Tag Archives: justice

A Chaos Theory Law, An Anomalous Case, And Charles Grodin’s Lament

I swear, I'm not trying to belittle Charles Grodin by posting this photo of him back when he earned his living with his primary talent, which was comedy. I just want you to recall who the guy is, since he and the Nation obviously would like you to forget.

I swear, I’m not trying to belittle Charles Grodin by posting this photo of him back when he earned his living with his primary talent, which was comedy. I just want you to recall who the guy is, since he and the Nation obviously would like you to think he’s somebody else.

Charles Grodin doesn’t like the felony murder rule.

The felony murder rule, which essentially holds that anyone who is proven to have been involved with a felony during which someone was killed is guilty of First Degree Murder, is one of the harsher devices in American jurisprudence. I must confess, I sort of like it, and always have. Like all laws, however, it doesn’t work perfectly all the time.

The reason I like the rule is that it acknowledges the real danger of initiating felonies, crimes that are serious and destructive. If you burn a business down to collect the insurance, for example, you should be held responsible by the law if the fire gets out of control and someone is killed. The law combines criminal and civil offenses; the felony murder rule is like a negligent crime principle. It is a law that implicitly understands Chaos Theory at a basic level: actions often have unpredictable consequences, and even if the consequences are worse than you expected or could have expected, you still are accountable for putting dangerous and perhaps deadly forces in motion. If you commit a felony, you better make damn sure you know what you are doing, because if people get killed,  you will be held to a doubly harsh standard. Better yet, don’t commit the crime. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Law & Law Enforcement

My Hypocrisy Detector Just Blew Up!

sarcasm

In a favorite episode of “The Simpsons,” the Springfield equivilent of Mensa is having a contentious debate. Prof. Frink, the local mad scientis, complains that the tone has set the readings of his newly-invented “sarcasm detector” dangerously high. “Comic Book Guy,” another brainy member of the club, snarks, “A sarcasm detector? That’s a real useful invention!” Whereupon the sarcasm detector blows up.

Well, my hypocrisy detector just blew up. The readings started going off the charts when I came across this item:

NEW YORK (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday night that excessive partisanship flowing through the nation’s political system is causing the U.S. to march “backwards instead of forward”…Clinton cited the need to “get back to evidence-based decision-making.”

Oh, you mean like telling America that the allegations that your husband had lied under oath about his sexual affairs in a sexual harassment lawsuit and was using the power of his office to obstruct justice and cover it up was the creation of “a vast right wing conspiracy,” Hillary?  When you knew that the allegations were true? That kind of “evidence-based decision-making”?

I swear, if this awful, dishonest, cynical and untrustworthy woman runs for President, everything here will be exploding—my sarcasm detector, lie detector, hypocrisy detector, head…you name it.

This was just a warm-up, though. Then I read a Washington Post puff piece on Anita Hill, who is peddling a new documentary that casts her as a hero, which is ridiculous on its face. Anita Hill is the walking, talking embodiment of feminist hypocrisy, especially when paired with Hillary’s target, Paula Jones. I remember back when I worked for a large trial attorney lobby and Monicagate was in full force. The female president of the association was going on about her support of Clinton and how this was all, well, Hillary provided the talking point, and I had the cheek to remind her that during Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings she wore a button that said “I believe Anita Hill.”

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Filed under Character, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Unethical Website of the Month: “I Love Dogs”

This isn't the puppy in the post, but I've been looking for an excuse use this photo...

This isn’t the puppy in the post, but I’ve been looking for an excuse use this photo…

I love dogs too, but encouraging people to beat alleged animal abusers to the verge of death just doesn’t seem right to me. I’m funny that way.

Indeed, I wonder about the values and mental stability of those who think this is a rational and ethical response to the perpetrator of any kind of crime, not just animal abuse.

“I Love Dogs” has sent into the web a virtual “Wanted Poster” with a photo of a real human being, ostensibly a canine abuser who “nearly beat this pup”—also pictured—”to death.” The poster suggests that readers should share the poster if they “believe that he deserves the same.”

Sure enough, many do. The post has gleaned many thousands of likes, about 5000 shares, and a wave of comments like those that follow here. I’ve included the names of the posters, who obviously didn’t think their comments were anything to be ashamed of. I wish I could include the thousands more like them, but there is too much anonymity in crowds. Posting the commenters’ names that appear below is a public service. I suggest avoiding them. Also proofreading their work, as they all appear to have dropped out of the third grade…

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Filed under Animals, Character, Law & Law Enforcement, The Internet, U.S. Society, Unethical Websites

Now THIS Is An Unethical Sentence!

