) that often appear to do little else. That’s fine; everything on the web doesn’t have to be edifying, profound or useful. Still, there are some basic rules of competence and responsibility even in list-making on the web. One is that as with any conduct involving the conveyance of information, do your homework and don’t mislead readers or  create misconceptions.

Another is that when you are dealing with individuals to whom you owe your nation’s very existence and who are as superior to you as a human being as you are to an anteater, show some damn respect.

Ranker, a second tier list site apparently operated by junior high school drop-outs (but whose lists are “recommended” by more respectable and heavily trafficked sites like Mediaite and The Daily Beast) failed these two essential principles with their offensive list, “33 Celebrities Who Have Killed People,” introduced with this:

“…Many celebrities were involved in tragic accidents that resulted in deaths, while others committed cold-blooded murder. Some celebs have served time in prison stemming from convictions, and others have gotten away with murder; sure, maybe they were wrongly accused, or maybe they just had great lawyers. Several famous people were involved in deadly car accidents. Former First Lady Laura Bush missed a stop sign and slammed her car into another vehicle, accidentally killing her friend who was driving the other car. She was in high school at the time of the accident. Other celebs who killed people in car accidents include Keith Moon, Ted Kennedy, and Rebecca Gayheart. What do you think about all the celebrities who have killed someone?” Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Thomas McGregor

"Just paying off my student loans..."

“Just paying off my student loans…”

One of the criteria for admission to the practice of law is proof of good character, and what is considered proof of bad character will keep even a stellar law grad out of the courtroom. Bad character can be inferred from many kinds of conduct—criminal convictions, lies under oath, and failing to meet financial obligations, among others. The latter has occasionally blocked an otherwise qualified young lawyer from entering the profession when unpaid debts get out of hand, and that means that the most prominent unpaid debts in recent headlines, student loans, can sometimes foil a legal career. New York law grad Robert Bowman, last I checked, was still trying to convince the New York Bar that being over $400,000 in debt on his student loans didn’t mean he wasn’t fit to practice law. So far, he hasn’t succeeded.

Maybe he should follow the lead of Thomas McGregor.  Continue reading

Maybe Lies Aren’t Protected Speech After All…

This week, in United States v. Robbins (W.D. Va.); a district court disagreed with previous court opinions this year holding that the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a criminal act to falsely represent that one had been awarded a military honor for valor on the field of combat, was a violation of the First Amendment guarantee of free speech: Continue reading

The Depressing Rangel Censure: Unethical Culture on Display


It takes quite a bit of doing for the public punishment of a revered figure for unethical conduct to make an institution appear more unethical itself, but the U.S. House of Representatives was up to the challenge yesterday.

As expected, Rep. Charlie Rangel, former ly the powerful Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, received a censure by majority vote, the harshest punishment a Member can receive short of expulsion. Rangel had been found guilty of five major ethical violations, or as they should properly be called, five instances of ongoing egregious unethical conduct. Charley and friends like to say “ethical violations” because that can be spun into mere carelessness, like not putting enough money on the meter. From the beginning, Rangel’s line has been that he made “mistakes,” suggesting they were either accidental or that he didn’t realize they were unethical. Think about that as you review the five: Continue reading

Rangel’s Mercy Plea Theory: The Ethics Savings Account

As I write this, Rep. Charles Rangel is asking his colleagues for mercy, as they decide what his punishment should be for eleven counts of ethics misdeeds including abuse of his office and tax evasion. He has made the unconvincing argument that it all adds up to sloppiness, not corruption, though the sheer weight and breadth of the charges against him indicate otherwise. Rangel’s main defense, as he tried to stave off censure, was the testimony of Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon and compatriot of Martin Luther King, soon to receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Lewis described Rangel as a “good and decent man, an honest man,” a Korean War vet who came to Selma, Ala. and marched alongside King and Lewis in the cause of civil rights, which Rangel, Lewis said, fought for his entire career.

Lewis’s character endorsement is completely irrelevant to Rangel’s current corruption issues. I don’t think it should be allowed.  Continue reading

Free Speech or Theft? The Law and Ethics of Stolen Valor

The U.S. District Court in Colorado ruling in the case of  US v. Strandloff, has found the “Stolen Valor Act,” 18 U.S.C. § 704(b) & (d), to be an unconstitutional infringement of free speech.  Rick Strandloff represented himself as a wounded decorated Iraq War veteran in order to rally support for veterans and opposition to the war. The original Stolen Valor Act of 2005 criminalized the wearing of military medals an individual was never awarded; later, it was expanded to included the crime of falsely saying or writing that one has been given military honors for valor. The Act says, in part, that it is a crime to…

…falsely represent [oneself], verbally or in writing, to have been awarded any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the Armed Forces of the United States, any of the service medals or badges awarded to the members of such forces, the ribbon, button, or rosette of any such badge, decoration, or medal, or any colorable imitation of such item …

Deciding an issue like this inevitably comes down to both law and ethics. Not all speech is protected by the First Amendment, and deciding how many kinds of speech we can sensibly and reasonably prohibit requires a court and a culture to think about just how bad—how wrong–certain kinds of speech may be, based on their actual and potential harm. Continue reading

Ethics Quote by an Ethics Hero: Adm. Mike Mullen

“No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”

U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen

Admiral Mullen made the statement testifying last week to the Senate Armed Services Committee, as he urged the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that permitted the military to discharge gay personnel once their sexual orientation became known, by whatever means.

[Special thanks to the Institute for Global Ethics for reminding me (via its weekly e-mail bulletin] that I had neglected to give Mullen credit last week for a much-needed endorsement of this policy change from a military leader of impeccable credibility.]