Laws Aren’t Enough: Compassion, Prudence, Proportion And The Golden Rule Must Also Be In The Equation

Here is a cautionary tale out of Great Britain,  whose ethics comprehension appears to have gone into a tailspin.

In Manchester, England about a year ago, Jamie Griffiths , then a 19-year-old male student, reached out and  touched a 17-year-old female classmate’s arm while they were both walking along a city street during the day. Jamie explained to police, which the young woman contacted because of the incident, that he had just wanted to get her attention, introduce himself, and maybe “make a friend.”

Instead, the woman claims, the spontaneous encounter quickly spiraled out of control. As she told the court, according to The Manchester Evening News,

“I was just set on getting home and [reviewing] for my mock exams, but as I was coming over the bridge I saw him facing a hedge and I thought it was really weird. He wasn’t doing anything. He was just facing the hedge, staring at it. As I walked towards him, I was watching him and he suddenly swung round so he was facing me. I remember it happening fast. As soon as he moved, I moved, and I said: ‘stop’ and he touched me on my arm. I sort of jolted out of the way and I went into the road to avoid him and he very quickly walked away…I forgot about it for a while because I had my exams. I just thought it was weird behavior.” She went to the police and reported the episode. Then there was a second. This time, the 17-year-old was was walking to school when Griffiths walked in front of her and touched her side, staying in contact, she said, for about three seconds. “He smirked at me, he didn’t stop, he just touched me and walked off and I broke down crying in the street—it was quite traumatic.”

She and her mother filed a crime report. The student was traumatized by the encounters, she says. “Every time I started working I would cry because I would think of it. I felt very unsafe, even in my own home.”

A magistrate convicted Jamie Griffiths of two charges of sexual assault, accepting the young woman’s assessment that there was “no doubt” that had she not moved away from him that first time he touched her arm, he would have gone on to touch her breast. “The complainant’s evidence was very clear, logical and without embellishment,” the magistrate told the defendant. “We can think of no motivation for you to touch the victim other than sexual. Had she not taken evasive action the assault was likely to have been even more serious.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/15/18: Icons, Shitholes And Chianti

Good Morning, and Happy Martin Luther King Day.

1 Priorities, priorities…Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga) has made his career out of the fact that he was an associate of Dr. King during the civil rights movement.  On Sunday’s”This Week” on ABC’, Lewis said on he would not vote for legislation that prevents a government shutdown if it did not first resolve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “I, for one, will not vote on government funding until we get a deal for DACA,” the alleged icon said.

That’s right: Lewis, and presumably many of his colleagues, would waste millions of dollars and interfere with life and daily needs of American citizens to obtain a path to citizenship for 800,000 currently illegal residents, and create a permanent incentive for foreign citizens to break our laws so they can get their kids an entitlement.  It’s more important to give illegal residents what they have no right to have, then to ensure legal citizens what their taxes pay for. This is the unethical result when ideology takes precedence over common sense.

2. Fake news also takes precedence, apparently. “Trump’s Words Eclipsing Deal For Dreamers” reads the above-the-fold headline on today’s New York Times. There are many other similar headlines on display. If, in fact, it is true that the President’s (alleged, disputed, reported initially via hearsay, denied by the speaker, and intentionally misrepresented by critics even if the alleged version is accepted) words have a decisive impact on a DACA deal, then the DACA adherents were posturing all along. What difference does it make to DACA what the President says off-the cuff in a private meeting? Apparently it is more important to Democrats and the “resistance” to denigrate the President than to accomplish substantive policy goals. Good to know.

UPDATE: I just read the opinion of conservative blogger Liz Shield after I wrote this. She said,

My position on sh!ithole-gate is this: It’s not appropriate for the President of the United States use this kind of language. Now, this was a private meeting and perhaps Trump did not think the Democrats would sabotage the DACA negotiations and, in this regard, Trump is terribly naive. There will be no good faith discussions on any policy because the policy of the Democrats is that Trump must FAIL, even at the expense of the Democrat constituencies they claim to be fighting so hard for. That is their position and I hope the president gets hip to this soon. Instead, the conversation we are having is not about policy but rather that Trump is a RACIST. Which is, coincidentally, the sole platform held by his political enemies.

