Category Archives: Law & Law Enforcement

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quote of the Week: Justice Sonia Sotamayor”

Here is Chris Marchener’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Quote of the Week: Justice Sonia Sotamayor”: and the ongoing debate it has sparked here:

I am not a lawyer. do not play one on TV, nor did I spend the night in a Holiday Inn Express last night. BUT, my understanding of the decision was that the SCOTUS would not overrule the will of the electorate, who, after reasoned debate on the issue, voted to amend its state constitution to state unequivocally that no person shall be granted a preference based on some genetic characteristic, belief, religion, etc. Isn’t that what we are striving toward? They did not strike down nor address the merits of affirmative action.

I get Jack’s point that Justice Sotamayor’s dissent was not based on Constitutional law and was reflecting her own biases regarding race and gender.

Outside of this decision, there is no doubt that some people in this country have a cultural aversion to people of other races, nationalities, genders, lifestyles, Such aversions apply equally to all genders, races, nationalities etc. on a global scale. In the US. such personal aversions must not be a criterion for employment decisions, educational, or other economic opportunities.

To Mr. Green’s assertion, “You mean racists are the ones who talk about racism? How is that not like blaming the victim? This is a pernicious, evil lie – that the victims of racism are in fact the cause of racism because they have this nasty habit of pointing out the unpleasant fact of racism’s existence” : The evil lie is that racism and gender discrimination remains an institution perpetrated by white males such that all benefits inure to them within the economy of the US. Therefore, such institutional racism must continue to be addressed through the very means that created unequal opportunities in the first place. I have stated in earlier posts that any group that demands perpetual preferential treatment by virtue of race, ethnicity, gender or some other factor is guilty of the same institutional bias that we seek to overcome.

In Justice Sotamayor’s words  “Race also matters because of persistent racial inequality in society…” What does this mean? Does it mean that every race be identical in population size? Does it mean that income distribution within the racial sub-segment reflect the income distribution in the majority demographic? Or, does it mean that everyone has an equal chance based on persistence, education and intellect?

This is same Justice that said, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life,”

Blatant racism if we switched the nouns, And why just white men?

Later she said, “Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences,” she said, for jurists who are women and non white, “our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.” To this I do not disagree. However, the difference does not mean that better decisions will be made just different decisions. If we accept the premise that physiological or cultural differences are acceptable biases in judicial rulings then no culture, race, or national origin is inherently racist. She cannot say that white European physiology or culture is inferior for is she does then the logical conclusion is that all others are cultures and genders are superior to the white European culture which is a racist statement.

She continues, “And race matters for reasons that really are only skin deep, that cannot be discussed any other way, and that cannot be wished away. Race matters to a young man’s view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes, no matter the neighborhood where he grew up.”

To that I say, Why can’t they be discussed in any other way? I cannot wish away what others think, I can only think for myself. Why do you feel the need to tell me how I think and feel? Why does the young man sense the tension of others when he walks by? Are the passerby’s truly in a state of tension or has such hypersensitivity been planted within him through the rhetoric of those “leaders” who amass great wealth and power rationalizing every perceived slight as evidence of racism. We need to tell children that they can be anything they want provided they work hard in school and apply themselves. If we continually tell them the majority is against them and they have no chance without government protections then they will simply fail to strive for greatness, reinforcing within them the sense that majority society is against them. This is exactly what the self-described champions of racially equality seem to want. If it is not then I challenge them to try alternative tactics to get my support.

However, because there has been past injustice and we feel that we must compensate those affected by such injustice, we must ask who should pay the price for past injustice and for how long. Is evidence of economic disparity the only means to determine evidence of racism; I think not. It takes individual effort and if that effort is not forthcoming then failure to achieve is not evidence of racism. For those that advocate for affirmative action, should only the sons of whites who had the misfortune of being born into lower and middle-income American families bear the burden of reparations? I don’t think that the sons of well-connected whites suffer from being denied employment in favor of a greater, equally, or lesser qualified women or minority candidate as a result of ensuring affirmative action plan goals. Nor do I think that the daughters of many well to do citizens have ever faced any form of discrimination in their lives.

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Filed under Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Rights, U.S. Society

Ethics Musings On The Guy With “MURDER” Tattooed On His Neck….

 

Hey! Cool tattoo, dude! Just don't get caught actually murdering someo...oh. Bummer.

