Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/2/21: Take It, Jimmy!

I’m resorting to the enthusiasm of Mr. Durante, an icon in my childhood home, because I sense readers are exhausted, or depressed, or moping, or something. Even my dog is a bad mood—he growled at me a couple of times, which is out of character. The traffic and comments on Ethics Alarms are way down; last month was especially bad, with views topping 4,000 only once. Is it anger? Fear? Submission? Surrender? The weather? Have the pods all been successfully delivered while we sleep? Well,

This is no time to stop working on creating a more ethical society, when totalitarianism is slowly creeping up from the muck…

1. And now for something completely…something. I wonder: what is the ethical reaction to this?


Or to the text that accompanies it in the Times, which includes passages like,

The final product is an example of a visual tradition in Black culture that usually circulates during two specific occasions: When a Black person ascends in society or dies. In this case, the moment came when Ms. Harris, was sworn in as the first woman and the first Black and South Asian person to ascend to the position of Vice President….It’s hard to pinpoint an exact time when these works began to merge into the mainstream, according to Aaron Bryant, a curator at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. But “they have been around for a long time,” he said. “Throughout art we have always celebrated folks that we see as heroes. They become a symbol of good conquering evil”…While some of these images are camp or cringe, Mr. Cheatham’s image of Ms. Harris was sincere. “What makes these images particularly Black is that they aren’t made for the white public, he said. “If you don’t get the reference, you’re not going to enjoy it,” Desus said. “They’re not made in a way that is for general consumption. There is definitely a hood angle to it in that they’ll do something that if you’re not from the hood you’ll take the whole memorial as blasphemous. It is like graffiti in that way.”

The painting above has been circulating briskly among African-Americans on social media, we are told.

Here were my first thoughts when I saw it:

  • I was immediately reminded of the laughable scene at the end of “The Return of the Jedi,” when Obi-Wan, Anakin Skywalker and Yoda, all dead and shimmery, stood smiling down at the gang celebrating with the Ewoks.
  • “Gee, I still can’t tell Elijah Cummings and John Lewis apart.”
  • And, “There’s Joe, feeling up another woman.”

2. And speaking of the President and sexual harassment...You remember #MeToo, right? Democrats? Feminists? Buehler? Actress Evan Rachel Wood, on Instagram and in a statement, accused her former boyfriend, singer, actor and weird person Marilyn Manson of sexually abusing her. The performer, whose real name is Brian Warner, immediately called her claims “horrible distortions of reality.” Never mind. Without an investigation or any evidence to remove this from the “he said, she said” category, Manson was dropped by his record label, Loma Vista,which announced

“In light of today’s disturbing allegations by Evan Rachel Wood and other women naming Marilyn Manson as their abuser, Loma Vista will cease to further promote his current album, effective immediately. Due to these concerning developments, we have also decided not to work with Marilyn Manson on any future projects.”

Credit conservative pundit Jim Treacher with asking the uncomfortable question, “If You Believe Marilyn Manson Accuser Evan Rachel Wood, Why Don’t You Believe Tara Reade?” He writes,

After dozens of women stepped forward in 2017 to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, the floodgates opened and for months we saw what came to be known as the “Weinstein effect.” Powerful men in media and many other industries were brought down. That’s why you don’t see Matt Lauer or Charlie Rose on morning television these days, and Louis CK and Bill Cosby aren’t packing arenas anymore. That’s why the only time you see Al Franken, he’s giving an embarrassing TV interview with a liberal host who’s clearly struggling not to cringe.

Then last year a woman named Tara Reade accused Joe Biden of sexual assault, and #MeToo came to a screeching halt. Suddenly, women were no longer believed automatically. An accusation no longer served as its own evidence. In a single news cycle, #MeToo became #MaybeNot. All it took was the possibility of four more years of President Trump to make everybody take a step back. But now Trump has gone back to Mar-a-Lago, and apparently it’s safe again to accuse men of rape.

You know, if you replaced Cummings, Lewis, McCain and Ginsburg in the painting above with JFK, Warren G. Harding, Bob Packwood, and…hey! Martin Luther King would fit!…the message would be completely different.

But accurate.

3. Now I refer you to the previous post. There, I discussed a SCOTUS decision last year which held that a legal precedent wasn’t necessarily required to justify removing qualified immunity from an officer who engaged in harmful conduct that he or she should have known was illegal or violated a citizen’s civil rights.

Protests broke out yesterday in Rochester, New York, after police released the video of an incident last week where officers pepper-sprayed a 9-year-old girl who had been handcuffed after they responded to a family distress call. Police explain that the girl was expressing suicidal thoughts as well as threats of violence against her mother. When they tried to restrain her, she resisted, so they they used pepper spray to subdue her so they could get her into their patrol car. The video shows the girl asking for her father while the police command her to follow their orders.

