Tag Archives: Sandy Hook Ethics Train Wreck

Saturday Afternoon Ethics Stimulus, 5/26/2018: The Sad Part Is That None Of This Is A Surprise

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

1.  From the “Bias makes you UNBELIEVABLY stupid, especially, apparently, if you’re a journalist” files: Ann Althouse posted this screen shot of memeorandum, an excellent  news aggregator page:

I wrote earlier about how many of the anti-Trump mob, in the news media and out of it, appeared to be actively rooting for the President’s diplomatic efforts with North Korea to fail, and how his Negotiation 101 move of symbolically walking away from the planned summit would probably be misunderstood and misinterpreted because of the current toxic combination of bias and ignorance, but this is ridiculous. Writes Althouse—who despite multiple polite requests refuses to put Ethics Alarms in her links despite its covering a lot of parallel territory, despite the many frivolous or largely inactive blogs she does link to, and despite the multiple plugs and links I give her, but hey, I’m not bitterContinue reading

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Well, At Least Something Constructive Has Come Out Of The Latest Anti-Gun “Do Something!” Blather: Welcome Rationalization 40 A. Otter’s Solution, Or “I Had To Do Something!” And Rediscovered 40 B., The Lone Inspiration Excuse, Or ” Do You Have A Better Idea?”

We have talked about the empty grandstanding nostrum “Do something!” here quite a bit: there is even a tag for it, introduced in 2016, when the best the House Democrats could come up with to satisfy their anti-gun base that time around was a juvenile sit-in to demand suspension of the Fifth AND Second Amendments. Then I wrote,

The public debate over the various proposals to “do something!” about mass shootings is as depressing as any discussion I have ever participated in. The willingness of gun opponents, Democrats, journalists, pundits and otherwise intelligent people to not only defy the Bill of Rights guarantee of due process but to literally ignore its existence shows how close the stinking breath of totalitarianism is to the neck on our nation, and that it is much hotter than I realized. This isn’t an exception or an anomaly. This is a result of carefully bred contempt for American values.

The intense ignorance crossed with malice toward our Constitution reached a climax of sorts today on social media, as people who should know better (and people who do know better, like erstwhile Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren) applauded the cynical and hypocritical “sit-in” by House Democrats, who said they would hold their breath until they turned blue unless the Congress of the United States voted to allow the government to take away the rights of citizens based on “suspicion.” Only rationalizations can defend this position, primarily among them “The Saint’s Excuse,” or “It’s for a good cause,” “It” is this case meaning..

  • Accepting the ethically and morally bankrupt principle that “the ends justify the means”
  • Setting a precedent for allowing the government to abridge any rights it chooses once by some standard it finds a law-abiding citizen “unworthy”
  • Enacting a provision that the ACLU has pronounced unconstitutional
  • Establishing the principle that the Congress can and will abandon the rule of law as long as enough members of the public and media let emotion overcome reality
  • Lay the groundwork for a President, like say, just to pick a crazy, impossible example out of the air, President Trump, who is as ignorant of the rule of law as the position’s supporters, to really start ripping up the Bill of Rights, beginning with Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Association.

To put it another way, it’s a really, really stupid and indefensible position.

But that’s “Do something!”  That’s’ where it gets you.

For some reason, however, I didn’t realize then that not only is “Do something!” bolstered, enabled and pointed to by many rationalizations [ Among them…“I’m on The Right Side Of History,”“This can’t make things any worse,” “Just this once!,” “It’s for a good cause,” “If I don’t do it, somebody else will,” “There are worse things,” “I’m just giving the people what they want!,” “I have no choice!,”“It’s My Duty!,” “These are not ordinary times,” “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now,”  “I’ll do anything!,”  “If it feels good, do it!,” “Think of the children!,”  “If it saves just one life,” and “It’s the right thing to do”…] since it can’t be supported ethics or reason, it is itself a rationalization in its “I had to do something!” form or “You can’t expect me to do nothing, can you?” version. It is a very insidious and dangerous rationalization. I am angry that I didn’t see it before.

I see it now because the Santa Fe shooting really undercuts all of the previous “reasonable gun control measures” that had been proposed to end all school shootings forever, as the pompous Parkland naifs insisted. Banning assault-style weapons and “high capacity magazines.” Background checks and longer waiting periods. Tougher vetting of mental health records of gun purchasers. Not one of these, nor all of them together, would have stopped the shooting in Santa Fe. Rather than admit this like fair, rational people, the anti-gun mob has devolved into shouting, “Well….do SOMETHING!”

On my Facebook page, an old friend, a lawyer, not yet senile as far as I know, actually posted, “Hey guys, here’s an idea: let’s finally do something about all this gun violence!” And that was it. Something. No other recommendation. Something. Brilliant. Why didn’t we think of that before?

