Evening Ethics Nostrum, 9/30/2019: The “Already Sick Of Impeachment Narratives” Edition [Updated And CORRECTED]

Ugh.

That’s all. Just “Ugh.” That’s all I’m saying about the latest attempted coup today

1. What’s going on here? This time, I have no clue.  Last week,  the U.S. website for  Captain Morgan rum was found to be  asking visitors to check a box confirming that they were “non-Muslim.” The question was quickly removed, but a different question lingers: Why? Why does Captain Morgan care what religion, if any, a consumer follows?

It is not illegal for Muslims (or anyone)  to drink alcohol in the United States, so this appeared to have been related to Sharia law, which does forbid alcohol consumption. . The company swears that “far from being a case of discrimination or an attempt to appease religious zealots, it turns out a technical error was behind the puzzling message.”

That’s obviously a lie: what kind of  technical glitch suddenly starts grilling website visitors on whether or not they are Muslim? Someone deliberately added the box.  There is speculation that the Diageo company, which owns the Captain Morgan brand, was reacting to a  threat from Islamic extremists that violent consequences would befall them if they dared to continue to make alcohol available to Muslims.

That seems far-fetched too, but it’s more likely than a “technical error.”

CORRECTION and UPDATE: There was a lie here, all right, and it was the P.J. Media author Robert Spencer who was the villain. In his article he misrepresented the Metro’s summary of what the Captain Morgan spokesperson said caused the box to appear as the statement itself. This advanced the article’s conspiracy narrative about companies being threatened into enforcing Sharia law, but it was also false. What the company really said was,

Over the weekend, a misconfiguration on our age-gating files for our US Captain Morgan website meant that people were shown our United Arab Emirates age gate window in error. ‘In the United Arab Emirates it is commonplace for alcohol brands to request verification of this kind, in addition to age-gating, in line with UAE alcohol licensing requirements. We corrected this as quickly as possible.’

That made sense, and the mystery is solved. Metro didn’t help by burying that statement after a string of tweets, and I compounded the confusion by not reading the Metro article far enough. A botch all around.

 

2. Well, it was good to get it off his chest, I guess… Last week Tamarac City commissioner Mike Gelin felt he had to mar an awards ceremony, interrupting it and verbally attacking Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Joshua Gallardo as he was being honored as an Officer of the Month.  NBC Miami reported that after Gallardo and others were honored, Gelin  grabbed the microphone and called out to the officer, “It’s good to see you again. You probably don’t remember me. But you’re the police officer who falsely arrested me four years ago. You lied on the police report. I believe you are a rogue police officer, you’re a bad police officer and you don’t deserve to be here!”

Nice.

Gelin was referring to a 2015 incident where he was arrested  resisting and obstructing  police while they responded to an alleged battery incident. He was not a city commissioner at the time of the arrest and charges were eventually dropped.

The city’s mayor said, in response to Gellin’s outburst,

“This was neither the time nor the forum to air personal grievances. I believe this clearly violated the City’s civility code. This is NOT the way we treat employees or people who work for our City. There are proper channels to follow, but the Commissioner chose not to use them.”

Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but that doesn’t mean that it is always appropriate to serve it at all. It’s an unethical dish at best, and one that usually reflects more negatively on the server than the served. [Pointer: Steve Witherspoon]

3. Solving the moonlight mystery! In this post from June, I discussed the famous “Almanac Trial,” in which Abe Lincoln famously used a farmers’ almanac as a prop to prompt a prosecution witness into recanting his sworn testimony that he was able to clearly see Lincoln’s client fatally stab a man at night because “the moon was full.” I noted that there were widely diverging accounts of how Lincoln used the almanac, some saying he showed the entry indicating there was no moon on the date in question to the judge, others saying that he never introduced the reference at all, but simply  used it to intimidate the witness by suggesting that he would introduce it. The latter tactic is known as the phantom document trick.

The disparity in accounts always has bothered me, and by complete accident, I stumbled over the explanation this weekend. My sister, retired Justice Department attorney Edith Marshall, is joining me in presenting a special program on cross-examination for the Smithsonian Associates in October.  I was perusing Francis Wellman’s  1903 classic on the topic, and was interested to see that Wellman discussed Abe’s use of an almanac to discredit a prosecution witness, but not in the Duff Armstrong murder trial that occurred in 1858, what came to be  known as “The Almanac Trial.”

Wellman tells us that Lincoln had previously used an almanac to win an earlier case, his very first murder trial when he was just starting out as a lawyer. That case involved a shooting rather than a stabbing, and that was the case in which Lincoln revealed what was in the almanac to prove that the eye-witness was lying about a full moon. The trial was sufficiently well-known, however, that Abe figured years later that he just needed to flash an almanac to make the witness against his friend (and, in fact, the murderer) Duff Armstrong crumble, knowing from Abe’s reputation that he was the almanac master.