Interim Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan condemned the spraying.

But was it so obviously a civil rights violation that the officers should lose their qualified immunity against a law suit?

40 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/2/21: Take It, Jimmy!

  1. Here is a point of view worth discussing.

    Trump violated the Seperation Of Powers doctrine of the Constitution when he advocated (and then suggested to his followers) that Congress be interfered with and/or overthrown. Whether or not he is tried after leaving office is irrelevant.

    His actions violated the dictates of the Constitution and therefore his duty as President.

    He must face the consequences of his actions or future Presidents will feel free to attempt coups against the Congress and Judiciary (the other powers besides the Executive Branch).

    This is not about Democrats seeking revenge. It is about protecting our nation from similar assaults in the future. It is about setting a precedent that all must follow. It is delineating what is acceptable and what is not per the Constitution.

    • Just reading the above, that is a new level of crazy gaslighting. “Attempt coups?” What an absurd statement, devoid of factual support. How can the rest be any more sane?

      I suppose a President calling on his putative supporters to oust a member of Congress during election season is a similar infraction against the separation of powers? If not, why the hell not — the same reasoning would apply.

      As far as I know, Trump never suggested his supporters do anything actually illegal. Rather, he suggested that they make themselves heard and felt in the tried and true manner of protest. The fact that some supporters took that to an illegal level is a problem, for sure, but for his supporters — not for him, at least, not legally.

      That’s what makes this impeachment so transparently fraudulent. It’s designed to give everyone who’s ever voiced an objection to Trump’s style an opportunity to claim a cause of action against him purely on the basis of an emotional reaction to immediate events — conveniently, after he’s left office and can no longer exert the kind of pressure on them he could from the White House.

      This is a revenge impeachment, and no mistake. Unconstitutional from top to bottom, and in my humble lay opinion, it’s not even a close call.

    • That point is hardly worth discussing. If what Trump said constitutes “incitement” then every politician who vows to fight for his/her constituency or position is inciting violence and should be impeached. What Congress is doing is use a Bill of Attainder to condemn Trump from ever running for office again. That is the right of the voters to decide, not government officials who either hate or fear Trump so much they are willing to bend and break rules to destroy him.

      On a side note, if a group of a couple of hundred idiots (Viking Man included) can storm the Capitol, disrupt government functions, and can begin a coup de tat, then maybe our country is a whole lot worse off then we can even believe. Where were the police and security forces? Why were they not prepared to address this? This rally was not a surprise and social media had actors talking about breaking into Congress days prior to the January 6 rally.


      • Well, Viking man isn’t a Trump supporter, so they weren’t prepared to move against him. There is a lot of picture purporting to show him at BLM rallies and talking to Pelosi’s son-in-law at the Capitol that day. He also had 6 different people following him in taking pictures, so that all seems a little bit staged.

        • Agreed. This incident was arranged long before Trump told his crowd of racists and women haters they should make their voices heard.

          Lindsey Graham warned the House Impeachment managers not to call witnesses because that could/would/should open a Pandora’s Box of Unintended Consequences. Anne Althouse wondered what his reason for warning them was. I, like her, believe that Graham realizes that the Managers, headed by Eric Swalwell, are not too bright, and Graham is goading them into doing just that. He figures that they will open that door and quickly wish that it should have remained tightly shut. Wehn he does, the Republicans can call Ocasio-Cortez to grill about her obnoxious and crazy accusations against Cruz and Hawley, and whether she really did fear for her life. That will be fun. After she testifies, then Rep. Gaetz can move for her impeachment under Pelosi’s new Article 25 rules on the grounds that she is delusional and incapable of carrying out the duties of her office as a member of Congress. Take that, Nancy!


  2. On 4:

    I think so. It’s perhaps a closer call than the emotional response to the situation calls for…. I’ll have to ask some of my buddies on the force, I’m not sure what the guidelines would be for that level of force, or if there’s restrictions on use against pre-teens. It seems like a visibly emotional 9 year old girl calling for her dad probably fails to reach the level of imminent or reasonable fear of harm to the officer or others.

    But I don’t understand the necessity of it. The necessity of it isn’t a legal argument, but this isn’t the legal argument, this is the “you’re a moron” argument. And make no mistake: The officers involved are too stupid to carry a badge. Who thought this was a good idea? It’s 2021 and cases like this will make the news. Period. They’re going to. We’ve seen the studies suggesting that black people are actually less likely than white people on a case by case to be shot during arrest, and that seems to be a factor of police understanding what shooting a black man looks like in the media. How could you not understand what pepper spraying a nine year old girl would look like?

