Those who like to maintain that the Founders were infallible and the Constitution flawless would do well to remember this date, when the U.S. narrowly averted a disaster entirely made possible by bone-headed drafting of our road-map to a republic. On February 17, 1801, Thomas Jefferson was elected the third president of the United States, the first peaceful transfer of power from one political party in our history, as Jefferson’s fledgling Democratic-Republicans upset the Federalists of Washington, Adams and Hamilton. It was a close call, however, because Jefferson was nearly defeated by hos own Vice-President, the sinister Aaron Burr (That’s him on the left above.)Though Jefferson and Burr ran on the same ticket, the Constitution required state elector votes for both men to be counted separately. As a result, Jefferson and Burr emerged from the process tied at 73 electoral votes apiece, while the sitting President, John Adams, came in third at 65 votes. This sent the final vote to the House of Representatives. Of course, if Burr weren’t a sociopathic cur, he could have solved the botch by simply withdrawing from the Presidential race since nobody voted for him to be President. The Federalist-controlled House of Representatives, meanwhile, was happy to see Jefferson enmeshed in the controversy, and were delighted in the dealock In the end it was Federalist Alexander Hamilton who saved the day and the nation, as he persuaded the House to vote against Burr, whom he called unfit. (This moment of high principle—Jefferson and Hamilton were far from pals–led to the duel with Burr in 1804 that resulted in Hamilton’s death.) As for the ridiculously incompetent voting system, it was cleared up by the 12th Amendment, ratified in 1804. The fact that the first version didn’t inflict Aaron Burr on the still-vulnerable United States, however, was pure moral luck.
1. “Best Excuse for Unethical Conduct” of the Month: Bruce Lee, a Chicago ticket broker, was convicted of fraudulently selling tickets to White Sox games and sentenced to prison this week. The federal judge rejected his defense that he had actually helped the team, because it wasn’t going fill those seats anyway and the fans who bought his fake tickets spent money on food, drink, and souvenirs. The judge called the argument that nobody was harmed “delusional,” and saying that it was important to make the point to others who might try similar schemes that getting caught would have negative consequences.
The judge must be a Republican, since that line of reasoning appears to be taboo on the other side of the aisle regarding “minor” crimes.2. This would be a felony murder in some states. In Houston, Tony Earls, 41, was making a transaction at a drive-thru ATM when he was robbed at gunpoint. Earls first fired his own gun at the robber, who fled on foot. Then, flushed with excitement or the spirit of “Shane,” he fired another round at a pick-up truck that he thought the robber had jumped into. He hadn’t. The bullet struck the back window of the truck, which was occupied by an innocent family of five including a 9-year-old girl. She was struck during the shooting, and later died of the wound.
In the rapidly diminishing number of jurisdictions that have felony murder laws, the robber could be charged for the girl’s death, as his felony set in motion the events that took her life. However, I am not troubled by Earls’ arrest and his being charged with aggravated assault-serious bodily injury. Rights carry responsibilities.
3. It’s only taken ten years! Congress is finally ready to ban congressional stock trading after many scandals and evidence that a lot of Reps and Senators enriched themselves and their families using the special information they acquired and their advance knowledge of new legislation. Even Nancy Pelosi, one of the prime offenders, has now endorsed the change, though the exact provisions are yet to be worked out.
Ethics Alarms wrote about the issue in 2011 and 2012, as well as in later posts.
4. And this is another reason why religion is declining in the U.S. Tennessee Pastor Greg Locke, who predicted Donald Trump would beat “demon-possessed” Joe Biden, went on a videoed rant during a recent sermon, threatening to expose six “witches” in his congregation:
Three of you are in this room right now. Three of you in the room right now. You better look in my eyeballs, we ain’t afraid of you, you stinkin’ witch, you devil-worshipping Satanist witch. We cast you out in the name of Jesus Christ! We break your spells, we break your curse. We got your first name, we got your last name, we even got an address for one of you! You so much as cough wrong, and I’ll expose you in front of everybody in this tent, you stinkin’ witch!” he added. “You were sent to this church to destroy us. You were sent to this church to lure us in. You were sent to this church to cast a spell — listen, some of you been sick? Cause you befriended that witch!
One of my many fond memories of my dad acting on principle was when a Greek Orthodox priest, in his sermon, denounced “mixed marriages” and declared the the offspring when both parents weren’t of the Greek Orthodox faith were illegitimate in the eyes of the Lord and the Church. Almost immediately, my father, a Methodist who married Mom in a Greek Orthodox ceremony, gathered up my sister and me, and said, “We’re leaving.”
Every member of Locke’s congregation had an ethical obligation to walk out on that jerk.
5. For some strange reason, the law of unintended consequences still confounds nanny-state advocates. The Wuhan virus lockdown was the most notable recent example, but here’s a lesser one.
In 2018, the Seattle established a tax on soda and other sugary drinks “designed to result in the improved health of Seattle residents.” A new peer-reviewed study suggest that a significant portion of the public substituted beer for soda. “Seattle’s policy may have successfully burdened its residents with a regressive tax and pushed them away from their first choice drinks,” writes FEE. “But it’s not at all apparent that it actually “improved the health of Seattle residents.” Beer has more calories than soda, and alcohol consumption carries health problems of its own.
“Every human action has both intended and unintended consequences,” economist Antony Davies and political scientist James Harrigan explain. “Human beings react to every rule, regulation, and order governments impose, and their reactions result in outcomes that can be quite different than the outcomes lawmakers intended.” Be sure to read their account of the “Cobra Effect.”
6. Finally, it is time to update the Ethics Alarms clips inventory. The latest are here, making the number 25.