Dispirited Ethics Notes That Won’t Make A Ripple Or Change Anything So Why Do I Bother?, 7/8/22

Beset with self-doubt, anxiety, frustration, despair and futility today. I apologize in advance in case it colors my prose…

1. Again, making the public stupid. I heard a news-reader this morning read directly from a White House press release stating that President Biden was going to announce to the nation that he was signing an executive order “guaranteeing” women’s “reproductive health” and access to abortions. This combination of official deception and journalism negligence is why so many members of the public think the President is a king. Whatever the announcement is, it can’t trump state laws. It can’t make federal law. Those of us who actually pay attention know what this is: pro-abortion activists and Democratic donors told the White House that they are furious that Biden isn’t prominently “fighting” for abortion. This is the result: grandstanding.

2. A King’s Pass spectacular! I don’t know what exactly the truth is, so I can’t tell which involved party is more unethical. WNBA superstar Brittney Griner pleaded guilty this week in a Russian court to drug possession and drug smuggling. In February 2022, just before Russia invaded Ukraine,  Griner was arrested and detained by Russian Customs after cartridges containing hashish oil had been found in her luggage. She went to Russia to play with the Russian Premier League during the WNBA offseason, even though the invasion was imminent and tensions between the U.S. and Russia were escalated. She was there for money, that’s all, even though she is a multi-millionaire.

Russia is clearly determined to use her as a trading piece in a prisoner exchange, with the likely target being an infamous Russian arms dealer in U.S. custody who seeds terrorism around the world. Are the charges trumped up, as Griner initially claimed before she said she was guilty? Who knows? If she was reckless enough to go to Russia when she did, she is reckless enough to have brought an illegal substance with her. Now she says she packed the oil accidentally. Sure.

Essentially, due to her own greed and arrogance, Griner has created an international incident and may get people killed because springing her from Russian prison Hell will require releasing a dangerous man. Naturally, the Biden administration can’t avoid making a special effort to rescue a female, black, gay celebrity. Sportswriter Bill Plaschke, in a predictable column in the LA Times, thinks the King’s Pass (aka Star Syndrome) isn’t working fairly. He approvingly quotes another WNBA player who says, “If it were LeBron James or Tom Brady, this would be news that would be in the headlines every day.” That’s probably true, but it shouldn’t be. An arrogant, greedy, foolish celebrity, male or female, who violates a foreign country’s laws should be treated by our news media and the government with exactly the same level of attention as a retired sanitation worker from Newark who does the same, massively stupid thing.

Is it relevant that Griner, who did not know what she was talking about, protested the death of Breonna Taylor (and George Floyd, of course) by arguing that the National Anthem shouldn’t be played before WNBA games? No—but if the nation she finds so repugnant rescues her from her own idiocy, I will expect to hear some gratitude. Griner is also being hailed in the media and by her fellow players as a martyr and a hero, though she beat up her first wife in an episode that would have gotten an equivalent male, white, non-gay celebrity “canceled.”

3. Another reason not to trust public schools: Dr. Greg Baker, Superintendent of Bellingham Public Schools in Washington, has students fill out the following “pronoun form”:

What possible use does this form have other than as a tool to deceive parents?

4. THIS is Georgetown Law Center, my esteemed alma mater: GULC professor Rosa Brooks appeared on MSNBC’s “The ReidOut” with the consistently hysterical Joy Reid to attack the Second Amendment the SCOTUS decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen. 

She said in part,

“I was thinking, boy, those sounds are like the sounds you hear in war zones. And there are people all over the world who have lived during armed conflicts, and when does the mortar fall on your house, when does the soldier or the tank come down the street and just kill you. We are now living in that world, too, and we have brought it on ourselves. We can’t say, oops, it’s the Russians’ fault. They shouldn’t have invaded us.

This is us. This is 100% us, and it’s because we are essentially slaves to a document that was written more than 230 years ago by a tiny group of white slave-owning men. And we cannot break out of the bondage that we have imposed on ourselves from feeling like we have to– everything by our Supreme Court is decided in reference to this ancient document which is just not serving us well. It is causing enormous problems and enormous tragedies at this point.”