    • This video is much like the George Floyd video. We saw the bad part but not the whole video. Check out the video in my comment below for more context. It may lead to a closer call in favor of the police, even if the obvious revulsion of pepper spraying a 9 year old girl turn the stomach.


  3. The traffic and comments on Ethics Alarms are way down; last month was especially bad, with views topping 4,000 only once. Is it anger? Fear? Submission? Surrender? The weather? Have the pods all been successfully delivered while we sleep?

    In my case, it’s been an attempt to quietly hide from all the things making me feel bad. Dare I say, “unsafe?” No, I don’t dare, because I am just as “safe” as I was. But 2020 was a fusillade of evil, ending with my wife falling down stairs while leaving work the day before New Year’s Eve and winding up with an open trimalleolar fracture of her right ankle. Adjusting to a temporarily one-legged person in a house that couldn’t be more handicapped-unfriendly has been a challenge, although we are, after a month in hospitals, rehab, and home life trial and error finally adjusting to the temporary new normal.

    Heaped on top of that is the reality of unified Democratic control of Congress, and all the fears of lost rights and further damage to the country attendant to that misfortune. It’s been a bit too much, and frankly, I’ve been trying to hide from reality while keeping a gimlet eye on the news (and ammunition availability). No good news to be found anywhere.

    I’m afraid I have no trenchant observations on the items you listed. It all seems de rigeur for the current state of our country, and isn’t significantly different from what we were seeing from the AUC during the Trump years, with the notable exception of no mention of… Trump. How will CNN et. al. ever survive without him?

    I do wonder if the public will start to notice the craziness now that Trump is gone. Without him to suck the air out of every story and divert attention from the things that really ought to bake people’s noodle, maybe our self-absorbed masses will begin to see what a nuthouse our combined entertainment/news media (is that ever a distinction without a difference!) has become. Then again, maybe I will become the first known life form to flap my arms and translate into hyperspace.

    It could happen.

  4. Re: No3; The Upset 9 Year Old.

    This one is a close call, so if there is qualified immunity at play, I am going to defer to the officers on the scene and conclude that they did not abuse their authority. Here is a video that may add a whole lot more context:

    ITtseems that the incident was preceded by some kind of altercation in the girl’s house. The mother can be seen in the video, who is very upset and may have stabbed the girl’s father after the girl’s father assaulted the mother. This girl is upset because of the fight and she seems genuinely concerned about her father – that’s a lot of crap to dump on a 9 year old girl but mom doesn’t help when she says she is going to drag the girl back into the house. Mom continually escalates the problem even after police ask her to step away. The first police officer on the scene tries to diffuse tensions but neither one of them are interested in dialing things down.

    The girl may be 9 years old but she looks a lot bigger and stronger than an average 9 year old girl. Besides, and clearly, she is very upset and not thinking rationally – imagine that! A 9 year old thinking irrationally. That may also be because the officer has been grabbing her hands and arms, and the girl keeps pulling away When more officers arrive, they try to get her into the police car. The girl absolutely defies the officers, kicking and pushing them away.

    Pepper spray is no fun but what are the officers supposed to do at the point where the person is not cooperating and is actively defying orders?


    • What do parents do when children are not cooperating and are actively defying orders? I’m pretty sure it is illegal for parents to pepper spray children for throwing a tantrum, and it ought to be illegal for police to do it. If the child just witnessed a violent altercation between her parents, then she had a good reason to be distraught and throwing a tantrum. Pepper spraying her was not a justifiable way of handling the situation.

      • No matter what the verdict is on the appropriateness of what the police did, and I thought that Mr. Hodgeson below makes a valid point, I believe that asking what parents do to deal with uncooperative and even combative children is an unfair tool for assessment. First, the tools parents use are not appropriate for cops. A cop cannot take dinner or a favorite toy away without the wholehearted cooperation of a parent. Loss of TV privileges, electronics, or blanket is not something a policeman knows enough about the individual child to enact appropriately and cannot follow through on. The only option for a cop is something more physical like a spanking or at least locking down in an strictly enforced time-out. And even those, being as violent as they often appear to be and sometimes are would be also be condemned as inappropriate for police. Andy Griffith could threaten to take a kid out to the woodshed with his belt in the 1960’s, but in 2020, such an action would be the death knell of any cop who considered it. Cops aren’t usually the parents to the kids they have to deal with. They cannot act as such.

