Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: Dying Dog Ethics”

As usually is the case, today’s Open Forum generated several Comment of the Day contenders, and I will get to them in due course. I did not want too much time to lapse, however, before giving this lovely comment by JutGory its due. The topic was gratuitous and perhaps self-serving kindness to a dying dog who couldn’t possibly appreciate it’s details, or really have a “bucket list.”

Here is JutGory’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quiz: Dying Dog Ethics.

And, just because I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately, I’m dedicating Jut’s COTD to Rugby, our universally loved and loving Jack Russell Terrier who left us last summer.

This is complex, but I think your confusion, flumoxxation, etc., is the result of over-anthropomorphization on all fronts.

Is the dog being used? Sure. The dog is being anthropomorphized. That is not necessarily a bad thing.

Kant said that it was bad to abuse animals, not because of the harm that we did them, but because our abuse of them harmed us by (essentially) desensitizing us to abuse.

The flip side would seem to hold true. Being kind to animals is good, not because they are deserving of kindness, but because it makes us more kind. Continue reading

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/4/20: Abortion, Ann Althouse, A Big Lie And The Big Stupid

Good morning!

We’ve started a year without a dog enriching each day for the first time in over three decades. Don’t like it much.

1 . Lobbying the Supreme Court against abortion.  207 members of Congress — 39 senators and 168 House members from 38 states — filed  an amicus  brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold a Louisiana anti-abortion law when it hears the case in March, stating they “have a special interest in the correct interpretation, application and enforcement of health and safety standards for elective abortion by the people of the states they represent.” In the brief, the mostly GOP legislators (two Democrats also signed on) implore  the Supreme Court to uphold a lower court’s decision to let stand a Louisiana statute that requires physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of where the procedure is being performed. SCOTUS declared virtually the same law unconstitutional in Texas; the argument for this law is that Texas is bigger than Louisiana.

I’m serious.

The Center for Reproductive Rights argues that the Louisiana law is really an effort to “regulate abortion out of existence,” claiming that only one physician in the state would be able to  provide abortions if the law is allowed to stand.

Oh, I think it’s pretty obvious what’s going on.

2. Another Big Lie. When I went to a local cineplex to see “Ford vs. Ferrari,” I was stunned at how few employees were in evidence at a movie house with 18 screens and hundreds of people buying tickets. There was one human being selling tickets, the rest were dispensed by automated kiosks. There were no ticket-takers at all; we figured out that we could have just walked into any of the theaters without showing a ticket to anyone. To buy drinks and snacks, I  had to stand in a line for over 20 minutes, because only one person was filling orders. Continue reading

Rugby’s End

For the first time since my son was about to turn 9 almost 16 years ago, our home is without the extraordinary sweetness and aggressive unconditional love of Rugby, my son’s (but really the whole neighborhood’s) extraordinary Jack Russell Terrier.

He peacefully expired after an injection, as he was held tightly by my son Grant, whom he loved beyond explaining, wrapped in the tattered baby blanket that a toddling Grant himself once held for comfort, and that had lined Rugby’s dog bed in my son’s apartment.

In the end, these decisions always come down to ethical values. We received from our vet the not entirely unexpected news that our dog’s sudden lack of energy and stability as well as labored breathing was almost certainly caused by progressive heart failure. Dickens, his more flamboyant and occasionally diabolical predecessor of the same breed, had perished of the identical malady just short of 15 years of mischief. The first question— Is there anything you can do?— was met by an answer we have heard before in earlier animal companion tragedies: “Maybe, but even under the best circumstances, the time will be short.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/26/19: Preoccupied Edition

Good morning.