Hey! Cool tattoo, dude! Just don’t get caught actually murdering someo…oh. Bummer.

Jeffrey Chapman, who is soon to stand trial for first degree murder in Great Bend, Kansas, wants to remove the giant tattoo that spells out the word  MURDER around his neck, believing that it will prejudice the jury against him.

Ya think?

The judge will allow Chapman to have the tattoo removed before the trial, it appears. There is precedent for this: in Florida, in 2010, a neo-Nazi charged with hate crimes was permitted to have the hate-related tattoos on his face and neck, including a swastika, covered up by a professional make-up artist. It was paid for by the state, naturally.

Observations:

  • I suppose this is the necessary and fair decision by the judge. Lawyer-pundit Alan Dershowitz made some interesting points regarding the Florida case, however, suggesting that the swastika and other tattoos were an extension of tattooed defendant John Allan Ditullio’s character, and covering them could be construed as misleading the jury. “He is alleged to have attacked people on the basis of sex orientation and race. The court has the chance to make its rulings based on whether the tattoos are relevant to the case,” Dershowitz said. “It depends on what the prosecution is trying to prove. If they are saying his Nazi ideology drove him, then you could argue that seeing the tattoos is relevant.” Dershowitz noted that his tattoos were obviously the way he chooses to present himself publicly. “It’s not like the swastika was on his rear end,” he said.

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, U.S. Society

Ethics Quote of the Week: Justice Sonia Sotamayor

Sonia_Sotomayor

“Race matters. Race matters in part because of the long history of racial minorities’ being denied access to the political process…Race also matters because of persistent racial inequality in society…And race matters for reasons that really are only skin deep, that cannot be discussed any other way, and that cannot be wished away. Race matters to a young man’s view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes, no matter the neighborhood where he grew up. Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, “No, where are you really from?”, regardless of how many generations her family has been in the country. Race matters to a young person addressed by a stranger in a foreign language, which he does not understand because only English was spoken at home. Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: “I do not belong here.” In my colleagues’ view, examining the racial impact of legislation only perpetuates racial discrimination. This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable.”

-—-Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotamayor, dissenting in the case of Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative, Integration and Immigration and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary, in which a 6-2 majority ruled that Michigan voters could ban race-based preferences at universities without violating the Constitution.

This screed was remarkably unprofessional for a Supreme Court Justice, an emotional recitation of unsupported assertions, perceptions and complaints with no constitutional relevance. Sotamayor, you may recall, was nominated by the President in the midst of a public debate regarding the importance of “empathy” on the bench, code for “we need more women.” But the Constitution is supposed to be interpreted by principles of law and legal reasoning, not from “the heart.” Well, we clearly got the empathetic Justice he wanted, for better or worse. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Rights

The Supreme Court Delivers An Ethical Opinion On Democracy, Affirmative Action, and Fairness

Good work, SCOTUS!

Good work, SCOTUS!

In SCHUETTE, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MICHIGAN v COALITION TO DEFEND AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, INTEGRATION AND IMMIGRATION RIGHTS AND FIGHT FOR EQUALITY BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY, the U.S. Supreme Court just affirmed, 6-2, Michigan’s right to ban state affirmative action programs. The decision was narrow, not taking up the issue of affirmative action itself, but rather affirming the right of the citizens of the state to ban it at the ballot box.

You should read the decision  here, and not let journalists distort it for you.  My favorite quotes: Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Education, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

Pop Ethics Quiz! What’s Wrong With This Picture?

speeding bullet

No, you don’t have to spot the mistake, now.  That’s too easy. The single, embarrassing mistake in this ad created for Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun group Everytown For Gun Safety is so obvious I’m pretty sure there are 5th graders who could spot it. A bullet doesn’t come out of the barrel with its casing. There would be no way to propel such a projectile. This ad couldn’t have been created or approved by anyone who ever fired a gun, saw one fired or watched a  Western, war movie or action flick.

The unethical conduct represented by the ad, however, are more numerous, though equally unforgivable:

  • It is incompetent and lazy. No one connected with the ad and its graphics bothered to do the minimum due diligence necessary to find out what a bullet coming out of a muzzle looks like, or how guns work.
  • It is untrue. Actually, anyone is faster than that bullet, which would drop harmlessly to the ground.
  • It negligently misinforms the public, passing along the ignorant misconceptions of the group and its hired artist to people who know as little as they do.

