Comment Of The Day: “The Supreme Court Reinstated The Death Sentence Of Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Good.”

Certain themes and issues are certain to recur on an ethics blog and never be resolved. Among them are abortion, “hate speech,” illegal immigration, reparations for slavery, drug legalization, gun control, war (HUH! What is is good for?], climate change and capital punishment. From the captain’s chair at Ethics Alarms, some of these seem more difficult than others. Capital punishment is not among them. [Above is the sensational and illegal photo in 1925 of the first woman ever sent to the electric chair as the switch was pulled. Ruth Snyder, a housewife from Queens, New York, took a lover and recruited him in a plot that ended with her husband’s brutal death; a reporter had a secret camera device strapped to his leg. Her story was the basis of many fictionalized versions, including the classic film noirs “Double Indemnity” and “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and the brilliant expressionist stage drama “Machinal” by Sophy Treadwell.]

The recent SCOTUS decision restoring the death penalty sentence to Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (where it belongs) once again raised this issue, which has been taken up hear often. In Steve-O-in-NJ’s Comment of the Day on that post, he provides fodder for debate within the debate: as he delicately puts it, “how high should the bar be set before someone fries?” Steve offers his top 20.

I’ll play: I believe non-lethal crimes that ruin lives to the magnitude that Bernie Madoff did with his Ponzi scheme ethically support a death sentence. Last week the late investing whiz’s sister and her husband were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide that was probably another consequence of his crime.

Here is Steve-O’s Comment of the  Day on “The Supreme Court Reinstated The Death Sentence Of Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Good.”


I read the Bucklew case, where the SCOTUS decided, quite sensibly, that there is no right to a painless execution. What stuck out to me is the penultimate paragraph in Breyer’s dissent, in which he states that as we move forward there may be no constitutional way to implement the death penalty. That, I submit, is one more reason we needed to either get that sixth conservative justice on the Court or get Breyer out of there. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Expectoration, 4/15/2021: I’m In A Really Bad Mood (And Ethics Is Just A Part Of It…)

Let’s see what revoltin’ developments we have accumulated, shall we? But first, some positive news…

1. Bernie Madoff has died in prison. Good. If there was ever a case for using capitol punishment for crimes other than murder and treason, Bernie is it. He was convicted of orchestrating the biggest Ponzi scheme in American history and was serving a 150-year sentence that he managed to escape by dying in prison of natural causes at age 82. He was a stone-cold sociopath who destroyed his family, foundations, charities and lives, all out of greed. On the plus side, his exploits did spawn two excellent dramatic portrayals, one by Robert De Niro and the other by Richard Dreyfuss. I liked Richard’s better, but after his disgusting conduct during the Trump years, Robert is permanently unwelcome to my eyeballs.

So much for the good news…

2. Don’t tell me again how poor Pete Rose deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Pete was the second Ethics Dunce of them all, way back in 2004, here. Knowing well that baseball had an iron-clad, one strike and you’re out forever rule forbidding players, coaches and managers from betting on games, he did it anyway (as a manager) because, see, he is Pete Rose, and the rules don’t apply to him, but mostly because he’s an idiot. So he got banned from the game and the Hall of Fame despite being the all-time hit leader, ahead of Ty Cobb. He’s a walking, talking ethics corrupter, prompting fans and writers to resort to rationalizations to explain why he should be forgiven.

Now we have this:

Continue reading

Ethics Quiz Of The Week: Compassion For Madoff?

Infamous swindler Bernard Madoff had his attorney file court papers this week requesting that a federal judge  grant him a “compassionate release” from his 150-year prison sentence. The 81-year-old convicted sociopath says he has less than 18 months to live because his kidneys are failing. Madoff has served just eleven years, or less than 10% of his punishment.  His dying wish, he says, is to salvage his relationships with his grandchildren.

By all means, we should care about Bernie Madoff’s wishes. He pleaded guilty in 2009 to 11 federal counts in a heartless scheme that ruined the futures of thousands and put non-profits and charities out of business.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Week is

Should Madoff get a “compassionate release”?

Continue reading

KABOOM! Does Everyone Upset About The “Affluenza” Sentence Feel Better Now?

Top: Morris. Bottom: Me.

Top: Morris. Bottom: Me.

Today we travel cross the pond for a head explosion-prompting episode. A charming young woman and mother named Loren Morris, now 21, began having sexual intercourse  with an 8-year-old boy five years ago, and continued for two years until he was ten years old, involving about 50 forced sexual acts.

The boy, now 14, was overheard bragging about his premature sex life at school, and that led to his molester’s arrest and trial. This week a judge today gave Morris a two-year prison sentence at Worcester Crown Court. She will be eligible for release on parole after only a year.

This case is relevant to a couple of recent Ethics Alarms controversies. Presumably Morris is being sentenced leniently on the basis of her horrific crime being committed while she was a juvenile, even though she is an adult now. As I asserted in the stateside case of the juvenile assault ripening into a murder, I think a juvenile whose crime is only discovered and proven after he or she enters adulthood should be tried and punished as an adult. Continue reading

The 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair Lying Poll, For What It’s Worth, and That’s Not Much

"Ummmm..."The Princess Bride"?

“Ummmm…”The Princess Bride”?