I’m somber these days. Our beloved Jack Russell, Rugby, now approaching 16, suddenly went from remarkably immune to aging to feeling his age, seemingly overnight. He doesn’t seem sick, and it’s true that he has bounced back before, but Rugby’s unalloyed joy at the prospect of a walk has always been a source of great entertainment in our home, and last night, literally for the first time, he was unenthusiastic, slow and grudging, so much so that I cut our excursion short.  14-15 is pretty much the expiration date for this hardy breed; based on Rugby’s predecessor, they go full-speed until they suddenly stop. I’m trying to find my way to rationally and compassionately prepare myself and my family for the inevitable, which we were able to ignore just a week ago. So far, I’m not finding it.

1. Gee, I wonder who’s censoring me now? The last couple days have witnessed another inexplicable drop in Ethics Alarms traffic, and I find myself wondering, especially in light of Project Veritas’s recording of the Google exec, wondering if another social media platform is out to bury Ethics Alarms.

The Google tape is alarming, and should alarm progressives and conservatives alike.

The target,  Google’s head of innovation, is spinning and rationalizaing—and, it seems, lying,  at Medium. she complaining that she was duped by Project Veritas (Yes, we all know that) deflecting the real issue by playing victim, claiming that  “an enormous collection of threatening calls, voicemails, text messages and emails, from people I’d never met” have been coming her way. That’s regrettable, but subsequent unethical conduct in response to one’s revelations of unethical conduct do not excuse the latter.

The victims of Project Veritas stings literally say the same thing every time. Here is Jen Gennai’s version:

[T]hese people lied about their true identities, filmed me without my consent, selectively edited and spliced the video to distort my words and the actions of my employer, and published it widely online.

Watch the video. (YouTube, which is owned by Google, took it down almost immediately, even though Democracy Dies In Darkness, or perhaps because it does). The statements that suggest something sinister are not “spliced,” and Gennai can’t explain what the words mean if they don’t mean what they sound like they mean, statements like… Continue reading

A Concise Ethics Rant On A Chance Encounter While Walking Rugby

It was cloudy and rumbling, and Jack Russell Terriers are notoriously difficult if they don’t get at least one good walk every day. So I decided to try to beat the rain and get Rugby out for a swing around the neighborhood. It kept getting darker, windier, and the distant thunder was getting louder. Rugby was in fine fettle, I must say, though he felt compelled to pee on every bush, rock, or tuft of grass. I have never seen a dog who seemed to enjoy a walk so much. I wish there was something, anything, I could get that excited about every day.

We were in the home stretch, about to loop around the church that faces our house across a parking lot and a row of trees. Then a young woman, maybe in her 20’s, dressed for the task, jogged toward us, pony tail swinging. She had that cold, stony, “I don’t want to acknowledge anyone” look on her face that so many younger people cultivate today. I looked at her and smiled anyway. That was how I was brought up, you see. We acknowledge each other. We signal good will, and that we are part of the same community. We are nice.

As she jogged past, I said, certainly loud enough that she could hear me, “Don’t get caught in the rain!” That is an incidental, spontaneous, friendly comment between strangers. I must engage in, and respond to, dozens of such comments a week, while shopping, teaching, or walking the dog.  They require a response: a nod, a smile, a brief answer like “I won’t!” What I got was a snub. No response at all.

I felt like I was being treated like an unfamous Morgan Freeman, as if my statement was, “Hey, honey, good form!” I wasn’t flirting with her, or harassing her. I was being a human being, and doing what human beings need to do to make life bearable.  And I felt insulted.

Yup, I’m old enough to be her father…grandfather, even. That, I was taught, makes showing some respect, like acknowledging that I spoke to her in a friendly, neighborly manner, even more mandatory as an ethical social response.

If this is where feminism, #MeToo, and  generational bias is leading young women today, they will poison the next iteration of our society, not cure it.

Meanwhile, I am pondering whether there is an ethical, effective follow-up response to the next jogger who treats me like a turd on the sidewalk.

