Monthly Archives: June 2018

Oh-Oh… I May Be Mellowing: I’m Not As Keen On The Felony Murder Rule As I Once Was

The New York Times recently had a story about the latest state, California, considering abolishing the felony murder rule, the tough American principle that if you participate in a felony and someone is killed, you can be tried for first degree murder even if you didn’t directly cause the death. Writing about the rule in 2014 as it  applied in a particularly odd case, I wrote,

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.

Don’t commit the crime. I have this reaction to all complaints about harsh sentences when the individual complaining (or having an advocate complain on his behalf) is guilty of the crime involved…You knew the risk, and you get no sympathy from me. The same applies to felony murder. The felon rolled the dice, and lost. (Somebody else lost too: the victim who was killed.) Nobody made him (or her) roll.

The potential California reform would change state law so that only someone who actually killed, intended to kill or acted as a major player with “reckless indifference to human life” could face murder charges. That would avoid seemingly harsh sentences in cases like the one the Time story focuses on, in which Shawn Khalifa, 15 at the times, served as a look-out while some teenage friends broke into an elderly neighbor’s house in the  California town of Perris, looking for cash. The elderly homeowner was injured in the burglary and eventually died.  A jury convicted the teenager of first-degree murder under the felony murder rule, and he is serving a sentence of 25 years to life. I am tempted to support the California  measure, which would avoid Khalifa’s kind of sentence while keeping the possibility of a felony murder charge when the culpability is more than just moral luck. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Law & Law Enforcement

Exhibit A. On Why The News Media Won’t Address Its Unethical Bias

Just look at that chart, sent to me by a frequent commenter here. I wish I could make it larger on the site, but a clearer version is here.

The woman [going by only the name “Vanessa,” as far as I could discover] who created this appears to be serious: if this is satire or trolling, she fooled me. The thing is so obviously itself a product of liberal bias that it is amazing that it would be presented as otherwise. There is Fox News way over in the hyper-partisan conservative field, which is mostly fair, but lo and behold, there sit outrageously hyper-partisan CNN, The New York Times and the Washington Post mostly in the “neutral” field while ABC, CBS, NBC,  NPR and TIME [KABOOM!] are sitting entirely in “neutral.”

How is it possible that someone could come to such an obviously incorrect conclusion? Several ways, actually. One is that she is far enough left that the biased and slanted hackery of sources like CNN seem moderate and fair to her. Another is that she doesn’t have a clue what bias is. A third is that she’s an idiot, and a fourth is that she’s doing propaganda for the propagandists. She has a long section on her methodology here: please read it if you are curious, and report back. I’m not going to waste my time. Any methodology that leads to the conclusion that NPR is paragon of unbiased journalism is crap by definition. I don’t need to read it to figure that out. Vanessa says we should trust her analysis because she in an English major and a patent lawyer.

Oh.

This visual representation of denial does have value: it demonstrates that there are no unbiased news sources, and that journalism is not merely untrustworthy, but actively impeding the communication of essential knowledge to the public, so they can make the informed choices crucial to a functioning democracy.

Of course, I knew that already.

(Somebody tell Vanessa.)

 

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, The Internet

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/29/2018: Reflections On Hubris And Chaos

Good Morning!

 I’ve been feeling sorry for my Democratic and progressive friends ( less so for their ideological allies in government and the news media) who are obviously upset and angry about how matters have proceeded, spinning horribly out of control from their perspective, since November 8, 2016. I hate to see friends in pain, even if they react to it by lashing out against me—well, maybe especially if they lash out against me—and I think I could help them understand why this happened if they were willing to listen, which they are not.

Most of all, their fate is due to hubris of a Euripidean scale, or perhaps Icarus (above) is the better comp. A truly democratic public understands and accepts–must understand and accept— that their side won’t always prevail , and that democracies are like a roller coaster on the way to someplace arguably better over time, based on common principles all of its citizens understand and embrace. Democracies are based on trust in the essential good will of neighbors, and also respect for adversaries, an ethical principle that has great pragmatic benefits as well: eventually, you will be on the bottom looking up, and if you didn’t plant your boot on the faces of those above you now, you are less likely to be tasting leather on a regular basis.

Despite historical lessons such as the nation swinging from Johnson to Nixon and Carter to Reagan, Democrats began to believe their own hype that they were on “the right side of history” in all things, and that the election of Barack Obama guaranteed a constantly ratcheting process towards the transformation of the United States into a socialist, European-style culture. Obama’s smug, superior character catalyzed this fatal error, and the device (which he permitted, if not encouraged)of automatically condemning his critics as racists became a mindset: anyone who disagreed with progressives were racists, sexists, bigots, and otherwise villainous. (You can see this attitude in the recent article in Splinter, a left-wing site, that refers to all of the jurists on the Federalist Society’s Supreme Court candidate’s list as “monsters.” )

This persistent contempt for the humanity of one’s political opponents in a nation is the stuff that totalitarian regimes are made of, and the Democrats, without (perhaps) even realizing it, were well on their way. Adding to their cockiness was the complete abandonment of objectivity by the mainstream media, which during the Obama administration devolved into an uncritical cheering section. Nobody was going to call them racists! Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Race, U.S. Society

Thanks To The Widespread Absence Of Competence, Honesty, Integrity And Trustworthiness, I Have No Idea What This Story Really Means, If Anything

The Hill tells me that Democratic pollster Mark Penn claims that a vast majority of Americans don’t really support sanctuary cities. The one-time chief strategist for Hillary Clinton‘s 2008 presidential campaign says that a poll he took revealed that 84 percent of Americans favor turning undocumented immigrants over to federal agents.

