Weekend Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/28/23: “The Usual”

  • At 11:38 a.m. EST on this date in 1986, the space shuttle Challenger lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It’s destruction soon after marked one of the most vivid and provocative ethics scandals in American history. The tragedy—in many ways—has been discussed extensively on Ethics Alarms, and surely will be again. You can review the posts and comments here. But I’m not writing any more about the Challenger today. I’m in a bad enough mood already.
  • Contributing to my mood was a discussion I had yesterday with an apparently well-educated young lawyer. We were talking about the issue of wilful blindness or contrived ignorance, a big ethics problem in the law, where lawyers often avoid evidence of facts that would obligate them to take action that would have adverse financial or professional consequences. When I mentioned Albert Speer, the Third Reich’s architect and Minister of Armaments and War Production for Nazi Germany during most of World War II who infamously argued that he had no idea that the Holocaust was underway despite his place in the center of Nazi leadership, the lawyer asked, “Who’s Albert Speer?”
  • Earlier in the week, during her brief hospital stay, equally disturbing questions were received by my wife during discussions with nurses: “Who’s Lucille Ball?” and “What’s “Gone With The Wind”?

1. Tyrell Nichols. The police-instigated death of young Tyrell Nichols didn’t set of a string of nation-wide riots as was widely predicted last night, even though what the bodycam vidos showed was, as one police training and use-of-force expert opined after watching the video, “worse than Rodney King.” It was worse than what happened to George Floyd, too. What kept this from becoming a justification for violence in BLM World is that the brutal cops, all of them, were black. Race, not police misconduct, is what drove both the King riots and the Floyd riots, though in neither of those earlier incidents did the facts implicate race as a motive. A friend of mine, a lawyer, said yesterday that he is convinced that the constant stress of dealing with escalating crime combined with the relentless hostility that has been directed at police as they try to do a difficult and dangerous job has caused many officers to exits in a constant state of rage. In addition to that problem, the pool of individuals with the right character, skills and stability to be police officers has been shrinking, meaning that less trustworthy people are increasingly recruited to perform that difficult and dangerous job. Policing is in a death cycle.

Meanwhile, perhaps hoping to convince potential BLM rioters to take to the streets, CNN race-baiting specialist Van Jones argued in an opinion piece that Nichols’ beating was still motivated by racism.

2. The angry pro-abortion Left (sorry, was that a politically incorrect use of “the”?) is determined to exact revenge on SCOTUS Justice Bret Kavanaugh. A new documentary called “Justice” (oooh, cool, a double meaning!) premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, with the clear objective of smearing Kavanaugh again by rehashing 30-year-old allegations of sexual misconduct when the Justice was a student. The filmmakers plan to add to their film after receiving “new tips” from anti-Kavanaugh Furies following the documentary’s screening. These are angry, ruthless, deeply unethical people. If there were any  reliable or relevant accusations against Kavanaugh, Democrats would have been able to find alleged victims more convincing—and recent!— than Christine Blasey Ford or Deborah Ramirez.

3. And speaking of using sexual harassment as a purely partisan weapon, Christian Toto wrote an accurate epitaph for “Time’s Up,” which was supposed to be the lobbying and activism arm of the #MeToo movement. It died of a death of integrity. He writes in part,

[Reese] Witherspoon, Natalie Portman, Laura Dern, Alyssa Milano, Amy Schumer, Julianne Moore, Brie Larson, Jessica Chastain and Tessa Thompson joined its advisory board, eager to take a more hands-on approach to the group’s work. Except those famous folks stood down when it mattered most. Time’s Up clammed up when Tara Reade accused then-presidential candidate Joe Biden in 2020 of sexually assaulting her decades earlier. Reade offered far more details of the alleged attack than other infamous accusers, but Time’s Up refused to rally to her cause. The group also stayed low when two black women accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault…. Time’s Up, in just a short time, became another wing of the Democratic Party. Sexual abusers are Republicans, Democrats and independents. Their victims also span the political spectrum. By turning the group into a partisan outfit, the Time’s Up team damaged its own cause. That led to the betrayal that sunk it, once and for all…

That betrayal was the group’s chair secretly working with NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo to discredit his sexual harassment accusers, as Ethics Alarms discussed here.

