Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up 1: Rittenhouse-Free Zone Edition

JFK assassination

President Kennedy was assassinated on this date in 1963, easily my most vivid memory of any national event in my lifetime. I am not an admirer of Jack Kennedy as a President or a human being, but it is hard to imagine a more wrenching disruption of the nation’s course, spirit, fate and future than what occurred that day in Dallas.

We watched everything unfold for the rest of the week on our black and white TVs, from Walter Cronkite’s somber announcement that the President of the United States was dead, to the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, through to the D.C. funeral procession and John-John’s salute.

The day still represents traumafor me, and I am sure to many others of my generation: when Grace and I were planning our wedding in 1980 and November 22 was suggested as the most convenient date, I insisted on the 23rd instead. This is also the date that kicks off the dreaded holiday season, stuffed with milestones good and bad (I count seven between now and New Years), periods of anxiety, nostalgia and anticipation in between, and too much longing and memories of loss to bear.

I hate it.

1. Yes, it’s an unethical Christmas tree. In the town of Grimsby in North East Lincolnshire, the official Christmas tree has been taken down from the town center after a local uproar declaring the 10 foot, conical artificial tree a “national embarrassment.” It also cost a thousand pounds. The town’s explanation was, shall we say, confusing, with Councillor Callum Procter claiming,

There are great plans for celebrating the start of the Christmas period next week. Unfortunately, the Christmas Market tree was installed too early, and we understand that people were confused and thought this was our civic tree. The tree has been removed temporarily today and our contractors are reinstalling again, for free, ahead of the market next week. I’m looking forward to seeing people enjoying the illuminations, the market, and the revamped St James’ Square with the civic tree and the special lighting on the Minster as part of the Christmas experience.

Wait…the town is going to put the same tree back up, and everyone will like it because it won’t be “too early”? I am dubious. Here’s the tree:

bsd tree

2. Ironically, they were watching an Alec Baldwin movie at the time... In St. Louis, a 2-year-old child picked up a loaded rifle and shot his father in the back over the weekend. The incompetent and irresponsible gun owner was found dead at the scene.

Well, it’s better that he was shot than the child or some other innocent victim.

As Ethics Alarms has opined in past incidents of this sort, the laws punishing negligence and carelessness by gun owners are nowhere near severe enough.

3. Now if these defendants are acquitted, the outrage will be deserved. I don’t think there’s much chance of that happening, fortunately. Defense attorneys rested their case in the Ahmaud Arbery trial last week after calling just seven witnesses including the shooter, who testified that Arbery did not threaten him in any way before he pointed his shotgun at the 25-year-old Black jogger and killed him. The three men charged in the murder claim that they were making a “citizen’s arrest” of someone they believed had been committing burglaries in the neighborhood over the past several weeks. The Georgia law that permitted citizen’s arrests was repealed after Arbery’s shooting, but the jury must weigh the evidence under the law in effect at the time.

Judge Timothy Walmsley ruled at the end of the trial, as the case went to the jury, that Georgia’s prior citizen’s arrest law was only applicable if an arresting citizen saw a felony committed and acted immediately. That would seem to doom the defendants, who deserve to be doomed. It will, as Jonathan Turley notes, be an obvious target for appeal. However, I don’t see how any other interpretation of the law is realistic.

4. An ethics alarms test on Carlsbad, California, and the town flunks. On Route I-5 in Carlsbad, the doors of a traveling armored truck flew open and sent bills flying. The driver stopped and began harvesting the cash, but quickly other motorists braked and did the same, many with apparently no intention of returning it. Some did turn the money over, but the California Highway Patrol is working to identify drivers suspected of pocketing cash and has urged those who took bills to return them within 48 hours “to avoid potential criminal charges.” One couple has already been arrested.

This is how the John Wayne-Kirk Douglas Western “The War Wagon” ends, you know.

5. But wait! Jeffrey Toobin got HIS job back! Howard Robinson, 68, a tenured professor at Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service, was fired after graduate student Andrea Morin filmed a video of him appearing to masturbate during a Sept. 10, 2020 class. The student reported that she saw Morin “from above his waist, and observed him for a period of 1.5 minutes, during which time he was shaking, breathing hard, and saying ..’oh fuck yeah.’”


