Comments Of The Day (3): “An Especially Ugly Ethics Quiz: Cam Betrayed”

There have been many excellent posts on the Ethics Quiz about the couple that executed their apparently loving therapy dog, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier named Cam. Three comments stand out (I could easily have selected twice this many, however) , one by Paul W. Schlecht, another by slickwilly, and a third by Elizabeth II. They cover some common ground, and together show the complexity and breadth of this issue, which goes beyond mere animal cruelty to our society’s emotional connection, confusion and hypocrisy about animals generally. I decided that they complement each other, and am posting them as a set.

First, here is slickwilly’s Comment of the Day on the post, “An Especially Ugly Ethics Quiz: Cam Betrayed”:

Growing up rural, animal management is a way of life. You care for ‘commercial’ animals and you care for ‘pets.’ Confusing the two causes problems with regards to ‘final disposition.’ You never torture the animal (as this was considered a lack of character and a sign of a dangerous person) but attempt to make the act as painless as possible. (Note this is why you never hunt deer with an insufficient caliber, or take low probability shots that may wound but not quickly lower the target’s blood pressure to induce unconsciousness. Not only is is more humane, but also prevents the meat from being tainted or lost.)

A good working definition of a commercial animal versus a pet is driven by what type of profits are earned on the animal. We (generally) keep and pay for pets for emotional reasons (a type of profit), and do not expect monetary profit. Commercial animals are for food and profit. The line can blur, as in the case of military bomb dogs or ‘barn’ cats, but this generally is the case. It is a pet if you cannot bear to think of eating it. Cows can be pets. Dogs can be junk yard guard animals. The owner’s feelings make the difference.

I remember some folks who were unable to kill their show chickens, pigs, sheep, (or whatever) for delivery to the buyer (who did not bid on a live animal, and paid well over market value to support the college aspirations of the seller.) The Ag teacher’s advice was to never name a meat production animal, if you intend to sell it. Reluctance to complete the life cycle of such animals indicated the person was not suited to that sort of rural agricultural activity. Go grow corn if you like, but don’t raise beef. There was no shame in this: find what you like to do and do it. But make no mistake: anyone who has cared for 20 pigs knows they are NOT pets, and they EAT a lot, which has to be paid for.

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An Especially Ugly Ethics Quiz: Cam Betrayed

This story is too disturbing to describe, so I’m going to just give you the link.  Briefly, it involves a couple, she a veteran, he a soldier, killing their therapy dog, laughing as they did it, and filming the event. They were arrested on charges of animal cruelty. Read the story, here, and then consider the Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day, which is…

What is the fair, proportionate, and reasonable punishment for this conduct?

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KABOOM! “Baby Fight Club?”

exploding-head

There’s not a lot to say about this one. I usually don’t write about incidents that are obviously unethical to this extreme, but when something broadens my understanding of the full range of human depravity, and makes my head explode, like this story, attention must be paid.

I missed the first coverage of this atrocity, which sounds like a bad joke, two years ago.  Last week, Virginia jury found day-care provider Kierra Spriggs, 26, guilty of four counts of felony child cruelty and two misdemeanor counts of assault and battery after a two-week jury trial in Prince William County. She was a “teacher” at the idyllically named Minnieland Academy at the Glen until fellow teachers blew the whistle on her in 2014.

Testimony during the trial indicated that Spriggs habitually and sadistically mistreated the toddlers, including encouraging twin sisters to fight each other. Prosecutors characterized her crowded classroom containing nearly 20 toddlers from 18 to 27 months as “baby fight club.” She also..

…fed a Flamin’ Hot Cheeto to a toddler, leaving the girl gasping for air.

…stepped on kids’ toes and laughed.

…put rubber bands on the toddlers’ hands and snapped them.

…intentionally tripped a running child.

dumped water on a little girl’s head.

…taught the children to abuse each other.

Another teacher at the same facility, Sarah Jordan, was convicted in January for similar abuse.

Good. But questions remain in whatever segment of my brain that isn’t on my ceiling, walls, and laptop. Like.. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: Boston Red Sox Players

owens pole

Yesterday, while watching the Boston Red Sox game on NESN as I always do EVEN WHEN THE TEAM STINKS, like this year, because no summer soldier I, team broadcasters Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy pointed out that Sox rookie Henry Owens was watching the game while being taped to a pole, with his mouth taped shut as well.

