I’d make this an ethics quiz, but I think it’s too potentially important to treat as a jump ball. This is the kind of extreme mess that threatens free speech, especially when on entire political party is searching for an excuse to ban “hate speech,” once they have defined it just well enough to constrain political opponents.
In Cullman City, Alabama, the school board’s president’s son, who attends the school district’s high school, posted a video to SnapChat in which he could be seen and heard chanting “White power!” and “Kill all the niggers!” The video has been widely circulated among students. The parent of a black student who saw the video has demanded the resignation of Amy Carter (no, not THAT Amy Carter; don’t be silly), the school board’s president. The parent is also demanding that the school take action against the student. “Cullman City Schools would clearly punish our son if he made a video threatening the white students of Cullman High School,” she wrote in an email. “My son is one of a handful of black children in the school. Tell me how he wouldn’t be threatened by KILL ALL THE Ns?! Explain to me how this is not a threat.”
Well, I can answer that last part. Under First Amendment case law, the “true threats” doctrine holds that allegedly threatening speech cannot be punished unless the government can prove that the speaker meant to communicate a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual. A chant on a video posted on social media that mentions no specific student will not qualify as an actionable threat. Her previous question is tougher. The school and the town itself has a reputation for racial hostility toward blacks. The mother of the black student says her son has repeatedly been subjected to racist remarks during his four years as a student in the district. I see good reason for the video to be unsettling in that context.
On the other hand, I’m getting awfully tired of the “they wouldn’t treat a black adult/child this way if he/she did X” argument, which is almost never challenged even when it’s bigoted nonsense, as in the race-based attacks on the Rittenhouse verdict. It’s more presumed racism, and a cheat, a device to avoid making a solid argument.
Here is the NBC News headline: “The state of Alabama took his gun away. When authorities gave it back, he shot and killed his wife.” Here is the sub-head: “Alabama authorities took his gun away after a violent domestic incident. Nine months later they gave it back, and he used it to shoot and kill his wife.”
And this is what readers don’t learn until, (let’s see) 17 paragraphs into the story:
“On the night of Feb. 23, 2019, [Megan] Montgomery and [Jason] McIntosh got into a physical altercation at their home. Fellow officers from McIntosh’s department responded to a 911 call from McIntosh, who reported that Montgomery had a gunshot wound. According to the responding officers, Montgomery said she had grabbed McIntosh’s duty weapon with her right hand for her own protection. The two began to struggle for the weapon. Montgomery, 5’8″ and 135 pounds, was shot in her upper right arm. McIntosh, 6’4” and 225 pounds, told the responding officers that during the struggle he thought Montgomery had his cell phone in her hand. According to the report, McIntosh said it was only when the gun went off and the bullet hit his wife that he realized they’d been fighting over a gun. Because McIntosh was a police officer, the head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) ordered Special Agent Vince Cunningham to investigate the incident….Cunningham took McIntosh’s firearm as evidence. He interviewed Montgomery on Feb. 26, 2019. She told him that during the incident “she was afraid,” according to the investigative summary written by Cunningham…The ALEA summary says that when Montgomery was asked if the shooting was an accident, she said yes. The summary also says that the officer who took Montgomery to the emergency room told Cunningham that when doctors asked Montgomery what happened, she told them, “He shot me.”….The district attorney did not file charges, concluding in a letter there was “no evidence of the commission of any felony offenses by either Mr. Mcintosh or Ms. Montgomery.” The DA left open the possibility that the City of Hoover could file a misdemeanor offense against either one of them. That never happened. Meanwhile, McIntosh was repeatedly texting ALEA Special Agent Cunningham asking to get his gun back, according to documentation reviewed by NBC News. McIntosh claimed he needed the gun to get a new private security job….Though he had used it as a duty weapon with the Hoover Police Department, the gun was his personal property.”