Robinson is suing to get his job back, claiming that his erectile dysfunction and low testosterone levels make it “virtually impossible for him to get an erection or masturbate.” What Morin observed, the lawsuit alleges, was not the professor masturbating but struggling not to urinate due to an enlarged prostate and other medical problems.

Apparently he always says ‘oh fuck yeah” when this happens.

The student is also suing Fordham, claiming that school administrators tried to persuade her not to report the incident, and that the professor who replaced Robinson in the class failed her in retaliation. It was her only failing grade (her GPA was 3.52), and as a result, she lost her scholarship and did not complete her course of study in time to graduate in May 2021. The delay in graduation prevented her from receiving a raise at her job, the lawsuit argues. Morin also alleges that Robinson emailed Morin two days after his Zoom performance and asked her “how she was feeling,” and said he was “thinking about her.”



  • Zoom strikes again! But at this point, you can’t have any sympathy for the technology’s victims, can you?
  • I have to remind myself to again thank my son for deciding that he could make better use of the fund his grandparents left him than spending it on college. as in “wasting it on college.”
  • When you have to embarrass yourself that much to get your job back, is it really worth it?
  • Ew. Just…ew.

26 thoughts on “Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up 1: Rittenhouse-Free Zone Edition

  1. #3 It’s not likely that the three will be aquitted and from the evidence I’ve seen they should be convicted of murder. These men were literally armed vigilante’s that hunted down (stalked) this runner, engaged in illegal activity to confront the runner after they hunted him down, ended up killing the runner, and then try to make claims to justify their illegal activity. From what I’ve seen, nothing these men did was legal or morally correct. Throw the book at them and lock them away for a very long time!

      • No big loss to anyone if they do go to the slammer for the rest of their lives. Vigilantism by the untrained does no good and a lot of bad, plus in this case it’s given the black community a legit reason to distrust and hate white people.

        • Vigilantism by the untrained does no good and a lot of bad

          I’m curious about that qualifier.

          The implication is that with some sort of training that vigilantism is desirable. Is that the message you wish to convey?

          • Yeah, I was going to ask the same thing. Liam Neeson films are about what a trained vigilante can do. It may be Hollywood, but still, the better a vigilante is at doing law enforcement type things, as well as some enhancements, the more damage he or she can do.

      • P.M.Lawrence wrote, “Is that just a bad apostrophe, or did you forget to put something in for that possessive to possess? If the latter, what?”

        That’s it, that’s all you could come up with?

        Do you know how thoroughly petty that kind of grammar nazi nit picking comes accross?

        How about you either go pick your gramar nazi nits somewhere else or actually ignore these kind of nit-picky errors and address the actual content of the comment.

        • How about I ask a genuine question? Actually, I did. Since I have no issue with the substance, I have no new stuff to tell you about that. Over in many comments I see silly apostrophes that are clearly that, and I only occasionally point them out. Here, though, it was unclear whether you were being silly or had had a lapse of the sort that I myself have had and left out a word or two – so I asked. But your angry reply strongly suggests you were indeed being silly, on the principle of “qui s’excuse, s’accuse”. Now I know you are guilty of silly, bad grammar, I would no more dream of picking the nits off you – since you glory in them – than I did when I was sincerely asking whether you had left something out.

          That, by the way was an apology in the original sense: a full and complete explanation. Now you have it, you may either answer the question if I have erred in concluding that you did not inadvertently omit something, or go away without making a big fuss about nothing yourself. I would suggest that you do not choose a third alternative that I charitably omit.

          • P.M.Lawrence,
            Seriously dude, climb down off that percarious perch before you fall off and hurt yourself.

            Context matters. The context of what I originally wrote was self-evident for those that didn’t focus on an obvious error of inappropriately placing an apostrophe where it wasn’t needed. Of course I didn’t omit anything, context, context, context! It was an error and I acknowledged that in my initial reply to you when I wrote “ignore these kind of nit-picky errors”. We’re all human and most of us make typoes and grammar errors once in a while, so what, get the context and move on without being a petty and acting like an asshole.

