Category Archives: Law & Law Enforcement

Ethics Quote of the Week: Senator Rand Paul

Senator Paul, forever young.

Senator Paul, forever young.

“I think that’s the real hypocrisy, is that people on our side, which include a lot of people who made mistakes growing up, admit their mistakes but now still want to put people in jail for that. Had he been caught at Andover, he’d have never been governor, he’d probably never have a chance to run for the presidency.”

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky), in reaction to Jeb Bush’s admission that he smoked marijuana heavily as a student. Bush currently opposes the legalization of medical marijuana.

Oh, great: Rand Paul is 16 years old.

The chip off the old libertarian block Ron Paul (who would legalize heroin, ecstasy, LSD, you name it) now proves that he has no idea what hypocrisy is. It is troubling: Senator Paul is an MD, and can be an articulate and powerful speaker;  he can take bold strategic political steps that his Republican colleagues are too timid to try, like correctly charging Hillary Clinton with complicity in her husband’s sexual predation,  but he repeatedly conveys the impression that he’s just not all that bright. This quote is a sterling example. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Professions

Unethical Ex Of The Month, Paige Dunham: Hell Hath No Fury Like A Ventriloquist’s Wife Spurned…

The ventriloquist and his spouses. Can you guess which is the ex?

The ventriloquist and his spouses, past and present. Can you guess which is the ex?

I suspect there’s a sad story behind this one that many a betrayed spouse can identify with. Did Paige Dunham stand shoulder to shoulder with her husband, Jeff Dunham in the lean years when he was struggling ventriloquist (and really, what could be worse, struggling accordion virtuoso?) only to have him toss her away like an old shoe once he hit the jackpot and became a rich and famous celebrity, as he sought and won a flashier spouse to match his flashier lifestyle? It sure looks like it.

Nevertheless, what Paige Dunham did to her ex-spouse’s Shiny New Model Audrey Dunham can’t be justified ethically. It is also apparently illegal. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Romance and Relationships, The Internet

Ethics Alarms Mailbag: Is Arguing In The Alternative Unethical?

No, it isn’t, but I understand why it might  seem that way.

 “I didn’t do it, no one saw me do it, and you can’t prove anything!”

“I didn’t do it, no one saw me do it, and you can’t prove anything!”

An email from ethics issue scout Fred calls my attention to the case of  transgendered female Leyth O. Jamal, 23, who filed a sexual discrimination suit in September claiming that managers at a Saks store in Houston  referred to her as a man, made her to use the men’s restroom and pressured her to dress as a man despite being aware of her transgender identity. She also claimed a male colleague repeatedly asked her whether she was a prostitute in front of customers and colleagues, and threatened her. Saks fired Jamal after she brought a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In federal court this week, Saks withdrew its Dec. 29, 2014, court filing asserting that transgender workers are not covered by the gender discrimination ban in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The company  still denies that it discriminated, and has made statements about how it “believes that all persons are protected against sex discrimination under Title VII” of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination by employers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It had argued, however that the plaintiff had based her case not on sex discrimination but on the issue of gender identity and transgender status, which Saks believed fell outside of Title VII’s mandate.

Now Saks is only disputing that there was any discrimination, not that such discrimination was legal. The question posed to me: does this U-turn this look bad for Saks? Is it cynical and unethical? How can you simultaneously argue that what the client alleges isn’t actionable because there’s no law against discriminating against someone for gender identity, and that you didn’t discriminate on that basis, or any basis, anyway? Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, Workplace

Bias Check

Confirmation bias

Detecting and overcoming one’s own biases is one of the most important features of being ethical. “Bias makes you stupid,” after all, and stupidity can make you unethical. As the author of an ethics blog, this is of special concern to me, as I am constantly making choices that bias could seriously affect. Some of those choices include what issues and events have ethics components, which are most important to publicize, how should the ethical issues be analyzed, what conclusions are fair and reasonable, even how long a particular post should be, what authorities and references should be included, and what style—scholarly? humorous? bemused? indignant? outraged?—will best illustrate a point.

As regular readers here know, I can be harsh, often too harsh, when a commenter dismisses my commentary as partisan or ideologically motivated. First of all, it isn’t, and I resent the accusation. Second, it’s a cheap shot, essentially attacking my motives, objectivity and integrity rather than presenting substantive arguments. Third, it is a simpleminded approach to the world in general, and democracy in particular, and life, presuming that “there are two kinds of people,” and one type is always wrong, while the other type is always right. There is nobody I agree with all the time, and I am far from alone in that trait. People who agree with the same people all the time are not really thinking. They are just taking the easy route of picking sides, and letting others think for them.