“I asked them, ‘Do you think notifying ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] would in fact increase crime because it would inhibit people from reporting crimes or does it decrease crimes because it takes criminals off the street,’ and they overwhelming said ‘decrease,’ ” Penn told Hill.TV’s “Rising.” “When someone’s arrested, they expect someone will notify federal immigration authorities just as they would expect someone who violates state tax law will find out that they notified the IRS,” the pollster said. This is supposedly summed up by The Hill’s headline, “Ex-Clinton aide: 84 percent of Americans support turning undocumented immigrants over to authorities.”
Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Research and Scholarship

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Little House On The Cultural Divide”

There has been a paucity of Comments of the Day lately; it’s probably my fault. This one is by a first time COTD awardee, and involves the rare Ethics Alarms topic of children’s literature, in response to the Ethics Quiz about the justness of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name being stripped from the award created in her honor. Apparently her “Little House” books were not sufficiently prescient regarding modern sensibilities and 21st Century hindsight.

And no, I didn’t pick this comment because it includes a compliment to “The Wind in the Willows,” perhaps my favorite book of all time.

Here is Bob’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quiz: The Little House On The Cultural Divide:

“Is it fair and reasonable to remove Wilder’s’ name from the award, essentially taking away an honor despite no new information or evidence arising?”

No.

Bit of backstory: my husband and I were both inveterate readers when we were children. Oddly enough, neither of us read “children’s books” when we were kids … we went from Dick and Jane to fairly adult novels very early on.

However, when we hit our 40s-50s, we started a campaign of reading the great classics of kiddie lit. (Just a note — “Wind in the Willows” is a masterpiece, the first six [and only the first six] Oz books are spectacular, E. Nesbit rocks and the popularity of “Peter Pan” is a mystery we have never plumbed.)Among those books were the entire Little House corpus. They are quite terrific. (As with most series, some are better than others.) While the attitudes may be dated, there is nothing “hateful” about them. In order to be hateful, there should be some evidence of a clear animus against a particular group of people; Wilder has no agenda, and simply reflects the attitudes common of her era.

It is essential to note that these books are not virulent anti-Amerind screeds, but stories of the heroic pioneers who built our nation. Native Americans occasionally cross this landscape, but these books are neither about nor against them.

It does seem as if there is a concerted effort to erase (or … re-envision) American history to something more palatable to post 1960s sensibilities. This is mischievous and dangerous, and should be confronted whenever possible.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, History, Literature

The Yankees Demonstrate How Athletes Get Brain Damage

During last night’s game against the Phillies,  New York Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner crashed into the wall  making a terrific catch. He fell to the ground, clearly stunned, then got to his feet, shaking his head like a cartoon character after being conked on the noggin.

Baseball’s concussion protocol requires that a game be stopped and a player evaluated on the field by a trainer if there is an episode that carries a substantial risk of concussion. If the trainer detects any signs of a concussion, the player must be removed and examined further. None of this happened after Gardner’s collision with the wall. He finished the game, going hitless.

Asked about his head later, Gardner said that he felt good. But the protocol isn’t up to the player, nor should it be. Players often refuse to acknowledge injuries, and Gardner is the perfect example of the kind of player who won’t. He is famously tough, and he is also a veteran on a Yankee team with several hungry young outfielders who would love to take his job. It was a Yankee first baseman, after all, who took a rest for one game and lost his job to Lou Gehrig,  permanently. Nobody wants to be the next Wally Pipp. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Dunces, Health and Medicine, Sports, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/28/2018: The Post-Kennedy Retirement Announcement Freak-Out

Good Morning!

1. How prescient of me to headline yesterday’s warm-up “Deranged” before Justice Kennedy announced his retirement and the progressive/Democratic/ mainstream media/social media freakout commenced!

2. Duh. Since nobody seems to be writing about how perfectly this proves the Trump-inflicted brain damage on the Left, allow me:

  • Justice Kennedy is 81. As my dad used to say when he entered his 8th decade, he’s in the red zone, and can drop dead at any second. Did Democrats really assume he would keep working forever?

Their shock at this is ridiculous and unbelievable. WHAT? An 81-year-old judge is retiring?

  • This is a wonderful example of how people assume that everyone else thinks as they do. The Trump-Deranged have reached the point where they would saw their pets in half to undermine the President, so they assume that Kennedy feels the same way.

There is no evidence that he does, in part because, unlike Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who has periodically trumpeted her contempt for the President, he has been judicially discrete and professional.

  • It is per se irresponsible for an 81-year-old in a challenging job with national impact not to step down before he or she becomes incompetent, or drops dead. Scalia was irresponsible not to retire. Ginsberg should retire (she is 84). Breyer is two months short of 80: he should retire.

Outside of judges, we have multiple members of Congress, notably Pelosi and John McCain, who are being unethical by not stepping aside.

  • The bottom line is that nobody should be freaking out, because everyone should have been prepared for it.

3. We get it! You are vicious, juvenile, angry, rigis and irrational people. The Daily News nicely sums up the calm, analytical, reasoned reaction by the Left:

Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement