Rushing Out The Door Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/11/2019!

Hello, I Must Be Going…

This will be quick…

1. Hoping it was a mistake, fearing it was not. When I wrote about how David Ortiz’s post-baseball life before his near-fatal shooting was full of nothing but promising options, I was not including “having an extra-marital affair with a Dominican crime boss’s wife” among them. Yet that’s the story coming out of Santo Domingo: Big Papi was the target of a hit. Ugh. Maybe it was all a big misunderstanding….

2. I could have written two separate posts about these ridiculous and ethicallyiaddled New York Times op-eds, but I’ll leave it to you:  first up is this thing, as an illegal immigration advocate uses the tit-for-tat and Sicilian ethics rationalizations to argue that letting foreign nationals cross our borders illegally is just reparations for what the United States owes “to other countries for their colonial adventures, for the wars they imposed on them, for the inequality they have built into the world order, for the excess carbon they have dumped into the atmosphere.” By all means, take your best shot at explaining why this theory is nuts, and then explain to me why any respectable newspaper would think it is worth publishing. Then Jamele Bouie, the former Slate race-baiting specialists whose extreme rants were so absurd, the Times decided to make him a regular columnist, issued this, in which he argues for sinking Marbury vs Madison and stopping the Supreme Court from blocking unconstitutional laws, because, you know, the people know best, even though most of them couldn’t name three entries in the Bill of Rights. It would make it easier to Leftist totalitarian regime to take over, though. Or, you moron, a conservative one.

Let’s have a poll!

3. I see fat people...As I’m sure you have noticed, more and more ads and TV commercials are featuring actors who range from chunky to obese. This is in response to the long-standing complaints that the media causes eating disorders and poor self-esteem by promoting unrealistic standards for female bodies. Now, we have a deadly obesity epidemic, and ads are sending the message that it’s normal to be fat. Is this really an improvement?

Ugh..late. Gotta run..back soon!

Halloween Ethics: Fat-Shaming Kids in Fargo

halloween letter

UPDATE: There is some persuasive, if not conclusive evidence that “Cheryl” is a hoax. As usual in such cases, my analysis is the same regarding the conduct whether it actually occurred or is merely hypothetical. All forms of media hoaxes are unethical, unless they are obvious or flagged by the perpetrator before other media picks them up as factual. I detest them, and I detest those who create them.


If she follows through as promised, a Fargo Morehead, West Fargo, N.D. woman we know only as “Cheryl” will be handing out fat-shaming letters to trick-or-treating children who in her unsolicited opinion are too fat. The letter, sealed but certain to be read, if not immediately recognized, given the pre-October 31st publicity, by the unlucky children receiving them tells parents of the costumed kids she considers porkers that they need to do a better job parenting.

Cheryl is a presumptuous, meddling jerk, and if I got handed such a letter by my child, Cheryl would have to worry about a lot more than toilet paper in her trees and flaming bags of poop on her doorstep. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Fat-Bashing Film Critic Rex Reed


Actress Melissa McCarthy stole the film “Bridesmaids” right out from under its better known stars, including the screenplay’s author, Kirsten Wigg. In that film, her hit CBS sitcom “Mike and Molly,” and subsequent films (of varying quality), McCarthy has shown that she is s versatile, appealing comedienne with deep dramatic resources. Film critic Rex Reed, however, is mostly concerned with her weight, which is usually a component of the characters she plays and the quality, other than her talent, that sets her apart from the standard issue, impossibly thin, fit and sexy Hollywood actress.

In his withering review of her latest comedy “Identity Thief,” Reed causally refers to McCarthy as a “female hippo” and reduces her career to this: “Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) is a gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success.” Called on his fat-bashing, Reed responded, “I have lost entirely too many friends to obesity-related diseases to pretend Ms. McCarthy’s alarming obesity is anything to applaud.”

There are two aspects of this that are striking. One is that Rex Reed, who played the pre-op Myra Breckenridge in the awful movie version of Gore Vidal’s gender-bending, and considered scandalous at the time, satiric novel (Raquel Welch, now over 70, was post-op), is still alive and reviewing, albeit obscurely until, as now, he writes something outrageous. At one time—40 years ago? Longer?— Reed was considered the most quotable and one of the most influential film critics; now, to say he is passé would be a compliment.

The other striking aspect of this incident is this:  while the culture will turn with unforgiving venom on any public figure who derides individuals for their color, sexual orientation, malady or disability, any of which would be considered cruel, bigoted, and hateful, deriding individuals because their weight doesn’t meet with aesthetic norms—among which are now out-sized breasts on otherwise fat-free frames and sharply chiseled abdominal muscles, a look that was literally freakish until the dawn of Nautilus and personal trainers—-still is largely regarded as justified and acceptable. Continue reading

Medical Ethics: The Insideousness of Bias

Obesity biasThe New York Times had an enlightening article about bias in its Science section this week. Apparently a study of the interactions between patients and their primary care physicians suggests that doctors are more pleasant, encouraging, empathetic, kinder—just nicer, in short—to their normal weight patients than they are to those who are obese.

From the article:

‘“It’s not like the physicians were being overtly negative or harsh,” said the lead author, Dr. Kimberly A. Gudzune, an assistant professor of general internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “They were just not engaging patients in that rapport-building or making that emotional connection with the patient.” …While such expressions of concern and empathy are not remarkable on their own, what was surprising was how absent they were in conversations with overweight and obese patients. And statements like these are no small thing. Studies show that patients are far more likely to follow a doctor’s advice and to have a better health outcome when they believe their doctor empathizes with their plight.