Yes, Abraham Lincoln represented two different defendants in two separate murder trials in which the key eye-witness claimed, falsely, that he  had seen the crime clearly because “the moon was full.” And Abe impeached both witnesses, once by showing what an almanac said, and once by implying  with waving an almanac  that he could and would.

Over time, the two trials came to be remembered as one.

4.  I’ve been waiting for these figures…Earlier this month I was seeing daily references to America’s “urgent gun crisis” and how the escalating “crisis” justified gutting the Second Amendment. One flamboyant call to action was on September 12,  when the chief executives of some of the nation’s best-known companies sent a letter to Senate leaders urging an expansion of background checks to all firearms sales and stronger “red flag” laws.

“Doing nothing about America’s gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable and it is time to stand with the American public on gun safety,” the heads of nearly 150 companies like Levi Strauss, Twitter and Uber, said in the letter, which urges the Republican-controlled Senate to enact bills already introduced in the Democrat-led House of Representatives. It’s a crisis, you see. It’s out of control!

The FBI finally released its violent crime statistics on 2018. Violent crime, including murder, declined significantly last year. From the report,

The 2018 statistics show the estimated rate of violent crime was 368.9 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants, and the estimated rate of property crime was 2,199.5 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants. The violent crime rate fell 3.9 percent when compared with the 2017 rate; the property crime rate declined 6.9 percent.

The 2018 violent crime rate was at its lowest since 1971, when there were 396 violent crimes per 100,000 people.  In that year, however, violent crime was on its way up. The trend since the early 1990’s has been  down. The violent crime rate in 2018 is less than half of what it was at its peak in 1991.

Murders declined at an even greater rate than other violent crimes, dropping 6.2 % from 2017. At 5.0 homicides per 100,000 people, the U.S. homicide rate is near the 50-year low of 4.4 per 100, 000 set in 2014.

But the U.S. has a violent crime crisis! That’s what everyone says on Facebook, so it must be true. They say it on Facebook because  the news media intentionally works to make Americans think violent crime is going up when it’s really going  declining dramatically. Let’s see what kind of publicity the FBI report gets from a biased media that wants the NRA, the Republicans and the Trump Administration to be seen as child murderers.

Then our cowardly business leaders join hands and pander. They don’t care about facts, statistics, or whether their efforts will cost Americans their rights, as long as it signals their virtue to a prime demographic—the young, ignorant, anti-gun demographic—and sells more stuff. In their ethics-free calculations,  its a valid trade-off.

Oh—in considering the attendant false argument  that violent crime is on the rise because “there are too many guns,” note that as violent crime has dropped, gun sales have climbed dramatically. Although millions of privately owned firearms have been added to private control over the past two decades, violent crime and homicides  receded as gun sales exploded.

Writes gun rights activist Cam Edwards, accurately,

The idea that more guns equals more crime is a foundational tenet of the gun control belief system, but it’s simply not true. We’ve actually had more guns and less crime over the past two decades, and hopefully that trend continues in the years to come.

17 thoughts on “Evening Ethics Nostrum, 9/30/2019: The “Already Sick Of Impeachment Narratives” Edition [Updated And CORRECTED]

  1. #1. I am a sysadmin and work with all kinds of servers, including web servers. I am not aware of any server software that even mentions religious beliefs. I can however imagine that someone was testing something out and accidentally pushed it to production. Often if you go to different types of sites there will be a pop-up page (I am thinking — “are you over 18?” although I have seen these in different contexts). By any measure this seems like a silly thing to waste a web developers time on.

    #5. There has been an argument as to a causal relationship between guns and crime. While there is nothing so far shown to prove that more guns = less crime (there seems to be a coloration, but no causation proven thus far), it is quite clear that more guns does not equal more crime. This kind of debunks a lot of gun control nonsense. Crime is unequivocally going down, and gun ownership has unequivocally gone up.

    • I actually kind of buy the idea of a tech glitch. Regionlization has been a big push especially for multi-national software corps. If you wanted to do business in a country that required that question you might build it into your software, sell it to Diageo (who, full disclosure I think is company doing great things for the Scotch market), and then a careless intern could flip the wrong bit and all of a sudden your asking if your customers are muslim.

      Remember that time a careless intern shut down like a third of the web by applying the wrong setting to Amazon’s AWS stack?

      https://www.theverge.com/2017/3/2/14792442/amazon-s3-outage-cause-typo-internet-server

  2. #1) For the purposes of discrimination on the internet due to religious beliefs, I am Muslim.

    My use of said website, and ability to spend money there, will be limited accordingly.