The options I am thinking now clearly would not be  constructive.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/27/18: “Mrs. Miniver” Ethics, “Ick!,” And A Poll

Rugby in the morning

1 One of my favorite Hollywood ethics scenes. I watched “Mrs. Miniver” again last night, the 1942 WWII drama starring the magnificent Greer Garson. It has a wonderful ethics moment late in the film, when Lady Beldon, the wealthy town battleaxe (and the grandmother Mrs. Miniver’s recently minted daughter-in-law, soon to die tragically) presides over the English village’s annual flower show, in which she has won the coveted “Best Rose” prize every year. But beloved old stationmaster Mr. Ballard has developed a magnificent new rose (named after Garson’s character) and desperately wants to win as well. The Minivers tease their elderly relative about the near certainty that she will win as always regardless of the relative merits of her entry and “The Miniver” entered by Mr. Ballard, since the judges are terrified of her, and Lady Beldon has made it clear to all that she regards the annual prize as a virtual entitlement. After all, the prize is even called “The Beldon Challenge Cup.” Sure enough, the judges, who seemed to be having a harder time than usual concluding that Lady Beldon’s rose deserved the award, hand her a slip that places her rose in first place, and Mr. Ballard’s in second.

Lady Beldon shows the slip to Mrs. Miniver with an air of triumph.

MINIVER: This is really important to you, isn’t it?

LADY BELDON: Yes. It’s stupid of me, but there it is. I’ve won that cup for as long as I can remember.

MINIVER: Mr. Ballard’s terribly keen too.

BELDON: Well, he’s had his chance. Hasn’t he? You have such a way of looking at people. What do you expect me to do? Reverse the judges’ decision?

MINIVER: I wouldn’t put it past you. If you happened to disagree with it.

“But I don’t!” she harrumphs. She keeps looking at the two competing roses, though, and also at old Mr. Ballard (played by Henry Traverse, later to portray Clarence the Wingless Angel”in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” His look of anticipation and hope approximately mirrors the expression of a six-year-old on Christmas morning. And when it comes time to announce the winner, Lady Ballard pauses, looks at the two roses again, ponders,  crumples up the judges’ slip, and announces that “The Miniver” wins the prize.

Dame May Witty, one of the best character actors England ever produced, shows us with her face that she realizes she did the right thing as soon as she sees Ballard’s reaction to winning. And the assembled crowd gives her an even louder ovation than they give the winner. They didn’t even have to see the slip like the Minivers: they know what she did. And she knows they know.

I had a Lady Beldon moment many years ago, before I had even seen the movie. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/1/2017: The New York Terror Attack, Indictment Hype, A New Statue Makes My Head Explode, And Jack Russell Ethics

Good Morning, November!

[Programming Note: My original and stated (in the comments) intention was to devote the whole Warm-up to the jaw-droppingly dishonest and contrived media outrage over John Kelly’s completely accurate and reasonable comments regarding the The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck yesterday. You know, Kelly’s critics should realize when political correctness and false narratives literally require them to argue the opposite of the facts they are using to support their false arguments, that should set off an ethics alarm—but don’t get me started now: I’m going to do the next post on this. There is too much going on not to use the Warm-Up to clear the jam.]

1 I was just nauseated by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s fatuous remarks at the press conference regarding yesterday’s terror attack. Essentially he channeled Michael Moore’s disgraceful riff after 9-11: terrorist attacks are just little bumps in the road that we have to get used to, there’s nothing to be done, it’s a tragedy, but nothing to freak out over, New Yorkers are resilient, the attack failed because the Halloween parade went on as planned, and he’s so proud of the city’s residents  for going on with business and pleasure without submitting to fear and intimidation. Then Governor Cuomo seconded him.

This isn’t the London during Blitz, or Tel Aviv under daily assault by Palestinian scuds. The United States doesn’t have to shrug away terrorists and terrorism. De Blasio’s attitude is politically calculated to undermine serious efforts to stop terrorists from entering the country.  I, for one, do not accept that the future of the United States includes accepting an unacceptable probability that I am going to be blown up, shot or run down by someone, heaven knows why, screaming, “Allahu akbar!”