Pretty much. The last sentence is unfair, though: their platform is that the President is a racist, senile, crazy, stupid, a Nazi, a traitor, a liar, a sexual predator and not really President. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Ann Althouse


“To everyone who likes that Lewandowsky got charged: Will you agree that everyone who does nothing more than that should undergo criminal prosecution? Are you willing to pay the taxes to cover that? Are you ready to find out that you’ve already done it and you’re going to be needing to hire a lawyer? Oh, but it’s so funny when it happens to somebody else, somebody you don’t like. If that’s what you think, please just admit to yourself that you are entirely morally corrupt.”

–Law professor and blogger Ann Althouse, taking the popular position among the talking legal heads on CNN and elsewhere that charging Trump’s campaign manager for the technical crime of battery for for what appears to be minor contact on videotape is an abuse of prosecutorial discretion.

Ann is playing law professor here, and it’s hard to tell if she is asking these questions to provoke thought from the knee-jerk partisans and virulent Trump-haters, or if she really believes everything she wrote. I;m a fan of Professor Althouse, so I want to find  a way to justify this post of her’s, which raises valid points and ignores others equally valid.

Do I “like” the fact that Lewandowsky was charged? I probably wouldn’t have charged him, but I’m not sorry he was charged. Why was a campaign manager grabbing a reporter? Why did the Trump organization react to the reporter’s complaint by attacking her honesty and character? I know the law shouldn’t be used to inconvenience people who act badly, and that doing this is usually an abuse of power. Still, do I like the fact that one of Trump’s thugs isn’t getting away with the thuggishness encouraged by his boss? Yes, I guess I do.

The charge can be justified on utilitarian grounds. Today I saw a cable TV news exchange regarding Fields’ complaint on CNN, where a lawyer explained that any unconsented touching is battery, and the interviewer was shocked. “What?” she said. Yes, I remember a lot of classmates in first year of law school being surprised at that too.

It’s the Common Law: nobody has a right to touch anybody else. I love that principle, myself: I don’t touch people unless I have permission, and they better not touch me. It’s  per se battery, and while we usually don’t press it, we might if the batterer is enough of a jerk, or does more harm than he intended. If charging Lewandowsky makes people think twice before laying their hands on me or anyone else, good. Sending a message to discourage others from wrongful acts is always a valid reason to charge someone. Continue reading

Can A Prostitute Be Raped?

On Nov. 5, we'll find out if W.C. Fields' low opinion of Philadelphia was justified...

On Nov. 5, we’ll find out if W.C. Fields’ low opinion of Philadelphia was justified…

An unethical and incompetent judge in Philadelphia doesn’t think so, thus making a powerful argument against electing judges, being a prostitute, and living in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Municipal Court judge Teresa Carr Deni ruled that the 2007 rape of a prostitute at gunpoint was merely “theft of services.”The  woman had agreed to meet a man have sex with him for the bargain fee of $150. He asked her if his friend could join in the fun for an additional $100, and she agreed. When these two sterling citizens arrived for the appointment, however, they held her at gunpoint and forced her to have sex with them free of charge.

If this isn’t rape when a prostitute is involved—forced, unconsented intercourse, through the threat of deadly force—then any prostitute can be raped at will, with the worst charge being “theft.” Selling sex doesn’t convert sexual battery into nothing, a non-crime, once consent for that sale is withdrawn. If you know someone is preparing to sell blood to a blood bank, and you attack him, subdue him, and drain his blood to sell yourself, is this merely theft, or a crime of violence? If he was going to be an organ donor, and you rip out his kidney, is that just theft? There is no route through law or reason that allows us to ignore the fact that a woman was forced to have sex with two men without her consent. Judge Deni clearly has a monstrous bias against prostitutes, and thus believes that they shouldn’t receive equal protection under the law. When criticized, her rationalization was that prosecuting the men for rape “minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped.” Continue reading

For Declo, Idaho Teachers, It’s The Evaluation That Matters, Not The Performance

"What's the big deal?"

“So what’s the big deal? She’s a great teacher!”*

Ethics Alarms has been light of late on tales of public schools  intimidating, indoctrinating and abusing children, all while teaching them that too often adult authority does not deserve the respect it demands. Of course, there is a reason for the relative dearth of horror stories from that sector: school is out.