That is all material information necessary to understanding the tragic incident, isn’t it? Indeed, if the story is really intended to let readers know what happened and why, that part of the story needed to be part of the narrative, right at the beginning. Instead, the reporters set out to spin the facts to maximize anti-gun rights sentiment. An estranged wife with a history of physical altercations with her husband was shot and killed by him after an earlier incident involving his gun, after she had filed for divorce, after a restraining order, and after he had been given his gun back by the backwards state of Alabama. Outrageous! How could that happen?
I guess I have to come clean: I thought I had posted this before noon. Guess not. So a Morning Warm-Up became a late night wrap up…
1. The trial was a sporting event? I did not know that! ESPN included the Chauvin guilty verdict in its list of important sports news today. Apparently, it’s sports news because a lot of athletes are going to shoot off their mouths about it, spreading ignorance far and wide.
2. Deranged Quote of the Day: “Where are the disabled, queer, poor, gender diverse, dogs of colour and single-parent dog families in Bluey’s Brisbane?” That comes from ABC Everyday’s Beverley Wang. The Disney+ program, we are told :
….is the award-winning, mega-hit animated series about the Heelers, a family of dog-shaped humans — parents Bandit and Chilli, four-year-old Bingo, and six-year-old Bluey — who live in a gorgeous Queenslander with city views, perched on a lush hilltop in sunny Brisbane.
The only way to handle people who poison minds and the the culture with ideas like this is to be merciless, and slap them down with the classic reaction of “Sidney Wang”:
Being nice just enables them.
3. From the False Narrative files: Yahoo! News correspondent Jon Ward authored a piece of counter-factual propaganda headlined, “Chauvin’s guilty verdict is a major milestone in America’s reckoning with racial justice.” As I have tried to point out repeatedly, there is no evidence that George Floyd’s fate would have been any different if he had been white, Asian-American or a Smurf. None. NONE. There is no evidence that Chauvin was a racist, or that race played any part in his brutal treatment of Floyd. The fact that activists, politicians and the journalists seized on the symbolic imagery of a white cop’s knee on a black man’s neck and exploited it shamelessly doesn’t change the facts. This was not a racial incident. If the jury convicted Chauvin thinking that it was, then they were misled.
Ward’s essay is a good starting place for anyone who wants to understand how far journalism has sunk.
Shelia Washington is a sterling example of how a dedicated, passionate citizen can repair gaping wounds in history and law.
Washington died last month, but not before fulfilling a self-assigned mission. She accepted that mission at the age of 17, when, as a native of Scottsboro, Alabama, she found a book hidden under a mattress at her home while she was doing some cleaning. Her stepfather told her to hand it over. “You don’t need to know about that,” he said. “Just keep quiet about this now.” The book was “Scottsboro Boy,” a 1950 memoir by Haywood Patterson, an innocent young man who was convicted four times by all-white juries and sentenced to death three times.
Washington did not obey her stepfather. To the contrary, Washington set out to obtain posthumous justice for the nine young black men known as The Scottsboro Boys, who were falsely accused of raping two white women in 1931. They were subjected to many trials at the height of the Jim Crow era, two reaching the U.S. Supreme Court. The ugly story of the Scottsboro Boys became the country’s most sensational civil rights case up to that point. Their tragic story later inspired feature films, documentaries, a Broadway musical, and was a factor in shaping the plot of Harper Lee’s 1960 novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Yet how many Americans today can tell you anything about The Scottsboro Boys?
1. The mark of a poor loser. No doubt about it, the Democratic Party losers are terrible at that accountability thing. Now it’s Bernie Sanders. Before him, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar blamed sexism for their own inadequacies; Harris and Cory Booker blamed racism. Sanders has all sorts of villains, anything to avoid admitting that he and his campaign have been talking irresponsible, undemocratic nonsense for months, indeed years…
The “corporate media”
The Democratic Party establishment
His own youthful (read naive, deluded and ignorant) supporters, who just don’t vote as often as old people.
