Category: Ethics

So What If You Gave a BJ in College?

Joan AllenOver the past week, I‘ve been discovering that there are just as many dumb movies on Amazon Instant Video as on Netflix. I’m in the midst of a free 30-day trial membership with the former and almost every night, I look for a free good movie to watch for free, knowing that I won’t actually find one for free. (And by good, I mean something that measures up to my three favorite classics: Independence Day, Basic Instinct, and Madonna: Truth or Dare.) Basically, I’m Sisyphus—but hey, did I just mention my favorite four-letter F-word enough?

The other night, I slept-watched the 2000 political thriller snoozer The Contender, packed with enough famous miscast actors to guarantee that it would suck.

It didn’t suck. At least not completely. Without diving too deeply into the plot, after the country’s Vice President dies, Democratic President Jackson Evans (Jeff Bridges) chooses Laine Hanson (Joan Allen) to be the nation’s next Number 2. (Sorry, Hillary.) But some mean, nasty Republicans (what else would they be?) seek to derail Congressional confirmation by exposing Hanson’s torrid sexual past. Turns out, there’s alleged photographic evidence of Hanson reveling in a drunken orgy during a sorority initiation.

To be clear, I believe that to elevate someone who engaged in such debauchery to Vice President is an insult to the nation.

The woman deserves to be President!  Continue reading

Can Emphysema Buy Happiness?

Sharone Stone SmokingHow much is your happiness worth? Can you put a dollar amount on it? I can on mine.

$6.25. That’s the cost of a Butterfinger shake at vegan fast-food haven Blossom du Jour. Seriously, it’s better than porn. Of course, Uncle Sam’s sales tax chips away at my joy, but then, who said the government was ever in the business of happiness?

The government did, in fact, when not long ago it released its latest proposed tobacco regulations. The New York Times reported that the new guidelines included “a little-known cost-benefit calculation that public health experts see as potentially poisonous: the happiness quotient. It assumes that the benefits from reducing smoking—fewer early deaths and diseases of the lungs and heart—have to be discounted by 70 percent to offset the loss in pleasure that smokers suffer when they give up their habit.”

In other words, happy smokers mutate into miserable quitters—at least temporarily after puffing their last plume. Put more simply, the health gains from quitting smoking aren’t as great when balanced against the unhappiness quitters feel.

Put even more simply: What good is not getting emphysema if you’re just going to complain about your good health?

On one hand, it’s nice to see Big Bro considering the happiness of its millions of little brothers. Ultimately, the whole point of government is to ensure the happiness of its citizens, something I especially believe as an advocate of utilitarianism, the greatest good for the greatest number (an over-simplification of the ethical theory, but you get the point).

Plus, the U.S. Constitution guarantees everyone the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. By now, we all know that tobacco kills the first part of this trifecta, is an impetus for debate around second, but we rarely—if ever—think about smoking in terms of the third.

Well, the government’s been thinking, and some say thinking about it all wrongly. Continue reading

The FDA Should Ban Black Blood

I recently committed an act of civil disobedience. I donated blood. But before I get to that, I realize that it seems as if David Duke had written the title of this post, but consider this: Black people accounted for 44% of all new HIV infections among adults and adolescents in 2010 (the last time such stats were available), according to the Centers for Disease Control. Given the relatively small size of the U.S. black population, that means that the rate of HIV infection among blacks is eight times that of whites.

The Food and Drug Administration should reject black blood,  just as it shuns gay blood.

Blood SplatterYou might be thinking that black people aren’t responsible for the high HIV rate so much as black gay men are. You’d be right. In fact, men accounted for 70% of all new HIV infections among black people; most of these men were gay or bisexual—or as health agencies commonly put it, “men who have sex with men (MSM).” So, it really is a gay problem.

A big one. In 2010 gay and bisexual men between ages 13 and 24 accounted for 72% of all new HIV infections in that age range. Which is partly why the FDA continues to uphold its ban preventing blood donations by men who’ve have sex with men since 1977.

Of course, the FDA also won’t allow donations by those who’ve had a quickie with a prostitute or intercourse with an IV drug user within the last year. So if you’re a straight married man who’s screwed a hooker a few years ago, your blood’s OK. If you’re an openly gay married man—even with an HIV- test—you’re just screwed. Forever.  Continue reading

Privacy Is Overrated

Recently, I asked a friend how much he earns.

“None of your fucking business!” he snorted.

Let me be clear: No, I do not deserve to know his salary. He doesn’t need to know mine. Neither of us has a right to view the pay stubs of anyone (other than a relative handful of business and government officers). Still, I wish he would’ve told me.

Lock and ChainI asked out of curiosity, like when I once asked the same friend, “What ever happened to that one calorie that Diet Coke once advertised?”

“None of your fucking business!” he screamed back.

No he didn’t. However, when pressed about why he’s so secretive about his earnings, he responded like most people do: “Because you don’t need to know that.” Why? “Because it’s personal.” So? “You don’t need to know such personal details.” Why not? “Because they’re personal.”

Let’s leave the carousel of kindergarten babble behind. This is not about money. This is not about a right to privacy. It’s about why you choose to exercise that right to begin with.

Too many of us are too private. Continue reading

Judging Everyone

“Who are you to judge me?”

It’s a question that isn’t really a question. No one ever asks it so much as hurls it as a defense to shut down dialogue—which is exactly why I’ll use it to start this conversation, and launch this blog.

The problem with invoking some let-he-who-casts-the-first-stone nonsense to silence someone is that it assumes none of us has the right to judge. The reality, however, is not that we’re too judgmental. It’s that we’re not judgmental enough.

So I’m throwing the first stone. I hope you don’t bruise easily.

Judging Fiery RedFor starters, tell a mother she’s raising little Johnny well. “Thank you,” she’ll reply, beaming with pride. Point out that she’s neglecting her son, and she’ll shoot a menacing glare not seen since Satan possessed poor Marlena. “Don’t you dare tell me how to raise my child! DON’T JUDGE ME!

What she really means is, “Don’t judge me—unless you’re judging me positively.” Girlfriend, you can’t have it both ways.

Sure, there’s the maxim instructing what you’re (not) supposed to do if you’ve got nothing nice to say—and it’s a good rule for most etiquette matters. Want to use the salad fork instead of the dinner fork? Who cares? (Well, some people care. But they shouldn’t, certainly not in the way that  we’re talking about here.) It’s one thing to violate a custom—I’ll cut into my Lean Cuisine with your $357 steak knife if I feel like it, thank you—but quite another to act in ways that impact others. Now we’re talking ethics.

When behavior falls under an ethical domain, it’s not just OK but obligatory for you to judge, negatively or otherwise. In fact, all of us already do that, only we keep our thoughts to ourselves. So the issue isn’t so much judging but judging publicly. Continue reading