It’s too bad. A genuine, high-profile, non-partisan, anti-sexual harassment organization could do a lot of good. But unethical organizations with fraudulent missions ultimately fail, and deserve to.

4. More on the Hamline story: When last we dropped in on the small Minnesota college, its incompetent president, Fayneese S. Miller was doing a full Litella after her public rejection of academic freedom in order to suck-up to her power-playing Islamic students got the institution sued by her victim, an adjunct art history professor fired for teaching art history. This week, 71 of 92 faculty members voted to demand that President Fayneese Miller to resign immediately. this is called “front-running.” Reader Curmie, who passed on the development, writes, “Where were these people (with precisely one exception) when Prof. López Prater was under fire instead of waiting until the incident was all over except the lawsuit?”

Oh, where the weenies on every campus usually are when what is needed is integrity, principles and courage: hiding under their desks while they wait to see where the prevailing winds are blowing, while trying to appear woke and politically correct in their students eyes rather than trying to teach them how be more ethical.

5. What THE HELL is going on with public art? Feminists are cheering the statue of a woman recently erected on the top of a Manhattan courthouse, “a female figure on a level plane with the traditional, patriarchal depictions of justice and power.” It’s a version of a similar work by the same artist in Madison Square Park, “Witness,” a “monumental female figure measuring 18 feet tall and wearing a hoop skirt inspired by the courtroom’s stained-glass ceiling dome.” Ready or not, here are those statues:

“The figure’s twisted arms and legs,” we are told,  “suggest tree roots, referencing what the artist has described as the “self-rootedness of the female form; it can carry its roots wherever it goes.”


She looks like an armless demon to me, but what do I know? “Her horns indicate sovereignty and autonomy. A delicate collar nods to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who often wore detailed collars with her traditional black robe,” is the official interpretation.

And about the “patriarchal depictions of justice and power”…Am I the only one who is familiar with this…?

6. Diversty! During the Senate Judiciary Committee  hearings on President Biden’s judicial nominees this week, Judge Charnelle Bjelkengren, nominated to serve as a U.S. District Court Judge in the Eastern District of Washington, was questioned. According to Sen Patty Murray, Judge Bjelkengren is very qualified for the job, truly exceptional.

GOP’s always entertaining Sen, Kennedy asked her, “Judge, tell me what article V of the Constitution does?”  “Article V is not coming to mind at the moment, she replied.  “How about article II?” he asked, Her response: “Neither is Article II.”

This is more than evidence of incompetence, it shows arrogance. The woman is going to be vetted in a Senate hearing; wouldn’t you think she would at least do a little bit of preparation? Nah…she knows she’s assured of being confirmed, because no Democrat would dare vote against a black, female nominee no matter how unqualified she appeared to be, After all, as Senator Murray said, Murray said, what matters most is “a judiciary that reflects the diversity of this country.” See? She IS qualified!

30 thoughts on “Weekend Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/28/23: “The Usual”

  1. Of course you are right about Number 6.

    When I first saw the clips, they seemed like a bit of a gotcha question. Article V? Supremacy Clause? Full Faith and Credit?

    However, if I ever get nominated, I will probably peruse the Constitution a little bit to prepare.

    So, yes, she should have known.

    The damning part in my mind was Article II. I, II, and III are the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches, respectively.

    Had she taken a pass on Article III (I don’t believe they asked that), I think that would be disqualifying. If you are nominated to be a Federal Judge and you don’t know that Article III governs the Judiciary, you can’t be trusted to understand the extent and limits of the powers that you may be given.


  2. 1. I’ve been thinking about this, and the ethical breakdown that led to it. Why did the ethics alarms not ring?

    The tragic state of policing Jack mentioned is part of it. But what keeps coming to mind is something Jack has brought up many times regarding dog attacks: that when they’re part of a “pack,” even otherwise well-mannered dogs become dangerous as instincts take over.

    Dogs are not the only animals that hunt or defend territory in packs.

    When we think about mob mentality, we usually think of riots or witch hunts (whether literal or metaphorical.) But the root of it is a simple one-two punch: a desire to be part of the group, and the feeling that, with the group to back you up, you have the power to be more aggressive than you would dare to be otherwise.

    We can see it all the time in bullying (both social and physical) by any number of groups, from high school football players to inner city gangs, from catty sororities to the politics of professional organizations. Any team or clique or gang or squad with enough of a bond to act as one can mute the ethics alarms of all of its members.

