Bloomberg Is Right About Teen Pregnancy, We Are Right To Condemn It


No, Candace, we haven’t forgotten Murphy and her amazing vanishing baby.

Conduct that is harmful to society needs to be rejected and condemned by society, and society has limited options for accomplishing that. It can make destructive and harmful conduct illegal, but some kinds of conduct can’t be illegalized. Uncivil speech, for example, is ugly and causes discord, and the only way to make it less common is to let those who engage in it know that neither they nor their communication habits are appreciated. The Supreme Court has decided that we can’t make lying illegal, but we certainly have the power to make habitual liars feel unpopular.

When society sends mixed messages about destructive conduct, or worse, tell those who engage in it that they are still wonderful people and that their conduct might be just fine for them, it poisons itself. There is a solid, practical reason for Kant’s Rule of Universality, which holds that conduct that would be lead to societal catastrophe if everybody engaged in it is wrong should be discouraged. If everybody doing it would be bad, it’s a good bet that the fewer doing it, the better.

No toxic social conduct illustrates the folly of hesitating to condemn it more vividly than unwed pregnancy, particularly teen pregnancy. While shunning and shaming pregnant teens was undoubtedly cruel, sending the message that unwed motherhood is socially acceptable is arguably crueler. This kinder, gentler response, combined with the warping influence of wealthy celebrities proudly parading their “baby bumps” courtesy of equally rich celebrity boyfriends, has led to an explosion of births without wedlock, especially in the black community. The children of these non-marriages are handicapped from birth, more likely to fall into poverty,substance abuse, illiteracy and crime; the mothers involved less are likely to succeed in careers or life; government programs, funded by taxpayers, are too often required to mitigate the damage. Continue reading

The U.S. Senate’s Disgrace


The news that the U.S. Senate passed its first budget in four years yesterday (by the skin-of-the-teeth vote of 50-49) heralds the utter disgrace of that body, the President, the government itself, and the nation.

Whether or not the impetus for the Senate to shake off its arrogant and irresponsible torpor and do the job commanded of it in the Constitution was really spurred by the passage of  HR 325, No Budget No Pay Act of 2013, that is sure what it looks like. Thus we are presented with a supposedly essential, honorable, patriotic and dedicated body that only chose to do its duty when its own paychecks were at risk. Meanwhile, over the past three years, a budgetless government spent money like a math-challenged teenager abusing his parents’ credit cards.

How despicable is this? I would find it less disgusting if the Senate showed that it really believed there were good reasons not to pass a budget, or at least that the Senators thought so, by refusing to do it again even though it would hit them in the wallets. This nauseating display alerts us, as if we didn’t already know, that this great country is being managed by 100 elected representatives who have no more sense of dedication or grasp of obligation than a middle school student council, and seemingly less. They actually had to be threatened to buckle down and do the jobs they were elected to do. And the threat involved money, clearly the only thing, other than power, that this revolting body cares about. The nation? The public? Right.

Gag! Ack! Blechh! Yechhh! Ptui! 

There are no words that can adequately express my contempt.

Incompetent Elected Official of the Month, Sandy Hook Ethics Train Wreck Division: Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY)….Plus A Major News Media Ethics Foul

Now if she gave a statistic like this, it would be news.

Now if she gave a statistic like this, it would be news.

Rep. Charlie Rangel, I should mention at the outset, should have been sent home by his constituents after demonstrating beyond question that he had reached the point of entitlement and arrogance where he believes principles of ethics no longer apply to him. But the Democratic Party chose to nominate the venerable Harlem icon, and his loyal, if irresponsible, New York district re-elected him, as it has been doing approximately since the dawn of time. Don’t think for a moment that this doesn’t have relevance to Rangel’s recklessness in the case I’m going to discuss. Why should we expect Rangel to be responsible, accurate or prudent in his public statements if nobody will hold him accountable? It’s not as if ethics is going to be a priority for him for its own sake.

Discussing the demise of Diane Feinstein’s assault weapon ban in the U.S. Senate, Rangel blamed the National Rifle Association in a videotaped, semi-incoherent rant that included this:

“I’m ashamed to admit it but its politics and its money. The NRA has taken this position, there is no reason, there is no foundation. There is no hunter that needs automatic military weapons to enjoy the culture of going hunting. But you know it’s really basically the absence of the voices of good people. I cannot believe that politicians are afraid of the NRA. We’re talking about millions of kids dying — being shot down by assault weapons, were talking about handguns easier in the inner cities, to get these guns in the inner cities, than to get computers. This is not just a political issue, it’s a moral issue and so when we condemn the NRA we should not ignore the fact that a lot of people that have taken moral positions have been solid on this big one.”

That’s right: Rep. Rangel said that millions of kids are being shot down by assault weapons. That’s what he said, on camera. Now, the facts in this case are not only easily checked, they are also at variance with reality in the approximate proportion that 2013’s America is not like Oz. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Lawyer/Blogger Scott Greenfield

No question: Justice Holmes would think Scott Greenfield is a good man.

