Jordan Sheard And The No-Capital Punishment Slippery Slope

Ah, come, on, show some compassion! All he did was set a guy on fire for being gay! Anyone can make a mistake!

Ah, come, on, show some compassion! All he did was set a guy on fire for being gay! Anyone can make a mistake!

One of these days, when CNN’s designated miracle-worker Piers Morgan (because making Larry King look brilliant is a miracle) is extolling the superiority of the land of his birth over the stupid, violent, individual rights-obsessed U.S., someone should ask him about Jordan Sheard. Sheard, a sadistic 20-year old bully, set his sights on a young gay man, Steven Simpson, whose offenses included, in addition to his sexual orientation,  a speech impediment, epilepsy and having Asperger’s  Syndrome. Sheard forced Simpson to strip down to his underwear and wrote gay slurs over his body, covered him with tanning oil, and set him on fire.

At his birthday party. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Osama’s Assassination: The Ethics Elephant in the Room”

First time commenter Margo Schulter delivers a powerful, passionate and eloquent absolutist rebuttal to my post asserting an ethical defense of Osama bin Laden’s targeted killing/assassination/execution by U.S. military personnel. My immediate response to her can be found in the comments to the original post here; I don’t want to re-post it with this post because Margo’s thoughtful comment should be read and thought about prior to considering my rebuttal. Ethics Alarms is blessed with many sharp and persuasive comments, and this is one of the finest. In the grand tradition of absolutism, her answer to my question about firing the bullet that would kill an unarmed and submissive Osama  is “I wouldn’t fire that bullet to save the whole universe.” And she explains why:

“Please let me try to put my best foot forward, and keep a spirit of civility and friendly inquiry, as I say that my whole being — my guts, heart, intuition, and intellect –cry out, “No exceptions! Executions, extrajudicial or legal, are _wrong_!” I wonder what an MRI might show, and what neuroethics might say, about how people in the U.S.A. and elsewhere have such different reactions to what I would call a consummately evil and dehumanizing act.

“Please let me also apologize for the length of this comment, nevertheless just the starting point for a dialogue with lots of ramifications. How do pacifists like me see the scale of moral evils in different kinds of violence, and when might we consider using certain forms of nonlethal force? Also, there’s a way that President Obama might have modified his strategy a bit to fit Frances Kamm’s Doctrine of Triple Effect (DTE), illustrating what I see as the dangers of this intellectually intriguing concept. I’d love to join a dialogue going in any or all of these directions.

“It’s curious. You write, “I assume you shoot him dead.” And my whole being cries out, “You assume wrong!” While I’m not a physicalist, I do recognize that while we’re in this world experience and behavior are mediated through the brain, so I wonder what an MRI or the like would show for
people who have these radically different intuitions. Continue reading

Osama’s Assassination: The Ethics Elephant in the Room

You are one of the Navy Seals raiding Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan compound. Bin Laden rushes out, with a white flag, shouting “Mercy!”, “I surrender!” and “I’m so, so sorry!” He throws his flag down, puts his hands up, and falls to his knees, pleading for his life. What do you do?

I assume that you shoot him dead. I would. Is this ethically defensible? Continue reading

Hitler’s Ethics, and Ethics Malpractice From A Health Activist

I am sure “Ellen S.” is a sincere, caring, lovely person, but the Ethics Police need to put an electric monitor on her tongue that sets off a warning every time she tries to utter the word “ethics.” There are many divergent ethical systems and many legitimate ways of analyzing an ethical problem, but Ellen’s sincere, caring blog illustrate why so many people’s eye glaze over when ethics comes into a conversation, and worse, it shows why so many otherwise educated people let their conduct be governed by rationalizations. The latest post on Ellen S.’s blog for the WEGO Health website illustrates my point; I didn’t have the courage to read more, and you will see why.

The post is entitled “Was Hitler More Ethical Than You?” Continue reading

Halloween Ethics! Facebook Ethics! Political Ethics! Blackface Ethics! It’s Tennessee’s Aunt Jemima Affair, the Ethics Controversy That Has Everything!

It’s just after Halloween, and followers of the ethics wars know what that means: somewhere, somebody is in trouble for their choice of costume.

