Monthly Archives: July 2016

Four Supreme Court Decisions: Abortion, Guns, Affirmative Action, Corruption…And Ethics. Part 4: Voisine v. United States

"Aw, come on, that was a love tap! Now put some ice on that while I go out and buy a Glock...."

“Aw, come on, that was a love tap! Now put some ice on that while I go out and buy a Glock….”

Be honest, now: you thought I’d never finish this series, did you? (Part 1 was posted June 28.)

In Voisine v. United States, a 6-2 U.S. Supreme Court holding issued on June 27 approved extending a federal statute banning firearms possession by anyone convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” to include individuals who have “misdemeanor assault convictions for reckless (as contrasted to knowing or intentional) conduct.”

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the majority, said that “the federal ban on firearms possession applies to any person with a prior misdemeanor conviction for the ‘use…of physical force’ against a domestic relation. That language, naturally read, encompasses acts of force undertaken recklessly—i.e., with conscious disregard of a substantial risk of harm.”

The opinion isn’t remarkable, nor is it a significant attack on gun rights. The case is really about language, as so many Supreme Court cases are. From the opinion:

“Congress’s definition of a “misdemeanor crime of violence” contains no exclusion for convictions based on reckless behavior. A person who assaults another recklessly “use[s]” force, no less than one who carries out that same action knowingly or intentionally. The relevant text thus supports prohibiting petitioners, and others with similar criminal records, from possessing firearms.”

The real question, from an ethical standpoint, is whether Congress can and should remove a citizen’s Second Amendment right based on a misdemeanor conviction for domestic abuse. Is that fair? Sure it is. It is already settled law that it is Constitutional to prevent convicted felons from owning  guns, even if it was a non-violent felony. From an ethical public policy standpoint, why would it be overly restrictive to ban gun ownership from those who engage in a violent misdemeanor?

Writing in dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor (of all people), rejected the majority’s “overly broad conception of a use of force.” In the view of the two dissenters, “the majority blurs the distinction between recklessness and intentional wrongdoing” and thereby does a grave injustice to criminal defendants. Continue reading

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Filed under Family, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Unethical Website Of The Month: Bye-Bye Snopes…You’re Dead To Me Now [UPDATED 10/12/2016]

bye bye

Ethics Alarms has been tracking the increasing political bias exhibited by Snopes, once the definitive “Urban Legends” web source to identify false stories on the internet, e-mail hoaxes and other pollution of public information. The website has made the disastrous decision to wade into political topics and to hire some new social justice warriors and wanna-be Democratic Party operatives to cover them, resulting in the site becoming a bad imitation of PolitiFact.

The disturbing trend really established itself this month, but it was in evidence earlier. For example, Snopes rushed to defend Hillary Clinton when the story of her defense of a child rapist was used to smear her. (Ethics Alarms explained, correctly, unlike Snopes, what was unethical about the attacks on Clinton—all defendants deserve a zealous defense, no matter what the charge, and a lawyer isn’t endorsing or supporting a client’s crimes by doing her professional duty.) The Snopes defense, in contrast, was dishonest and misleading. Quoth Snopes, via its primary left-biased reporter, Kim LaCapria.

Claim: Hillary Clinton successfully defended an accused child rapist and later laughed about the case.

MOSTLY FALSE

WHAT’S TRUE: In 1975, young lawyer Hillary Rodham was appointed to represent a defendant charged with raping a 12-year-old girl. Clinton reluctantly took on the case, which ended with a plea bargain for the defendant.

WHAT’S FALSE: Hillary Clinton did not volunteer to be the defendant’s lawyer, she did not laugh about the the case’s outcome, she did not assert that the complainant “made up the rape story,” she did not claim she knew the defendant to be guilty, and she did not “free” the defendant.

Notice that the TRUE and FALSE sections don’t match the claim. That’s because Snopes is playing the logical fallacy game of moving the goalposts and using straw men. The claim, as stated by Snopes, is 100% true. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, The Internet, Unethical Websites

The Good News: At Least The Cops Didn’t Shoot Anyone In This Traffic Stop, And No One Got A Ticket For “Driving While Black”… The Bad: What They Did Was Still An Abuse Of Authority

Pop Quiz: How many idiots in this photo?

Pop Quiz: How many idiots in this photo?