    I’m not saying this to excuse it at all. To the contrary, I wonder if some kind of public awareness campaign or school lecture series might help. We tell people not to bully, not to join gangs, not to “follow the crowd,” but we rarely acknowledge the general nature of it or state it bluntly: when you are part of a group in a situation that feels intense, your judgement is impacted. You may be capable of things you’d never do otherwise. You may find yourself agreeing with or encouraging actions that you know are wrong. If you are in a “pack,” beware of your surroundings, identify yourself as an individual in your thoughts, focus on your own actions, encourage separating or stepping back, and if you can’t control it, leave and sound the alarm.

    That’s easier said than done. I’ve been on the popular side trivial internet comment dog-piles, and there’s an exhilaration to knowing that you are right and “everyone” agrees with you and you can be as aggressive as you want in making your point; I can only imagine how much more intense it is in real life where there physical danger involved. But being aware is the first step to gaining perspective, and perspective in these situations is what lets you hear the ethics alarms in your own head over the cheers of your pack.

  3. 1. The FBI placed agents within Twitter in high profile and important positions. And then funneled millions of dollars into Twitter. Why can’t they infiltrate antifa?

  4. 1. This case is going to be really interesting as it plays out. Who’s going to defend these guys? Setting Van Jones aside for the time being, how is the race grievance industry and all its spokespeople going to deal with these guys appearing in mug shots and being held in jail or released on bail? These are black defendants in a murder trial. Aren’t they presumed to have been screwed by the justice system? What will their mothers have to say about their “babies?” Are these cops just children? Is there a modern-day Johnny Cochran who’s going to make a career and fortune out of getting these guys off? Will they have to be defended by white defense counsel? What’s Ben Crump’s pitch going to be? Isn’t Memphis run by black people? Won’t a massive judgment against the city have an adverse impact on its black citizens? How’s Al Sharpton going to play this? What’s Barack Obama going to have to say? Who would his son look like? Even black cops are bastards? All these players, and their media allies, are going to have to tie themselves in knots as this case works its way through the system. Interesting times. Kind of like a Greek tragedy where the chorus committed the murder. Everything’s out of whack here.

  5. 5. She reminds me of the Medusa. Whatever you do, don’t look her in the eye.

    Prologue: I’m from the tail end of the baby boom, so the generation after WWII, and I consider myself a bit of a history buff, though nowhere near your level, Jack. I knew Albert Speer was a high ranking Nazi, but beyond that I wouldn’t have been able to tell you anything about him. I’m not surprised that someone from a generation or two after me has no idea who he was. Why would they?

    It’s also unsurprising to me that someone from those generations doesn’t recognize Lucille Ball. As much of a classic as it was, I Love Lucy stopped production in 1957. I only know it from a wasted childhood watching syndicated reruns in the late 60’s and early 70’s. That was 50 years ago.

    • Jon
      I tend to agree with you but Jack is being consistent. He routinely gives an admonishment for a lack of cultural literacy when guys like you and me have no clue about some recent cultural event or social shift that was brought on by generations born after the eighties.
      I don’t always agree that some of these trends or cultural shifts require my attention but I suppose it helps to stay relatively current so that you keep up with the conversation.
      Given that we should try to remain current on major social trends and historical events, it is incumbent on the generations that followed ours to be aware of critical players in that affected history and this how they affected the way we perceive society.
      I suppose if we are required to understand their lived experience they have the same responsibility to understand ours.

      • I agree, but you can’t possibly know everything. At some point things have to drop off the cultural literacy scale. Unless there’s an expert in Roman history here, how many of us could name one of Ceaser’s lieutenants?

        • Or how many of us could spell even spell “Caeser” correctly?

          Sheesh! I even looked it up before I posted, then neglected to correct it.

          • Touche.

            Marc Antony yes definitely.

            However, it’s been 45 years since I studied Roman history, so this is based on a quick skimming of his Wikipedia page, but I’m unclear that Brutus could be considered a lieutenant of Caesar. Contemporary, beneficiary, and assassin, yes, but at least from what I could glean from 5 minutes on Wikipedia, he doesn’t appear to have actually served under Caesar. I’m open to correction.

