Category Archives: Character

Were AG Sessions’ Comments In Las Vegas Unethical?

Ethics Scout Fred points me to a little noted episode in the increasingly fraught existence of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and asks whether the AG’s comments crossed ethical lines.

Let’s see…

During a speech about two weeks ago in Las Vegas in which he called for harsher prosecution of criminals and cooperation from local authorities as the federal government cracks down on illegal immigration, Sessions segued to the Cliven Bundy prosecution, and said, cryptically, of Nevada Acting U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre,

“I’ve got to tell you, it’s impressive when you have a tough case, a controversial case, and you’ve got the top guy leading the battle, going to court, standing up and defending the office and the principles of the law. I’m not taking sides or commenting on the case. Just want to say that leadership requires, a lot of times, our people to step up and be accountable.”

Supporters of the Bundy-led armed stand-off with federal authorities think that the Trump administration may sympathize with their anti-government stance, but Trump administration prosecutors are still seeking penalties for Bundy and his group.

Fred notes that “while Sessions is not responsible for how others take what he says, at least no more than any public speaker,  the effect of his remarks was to encourage lawbreakers,” based on the statement by Ashley Jones, a producer for radio show host Pete Santilli. Santili, a Bundy ally, is incarcerated pending trial in the case. Jones pronounced Sessions’ comments “a victory for us.”

Comments: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Quotes

The Strange World Of Magic Ethics

A recent controversy surrounding a hit magic show on Broadway has resurfaced an ethics tangent I was aware of but had forgotten about: magician ethics.

Magician Derek DelGaudio accused another magician of surreptitiously recording a video of an effect during a performance last month of his one-man show, “In & Of Itself.” The rival magician denied the allegation—it’s complicated, and you should read the whole tale here-–but the basic problem arises from the nature of magic tricks. They can’t be patented, because the patent would reveal how the magic trick was done in a publicly available source. This means, however, that a magician whose unique illusion he or she labored on and developed at great expenditure of time and expense can be stolen by another magician with the illusion’s creator having no legal recourse.

For a field that is all about fooling and deceiving people (who have consented to being deceived), magic has old and well-developed ethical traditions. Houdini, who took his name from a french magician named Robert Houdin, later exposed his role model as an unethical magician whose most famous illusions were stolen from other conjurers without payment or credit. Still, if a magician can figure out how another magician’s trick is performed by simply watching it, nothing legally or ethically dictates that that magician can’t perform the illusion as well. However, since magic is practiced by people who deceive for a living, it should come as no surprise that unethical practices are rampant. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Etiquette and manners, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

From The “A Nation Of Assholes”* Files:

Stay classy, Democrats!

The protester is Jim Gargan of Akron, Ohio as the President arrived in Youngstown for his campaign-style rally yesterday.

For the unenlightened, this is what we call an ad hominem attack.

*Reference here.

______________

Pointer: Other Bill

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/26/17

Bvuh.

[I was up until 3 AM watching a Red Sox game in Seattle that went 13 innings and five hours—they lost– and this doesn’t feel like morning, it feels like Hell. I’m dictating this to my dog, and hoping it warms ME up…]

1. The American Psychoanalytic Association told its 3,500 members that they should not feel bound by the so-called “Goldwater Rule,” which the rival American Psychiatric Association announced in 1964, prohibiting its members from diagnosing political figures from afar without the benefit of actually examining them. It’s an ethics rule, an obvious one, and shouldn’t be controversial. As I have documented here, however,  professionals of all kinds have allowed anti-Trump bias, panic and fervor to dissolve their ethical standards. The groups afflicted include college presidents, teachers, scientists, lawyers, judges, historians, legal ethicists, journalists and artists. Nobody should be shocked that psychiatrists are eager to do the same. As with the other professionals, all they will accomplish is an erosion of public respect and trust. I thought Ann Althouse’s response to the announcement was spot on:

Let them speak, and then the rest of us will speak about whether they are professionals deserving of deference or human beings like the rest of us who can’t keep our political preferences from skewing whatever it is we might think about some pressing issue of the day.

Go ahead, expose yourselves. Let us see all narcissism, impulsivity, poor attention span, paranoia, and other traits that impair your ability to lead.

2. I’m not devoting a solo post to the ridiculous Trump Boy Scout speech controversy, because despite all the efforts of the news media to maintain otherwise, it was not a scandal, was not a big deal, was not an enduring scar on the Boy Scouts of America, and is mostly significant as demonstrating how distorted the perception of those who are verging on being physically allergic to the President has become. Some points that have arisen in the thread about the speech are important to note, however. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Quotes, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

Multiple KABOOMS! From “The Good Illegal Immigrant” Files: The Good, Well, OK, Maybe Not So Good, Illegal Immigrant Driver

One head explosion after another splattered my office with gore as I read the New York Times sad, sad, <sniff> piece about poor, abused, illegal immigrants who drive without licenses. It began:

“Heading to church one evening in late March, a farmworker and her sister were stopped for speeding in the village of Geneseo, N.Y. They were driving with their five children in the back of the minivan. Two were not in car seats, as required. The police officer, trying to cite the driver for the infractions, discovered she had no driver’s license, so he called Border Patrol to review her Guatemalan passport. Both sisters were undocumented immigrants. They were detained and are facing deportation.”

