In Borden v. US, Justices Gorsuch And Thomas Indicate They View The Law As Taking Precedence Over Ideology

Gorsuch-and-Thomas

Good. That’s two: maybe there are more.

So- called “three strikes” laws are a conservative invention to bind the hands of liberal judges inclined to give too-lenient sentences to repeat offenders because of superfluous factors like a tough childhood. As a result, liberal justices generally detest the device, arguing that it takes the judgment out of judging.

In Borden v. US, a case that asks if a conviction for a violent felony based on recklessness or negligence rather than malice should count as a “strike,” the three bedrock progressives on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan, voted predictably, against the application of a “three strikes” law. If all six conservative justices showed similar fealty to their biases, the petitioner, Charles Borden, Jr., would face an enhanced sentence after pleading guilty to possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, because he had three previous convictions for “violent felonies” according to Tennessee. Confounding the Supreme Court politicizers who don’t believe judges are capable of being ethical—which requires putting aside personal biases and loyalties to do the right thing—Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch voted with the liberals. They did so because they were following the letter of the law, and that is the Supreme Court’s job.

In Borden, prosecutors argued for the mandatory 15-year sentence based on three earlier convictions that included on for “reckless assault.” Borden argued that such a conviction was not a “strike’ according to the wording of the law, and in law, words are supposed to matter. His claims were rejected in the lower courts, and Borden was sentenced as a “career-criminal.”

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Authentic Frontier Gibberish Kills: The Gun Policy Doubletalk Of Maya Wiley

“Authentic Frontier Gibberish,” or AFG, named in honor of Gabby Johnson of “Blazing Saddles” fame, is the public phenomenon of solemn and meaningful-sounding word clouds designed to make the naive and the barely educated (that is, most of society) feel certain that they are in the presence of superior intellect when in fact they are in the thrall of either con artists or morons.

Ethically, it falls somewhere under the categories of dishonesty, incompetence and disrespect, depending on the AFG culprit. It would be difficult to find a more blazing example than the “Gun Violence Prevention Policy” offered by Maya Wiley, the civil rights attorney and former de Blasio counsel who’s running for mayor along with approximately half the city. Gun-related violence has roughly doubled in New York City thanks to the weak law enforcement policies of her client, so Wiley is giving the same foolish voters who elected de Blasio twice a chance to emulate San Francisco and make the city even more dangerous and unlivable. At least I think that’s what she’s proposing. As with all “Authentic Frontier Gibberish,” it’s hard to tell, and that, of course, is the plan.

I’m going to stick with the summary, by your leave, but you can try to make sense out of the whole thing if you are a masochist or an optimist. One part of both that is frighteningly clear: Wiley pledges to “Reduce the NYPD budget by $1 billion and invest those funds directly into the communities most impacted by gun violence.” The second part of that sentence is classic AFG, since “invest those funds directly into the communities most impacted by gun violence” is meaningless, but the first part is called “Defunding the police.” Almost 10% of the NYPD’s operating budget was cut in the last budget cycle, and the result was a crime wave. Obviously the best plan is to cut more!

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Saturday Afternoon Ethics Picnic, 6/5/2020

Giant ants

And what’s a picnic without ants?

June 5, the day before D-Day, is another date chock full of ethics history. It doesn’t count, but Ronald Reagan died on this date in 2004: I was just thinking that the Great Stupid would have killed him. In Presidential history, this was the day, in 1888, President Grover Cleveland vetoed a bill that would have given a pension to war widow Johanna Loewinger, whose Civil War vet husband died 14 years after being discharged from the army. He was discharged a little less than a year after enlisting for what the army surgeon’s certificate called chronic diarrhea. Loewinger received his pension until he cut his throat in 1876. When Johanna applied for a widow’s pension it was denied; his suicide was not considered to be caused by his military service. Johanna argued that the death was part of the insanity triggered by his war service, and appealed to a member of Congress to petition Cleveland with a bill. But the President declared all previous inquests into the former soldier’s unfortunate death to be satisfactory. Mrs. Loewinger got no pension.