CBS and Vanity Fair—now there’s a pair—is out with a so-called poll on lying, which I offer for your amusement, and perhaps irritation. Among its “findings”:

  • Only 57% of those polled said they have never preferred to be lied to.
  • COMMENT: This makes no sense in light of the 2012 Presidential election.
  • Only 48% of the public knew which film “You can’t handle the truth!” comes from, and 29% couldn’t even hazard a guess. COMMENT: It’s comforting to know that the public isn’t any more educated in relevant popular culture than it is in more important matters.
  • More of those polled said they lie to their mother (17%) than lie to their boss (12%). COMMENT:  So much for “the Mom Test” ethics alarm, in which you test a considered action’s ethics  against your willingness to tell your mother about it. If you just lie to Mom about it, problem solved! Continue reading

I Wonder…What Would It Take To Get Fired From the SEC?

Keep up the way you’re going, guys. You’ll drive me to “Occupy D.C.” yet.

Do you think The Donald would be willing to run the SEC? At least he knows how to fire someone.

Eight Security and Exchange Commission employees were demoted, docked pay, suspended or otherwise disciplined for their role in the agency’s rank incompetence that allowed Bernard Madoff to steal billions of dollars and destroy lives and charities despite the timely warning of a persistent whistleblower, and more red flags than a bullfight. Yet despite mismanagement of epic and disgraceful proportions, the SEC couldn’t bring itself to fire anyone.

This is the state of accountability in today’s America. Run a corporation into the ground, lose the jobs of thousands, and take a mega-million dollar parting gift. Accept a bribe while you are serving as a State Senator, and not only keep your job, but get acquitted by a jury on the theory that you are too stupid to understand that what you were doing was a crime. Now the SEC’s response to an almost unimaginable breach of diligence in investment oversight by its staff doesn’t involve getting rid of a single one of the individuals responsible—even the individual deemed the most culpable, whose termination was recommended by the agency’s lawyers.

Why, you ask? Continue reading

More S.E.C. Ethics Blindness

What good is a blind watchdog?

Back in February, I told the tale of David Becker, former S.E.C. General Counsel, who had inherited money from his mother that was really the fruits of the Bernie Madoff investment scandal after he had served in the post while Madoff was merrily swindling people as the S.E.C. twiddled its thumbs. Becker apparently wasn’t in the information chain that should have led the S.E.C. to stop Madoff , and the scandal was uncovered after he left the agency. In 2009, after the Madoff mess had exploded, he rejoined the agency in his old job, but when it came to light that he and his brothers had inherited $2 million Madoff-manufactured profits from their mother, he quickly stepped down. My view was that Becker was a victim of circumstance: he had the appearance of impropriety, but hadn’t done anything wrong.

I should have known better: after all, this is the Securities and Exchange Commission, where they illegally shred files and the regulators look at porn all day. Now it is revealed thatContinue reading

The S.E.C.’s Betrayal and Why Regulation Can’t Cure Unethical Cultures

Your SEC at work....

I awoke this morning to read that a former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission official has credibly claimed that the S.E.C. destroyed thousands upon thousands of records of enforcement cases in which it had decided not to file charges or to launch full-blown probes. The case records dumped included prominent Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and SAC Capital.

Here’s is how Rolling Stone concluded its excellent report on the scandal:

“Forget about what might have been if the SEC had followed up in earnest on all of those lost MUIs(“Matters Under Inquiry”). What if even a handful of them had turned into real cases? How many investors might have been saved from crushing losses if Lehman Brothers had been forced to reveal its shady accounting way back in 2002? Might the need for taxpayer bailouts have been lessened had fraud cases against Citigroup and Bank of America been pursued in 2005 and 2007? And would the U.S. government have doubled down on its bailout of AIG if it had known that some of the firm’s executives were suspected of insider trading in September 2008?” Continue reading

“Congratulations! Here’s a Bonus for Doing Such An Outstanding Job Investigating That Fiasco That Happened Because You Screwed-Up In The First Place!”

"Iolanthe's" Lord Chancellor has nothing on me: his nightmare* was only "love unrequited." Mine is the SEC.

[  I read about the following outrage before going to bed last night, and vowed to write a post on it in the morning. It literally gave me nightmares and an upset stomach, so disrupting my repose that I gave up and headed to the keyboard. I am writing this at 4:30 AM. I have never written anything at 4:30 AM before, but I have learned something useful for future reference: I’m not in a good mood then.]

And here we have a prime example of why 1) many people don’t trust the Federal government and 2) why they are 100% right to feel this way.

I’ll take “Incompetence, Failure of Accountability and the Appearance of Impropriety” for a thousand, Alex!

SEC  Inspector General H. David Kotz has issued a thorough report on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, revealing that an employee who investigated Bernie Madoff in 2005 and 2006 and failed to notice that he was running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme was later rewarded by the agency with a cash bonusfor his fine work on the Madoff scandal after it was discovered, the lives ruined, the damage done. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Bernie Madoff, Now and Forever

Would I rather have Charlie or Bernie on the loose? Tough call...

Bernie Madoff, reports the New York Times, is feeling mistreated.

Two years into his 150 year sentence for defrauding hundreds of investors, destroying dozens of charities, and crushing the financial security of people who trusted him with their future, Madoff thinks it was unfair for Judge Denny Chin, who sentenced him, to make certain that he would die in prison. Accusing Chin of having “zero understanding of the industry”—meaning what, I wonder; that it was normal for the investment industry to set out to ruin people?—-and saying that he was being made a scapegoat while Wall Street firms and government officials “walk away free,” Madoff told reporter Ben Weiser, “Remember, they caused the recession, not me.”

Yes, and the Crusades started the chain of events that led to 9-11, and Teddy Roosevelt’s Asian policies lit the fuse for Pearl Harbor. Continue reading