2. The original sub-title of the Warm-up was going to be, “Now the Left is really starting to scare me.” That title would be appropriate to describe my reaction to yesterday’s tweet by increasingly deranged Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof, who wrote (Remember, Twitter is an invention of Satan to make people destroy their credibility);

“The NYC terrorist had a pellet gun and a paintball gun. Good thing that in NYC he couldn’t buy assault rifles, or the toll would be higher.”

How shameless and obsessed does an anti Second Amendment fanatic have to be to use a terrorist attack employing a truck (to kill 8 and wound 12) as a platform for gun control hectoring? Kristof’s  point was willfully dishonest and ignorant. The pellet gun and paintball gun were irrelevant to the attack. Terrorists are not dissuaded by laws; if Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov had wanted to use a gun in the attack, he could have acquired one. Moreover, New York’s gun laws weren’t involved: Saipov was from Florida, where he could have legally have bought all sorts of deadly firearms.

3. Jack Russell Ethics: last night, for no discernible reason, my dog decided to bark furiously to go outside at 2 am, 2:30, 3: 10, 3:25, 3: 48, 4: 12 and again around 5 this morning. This on the first night in over a week when I wasn’t plagued by insomnia. Twice he issued a high-pitched, sharphysterical bark that I have never heard before: Rugby has a large and eloquent repertoire of yips, barks, wheezes, snorts, quacks, purrs, growls and other noises yet to be named; I know what they all mean, but this one was indecipherable.  When Rugby was outside, he didn’t relieve himself; he was in full alert, guarding mode.

I have no idea what was going on. I was finally able to calm him down by curling up on top of the sheets with him, and talking to him quietly about the World series while he happily licked my hands. Eventually the dog fell asleep. I, however, never did. Today is officially wrecked.

Why, Rugby? WHY???

4. The misleading news media reporting on the Special Counsel indictments are another smoking gun example of how untrustworthy and biased our journalism has become. The Manafort-Gates indictment literally had nothing to do with obstruction of justice or the Russian collusion theory, but to listen to broadcast news reports and commentator bloviation on the topic, one would think that the President is minutes away from being frog-marched out of the White House in cuffs. Naturally, the President is annoyed by this. I don’t blame him. Everyone should be annoyed by it.

Ken White of Popehat, a former federal prosecutor, summed up the indictments this way:

“The Manafort/Gates indictment is a fairly standard “kitchen sink” white collar indictment that illustrates the wide array of tools available to federal prosecutors, as well as the power prosecutors have to use an investigation to provoke further federal crimes as leverage against the foolish.”

That nicely describes what happened to the third individual, an obscure Trump campaign advisor who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conduct that wasn’t illegal by any definition. Ken’s entire post is worth reading, as well as linking for your clueless, ranting Facebook friends.

5. This story makes me glad I have the Warm-Up to cover awful things like this without devoting a full post to it, because I would have to devote a full post to it, and the disgust might kill me. Even this short report made my head explode, however. KABOOM.

The District of Columbia, through  the Executive Office of the Mayor,  the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) and the Marion Barry Commission, is going to spend $300,000 to have an eight foot statute of Marion Barry erected outside the John A. Wilson Building along Pennsylvania Avenue in the nation’s capitol. It is scheduled to be unveiled in for March 6 of next year, Barry’s birthday.

I shall not mince words. I would fall down on my knees and sacrifice a virgin in front of  a statue of Robert E. Lee before I would voluntarily gaze respectfully at a statue of Marion Barry. His most memorable act was getting caught on video smoking crack cocaine with a former mistress, while he was mayor and making regular speeches to inner city school children about the evils of drugs. He openly cheated on his wives while serving as mayor, “catting around” the District late at night, looking for “fun.”. Later he was indicted for failing to pay his taxes, year after year, while serving as an elected official.

