The Lance Armstrong Conundrum

Livestrong guitar in AUS
Livestrong guitar in AUS

The Ethicist, Chuck Klosterman, was asked

It was recently demonstrated by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs during the seven years when he won the Tour de France. During the same period, Armstrong started Livestrong, a cancer-support organization known for its ubiquitous yellow bracelets. Is the unethical nature of Lance’s doping offset by the fact that his Livestrong organization has touched many lives in a positive way? Is it even right to consider Livestrong in our ethical analysis of Armstrong’s doping? MYRIAH JAWORSKI, WASHINGTON

The specific ethical problem with Armstrong’s use of performance-enhancing drugs is debatable. What’s less debatable are the unethical extensions of that behavior, the treatment of his teammates and his willingness to perpetuate a conspiracy that willfully deceived his supporters. But that’s not really your inquiry. What you’re asking is how we’re supposed to weigh the many bad things Armstrong did against the very good charity he created.

This is ultimately a question about motive. A cynic might argue that even Armstrong’s involvement with Livestrong was self-serving, since its beneficence made people want to believe he was not lying about his own impropriety. Yet this is mere speculation. We don’t know Armstrong’s true motives, and we clearly can’t believe whatever he claims those motives were. All we can do is work with the accepted reality: Armstrong helped the lives of many cancer victims by being the most talented cheater within a sport where cheating is rampant. Now, does that positive conclusion “offset” the unethical exploits that allowed it to occur? I would say it does not. And I say this because they are too interdependent to isolate and judge. There is no right or wrong way to feel about Armstrong, but however you feel should be based on the totality of his career. Everything has to matter.

(click here to continue reading The Lance Armstrong Conundrum –

Hmmm, Livestrong wouldn’t even exist without Lance Armstrong cheating and lying his way to multiple Tour de France titles, and yet…

What do you think? It isn’t a clear cut question as, for instance, continuing to support Susan G Komen For the Cure of Right Wing Women despite their clear political stance, or even for that matter, enjoying Alfred Hitchcock movies despite knowing he was probably an abusive, predatory man.

Full disclosure, I have never signed up for Livestrong, but I do use their online nutritional database periodically to look up information about food I am eating – it is a good resource. 

Shirky: ‘We are indeed less willing to agree on what constitutes truth’ | Poynter.

Earlier today…

in most places for most of history, publicly available statements have been either made or vetted by the ruling class, with the right of reply rendered impractical or illegal or both. Expansion of public speech, for both participants and topics, is generally won only after considerable struggle, and of course any such victory pollutes the sense of what constitutes truth from the previous era, a story that runs from Martin Luther through Ida Tarbell to Mario Silva, the drag queens outside Stonewall, and Julian Assange.

There’s no way to get Cronkite-like consensus without someone like Cronkite, and there’s no way to get someone like Cronkite in a world with an Internet; there will be no more men like him, because there will be no more jobs like his. To assume that this situation can be reversed, and everyone else will voluntarily sign on to the beliefs of some culturally dominant group, is a fantasy. To assume that they should, or at least that they should hold their tongue …

Shirky: ‘We are indeed less willing to agree on what constitutes truth’ | Poynter.

Scalia and Thomas Should Be Impeached


At the least because of their refusal to behave in an ethical manner.

Even the editorial page of the NYT is concerned

The court is still not addressing the issue despite months of questions about possible cozy friendships, suspected political biases and family ties. Last week, Justice Antonin Scalia was asked to recuse himself from an upcoming case about alleged gender bias at Wal-Mart Stores because his son is co-chairman of the labor and employment practice at the law firm representing the company.

A bipartisan group of 107 law professors from 76 law schools have made their own proposal for how the court should solve its recusal problem. They argue that justices should follow the ethical code that applies to other federal judges. (Under the rule about avoiding the appearance of impropriety and not letting others “convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge,” Justice Antonin Scalia would not have been able to go duck hunting with Vice President Dick Cheney in 2003 after the court agreed to hear a case involving Mr. Cheney.)

If a justice denies a motion to recuse, he or she should have to issue an opinion explaining why and that could be reviewed by some as yet unspecified group.

The professors’ proposal is a good start. Representatives Chris Murphy and Anthony Weiner are working on a bill based on it. It would be better for the justices to come up with their own similar proposal and adopt it — including a review process by a committee of justices to ensure accountability. That would not interfere with the court’s independence and would strengthen its credibility.


(click here to continue reading The Court’s Recusal Problem –

It's About Judge Ment

and re: Justice Thomas

Supreme Court spouse Ginni Thomas recently opened a lobbying firm which promises to give “voice to…the tea party movement in the halls of Congress.” The job will likely lead her to lobby in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, conservatives are mounting a nationwide litigation strategy to convince Ginni’s husband to give voice to the tea party movement in the halls of the Supreme Court.