  3. I hope this list of companies decrying “gun violence” gets widely disseminated throughout the fly over red states including Texas. Hopefully skinny leg Levi’s and Uber will show a significant dent in their sales.

  4. The Metro article referenced by PJ Media reports this:

    A spokesperson for Captain Morgan said: ‘Over the weekend, a misconfiguration on our age-gating files for our US Captain Morgan website meant that people were shown our United Arab Emirates age gate window in error.

    ‘In the United Arab Emirates it is commonplace for alcohol brands to request verification of this kind, in addition to age-gating, in line with UAE alcohol licensing requirements. We corrected this as quickly as possible.’

    https://metro.co.uk/2019/09/24/captain-morgan-website-asks-visitors-confirm-non-muslim-10800720/

    This is basically the explanation I was expecting to see, and it’s hardly far-fetched.

    • This makes me angry, though I am also to blame. The PJ Media story flatly misrepresented the statement from Captain Morgan. “On that question the rummies are stonewalling, claiming improbably, according to Metro, that “far from being a case of discrimination or an attempt to appease religious zealots, it turns out a technical error was behind the puzzling message” is what the article said. But that quote is NOT from Captain Morgan. It is the Metro’s own introduction to what the company really said, which is what you quoted. Why print that misleading summary instead of what the company really said?

      I should have read the whole Metro article, of course. Thanks for the correction.
      GRRRRR…

  5. I MAY have some sympathy for the commissioner in #2. If he did lie on a police report, is that signature significance of a rogue cop? Should rogue cops be receive rewards? Perhaps he had let it go until he saw a liar receiving an award.

    I supsect lies on reports to justify arresting disruptive assholes are probably common… but I consider cops doing that more of a problem than the assholes they’re shutting down. Especially when several of them have proven to be unable to judge the difference between being recorded and someone interfering.

    Then there’s the possible other problem of people in office abusing authority to punish people who did the right thing and lying about it. Charges being dropped doesn’t meant the cops lied.

    And of course, as 2 distinct individuals, they could both have honestly disagreed as to what happened. Memories are terribly unreliable things.

  6. 2. A civility code cannot trump the First Amendment. I don’t think the councilman picked the right forum, and I think he trampled all over the Golden Rule, but the mayor’s implied threat was wrong. Government entities should not have civility codes.

    4. The list consisted mostly of high-tech new-economy companies, a few financial and real estate concerns, and virtually no traditional retail, manufacturing, or service economy establishments other than Levi Strauss. I find this list very comforting, actually, because of who isn’t on it.

    To your point about the statistics, this argument has been made for years starting with John Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime back in 1998. There have been statistical showings on both sides of the argument, however. My opinion is that most of the studies are biased one way or the other, or neglect statistical factors that would alter their conclusions.

    I think that a society known to be armed is a deterrent to crime, but it is also the case that easier gun availability makes criminal behavior more accessible to people who are undergoing life stresses that may not be something that could be easily diagnosed as mental illness (marital or other family stress, job stress, aging-related stress and depressive influences). Such people won’t be on the “red flag” radar long enough, and if despondent or angry enough, may act with firearms.

    This is just the price we pay for our freedom. To me, it is worth it. I have had friends killed by firearms for just the aforesaid reasons, and that doesn’t change my opinion one iota. Freedom and security are mutually antagonistic things — the more freedom we have, the less security generally. Those who would sacrifice freedom for security depart from the founding principles of this country so significantly that the ethical choice for them would be to choose a safer country rather than trying to undo the raison d’ etre of this one’s existence.

  7. But the U.S. has a violent crime crisis! That’s what everyone says on Facebook, so it must be true. They say it on Facebook because the news media intentionally works to make Americans think violent crime is going up when it’s really going declining dramatically. Let’s see what kind of publicity the FBI report gets from a biased media that wants the NRA, the Republicans and the Trump Administration to be seen as child murderers.

    when the U.S. actually had such a crisis in the early 1990’s, Congress enacted the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.

    . This was followed by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the Lautenberg Amendment two years later.

    But as recently as three months ago, this 1994 crime bill was criticized by many Democratic candidates for President because the bill is claimed to have caused the mass incarceration of young black men. Joe Biden in particular has been criticized for supporting the bill

    But with recent shootings being publicized nationally, there are calls to “do something”, to enact “common sense”, “sensible” gun legislation, with all concerns about overcriminalization and mass incarceration suddenly disappearing, with no memory of how or why the 1994 law l was enacted.

    This is exactly what bugs me. These people who accuse Congress of doing nothing about mass shootings never even acknowledge the laws Congress enacted in the 1990’s to deal with historically high criminal homicide and other violent crime rates. They prete4nd that the 1990’s never happened.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.