As a city councilman after spending time in prison, Barry used tax-payer money to hire his girl friend for a job she was completely unqualified for, then argued that since there was no law against doing that, it was ethical. There is a rationalization named for him on the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List:

4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical.”

The late D.C. Mayor and lovable rogue Marion Barry earned himself a place in the Ethics Distortion Hall of Fame with his defense of his giving his blatantly unqualified girlfriend a high-paying job with the DC government. Barry declared that since there was no law against using the public payroll as his own private gift service, there was nothing unethical about it. Once the law was passed (because of him), he then agreed that what he did would be wrong the next time he did it.

Ethics is far broader than law, which is a system of behavior enforced by the state with penalties for violations. Ethics is good conduct as determined by the values and customs of society. Professions promulgate codes of ethics precisely because the law cannot proscribe all inappropriate or harmful behavior. Much that is unethical is not illegal. Lying. Betrayal. Nepotism. Many other kinds of behavior as well, but that is just the factual error in the this rationalization.

The greater problem with it is that it omits the concept of ethics at all.  Ethical conduct is self-motivated, based on the individual’s values and the internalized desire to do the right thing. Barry’s construct assumes that people only behave ethically if there is a tangible, state-enforced penalty for not doing so, and that not incurring a penalty (that is, not breaking the law) is, by definition, ethical.

Nonsense, of course. It is wrong to intentionally muddle the ethical consciousness of the public, and Barry’s statement simply reinforces a misunderstanding of right and wrong.

As mayor, he hired cronies, crooks and con men to high ranking posts; many of them eventually went to jail. The D.C. government has never recovered from the culture Barry established. It is still dogged by corruption top to bottom; the last mayor barely avoided a conviction, but seemed pretty clearly guilty of paying off a political adversary to get elected. Barry is a hero to many because he openly, unapologetically, used his office to hire as many blacks as he could, often in complete defiance of any standards or qualifications. Hiring based on race is also called “discrimination.” He used the city payroll as a social welfare program, with the result that the city ran up crippling deficits and debt.

Honoring a corrupt public official as a hero in the District is a catastrophic decision, ensuring that the toxic cultural values that plague the black community in D.C. will not only persist, but that their advocates will have a champion and role model to help them persist. Yet if this community insists that Marion Barry should be honored, crook, rogue, hypocrite and sociopath that he was, that choice should be respected, and respected forever. I would never advocate tearing down Barry’s statue, though if I were a really big pigeon, it would be in my bomb-sights at every opportunity. Indeed, it is important to remember that such a cynical, corrupt leader was regarded as a hero, and why.

Heeeeere’s MARION!

 

 

Hurricane Ethics: The Ultimate Betrayal

I can’t bear those photos of abandoned and abused animals, so here’s the never abused  Marshall dog, Rugby. He can trust us. (OK, we can’t always trust him, but he’s a Jack Russell. He has our informed consent to be unreliable.)

Authorities in Palm Beach County, Florida discovered dozens of dogs  left behind by owners who evacuated in advance of Hurricane Irma, leaving the pets tied up or trapped in cages or pens without any means to escape or survive the storm. Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control was able to rescue 40 such dogs before the storm struck Florida.  Director Dianne Sauve told USA Today that in cases where she can identify owners of these abused animals, she would press felony charges for animal cruelty. “There is absolutely no excuse” for leaving the dogs like that, she said, noting that there are two shelters that allow residents to bring pets along with them.

I don’t comprehend how a human being could do this to an animal that they have accepted the responsibility of caring for. The conduct is an ultimate betrayal of reliance and trust. Dogs always fulfill their ends of the ancient agreement between them and people. They provide companionship, unconditional love, support and comfort in exchange for care and shelter. Abandoning a dog like this—“Hey, what’s the big deal? They’re only animals!”—represents such a basic failure of responsibility, fairness, kindness and caring that no one who betrays a dog so heinously should be trusted in any other field of endeavor or social context. If you don’t respect the lives of animals, that’s fine, but then don’t have pets. Don’t make an animal love you, and then leave it to die in fear and pain. How hard is that? Continue reading

Where Do You Get The Idea That It’s OK To Insult My Dog?