Obviously, my approach to controversies, problems and ethical analysis are influenced by thousands of factors, including my parents,  my upbringing,  where I have lived,  teachers, friends, and family members, experiences, books, plays, movies and popular culture, interests  and passions (like leadership, American history, and baseball), what I’m good or successful at and I’m not, and so much else. These are not biases: once such influences mold your way of looking at the world and passing through life, they are, in fact, who you are. I’m comfortable with who I am. I just don’t want biases making me me stupider than I am.

Thus I am always interested in trying to identify where I stand on a the ideological scale. Some of my conservative friends think I’m liberal; all of my liberal friends think I’m conservative. Two sides again: I am confident that it is their place on the scale that leads to those perceptions. Today I encountered another test that supposedly divides liberals and conservatives sharply.  It comes from political scientist and philosopher James Burnham’s  1964 book “The Suicide of the West.” Burnham was one of those radical leftists who did a complete reversal in middle age and became an influential conservative theorist. You are asked to agree or disagree with these 39 statements, and the result reveals your ideological bent.

Here are the questions: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Government & Politics, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Quizzes, Race, Rights, U.S. Society, War and the Military, Workplace

Ethics Observations On Charles Blow’s “At Yale, the Police Detained My Son”

The esteemed columnist. If Yale police had known it was his son, they would have backed off: this is why it's important for the elite to teach their kids "Do you know who I am?" at a young age.

The esteemed NYT columnist. If Yale police had known it was his son, they would have backed off: this is why it’s important for the elite to teach their kids the phrase “Do you know who I am?” at a young age.

Charles Blow is a talented info-graphic op-ed columnist for the New York Times. he is also and African American who repeatedly pushes the narrative that the U.S. is a racist society hostile to blacks and black men in particular. Afew days ago, he authored an accusatory op-ed piece after his son, a Yale student, was detained at gunpoint by a campus police officer. Apparently Young Blow fit the description of a campus burglar, and was subjected to the indignity of being forced to the ground, identifying himself, and answering questions. Blow immediately decided to use his position of prominence with the Times to air a family grievance. Announcing that he was “fuming,” Blow questioned the officer’s procedure—

“Why was a gun drawn first? Why was he not immediately told why he was being detained? Why not ask for ID first? What if my son had panicked under the stress, having never had a gun pointed at him before, and made what the officer considered a “suspicious” movement? Had I come close to losing him? Triggers cannot be unpulled. Bullets cannot be called back.”

…and then concluded thusly:

“I am reminded of what I have always known, but what some would choose to deny: that there is no way to work your way out — earn your way out — of this sort of crisis. In these moments, what you’ve done matters less than how you look. There is no amount of respectability that can bend a gun’s barrel. All of our boys are bound together.”

“What you’ve done matters less than how you look.” Charles Blow is nearly engaging in code here, but his meaning is clear. His son was treated prejudicially because of the color of his skin. His son, the accomplished, Ivy League-going offspring of a distinguished journalist was treated like a criminal—how dare they!— because of how he looked, because he was black. “Some would choose to deny it” —you know: racists, conservatives, whites, Republicans—but “all of our boys are bound together.” Translation: we all look the same to racist white cops.
Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

Irresponsible Gun Ownership and Consequences

smoking-gun

Here we go again:

A 15-year-old boy  shot and killed his younger brother during a game of “cops and robbers” using what they thought was an unloaded handgun. The boy called police to their home in Eagan, Minnesota, and told them he had shot his brother, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Though police said the facts would be presented to the Dakota County Attorney’s Office for review, but no one is in custody and no charges are expected.

Investigators say the boys found their father’s 9mm handgun, which had been hidden unloaded, with a magazine holding cartridges nearby. At some point, the handgun was loaded by one of the boys, and assuming it had been unloaded, the brothers  began to chase each other in a game of “cops and robbers.” police said. The 15-year-old unintentionally fired,  striking his brother in the chest.

The father should be arrested and charged with negligent homicide. Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Family, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, U.S. Society

The Murderer and The Unethical Powerpoint

Powerpoint slide

Why didn’t I see this coming? The Washington Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Odies Walker for murder and other crimes in the slaying and robbery of an armored car guard because the  prosecutor’s PowerPoint presentation during his  closing argument constituted “flagrant, pervasive, and prejudicial”  prosecutoral misconduct. While lawyers “may use multimedia resources in closing arguments to summarize and highlight relevant evidence,” the court ruled, “advocacy has its limits.”

The  prosecutor presented a whopping 250 PowerPoint slides to the jury during the summation, including 100 with the caption “defendant Walker guilty of premeditated murder.” The slide above with the caption, “Money is more important than human life,” was typical of the problem assailed by the justices: it was never alleged that Walker said this, or even thought it. Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Science & Technology