Posts Tagged ‘ethics’
On Twin Earth, a brain in a vat is at the wheel of a runaway trolley. There are only two options that the brain can take: the right side of the fork in the track or the left side of the fork. There is no way in sight of derailing or stopping the trolley and the brain is aware of this, for the brain knows trolleys. The brain is causally hooked up to the trolley such that the brain can determine the course which the trolley will take.
On the right side of the track there is a single railroad worker, Jones, who will definitely be killed if the brain steers the trolley to the right. If the railman on the right lives, he will go on to kill five men for the sake of killing them, but in doing so will inadvertently save the lives of thirty orphans (one of the five men he will kill is planning to destroy a bridge that the orphans’ bus will be crossing later that night). One of the orphans that will be killed would have grown up to become a tyrant who would make good utilitarian men do bad things… (yes, there’s more)
* Massive solar flare narrowly misses Earth, EMP disaster barely avoided. Phew! Civilization saved.
* Long story short, for every degree Celsius that global average temperature rises, we can expect 2.3 meters of sea-level rise sometime over the ensuing 2,000 years. (U.S. translation: for every degree Fahrenheit, 4.2 feet of rising seas get locked in.) We are currently on track to hit 4 degrees Celsius by 2100, if not sooner. That means locking in 9.2 meters, or 30 feet, of sea level rise. Suffice to say, that would wipe out most of the major coastal cities and towns in the world.
* The unemployment rate for recent grads with a degree in information systems is more than double that of drama and theater majors, at 14.7% vs. 6.4%, according to a recent Georgetown University study. Even for computer science majors, the jobless rate for recent grads nears 9%.
* How Copyright Made Mid-Century Books Vanish. More links follow the graph.
* [T]hey were peppering my husband with questions. Where is he from? Where are his parents from? They asked about me, where was I, where do I work, where do my parents live. Do you have any bombs, they asked. Do you own a pressure cooker? My husband said no, but we have a rice cooker. Can you make a bomb with that? My husband said no, my wife uses it to make quinoa. What the hell is quinoa, they asked. … Google ‘Pressure Cookers’ and ‘Backpacks,’ Get a Visit from the Cops.
The states include four Democratic held seats — Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina — and two GOP-held seats — Kentucky and Georgia. And Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) made the case that Republicans will have to come close to running the table.
* Oxymoron alert! Democrats To Introduce Supreme Court Ethics Bill.
BOKONON: You only THINK you know the story. $1.99 Kindle single.—
Gerry Canavan (@gerrycanavan) August 01, 2013
Kilgore Trout Meets Wolf-Man and the Mummy—
Gerry Canavan (@gerrycanavan) August 01, 2013
…I’d call using a false identity to get inside a diabolical organization “journalism.” It might not be respectable and won’t get you invited to fun corporate-sponsored events. But Gleick has thrown the curtain back. And of course, he’s at fault here. Even if he broke the law, is that the real issue here? What is worse, using a false identity or advocating for policies that will destroy the entire nation of Tonga? Using a false identity or lobbying the U.S. government to halt changes in mileage standards for cars so that we don’t become a bunch of hippie Europeans or something and continue to change the climate with ever-greater rapidity? I think I know which side contains the moral monsters here. And it ain’t Peter Gleick.
Erik Loomis, in defense of Peter Gleick.
‘A Judicial Officer or Employee Shall Not Accept a Gift from Anyone Who Is Seeking Official Action From or Doing Business with the Court’
Forty-three members of Congress have now joined Chris Murphy’s call to end the Supreme Court’s ethics immunity. This number should be much, much higher. Via @_machinic_.
…if you can’t use statistical and anecdotal evidence to prove gender discrimination — and, as he apparently admitted about racial discrimination and the death penalty during the deliberations in McKleskey v. Kemp, it’s clear there’s no amount of statistical and anecdotal evidence that would convince Scalia — then there really isn’t a law against gender discrimination at all. There’s just a law against having your company being run by complete idiots. Any amount of gender (or, presumably, racial) discrimination is acceptable to the Court’s Republican appointees as long as you’re not dumb enough to actually explicitly state it as a formal policy.
Elsewhere in Supreme Court news, we have ThinkProgress reporting that Clarence Thomas decided three cases where the American Enterprise Institute filed a brief after AEI gave him a $15,000 gift.
* BREAKING: The rich are getting richer.
* ThinkProgress covers the growing Clarence Thomas ethics scandal and notes other justices have been forced out for what Thomas is known to have done.
* Muppetational: YouTube has the trailer for The Muppets.
* And Hendrik Hertzberg explains the Anthony Weiner scandal.
