Family Ethics: Three Kennedys Choose The Public Good Over Family Loyalty. Excellent.

Three members of the fabled Kennedy Clan, that of Joseph P. and Rose, JFK, RFK and Ted, Caroline and the Late John-John, and all the rest, have publicly rebuked their vocal anti-vaxxer family member, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in a statement signed by his siblings Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Joseph P. Kennedy II, as well , Maeve Kennedy McKean, who is the executive director of Georgetown University’s Global Health Initiatives, and calls RFK jr, “Uncle Bob.”

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is the former lieutenant governor of Maryland and the former chair of the Global Virus Network. [Full disclosure: she was also a resident in my undergrad House, Lowell House,  while I was in college, and we knew each other a little bit] and Joseph P. Kennedy II, a former member of Congress from Massachusetts, is the chairman and president of Citizens Energy Corporation.

Beginning with an overview of the harm caused by  Americans avoiding vaccines, including the current measles outbreak, the three write in Politico,

These tragic numbers are caused by the growing fear and mistrust of vaccines—amplified by internet doomsayers. Robert F. Kennedy Jr.—Joe and Kathleen’s brother and Maeve’s uncle—is part of this campaign to attack the institutions committed to reducing the tragedy of preventable infectious diseases. He has helped to spread dangerous misinformation over social media and is complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines.

We love Bobby. He is one of the great champions of the environment. His work to clean up the Hudson River and his tireless advocacy against multinational organizations who have polluted our waterways and endangered families has positively affected the lives of countless Americans. We stand behind him in his ongoing fight to protect our environment. However, on vaccines he is wrong.

And his and others’ work against vaccines is having heartbreaking consequences. The challenge for public health officials right now is that many people are more afraid of the vaccines than the diseases, because they’ve been lucky enough to have never seen the diseases and their devastating impact. But that’s not luck; it’s the result of concerted vaccination efforts over many years. We don’t need measles outbreaks to remind us of the value of vaccination.

It is impossible to overstate what a stunning departure this joint essay (titled “RFK Jr. Is Our Brother and Uncle. He’s Tragically Wrong About Vaccines”) is from the traditions and practices of the Kennedy Family. It, they, all of them, have guarded the Kennedy name and legacy like Cerberus at the gates of Hell. They have intimidated historians, artists, government officials, prosecutors and others from actions and revelations that would expose the ugly (ugly, oh-so ugly) side of  many of the family’s most celebrated members.

I directed the first professional production of a drama about the Cuban Missile Crisis that avoided or debunked the various myths carefully embedded in the official narrative to make President Kennedy the hero of the event, when he most definitely was not.  The play had been blocked by the Kennedys twice. Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin

Daddy gave you this with love….

Incidentally, we have discussed how the news media often hides the party affiliation of misbehaving Democrats, but I had to look up Bevin after CNN neglected to say what his party is. This wasn’t bias, just unprofessional journalism.

Kentucky’s  Governor, who is a Republican, revealed that he exposed  his nine children to chickenpox  so they would get the disease rather than giving them the vaccine.

What an idiot. By doing this publicly, he endorses anti-vaxxer fear-mongering, validates irresponsible parenting, and places lives in danger.

In an interview with WKCT,  Bevin said he supports parents who choose to get their children vaccinated and also those who decline to do so. Do you support public health, you reckless, pandering fool? “This is America,” he said. “The federal government should not be forcing this upon people. They just shouldn’t.” “This” means responsible behavior required to prevent the spread of communicable disease. Governments have a well-established and Supreme Court approved duty to take necessary and reasonable measures to ensure public safety.danger.

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Ethics Quiz: Free The Tampon.Com

share-not-equal“Tampons and pads should be treated just like toilet paper — they’re the equivalent,” argues Nancy Kramer. She has started Free the Tampons, a campaign to make feminine products accessible in all restrooms. “Menstruation is a normal bodily function, and it should be treated like that.”

This apparently is a new front in fighting the war on women. It’s one more piece of overhead to be passed on to the public, of course.  Are tampons really like toilet paper? Funny, I thought women used toilet paper too. I also thought public hygiene and health laws made toilet paper mandatory because rest rooms in public places are mandatory, and a rest room without tp isn’t worth much. Hard to cram those rolls into a purse, too.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Is it unethical for restrooms not to supply free tampons and pads?

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Unethical Quote of the Week: Daily Beast Editor Justin Miller

“Fuck you…”

—-Daily Beast editor Justin Miller, in a tweet to U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) Miller was irate that Paul blamed media bias on the uproar over his irresponsible and foolish comments regarding mandatory vaccination. The tweet continued: “Today I am getting my booster vaccine. Wonder how the liberal media will misreport this.”

After Paul’s office pronounced the tweet “unacceptable,” Miller deleted the tweet, and apologized, telling Politico, “I replied from my personal account to what I felt was spin after Senator Paul said factually incorrect things about vaccines. It would’ve been better to respond with facts than an obscenity, and I deleted the tweet so it wouldn’t reflect on the Beast. I’m sorry for the insult.”


1. Did Miller personally apologize to Paul? There is no indication that he did. This, therefore, is not an apology to the person directly aggrieved. We are seeing more and more of this: “I am sorry, Politico, that I behaved wrongly toward X.” That’s lazy, deceptive and cowardly.