No question: Justice Holmes would think Scott Greenfield is a good man.

Criminal defense lawyer and caustic, if trenchant, blogger Scott Greenfield stakes out a noble and correct stand on legal ethics and ethics generally in a superb post titled, “What Tastes Good To You?” Read the entire post, but his essay springs from a question that has been posed in various forums (including,  in slightly different form,the Jack Lemmon comedy “How To Murder Your Wife”), to wit:

If you could commit any crime and get away with it, what would it be? 

Greenfield’s answer, the ethically correct one, is “none” : “Just because we can get away with it isn’t a reason to do wrong.” Thus does he definitively separate himself from what Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes referred to as “the Bad Man” in his famous 1897 essay, “The Path of the Law.”  For Holmes’ “bad man” never breaks a law, but only because he abhors punishment.From this starting point, Greenfield considers a professional debate about whether the legal marketing tactic (as determined by the courts) of buying up another firm’s name as a web “key word” to lead customers to one’s competing firm is “unseemly,” which is to say, unethical, though not technically unethical under the professional rules of conduct. One of the defenders of the practice describes the division on the issue to a difference in “taste,” leading Greenfield to aim carefully and fire: Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: Michael Moore

“If a man with an assault weapon goes into the school where Harry Reid’s grandchildren go to school tomorrow and kills his grandchildren, would he stand in front of that microphone at five o’clock and say, ‘I know how Dianne [Feinstein] had to witness the mayor getting murdered, but my grandchildren just got killed today, but, you know, we can’t get it passed because we just don’t have the votes.’”

Documentary Film-Maker Michael Moore, ranting about Senate Majority Harry Reid’s decision to remove Sen. Feinstein’s assault weapons ban from the Senate gun reform package.

This is when I should not say anything at all, my mother told me.

This is when I should not say anything at all, my mother told me.

I know ad hominem attacks are uncool, but truly: what an awful, awful man Michael Moore is. He lies in his documentaries; he engages in deceit routinely; he abused Charlton Heston, knowing he was in the throes of Altzheimer’s Disease; he praised Fidel Castro; he is, for all intents and purposes a Communist, his public statements are fueled by and designed to ignite hatred more often than not, and, on top of it all, he says unethical and asinine things like this. Moore is to progressives what Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump are to conservatives: any group that can endure, indeed, applaud such people has serious, deep-rooted ethical and cognitive problems. Continue reading

Hand-Out Ethics: Buying Junk Food With Food Stamps, Or A Leap Down The Slippery Slope?

Maybe I got something out of law school after all.

11-nanny stateWhen I read opinion columnist Charles Lane’s lament that food stamp regulations didn’t limit the kinds of nourishment that could be bought by them to things Mrs. Obama would approve of, my mind flew back many decades to a memorable Contracts class in my first year of law school. The late Professor Richard Alan Gordon was thundering in his most stentorian tones—and boy, did he have stentorian tones!— about the class reaction to a case we had just discussed involving a Washington, D.C. family on welfare that had gotten itself in legal trouble by purchasing a stereo system on credit. One poor student was the target of the verbal barrage, having just opined that the family should have spent its government assistance on necessities like food, and not entertainment.

“And who are you, Mr. Anderson, to make the determination of what is a “necessity” for a fellow citizen? Shall the family in question not be permitted to feed its soul, as well as its gut? Is it the attitude role of the government to assume that accepting its assistance in dire circumstances involves one’s surrender of the basic human rights of choice, preference, taste and self-determination?”

I miss Dick Gordon, who became a cherished friend (and a terrific Learned Judge in “Trial by Jury”), and I miss the scathing letter he would have written to Charles Lane. In his column, Lane writes:

“The point is to increase the amount of real nutrition per taxpayer dollar. The counterargument is that it’s not fair to restrict poor people’s grocery choices. You hear this a lot from the food and beverage industry, for which SNAP has grown into a significant subsidy. Sorry, I don’t get it — morally or pragmatically. Of course the federal government should be able to leverage its purchasing power for socially beneficial purposes. If you take Uncle Sam’s help, you play by his rules. I repeat: This is a nutrition program, or so the taxpayers who fund it are told. It should nourish.”

“If you take Uncle Sam’s help, you play by his rules.” This is the crux of Lane’s argument, Mr. Anderson’s, and all the Nanny State advocates who cheer on Mayor Bloomberg’s assault on personal freedom. Ethically, there are strong arguments in all directions: Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Case Of The Creepy Student

Muse and Artist, Victim and Harasser, or Censor and Victim?

Muse and Artist, Victim and Harasser, or Censor and Victim?

Joseph Corlett’s essay, though I have not found the full text of it,  is undoubtedly creepy.

In fall 2011, the 56-year-old countertop refinisher was taking a writing course at the Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. His teacher, Pamela Mitzelfeld, gave the class an open writing assignment for their journals, and, Corlett says, assured them that any topic was acceptable, with no-holds barred.  She said, Corlett’s lawsuit now asserts, that she wanted “the raw stuff.”