The clip that introduces this post, which I have run here before, is the famous moment in “Animal House” in which the Delta House members, led by wise-ass Otter and chaotic Bluto, conclude that the only response they can muster to being kicked off campus is a “really futile and stupid gesture.” Hence the title of #40A. I was tempted to call it Kelly’s Solution after this…

….but Otter’s is funnier, and illustrates perfectly what acceptance of “Do Something!” as a justification leads to…futile and stupid gestures, or worse. For example, it paves the way for totalitarianism, as a desperate public cheers on action for action’s sake, not paying proper heed to where the action leads.

Rationalization #40 A., Otter’s Solution, or “I had to do something!” is an invitation to be unethical, irrational, reckless and irresponsible, bypassing law, values, common sense, and any other obstacle that usually constrains bad policy and  conduct. It creates an intellectually dishonest shortcut, making the decision to act before any effective action is considered, designating action the objective rather than what the objective of the action should be. Obviously this is backwards, and it is intentionally backwards, because it takes a detour around essential questions, responsible decision makers must consider before acting,  like “Is this legal?” “Is this wise?” “What will be the long term consequences?,”  “Can this work?” and “What are the costs?” Rationalization 40A makes the conduct itself the objective rather than the results of the conduct. The imaginary virtue is taking action—even if it is futile and stupid.

And, if one challenges the badly-reasoned “something” that 40 A supports, one often will be challenged by 40 B. The Lone Inspiration Excuse, or ” Do You Have A Better Idea?”

40 B. The Lone Inspiration Excuse, or ” Do You Have A Better Idea?” qualifies as The Lost Rationalization. I announced it two years ago, never entered it on the list, and forgot about it, until today.

I am not obligated to solve the problem you cannot solve without breaching ethics or law.  Nor is it obligatory for someone pointing out why proposed conduct is illegal, unethical, dangerous, imprudent and wrong to posit alternatives for the verdict on the proposed conduct to remains valid. The Lone Inspiration Excuse suggests that a terrible course of conduct can become acceptable by default. How many catastrophes have been created by that warped logic? If a proposed measure is too wrong and reckless to undertake, it shouldn’t be undertaken. That’s the first step. Finding a better course comes later, or never, if there isn’t one.

The ethical response to someone who reasonably and carefully explains why proposed conduct cannot work and violates principles of law, ethics or common sense deserves a thank you, for that is valuable information. “Well, you solve it then!” is not a fair response. It’s a deflection, and a transparent one. If the only course of action being proposed is unethical, then the responsible and ethical better idea may be not to do anything at all.

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Sun Day Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/20/2018: Bright Above, Dark Below…

What IS that thing???

Good Morning!

There is this big, white-yellow, ball-thing in the sky overhead..not sure what it is.

The sky is also this weird bluish color.

Very strange…

1. The news media actually calls this creep a moral authority...which itself is significant. On his late-night talk show, Jimmy Kimmel said, “President Trump said he is with the people of Santa Fe in this tragic hour and will be with them forever—except for when it comes time to do something. Then he will not be with them.”

Trump’s post shooting statement was standard issue President-after-tragedy stuff, neither unusual nor objectionable to anyone not seeking to manufacture offense.  “We grieve for the terrible loss of life, and send our support and love to everyone affected by this absolutely horrific attack,” Trump said. “To the students, families, teachers, and personnel at Santa Fe High: We’re with you in this tragic hour, and we will be with you forever. My administration is determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools, and to keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others. Everyone must work together, at every level of government, to keep our children safe.”

Kimmel :“They care more about the support of the NRA than they do about children.”

Kimmel’s statement is signature significance for an ignorant, unscrupulous asshole, and one who either has never read the Constitution, or doesn’t care what it says. There is absolutely nothing that the President of The United States, (or “they”) could or can do to prevent school shootings like the one in Santa Fe.

2. Who wants to join me in a sit-in at Starbucks? It will have to be a lily-white sit-in to make the point. Starbucks’ desperate, pandering, virtue-signaling, deranged new policy that allows anyone to sit in its stores or use its restrooms, even if they don’t buy anything, immediately guarantees the Tragedy of the Commons, which the silly, social justice warrior-run company apparently felt was a preferable disaster than to be accused of racism for enforcing a reasonable and necessary rule when blacks were the violators. If all the tables and space are taken up by non-customers, loiterers and free-riders, Starbucks can’t do any business, but it is literally saying, “We don’t care!” Why? Well, even if they ordered white freeloaders to leave, every time the freeloader was black, Hispanic, gay or in a wheelchair, a YouTube video would appear, go viral, and Starbucks would be tarred as corporate bigots. The police could try this same strategy: announce that officers will not fire on any individual resisting arrest or threatening an officer’s life. I’m sure that will work out well too.

