Category Archives: Law & Law Enforcement

Ethics Hero: “Mama Betty”

pitchess

In Los Angeles, six thousands of LA County prisoners are housed in Pitchess Detention Center, which is 50 miles from the inner city neighborhoods where most of the prisoners there live. Using public transportation, which is what most friends and family members must use to reach Pitchess, the journey can take up to five hours to visit an inmate for 30 minutes, through a glass window, with no physical contact. The closest bus stop is a mile away from the jail, and at the bottom of a steep hill.

For five years, a woman named Betty Peters, now 76, has picked up visitors at that bus stop and driven them to the prison. She also waits for the women (mostly) to finish their visits, and drives them back to the bus stop. The grateful visitors know her as “Mama Betty.”

This is an act of pure compassion and kindness, and not without its risks. If a visitor tries to smuggle in contraband, drugs or a weapon,Betty could be prosecuted as an accomplice. Nor does she know the character of those whom she ferries from the jail to the bus and back. Might she be at risk of harm herself? I would assume so. Those with criminals as friends and associates are more likely to be criminals themselves.

I hope this story has a happy ending, because every time kindness like this is returned with cruelty and exploitation, the number of Mama Bettys among us is diminished, and our society becomes a little more meaner, more callous, and less ethical.

Ethics Alarms salutes Betty Peters as an Ethics Hero…and worries.

You can hear a podcast about Mama Betty here.

________________

Pointer: Fred.

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Law & Law Enforcement

OK, Voter ID Opponents, Here’s An Integrity Test: Is This A Smoking Gun Or An Amazing Coincidence?

Wow! Just a handful of fraudulent voters in the whole country for years, and one of them just happens to be captured for terrorism! What are the odds?

Wow! Just a handful of fraudulent voters in the whole country for years, and one of them just happens to be captured for terrorism! What are the odds?

Those opposing voter ID requirements as a thinly-veiled Republican effort to suppress black voting maintain that there is no need for identification at the polls because voter fraud doesn’t exist. Last week, discussing the controversy,  I flagged a New York Times editorial  titled, The Success of the Voter Fraud Myth.

It argued in part,

As study after study has shown, there is virtually no voter fraud anywhere in the country. The most comprehensive investigation to date found that out of one billion votes cast in all American elections between 2000 and 2014, there were 31 possible cases of impersonation fraud. Other violations — like absentee ballot fraud, multiple voting and registration fraud — are also exceedingly rare. So why do so many people continue to believe this falsehood?

Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, wrote in U.S. News & World Report in 2012  that voter fraud didn’t exist:

“Voter fraud would be a real problem if it actually happened. It’s a serious crime, and one that can undermine our democracy. Fortunately, it’s a crime we have largely figured out how to prevent.”

Huh.

Well then, what does this mean?

From King5 TV (NBC):

The Cascade Mall shooting suspect, Arcan Cetin, may face an additional investigation related to his voting record and citizenship status.

Federal sources confirm to KING 5 that Cetin was not a U.S. citizen, meaning legally he cannot vote. However, state records show Cetin registered to vote in 2014 and participated in three election cycles, including the May presidential primary.

Cetin, who immigrated to the United States from Turkey as a child, is considered a permanent resident or green card holder. While a permanent resident can apply for U.S. citizenship after a certain period of time, sources tell KING his status had not changed from green card holder to U.S. citizen.

While voters must attest to citizenship upon registering online or registering to vote at the Department of Licensing Office, Washington state doesn’t require proof of citizenship. Therefore elections officials say the state’s elections system operates, more or less, under an honor system.

“We don’t have a provision in state law that allows us either county elections officials or the Secretary of State’s office to verify someone’s citizenship,” explained Secretary of State Kim Wyman. “So, we’re in this place where we want to make sure we’re maintaining people’s confidence in the elections and the integrity of the process, but also that we’re giving this individual, like we would any voter, his due process. We’re moving forward, and that investigation is really coming out of the investigation from the shootings.”

The penalty for voting as a non U.S. citizen could result in five years of prison time or a $10,000, according to Secretary of State’s Office.

The options are: Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Research and Scholarship, Rights

Incompetent Elected Officials Of The Month: The Charlotte City Council

ziannaoliphant

Awww!

