Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/31/2020: A Man’s Home Is His Box, And More…

Hello, Ethics Alarms, Good-bye January…

Between the nauseating impeachment charade and baseball’s cheating scandal (and the largely ethically ignorant commentary regarding it),  the bias of the mainsteam media reaching critical mass in episodes like this and the Don Lemon panel’s mean girls mockery of those dumber than dumb Trump supporters, mounting evidence that Democrats are going nuts based on the rise of a superannuated Communism fan in the race for the party’s Presidential nomination, and, of course, my wife doing a face-plant into some asphalt,  it was a not a happy 31 days at The House of Ethics.

Amazingly, it has been a very good month for the President, becoming the first POTUS to unequivocally endorse the anti-abortion movement by appearing at the March for Life, cutting a partial deal with China, ridding the world of Qasem Soleimani (and in doing so, prompting  his domestic foes, including the news media, to publicly sympathize with a terrorist and a nation that habitually calls for America’s destruction), releasing a Mid-East peace plan that is garnering support everywhere but from Iran, the Palestinians, and, of course, the U.S. media, and seeing economic figures so good even the New York Times has been forced to acknowledge them, all while being called every  name in the book and an existential threat to democracy on C-Span by the Democratic House impeachment managers.

1. “Dolemite Is My Name” We finally watched “Dolemite Is My Name,” (on Netflix), Eddie Murphy’s homage to comic Rudy Ray Moore and  his 70s Blaxploitation film “Dolemite.” So much for my proud claims of cultural literacy: I never heard of  Moore or his film, which is apparently a genre classic. Moore is regarded as the Father of Rap; how did I miss this for so long? Murphy’s movie tells the mostly true story about how a group of complete novices, led by Moore, made an exuberantly idiotic movie (faithful to Moore’s formula for success with black audiences: “Titties, funny, and Kung-Fu”) for $100,000 that grossed 10 million.

The movie is fun as a black version of “Ed Wood” (same screenwriters, I discovered later) and won some awards. For it to be make any 2019 Ten Best lists, however, is blatant race pandering by critics.

2. Life Imitates “Law and Order.” A couple of days ago I watched a 29-year-old episode of “Law and Order” about a man who kicks a large cardboard box in an alley out of frustration and is murdered by the homeless man living inside the box. Later, a controversy arises over the warrantless police search of the abode of a second homeless man involved in the killing, another box in Central Park. Does the Fourth Amendment protect a box on public land from unreasonable searches? Can there be a reasonable expectation of privacy when your home is a cardboard box in a public place?

In New York City right now, there is a current controversy over Joseph Matos, a homeless man who  builds his shelter on the East Side every night by placing several cardboard boxes on the ground for cushioning and then linking together a half dozen others. In October 2018, a college student walking by with a friend  kicked  Matos’s house of cardboard, thinking it was empty. Matos, thinking he was under attack, grabbed a knife and wounded both men. The issue in the upcoming trial: since New York’s “castle doctrine” holds that a person has a right to protect his home with deadly force if he reasonably believes another person is entering without permission and is seeking to commit a crime, was Matos justified? Once again: is a cardboard box on public property a home under the law?

Here is one lesson we can all learn right away: Never kick a large cardboard box in New York City.

3. By dying, Michael Karkoc escaped justice or obsessive revenge, depending on your point of view. Michael Karkoc, whose death at 100 last month was recently revealed, was  a retired Minnesota carpenter whose identity as a former commander of a Nazi-led unit that was accused of atrocities in World War II was uncovered in 2013. From then on, he was investigated in Germany and Poland. German prosecutors announced in 2015 that they had shelved their case because  Karkoc was 96 and not fit to stand trial, but Polish prosecutors announced in 2017 that they would seek his arrest and extradition. Upon learning of Karkoc’s death, Efraim Zuroff, now the top Nazi hunter for the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, complained that United States did not move more aggressively to expedite extradition. “They seem to have handled this case with a lack of urgency,” told the New York Times.

More evidence that President Trump is a Nazi, I see.

I really see no reason for a man in his late 90s to be the target of a wholly symbolic and ethically dubious prosecution. The concept of war crime is highly dubious and hypocritical one to begin with. Karkov’s alleged crime was ordering an attack on a Polish village in 1944, killing dozens of women and children, in retaliation for the death of an SS officer. Yet how does a nation that participated in the fire-bombing of Dresden justify prosecuting an old man now  for ordering a smaller version of the same act?