This is old-fashioned baseball rookie hazing, as Remy explained (also opining that he thought it was stupid when he played and is stupid now). The theory is that this makes rookies part of the team, builds cohesion and spirit, and yada yada yada, all the same phony rationalizations that jerks have used to excuse hazing cruelty and sadism in fraternities, the military, cults and sports teams for eons. The Owens stunt was relatively mild (and mercifully short), but the practice of hazing is still institutionalized bullying, uncivilized, and, as Remy said, stupid.

Sports team players are home town heroes, and role models too. How many kids will be humiliated, tortured, injured or even killed because the Boston Red Sox thought it was funny to immobilize a 6’6″ rookie pitcher by taping him to a pole on live TV, thus teaching him that no matter how  good he may be at pitching (and Owens is going to be really good), he’s at the bottom of the pecking order until he “earns” decent treatment and respect. “In my experience, the guys who really liked hazing the rookies were the players who couldn’t play,” noted Jerry, a Sox regular in the Eighties.  They were sadistic bullies, in other words, making up for their own inadequacies by abusing others.

You can say that Owens consented, and that’s like arguing that Monica consented when the President of the United States wanted her to emulate a Bourbon Street hooker. Owens could refuse, and be regarded as a bad team mate, leading to a year or more of cut shoelaces, shredded uniforms, insulting messages on his locker and worse “jokes.” Or he could quit baseball and sell Slurpees rather than make a gazillion dollars. He had to submit, and had to smile about it.

So he did.

Even baseball players need to be better at ethics chess than this, and calculate the likely consequences of their conduct. Hazing is unethical, and glamorizing, modeling and trivializing it on TV is irresponsible.

And stupid.

Sadists With Guns and Badges…Also Knives and Shovels

I don’t know what kind of a person Darren Wilson is, and I don’t know if he was justified in shooting Mike Brown. But it there is increasing anecdotal evidence that a lot of police officers have a cruel, vicious and callous streak as evidenced by their attitudes toward animals, and to me, this suggests that are a lot of people in uniform with the authority to use deadly force who should not be police officers at all.

Jonathan Turley highlighted two nauseating cases in recent days.

The first unfolded in Baltimore, when Nala, a young Shar Pei,  escaped from her owner’s  yard over the weekend  and a neighbor tried to check the dog’s tags. Don’t try this with unfamiliar dogs that might be stressed, everyone: Nala snapped at her, causing a minor wound. The neighbor then summoned police to deal with the dog, though she has acknowledged that the bite was her own fault, and Nala was just frightened.

The police and took control of Nala using the long dog-control pole. The neighbor reported that the two police officers abused the dog without cause in the process, twisting its neck and hurting her. One officer kneeled on Nala’s chest, causing her to whimper in pain.

They were just warming up.

Officer Jeffrey Bolger then said, according to multiple witnesses, “I’m going to fucking gut this thing.” As the neighbor and others watched in horror, Bolger pulled out a knife and slit Nala’s throat  while Officer Thomas Schmidt held her down. Witnesses say that the dog was already immobilized against the ground and was posing no threat. Animal cruelty charges have been brought against both Bolger and Schmidt.

So you see, that animal control officer who shot the wild kittens as children watched wasn’t so bad after all. Continue reading

“Killer Karaoke” And Cultural Corruption

In “Ricky’s Hawaii Vacation.” a famous episode of “I Love Lucy,” the Riotous Redhead was so desperate to win tickets for her neighbors (Fred and Ethel, or course) to accompany her and husband Ricky to Hawaii that she agreed to appear on a sadistic radio quiz show, in which the host, Freddie Freeman—played by the immortal Frank Nelson of Jack Benny skit fame (“Yyyyeeeeeeessssssss???”)—tortured his contestants with various indignities before awarding prizes. This was funny at the time, because it was a wild exaggeration of current TV quiz show programming. It was also funny, as with all slapstick, because the mayhem being inflicted was, the audience knew, part of a comedy skit and not real. A real Freddie using a contestant’s desperation for a prize as an excuse to degrade and humiliate her would have been unacceptably cruel…in the 1950’s.