 9-year-old Zianna Oliphant spoke at a Charlotte City Council meeting about race, police violence, and reform. Tears streamed down her cheeks, and, of course, the video “went viral.” She has kept talking, expert on urban governance and law enforcement that she is, since she earned her fifteen minutes of fame. “I was just feeling like what the police are doing to us, just because of our skin, is not right,” the fourth-grader told NBC.

Of course, she knows absolutely nothing about the issues involved. She has no idea whether what happened to Keith Lamont Scott was ” done to us, just because of our skin” or done to him, because he threatened a police officer. (It was done to him, by a black cop, who, if he was doing it because of the color of Zianna’s skin needs to be put on a suicide watch.)

All Zianna knows is what she has been taught, and based on what she said, she has been indoctrinated by her family and community into be a police-fearing, anti-white racist. Now that this is happening to the black children of Charlotte and elsewhere is important information that should be part of the discussion, but that’s not how her statements are being used. She is being exploited by adults who know that their opinions become more persuasive coming out of the mouths of babes, and she is being accorded undeserved  moral authority because she is young and innocent. Zianna also has a fourth grade education and maybe six years of life experience. Wow.

What can such an individual contribute to a public policy debate so complex that elected officials, scholars and public policy experts don’t know how to proceed? Nothing. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. A nine year-old girl, even the most brilliant nine-year-old girl who has ever lived, is useless. A City Council that would waste deliberation and consideration of  critical issues on the testimony of children, however moving,  should just hand in their resignations en masse. They are incompetent and a disgrace.

In the alternative, Charlotte should give voting privileges to anyone over the age of five. Maybe they will. Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, This Will Help Elect Donald Trump, U.S. Society

Without Courage, Integrity And Professionalism In The Legal Profession, The Rule Of Law Hasn’t A Prayer: The House of Representatives v. Burwell Saga

" Nice law firm you got here. Too bad if something were to happen to it..."

” Nice law firm you got here. Too bad if something were to happen to it…”

As I explained  here and here in 2015, the process of judicially determining whether the Defense of Marriage Act was constitutional or not was unethically sabotaged by  threats to and improper lobbying of the law firm that had agreed to defend it. The Justice Department and the President had refused to do their sworn duty to uphold the laws of the United States, and same-sex marriage activists pressured the biggest client of the firm that had accepted the case to pass the pressure along. It worked. The firm dropped the case, precipitating a resignation by the partner handling it and this ringing assertion of traditional legal ethics:

“…[D]efending unpopular positions is what lawyers do. The adversary system of justice depends on it, especially in cases where the passions run high. Efforts to delegitimize any representation for one side of a legal controversy are a profound threat to the rule of law.”

This was, we are learning, not an anomaly. On the Volokh Conspiracy, law professor Josh Blackmon relates how the same strategy of applying of unethical political pressure, and the unprofessional capitulation of major law firms to it, nearly made a legitimate challenge to illegal payments to insurers under Obamacare impossible. He explains in part: Continue reading

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Observations On The First Trump-Clinton Debate

first-2016-debate

It was as predictable as it was tragic: on Drudge shortly after the debate, his debate poll showed that over 90% of Matt’s readers—almost as high a percentage as that of black Americans who believe Barack Obama has been a great President—believed that Donald Trump won. At CNN, the percentages weren’t as lopsided, but still reversed: about 70% believed Hillary won. Confirmation bias rules supreme in such settings, and bias makes us stupid. Fortunately, as my analysis of these two awful candidates should have proven by now, I have no biases in this race. I would like to see both candidates lose,and badly. Indeed, as both are the political equivalents of virulent cancers on the culture and potentially the office they seek, I would like to learn that both have mysteriously vanished without a trace, like Judge Crater, Ambrose Bierce, Rick Moranis, or Gilbert O’Sullivan

Observations on last night’s debate:

1. The conservative websites are whining about Lester Holt serving as the “third debater” last night. In a word, baloney. Holt did all right, not great,  in an impossible role, primarily by letting the combatants talk; in fact, a heavier moderator hand would have been preferable.  The birther question to Trump and the “Presidential look” questions were undoubtedly moderator shots at Trump, but shots like that are opportunities too. Trump didn’t handle either well. Character is the issue with Trump, not policy, and those were character questions that he should have been prepared for. Maybe he was; maybe those pathetic answers were Trumps’ idea of good ones. Yes, Holt pressed Trump on the ultimately irrelevant issue of whether he was or was not in favor of the Iraq invasion and when, but that was also an appropriate approach for a moderator, and it gave Trump a chance to clarify his position, if one can ever use “clarify” and “Trump” in the same sentence.