            Now stop extending your rediculous gramar nazi trolling, let it go and move on.

            • Of course context matters. Did you even read what I first asked? Did you notice me refer to “just a bad apostrophe”? Did you realise I was not making a big deal about that, as evidenced by the word “just”? That’s context for you.

              So “The context of what I originally wrote was self-evident for those that didn’t focus on an obvious error of inappropriately placing an apostrophe where it wasn’t needed” is precisely what does not cover me, though it does you. You know you used a bad apostrophe – but I didn’t (then). So you focussed on the error you and you alone knew for sure was there. I was genuinely not making a big deal about a bad apostrophe if that was what it was, but asking about the potentially very big deal of you inadvertently leaving something out. We now know that that didn’t happen, but we also now know that you are the sort who picks up on little things in preference to the big ones.

              And that perch you claim I’m on – it’s just me replying in kind to the very over-reaction you accuse me of, making it a perch which you first climbed on yourself; you opened the door to it, and now you’re getting it back (if I may mix a metaphor). You have turned a genuine search for truth into a logomachy. You are “being petty and acting like an asshole” here, accusing me of “extending your rediculous gramar nazi trolling, let it go and move on” because you simply ignored the main limb of a genuine enquiry and thought the get out I offered you, of a minor flaw or error, was an accusation of grave error.

              But you have now revealed that you, yourself, are guilty of that very sort of making a big deal out of a small thing and projecting it on me – projection at its worst (in this universe of discourse).

              And now it’s late here and I have to go. I only stayed up this late to handle a late night TV recording.

              P.S. I am more than ever conscious of apostrophes – or apostrophe’s if you prefer – because my internet-enabled laptop has recently intermittently stopped noticing certain keys, including that one. I now have to copy and paste them in.

                • The part I’m not letting go of is the part where you blow up in anger at a figment of your imagination, and also accuse me of over-reacting in my original comment without ever acknowledging that you then opened the door to that in your own reaction and that I never did what you accused me of in the first place. Calling for “moving on” is the old politician’s trick of arguing that a bad thing he just did should be ignored and allowed to stand. So, to sum up:-

                  – I never did make a big deal about your bad apostrophe, so there is nothing to move on from. Anything there is your imagination, maybe “the guilty flee where no man pursueth”, say if you felt bad about it and went into denial (maybe you don’t do that).

                  – I did and do make a big deal about misrepresentation and distortion, witting or unwitting.

                  – What you are asking for, by way of “moving on”, is to have that misrepresentation and distortion condoned.

                  I can offer you this: that you did not understand me and where I am coming from, and still do not, so that you really don’t get just how seriously I take disservice to truth and propagation of its enemy. Just as the cover up can be worse than the covered, here your coming down hard and misrepresenting an honest question has itself made a big deal that I cannot let go if so doing condones and endorses the misrepresentation – even though the bad apostrophe never was the big deal you accused me of making it. Go and read what I originally wrote.

  2. I don’t know about the masturbating professor. Some people seem to love the thrill of it. A certain segment of the population has always been that way.

    As for California, I’m surprised they even care about the money considering how much some prosecutors there are turning a blind eye to petty theft.

    • Having had even a brief and mild case of some of the symptoms the prof claims to be suffering, I’m not totally rejecting the “oh fuck, yeah” explanation… but that still leaves him, as you say, HT, pissing while on camera. Seems rather a weak argument. Wasn’t there a real-life case a few years back in which the defendant argued he couldn’t be guilty of a murder at location X because he was breaking into someone’s house at location Y (or something like that) when the crime occurred?
      The treatment of the student, assuming her account of events is to be believed, is unconscionable under any circumstances,

    • And what would prevent a person running a Zoom class from excusing himself for a few minutes and without any further explanation heading to a nearby rest room to relieve himself?