In response to Ginni Thomas’ involvement with groups trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, 74 Members of Congress signed a letter to Ginni’s husband — Justice Clarence Thomas — pointing out that his wife’s new job could have ethical consequences for him:

As an Associate Justice, you are entrusted with the responsibility to exercise the highest degree of discretion and impartiality when deciding a case. As Members of Congress, we were surprised by recent revelations of your financial ties to leading organizations dedicated to lobbying against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. We write today to respectfully ask that you maintain the integrity of this court and recuse yourself from any deliberations on the constitutionality of this act. […]

Given these facts, there is a strong conflict between the Thomas household’s financial gain through your spouse’s activities and your role as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. We urge you to recuse yourself from this case. If the US Supreme Court’s decision is to be viewed as legitimate by the American people, this is the only correct path.

(click here to continue reading ThinkProgress » 74 Members of Congress Seek Justice Thomas’ Recusal From Affordable Care Act Lawsuits.)

the full letter available here

Reading Around on July 7th


Some additional reading July 7th from 09:36 to 13:27:

  • Booze quotes: shaking with style


    The important thing is the rhythm. You should always have rhythm when you’re shaking. Now, a Manhattan you shake to fox trots. A Bronx, to two-step time. A dry martini you always shake to waltz time. —Nick Charles, The Thin Man


  • ScienceBlogs, we have a problem | Science | – •


    Should have agreed to host a controversial blog on nutrition, written by PepsiCo? No, say the site’s readers, as some of its star bloggers stop their blogs in protest


  • Say hello to…PepsiCo??!? WTF? : Pharyngula


    So what’s with the corporate drones moving in next door? They aren’t going to be doing any scienceblogging — this is straight-up commercial propaganda. You won’t be seeing much criticism of Pepsico corporate policies, or the bad nutritional habits spread by cheap fast food, or even any behind-the-scenes stories about the lives of Pepsico employees that paints a picture of the place as anything less than Edenesque. Do you think any of the ‘bloggers’ will express any controversial opinions that might annoy any potential customers?

  • PepsiCo blog, Food Frontiers, is an affront to those who built the reputation of ScienceBlogs : Terra Sigillata


    I wish to focus my objections specifically on the breach of ethics and community represented by ScienceBlogs hosting this blog and accepting an undisclosed amount of sponsorship funds to do so


Blago – Mister Ethics

Blago Jogging on May Street

Oh, that’s rich. And how much is tuition at Northwestern? Something like six figures, I think. It’s fucking golden…

Even if Northwestern University has used the title for a literature course, “The Death of Irony” must be revived for next week’s campus appearance by the former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.

Mr. Blagojevich is scheduled to speak at a gathering called “Ethics in Politics: An Evening with Former Governor R. Blagojevich.”

Many people gagged for all the obvious reasons. His alleged misdeeds, cavalier ways, narcissism, favor-swapping pragmatism and seeming belief that he’ll be just fine if he corrals the news media to his side make him an atypical choice for presumably idealistic souls spending a king’s ransom for four years in Evanston.

“But the problem goes deeper,” said Rushworth Kidder, president of the Institute of Global Ethics. “In a sense, he’s the logical and inevitable outcome of a society that has refused to educate the next generation about values, ethics and character. As such, he’s the perfect outcome of our ethical indifference and a role model for the next generation.”

[Click to continue reading Chicago News Cooperative – Now at Northwestern, Ethics 101, Taught by, Well, Go Figure –]

Blagojevich Country

But there was a contrarian view from Larry Miller, a comic who occasionally writes about politics.

“There are so many shatteringly immoral thieves and cutthroats in government today, yesterday and tomorrow, so many in Chicago and Illinois and New York and Texas and Montana, so many galloping egomaniacs who just haven’t been caught yet, so many roaches zipping around the kitchen floor before someone turns out the light, why not Blagojevich,” said Mr. Miller, who recently appeared in Las Vegas with his chum Jerry Seinfeld.

“You and I don’t want to live like this, but it’s not too cynical to say, ‘They are all like this.’ In theory, O.K., there’s one guy here, and one woman there, who are actually trustworthy. But isn’t it axiomatic that as soon as one of these horrible egomaniacs first decides to run for something, anything, that it’s irrefutable proof-positive the guy’s a complete lunatic and thug?”

His grand finale: “Why not Blagojevich speaking on ethics? At least that has humor. Is it not far worse and creepy to have Hugo Chávez or Ahmadinejad welcome at the United Nations? These are seriously bad people, and we all stand and applaud and nod as if we were about to listen to U Thant,” the former U.N. secretary general.