I always thought this was gutsy of Cleveland (or something), since he had paid someone to serve in the Union army for him after he was drafted. But there were bigger ethics landmarks on June 5:

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In Which I Settle On The Ethical Response To A Popular Obnoxious Kiss-Off

Bite me

For the third time in a week, I experienced a newly popular faux-polite farewell, finally decided on the appropriate rejoinder, and executed it.

The offending statement is “You have a wonderful day!” and its many variations, uttered by someone who has behaved jerkishly, has been told so, and who doesn’t have the guts or integrity to apologize or acknowledge that he or she might have been wrong. It’s a sarcastic comment that means the exact opposite of what its literal words convey, deliberately contrived so that the speaker can feign innocence if he or she gets a harsh response, and can smirk inwardly for pinching off an adversarial encounter with a coded “Up yours!”

I don’t know when this trick became a fad, but it has. For some reason, everyone who has used it on me has been female. It is a passive-aggressive device. I first became aware of the “You have a wonderful day!” ploy when the staff at a doctor’s office informed me as I went in for scheduled treatment that I would have to pay many thousands of dollars on the spot though they never notified me of this in advance. After pointing out that I found their conduct unacceptable and unprofessional, that their explanation was dishonest, and that I would no longer be using their employer’s services, the snottiest of the desk staff fake-smiled and chirped, “You have a wonderful day!”

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/20/21: Happy Birthday, John Stuart Mill!

Mill

John Stuart Mill (1806–73), was born on May 20, not merely the most important figure in ethics to have a connection to this day, but also the most important human being born on this day in the history of civilization—yes, even more than Cher, who turns 75 today. Mill’s refined the concept of liberty that required the freedom of the individual in opposition to state control. He was the most influential proponent of utilitarianism, the crucial ethical theory developed by Jeremy Bentham. He helped reform scientific inquiry and research, recognizing the pervasive risks of confirmation bias, by clearly explaining the premises of falsifiability as the key component in the scientific method.

Mill was also a Member of Parliament and a towering figure in liberal political philosophy. You have certainly heard or read his most famous quote: “A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both, and deserve neither.”

A thorough biography and analysis of his work is here.

1. Justice Breyer doesn’t care about making sure the Supreme Court doesn’t get more conservative. Good. That’s not his job. Democrats realize that their control of the Senate is hanging by a thread, “thread” defined as a few superannuated Senators who could drop dead any second, giving the GOP a majority. Thus they are increasingly pushing Justice Stephen G. Breyer, 82, to retire now so Joe Biden can name an appropriately liberal replacement (who will also have to be female and black, vastly limiting the pool of possible choices without concern for actual legal competence.) “Breyer’s best chance at protecting his legacy and impact on the law is to resign now, clearing the way for a younger justice who shares his judicial outlook,” wrote Erwin Chemerinsky, the hyper-partisan dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley in The Washington Post this month. Got that? The 80+year-old Democratic Senators have to hold on to their jobs like grim death, but Breyer is being lobbied to retire. Hypocrisy, they name is Democrat! But it isn’t Breyer:

The Justice has been particularly vocal about the importance of not allowing politics to influence judges’ work, including their decisions about when to retire. “My experience of more than 30 years as a judge has shown me that, once men and women take the judicial oath, they take the oath to heart,” he said last month in a lecture at Harvard Law School. “They are loyal to the rule of law, not to the political party that helped to secure their appointment….If the public sees judges as politicians in robes, its confidence in the courts, and in the rule of law itself, can only diminish, diminishing the court’s power.”

I wonder if he’s read (or seen) “The Pelican Brief”…Meanwhile, research suggest that retirement tends to kill Supreme Court Justices. A paper in The Journal of Demography studied the effects of retirement by Supreme Court justices on their future longevity, and found that the effect of retirement was about the same as smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. The Democrats don’t care if Breyer dies sooner than later, though, as long as he does it when they can pick his successor, or after he’s quit.