        • I take your point, and agree that parents were the wrong example. How do teachers, nurses or day care workers deal with combative children? When a nurse tries to administer a shot to a combative child, the nurse doesn’t mace the child to make them calm down. When a child has a tantrum in day care, screaming for their parents, the day care workers do not mace the child. My point is that people deal with combative children all the time without macing them, or physically harming them. If a nurse or a teacher maced a combative child, they would be arrested. Why is it somehow justifiable for a police officer to do so?

    • Thanks for the full video – context indeed! My take on this is that the police need to add one more tool to their arsenal: a gag. As far as I can see, the girl was quietening after the first policeman caught her. What she needed at that point was some time out in a private corner to have a good cry. Granted,the police can’t wait around to see that through, therefore, holding her still and talking to her steadily and patiently was exactly right … and it was working. What she got instead of a safe space (the real definition of it, as a child, being held) and a listener was a screaming, screeching, foul-mouthed harpy yelling at her … (obviously a routine situation in that household). Who wouldn’t run from that? (Or, in a person having lost control, try to shut it up permanently?) This is a girl-child modeling her moron mama’s example – with the addition of a child’s inability to fight it, taking physical flight from harassment, but it was the mother who inflamed the situation. In my judgment, the handcuffs went on the wrong person.

  5. Too much to respond to in one fell swoop, so I’ll go with your first question (re the lowered reading/response rates on this blog): It’s fear, Jack. We don’t yet know how far and how deep the puppet Biden will go on in his policies (or on any quest to ‘get’ his presumed conservative ‘enemies’), so it’s a wait and see period. You should watch it, too, not incidentally. (On the other hand, perhaps your readers are doing you a favor: the lower your numbers, the less of a threat you may appear to be.) Tough time, for everyone. But going to get tougher, of that I am certain.

    • Where’ve you been, E2? Nice to hear from you.

      The hope in the OB household is that the Dems and the woke and the media will so rapidly reach warp speed over reach, that a light bulb will go off in a lot of people’s minds. Of course, I’m the one who thought the Dems would calm down a few weeks after Trump was inaugurated in 2017 and get down to the business of governing. Hah!

  6. Overpowering the nine-year-old girl is not the problem. Overpowering the combative, out-of-control nine-year-old girl WITHOUT SERIOUSLY INJURING HER is the problem. I have seen situations where five or six officers were needed to safely overpower even small people WITHOUT INJURY. Thus the use of pepper spray, which causes pain (and hopefully compliance) without permanent injury. I have been pepper-sprayed numerous times in training and can testify (and have) as to its effects and safe use. It may or may not have been the best tool at their disposal. Raw emotional reactions condemning the officers are not wise without fuller understanding of the totality of the situation and the alternatives the officers had in dealing with it. One thing I learned long ago is that even when force is used absolutely correctly, it ain’t pretty.
    The jurisdiction should have some sort of mental health response team, whose deployment would have been more than justified by threats of self-harm. EMS should have been called in support. She should have been strapped to a gurney and taken by ambulance for a mental evaluation, rather than placed in a police car. They might have needed police assistance, but it still would have been dealt with as a mental health issue rather than a law enforcement issue. I have no idea what resources, if any, these particular officers could have called on. I just know that’s how such a call would be handled here.
    Our society often pre-loads the scales toward failure, by putting police in these situations in the first place without adequate support from other relevant professionals.

  7. I have thought about commenting recently (for the first time) but don’t even know where to start. Recent ethics fails – Health and Human Services misuse of BARDA funds for office HHS office furniture, subscriptions, etc. Ivermectin and “reasons” for “not studying”. But mostly the motion for dismissal by Mark Steyn and the information it revealed: perhaps a litigious “climatologist” was never actually investigated, much less exonerated. Much more information via discovery. When I read climate blogs from skeptics and mainstream climate “science” I notice the unethical name calling, tantrum throwing, and pure hatred from the latter. I fear that the SCOTUS does not want to address this legal matter because the children and adults who enjoy tantrums and *will* happily throw them will disadvantage those who believe in civil, rational discourse, the latter being thrown under the bus in order to avoid a scene. I have closely followed climate since I read the excellent book about complexity, “Chaos”, by James Gleick, and therefore doubted that climate scientists had sufficient information and skill to predict anything. So yes, the proposed “climate remediation” and the resulting lumbering, corrupt bureaucracy aiming to “prevent” future climate events will doubtless succeed because of the fallacy of proving a negative. This is one of many reasons for my past foot-dragging – the climate “pause” is on the record. I am angry and very concerned. Pent up inability to discuss the climate issue with anyone except my husband has contributed to this rant. Hope to do better in future.

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