Good.

The Times, however, currently engaged in a full-on “Let’s make illegal immigrants as sympathetic as possible” campaign—how can we  be so mean to people who were just trying to go to church?—makes it clear that such an event is just more cruelty and lack of compassion emanating from the Trump Presidency.

“Under a Trump administration that has taken an aggressive stance on illegal immigration, the moving car has become an easy target. A broken headlight, a seatbelt not worn, a child not in a car seat may be minor traffic violations, but for unauthorized immigrants, they can have life-altering consequences.”

KABOOM! #1. How shameless will the Times’s misrepresentations regarding this issue get? These people are not being deported for “minor traffic violations.” They are being deported because they ahve absolutely no business being in the country at all. The Yorkshire Ripper was caught because of a police stop for a minor traffic violation.  By the Times reasoning, this, and not  the 13 women he murdered, is why he was sentenced to life in prison.

These drivers are also not “undocumented.” Undocumented is what I was when I was stopped for speeding with an expired license. I was, however, still a citizen. “Undocumented” is a Times and illegal immigration lobby cover-word for what illegal immigrants really are: illegal immigrants.

The term deceitfully suggests that the “undocumented” individual was just missing some papers—t could happen to anybody! No, you are not just “missing papers” that you never had the right to have.

KABOOM! #2:

“As many as 12 states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, offer driver’s licenses for unauthorized immigrants, up from three in 2010. New York, which has the third-largest immigrant population in the country, is not one of them.”

Three was unconscionable. Twelve is a scandal and a dangerous attack on sovereignty and the Rule of Law.

KABOOM! #3 and #4:

Supporters of efforts to allow those who are undocumented to get driver’s licenses say that public safety would improve because they would be required to pass road tests and obtain insurance. But critics said that licenses represented a privilege that unauthorized immigrants should not hold, because they should not be here in the first place.

The first sentence is a logical disconnect: Let’s make what these people do legal, because they’ll break the law if we don’t. Yes, and the fact that they’ll break the law if they can’t do something legally is why they are here illegally and why they cannot be trusted as citizens. To its credit, the Times at least quotes a Republican lawmaker who is not deceived, though the paper suggests that she has a comprehension problem:

Senator Kathleen A. Marchione, a Republican representing the Upper Hudson Valley…does not understand the argument for giving licenses to those who are undocumented.“Driving without a license should not give you a right to have a driver’s license when you are already breaking the law in two instances,” she said in an interview. “That’s like saying if a kid is drinking at 16 years old, we might as well let him.”

That is exactly what it is like. She “doesn’t understand” the argument because it doesn’t make sense and never has. The Times won’t accept this, as the second sentence in the quote above makes clear. This isn’t merely what “critics” say. It is a fact. There is no “other side” to facts, and the Times is misleading its readers to suggest that this is just a contrarian position.

KABBOOM #5 and #6 came after reading this quote:

Anne Doebler, a private immigration lawyer in Buffalo, said that undocumented immigrants want to follow traffic laws, and that civil law and immigration law should be kept distinct. “Why do we want to use our vehicle and traffic laws to enforce an immigration policy when it’s detrimental to public safety?” she asked. “I don’t want someone to hit me who doesn’t have insurance…I don’t care what their immigration status is.”

“Undocumented” as a cover-word for “illegal” no longer makes my head explode, it just makes me angry. But Doebler’s spin is outrageous. Oh, the illegal immigrants want to obey laws that make it easier for them to live here illegally, do they? Well, isn’t that wonderful! Why don’t they want to obey the immigration laws? Heck, why don’t we just stop enforcing all laws, since avoiding law enforcement often makes criminals and law breakers breach other rules, laws, and ethical obligations?

The Times cites statistics showing that hit and run accidents by illegal immigrants declines significantly when they are allowed to have licenses and insurance. Hey! I just thought of an even better way to reduce hit and run accidents by illegal residents!  Can you guess what that would be?

Would Doebler care what the immigration status of someone who, say, ran down her child was, if that individual had been allowed to stay in the country after a previous traffic infraction? Would she really think, “Illegal, legal, what’s the difference?” I think not. I think she would say, “the driver who killed my kid should not have been on the streets at all,” because that would be obvious and true.