Maybe this is Presidential conduct now. Obama blamed everything he could on President Bush, and his followers blamed every critique on racism. President Trump is hardly any better at accepting accountability. The all-time winner, or rather all-time loser who beats them all at blaming others for losing is Hillary Clinton.
Perhaps the single most persuasive reason to leave up all those Robert E. Lee statues and memorials is to remind current leaders and future generations of the general who, as his battered, bleeding and defeated troops returned from the field of battle after Pickett’s Charge, one of the worst debacles in U.S. military history, met them saying, “It was all my fault.”
I could respect a leader like that. Are there any?
The “corporate media” bit also is annoying. A Facebook friend, mainstream media bias-denier used Bernie’s lament yesterday to mount a false dichotomy, saying that conservatives blame left-wing media bias while the Left blames the “corporate media.” Sanders indeed received negative coverage, but not because “the corporate media” fears his brand of social justice. The progressive mainstream media is desperate to defeat Trump, and to preserve the Democratic Party, and any idiot can see that running a pro-Castro, Soviet Union rationalizing Marxist would be toxic to both objectives. Even running a deteriorating dementia victim is a better bet, though not an especially good one. Fox News loved the idea of Bernie running against President Trump.
2. The mark of a coward. Sanders declined to address his disheartened supporters last night after Joe Biden pretty much ended his hopes of prevailing at the Democratic National Convention by winning decisive primary victories. Before the results were called for the Western states of North Dakota, Idaho, and Washington, the Sanders campaign announced that Bernie would not be addressing his supporters that evening. Continue reading →
What does the Easter Bunny sing on Valentine’s Day? Every bunny loves some bunny sometime…
1. Yes, I think the Roger Stone sentencing mess is an Ethics Train Wreck now. As usual, several cars have been reserved by the President, whose dumb tweeting raised the appearance of impropriety and fed his ravenous critics, who will read anything he does in the worst light possible. Good for AG Barr for saying that such public White House word-barfs make it difficult for Barr to do his job.
The President really and truly does not seem to understand how his own job works: if he makes it known what his personal policy desires are, that’s potentially going to influence policy-makers who are supposed to be independent. Why is this so hard to grasp? True, it would be beyond moronic, if the President wanted to interfere with Barr’s handling of the Stone matter, for him to use Twitter rather than to pick up the phone. Also true: Trump has done things equally dumb.
Do you think the President knows the story of Thomas Becket’s murder, triggered when King Henry II’s shouted out, to no one in particular, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?” Two knights decided to make King Henry happy, though they had received no orders. Imagine if President Obama had tweeted—we know he would have been smart enough to just have an aide whisper in Lois Lerner’s ear— “Boy, these tea party groups are a scam! How do they warrant non-profit status?” before the IRS scandal unfolded.
Nonetheless, as is usually buried in Trump Derangement Enabling articles like this one, there are no knights in this case who can do Trump’s wish-fulfillment. “Just as he used US government power to smear Joe Biden in the Ukraine scandal, he succeeded in getting favorable treatment for a friend in the Stone case — though the final sentence will be up to a judge,” the CNN article reveals (let’s see) eight paragraphs in. Trump can stand on his head shouting “Free Stone!” through a megaphone; he has no leverage with the judge. Continue reading →
I increasingly find myself searching, usually in vain, for stories to reassure myself and Ethics Alarms readers that out society, in the words of the pious churchgoers of Rock Ridge, isn’t “turning into shit.” Here is story out of Alabama involving a Waffle House. I’ve never eaten at one, though there has been a Waffle Shop down Russell Road in Alexandria, VA, less than five minutes from my home by car, the entire 39 years I’ve lived here. The fact that its awning has misspelled “Waffle” with only one “f” for all that time is the reason: I figure that it you can’t spell your own specialty, I can’t trust you to make it right, either.