This time, it's the Judge who has "affluenza"...

This time, it’s the Judge who has “affluenza”…

He’s not a juvenile. He’s a middle-aged man, and a DuPont heir, living off of his trust fund. He’s also a child rapist, and the child he raped was his daughter, who was three.

Nonetheless, Delaware Judge Jan Jurden sentenced Robert H. Richards IV to treatment rather than jail.

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Law & Law Enforcement

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quiz: Targeted Dress Coding”

Yoga-PantsThe ethics quiz on banning leggings and yoga pants for some female students and not others produced several excellent responses. I was surprised that the majority here supported selective enforcement, which is normally regarded as per se unfair. This response is especially remarkable considering that the selective enforcing will be done by the kinds of geniuses that punishe little girls for shaving their heads to make cancer victims feel better.

Here is the Comment of the Day by the intriguingly named “The Wednesday Woman” (whose comment arrived on a Sunday) on the post Ethics Quiz: Targeted Dress Coding, which answered the quiz query, “Is targeted dress coding ethical?”

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Education

Rationalizing Corruption

But remember: the trains ran on time!

But remember: the trains ran on time!

It is a debate that erupts here periodically: Do you vote for the honest and trustworthy politician whose policies you despise, or the lying rogue who stands for all the “right” things? Washington Post editor Hilary Krieger raises the issue with gusto in the Sunday Washington Post, with an essay titled (in the print edition) “Is a little political corruption all that bad?”

Yes, Hilary, it is.

Next question?

But perhaps that’s not sufficient to kill this particular snake, so let’s delve a bit deeper into this truly fatuous, ethically obtuse article. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, U.S. Society

Ethics Quiz: Targeted Dress Coding

leggings

Yoga pants,  leggings, and other form-fitting outer-wear for girls are causing controversies among students, parents and school administrators. Some of the controversies are, frankly, wrong-headed. Here is an excerpt from an indignant letter sent to an Evanston (Illinois) middle school that banned the fitted lower-wear as inappropriate:

“This kind of message lands itself squarely on a continuum that blames girls and women for assault by men.  It also sends the message to boys that their behaviors are excusable, or understandable given what the girls are wearing.  And if the sight of a girl’s leg is too much for boys at Haven to handle, then your school has a much bigger problem to deal with.”

Ugh. Once again, we confront the burgeoning attitude that “don’t be an idiot” translates into making excuses for jerks. School girls need to learn where and when it is appropriate to send sexual messages (and how such messages are sent), or else they will be getting notes like this one when they are theoretically adults. Telling school girls that certain kinds of garb and make-up are not for the classroom is both responsible and reasonable. That is the message, and “assault by men” is not the issue in middle school. The issue is distracting from learning. The letter concludes…

“Girls should be able to feel safe and unashamed about what they wear.  And boys need to be corrected and taught when they harass girls.”

Well, let’s just let them come to school naked, then! School has a legitimate function of teaching students appropriate boundaries, both boys and girls. This is the “My Little Pony” issue, in a different form. There, the lesson is 1) don’t tolerate the bullies and 2) don’t gratuitously encourage and provoke them either. For “bullies,” substitute “middle school sexual harassers.” Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Education, Gender and Sex, U.S. Society

Ethics, Justice and Punishment: The Don Collins-Robert Middleton Case

Collins

Several readers sent me this case, which is as odd as it is horrible. In 1998, Don Willburn Collins allegedly attacked, possibly raped, and set on fire an 8 year-old boy named Robby Middleton when Collins was 13, and Middleton was only 8. Collins spent several months in juvenile detention but was released when prosecutors decided they did not have enough evidence to convict him. Middleton survived, permanently scarred and maimed, his health ruined. In 2011 he died of skin cancer, which doctors attributed to his burns. Shortly before he perished, he gave a video deposition accusing Collins of the crime.

Now a judge has ruled that Collins can be prosecuted for Middleton’s murder, since he died as a direct consequence of the attack 13 years earlier. Moreover, the judge said, he can be charged as an adult, though he was a juvenile when the attack took place.

The case raises many legal issues, and I am neither prepared nor interested in exploring those. I suspect that the task facing prosecutors is insuperable, given the time that has passed, issues of proof and law, and the gut feeling many jurors will harbor that such a conviction would be unfair.