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Daily Life, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Kaboom!, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Unethical Quote Of The Week: San Diego State University Political Science Professor Jonathan Graubart

I find myself annoyed at the groundswell of good wishes for John McCain after his diagnosis of glioblastoma…McCain is a war criminal and, more to the point. someone who as a politician has championed horrifying actions and been lousy on state commitment to public health…But ultimately what troubles me is the urge to send such well wishes to an utter stranger as it reinforces the notion that some lives are more important than others. There are lots of people with glioblastoma and who have died from it (including my mother twenty years ago)….

San Diego State University Political Science Professor Jonathan Graubart on Facebook, prompting some calls for him to be fired, and others on campus to second his opinion.

Is this an Ethics Quote or an Unethical Quote? I could call it  an Ethics Quote because it raises many ethical issues, and mere statements of opinions, even stupid and vicious ones, are not usually unethical in themselves. This quote strongly suggests that the speaker is unethical in  than one respect; it is also, at very least, irresponsible in its context, which is that he is a teacher, and represents the institution.

Jonathan Turley flagged this episode, as he reliably does any time a professor comes under fire for controversial speech. As always, he supports his fellow academic:

“Graubart’s comments are hurtful and hateful. It is a reflection of the incivility that has taken hold of our social and political dialogue. It is always sad to see a fellow academic rush to the bottom of our national discourse. However, we have free speech and academic freedom to protect unpopular, not popular, speech. Popular speech does not need protection. Graubart is expressing his deep political and social viewpoint on social media. He should be able to do that just as his critics have a right to denounce his views.”

San Diego State University is a government institution, and thus subject to the First Amendment, in addition to the principles of academic freedom. However, even a state institution  has a right to protect itself from harm. This isn’t just political speech; it is bona fide asshole speech, signaling that the speaker is not a trustworthy teacher, and that any school that would have someone this intolerant, doctrinaire, vile and contemptuous of kindness and compassion educating, aka indoctrinating students isn’t trustworthy either. Universities, public or not, should be able to insist on a minimal level of professionalism from faculty in their public behavior and pronouncements so the institution isn’t permanently discredited, embarrassed, and harmed.

Here is Graubart’s whole Facebook rant: Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Etiquette and manners, Facebook, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Professions, Rights, U.S. Society, War and the Military, Workplace

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Observations On The Florida Teens And The Drowning Man”

My old friend Mark drops in to comment just a few times a year, but always delivers his trademark optimism, fairness, and perception. When he talks, I learned early on in our relationship, attention should be paid.. His was one of several excellent comments on the horrific episode in Cocoa Beach, where five teens stood by watching a handicapped man drown, and seemed to enjoy the sight mightily as they recorded his death on their cell phones. In response to another commenter’s query, “Are “kids” that are so disconnected that they’d do something of that magnitude rehabilitatable?”, Mark leaped k took the discussion to a related topic that I had found myself thinking about a lot while I was trapped in a lobby and two airports yesterday with nothing to do but wait and silently curse. What are electronic devices and social media obsession doing to our social skills and ability to relate to the world? At what point to we start sounding the ethics alarms…or the societal survival alarms? [ I’m going to include the last part of Mark’s earlier comment on the story, because it is a helpful introduction to the rest.]

Here is Mark’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Observations On The Florida Teens And The Drowning Man:

…The natural human reaction to observe has been enhanced by our ability to record, and it now seems to be the first response in almost every situation – the more harrowing the better. I’m sure there is some personal thrill involved in being able to post the result, garnering comments and ego-gratifying oohs and aahs.

The situation in Florida is only the most horrible of them, right up there with the guy who posted pictures of himself with the corpse of his step-father, whom he had just murdered. Like everything else, this is a tiny part of a much bigger picture of who we are becoming as a culture. The 21st century ability to remain safely behind a screen while still feeling a full participant in life (Internet commenting a prime example) frees us of the necessary empathy (or simply humanity) to come from behind that screen to behave in ways that might be heroic or even civil. I have little difficulty seeing that behavior manifesting in children raised viewing life through a cell phone.

The much larger question – at least for me – remains “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It’s a nagging question, versions of which swirl in and around almost all the major political issues of our day and, now, into our personal dealings with one another. It is always there, but we come up with more and novel ways to avoid actually answering or acting on it. Clearly, it never occurred to these boys. Cain didn’t want to answer the question. And, I suspect, neither do we.

***

 I carry two cell phones, absolute wonders of technology, which remain in my briefcase most of the time although I’ll take one of them with me to a picture-taking occasion. My friends grit their teeth at receiving responses to texts that are weeks old. My relationship with my cellphone(s) was cemented when I had the opportunity to whale watch off of Maui. I realized that I was so concerned about my precious iThing getting wet or falling into the water that I wasn’t watching the whales. I put the phone away and decided that watching the real world with both eyes was more interesting and that’s what I try to do. I hope sincerely that that attitude would ensure that I offer whatever aid I can in a dire situation rather than wondering what it will look like on Facebook later on. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Facebook, Science & Technology, Social Media, The Internet