Actually, in this case it’s someone in trouble for her choice of someone in costume to pose with: Tennessee Republican state Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver posted a picture on the Internet of her standing with her pastor, who had dressed up as Aunt Jemima—of syrup fame and black stereotype infamy— for some Halloween festivities. Her caption to the photo:

“Aunt Jemima, you is so sweet.”

Weaver has apologized, swearing that when she posed for the picture with her pastor, she did not know the photo would upset anybody. “It was fun, done in innocence. My friend is dressed up as syrup. He wife was going to be a pancake,” said Weaver. “I never intended to offend anyone. I took the picture off my Facebook. I apologize if it ever meant to offend anyone.”  Weaver,who apparently has lived in a cave since 1957,  also said she was not aware that Aunt Jemima represented black stereotypes to many people, and was unaware that wearing blackface was also considered offensive to the vast majority of Americans. Yes, she really did. (Note: I know Aunt Jemima as a brand of pancake mix; I did not think the logo  gracee any syrup containers. I assumed Weaver confused confused the good Aunt with her white rival. Mrs. Butterworth, who is a syrup brand. Aunt Jemima obviously hangs out with pancakes, so the pastor’s wife was on firm ground, no matter what. But thanks to a syrup-minded reader, I have been set straight: there is Aunt Jemima syrup, too)

State Sen. Thelma Harper, an African-American, said she and members of the Black Caucus want to put Harper before the House Ethics Committee.“This is what we have had to live with, making a mockery of being black and copying the language that Aunt Jemima used,” said Harper.

This controversy has everything! Halloween ethics! Blackface ethics! Facebook ethics! Political ethics! Syrup ethics!

Let’s go through them, shall we? Continue reading

Tiger Woods’ Mother in the Ethics Rough

“You know what? I’m so proud to be his mother. Period. This thing, it teaches him, just like golf. When he changes a swing… he wants to get better… He will start getting better… it’s just like that. Golf is just like life, when you make a mistake, you learn from your mistake and move on stronger. That’s the way he is. As a human being everyone has faults, makes mistakes and sins. We all do. But, we move on when we make a mistake and learn from it. I am upset the way media treated him like he’s a criminal…he didn’t kill anybody, he didn’t do anything illegal… They’ve being carrying on from thanksgiving until now, that’s not right! People don’t understand that Tiger has a very good heart and soul. Sometimes I think there is a complete double standard… He tried to improve himself. The tabloids and newspapers just killed him, held him back.. To me it looked like a double standard…When you make a mistake you learn from it and move on, that’s the way life is, that’s a human being. We’re not God, and he never claimed he was God. If anyone tells me to condemn him, I say look at yourself first.. .. I would … look in their eyes and tell them you’re not God!  This thing is a family matter… It’s not easy to be him. … (People) go to work 8 to 5 and go home to have a life with the family. Tiger can’t do that.”

—————Katilda Woods, Tiger’s mother, in remarks to the press following Woods’ statement and apology today, his first public appearance since a series of revelations about his multiple affairs.

Where to begin? I’m glad Mrs. Woods is proud of her son. That’s what mothers are for, in times like these. If only she had stopped there, before she plunged deep into the ethics rough. For example, I think Tiger’s been swinging enough, don’t you?

But Mrs. Woods decided to promote three of my least favorite rationalizations for terrible conduct, and then added one I had neglected.  Now that she mentions it, however, I hate that one too. Continue reading

The Death Penalty At Its Best

Virginia executed the D.C. Sniper tonight, and I am not sorry. Apparently not very many others are either: in stark contrast to past executions, like that of Gary Gilmore, anti-death penalty protests regarding the execution of John Muhammad have been minimal.

A responsible society is obligated to have a death penalty to set an appropriate upper limit for state imposed punishment. Without such a ceiling, the punishment for every other crime must be ratcheted down, and this tends to lower the penalty for capital crimes as well. The Lockerbie Bomber would never have been released after a short prison term in the U.S., as he was by Scotland; in all likelihood, he would have been executed. As with Ted Bundy, Timothy McVeigh, and Muhammad, it would have been a case of the punishment fitting the crime. Continue reading