Is this really what we are going to put up with now—city police departments so desperate for love (and not to have their members picked off by snipers) that they start pandering to citizens in idiotic ways? That’s not the way to earn anyone’s respect and trust. It is, however, a good way to lose it.

Three NYPD officers from the 101st Precinct in Far Rockaway cops  pulled over the car being driven by Yehuda Coriat, 22, with his 20-year-old girlfriend, Sorah Oppen as a passenger. The police accused the couple of transporting weapons and drugs in the car.

Then they grilled Oppen about her boyfriend, ordered her out of the vehicle, and told her to open the trunk — and out came balloons! That was the cue for Coriat to get down on his knee and propose!

Awwww.

Yecchh.

This is wrong, wrong, wrong; an especially horrible example of the “Awww!” Factor, in which conduct that makes sentimental souls get all gooey inside is mistaken for ethical conduct. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Professions

Behold..THE DUMBEST ETHICS STORY EVER TOLD!!!

peetoy

Are you ready?

James and Isabelle Lassiter, who hail from Texas, were visiting Murfressboro, Tennessee and stopped into a Wasabi Japanese Steakhouse recently with their children. Apparently the sense of humor at hibachi restaurants has declined precipitously since the last time I ate at one, for I am told that the gag the Lassiters endured is now common fare. One of the Wasabi chefs held up a plastic toy depicting a little boy, and when the boy-toy dropped his shorts, he squirted water in a long, thin stream, as if urinating. The children were delighted! They were especially delighted when the stream hit their mom in the face.

Isabelle Lassiter was not delighted. In fact, she and her husband called the police, and accused the chef of sexual assault. “It peed on me…basically, out of his… wee wee area,” Isabelle explained, delicately.”It really didn’t have a wiener, but you got the point.” Investigators, who briefly took the toy into custody, indeed noted that the toy wasn’t anatomically correct. An officer wrote, “I observed the toy to have no penis and just a hole for the water to shoot out.”

PLEASE don’t tell me that if the toy did have a plastic penis, the claim of “sexual assault” would have been taken more seriously.

The Lassiters agree that this detail should not matter. “Just because somebody cut off a piece of plastic…doesn’t change the fact that you’re getting peed on,” said James Lassiter. “It was a sexual style assault on my wife.”

This is not a hoax. I wish it was a hoax. Reading about it has temporarily disrupted my capability to organize my thoughts, so I’ll just note the following in no particular order:

1. It was not sexual assault, by any stretch of the imagination. Nobody “peed on” Mrs. Lassiter. The cook squirted water on her, using a juvenile, risqué version of a squirt gun.

2. If Isabelle thought even  for a second that the stream of liquid was urine, she has a cognitive problem. Isabelle, pay attention: plastic figures do not urinate. They are toys. They have no bladder or kidneys. Even if the liquid comes from the toy’s “wee wee area,” it can’t possibly be urine.

3. Calling the police was beyond an over-reaction; it was truly idiotic, and it should be punishable. I’m trying to think of any reason not to have an ordinance that declares a spurious and wasteful call for police a misdemeanor carrying a hundred-dollar fine. Of course, such an offense should only be declared in extreme circumstances…like this, for example.

4. The manager of Wasabi did issue an apology to the couple, but claims he has never had any complaints about the toy in the past. “The kids like it, they think it’s a water gun, kind of like a water gun you know,” said Mr. Huang. Ah! The old “if kids think it’s funny, it’s ethical” standard. This standard is not reliable. The Lassiter kids might well have also found it hilarious if the chef hit their surprised mother with a cream pie, a pillow, or a dead cat. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Family, Humor and Satire, Law & Law Enforcement, The Internet

Ten Ethics Observations On The Democratic National Convention

Khan DEM

1. The unrestrained cheer-leading from the news media in contrast to its week-long sneer at the Republican is so shamelessly biased that American journalism risks crippling its ability to use its giant megaphone to sabotage Trump. They might at least pretend to be fair and objective. I get it: I find it horrifying that Trump is running too. The immediate and unrestrained effort to go stop him, however, is so openly unprofessional, and shows how far the news media’s ethics have deteriorated just since 2008.

2. We could see and hear, during the course of the convention, how Donald Trump’s boorishness and propensity for ad hominem attacks and personal insults have degraded both parties and political discourse generally. And to think, in 1988, Ann Richards was criticized for her George H.W. Bush attacks at the Democratic Convention, and her famous jibe that Bush was born with a “silver foot in his mouth.” The Democrats could have taken the high road, and would have benefited, as well as done the culture a favor. Nah.

