Ethics Quote Of The Week: Actor Tim Considine (1940-2022)

“Thank God there’s no justice in this world.”

Disney and “My Three Sons” actor Tim Considine, who died last week at age 82, in an interview quoted in his New York Times obituary.

Considine was referring to his success and rich experiences in life, which he felt were relatively undeserved. He did not regard himself as especially talented or ambitious.

The more I ponder his statement, the more profound I think it is. Understanding that there is no justice in the world is a necessary predicate for committing to an ethical life for the right reasons. Society needs as many people as possible striving to be good, having their lives exert a net benefit on others, and being exemplars of ethical values as often as they can. These habits and objectives must be committed to while fully understanding that they only collectively and on balance result in desirable results, and sometimes not even that. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Twitter

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Ethics Alarms has honored some unlikely people as Ethics Heroes—Bill Clinton, Bill Maher, and Terry McAuliffe, for example. Twitter nabbing the distinction may be a record for cognitive dissonance, though. It is an unethical company, with a platform that does more damage than good. And yet…

Twitter announced that it was expanding its private information policy to forbid posting the ” media of private individuals without the permission of the person(s) depicted.

Good.

Not that this policy is remotely possible to enforce; it isn’t. “When we are notified by individuals depicted, or by an authorized representative, that they did not consent to having their private image or video shared, we will remove it,” Twitter explains. “This policy is not applicable to media featuring public figures or individuals when media and accompanying tweet text are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”

Yes, the policy goes well beyond any legal restrictions: that’s what makes it ethical rather than compliant. What is ethically admirable about the rule is that it calls attention to an ethical violation so common that few think it is a violation at all. When I allow a friend to take a photo of me, that is consent for that friend to make and have a copy of my likeness. It is not consent for my likeness to be circulated to the world on social media, included in facial recognition databases, be manipulated digitally to embarrass or humiliate me, or any other purpose. No law will help me claim that I did not consent to circulation of my likeness, which is why Naked Teachers have a problem. The law assumes that such use can and should be anticipated when I let myself be photographed. That, however, is a legal fiction. I have seen, online, photos of me when I wasn’t aware that I was in the picture. I hate photos of me.

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Ethics Dunce: Camilla Parker Bowles [Corrected]

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This goes right into the “Stop making me defend Joe Biden!” files. And, if I had one, the “Princess Diana was right about Camilla” files.

During the recent virtue-signaling, wasteful gathering in Scotland to discuss climate change, at which, for some reason, the wife of Prince Charles, Camilla Parker Bowles, The Duchess of Cornwall was attending, the President of the United States had occasion to spend a bit of time chatting with the woman who “crowded” Princess Di’s marriage.

And, during this bit of time, Joe Biden emitted an involuntary flatulent outburst. Now, even forgetting for the nonce the fact that Joe is older than dirt, this can happen to anyone in public, and the most basic Golden Rule-based manner of reacting to it is not to. Never elling anyone else, especially the media, about said discharge is even more required by etiquette, empathy, and reciprocity. [ Note of correction: That “not” got dropped in the original version posted last night. Ugh. Sorry.]This is true no matter who the unfortunate farter is, but it is certainly true when the individual is a world leader who must try to maintain an image of strength and dignity.

But what was Camilla’s reaction? The Daily Mail reports that Parker Bowles “hasn’t stopped talking about” Biden’s accident. The fart was, per the Daily Mail’s source, both “long” and “loud,” and also “impossible to ignore.”

This is despicable on her part: unkind, cruel, and a breach of respect and diplomacy. As Danielle Cohen observes over at “The Cut”: “Is there not a “discussing farts” section in the royal etiquette curriculum? I can’t believe Meghan Markle got in trouble for wearing nail polish and Camilla is allowed to do … this.”

My Neighbor Indicates That He Embraces The Golden Rule. I’m Keeping My Fingers Crossed…

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Spuds is keeping his toes crossed.

After sunset, four neighbors with puppies of varying ages and sizes have been gathering in the field near my house to let the adorable little dears run free. They are all inordinately fond of Spuds, who isn’t a puppy but acts like one, and I often let him run around and wrestle with the younger dogs on his leash. (Spuds is a constant risk to gallop off to meet any child, dog or human who appears in the distance, so I let him run free rarely.) This week, two of the puppies ran up to greet him as I tried to sneak past the pack on our evening walk, and after Spuds started crying pitifully, I gave in and allowed him to join the group.

It was cold and dark, and the likelihood of anyone tempting Spuds by showing up on the horizon was minimal, so I relented and let him run with his pals, off the leash. They were a sight to see, tearing around the field. One puppy, a hound named Vinnie, was a particularly lively instigator: earlier, while eluding a puppy he had incited, Vinnie ran full speed into my knee, causing him (not me) to yelp. You have to be wary when a pack of pups is having fun.