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Unethical Billboard Of The Year

Billboard

Observations:

1. What kind of community allows this kind of eyesore? Are there no ordinances about appropriate billboard content?

2. Sure, it’s constitutional speech, but it is as articulate as a grunt and as persuasive as a fart. This is what four years of Congresswomen calling the President of the United States a “mother fucker” and comediennes holding Donald Trump’s rubber severed head in the air have done to public discourse. We should never forgive progressives for this (social media is also responsible.)

3. Only because the Democrats, media and the Biden administration have no fairness, sense of responsibility or shame is there any valid political message on the thing at all. That message would be “Don’t blame Trump!” Like the previous Democratic President, President Biden seems to think he can duck accountability for his own failures and botches by blaming them on his immediate predecessor, apparently forever. It’s the mark of a coward and a weak leader, if not a “shithead.”

Weekend Ethics Frolics, 5/9/2021: Birthing Persons Day Edition

Frolicking

Surely you have heard by now that a few addled Democrats in Congress have begun using the hilarious term “birthing people” to describe mothers. This is in order to pander to the trans population, because the special problems of this tiny minority are worth turning the entire culture inside out and upside down. So far it’s three certifiably silly people on the Hill whose credentials as ethics dunces are unusually strong, even for Congressional Democrats (the links go to signature significance EA posts: Senator Cory “Spartacus” Booker , certifiable Rep. Ayanna Pressley, previously heard arguing that “girls” have a right to attack other girls with knives “uninterupted”, and the spectacularly unqualified Rep. Cori Bush, who was supposedly on Biden’s short list for VP, which is terrifying—yes, even more terrifying than Kamala Harris:

birthing person tweet 1Birthing person 2

This is fascinating from an ethics perspective, specifically the slippery slope. The Great Stupid that has descended over the land, with special focus on progressives, has led to vocal support for so many ridiculous ideas—defunding the police, paying people more to stay out of work than to have jobs, open boarders, electing Joe Biden, packing the Supreme Court, and more—that the once fairly bold line between “progressive” and “batshit crazy” appears to have been erased. At some point, and maybe “birthing people” is it, even left-tilting Americans will wake up and say “Whoa! These are wackos!”

And indeed they are.

1. Also from the “What an idiot!” files…On baseball and Giants’ Hall of Fame immortal Willie Mays’ 90th birthday last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Twitter account posted a picture of Willie McCovey. Willie Mays is a national icon, probably the greatest African-American baseball player of all-time, and any American, especially any American elected official, who does not know what he looks like is too ignorant of America’s culture and history to serve competently. (I’m only exaggerating a little.) Not only is this an insult to the Say Hey Kid (What does that nickname mean, Nancy? Huh? Come on, you represent San Francisco!), it’s the kind of “they all look the same to me!” mistake that white officials are typically savaged for, as when Senator Rubio mixed up Rep. John Lewis with Rep. Elijah Cummings. At least Cummings and Lewis looked a little bit alike. McCovey, who was also a Hall of Fame slugger and who also played for the Giants,

Willie McCovey Holding Baseball Bat

looked nothing like Willy Mays…

Willie-Mays-US-2155529

…and to make the distinction easy for baseball ignoramuses, Willie McCovey is DEAD.

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“Veritas”…Right.

veritas_logo

Only my recent travails have delayed my letter not only withdrawing from my Georgetown Law Center class reunion committee but announcing that I have no intention of attending any celebration of a degree that has embarrassed me repeatedly for several years, most notably in this revolting episode. But, to be fair, my undergraduate degree has been rendered equally nauseating, and over a much longer period. That Harvard—it has to be #1 in everything.

This Month’s Harvard Magazine continued the apparently irreversible trend. The Harvard Library announced that it is removing the “illegal alien” subject heading from its collection descriptions, citing the hoary progressive talking-point that “actions can be illegal, but people cannot.” This has always been sophistry and rhetorical sleight of hand to make it linguistically difficult to describe what it is that is objectionable about those who illegally cross our borders and remains here, receiving the benefits of this nation without having been granted them. When the elite and educated in a society start bolstering bad ideas and flawed logic by abusing their perceived authority and confusing the ignorant and gullible, propaganda gains overwhelming power.