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, The Internet

Is It Ethical For A Criminal Defendant To Take Acting Lessons Before Testifying?

Actors make great witnesses. Especially in movies...

Actors make great witnesses. Especially in movies…(and if you don’t know who this is and in what film classic, you have some cultural literacy to catch up on…)

This is a trial development I have never encountered before. Blogger Janni Allen, a former columnist for the South African Sunday Times, claims that a famous South African actor told her that he coached Oscar Pistorius before his histrionic testimony in court regarding the death of his girlfriend. Prosecutors have charged the famous “Blade Runner” with murder; he claims it was an accident. In his appearance on the stand, Pistorius wept and appeared overcome with grief and emotion.

For the sake of the discussion, let’s assume that Allen is correct, and that Pistorius took acting lessons. Is there anything unethical about a criminal defendant or anyone else who has to testify in court taking acting lessons in anticipation of the experience? Is there anything unethical about a lawyer directing a client or a witness to take acting lessons in advance of a court appearance?

I don’t think they are difficult questions. The answers are “No,” and “No.” Continue reading

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John Paul Stevens’ Gilbertian Nonsense

 

The Lord Chancellor-Stevens

A rather long preface is in order. Bear with me, please…

In the great, underperformed Gilbert and Sullivan operetta “Iolanthe,” W.S. Gilbert, a lawyer by training, devised a satirical judicial solution to a dire turn in the plot. Iolanthe, a fairy, violated Fairy Law by marrying a mortal, who happened to be the Lord Chancellor of England (he never noticed her wings, apparently.) The transgression commands the death penalty, but Iolanthe received a pardon on the condition that she allow her husband to think her dead, which she does for a couple of decades, much of which she spends doing penance at the bottom of a froggy stream, on her head.…but I digress.

When she learns, however, that her husband of yore is about to marry the sweetheart of her half-fairy son, who, though the Lord Chancellor doesn’t know it, is also his son, Iolanthe reveals herself and the paternity to the Lord Chancellor, who is duly stunned. This again triggers the death penalty and just minutes away from the finale, it looks like Iolanthe is going to end up like Carlo in “The Godfather,” as the fairy equivalent of Clemenza waddles on to the stage. (That’s how I would stage it, anyway.) Then this happens: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Law & Law Enforcement, Literature, War and the Military

To Hell With Godwin’s Law: As The Cynical “GOP War On Women” Strategy Officially Adopts “Big Lie” Tactics, Who Will Have The Integrity To Call It What It Is?

Sometimes recalling Der Fuhrer is necessary to give credit where credit is due.

Sorry. Sometimes recalling Der Fuhrer is necessary to give credit where credit is due.

One thing one can’t deny about the “Big Lie,” it sure works.

An H. F. Elson from Bethesda, Maryland indignantly writes the editor of the Washington Post:

“The April 10 news article “Senate Republicans block wage-equality legislation” reported that Republicans “say that the bill is unnecessary because discrimination based on gender is already illegal.” Pardon my sarcasm, but existing laws have worked really well, haven’t they? Republicans fear the bill would increase civil lawsuits, but the threat of lawsuits is the only way to get these needed changes in compensation made. When are Republicans going to stop antagonizing thinking, intelligent women?”

Let’s see…it’s hard to write such an incompetent and irresponsible letter while simultaneously being snotty about it, but H.F. was up to the challenge:

1. Discrimination based on gender IS already illegal. The law in question was Democratic showboating with a bad bill that would permit lawsuits when no evidence of intentional gender discrimination exists.

2. Yes, H.F., the existing laws have worked very well indeed. The remaining differences in pay by gender are almost entirely due to factors other than discrimination.

3. The only way to get the changes made in compensation would be for women to behave exactly like men, and adopt the same priorities and career paths. Lawsuits, on the other hand, are just a way to increase the costs of doing business, lose jobs, and give more money to trial lawyers—who are overwhelmingly male, by the way.

4. “When are Republicans going to stop antagonizing thinking, intelligent women?”  The real question is when will “thinking, intelligent women” stop accepting on faith outright misrepresentations about gender pay inequities, and do some research before adopting partisan talking points and writing snotty letters to the editor?

There are virtually no serious analysts of this topic that accept the proposition that “women get paid only 77 cents on the dollar compared to men in the same jobs” as an accurate measure of discrimination in the workplace and gender inequity. The misleading nature of that statistic and similar ones has been thoroughly explained and vetted in scholarly documents and the news media for decades, yet whenever Democrats want to activate their “base,” which includes a disproportionate number of women, their candidates and leaders shamelessly use the same dishonest figures. Obama and Biden used this tactic during the 2012 sliming of Mitt Romney, for example, because, after all, the ends justify the means, and besides, mean old Romney kept all those poor women in binders.

I just about fell off of my chair when President Obama sank to this abysmal deceit again in his 2014 State of the Union message, when he intoned, Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society, Workplace

Update: “The Kidneys of Orlac”

He will die, not with his boots on, but with his kidneys in...

He will die, not with his boots on, but with his kidneys in…

One of the best threads Ethics Alarms has ever hosted occurred in response to the November 2013 post, “The Kidneys of Orlac,” which discussed the strange case of the Ohio death row resident who wanted to donate his organs to ill relatives. The issue generated an Ethics Quiz, a follow-up poll (“The Amityville Kidney”) involving the related issue of whether the recipient of a murderer’s organs had a right to know their creepy origin, and a terrific Comment of the Day, which was just one of the COTD-worthy submissions.

I had forgotten about the story until Mark Draughn raised it again at Windy Pundit in the context of criticizing bioethicists, one of whom had what Mark considered a particularly misbegotten argument against the transplants (I agree with Mark about that argument, but I also oppose giving condemned prisoners the privilege of donating organs to loved ones, or anyone at all.) This led me to review original post, which led me to re-read the comments.

I also discovered the resolution of the dilemma, which occurred at the end of last month. Ronald Phillips will not be allowed to donate his organs, because he wouldn’t have enough time to recover from the operation before his execution.  Ah, yes, the old “You have to be in tip-top shape before we can kill you, or it isn’t really punishment”  Catch 22! Ethics, you see, had nothing to do with the bureaucratic resolution here, just the letter of the law, rules, and bureacrats refusing to look for the best solution in an anomalous situation, rather than the one they could reach on auto-pilot. As a result, nobody made a reasoned determination about what is right, or what capital punishment really signifies, or apparently even tried. That is how so many government decisions are made, and that, my friends, is far scarier than having the kidneys of a killer.

 

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Filed under Bioethics, Law & Law Enforcement, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Citizenship, Quizzes

Autonomy: The Ethics Alarm That Obamacare Should Be Setting Off, But Isn’t

fire_alarm

Autonomy. This is the ethical value, a sub-set of the “respect” section of the Josephson Institute’s Six Pillars of Character, that is suddenly absent from the value set of the New American Left. This is cause for concern to say the least, because autonomy is the very value that was the impetus for the nation’s founding, and that is at the core of the Bill of Rights as well as the “inalienable rights” that introduce Mr. Jefferson’s mission statement for our strange experiment in self-governance. Beginning back in Bill Clinton’s administration, advocates of a nationalized health care system, including President Clinton himself, began floating the historical and logical nonsense that Jefferson and the Founders would have enthusiastically supported national health care. This is, of course, a cynical lie if one is educated (as it was in Clinton’s case) or proof positive of complete unfamiliarity with, oh, everything about the Founders, their political philosophy, and political philosophy generally. Whatever the value of a national health care program, the idea that the government would presume to dictate how one managed something so personal and intimate as one’s own health would have horrified  every signer of the Declaration, from its author to Button Gwinett.

That Mr. Jefferson’s supposed followers—he is the Original Democrat, by most lights, would reach the point of maintaining that the public’s beliefs, opinions and attitudes must be bent to their will is a development that threatens the existence of United States society and culture as we know it. The recent flare in this emergency arrived via the mugging of Brandon Eich, ex-CEO of Mozilla, who was deemed by the liberal elite as unworthy of keeping his job (though Mozilla is an internet company and he is an innovator in the field) because he was not convinced of the rightness of same-sex marriage by the elite’s newly determined, and well past,  deadline—a deadline that such progressive icons as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton also missed, but never mind. Conformity to Progressive Truth has become the order of the day, and woe be to any good citizen who dares to oppose it. Does this sound like freedom to you? “Choice,” to use a popular rallying cry in the protest against the “War against Women?” It doesn’t sound like freedom to me. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Bioethics, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, U.S. Society