Weiner’s sins, being wholly online, basically onanistic, pathetically “immature,” and totally without direct fleshly carnality, are literally ridiculous. They lack the swaggering macho that pushes more traditional, arguably crueler male transgressions—having affairs, whoring, fathering children out of wedlock—into the comparatively (though only comparatively) safer territory of “boys will be boys” and “men are like that.”
Let us never speak of it again.
* Two articles I read on the plane: “The Brain on Trial” and Aleksander Hemon’s account of his young daughter’s illness. The latter is only available offline, which (trust me) is for the best. By the end I was nearly bawling. For your own happiness do not read this article.
* The growing controversy over President Obama’s illegal waging of war in Libya got much bigger last night with Charlie Savage’s New York Times scoop. He reveals that top administration lawyers — Attorney General Eric Holder, OLC Chief Caroline Krass, and DoD General Counsel Jeh Johnson — all told Obama that his latest, widely panned excuse for waging war without Congressional approval (that it does not rise to the level of “hostilities” under the War Powers Resolution (WPR)) was invalid and that such authorization was legally required after 60 days: itself a generous intepretation of the President’s war powers. But Obama rejected those views and (with the support of administration lawyers in lesser positions: his White House counsel and long-time political operative Robert Bauer and State Department “legal adviser” Harold Koh) publicly claimed that the WPR does not apply to Libya.
“I support measures that make our roads safer for everyone, but House Bill 242 is a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults,” Perry wrote in his explanation of one of his vetoes.
Perry said in his veto statement that the key to stopping people from texting while driving is “information and education.”
* Mightygodking highlights ethical interpretation with twenty-five movies distilled to a one-sentence moral.
* And Love These Pics takes us on another trip to the New Orleans Six Flags Theme Park abandoned after Hurricane Katrina.
* Is it me or has Obama kind of got his mojo back? Republican senators say privately they expect the Senate to ratify the New START treaty this week, which would hand President Obama his third major victory of the lame-duck session.
* Power and morality: It is shown that high power increases the use of rule-based (deontological) moral thinking styles, whereas low power increases reliance on outcome-based (consequentialist) moral thinking. Stated differently, in determining whether an act is right or wrong, the powerful focus on whether rules and principles are violated, whereas the powerless focus on the consequences. For this reason, the powerful are also more inclined to stick to the rules, irrespective of whether this has positive or negative effects, whereas the powerless are more inclined to make exceptions.
* Jessica Valenti has your concise readers’ guide to the #mooreandme debacle. Ryan sends along the Naomi Wolf vs. Jaclyn Friedman argument from Democracy Now!, which is pretty astounding. The second part (via Student Activism) is even more astounding:
Friedman: If someone asks me twenty times, do I want to have sex with them, or do I want to have sex without a condom, or whatever sexual act we’re negotiating, and I say no twenty times, and the twenty-first time I say yes because I am worn down, and because I’m being pressured and coerced and I’m afraid, and because I woke up to him already raping me, and I’m freaked out, that is not real consent. That is not a chance to have actual consent. That’s not legitimate consent.
Wolf: Well, I guess you and I will have to part ways.
* The CDC has found that a majority of Americans had troubled childhoods. As a friend recently said on Twitter: Please stop fetishizing childhood. You are misremembering your life.
* More from the minimalism meme: minimalist superheroes.
* And The Day Comedy Won: How 30 Rock Beat Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. I may be one of the few people in America who liked both shows.
* Rest in peace, David Markson. Though I could never make it through This Is Not a Novel, let me second David Foster Wallace; Wittgenstein’s Mistress really is “pretty much the high point of experimental fiction in this country.”
* Peter Singer vs. the future: Should This Be the Last Generation? He comes down on the “no” side, though he doesn’t seem quite convinced:
I do think it would be wrong to choose the non-sentient universe. In my judgment, for most people, life is worth living. Even if that is not yet the case, I am enough of an optimist to believe that, should humans survive for another century or two, we will learn from our past mistakes and bring about a world in which there is far less suffering than there is now. But justifying that choice forces us to reconsider the deep issues with which I began. Is life worth living? Are the interests of a future child a reason for bringing that child into existence? And is the continuance of our species justifiable in the face of our knowledge that it will certainly bring suffering to innocent future human beings?
* Ending the university: Under a program announced Thursday, employees of Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club will be able to receive college credit for performing their jobs, including such tasks as loading trucks and ringing up purchases. Workers could earn as much as 45 percent of the credits needed for an associate or bachelor’s degree while on the job.
The credits are earned through the Internet-based American Public University, with headquarters in Charles Town, W.Va., and administrative offices in Manassas.