3.  Yes, this was the quality of the people running the country during the Obama years. Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan argued on Twitter that parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws. He really did. Let’s have a contest: List how many ways this suggestion is unethical. I’ll get you started: it is irredeemably stupid, and thus an abuse of influence, making the naive and easily gulled believe that because this man ran the Education Department, he is a respectable authority whose bone-headed utterances can be trusted and taken seriously. (I see at least five more.) Continue reading

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On The Santa Fe School Shooting

  • That the latest school shooting, this one in Sante Fe, Texas that left ten dead, came so soon after the last one, barely three months ago, is meaningless. It is moral luck. Never mind, though: the timing, like everything else in the incident, will be politicized and used for political agendas.

Well, maybe not completely moral luck. A case can be made that the increasingly hysterical and long-running news coverage these tragedies receive—the last one dominated the news for more than a month—increases the likelihood that some sick kid who wants to go out in a blaze of infamy chooses this guaranteed route. No, you can’t blame CNN, much as I would like to. Nor is there any way to limit news reports and publicity, especially when it also becomes entertainment programming, and that is what the last school shooting’s emotional finger-pointing exercises became. The publicity, however, is more “to blame” than, say, the NRA.

  • I checked developments just before I was going to write this bullet point: sure enough, the guns used and the shooter’s method of obtaining them had absolutely nothing to do with all of the “sensible” gun-control measures that have been shouted at us since Parkland. The shooter took his father’s guns, which were legal. The guns used didn’t include an “assault-type weapon.”

Indeed, this school shooting had nothing to do with gun regulations at all. Do you think that little detail will stop the anti-gun zealots from using it to advance their agenda anyway? Of course not; facts have always been irrelevant when gun-banning is the topic.

  • And, sure enough, the first elected politician to intone about the matter lied, pandered, and made the job of anti-Second Amendment advocates easier. Said Texas Governor Abbott: “We need to do more than just pray for the victims and their families. It’s time in Texas that we take action to step up and make sure this tragedy is never repeated ever again.”

How, governor? How do you make “sure” this kind of tragedy never happens again? Confiscate guns? Ban schools? Ban children? I know the idea is to say comforting things, but the idea, repeated constantly after the Parkland shooting, that such shooting can be prevented (“easily” claim the student scolds) is foolish, dishonest, and invites bad policy. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/2/2018: The Unreliable Authorities Edition

Good morning!

1.  Another baseball ethics dispute! This is an exciting time of changes in the traditional wisdom of how to play Major League Baseball, all sparked by that new ethics bugaboo, Big Data. Now that so many aspects of the game can be measured and analyzed, tradition and assumptions rarely challenged are now under fire. One massive shift is, ironically, in the matter of shifts, radical defensive alignments in which players are not fielding their normal positions, but rather are places where computer spray charts for each batter suggest that the likelihood of fielding a ball is highest.  This can mean anything from one lonely fielder on the left side of the infield, or four outfielders.

Shifts are not new, but they used to be used on a handful of super-sluggers with dead-pull propensities, notably Ted Williams, who famously refused to bunt for easy hits to the unoccupied side of the field, and instead usually tried to hit through or over the shift. It has been estimated that the Williams Shift, combined with the player’s infamous stubbornness, cost him many points off of his lifetime batting average, especially since Williams defeating the shift by bunting might have discouraged its use.

But he was Ted Williams, the second greatest hitter of all time.  The question of whether lesser batters should bunt against shifts, for now many teams shift against everyone, has an easy answer: Of course they should.

In yesterday’s Twins-Orioles game, Twins starter Jose Berrios had  a one-hit shutout in the ninth inning. leading with one out and no runners on base. O’s rookie catcher Chance Sisco came to the plate—he has my favorite baseball name this season–and the Twins put on a shift like the one Ted Williams despised:

So, knowing he wasn’t Ted Williams and also knowing that in baseball even seven run leads aren’t a sure thing, Chance dropped down a bunt to the left side for a single. Berrios then walked two batter Davis and Manny Machado to load the bases, but finished his shutout by getting the next two outs without further disruptions.

After the game, the Twins players questioned the ethics of Sisco’s hit. Berrios said, “I just know it’s not good for baseball [to bunt] in that situation. That’s it.” Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario said, “Nobody liked that. No, no, no. That’s not a good play.” Second baseman Brian Dozier added, “Obviously, we’re not a fan of it. He’s a young kid. I could’ve said something at second base but they have tremendous veteran leadership over there. I’m sure they’ll address that. It’s all about learning. You learn up here.”

