Week-Launching Ethics Warm-Up, 10/4/2021: A Happy Ending To A Pit Bull Saga, A Congressional Leader Makes My Head Explode, And More [Updated]

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Singer Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose on October 4, 1970. The anniversary prompts me to make an unkind observation that I was tempted to make after reading all of the tributes and expansive rhetoric praising “The Wire” actor Michael K. Williams after he died of an overdose of fentanyl and heroin on September 6. For at least a hundred years, anyone who takes heroin does so knowing that it is addictive and frequently fatal. My attitude toward Joplin, Williams, John Belushi, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Billy Holliday, and many other artists who have killed themselves this way involves more anger than sympathy. The world was robbed of their gifts because they were reckless. In the case of black artists, they endanger their admirers by creating a romantic aura for what is, in the final analysis, stupid and irresponsible conduct. How hard can it be not to start using an addictive substance that you know might kill you? The fact that the drug is illegal should be a big clue.

1. And speaking of the joys of recreational drugs...In a new study published in Psychological Medicine, researchers in the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Mental Health and the Institute of Applied Health Research found a strong link between “general practice recorded cannabis use” and mental ill health. Senior author Dr. Clara Humpston said: “Cannabis is often considered to be one of the ‘safer’ drugs and has also shown promise in medical therapies, leading to calls for it be legalized globally. Although we are unable to establish a direct causal relationship, our findings suggest we should continue to exercise caution since the notion of cannabis being a safe drug may well be mistaken.”

Continue to exercise caution? Who’s exercising caution? Popular culture and upper-middle class whites have been issuing pro-pot propaganda for half a century, while mocking government efforts to discourage widespread use and acceptance of another destructive recreational drug. Now nearly every state is on a path to legalize it, especially because they smell tax revenue.

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Rainy Day Ethics Puddles, 3/24/2021:

1 Shut up or be funny. For some reason, the fact that Monday’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers’ included a gratuitous and facile lecture by the host about gun control legislation was plastered all over the progressive news media as if he had begun speaking in tongues or channeling the ghost of Emily Dickinson. I hate to be a spoil sport, but who cares what Seth Myers thinks about gun control? He’s a comedian and a comedy writer, and has been nothing but since college. Again, he has no brief to lecture anyone on that topic: he has his job to be funny, and the show he hosts is, theoretically at least, a comedy show. Did Julia Child ever lecture her PBS audience about U.S. nuclear policy while explaining how to cook an omelette? No. Did Walter Cronkite ever break into knock-knock jokes during The CBS Evening News? Never. Did Andy Williams ever pause in the middle of “Moon River” to deliver his analysis of a Presidential campaign? Absolutely not.

Myers has a right to his opinion, as sophomoric and echo chamber-nourished as it may be (he was pimping for “common sense gun laws,” which is what people say when they have no idea what laws will stop the criminal use of guns, but want us to “do something”), but it is arrogant and presumptuous to perform a bait and switch on his audience, which doesn’t come to his show for public policy wisdom. If they do, he has an ethical obligation to make it clear that they shouldn’t. As far as I can tell, Myers knows zilch about law, guns, government, or the Constitution, yet he presumes to use a vehicle awarded to him only because of an alleged gift for topical humor (personally, I don’t see it) for political advocacy.

Be funny, get educated, run for office, or shut up, Seth. And incidentally, there are not mass shootings “three or four times a week” and never have been. In a single atypical week, there were two mass shootings, and no Constitutional gun laws are likely to have stopped either of them.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/28/18: Ad-block, Rights-block, Deportation-block, and Stupid-block

Good Morning!

1 Different rights, same unethical tactics. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), whose very existence as a power in the Democratic Party is an indictment of the party’s integrity and trustworthiness, proved it again by proposing a bill that would require background checks for ammunition purchases. “You do not have the right to bear bullets,” she  proclaimed Monday at a news conference at the Pembroke Pines Police Department in Florida.

Progressives, honest observers, and the courts have rightly expressed disgust at various cynical efforts to circumvent other Constitutional rights by similar tactics. In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, for example, decided on June 27, 2016, the Supreme Court held in a 5-3 majority that two provisions of a Texas law, one requiring physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and another requiring abortion clinics in the state to have facilities comparable to an ambulatory surgical center,  places a substantial and unconstitutional obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion, because they constituted an undue burden on abortion access.

I wrote at the time,

“Life would be so much simpler if our elected officials and activists employed an adaptation of the Golden Rule, and looked objectively at issues from the other side’s point of view. This is especially true in the realm of rights.  Second Amendment absolutists insist that virtually any laws regulating who can purchase guns… have the ultimate goal of  eliminating that right entirely, which, in many instances is the case, especially if you listen carefully to the rhetoric of the legislators proposing such measures. There is little difference from this and what anti-abortion advocates are attempting to do with laws like House Bill 2 (H. B. 2).”

In fact there was no difference at all, and now Wasserman-Schultz is using the same unethical tactic. (Imagine: Debbie Wasserman-Schultz using an unethical tactic!)  The ethical principle is the same in both matters: a right isn’t a right if legal obstacles make it difficult to exercise that right. Any regulation imposed on a constitutional right must not create “a substantial obstacle” and must be reasonably related to “a legitimate state interest.” Wasserman-Schultz’s statement—I know she’s an idiot, but she is also a member of Congress and is supposed to know something—directly contradicts settled and core Constitutional principles. There is indeed a “right to bear bullets,” because without ammunition, the right to bear arms is an illusion.
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