Friday PM Ethics Discoveries, 5/15/2020: A Coup Option On The Way Out, A Narrative Reappears, Trump Tweets, Reasonable Discrimination Opposed, And More

Well let’s check the ol’ ethics box and see what we have today!

1. That’s one coup option down the drain! Based on what reporters heard during the phoned-in oral arguments on Chiafalo v. Washington and State v. Baca, it appears that the Supreme Court is going to rule that states can require electors to vote for the candidates the state’s voters instructed them to vote for. If so, good. That will eliminate at least one of the unethical coup options that were attempted after Trump upset Clinton. You will recall that there was a mass effort to hijack the Electoral College using the rationalization that Alexander Hamilton would have approved.

Lawrence Lessig, the wacko Harvard law professor we have discussed here more than once, represented the electors who were blocked from voting against the electorate’s wishes. Maybe its just me, but if I’m going to be represented before the Supreme Court, I think I’d choose a lawyer who hadn’t announced that he was running for President  as a “referendum president” who would serve only as long as it took to pass some pet progressive legislation, and then would quit and let his VP take over. Lessig obviously does not take elections seriously; no wonder he thinks electors should be free to vote for Chucky Cheese.

2. “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!”, Fake History Division.  Adam Liptak, long-time SCOTUS reporter for the Times, writes in his story about #1 above,

“A swing by just 10 electors would have been enough to change the outcomes in five of the previous 58 presidential elections, according to a Supreme Court brief. In the 2000 election, after an assist from the Supreme Court, George W. Bush beat Al Gore by just five electoral votes.”

See how Liptak pushes a progressive narrative in what is supposed to be a news story? There was no “assist”; we now know that Bush would have won Florida’s electoral votes with or without SCOTUS halting the recount. What the ruling in 2000 assisted was the nation having an orderly transfer of power within a reasonable time. Even though the “Bush and the Supreme Court stole the Presidency” lie has been thoroughly exposed as such, Democrats and the news media keeps injecting it into the public’s consciousness by constant repetition.

3. I’m now turning my other diploma face to the wall...Georgetown University agreed to give its graduate assistants higher wages and more benefits after the university, received more than $6 million from American taxpayers to help it weather the pandemic. The school also has an endowment in excess of a billion dollars. Employees all over the country are seeing their jobs eliminated or their salaries reduced, but GU picked this as the time to capitulate to union demands in a dispute that dates from 2017. Well, why not? It just got a windfall!

4. Catching up on disgusting Trump tweets….Related to this post is a recent nasty tweet by the President. A few days ago, I suddenly saw a lot of views of a 2012 post I had completely forgotten about. It was one of my more vociferous condemnations of  Trump’s character, sparked by a tweet-attack he made on Ariana Huffington, saying that it was understandable that her husband left her for another man. (I can’t find it now. There are too many Trump posts to sift through.) Last week, the President topped that one (or burrowed under it), tweeting about “Morning Joe” Scarborough,

“When will they open a Cold Case on the Psycho Joe Scarborough matter in Florida. Did he get away with murder? Some people think so. Why did he leave Congress so quietly and quickly? Isn’t it obvious? What’s happening now? A total nut job!”

Stipulated: “Morning Joe” has been unusually unscrupulous and biased in its attacks on the President even for MSNBC, but so what? If Joe and Mika want to aim at the Trump Deranged demographic, there’s nothing to be done about it, any more than there’s any remedy in store for Charles Blow, Don Lemon, or Samantha Bee. It is amazing that the President is still incapable of rejectingg the poisoned bait they offer. He’s the President; such petty rumor-mongering is supposed to be beneath his office. Naturally, this latest outburst sparked a factcheck.

What a maroon.

5. Is this discrimination? I don’t think so. If it is, it shouldn’t be. Lt. Col. Lawrence O’Toole, the assistant police chief for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, is suing the city and police department, claiming he was passed over for the position of chief of police because he is white.

In the lawsuit, O’Toole claims that city Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards told him, “If Jason Stockley didn’t happen, you would be the police chief.” Jason Stockley is a former police officer who was found not guilty of murder in 2017 following prosecution for the  2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith, a black drug suspect, after a high-speed pursuit and crash.  O’Toole was acting police chief at teh time, and the acquittal ignited intense protests by the black community. O’Toole’s suit  claims argues that Edwards’ statement is proof that he did not receive the job because of his race, a violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act.