4. I have boycotted the impeachment trial in the Senate, but I must admit, I wish that I had seen this. As the Senators were permitted to ask questions yesterday,. Elizabeth Warren submitted a characteristically obnoxious and unethical one.

“The question from Sen. Warren is for the House managers,” Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, began, and read,

“At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the Chief Justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican Senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the Chief Justice, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution?”

This was a deliberate misuse of the question process, having no substantive application to the issues being considered by the trial. It was grandstanding, and misleading the public, which is Warren’s specialty. The statement was also a collection of lies. The GOP majority allowed evidence—the same evidence that the House Democrats felt was sufficient to impeach the President. If it wasn’t sufficient for conviction, which it obviously is not, that is not the Senate trial’s job to correct. No witnesses were called in Clinton’s impeachment trial, and no one suggested that this somehow impugned Chief Justice Rehnquist.

Moreover, the Chief Justice’s constitutional role in an impeachment falls far short of that of a judge in any real trial. Most scholars agree that the Constitution gives the Senate ultimate say over all critical matters at trial including the ability to overrule the presiding officer with a simple majority vote. The Senate makes the rules, not the Chief Justice: it is a legislative branch matter, not a judicial one. Nothing that occurs could fairly”contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the Chief Justice, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution,” but the deliberate misrepresentations of a Machiavellian and integrity-free demagogue might.

I know I’m repeating myself, but boy is Warren awful.  Those who genuinely support her for President should hide  their heads in brown paper bags.

5. More diversity madness: what do you do with people who think like this? CNN’s Brandon Tensley complained that the Trump adminsitration task force on the Coronavirus wasn’t sufficiently “diverse” based on a photo of the group:

Who are these experts? They’re largely the same sort of white men (and a couple women on the sidelines) who’ve dominated the Trump administration from the very beginning. By contrast, former President Barack Obama’s circle of advisers in the face of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa was hardly so monochromatic. Neither was it so abysmal in terms of gender diversity.

Insanity. Who cares? The only basis on which to judge such a taskforce is whether it successfully ensures the safety of the public. If it doesn’t, no one in their right mind will say, “True, millions of Americans died, but wasn’t that a marvelously diverse task force?” If it does, no rational individual should care if everyone on the task force  were clones.

Tensley’s complaint is proof of pathologically confused priorities.

16 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/31/2020: A Man’s Home Is His Box, And More…

  1. I just finished John Avlon’s book on Washington’s Farewell Address (“Washington’s Farewell: The Founding Father’s Warning to Future Generations”). In this toxic atmosphere, I wish more Americans would sit back and read the Farewell. It is desperately needed.

    As for #2. In the case mentioned (as well as the one on television), neither person was aware the box was a home. A person should know when they enter a house that it’s someone’s home. Should we be required to assume that random cardboard boxes (or any other nontraditional structure) be someone’s home and behave accordingly?

    #3: The late Eva Moses Kor, a resident of my home state, didn’t see the point of jailing elderly men either. She felt that these fellows should be out and about, making sure that people knew these crimes had actually happened, rather than rotting in prison for what would surely be a short period of time. Eva was a survivor of Mengele’s experiments at Auschwitz.

  2. Re: No. 4; Warren’s Query.

    Someone please explain that question to me. I mean, what motivated her to ask whether the reputations and standings of Justice Roberts and SCOTUS were somehow impaired in this impeachment proceeding where no witnesses were called? And, why would she ask that of the Democrats? Was she trying to show that SCOTUS and Roberts were shills for some sort of Republican cover up to protect Trump? My mind is boggled.

    Justice Roberts presides – he doesn’t set the rules and, as Jack noted, his rulings can be overturned by simple majority vote. And, this isn’t a trial in the traditional sense of a presiding judge, jury (or bench trial), plaintiffs, defendants, witnesses, documents, rules of evidence and procedure, jury charges (findings of fact and conclusions of law), deliberations and renditions of verdicts and judgments with attendant appeals. She has to know this, right? I mean Harvard paid her $300,000 a year for something, right? Was it simply to get her name out on national television?