As an aside, I wonder if “Sean Hannity can back me up” is the lamest defense ever uttered in a Presidential debate. It may be.

2. Trump was Trump, that’s all, and perhaps a slightly less offensive and more substantive version than usual. Hillary was smug, with a frozen smile and an expression that said, “Boy, is this guy an idiot!” all debate long. That’s a big mistake, for virtually nobody likes smug. Trump’s expression toward Hillary was usually one of a wary and respectful foe. He was listening, she was sneering. Her repeated call for “fact-checking” was weak, and appeared to be appeals for assistance. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, Rights, This Will Help Elect Donald Trump, U.S. Society

California Decides It’s The Government’s Function To Help Actors Pretend They Are Younger Than They Really Are

picture-of-a-birthday-cake-with-lots-of-candles

California increasingly appears to be hell bent on serving as the cautionary example of how the belief that government has an unlimited brief to meddle in everything leads to abuse and derangement.

Gov. Jerry Brown last week signed legislation that prevents  entertainment websites such as the Internet Movie Database (IMDb),from posting an actor’s age or birthday if the actor doesn’t want anyone to know how old he or she is.

The law, which becomes effective January 1, applies to entertainment database sites that allow paid subscribers to post resumes, headshots or other information for prospective employers. Only a paying subscriber can make a removal or non-publication request. The beneficial end that supposedly justifies  this unconstitutional and suppressive means is that age discrimination is allegedly rampant in show business.

“Even though it is against both federal and state law, age discrimination persists in the entertainment industry,” Golden State legislature Majority Leader Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, said in a statement. “AB 1687 provides the necessary tools to remove age information from online profiles on employment referral websites to help prevent this type of discrimination.”

Naturally the actor unions are all for this form of government censorship. “Gov. Jerry Brown today stood with thousands of film and television professionals and concerned Californians who urged him to sign AB 1687, a California law that will help prevent age discrimination in film and television casting and hiring,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. You remember Gabby, don’t you? She was the brainy, non-sexy teen in the original “Beverly Hills 90210.” I’m sure she thinks the reason her career tanked as she edged into middle age was “discrimination.”

I’ve seen you act, Gabrielle. It wasn’t. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights, The Internet, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “Comment of the Day: ‘Observations On The Instapundit’s Tweet'”

charlotte4

I am often disappointed in the volume and balance of comments on particular posts here. Yesterday, I was waiting for someone to defend the extreme reaction to Glenn Reynold’s unseemly tweet regarding the Charlotte riots, and was especially interested in hearing arguments why Mariners catcher Steve Clevenger’s blunt tweets were “racist” as so many headlines were calling them. Admittedly, I was waiting for such arguments because it would be so easy and fun to reduce them to rubble, but still: where are the people who want to stifle speech and opinion, and who believe that criticizing violent rioters and Black Lives Matter should be punished so severely? Clevenger has been docked about $28,000 for expressing an opinion on Twitter, and sportswriters, who get paid to opine, often cretinously, on the web every day, are cheering. I know defenders of speech and opinion suppression are out there, but they are mute, rationalizing, I think, that they are right but those brutes on Ethics Alarms are too primitive to understand.

At least many of the comments that the posts have spawned are of high quality and extremely thoughtful. This is the second Comment of the Day inspired by them, by Chris Bentley:

I was thinking about a particular topic as I drove home from work today, about why people, mostly people on the left, justify and rationalize the behavior of looters during riots. After reading Jack’s initial post regarding Instapundit, I went to read the linked Reason.com article, and then checked out the comments section. One person, with the screen name Krabapple, made the following comment:

“Yeah sorry I can’t take seriously moderation from a company that allows the hashtag #killallwhitepeople but not this.” Continue reading

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