2. A respectable, professional news organization would fire Miller, apology or not. In fact, any organization would fire a high placed executive who delivered a public “fuck you” to an elected official, and should. It is outrageously unprofessional conduct. It reflects badly on the organization. It shows miserable judgment, and makes trust all but impossible. I cannot think of a single job I ever held, in academia, in associations or in the non-profit sector where a tweet like that to a member, donor or customer, never mind a member of Congress (or, heaven forbid, a judge), wouldn’t have gotten me fired so fast the words “I’m sorry” would have been completed after I was locked out of the building, and rightly so. Continue reading

Rand Paul, Anti-Vaxxing and Signature Significance

"Got it, Senator. NEXT!!!"

“Got it, Senator. NEXT!!!”

It would be nice if a genuine, rational libertarian candidate could be part of the national political debate. The problem is that there are no genuine, rational libertarians. To be genuine, a libertarian has to decide on his or her policy positions based on the dictates of the ideology, which is backwards: as a leader, rather than a professor or theorist, one must figure out what is going to work, and what you wish would work or what a pre-determined formula says should work are not germane to the issue. For proof of the flaw in the latter approach, all we have to do is consider the past seven years.

Thus libertarians are prone to saying things like, “The United States should never have entered World War II.” This has been a staple of Rand Paul’s deluded father, Ron Paul, and properly places pure libertarianism with pacifism, also known as Cloud Cuckoo Land. The Berrigans used to say the same thing, you know. I believe it was Philip who said that nobody tried passive resistance to defeat Hitler, so we’ll never know if it would have worked. When you say things like this for public consumption, you forfeit the privilege of being taken seriously. It is signature significance: your judgment can’t be trusted.

For me, Rand Paul’s libertarian moment of signature significance was when he questioned the need for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, essentially saying that the nation would have been just fine allowing people like Lester Maddox to chase African-Americans out of his restaurant with an axe handle, or bus drivers to force Rosa Parks to sit in the back of the bus until change occurred naturally, you know, like after the race war. Such statements are not isolated instances of momentary madness; they are markers of serious ethical and cognitive problems, and it was inevitable that the source of that opinion would have more of the same, and perhaps worse. 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

Ethics Quiz: The Jenny McCarthy Body Count

Sure, bet your kid’s life on the wisdom of Jenny McCarthy. Makes sense to me!

From The Jenny McCarthy Body Count:

“In June 2007 Jenny McCarthy began promoting anti-vaccination rhetoric. Because of her celebrity status she has appeared on several television shows and has published multiple books advising parents not to vaccinate their children. This has led to an increase in the number of vaccine preventable illnesses as well as an increase in the number of vaccine preventable deaths. Jenny McCarthy has a body count attached to her name. This website will publish the total number of vaccine preventable illnesses and vaccine preventable deaths that have happened in the United States since June 2007 when she began publicly speaking out against vaccines.

“Is Jenny McCarthy directly responsible for every vaccine preventable illness and every vaccine preventable death listed here? No. However, as the unofficial spokesperson for the United States anti-vaccination movement she may be indirectly responsible for at least some of these illnesses and deaths and even one vaccine preventable illness or vaccine preventable death is too many.”

You can visit the Jenny McCarthy Body Count, which stands at 888 preventable deaths as of May 31, 2012, here.

Your Ethics Quiz is simple: Is the website fair?

My answer: sure.

McCarthy is an engaging, attractive, well-meaning woman and semi-talented comic actress who has misused her celebrity, as many celebrities do and have, to exert more influence over the public and media than her experience, education, intelligence, wisdom and expertise justify. Are the various television programs, media outlets and hysteria-peddlers also accountable for giving someone with McCarthy’s thin credentials and outsize influence a platform to frighten and mislead the many members of the public who are even more ignorant than she is? Absolutely. Does that reduce McCarthy’s culpability for spreading misinformation that leads to potentially deadly neglect of the health needs of children? Not one bit.

Using the Jenny McCarthy Body Count to call attention to the foolishness of anti- vaccine hysteria is a clever idea, and if it keeps even one parent from being misled by the medical nonsense pushed McCarthy and her allies. it is performing a public service.


Pointer: Instapundit

Facts: Jenny McCarthy Body Count

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

The Unfair and Dishonest Regulation…of Interior Decorators?

Deadly in the hands of an amateur

I stumbled on this as my wife and I investigated the possibility of her setting up a business as an interior design consultant. 22 States and the District of  Columbia require a license to be an interior decorator, which technically means, as Reason so pointedly puts it, that moving a throw pillow could theoretically get you jailed or fined.

How can this be? All professional licensing creates a bar to membership, making such licenses targets of Libertarians and other critics. But at least most professions requiring a license have a plausible argument for the certification based on health and the protection of the public welfare. Lawyers, doctors, dentists, builders, electricians…that makes sense. Real estate brokers, teachers, personal trainers…er, okay, I guess so. But interior decorators? Isn’t this just an example of nakedly restricting competition, and using the sordid process of buying state legislators to do it? What other justification could there be? Continue reading