When do you “learn” not to try to win the game and get on base? For Sisco, a rookie, sending the message that shifting against him is a bad risk also is a wise career move. There is a long-standing, and stupid, unwritten rule in baseball that it is “bush league” to try to break up a no-hitter with a bunt, but extending that dubious logic to a mere shutout breaks the Stupid Meter.

2. Coffee is good for you, but be worried when you drink it. Continuing its rapid devolution into Bizarro World, just as increasing scientific evidence suggest that coffee is good for you, California is demanding that it carry a tobacco-like warning label. Last week a judge ruled that Starbucks and  other coffee companies in California must carry a cancer warning label because of a chemical produced while beans roast has been shown to cause cancer in high doses. California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act  requires companies with more than 10 employees to warn their customers about the presence of carcinogenic and toxic chemicals in their products, even in tiny amounts. Acrylamide, a chemical compound that is produced naturally during the roasting of coffee beans, is on the state’s list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. The judge ruled that the coffee company had the burden of proof  to show that acrylamide posed no significant health risk to coffee drinkers, even though there is no evidence that coffee does pose a risk. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: Unethical Website Of The Month, “March For Our Lives” Edition: Change.Org [#2]

Here is the second of two Comments of the Day regarding the post-Parkland gun control freak-out, authored by recent addition to the commenter ranks, OhThatGuy, on the post, Unethical Website Of The Month, “March For Our Lives” Edition: Change.Org.

(The first is here.)

The real issue, at least from my perspective, isn’t guns and gun control. Yes, this is one of the big emotional triggers right now, has been for years, and will continue to be so as long as there exists a gulf between those who enjoy the rights and benefits granted by the 2nd Amendment and those who do not.

The underlying concern to me is the lack of independent thought. While this is somewhat excusable in kids, it’s not in what are supposed to be adults. Displays such as the walkouts and marches are nothing more than peer pressure or what I call the Bandwagon Principle or Bandwagon Effect– doing something simply because others (in my peer group) are doing the same thing without any actual thought put into the decision. I see this on a daily basis – I teach juniors and seniors in high school.

Growing up, my parents, especially my father, were as near as I can remember, completely objective about things. There were no passionate appeals to emotion regarding the hot topics of the day. I was encouraged to read and form my own opinions about things as none were supplied to me from Mom and Dad. We (my friends and I) read the two newspapers available each day as well as Time, Newsweek, and other publications. This was in the early to mid 80’s so we weren’t subject to the cacophony of modern media but were as well informed about current events as most teens could be. The short version is, if I was to have a publicly stated opinion about something, I’d better have some idea what I was talking about and some facts to back it up. Any discussion of an issue that started with “I feel that…” or “They need to do SOMETHING!” wouldn’t have lasted very long. I don’t remember ever being told anything about what to think on a subject or even led to a conclusion to fit what my parents thought I should think. It simply wasn’t how they operated. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: Unethical Website Of The Month, “March For Our Lives” Edition: Change.Org [#1]

Here is JP’s Comment of the Day on the post, Unethical Website Of The Month, “March For Our Lives” Edition: Change.Org:

I have largely been silent on the issue this time around. I have seen nothing that contributes to the debate and thought I had nothing to add since the Vegas incident. Mostly, if someone asks, I just refer them to my earlier points on why banning bump stocks and strengthening the Brady Law  not will not change anything.  However, it seems today my more liberal and conservative friends have been posting quite a bit on the subject and I thought now might be a good time to tackle the issue again by looking at problems on both sides and finding a solution.

First, let’s start with some of the conservative talking points.

  • “If someone is determined to hurt people and commit a felony, what’s to say that they won’t break a law to get their hands on a gun to do it?”

This may be true, but it is doesn’t move the dialogue forward and is often used deceptively. It is basically saying that since criminals don’t obey laws, anyway, why have a law? By this logic, we could apply the following to Trump’s desire to build a wall. Walls have not proven to be effective in stopping people wanting to come in, so why build a wall? I don’t understand why conservatives who use this logic don’t apply it elsewhere. Laws are largely there as deterrents. People will not do something because it is against the law regardless of how pointless they see it (I guess this is why I always get stuck behind that Kia doing 65 on the interstate). A psychologist found that most of the population is motivated to do things by one of two factors: sympathy and empathy. or law and order (I think this sums up the current gun debate).

Second,

  • “Cars kill more people than guns do, yet we don’t ban cars.”

This is a strawman argument, and not even good one. Cars are highly regulated, require an age limit, require a permit of sorts, a registration, require training and safety ((things the left claim to want for guns) and are designed for transportation, not to kill. They can and have been used to kill people, but that is not their primary purpose. In fact, it is a gross misuse of their purpose. The argument falls further apart because while you have a right to a gun, you do not have a right to own a car. The government could decide to remove all cars (for whatever reason); this is an apples to oranges comparison.

Third, Continue reading

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