This is the attitude a tenured law professor at a major U.S. law school has regarding the Constitution. Nice.

5. Good. The Wisconsin Supreme Court today prohibited the use of most drop boxes for voters to return absentee ballots. Despicably, the New York Times calls this “a major victory” for Republicans  “in their efforts to limit voting access in urban areas.” Preventing an obviously porous system ripe for abuse is limiting voter access. The court wrote  that returning an absentee ballot to a municipal clerk, the laws states, “does not mean nor has it been historically understood to mean delivery to an unattended ballot drop box.” Drop boxes should be banned everywhere. If we don’t want losing candidates to claim elections were “stolen,” then don’t permit election devices that could allow them to be stolen.

15 thoughts on “Dispirited Ethics Notes That Won’t Make A Ripple Or Change Anything So Why Do I Bother?, 7/8/22

  1. Comparing Britney Griner, who the vast majority of Americans hadn’t heard of before this incident (and it’s probably greater than 50% who still could not tell you who she is, despite the news coverage of this story) to LeBron James, one of the most famous sports figures on the planet, is probably a little bit apples-n-oranges, no? It has nothing to do with Griner’s gender or sexuality or anything other than the simple fact that she’s just not that famous. If Oprah Winfrey or Serena Williams got busted smuggling weed in Russia, it’d get the kind of coverage Plaschke is talking about. If a male player in a professional Frisbee Golf league or jet-ski racing got into the same predicament, it’d get less coverage than Griner has gotten, because those sports attract even fewer eyeballs than the WNBA. This is pretty simple arithmetic.

    • But the sportswriter’s complaint was that those athletes would be home by now, and it’s unfair that Griner is not. And they should not be getting home any faster than Griner or anyone else. Degree of fame is irrelevant, or should be. So quibbling about LaBron being a bigger deal is sort of beside the point, no?

      • Degree of fame should be irrelevant, but we live in the real world, where squeaky wheels get greased. The more celebrity a person has, the louder they can squeak. Plaschke is trying to argue that Griner’s squeaking is muted because we’re all racist misogynist homophobes. Most of that article seems to be complaining that the failure of Griner to get the King’s Pass is because she’s a black lesbian woman. To wit:

        “Brittney Griner is not only being held captive by the Russians, but also by her appearance and sexuality.”

        The thesis being that we don’t care enough about her case because we’re all misogynist/homophobic/whatever. I’m positing that most Americans don’t care about it because they don’t know who she is. All of her other traits are irrelevant because nobody knows what those traits are, because they never heard of this person before February.

        Your analysis, that nobody should get the King’s Pass, is of course correct and ethical. I’m merely pointing out that Plaschke’s other arguments also hold no water.

  2. 1. I don’t think protecting access and guaranteeing access are quite the same thing. The press release on the White House site says protecting. So, was the news reader free lancing or mis-heard, or was the press release stealth changed? Who knows?
    Regardless, the President will try to make it seem he is doing more than he actually can within the law, and his fans in the media will try to make it seem as if he is doing a good job.

    • I don’t see the difference. What do you think it is? If access is “protected” for all, then it’s guaranteed for all. Access is exactly as protected /guaranteed regardless of what the President signs, unless it’s a bill passed by Congress. That was and is the point.

  3. 1. So if a state has restricted abortion access, the President’s executive order would do nothing to “de-restrict” it, right? Even more than grandstanding, is this just blowing hot air that isn’t going to change anything that any particular state law already does?

    • What if this E.O. means that DoJ Civil Rights Division is ordered by the President to sue those States with restrictive abortion policies and wasting appropriated funds in what would be a challenge to the Dobbs decision? AG Garland and his handmaidens have shown no reluctance to do just that in GA, recently AZ, and I expect soon-to-be challenged WI Supreme Court ruling.

      What’s the current term of art, lawfare? The feds have essentially more money to throw at things like this than any State or other respondent can hope to match. And, don’t forget (as the tenured GULC professor seems to have forgotten) that E.O.s *only* apply to the Executive Branch, until/unless the Executive published (using the APA) a rule that would be codified in the Code of Federal Regulations, whack have general applicability, if I’m not mistaken.

      MB

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