Category Archives: Ethics Quotes

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Popehat’s Ken White

john-hinckley-jr

“How, people ask, can you shoot four people, one of them a President, and ever see the light of day again? If any act requires permanent confinement, isn’t it this one? The answer should comfort us, not terrify us: the rule of law applies to everyone, even the notorious. (Edited to add: or, at least, it ought to.)..

Is John Hinckley, Jr. dangerous to society? Doctors don’t think so after 35 years, and he’s successfully completed many outside visits and excursions to date. Is it dangerous to have a legal norm that the gravely mentally ill who commit violence may eventually be released? I doubt 35 years of forced treatment and confinement is the sort of leniency that leads anyone to violence. What about exceptions to the rule of law? If we ignore the rules and evidence because a particular person is sufficiently notorious, because of our gut, how dangerous is that?”

—–Popehat lawyer/blogger Ken White, in a post explaining why the outrage of some over the imminent release of John Hinckley, Jr. is one more example of the public and the news media being willing to jettison the basic principles of American justice because it seem right.

(Answer: Very dangerous indeed.)

I admire Ken for his post (as I do for most of his posts) because first, it is extremely timely, with both conservatives and progressives itching to jail various individuals—cops, Hillary Clinton– who they just know deserve to be in prison, and thinking that’s justice. Second, Ken was much nicer in his explanation than I would have been.

I mostly missed this controversy, in part because it doesn’t seem to me that it should be controversial to anyone with the level of comprehension of our criminal justice system that a mature, educated and responsible citizen should have. Where’s the controversy? Hinckley wasn’t found guilty of trying to assassinate President Reagan and wounding  him and three others in the process. He was acquitted, because he was so crazy that under the insanity defense, he was found to lack the necessary mens rea to find him culpable for his own acts. He wasn’t sentenced to spend all this time in a mental hospital as punishment, but as treatment. Now that doctors have found him sane, of course they are letting him out. He committed no crime, in the eyes of the law, and sane people who have not been convicted of crimes get to be free, like you and me.

What’s so hard about that?

Well, it is hard for some people, and Ken is remarkably clear and patient in explaining why, as he says, we should be comforted that a Hinckley is still protected by the rule of law.

I won’t blame Jodie Foster if she isn’t comforted, though. That’s a lot to ask.

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Filed under Ethics Quotes, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Ethics Dilemma: What Do You Do With Steve King?

Steve King

Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) is an infamous loose cannon, as well as being Cro-Magnon in his politics. He is prone to misstatements, colorful hyperbole and utter nonsense. There are head-scratching lists all over the web of his “greatest hits.”  Once, for example, he suggested that “For every time we give amnesty to an illegal immigrant, we would just deport a liberal.” OK, that was tongue in cheek (I hope), if hardly helpful to the cause of mutual respect and comity, but this probably wasn’t:

“If there is a sexual predator out there who has impregnated a young girl. Say a thirteen year old girl; and it happens in America more times than you and I would like to think. That sexual predator could pick that girl up off the playground at the middle school and haul her across the state line and force her to get an abortion to irradiate the evidence of his crime and bring her back and drop her off at the swing set and that’s not against the law in the United States of America.”

Actually, that would violate a number of laws, but never mind: Rep. King is an ultra-conservative idiot, and “the Julie Principle” applies: fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly.” If the good people of Iowa want someone like this to be one of their voices in the House, so be it, but don’t expect me to eat as much corn as I might otherwise.  Unfortunately, though, elected officials whose minds and tongues are not well connected to each other and who lack ethics alarms as well eventually get themselves into real trouble, unless they are nominated as the Republican candidate for President, like Steve King’s favorite orange tycoon.

The cock finally crowed for Steve King this week when, appearing on MSNBC  (which loves to book really stupid Republicans and conservatives because it makes all Republicans and conservatives look as stupid as MSNBC’s audience thinks they are) leftist pundit Charles Pierce engaged in typical ageist, racist-baiting that good progressives think is perfectly fine. He sneered about “old white people” controlling the  GOP and said that Republican convention was filled with “loud, unhappy, dissatisfied white people.”

Naturally, Steve King saw this as his signal to embrace white supremacy, saying..

“This whole ‘white people’ business, though, does get a little tired, Charlie. I mean, I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about? Where did any other sub-group of people contribute to civilization?”

Excellent timing, Congressman! Here is the nation on the verge of racial conflict, with police being targeting for death and afraid to police, while the black community is being convinced that a white justice system is biased against them, and you start talking like a Grand Dragon on national TV. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Race

KABOOM! An Unethical Quote Of The Week So Outrageous That It Made My Head Explode…By Ben Carson

headexplode

“If Melania’s speech is similar to Michelle Obama’s speech, that should make us all very happy because we should be saying, whether we’re Democrats or Republicans, we share the same values. If we happen to share values, we should celebrate that, not try to make it into a controversy.”

Dr. Ben Carson, making an absurd but original argument to justify Melania Trump’s plagiarism.

What?

WHAT???

Observations while I clean up bits of my skull and brain and get the superglue: Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Ginsberg, not giving a damn.

Justice Ginsberg, no longer giving a damn.

Add one more bit of evidence to the pro- side of the debate over whether there should be a limit to Supreme Court tenure. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 83 and a cancer survivor, has now apparently entered the “What the hell: I’m going to say what I feel like saying” period of her life. How nice for her. The problem is that there are some things an ethical Justice should not and cannot say.