The “no person is illegal” trick is intellectually dishonest, of course. Illegal aliens are people who are in this country illegally. Ergo, while remaining in this country, their existence here is illegal, and hence they are illegal. One could say with equal validity—that is, none—that no drug can be truly illegal, because objects themselves can’t do anything, legal or not. It’s what is done with the drugs that is illegal–make them, distribute them, sell them, use them. You can’t prosecute an object.

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Regarding “Uncle Tim”: Everybody’s Wrong.

Scott response

South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott delivered a rarity, an opposing party “replay” to a Presidential address that was eloquent, powerful, and relevant. However, Scott also fell into the ethics abyss by demanding that Twitter take down tweets that included the hashtag “Uncle Tim.” Scott called the trend “upsetting” and “so disappointing” this morning, saying that it shows the left “are literally attacking the color of my skin.”

Well yes, they are. That shouldn’t be surprise, since they have also been attacking the color of MY skin.

The conservatives, as the mainstream media likes to say when Republican point out hypocrisy, “pounced”:

Tim tweet 1

Tim tweet 2

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Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/25/21: “Genocide,” Crisis” And “Honeymoon”

John-Tenniel-Humpty-Dumpty

The good news is that I’m back at the keyboard, though at a ridiculous hour. The bad news is that I’m here because I’m out of pain-killers, and my mouth is killing me. [UPDATE: I started this post at 3 am, couldn’t continue, and now it’s after noon. I’m clearly a weenie. I’m pretty sure my father endured worse pain than I am dealing with all through his life and repeatedly after his foot got blown up in the war, and he never complained once…]

Yesterday marks a great moment in ethics, and my plan was to mention it on time. On that date, April 24 in 1863, Francis Lieber, a Prussian immigrant whose three sons served in the Civil War, created what became General Orders No. 100. Reflecting his many writings on the topic, it was a code of conduct for Federal soldiers and officers when dealing with Confederate prisoners and civilians. The code was subsequently borrowed or adapted by many European nations, including influencing the Geneva Convention. Unique when it was written, Lieber’s code was the product of a committee of four generals and Lieber, who were tasked by Union General Halleck to draft rules of ethical combat. The the 157 articles established regulations and standards for the treatment of prisoners, exchanges, flags of truce, and much more. The document was written almost entirely by Lieber, and there was nothing like it.

1. President Biden does the ethical thing that President after President didn’t have the guts to do…He finally authorized referring to the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian genocide as “genocide.”

Good. Any President since 1916 (that’s Woodrow Wilson through Trump) could have made official the historical reality, but keeping our Turkish allies happy by enabling their long denial was deemed more pragmatic. Of course what the Ottoman Empire did to its Armenians was genocide. An estimated 800,000 to 1.2 million Armenian men, women, children, elderly and ill Armenians were marched to the Syrian desert in 1915 and 1916, with many thousands killed on the way. There they were placed in concentration camps. After another wave of massacres in 1916, only 200,000 of those deported survived. Many of these were forcibly converted to Islam and integrated into Muslim households. Still more massacres and ethnic cleansings of Armenian survivors were carried out by the Turkish nationalist movement after World War I. Naturally, the Armenians’ property was confiscated in the process. The genocide reduced the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire by an estimated 90%

2. And yet, ironically, the same administration refuses to use the word “crisis” to describe the current illegal immigration mess at the Mexican border, a crisis entirely created by Biden’s implicit invitation to aliens to break our laws and eventually benefit from doing so. Thus Politico, part of the Left’s propaganda and disinformation apparatus, sent out a memo to staff telling them not to use the term “crisis,” and to “avoid referring to the present situation as a crisis, although we may quote others using that language while providing context. While the sharp increase in the arrival of unaccompanied minors is a problem for border officials, a political challenge for the Biden administration and a dire situation for many migrants who make the journey, it does not fit the dictionary definition of a crisis. If using the word ‘crisis,’ we need to ask of what and to whom.”

The situation indeed fits the dictionary definition of “crisis.” Politico also doesn’t seem to be troubled at all that it and every other news source referred to a similar but far less massive wave of children showing up at the border when Trump was President as a “crisis.”

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