Archive for the ‘ethics’ Category

I occasionally read The Ethicist column in the NYT.  I think I read the first few because I was fascinated that they just got some guy who seemed a bit more honest than the rest of the people looking for a job at the Times to write the column.  I’m not kidding, but if you ask me to pay money to get the introductory column, you are SOL. Since then, I think I’ve answered the burning question that everyone should ask when reading the New York Times: does anyone there know what honesty looks like anymore?  I’ll leave you to figure that one out for yourselves.

Back at the ranch: I read Randy Cohen’s column only occasionally and unfortunately I get that “restaurant judgment” feeling about it.  If you have one bad experience at a restaurant, you usually don’t go back.  Since reading the Ethicist is unlikely to cause violent retching (I read Frank Rich for that) I still stop by even though I often don’t appreciate his nuanced take on ethics.  The last time I read it, he counseled someone who had fired a pilfering employee not to turn him in to the police because he would be thrown in jail and lives would be ruined.  The questioner didn’t want this guy to get another job and victimize another employer.  Who do you think has a better sense of ethics, especially when you factor in the unlikelihood that a first-offender petty thief would do any jail time at all?  In an update, it turns out the questioner ignored Mr. Ethicist’s advice.  Maybe he should write the column.

As for today’s column, all I can say is, what about “Don’t deal with people who steal.”  Is it OK to accept a ring that fits from someone who stole it because you didn’t like the one you bought from the same place?  Oh, I see- intellectual property is different.  And the fact that the second-hand stealer can’t wait a couple of weeks-months-years to download a Stephen King novel to avoid stealing.

I have a friend who is a copyright attorney- I know she’s going to weigh in.  In fact, she should be writing this column.  Randy, move over.  Time to call in the pro.

Update: Do you suppose the editors went to Randy to work through the MoDo incident?


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OK, I’m just as happy seeing al-Awlaqi meet his maker and however many virgins.  But, for those of us who did take the whole FISA debate seriously, and that whole due process rigamarole that the Bill of Rights blathers on about, and as someone who felt the sting of the sarcasm embodied in the bumpersticker wisdom of “Go Ahead, Take My Rights; I Wasn’t Using Them Anyway” I just wanted to ask: where are all the Lefties on this?  I mean, this is a guy who actually IS an American.  Has he been tried, even in absentia?  What about “guilty until proven innocent?”  What about Miranda? Oh, I see.  That only works for Nigerian Jihadis who have had the great good fortune to land mostly intact on American soil, even if that wasn’t the plan (Philo- you’re the music guy- can we have Abumutallab’s theme, “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” cued up?)

Where is the ACLU? Has anyone uttered a peep about this? Is all the angst about rendition spent and we have none to spare for the imminent smithereenhood of an American citizen?  Isn’t vaporization somewhat worse than waterboarding or getting the Quran wet?

And I’m not asking rhetorically here.  I really don’t think we should be assassinating American citizens by executive order.  There should be a trial, in absentia, and if found guilty of say, treason (huh- that has a nice old fashioned ring to it, doesn’t it?) he should be stripped of his American citizenship.

You know, Roman justice was pretty brutal, but one of the perks of citizenship was that you had the privilege of being beheaded if you were to be executed.

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I Knew the Name Sounded Familiar

Michelle Malkin reminds us of what Jill Greenberg was up to before she shot The Atlantic cover of John McCain. If realizing that tormenting children is wrong is at the foundations of our moral sense, then her history indicates that she is someone with no moral sense at all.

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Hollar on Happiness

Brian Hollar reflects on happiness and Iceland:

While it is true that people in wealthier countries are happier than people in poorer countries, there is only weak correlation inside those countries between happiness and wealth. (In other words, if you live in a wealthy nation, earning a lot of income probably won’t buy you a whole lot of happiness relative to a modest income.) My intuition says that a similar relationship may hold true for marriage and religiosity — cross-country comparisons and intra-country comparisons may lead to two entirely different results. It is entirely conceivable that countries with higher divorce rates and lower levels of religiosity are “happier” than countries with lower divorce rates and higher levels of religiosity, while at the same time people in each country who have higher religiosity and lower divorce rates are happier than their fellow countrymen.

P.S. — People generally are happier the freer they are. When freedom and wealth both increase, people have greater opportunity and ability to express true preferences about both religion and marriage. This could lead to less preference falsification within society — potentially leading to higher divorce rates and lower rates of religious participation. (Timur Kuran has some excellent work on preference falsification called Private Truth, Public Lies.) I would expect societies with lower levels of preference falsification to have stronger correlations between happiness, marriage, and religiosity.

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Hillary’s History

Dan Calabrese tells of Hillary’s history on the Watergate investigation, where her supervisor fired her and refused to write her a letter of recommendation—because of a pattern of lying and unethical behavior. (HT: Powerline and Ed Morrissey)

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An Ethical Dilemma

A tragic, real-world dilemma (HT: Eugene Volokh):

Alton Logan doesn’t understand why two lawyers with proof he didn’t commit murder were legally prevented from helping him. They had their reasons: To save Logan, they would have had to break the cardinal rule of attorney-client privilege to reveal their own client had committed the crime. But Logan had 26 years in prison to try to understand why he was convicted for a crime he didn’t commit….

“Yes. Sympathize with [the lawyers’ dilemma], yes. Understand it, no,” Logan tells Simon. “If you know this is an innocent person, why would you allow this person to be prosecuted, convicted, sent to prison for all these years?” asks the 54-year-old inmate.

Lawyers Jamie Kunz and Dale Coventry were public defenders when their client, Andrew Wilson, admitted to them he had shot-gunned a security guard to death in a 1982 robbery. When a tip led to Logan’s arrest and he went to trial for the crime, the two lawyers were in a bind. They wanted to help Logan but legally couldn’t.

“The rules of conduct for attorneys, it’s very, very clear…. We’re in a position to where we have to maintain client confidentiality, just as a priest would or a doctor would. It’s just a requirement of the law. The system wouldn’t work without it,” says Coventry.

They watched Logan’s trial to see whether he got a life or death sentence. “We thought that somehow we would stop at least the execution,” Coventry tells Simon. “Morally, there’s very little difference and we were torn about that, but in terms of the canons of ethics, there is a difference — you can prevent a death.”

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Today the Democrats of the House and Senate approved restricting CIA interrogation techniques to those outlined in the Army Field Manual. Power Line correctly notes that this means that the Democratic Party simply is not serious about the national security of the United States.

Over the last 36 hours, Congressional Democrats have again demonstrated a casual, even frivolous attitude toward their Constitutional duty to assist in keeping Americans safe from attack.

As I said in an earlier post, this means that the Democrats would not pluck a single hair from the head of a terrorist even to save the entire world. I think that disqualifies them from being in charge of national security—or much of anything else.

If you find yourself sympathesizing with the Democrats’ position, here’s a quick hypothetical question. A terrorist has put poison in the water supply, which will soon be released in all major lakes and rivers and kill, within hours, almost everyone in the United States. You capture him. If you use the Army Field Manual techniques, he will not talk, and almost all Americans die. If you go beyond that—by, for example, dripping water up his nose, panicking him for perhaps 30 seconds—he will talk, and those lives will be saved. What would you do? (Don’t answer that we never really are in a position to know all this. It’s a hypothetical case, and your knowledge of all this is stipulated. What would you do?)

This is essentially a trolley problem, but with 300 million people tied to the track on which the out-of-control trolley is racing, and one person who might be splashed if the trolley is diverted to the other track, saving the 300 million. May you flip the switch to divert the trolley? The Democrats are committed to answering “No!”

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