    Isn’t the Senate supposed to be the most “regal” of the legislative branches? Aren’t Senators supposed to represent high-minded statesmanship? Justice Roberts admonished Senators to observe decorum, to avoid “pettifogery”. Justice Roberts declined to ask Sen. Paul’s question to name the whistleblower – a probably equally obnoxious question even though everyone already knows his name. Justice Roberts’ reaction to Warren’s question, after reading it, was brilliant – the insult she leveled at SCOTUS and Justice Roberts was palpable. Isn’t this where someone on the Republican side pulls a Joseph Welch and asks the Democrats, “Have you no sense of decency? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

    I dislike Adam Schiff but I could tell the other managers weren’t interested in touching that question with a ten-foot poll. There was a very long pause before Schiff got the mic, declared that SCOTUS and Roberts are just alright by him and launched into reminiscing about riding his bike in the neighborhood when he was a boy.

    • Explain that question? Best explanation I can come up with is Warren’s poll numbers. Back on October 9, she was neck and neck with Biden at 26.8% in the RCP average. Currently, she’s at 15.8 percent, with Biden holding steady and Bernie surging. And she’s currently in fourth place in both Iowa and New Hampshire. This strikes me as a Hail-Mary attempt to raise her chances among the constitutionally and economically ignorant who comprise much of her base.

      What a loathsome individual.

      • Is she ever…much worse than I thought before the debates, and I found her revolting then. She doesn’t seem to be fooling anyone, though. When someone on Facebook says they are a Warren supporter, they fall below Hillary supporters on my Cognitive Dissonance scale.

        • Oh, I dunno… I think the primary difference between Warren and Hillary is that Warren has a much smoother delivery. Other than that, they seem like peas from the same pod… they’re both vicious, manipulative, contemptuous, self-entitled, egotistical, power-hungry jerks who’ll say anything they think someone wants to hear, regardless of its truth. And they’re both frightful scolds.

          • I think she’s okay at giving prepared speeches but in any kind of natural situation she’s just the absolute worst. “I’m gonna get me…a beer.”

            • Hillary couldn’t even do that well. Note how she’d turn on the cornpone accent in the south, a black accent when speaking to an African-American audience, and of course, the whole idea she carried a bottle of hot sauce with her at all times….

      • Meanwhile, some stupid article on my news page is raving in its headline about how Warren “brilliantly” trolled the Chief Justice.

        Because this is something to be celebrated? Because in a “somber” setting, trolling the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is anything close to appropriate?

        She’s just sending a warning shot across the bow that the Democrats are setting up a rigged trial excuse with a partisan judge in charge for when the President is inevitably acquited. It’s despicable.

      • ”What a loathsome individual.”

        A sentiment which surely will find widespread agreement; to no one’s surprise from the Chief Justice himself.

        Roberts supplied what may be charitably described as a five second WTF Stink Eye at Warren after her clueless slobbering.

        #Karma!

    • You may also want to check out “Petey Wheatstraw, the Devil’s Son-in-Law.” Even wackier and low-budgeter. Just these plot descriptions from Wikipedia make me laugh:

      “Petey Wheatstraw (Rudy Ray Moore) is born during a great Miami hurricane, and after a difficult labor by his mother, emerges as a talking, diaper-wearing, six-year-old boy who promptly attacks the doctor and then his father for “disturbing me in my sleep every night.” His mother stops him, puts him in his place, and names him “Petey Wheatstraw”.”

      “Petey meets a mentor named “Bantu” who teaches him the philosophy of “Kung Fu” and “self-respect”, taking a vow not to bow before any man, living or dead. Petey grows up to become a successful nightclub comedian…”

      “Armed with the Devil’s own magic “Pimp Cane”, Petey sets out to exact his revenge.”

    • Litt was the founder of “Above the Law,” which might be all you need to know. I wonder why it has never occurred to Democrats that the pattern of calling for the elimination or radical overhaul of every institution involved in a result they don’t like–SCOTUS, the Constitution, the Electoral College, ICE, now the Senate—doesn’t do a lot for their credibility?

  3. I vividly recall driving home after 9pm one autumn night years ago and coming across a guy ranting on the radio about how liberalism is a mental disorder. This person was talk show host Michael Savage (air pseudonym). I remember thinking this guy is the one with the mental problem, though he is, apparently, a doctor of some sort. While I disagree with his very disagreeable ranting, I’m starting to see how one might make the case Liz Warren and others like her are so detached from reality they might be diagnosable as clinically mentally ill.

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