Never fear, however: somewhere, some school administrator is embarrassing the education profession…in  Idaho, for instance, where Summer Larsen, a fourth-grade teacher at Declo Elementary School in Declo, Idaho, had the brilliant idea of having students who made their reading proficiency goals punish those who did not by drawing on the their faces with felt-tip markers. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: Booty Connoisseur Aaron Morris

“Her booty looked so good, I just couldn’t resist touching it.”

—-18 year old Floridian Aaron Morris, who was arrested and charged for fondling the buttocks of the woman ahead of him in line at the local Wal-Mart.

Ah, the gateway to an unethical life!

Just 11 words, yet such an eloquent discourse on the ethical reasoning abilities of so many Americans! Bravo, Aaron!

In those 11 words,  he summed up the mindset of an ethics-free life. He molested a stranger because he wanted to. She didn’t matter, her dignity didn’t matter, her embarrassment didn’t matter. As a citizen, he was either ignorant of the law against battery (any touching of another without permission is battery, and has been for centuries) or contemptuous of it. His simple, selfish, impulsive action violated the Golden Rule, as well as nearly every other ethical principle. It was unfair, disrespectful, irresponsible, and uncaring. It violated the basic bonds of trust between strangers in a community.

At least Aaron was honest about it.

That’s something to build on.


Facts: Sun-Sentinel

Graphic: BS Report

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at


Ethics Quiz: “The Graduate” Variation—Illegal Yet Ethical?

Except in THIS version of "The Graduate," it's Benjamin Braddock's MOTHER banging on the window. Come to think of it, Dustin Hoffman couild play her, too!

For your weekend Ethics Quiz, Ethics Alarms asks your assessment of a situation that may be that rarity, conduct that is illegal but ethical, by far the rarest in the spectrum that is…

Legal and EthicalLegal and Unethical—Illegal and EthicalIllegal and Unethical

In Nevada, Justin Lew Harris’ wedding at the Carson Valley United Methodist Church was underway when his mother burst on the scene, Dustin Hoffman-style, and loudly objected to the ceremony. As she protested, Harris physically carried her out of the church, which constitutes battery. Mom’s tactic worked, though: that stopped the wedding, at least for now.

Now Harris, 35, faces misdemeanor charges  for disorderly conduct and coercion, presumably being pressed by his loving mother. He was released from the Douglas County Jail on his own recognizance.

No doubt about it: his conduct was pretty clearly against the law. But was it ethical? Continue reading

What Gawker Calls Unethical: Poor Ex-Rep. Etheridge Was “Tricked” Into Assault

The ethics-free web zone known as Gawker is indignant that it now appears that the young men roughed up by now-defeated North Carolina Democrat Rep. Bob Etheridge were G.O.P operatives stalking him in the hopes of catching him in a gaffe. Etheridge lost, in part because the video of him grabbing one of the young men in a bear hug was turned into an effective campaign ad by his adversary. He deserved to lose, as much as any candidate running in any race in the country.

Gawker apparently believes that under some circumstances it is no big deal for members of the U.S. Congress to commit assault and battery on the citizens they are supposed to serve, a view that Etheridge shares, but that Ethics Alarms does not.

Neither does Ken, over at Pope Hat, who makes a definitive argument that Etheridge has no excuse whatsoever. I can’t improve on it. You can read it here.

What Do You Do With Climate Change Skeptics? Blow Them Up!

Ok, all you people out there who thought a waitress squeezing dishwater into the drinks of customers who didn’t root for her football team in the Direct TV ad was harmless…do you want to take responsibility for a trend?

As you can see over on YouTube, a climate change advocacy group called 10:10 is pressing its case with a video showing a teacher explaining to her pre-teen students the 10:10 formula, in which everyone cuts their carbon emission by 10%, “thus keeping the planet safe for everyone, eventually.” Most of the class volunteers various ways they and their parents can meet the 10% goal, but a couple of students refuse—vicious, dumb, Right wing global warming “deniers,” apparently. So the teacher pushes a button and blows them to bits, with flesh and blood splattering everywhere.  Similar scenarios involving the detonation of adult victims follow. You see, the only way to get “everyone” to save the planet by cutting carbon emissions by 10% is to eliminate those who refuse to do it. Continue reading