But I digress…
At a Birmingham, Alabama Waffle House on the morning of November second, an estimated 25 customers found that the restaurant had only a single employee named Ben on duty to serve the whole mob. Apparently there had been a scheduling snafu, leaving Ben with the responsibility of serving everybody. Said one witness to the scene, . “He was just staring at the room full of people. I can’t imagine what he was thinking.”
Then one customer who had been sitting at the bar, asked Ben what was going on and received the answer. He stood up, asked for an apron, and started washing dishes. A few minutes later a female customer left her table and began bussing those of other partons, taking and serving orders, and making coffee. Then a third customer joined the volunteer staff. Continue reading →
In Steven Bochco TV legal dramas—the immortal “Hill Street Blues” was the best of them—everyone was sleeping with everyone else in the judicial and law enforcement system. Police chiefs were having affairs with defense attorneys, prosecutors were having affairs with judges, judges were having affairs with defendants. It was ridiculous, if entertaining, but gave an absurdly misleading impression to the gullible public about the legal system. Later, as Bochco’s star was waning, writer-producer David Kelley continued the myth with his many legal dramas
However, this is not to say that such unethical relationships don’t occasionally occur. Bochco, who died in 2018, would like this story, since he could have written it.
Alabama’s Judicial Inquiry Commission on Tuesday filed a complaint against Coffee County District Judge Christopher Kaminski, alleging that he has been carrying on a romantic relationship with an attorney who frequently practices in his court. Continue reading →
In case you missed the facts of this instant ethics train wreck a legal case, here they are:
Marshae Jones, 27-years old, was five months pregnant when she attacked female co-worker, Ebony Jemison, 23, in the parking lot of a Dollar Store. The two had a long-standing and bitter rivalry over their romantic designs regarding a man who worked at the same company and who is apparently the father of the unborn child. Jones had Jemison pinned in her car while punching her repeatedly. In self defense, Jemison grabbed her gun and fired point blank at Marshae’s stomach. The car taking Jones to the hospital broke down, delaying a medical response. Paramedics eventually arrived, but the unborn child had been struck by the bullet, and died.
A grand juryindicted Jones for “initiating a fight knowing she was five months pregnant,” but chose not to indict Ebony Jemison, who fired the shot. Despite the confusing and incompetent reporting on the case, it is still not certain that prosecutors in Pleasant Grove, Alabama will ultimately prosecute Jones, who according to all reports wanted her baby. I doubt that they will. Lynneice Washington, the district attorney for part of Jefferson County, said last week that no decision had yet been made about whether to go to trial, file lesser charges against Jones, or dismiss the case altogether.
“Foremost, it should be stated that this is a truly tragic case,” her statement said. “We feel sympathy for the families involved, including Ms. Jones, who lost her unborn child.”
1. The fact that Jemison was not charged should surprise no one, nor does it reasonably affect the ethical and legal issues at issue here. She was attacked. The law of self-defense almost universally allows the use of deadly force when the alternative is sustaining a serious beating. If one is attacked by a pregnant woman, the response to the attack does not have to be moderated because of the possible consequences to an unborn child. The responsibility for any adverse result to the fetus is completely the expectant mother’s.
3. Alabama law declares a fetus to have the rights of a person from the moment of conception. There is nothing unethical or unreasonable about such a law, whether or not you agree with it. The reverse law, that a fetus/embryo/unborn child has no rights until birth is also ethically and legally defensible. Both cause practical problems and ethical conflicts and dilemmas, as do any compromise positions.
4. As long as a jurisdiction allows abortions within Supreme Court guidelines, there is nothing unethical about the jurisdiction prosecuting someone other than the mother who kills a fetus, intentionally or through negligence. 38 states have laws that classify fetuses as victims in homicide or assault, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In Alabama, a “person” includes embryos and fetuses at any stage of development, and the state leads the nation in such prosecutions. Last year, Jessica Lindsey, 29, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to chemical endangerment for using heroin while pregnant. Raven West, a heroin addict who gave birth to a stillborn baby, received a five-year suspended sentence last year. And Alexandra Laird, who gave birth to two children who tested positive for heroin, received two suspended 10-year sentences and access to a treatment program, according to court records.