A community should be able to make a rational decision that the race of the holder of a particular position is relevant and even an essential qualification in certain circumstances. We know that it is a decisive factor in choosing police chiefs in many cities, it is just unusual for someone in the decision-making process to be honest about it. The community has a potentially explosive race problem, and hiring O’Toole would exacerbate it. They need a qualified black officer in the job. If that violates the Missouri Human Rights Act as O’Toole’s lawsuit claims, the Act needs to be fixed.

26 thoughts on “Friday PM Ethics Discoveries, 5/15/2020: A Coup Option On The Way Out, A Narrative Reappears, Trump Tweets, Reasonable Discrimination Opposed, And More

  1. “A community should be able to make a rational decision that the race of the holder of a particular position is relevant and even an essential qualification in certain circumstances. We know that it is a decisive factor in choosing police chiefs in many cities, it is just unusual for someone in the decision-making process to be honest about it. The community has a potentially explosive race problem, and hiring O’Toole would exacerbate it. They need a qualified black officer in the job. If that violates the Missouri Human Rights Act as O’Toole’s lawsuit claims, the Act needs to be fixed.”

    OK, who are you, and what have you done with Jack?

        • Is that a rhetorical question? If a majority black community with long-standing complaints about racial bias by the police toward that community is not going to trust a force headed by a white officer, especially if that officer was at the helm during a major controversy involving race, then making a black, highly qualified candidate the job search goal is the only responsible course.

          • Jack
            A jury acquitted the officer not the police chief.

            If white communities began rioting when a black officer does anything harming a white person would telling a black candidate for a senior police command job that he was passed over because the white community would be upset be ok. Behavior of irrational communites cannot be used to justify a discriminatory act as rational.

            • I’m assuming you know I didn’t write that the jury acquitted the white chief.

              If white communities began rioting when a black officer does anything harming a white person would telling a black candidate for a senior police command job that he was passed over because the white community would be upset be ok.

              Yes, if distrust within the white community and the potential for violence could only be addressed by hiring a white PC. I am not aware of that situation ever occurring. Behavior of irrational communites cannot be used to justify a discriminatory act as rational.

              “Behavior of irrational communities cannot be used to justify a discriminatory act as rational.”
              Distrust and fear are not necessarily irrational, and whether they are or not is a subjective judgment.

              Ferguson responded to its mess by hiring a black police chief. Who didn’t see that coming? Was it a reasonable measure under the circumstances, a deliberate race-based choice, or a coincidence? We know the answer—and it was the rational thing to do, whether Mike Brown was “murdered” or not.

              • Jack,
                My error, it was the judge that acquitted him after he waived a jury trial which is his right.

                I went back and reread the article: This is an important element.
                Activists, with support from some of the city’s black clergy, had pledged disruptive protests ahead of Wilson’s verdict.

                Wilson addressed such statements in his order:
                “A judge shall not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor or fear of criticism.”

                You said: Distrust and fear are not necessarily irrational, and whether they are or not is a subjective judgment.

                Using distrust and fear to promote disruptive protests in advance of a verdict is an perfectly rational behavior that should not be tolerated in a civil society. Activists are the ones promoting fear and distrust.

                Fear and distrust of others is irrational when you have been told that you must fear and distrust certain people. How many blacks were lynched due to fear and distrust by whites? Fear and distrust is rational only when you directly experience harm from a given person. I grew up in a changing neighborhood in Baltimore and had taken a few beatings for being white but I don’t fear and distrust all Blacks. Far too many people fear and distrust simply because they are told to by people that look like them. It has become a cudgel to wield against opponents and a means to get others to rationalize discrimination in your favor. It was the activists that urged on those smashing police cars and hurling bricks at other officers. The activists knew that the police would have to respond, perhaps forcefully, to quell the people’s violence which would help form the ant-cop narrative.

                The claim was that the officer shot him 5 times at close range and planted a gun on him. Who proffered that story and why was his partner who was at the scene not charged with anything. The Medical Examiner stated the wounds could not have happened the way the prosecution suggested. The judge issued a thirty page opinion on why he arrived at his verdict. Did any of the clergy and activists take the time to read it? After the verdict the mayor then let loose a statement throwing the cop under the bus which reinforced the unproven belief that the white officer was guilty of premeditated murder. Why did she not assail the judge who rendered the verdict? I suggest political expediency. That cop will move away and can’t do her any harm but that judge could.