Now, however, we have True TV’s new reality/game show, “Killer Karaoke.” It is a reality/game/ comedy show of shocking sadistic glee, the result of more than a half century of incremental slippage in standards of decency and public tolerance for cruelty. Take that episode of “I Love Lucy” and take it through a journey that includes stops at “Beat the Clock,” “Truth or Consequences,” “Let’s Make a Deal,” “Scare Tactics,” “Wipe Out,” “Fear Factor,” “Survivor,” the worst of the “let’s watch a human train wreck as desperate ex-celebrities beg for exposure and pay-checks” reality shows, and nightmare futuristic sci-fi movies like “The Hunger Games” and “The Running Man,” and “Killer Karaoke” is what you get.  The show has been hailed by TV critics as “brilliant.” I admit: it is difficult to watch it without laughing. So why are those ethics alarms going off in my head? Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: NFL Football Fans

FOOTBALL FANSIn response to a question in a newly released CNN poll, a majority of football fans responded that the fact that the NFL intentionally withheld from its players evidence that repeated  concussions were inevitable despite the supposed protection provided by equipment, and that this would lead in many cases to devastating premature cognitive damage to players which would leave them disabled, depressed, violent, demented and/or suicidal until their early deaths didn’t trouble them at all, as long as they got their weekly Sunday football fix.

All right, that’s unfair. The results actually just showed that only 36% of respondents think that the NFL’s handling of the concussion issue has caused them to view the pro football league less favorably. No, on second thought, it’s not unfair at all.

I’m sure the NFL honchos who are determined to keep their billion dollar profit machine purring away, powered by the game’s consumption of the minds and bodies of young men lured by a short-term bonanza of fame and bucks, are whooping it up in their park Avenue suites. Yup, they did it! They have successfully converted much of America into crass, blood-thirsty sadists who are only different in degree from the Romans who cheered on Nero’s various bloodsports. Continue reading

Preliminary Ethics Observations On The NFL Bullying Scandal

The bully and the bullied.

The bully and the bullied.

If you are unfamiliar with this story, the details are here. There is much that remains in question, but the basic outline of the incident is this:

  • The Miami Dolphins, like most professional football teams and also most college teams, have a tradition of “hazing” rookies, humiliating and harassing them in various way, “all in good fun, of course.”
  • The ironically named Richie Incognito, a starting guard for the Dolphins, was known as an especially relentless and enthusiastic hazer.
  • Last weak, the team’s second-year tackle Jonathan Martin walked out on the squad and checked into to a hospital, saying he could  he could no longer deal with the continued harassment from his teammates.
  • Incognito was shown to have referred to Martin using abusive language and racial epithets in voice messages.
  • Based on the evidence of the voice mails, the Dolphins suspended Incognito, who is being defended by his team mates. Sources are saying that his career with the Dolphins, and perhaps the NFL, may be over.
  • It is likely that the Dolphin coaches were aware of Martin’s hazing.

This is the perfect ethics problem to approach with what I regard as the most important clarifying question in beginning any ethical analysis:  What’s going on here? Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Ryan Thompson

You may have heard about this guy: he took his girlfriend up in his private plane, and pretended that the plane was about to crash as part of his set-up to propose to her. As he supposedly tried to get the plane under control to save their lives, Thompson told Carlie Kennedy to read from an emergency protocol explaining how to pull the plane out of a dive. “I genuinely did believe that we were going to die,” Kennedy told ABC News. “I felt like our lives depended on me making it through that checklist.” Then, as she read through the list, it slowly dawned that it was actually an marriage  proposal leading up to the final bullet point: “Will you marry me?” She turned to the smiling pilot, who was holding a ring. She said yes.

And then they crashed.

No, not really. And I suppose this sadistic narcissist has found a perfect mate, a naive victim who will doubtless enjoy all the hell he puts her through for his own amusement. It was a pretty good test, when you think about it. What better way to let your intended know exactly what she’s getting into, and to find out whether she’ll tolerate despicable treatment and outrageous conduct with a smile and a kiss?

Good luck, Carlie, and I mean that sincerely. Your husband to be is an Ethics Dunce, an especially cruel one, and you’re an idiot.

You’ll need all the luck you can get.

Ethics Dunce: Francesca Eastwood

“Go ahead, make me ashamed I spawned you.”

Stipulated: you have every right in the world to dispose of of your personal belongings as you see fit.

Also stipulated: if you intentionally buy a steak dinner, eat half of it in front of a homeless woman and her infant, and feed what you didn’t finish to a stray dog as she looks on, salivating, you are a cruel, unsympathetic, sadistic creep.

With so many Americans  jobless or in financial distress, with charities short of funds and government social services facing budget cut-backs, to buy a $100,000 alligator handbag and then destroy it for “art”—-as Francesca Eastwood, Clint’s daughter, recently did—is hardly better than the steak dinner stunt. It’s even an insult to the alligator. Essentially this was an eloquent statement that Francesca would prefer to throw her money away than help people with it, people for whom a hundred grand is three years of family income.

That tells us all we need or want to know about Clint’s spoiled little girl.

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Facts: Telegraph

Graphic: Wn

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  jamproethics@verizon.net.