In an Associated Press interview published last week, Ginsberg opined that a Trump Presidency was too awful to contemplate, saying that she presumed Hillary Clinton will be the next president, and that she didn’t ” want to think about that possibility” of Trump being elected instead. Talking to The New York Times, she said, “I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president. For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.”  Then, in a CNN interview, she got specific:

 “He is a faker…He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego. … How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that.”
Law professor Daniel W. Drezner, who teaches at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University,  minces no words over at the Washington Post, nor should he. Like me, he agrees with Madam Justice on the substance of her remarks about, yechh, Donald Trump. Nonetheless, he writes, Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Day: Ann Althouse

politifact_photos_Obama_speaking_in_Poland

Why is racial discord the problem of the summer 2016? If anyone has what it takes to unify the country over race it is Barack Obama, who is President right now and who had been President for 7 1/2 years. If it makes any sense to be deciding the current presidential election on this issue, if this longed-for capacity is something that can possibly exist, then Barack Obama would be doing it now and would have been doing it for years.

Before you push us to judge whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump would do better in bringing us together in racial harmony, Mr. Healy, please say a few words about why President Obama has failed. Of course, neither Clinton nor Trump inspires hope for a new opportunity at racial harmony. That’s what Obama did in 2008. He was ideal for that issue and we voted for the hope. Now, so many years later, things seem even worse. Can you analyze how that happened? Because that did happen. I don’t see how we can begin to think about what more Trump or Clinton could do unless we understand why President Obama failed.

—–Law professor Ann Althouse, on her blog, responding to an op-ed piece in the New York Times by Pat Healy bemoaning the inability of either Trump of Clinton to respond to the Dallas shootings in a manner that unifies rather than divides.

1. I admit it: sometimes I look for other commentators who have discerned what I have discerned and use their quotes to state what I would normally be writing myself. Althouse is a left-leaning eccentric moderate who is not overtly political, and who is skilled at overcoming her own biases. She voted for Obama (at least once), and she plies her craft as a law professor in Madison, Wisconsin, as progressive a community as there is. I have found Obama’s leadership ability and Presidential performance wanting in almost all respects since early in his administration and have explained my analysis here.  The price I pay for this is that those who are in denial over what should be obvious (though terribly disappointing and sad) feel that my consistent  criticism gives them the opportunity to mask their denial by  labeling me an Obama-hater, a partisan (as if I wouldn’t be equally critical of an incompetent Republican President with a flat learning curve) and even a racist. A quote like Althouse’s is not so much an appeal to authority—I disagree with Professor Althouse a lot, though not her dislike of men wearing shorts—but choosing to allow someone else to say well what I may not have said any better, and to prove that I’m not the only one coming to such conclusions.

2. The President’s comments on the shooting deaths of officer-involved deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota were irresponsible, inflammatory, and typical of his approach to race relations from the very beginning, when he stuck his influential nose into a controversy between a competent white Cambridge police officer and a race-baiting black Harvard professor. Then, without knowing any of the underlying facts, he suggested that the white police officer was at fault and the black professor (a friend of his) was blameless. His remarks about the police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota issued from the same bias. I’ll just comment on the beginning of his statement, which is enough to make the point: Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Week: My Friend Mark On Facebook, Politics, Community, And Fathers Day

wisdom

In my recent essay about my Facebook friends’ reactions and over-reactions to the Orlando shooting, I referred to one particular Facebook post and my critical response to it. As I suspected, knowing that poster and his character like I do, my friend Mark commented on the essay, and followed up with this statement on Facebook. I asked if he would grant me permission to quote him, and he did.

This is an extraordinarily ethical and thoughtful man, and this is how an ethical human being thinks when emotion and non-ethical considerations become the strongest.

This is what an ethics alarm ringing sounds like.

Having suffered a near-toxic overload of Facebook this week, I’m going to give the points to Facebook and withdraw from the game for a few days. I love being here and interacting with my friends, family, and especially with those who don’t necessarily share my beliefs. Argument can be fun and challenging.

But.

We need to start being more careful with each other, especially in times of sorrow like this last week. What we forget (and what I have learned recently in myself) is that these shootings traumatize the whole country in one way or another – whether a fear of a loss of rights and liberty on one side, or increasing fear for bodily safety in our every day lives on the other. Orlando becomes DC becomes Kansas becomes California becomes . . . When American citizens die, we are – or should be – all in this together. The poisonous dialog I’ve witnessed and, sadly, participated in or instigated this week shows that I, at least, had forgotten that.

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Quotes, Facebook, Government & Politics, U.S. Society

Ethics Observations On The Unethical Quote Of The Week, By Senator Joe Manshin (D-WV)

Manshin

“But due process is what’s killing us now.”

—- Democratic Senator Joe Manshin, of West Virginia, on MSNBC bemoaning the fact that the government can’t take away your rights based on “suspicion.”

Naturally, nobody on the network immediately responded, “WHAT???” I wonder if there are any broadcast journalists who would have challenged that crypto-fascist statement by a U.S. Senator. Think about that for a minute.

Just so you are clear that the quote isn’t out of context, here is what Manshin said (you can also watch the video here)

“The problem we have and really the firewall that we have right now is due process. It’s all due process. So we can all say, yeah, we want the same thing but how do we get there?” If a person is on the terrorist watch list like the gentleman, the shooter in Orlando, he was twice by the FBI, we were briefed yesterday about what happened, but that man was brought in twice. They did everything they could. The FBI did everything they were supposed to do, but there was no way for them to keep him on the nix list or keep him off the gun buy list. There was no way to do that. So can’t we say that if a person’s under suspicion,  there should be a five-year period of time of time that we have to see if good behavior, if this person continues the same traits, maybe we can come to that type of an agreement? But due process is what’s killing us now.”

Observations: Continue reading

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