                The point is whether a jury or a judge acquits a defendant the police chief’s role in this matter was to investigate the shooting and present the information obtained to the District Attorney’s office. The prosecutors were obligated to get the guilty verdict; not the police chief’s. The whole issue of police distrust is predicated on the notion that the police are judge, jury, and executioner of blacks.

                My question is this would the black community had more or less trust in the police department if the acting chief had spoken at length about the officers presumed guilt? What can a white police chief do short of the public lynching of the police officer to eliminate distrust while still having his officers arrest and potentially shoot both white and non-white persons in the course of their duties.

                The only people creating the distrust and fear within the black community are those who profit from it or are insulated from it. The only people paying the price for the fear and distrust they sow are people that had no culpability in creating that distrust.

                • I remain unconvinced by most of the arguments for this decision that argue that it is not, at least in part, a “soft” (preemptive) acceding to an assumed heckler’s veto, Most (all?) of the accompanying rationalizations (some of them quite good, or at least pragmatic) boil down to “ends justify the means” arguments.

                  Now, is that sort of pragmatism always a bad thing? Not entirely, or even mostly, in a “killing baby Hitler” (or changing his diaper) sort of consideration, but they usually carry at least a seed of harm that prevents them from being purely ethical, and rely on moral luck as to whether they turn out to have been the “right” decisions. In the case in question, someone is harmed by being (probably) undeservedly and (possibly) illegally denied a promotion, on the gamble that an anticipated harm will be averted without a greater one ultimately resulting (or that it will at least be kicked down the road…such is politics).

  2. Regarding No. 5: The statement was: “If Jason Stockley didn’t happen, you would be the police chief.”

    I would argue that how an acting chief handles a police shooting under his watch is materially relevant to his qualifications for the job. All the statement says to me is that the city was not satisfied with his performance, and failed to promote him permanently for it. His race never has to be a direct factor.

    • Great point: Did he screw up or was he simply on the job when that transpired? Then again, maybe he was in a no-win situation no one could have handled any better. I suspect that’s what the comment meant to convey: “Sorry buddy, it happened on your watch. You lose. Do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dollars.”

  3. You said:
    The community has a potentially explosive race problem, and hiring O’Toole would exacerbate it. They need a qualified black officer in the job. If that violates the Missouri Human Rights Act as O’Toole’s lawsuit claims, the Act needs to be fixed.

    Tools of ethical decision-making:

    1. What must be decided?
    Is it ethical to make race an overriding priority in a hiring a police chief for a majority-black community?

    2. Alternatives: a) Use race as a requirement in this decision b) Weight race more heavily than normal in this decision c) do not use race as a factor at all.

    3. Eliminate impractical, illegal and improper. a) Using race as a requirement is illegal, both in U.S. and state law. Title VII would seem to state that a) is illegal under U.S. law, and also under the Missouri Human Rights act. Therefore, this option is eliminated as lawless, whether or not it’s proper and practical

    b) Weighting race as a factor appears to be legal under applicable law. It is also practical, but may not be proper.

    c) Not using race as a factor is legal, proper, but likely impractical.

    4/5. Force three ethically justifiable options and examine: a) Hire based solely on qualifications. It is proper, legal, but may produce a backlash in the community and inflame the situation and defeat the purpose of the position. In aggravation: May produce a response that harms the community you are trying to help. In mediation: Stands up for fairness in hiring, racial justice, and is squarely legal.

    b) Hire favoring a minority candidate, but not necessarily a black person. Assuming there is a compromise candidate available, this may be justified under the rubric of affirmative action. It isn’t really proper, but it is legal and may be more practical than a) because it is more likely to avoid a backlash. In aggravation: A form of affirmative action that is falling out of favor with the American public and the courts. In mediation: Is more likely to keep the community from becoming violent, but will not assuage all elements. Risks problems down the road, but lessens them in the near term.

    c) Set specific criteria that qualified non-black candidates may not be able to meet, and weight them more heavily. This may be justified by utilitarian ethics vis-a-vis the possible chaos a non-black candidate would create, but it is ethically suspect to say the least and may not be strictly legal. In aggravation: A dodge intended to skirt the meaning of civil rights laws in favor of “obeying” the forms. In mediation: Most likely to prevent antagonizing the community you intend to serve.

    Decisions

    1. The consequence of a non-minority candidate is likely to be violence. The consequence of a non-black, non-white candidate are difficult to foresee, but may also produce a backlash later, although at a lower level. The consequences to tailoring the job to a black person are transparent racial favoritism, distrust and potential backlash among whites in the district, and a suspicious ethical position.