Suddenly I saw that Vinnie was coming at us again at mach speed, with Spuds galloping right behind. They veered a bit away from me and at one of the owners of the lively Belgian Shepherd puppy. I shouted to her, “Watch out!” but in vain: she stepped aside to avoid Vinnie, but right into Spuds. He tried to avoid her, but his 70 pound-pus body slammed into her leg, and she went down writhing in pain. We had to call the EMT’s to get her off the field and to a hospital.

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Ethics Quiz: Shock Therapy For The Disabled

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Here is an issue from July that I never had time to write about…

In a 2-1 opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturned a Federal the ban on the use of electric shock devices to modify destructive or otherwise problematic behavior by students with intellectual disabilities. The Food and Drug Administration sought to prohibit the devices in March 2020, saying that delivering shocks to students presents “an unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury.” The court ruled, however that the ban was a regulation of the practice of medicine, which is beyond the FDA’s authority.

The now banned ban only affected a single school, the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts. It is the only facility in the United States that employs the shock devices to correct self-harming or aggressive behavior. The center serves and houses both children and adults with intellectual disabilities or behavioral, emotional or psychiatric problems.

What ethics approach do we use to assess such a practice?

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Everyday Ethics: The Pizza Mess

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Once again, we encounter the gratuitously hostile stranger phenomenon.

I was running a quick groceries errand today, and a young man right in front of me dropped a cardboard carton containing a hot slice of pizza on the floor. Naturally, it landed top down, and the pizza was smeared all over the linoleum. I was right beside him as he froze briefly, looking down at the mess forlornly.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I said, my Golden Rule reflex kicking in. I hate dropping food, especially ice cream cones and pizza; it brings back many childhood traumas. I genuinely empathized with the guy. And you know what? He completely blew me off. He didn’t look at me, acknowledge my expression of sympathy, or even grunt. He just left the dead pizza slice there, turned on his heels, and walked quickly off to call a staffer.

No, he didn’t have ear buds. He was just another rude SOB who has no interest in contributing to a congenial, mutually supportive society. Can you devise any excuse for this behavior? I don’t think there is an excuse. I think this is evidence that he is a member of the growing and thriving jerk component of American society. Why do so many bystanders refuse to demonstrate care for strangers in peril or stress? Reactions like I got is one of the reasons.

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The Ethics Conflict Of The Untrustworthy Housecleaners Is An Easy Call

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…but for some reason. “The Ethicist” couldn’t figure that out.

I hadn’t checked in on Kwame Anthony Appiah, the New York Times Magazine’s current incarnation of “The Ethicist,” for a while, and based on this exchange, the usually reliable NYU philosophy professor is showing some wear and tear. I blame The Great Stupid.

An inquirer wrote to ask if her friend had done the right thing by not telling her neighbors in ” a close-knit neighborhood” who used the same mother-daughter housecleaning team she did that she had caught the daughter stealing, and dismissed the pair. “She spoke with the mother, who apologized profusely on behalf of her troubled daughter and, of course, understood when my friend said they wouldn’t use the service any longer,” the letter concluded. “Was my friend obligated to let her neighbors know? She worried about this team losing business when she had no way of knowing whether or not the daughter was stealing from others.”

I was gobsmacked that Appiah endorsed not telling the neighbors. He wrote,

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Wherein Having Ethics Alarms Ringing 24-7 Again Proves To Be Inconvenient…

I took Spuds out for a walk in the light rain, and was relieved when he relieved himself with his usual impressive fecal discharge early on. I dutifully collected it in a blue New York Times bag—using the delivery bags for this purposes amuses me, as the final content of the bag is less noxious than its original product. Spuds even did his doo-dooty near a trash receptacle. “Now that’s over with!” I thought. Then I took my sweet dog on walk down one of the boutique streets in the neighborhood: lovely houses, elaborate gardens, perfect lawns. And Spuds walked quickly onto one of the latter, and duplicated his earlier performance. Topped it, in fact.

He almost never does this, but I almost always carry a second New York Times bag in case he’s feeling prolific. This time I hadn’t.

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Comments Of The Day Day Comment Of The Day #2: “Ethics Observations On ‘Prayers Of A Weary Black Woman’”

Steve-O-in-NJ also gets a Comment of the Day for a very different reaction to “Ethics Observations On ‘Prayers Of A Weary Black Woman’”

Steve’s reaction, as you might expect if you are familiar with his commentary, is much harder of nose. It it too callous to be ethical? The ethic of the United States, from it’s origins, has always emphasized personal responsibility and the obligation of society and government to allow individuals to live their own lives, address their own failings, achieve what they can achieve, and advance by their own effort and talent. Community, by it’s own nature, implies a group that strives to help when it can, but the bitter attitude reflected in the hateful “prayer” is something quite different.

Steve answers the query, “Have I been dismissive of your burdens, and perhaps even cast blame upon you?,” by stating, “Like I said, I have my problems, you have yours. Deal with them. The one thing all your problems have in common is you.”

Too harsh?

Ethical?

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