That’s just what she got. Corlett wrote an essay called “Hot for Teacher,’ inspired by a Van Halen song by the same name, describing how his sexual attraction to Mitzelfield was irresistible. “Tall, blonde, stacked, smart and articulate…” he described her in his daybook. “Are you kidding me? I should drop right now. There is no way I’ll concentrate in class especially with that sexy little mole on her upper lip beckoning with every accented word. And that smile.”

Mitzelfield alerted university officials, saying that Corlett’s essay frightened and upset her, and that she refused to teach him any further. Moreover, she insisted that either he be ejected from the campus, or she would quit herself. He was escorted out of Mitzelfeld’s class a few days later by the Oakland University Police. A sexual harassment charge was dropped, but a hearing by university officials found Corlett guilty of intimidation and he was expelled for the rest of the semester. University officials allegedly told him that he would be arrested if he returned to the campus. His suspension lasts for  three semesters, and he must go through sensitivity counseling before he can reapply.

Aided by The Fire, Corlett is now suing for over two million dollars in damages, maintaining that his First Amendment rights have been infringed. “The university has essentially issued a straightjacket to every writing student to protect the delicate sensibilities of faculty and staff,” says Greg Lukianoff, FIRE advocate. The legal issues look pretty clear: Oakland University has a terrible case. “Write anything” means write anything, and certainly cannot mean “write anything except something the instructor will freak out over, in which case we’ll fix you good.” If it is true, as Corlett alleges in his lawsuit, that Mitzelfield made no objection to other sexually themed compositions by him that referred to her, his treatment by the school is indefensible. That’s not the ethical question, however. That question is your Ethics Alarms Quiz for the day, and goes like this: Conceding that Oakland University mishandled the episode…

Was Corlett’s essay ethical and blameless?  Continue reading

Bimbo Ethics in Spring Training

Stipulated: If you work for Hooters, and accept a job as an on-field ball girl for a Major League Baseball team, in this case, the Philadelphia Phillies, you may not object to the unflattering sobriquet “bimbo,” especially when you act like this:

Admittedly, the team is at fault, endangering its players and undermining the integrity of the game, by putting someone on the field who clearly 1) doesn’t know a foul ball from a nectarine 2) doesn’t have the sense God gave a muskrat and 3) hasn’t been told that her minimal duty is to pay sufficient attention to the game to avoid becoming part of it.

Still, this lovely blonde woman is allegedly an adult, and should be able to figure these things out for herself. She has a job that a seven year-old T-ball player could do with a minimum of thought, and still can’t do it right. It’s unethical to accept jobs you’re not qualified to do or not willing to learn to do, which in this case, apparently means any job that requires being more than vicarious visual sexual stimulation for middle-aged baseball fans.

Pointer: Craig Calcaterra

Proofreading Kudos: David Elias, who was the first to flag “Sping Training”

Now THIS Is Disrespectful Courtroom Conduct!


“Come on, where’s your compassion? He’s just a mixed-up kid!”

TJ Lane, who pleaded guilty in the fatal shooting of three Ohio high school students, appeared in court for sentencing wearing a T-shirt with the word “killer” written on it in black marker,the same message that he had on the T-shirt he wore while shooting three studentsteens in the cafeteria at Chardon High School. Lane also charmed the judge before sentencing with a “vile and unprintable” courtroom description about what he did to himself while recalling his killing spree, raised a middle finger to the assembled and said, “Fuck all of you!”

The judge sentenced Lane to three life sentences without parole.

And should we extend this obviously troubled and confusedyoung man our sympathy, our pity, our compassion? Should we be on the watch for when he repents, shows remorse, indicates contrition, and seeks that “second chance” that all Americans, indeed all human beings, deserve, with our hearts and arms ready to receive him back into civilized society?



“There Is No Debt Crisis” ? Boy, That’s A Load Off My Mind!

"So far, so good!"

“So far, so good!”

The confluence of head-exploding statements and news keeps coming, with the worst being the recent unconscionable announcements out of the mouths of the President and some of his political adversaries that “there is no debt crisis.”

This is exactly like the old joke about the man falling from a 40 story window, being asked by someone on the tenth floor, shouting through a window as he passes, “How are you doing?” “So far, so good!” he answers. Yet these ridiculous, idiotic or intentionally dishonest statements by President Obama, Speaker Boehner, and others are being cited by the news media as reassuring! No, there’s no debt crisis, if you regard that falling optimist as not being in a smashing-to-pulp-on-the-sidewalk-crisis. The debt increased by a trillion dollars last year, and looks as if it will increase by close to a trillion more by October, 2013. The government has no leadership on the issue, and the various sides appear incapable of forging a solution, with the current Administration actually going out of its way to try to make less than 2% in budget cuts under the absurd sequester hurt as much as possible, to convince a math-deficient public that cutting the size of government is not only impossible but undesirable. This scenario doesn’t demonstrate that there’s a debt crisis? Continue reading