Regarding those three results: Good…Good…Good. I have no problem with them.
4. The question is, how different is a pregnant woman who starts a parking lot fist fight that precipitates sufficient violence to kill her unborn child from a woman who knowingly ingests toxic substances that harm or kill a fetus? I don’t see a material difference. If not, then why is it unreasonable to prosecute Jones?
5. It is amazing how deftly the same progressive advocates can turn on a dime and go from “Think of the children!” to “DON’T think of the children!” depending on what’s expedient at the time.
6. Although Alabama is currently challenging Roe v. Wade, this case has nothing to do with its defiant anti-abortion law. I see no reason to believe that Jones wouldn’t be charged under the same criminal statute a year ago or five years ago. This episode has just given pro-abortion advocates an opportunity to attack the state and make Jones into a martyr, though she was not seeking an abortion. At about 20 weeks pregnant, Jones was within the range where she could have had an abortion before the new law, so the feminist argument is, I guess, that if you can legally abort an unborn baby, you should also be able to get it shot without any consequences.
7. The callousness with which the news media tries to spin stories related to the unborn is striking. Here’s the Washington Post:
“The 27-year-old was five months pregnant when she was involved in a fight that, authorities say, prompted a woman to fire a gun in self-defense. The bullet tore through Jones’s abdomen and caused a miscarriage.”
No, the bullet struck the unborn child and killed it. That’s not a “miscarriage.”
8. Whatever the outcome, Jones caused the death of her unborn child through outrageous, violent and uncivilized behavior, and warrants no sympathy whatsoever.
As always in such stories, her family says that Jones is a saint. Her mother calls her “a fun-loving mom, churchgoing, a hard-working lady,” insisting, “My child just doesn’t bother anybody.” Except, that is, a woman trying to make time with the father of Jones’ unborn child, in a parking lot, where she engages in a fist fight. Yeah, that Marshae is a responsible, model citizen! How could this happen to her?
9. Her lawyers say, absurdly,
“This young mother was shot in the stomach while five months pregnant and lost her baby as a result. She lost her home to a fire and lost her job. Now, for reasons that defy imagination, she faces an unprecedented legal action that subjects this victim of violence to further distress and harm.”
I know lawyers must defend their client’s zealously, but this is legal demagoguery. She was shot because of her own criminal actions. She was fired because she attacked a co-worker. She was a “victim of violence” necessitated by her own attack. I don’t know what the fire has to do with anything; the statement just as well might have said, “And she faces painful root canal work due to chronic tooth decay.” Talk about throwing in everything but the kitchen sink!
1. The other shoe drops...the New York Times yesterday editorialized against the generous gift to Morehouse students by billionaire and Ethics Hero Robert F. Smith. It also took a swipe at Smith himself, whose wealth the Times appears to consider suspect. What the mouthpiece of the Left is lobbying for is Bernie Sanders’ free college for all, meaning that not just billionaires but you and I will all have to pay for inflated tuition at institutions that do not so much teach as indoctrinate (or, in the case of Ohio State and who knows what others, molest).
The wonderful thing about Smith’s gift is that it was a complete surprise. The students had a strong financial motivation not to waste their college years taking useless courses on the Patriarchy of Gas Grilling, and instead had every reason to try to prepare themselves for the workplace. Free college education becomes a privilege and a lark, with no accountability or commitment required.
Uh, no, she wasn’t. She is going to attend a Business of Entertainment, Media and Sports program at the B-school that lasts all of three days. She’ll pay for it, too. Ciara doesn’t have a college degree, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I bet she’ll tell people for the rest of her life that she attended the Business School, just like Bill O’Reilly still says he’s a Harvard grad because he attended the Kennedy School of Government on campus.