    2. My personal conscience favors 2 b) and hoping for good luck. 2 a) is preferable, but the consequences too dire. 2 c) is too slippery for me.

    3/4. The utilitarian in me says a compromise candidate is the best choice among a bad lot. The minority community is helped more, racial fairness is harmed, but less so.

    5. Worst case: Community rejects any non-black chief.

    6. Perhaps the non-black candidates could be asked to withdraw, or accept some other form of accommodation? If the goal can be changed from “not inflaming the black community,” I don’t see how.

    7. a) Golden Rule: No, but utilitarian ethics. b) since I am publishing my reasoning, res ipsa loquitur. c) I have no children, but if I did, I would be comfortable with it — although not without reservations.

    • My problem with considering violent consequence in the minority community is no different than considering violent consequences by whites when we decided to integrate society.

      When the group knows it can get its way by threatening or insinuating violence could occur it will use that as a lever to always get its own way. We have spilled a great deal of ink on how speech is stifled on campuses and how threats of violence force cancellations of speakers. We must not enable them by cowering from their rhetoric.

  4. I wonder whether part of the problem here is the position of “Chief of Police.” I wonder whether a position comparable to Secretary of Defense wouldn’t be better in cities. Could you have a non-police officer, appointed by the mayor or city council, oversee the police department? I think civilian leadership of the military is a really good idea. It brings a broader perspective rather than just a focus on “the mission.” Cops are expert at being cops. Perhaps all those skills make them inherently undiplomatic and apolitical, to a certain extent. There’d be friction between the civilian pooh bah, but it seems to work at the Pentagon.

  5. Did I just get confused? It seems that the heckler’s veto is being used as an excuse? Isn’t the most qualified candidate the goal? If one of the qualifications is “acceptable” to the community how far does that get to go?

  6. I agree on the casting for educating, something in the back of my brain is disagreeing on the choice for the person responsible for the department….an apples and oranges issue. Education versus leadership?

    As an educator part of the job is communication, context and making the student amenable to being taught. I work for the Federal government and have to be trained on sexual harassment. For years now they have used video as part of the training and in all three scenarios the “aggressor” is a white straight male. They finally changed one to a hispanic straight male. I have suggested that they vary this more for 7 years. Men, woman, hetero, homo, since they are showing only one class of predator, I feel their message is off point for an equality standpoint.

  7. Regarding point 5, I feel this discussion is overlooking some important concepts. Race is a proxy for culture here. Forget the criterion of race for a minute; what the department really wants is someone who has the quality of mutual understanding and trust with communities that have had a fraught relationship with those who in theory ought to be protecting and serving them. That mutual understanding can be easily obtained by having someone who a) is visibly from such a community, b) actually has relationships with such communities, and c) can use their insights and relationships to shape departmental policy in ways that help the community.

    The key concepts here are from augmented empathy: background, translation, communication, rapport, inspiration, politics, deconstruction, reputation, surprise, connection, education, and presentation.

    Could a white person do all that? Sure, but it’s all very difficult in the first place, so having a black person build relationships with black communities makes for a better head start. Part of it is about having the calibration for a particular culture, and part is the default level of trust that comes with people already knowing you or being able to see that you have a similar background.

    Words like “race” and “qualification” are a false dichotomy and obscure the actual skills and advantages different people have when it comes to building the communities, institutions, and culture in society.

    This problem comes up in higher education affirmative action as well. If a college wants diversity of culture, personality, skills, and experience, then they can make some minimal inferences based on a person’s demographic information, but the admissions essays are far more useful on that front and should be weighted accordingly.

    That said, if we are trying to build a society that draws strength from diversity, the last thing we want to do is treat all these situations like zero sum games. We should be helping people create opportunities to apply their skills to help. The hard part, I suppose, is figuring out what helping is and who pays whom for it.

  8. 5. A major requirement in selecting a chief of police is finding someone who is not only highly qualified for the job but is also someone the population can trust. In the 1990s there were wide spread corruption scandals in various Australian state police forces making it difficult to know who to promote to senior positions. I believe that that is why in 1999, when the Western Australian Police were needing a new Police Commissioner, they looked outside of Australia and chose a New Zealander for the job.

  9. #5 “They need a qualified black officer in the job”

    In my opinion; they actually needed an equally or better qualified officer in the job and taking race into account over other job qualifications might violate civil rights. So ignoring race all together, did they hire an officer that had reasonably equal or better qualifications than O’Toole, if so O’Toole hasn’t got a reasonable claim.

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