‘“When there is increased empathy by the doctor, patients are more likely to report they are satisfied with their care, and they are more likely to adhere to recommendations of physicians,” Dr. Gudzune said. “There is evidence to show that after visits with more empathy, patients have improved clinical outcomes, so patients with diabetes have better blood sugar control or cholesterol is better controlled.”’

Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “The Ethics of Bloomberg’s Soft Drink Ban”

Peter, who is a physician, a libertarian, and one of my oldest friends (we met in the 6th grade) from Arlington, Massachusetts, generously responded to my request for his professional expertise and philosophical perspective regarding the New York City soda ban.  Here is his thoughtful response, the Comment of the Day, on the post The Ethics of Bloomberg’s Soft Drink Ban: 

“It has become a reflex response to answer adverse circumstances with more regulation. To a lawyer, there is always a law, or regulation for any and every misstep in human behavior. Of course, we forget that we cannot predict the unintended consequences, not even to mention reviewing the effects of the laws we pass to determine if they are even having the INTENDED effect. Somehow, we believe that it is appropriate to pass laws to deny other people’s freedoms due to the “discomfort” of whiny types who have the connections and persistence to keep whining until they can get someone to pass a law. The consequence of such legislation’s continued passage, at ever more confiscatory levels of our liberties, is that we are legislating our way into a police state, and the widespread acceptance of the idea that it’s OK to deny personal liberty because it makes someone else “uncomfortable.” Again, as RR so aptly pointed out, “the government that is big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.” And this goes for not just your personal assets, but your freedoms as well.

“That said, in this context, yes, drinking lots of sugary sodas will make you fat, smoking will kill you, too much alcohol will kill you, doing extreme sports can kill you, and so on. And as long as one’s decisions affect only himself, have at it. However, when you want me to pay, through my insurance premiums, and my taxes, for the consequences of your stupidity, you cede the sovereignty of your decision to others beside yourself. If you want to ride your motorcycle without a helmet, while drunk, sure, do it. Just don’t expect me to pay the costs of your head injury. Continue reading

The Fat Kid, the Slippery Slope, and the Cliff

"Bill! They're putting me in foster care! How will you make THAT funny?"

Several recent ethics issues have raised the slippery slope question, which is itself a slippery slope. The rationale for any reasonable principle or act can usually be ratcheted forward in degrees until it becomes malevolent, dangerous or repugnant, including freedom, trust, loyalty, charity and honesty. Thus the easiest argument, at least for the mentally dexterous, that anything is unethical is the dreaded slippery slope.

The simple rebuttal to this is usually “let’s wait and see.” To claim that conduct is unethical for what it might lead to rather than for what it actually does is often, perhaps even usually, based on an unwarranted assumption, or a worst case scenario specifically concocted to foil otherwise unobjectionable conduct. When it is not based on an unwarranted assumption, however, is when proposed conduct or a new policy permitting it shatters a social norm or cultural standard that had previously been considered sacrosanct. In these cases, the slope isn’t merely slippery—which suggests “Be careful where you step next!”—but greased, meaning there is no longer any traction at all to stop a rapid slide to the bottom. A better cliché to use in such cases is “opening the floodgates.” Or perhaps “off a cliff.”

The recent post about the Dartmouth researchers who suggested that all manipulations of graphic images of celebrities be labeled as such is, I would argue, more floodgates than slippery slope. There is no obvious delineation point to stop the principle behind this oppressive constraint on illusion from spreading far beyond its origin. Similarly, the argument being made by the family of the mother with Stage 4 cancer that US Air is ethically obligated to refund the non-refundable tickets they could not use because of her terminal illness has no clear limits or coherent application. Are the refunds required because the mother is terminal? If she goes into remission, would the family be obligated to give the money back? What if she was only paralyzed? If the whole family was squashed by a boulder, would the airline be obligated to refund the money to their next of kin? What if the mother wounded herself terminally in a suicide attempt—would that change US Air’s supposed obligation of compassion? If so, would that mean that if the mother’s Stage 4 breast cancer occurred because she neglected to follow a physician’s recommended treatment, US Air could then refuse to refund the money without being pilloried for it? Sometimes that greased slope carries us into a swamp.

Now from Cleveland comes the story of the 200 lbs. + 8-year-old Cleveland Heights boy who has been taken from his family and placed in foster care because county case workers decided that his mother wasn’t doing enough to control his weight.  Continue reading

The Media Pundits’ Bigoted Preemptive Attack on Chris Christie

THIS seems to be a logical method for choosing a President.

Democrats and progressives are apparently terrified that a Republican will enter the presidential race who isn’t a religious zealot, a libertarian ideologue, a political tyro, a Mormon or a Texan, but a charismatic governor of a big northeastern state who is pragmatic, credible and successful. That would be Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey, who may be about to throw his hat in the ring. So the word has gone out to the media, or the media is just sufficient trained to protect Democratic presidents without further instruction, that it needs to define Christie before the American public has a chance to form its own opinion, and the definition it has arrived at is fat.

You know, fat. As in Rush Limbaugh fat, fat like the political cartoonist Herblock always drew lobbyists and “Big Business.” Diamond Jim Brady fat; fat like Sydney Greenstreet, the villain in all those Humphrey Bogart movies. Fat means bad; fat means lazy; fat means unhealthy, and ugly. Fat people consume more than their share, and are disproportionately responsible for global warming and soaring health care costs, don’t you know. They  have no self-control; they don’t have self-respect. We dread being stuck next to one of these porkers in an airplane. You can’t trust fat people. That’s really all you need to know about Chris Christie. This is America—we worship beautiful people. Fit people. Thin people….like, say, President Obama. Do we want to be led by someone who is fat? Of course not! Continue reading