I will render this ethics verdict, however: If Collins was the attacker, I believe it would be fair, just and ethical for him to be punished for it now as an adult, for that is what he is. Continue reading

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Filed under Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Being Fair To College Student Ideological Idiocy

Luckily for him, the bank president who wrote this foolishness in 1969 didn't sign his name to it...

Luckily for him, the bank president who wrote this foolishness in 1969 didn’t sign his name to it…Ah, my old college days!

My attention has been drawn recently to two essays by college students, both presumably sent to me on the theory (or hope) that reading them would kill me. The first, published in the Drexel Triangle (the student paper), argues that stage directors should be prevented from casting actors who look the way the playwright envisioned them. The second, published in the Harvard Crimson, makes an even more disturbing assertion: its author asserts that Harvard should stop guaranteeing professors and students the right to advocate controversial views or pursue research that challenges liberal views and assumptions.

I don’t want to devote the bulk of this post to rebutting these two essays, which are, I think self-rebutting. In the theatrical essay, student actress Alyssa Stover argues that a stage director shouldn’t have the right to decide that, say, casting an Asian dwarf as black boxer Jack Johnson in “The Great White Hope” would lead to a less effective production (that is my example, not hers—she objects to a director of “Cabaret” refusing to cast African-Americans as a matter of historical accuracy):

“These arguments are fundamentally flawed. What the audience wants is almost impossible to measure because the “audience” is composed of anyone who can get a ticket. A director or producer’s right to deny someone a role due to their appearance is debatable because this is a judgment based on one person’s preferences and may not actually create something that is stage worthy. The current status quo allows people to be barred from the stage due to physical “flaws,” as determined by the direction. These judgments are not harmless, and when the issue of race is involved, the problem only gets bigger.” Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Race, The Internet, U.S. Society

Ethics Quiz: Smashing The “Million Dollar Vase”

Miami performance artist Maximo Caminero walked into the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, entered a special exhibit of sixteen ancient Chinese vases painted over in bright colors by celebrated Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, picked up one of them, and immediately after a security guard instructed him not to touch the exhibit, allowed the vase to fall from his hands, shattering into bits. Some strange and interesting details of the incident:

  • He did not say “Oopsie!”
  • In fact, he admitted that smashing the pottery was intentional, and was his protest against in support of local artists like himself whose work is not exhibited at the museum while the art of international artists like Weiwei is.
  • The painted vase the 51-year-old artist destroyed is said to be valued at a million dollars. Each of vases used in the exhibit  are about 2,000 years old, dating back to China’s Han Dynasty. The artist often uses ancient  artifacts in his work, and has drawn criticism that his art consists of  defacing the original work or another artist.
  • Caminero says he thought the vases were cheap pottery purchased at Home Depot, and never suspected that they were so old or valuable. (And yet he still didn’t say “Oopsie!” Or “Doh!”
  • The museum HAS exhibited local artists.
  • He broke the vase directly in front of a series of larger-than-life photos of  Weiwei dropping and destroying another Han Dynasty vase.
  • He says that he interpreted the photos as a fellow artist’s provocative statement, encouraging him to break the vase.
  • Caminero was charged with criminal mischief, which is not a trivial charge. At very least, he would be required to pay for the destroyed item.
  • The news reports say that the museum is assisting police in the investigation. What investigation? The entire episode on video.

No, you can’t make this stuff up.

And our Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is this:

Should the justice system treat Caminero’s act  more leniently than any other act of deliberate vandalism resulting in the destruction of a million dollars worth of property?

To me, the answer is a resounding “no”:

  • The fact that the vandalism is a protest? It doesn’t matter why he destroyed the vase. It wouldn’t mitigate the crime even if he had something legitimate to protest, which he did not.
  • The fact that he didn’t mean to break a a million dollar vase, just a cheap one? Too bad. You break it, you’ve bought it.
  • The fact that the photo display behind him showed the artist doing exactly the same thing? Completely irrelevant. The artist was breaking his own vase.
  • The fact that the art that Caminero was destroying was itself created by a destructive act? Oh, there are a number of bad rationalizations he can use in his defense, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he uses them all. The protest was performance art, and punishing it severely infringes on free artistic expression! Punishing him is the ultimate hypocrisy, as he was calling attention to Weiwei’s own vandalism! He started it! Tit for Tat! It’s for a good cause! All ethically invalid.

Someone this stupid, irresponsible, self-centered and reckless is a danger to the community. His next protest may harm more than a vase.

I hope they throw the book at him.

________________________________________

Pointer: CNN

Sources: Miami Herald, C News

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Law & Law Enforcement