Rugby2

I was walking Rugby yesterday—that’s him above from a recent commercial photo-shoot–and ran into a young woman walking her West Highland Terrier. I like Westies, as does Rugby (but then, he also likes mail carriers, squirrels, my sister and once wagged his tail at a cockroach…), and I made some positive comments about the breed.

“Well, your dog certainly looks like he hasn’t missed many meals!” was her response. The ethicist programming blocked me from saying what first popped into my head, which was, “Well, neither do you, bitch,” and instead I attempted to enlighten her by saying, in a moderate tone,

“Actually, Rugby is an authentic, Jack Russell Terrier Association-certified Jack Russell, meaning that he is not the long-legged, faux monstrosity the AKC calls a “Parson Russell Terrier,” nor the much smaller toy-like version it calls the “Russell Terrier.” Jack Russell Terriers of the Irish, as in genuine variety, are certified by their personality and hunting traits, and not by looks alone. Thus they vary more in physical traits than AKC breeds, bred for show, and since the bulldog is part of the strange and wonderful alchemy that makes these dogs the bundles of joy they are, some Jacks, like Rugby and his still mourned predecessor Dickens, have a thick bulldog build, with a broad chest and stocky body. They are all muscle (“unlike your simpy terrier”–the ethicist filter blocked this too), and you may be surprised to learn, given the fact that he is at this moment acting more lively than your young dog, that Rugby is just short of 13 years-old, and thus just a bit heavier, but not much, than he was in his youth when the vet said he was as perfect a specimen of the breed as he has ever seen. Val Kilmer or Kirsty Alley he isn’t. He remains unslowed by time, and those meeting him for the first time often mistake him for a puppy, which is undoubtedly how he sees himself.”

She just walked on, hearing little of it.

Why do people think that making gratuitously critical comments about a stranger’s pet is any less rude and disrespectful than insulting a child or anything else that the individual obviously cares about? Continue reading

The President Says “Nigger,” And Good For Him!

Wheel of Fortune

On a podcast with comic Marc Maron—because comedians ask such probing questions and have such high journalistic standards—President Barack Obama, while musing on the topic of race, said, among other things:

“The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination — in in almost every institution of our lives — that casts a long shadow, that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on. Racism, we are not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say “nigger” in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.” 

Whatever the pros and cons of that statement—and it really isn’t especially remarkable—, it is Obama’s use of the word “nigger” that has cable news and the internet buzzing, fainting and drooling. To take some media idiots at random…oh, let’s say, the Fox and Friends crew, along with some commentators Fox dug up someplace. you would think that Obama was doing a Samuel L.Jackson imitation.

If a President is going to talk about racism and raise the perfectly relevant issue of racial epithets such as nigger, it is reasonable, competent, civil and appropriate for him to speak the word he is talking about. Of course it is. No, “Fox contributor David Webb,” whoever you are, it is NOT “beneath the office of the president” to say the words that express the idea you intend to express. It would be beneath the office of the Presidency” for the grown man in that office to use juvenile code-words like “N-word,” which is the way my wife and I talk around our dog, since Rugby goes ballistic if we say “walk,” “outside,” “nap.” “treat, “cheese,” “food,” or “The Adventures of Lassie” out loud. Someone tell various news outlets that the undignified, foolish ones are all of them, treating their audiences or readers like children (or Jack Russell Terriers) and playing hangman and “Wheel of Fortune”—“He said n- – – – -!” I’ll buy a vowel, Pat!”—when they should be telling us exactly what the President said.

Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you! Now maybe if people are talking about the word nigger, they will use the word they are talking about, because that’s how human beings communicate.

Except on Fox news. I swear, sometimes, I don’t know what the hell they are doing.