    • I like the part about the “contractors reinstalling it” next week. That’s a pretty fluffed-up way to describe some dude dragging that plastic abomination out and plopping it down on the sidewalk. “Installing”, indeed.

      Maybe the tree only cost £100, but the Charles M. Schulz estate got the other £900 as a license fee for ripping off the concept of Charlie Brown’s pathetic tree…

  3. On the morning of 9/11, I descended on the elevator of the Trump Grand Hotel (or whatever it was called on 42nd street near Grand Central) to get breakfast before heading down to the U.S. Attorney’s office near the World Trade Center to attend a deposition in a forfeiture case involving a client. The elevator’s door opened up onto the lobby which included a bar area with a few television monitors. People were standing, watching the TVs, looking as if they’d been turned into pillars of salt. (The first plane had gone in and the second hit as we watched.) The very first thing that popped into my head as I stepped out of the elevator was being in Sister Ann Patricia’s seventh grade class and watching the news reports from Dallas on a black and white TV in our room we usually used for watching TV Spanish. So, for me, the Kennedy assassination and 9/11 have always been joined. Even weirder, the night before, I’d looked out my hotel room’s window at a skinny, tall (twenty stories or so) office building and thought, “How would anything in this town survive a World War Two type bombing campaign?” Equally bizarre, my brother was working that morning in his office at the Pentagon, one facet over from where the plane went in. Also weird, Mrs. OB, who ran American Express’s disaster recovery operations for it’s offices that were damaged on 9/11, had been at the AmEx offices and staying at the Vista Hotel when the first attempt on the World Trade Center had been made with the truck bomb in the basement, which would perhaps been more devastating than 9/11 had it been successful. She had had to walk about twenty blocks north with her rolly bag before getting a ride north with a policeman before finding a cab to take her to JFK and catch her plane.

    I was stuck in NYC for the week before I could get a flight home. The only planes flying over the city were NY Air National Guard F-16s. The following week in Phoenix was equally eerie insofar as there were virtually no airplanes flying. It reminded me of “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” the creepiest movie ever and the reason I don’t watch science fiction or horror movies to this day.

    So, personally, I’d have to put 9/11 right up there with the Kennedy assassination. In terms of immediate and long term impact on our lives, I’d say the consequences of 9/11 actually exceed those of the Kennedy assassination. As a single example, Lee Harvey Oswald’s marksmanship didn’t get us into two wars. Dallas was traumatic and had after effects, but I think 9/11 was more devastating.

  4. Regarding Number 1, I am truly confused. The tree looked like a perfectly good tree. Did the town think it was too small? Certainly, the barrier fencing makes it look like crap.

    If we generously assume the councilor is not lying to cover his butt, it sounds like there are intended to be at least two trees, the “market tree” and “civic tree”, and numerous other decorations. It seems strange that a lone tree would be put up in advance of everything else, though. I’d also want to know what the 1000#’s bought. Was it just the tree, or all installation labor and electricity for the season. Does the tree do any special lightshow? Does the tree need to be particularly durable to survive the winter season? I’d image our artificial tree would fall apart quickly in the rain, wind, and snow of winter here.

    • “it sounds like there are intended to be at least two trees, the “market tree” and “civic tree”, and numerous other decorations. It seems strange that a lone tree would be put up in advance of everything else,”

      Rich in Ct. that was my take on his comment as well.

  5. “The Georgia law that permitted citizen’s arrests was repealed after Arbery’s shooting…”
    Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water! Now, if I lived in Georgia and saw my neighbor’s house being burglarized and his gun collection being carried out the back door, all I could legally do would be call 911. I’m not at all defending what Arbery’s killers did. But citizens regularly intervene in many criminal acts, using good judgement, with no dire consequences to anyone. Seldom is even the display of a firearm involved. In many states, mine included, the only difference in the arrest powers of private citizens versus those of the police is while citizens can only arrest for crimes committed in their presence, police officers may make on-scene arrests as well as probable cause arrests and serve arrest warrants. No less a personage than Sir Robert Peel, the “father of modern policing” said, “The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.” I agree with Peel.

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