3. The most unethical aspect of the convention was the party’s tacit embrace of Black Lives Matters, while the BLM protesters outside were directing white journalists  to “stand in the back” while covering its protests, around the country police officers were facing increasing abuse, and in Baltimore, Marilyn Mosby was graphically illustrating BLM’s attack on the rule of law.

Democrats deserve to pay a high price for this, and I am confident that they will.

4. I owe Senator Eugene McCarthy an apology. I was among the many young  supporters of the rebellious anti-war Democrat who felt betrayed when McCarthy refused to address his beaten troops at the 1968 Convention. He stayed in his Chicago hotel room, angry and resentful of how the party had steam-rolled him and his movement. I thought it was cowardly and selfish. Now, after thinking ill of Clean Gene  all these years, I realize he might have been right after all. Being gracious isn’t ethical when you are required to become a symbolic pawn  to the same dark, unethical forces that you have been telling your throngs to resist and battle despite long odds. If you pull a Cruz instead of a Sanders, you look like you are trying to torpedo your own party. Better, perhaps, to do what Gene did. His integrity told him that the best response was to neither to capitulate, nor be petulant, but just to retreat to fight another day.

I’m not sure he was right, but  I’m no longer sure he was wrong.

I’m sorry, Senator. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, Race, This Will Help Elect Donald Trump

Leading Candidate For Most Unethical Opinion Column Of 2016: Daily Beast Editor Goldie Taylor

Ox-Bow-still-3

How a major U.S. news and public affairs website can produce an article like Daily Beast Editor-At-Large Goldie Taylor’s is a fertile subject for inquiry, as is the question of how much the ignorant, un-American, values-warping assertions it contains are reinforced throughout our rising generations’ education and socialization. Those investigations must wait for another day, when I have the stomach for it.

For now, let’s just consider what Taylor wrote. It is titled “Six Baltimore Cops Killed Freddie Gray. The System Set Them Free,” an unethical headline that kindly warns us regarding the awfulness to come. No, six Baltimore cops did not kill Freddie Gray, as far as we, or the system, knows based on the evidence. That Taylor would state such an unproven and unprovable statement as fact immediately makes her guilty of disinformation, and shows that she is willfully ignorant of the principles of American justice, as well as too hateful and biased to comprehend them. Damn right the system set them free. That’s because in the Freddie Gray cases the system worked spectacularly well, despite the best efforts of an incompetent and biased prosecutor to make it do otherwise.

And that was just the title. The rest is infinitely worse: if you are feeling sturdy, read it all here. If not, the selected highlights (lowlights?) to follow will suffice.

Taylor wrote early on, Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Race, Rights, U.S. Society

The Darryl Glenn Affair: The Republican Candidate For U.S. Senator In Colorado Lied, Is Lying, And Thus Cannot Be Trusted Not To Lie In The Future

Darryl  Glenn is lawyer who is the Republican Party candidate for a United States Senate seat in Colorado in the 2016 election.  He is also getting, too late, a lesson in why public servants who try to lie their way out of embarrassing situations usually make things worse, and forfeit the public trust.

Glenn, who was largely unknown when he triumphed in the GOP state caucus, was asked about whether he had ever been arrested, and specifically about a rumored incident in which he attacked his father as a teen but was never charged. In May, Glenn told reporters he had never been interviewed by police for any reason. He said the incident being reported  might have involved another man named Darryl Glenn and that he sometimes gets phone calls about that person.

Then this month, Glenn told the Colorado Springs Independent that the rumored incident may have involved his half-brother, Cedric, who was 8 years older than Glenn and died in 1992.  Cedric, Glenn said, had a “criminal past.” The candidate pointed that he is an Air Force Academy graduate and that he would not have been accepted as a cadet if he had any kind of police record.

Now a recently uncovered  police report and other documents obtained by The Denver Post show that in November, 1983, Colorado Springs police answered a call from a father who said he had been struck in the face by his son, an 18-year-old high school senior  named Darryl Glenn. The documents include Glenn’s signature, which matches his signature on other documents.

This is Glenn’s latest explanation, fresh off his Facebook page. I’ll comment on it as we go along… Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Government & Politics