Obama now faces some of the most difficult challenges of his young presidency: the ongoing oil spill, the Gaza flotilla disaster, and revelations about possibly inappropriate conversations between the White House and candidates for federal office. But while these narratives may affect fleeting public perceptions, Americans will ultimately judge Obama on the crude economic fundamentals of jobs numbers and GDP.
Chief among the criticisms of Obama was his response to the spill. Pundits argued that he needed to show more emotion. Their analysis, however, should be viewed in light of the economic pressures on the journalism industry combined with a 24-hour news environment and a lack of new information about the spill itself.
Republicans, meanwhile, complained that the administration has not been sufficiently involved in the day-to-day cleanup. Their analysis, of course, is colored by their minority status in America’s two-party system, which creates a strong structural incentive to criticize the party in power, whatever the merits…
* In Galileo’s time, science was clashing with religion; today, Robinson believes, we’re living in a “Galilean moment” again, in which climate change means science has become politicised. This time, though, the clash is with capitalism. “There are cultural forces in our society which say, you can save the world or else you can make a profit, and they’ll say sorry, we have to make a profit. So we have a strange religion now.” As his global-warming-themed trilogy, which ends with 2007′s Sixty Days and Counting, shows, a major theme for Robinson is ecological sustainability, and he stresses today his belief that “the climate crisis is an emergency.” Another interview with Kim Stanley Robinson, this one focusing on his new time travel novel, Galileo’s Dream.
* Fun graphic analysis of Choose Your Own Adventure novels, including Inside UFO 54-40, the only CYOA with an impossible-to-reach ending.
For instance: the most popular searches beginning with “how 2 …” are “how 2 get pregnant” and “how 2 grow weed.” Searches beginning with “how might one” tend to be about music or, weirdly, Andrew Jackson.
More titillatingly, people asking “is it wrong to” tend to have something sexually indecent in mind. The top results are “sleep with your cousin,” “sleep with your stepdad after your mom has died,” and “like your cousin.” Searches beginning with “is it unethical to” tend to be about white-collar crime and animal rights.
One notes, at least in my geo-targeted region of the world, the top suggested result for “is it wrong to” is actually “is it wrong to sleep with your sister.”
* Chart of the Day: Rock Music Quality vs. U.S. Oil Production.
At 12:28 p.m., a Memorial administrator typed “HELP!!!!” and e-mailed colleagues at other Tenet hospitals outside New Orleans, warning that Memorial would have to evacuate more than 180 patients. Around the same time, Deichmann met with many of the roughly two dozen doctors at Memorial and several nurse managers in a stifling nurse-training room on the fourth floor, which became the hospital’s command center. The conversation turned to how the hospital should be emptied. The doctors quickly agreed that babies in the neonatal intensive-care unit, pregnant mothers and critically ill adult I.C.U. patients would be at great risk from the heat and should get first priority. Then Deichmann broached an idea that was nowhere in the hospital’s disaster plans. He suggested that all patients with Do Not Resuscitate orders should go last.
This story from the New York Times Magazine about the breakdown in medical practice in a stranded New Orleans hospital during Katrina will stick with me a long time. Unprepared for the severity or duration of the crisis, believing things in New Orleans to be much worse than in retrospect they were, and apparently significantly undertrained in proper triage procedure or in the deep ethical minefields surrounding end-of-life care (including apparently not understanding what a D.N.R. is), these doctors made some very difficult choices that a layperson like myself cannot possibly judge them for—but what happened at Memorial Medical Center should be standard-issue training in medical, schools, nursing schools, and hospitals so that things never go so badly off the rails again. This was not a zombie attack; it was not the end of the world. Katrina was only a local disaster. To paraphrase the patient quoted in the article: If they have vital signs, Jesus Christ, get ’em out.
Thiele didn’t know Pou by name, but she looked to him like the physician in charge on the second floor. He told me that Pou told him that the Category 3 patients were not going to be moved. He said he thought they appeared close to death and would not have survived an evacuation. He was terrified, he said, of what would happen to them if they were left behind. He expected that the people firing guns into the chaos of New Orleans — “the animals,” he called them — would storm the hospital, looking for drugs after everyone else was gone. “I figured, What would they do, these crazy black people who think they’ve been oppressed for all these years by white people? I mean if they’re capable of shooting at somebody, why are they not capable of raping them or, or, you know, dismembering them? What’s to prevent them from doing things like that?”
The laws of man had broken down, Thiele concluded, and only the laws of God applied.
Some appropriately heated discussion at MeFi.
* Sarah Palin’s controversial proposal to create a “Department of Law” with the power to block ethics claims against the president is turning a lot of heads this morning.
* Swine flu: now more popular than Viagra.