            • Well, sticking with Wiki (which is always hit and miss), under “Military campaigns of Julius Caesar, it says,
              “Titus Labienus was Caesar’s most senior legate during his Gallic campaigns, having the status of propraetor.Other prominent men who served under him included his relative Lucius Julius Caesar, Crassus’ sons Publius and Marcus, Cicero’s brother Quintus, Decimus Brutus,and Mark Antony.”

              • Through dumb luck I think I got this one right.

                The Brutus everyone should know, of “Et tu, Brute?” fame, is Marcus Junius Brutus. Again Wikipedia, (agreed, hit and miss, guaranteed miss if it’s anything that happened in the last 3 years, becoming more likely hit the farther one moves away from anything remotely related to Wokeness or Covid): “Marcus Junius Brutus, often referred to simply as Brutus, was … the most famous of the assassins of Julius Caeser.”

                Decimus Brutus, (I assume his name is the reason you cited the quote), “a Roman general and politician of the late republican period and one of the leading instigators of Julias Caeser’s assassinaton … is often confused with his distant cousin and fellow conspirator, Marcus Junius Brutus.”

                • Got it. Yes, the combination of the same last name and Marc Antony coming after fooled me. Thanks! And I still should have caught it, because Marcus Junius Brutus is frequently used rather than just “Brutus.”

    • Here’s somebody’s list of the 10 most powerful men in Nazi Germany after Hitler. I recognized 5 of the names, and of those 5 had a decent understanding of who 3 of them were.

      Speer comes in at #8 on the list.

  6. My favorite uncle was a department head (not engineering, though he wound up with a couple of NASA engineer sons-in-law) at NASA-Johnson during the Challenger incident. I asked him about it and he said that they weren’t surprised that it happened, and that the general opinion of the techies had been that they wouldn’t make it past maybe 12-15 launches without some such incident, that being their seat-of-the-pants estimate just based on the entire types and complexity of all the systems involved. That doesn’t excuse the avoidable lapses that resulted in the tragedy, of course.

    #5: I believe the largest statue in the US is of some woman promising the ultimate in justice. May be some place near New York City.
    If they need to redecorate the offices, this “Mushroom Lady Vase” has been available on Amazon recently:

  7. In addition to that problem, the pool of individuals with the right character, skills and stability to be police officers has been shrinking, meaning that less trustworthy people are increasingly recruited to perform that difficult and dangerous job. Policing is in a death cycle.

    Related to this, here is the Park doctrine.


    The Park Doctrine (also known as the Responsible Corporate Officer Doctrine) has long occupied an obscure corner of American criminal law. It allows corporate officers to be charged with a crime for wrongdoing that occurred “on their watch,” without any showing of personal fault or even knowledge on their part—other than a showing that they were “in charge” at the time the wrongdoing occurred. Such no-fault crimes are rare in American jurisprudence, but the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld such convictions under narrow circumstances.

    The Chief of the Memphis Police Department is the responsible corporate officer in relation to the death of Tyre Nichols. Under the Park doctrine, the police chief would be subject to prosecution.

  8. 1) There are several combining forces here – as you mention – the increasing stress of the job, the increasing hatred of police. Also, people are being conditioned slowly to press a little more and resist a little more each time they encounter police. People are slowly being conditioned to think that small crimes and misdemeanors aren’t really that bad. Both of these forces increase stress on officers who will *BY NATURE* increasingly see “rebellious” populations as frustrating groups. This is no excuse – the highest and hardest job of a police officer is the professional discipline of seeing each individual encounter with the public as what they are are – an individual person that does not reflect their previous interactions. But it is still natural. Pent up frustrations often come out on one person as the accumulated fury is released in a catharsis.

    No excuse. But it will continue to happen as long as our culture rewards and encourages depictions of police, law and order in ways that increase society’s willingness to disrespect and flaunt those institutions.

  9. 5) It’s not about the possibility of equal treatment of blind justice. The marxist view of the world is that mankind CANNOT aspire to some unified goal but that it will always be a cluster of warring factions taking from an increasingly smaller pie, and to increase benefit for one group *MUST* come via the taking from another group. Equality can only come when that pie is forcibly redistributed.

    • As for the art. Post modern art is intentionally ugly. Post modernism hates truth, hates goodness, and hates beauty, because those are the things that anchor people in a life worth living independently. Marxists need people to be anchorless and a little insane.

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