Is There An Ethical Obligation Not To Shock, Nauseate, Or Blind Your Neighbors? Of Obese Joggers and #FreetheNipple

A Facebook friend posted the following letter, posted by one of her friends, and supposedly passed along by the target of the letter. The individual subjected to the complaint is reputedly trying to overcome obesity and various health issues. The letter:

Mean letter

I have my doubts regarding the authenticity of this, but it doesn’t matter to this post. I assume we can all agree that the letter itself, if genuine, is cruel, mean-spirited, cowardly (it is anonymous), hurtful, and indefensible. It does raise an valid ethics question, though, which is this: Do we have any ethical obligation any more to exhibit modesty and a degree of public decorum out of doors, when we are likely to come under the gaze of others? If so, what are that obligation’s parameters? Continue reading

Anti-Smoking Ethics—And A Subversive (But Ethical!) Suggestion

"Sorry, sir, but sort-of-looking-like-you're smoking's not allowed in here, and besides, a phony study will be finding it deadly any day now."

“Sorry, sir, but sort-of-looking-like-you’re smoking’s not allowed in here, and besides, a phony study will be finding it deadly any day now.”

Little noted in the news winds was the fact that a major study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found “no link between the disease and secondhand smoke.” Oh!  Well, never mind then. The supposed deadly effects of second hand smoke gave hoards of health-policing citizens leave to not only be obnoxious and confrontational–“You have no right to pollute my lungs!”—but also to ban a legal consumer product in public places as well as to stigmatize anyone using the products as selfish sociopaths perpetrating slow-motion serial murder.

The second-hand smoke theory always seemed too convenient to me. Many years ago, I permanently soured my relationship with the head of a large Washington association, a non-smoker (as am I, except that I don’t presume to tell others what legal products to entertain themselves with), by opposing his ban on smoking in meetings and offices (and, eventually, his employees’ own homes) because he thought it was dangerous.  He trumped me by producing a couple of fishy studies that, it appears, were in fact as fishy as I suspected at the time. I would like to see a call for accountability on this: how did data now shown to be completely without factual basis manage to surface, become accepted in the regulatory establishment, and be used to bully smokers for decades?

And if you think this reminds me of the over-hyped scientific “consensus” on global warming and climate change, you are exactly right. Continue reading

The “I ♥ Boobies” Saga

boobies bracelet

Some time in the foreseeable future, we may have the pleasure of reading the various opinions of sages like Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsberg regarding the import of bracelets bearing the message, ” I  ♥ Boobies,” and whether it is a constitutional violation for public schools to ban students from wearing them. In August, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rejected Pennsylvania’s’ Easton Area School District’s  prohibition of the breast cancer awareness bracelets on the grounds that they were potentially disruptive and inappropriately vulgar.

In late October, the District voted  authorize the district’s solicitor to file a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to have the high court hear arguments in the case. The controversy has been going on for three years, has cost the district  thousands of dollars in litigation costs that should have been spent on education, and will result, you can bet, in even more egregious expansion of vulgar language in the schools.

This easily avoidable Ethics Train Wreck occurred when two middle school students in Easton wore the bracelets to school with their parents’ permission despite a school ban that called them “distracting and demeaning.”  ETHICS FOUL #2  School is about learning and facilitating learning, not making an effort to intentionally pick fights  in the shadowy realm of First Amendment law. Why did the parents do this? Are the provocative bracelets really essential school fare? Will their presence in the schools have a measurable impact on breast cancer awareness? Was the ability of the girls to wear the bracelets, and their opportunity to bend the school to its will worth all the cost, time and disruption this defiance of a dress code was likely to cause a legitimate utilitarian trade-off?  I don’t think so. Continue reading