The Answer To This “Ethics Question” is Easy, But There’s More To It Than The Answer

The New York Times headline is “How a Dog’s Killing Turned Brooklyn Progressives Against One Another.”

It begins with this opening, which is raw meat tor an ethics blogger:

Real-world ethics question: In a well-used city park, a man with a history of erratic behavior attacks a dog and its owner with a stick; five days later, the dog dies. The man is Black, the dog owner white; the adjoining neighborhood is famously progressive, often critical of the police and jail system. At the same time, crime is up in the neighborhood, with attacks by emotionally disturbed people around the city putting some residents on edge.

In a dog-loving, progressive enclave, where pushing law and order can clash with calls for social justice, what’s the right thing to do? How do you protect the public without furthering injustice against this man?

Well, let’s start with the point that if an ethics question isn’t “real world,” then it’s useless, or at best a waste of time. Ethics is the process of figuring out what the right thing to do is in possible situations that require balancing, prioritizing, and maintaining societal standards and principles without which civilization devolves into chaos. The first question shows flawed ethical analysis from the outset: “In a dog-loving, progressive enclave, where pushing law and order can clash with calls for social justice, what’s the right thing to do?” The right thing to do isn’t affected by how dog-loving the community may be, or what attitudes toward law enforcement and social justice may be. Attitudes, like biases, don’t alter the ethics rules, they just affect whether the results of applying them are popular.

Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Mario Salerno

Not all the people giving lip service to “we’re all in this together” are virtue-signaling hypocrites. Some really mean it.

Surveys conducted last month estimated that 40 % of renters in New York City, if not more, would not be able to pay their April rent, which was due  last week.

This threatens landlords as well, as the shortfall will make it difficult for them to pay their own water and sewer bills at their buildings, not to mention taxes,  The 200-300 tenants in Mario Salerno’s properties, however, found a version of this sign taped up in the halls:


Mario Salerno said in an interview that he did not care about losing his rental income in April, nor care what the exact amount was that he would not be collecting from his 80 apartments.  He will be losing hundreds of thousands of dollars by canceling the month’s rent, but his sole concern, he said, was trying to make life a little easier for his renters. He is even forgoing rent for those who kept their jobs and are working from home.

“My concern is everyone’s health,” said Salerno. “I told them just to make sure that everyone has food on their table.”

He’s not exactly Michael Bloomberg. During the day, he runs the Salerno Auto Body Shop and gasoline station, which his father opened in 1959.

In the 1980s Salerno bought vacant lots across Brooklyn to store cars damaged in accidents before they were repaired, and eventually turned 18 of the lots into apartment buildings. He’s counting on the auto business to keep food on his own table until conditions improve for his renters.

“I say, don’t worry about paying me, worry about your neighbor and worry about your family,” he told reporters.

Oh, Great: Baseball Turned Bernie Sanders Into A Socialist

First the sign-stealing scandal, and now this.

It is, apparently not exactly a new revelation that having his juvenile heart broken by a baseball team set Bernie Sanders on the dark road that had stops in Moscow and the Workers’ Paradise, but it is a timely moment to expound on the tale, readying as the Vermont Senator is to tear the Democratic Party asunder.

Many distinguished Americans of a certain age, from historian Doris Kearns Goodwin to Old Blues Eyes himself have waxed nostalgic about Walter O’Malley’s great betrayal, when he yanked the beloved Brooklyn Dodgers away from their iconic Ebbets Field home to the corrupt embrace of La La Land.

As  baseball fans know *or should), the year was 1957. The Brooklyn Dodgers, affectionately called “Dem Bums” by  the locals, had finally rewarded their community with a World Series championship over the hated Bronx-dwelling Yankees in 1955. Then, on a day that lives in infamy, Dodgers owner O’Malley announced that the team was leaving. (So were their National League rivals, the New York Giants, heading to San Francisco.) The Dodgers were a massive part of the Brooklyn community’s self-image, and the degree of trauma  it suffered cannot be underestimated. Bernie suffered too, and the scars still ache. Sanders told the Times in a recent interview:

“It was like they would move the Brooklyn Bridge to California. How can you move the Brooklyn Bridge to California?… I don’t want to tell you that was the sole reason that I’ve developed the politics that I’ve developed. But as a kid, I did see in that case about the greed of one particular company. And that impacted me.”

And here we are. In one of the more dramatic examples of Chaos Theory in action and the Law Of Unexpected Consequences, an upheaval in the  national pastime started the dominoes tumbling that threaten the Democratic Party and the nation’s economic stability 63 years later. What fun! Continue reading

The Straw Man Cometh: Confronted With The Inevitable Results Of Their Race-Baiting, The “Hands-Up!” Crowd Claims It Was All A Misunderstanding


Don’t let them get away with this.

The Straw Man logical fallacy occurs when a person ignores the actual issue being debated and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of the opposing position that is easier to rebut. For years, there has been an organized effort in the Obama Administration, the progressive movement, the civil rights movement and among black activists to represent American society as racist, along with the American law enforcement system and justice systems, and to maintain  the false narrative that racism was responsible for several high-profile deaths of black men, and that specific police officers, such as Darren Wilson, were guilty of racist executions and exonerated by a racist system.

The strategy has been richly fertilized by relentless accusations that white voters and the Republican party hold racial animus against Barack Obama because of his race. The deliberately divisive effort has resulted in a level of fear, anger and distrust of white Americans in the African American community not seen in over half a century, with white police officers serving as the immediate targets. Predictably, two New York City cops were assassinated by a deranged black man after posting social media messages referencing the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, and critics have correctly stated that the reckless race-baiters have “blood on their hands.” Sensing that a looming tipping point may be going against their divide and conquer agenda, they are ducking and weaving like Muhammad Ali in his prime. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Brooklyn Police Shootings

Hands up

Via Vox: Two Brooklyn police officers were shot and killed execution-style today by a lone shooter, an African American male named Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who had posted two messages on Instagram suggesting that he was putting “wings on pigs today” because “they take one of ours, we take two of them.”  The message was accompanied by hashtags referencing Eric Garner and Mike Brown. The shooter later killed himself, and had allegedly shot an ex-girlfriend as well.

Five Observations:

1. The dangerous escalation of rhetoric and the persistent  misrepresentation of facts by civil rights advocates, activists, journalists and pundits made this kind of episode nearly inevitable. You cannot flood the airwaves with constant references to “police shooting unarmed black men” as if there was an organized racist liquidation of blacks by police in the streets and not risk sparking violence from the hysterical, the deranged, the angry, the lawless and the desperate.

2. The irresponsible “hands up” protests did not cause these deaths, but they probably helped create the conditions that led to them. The shootings of the  two NYPD police don’t make the false “hands up” lie—which continues to assert that Michael Brown was executed when the evidence indicates he was not, and that there was racial bias involved, when there is no evidence of this at all—any more unethical, reckless or irresponsible than it already was. It was wrong from the beginning. It was wrong to assert these things before what happened in Ferguson had been investigated, and it was wrong to keep asserting them after it was clear that they were unsubstantiated or false. It is still wrong. It is still dangerous. Continue reading

50 Years After Kitty Genovese, Inhumans On A Bus

The title describes the public transit riders who watched this disturbing scene unfold on a Philadelphia bus, and did nothing:

2014 is the 50th anniversary of the infamous Kitty Genovese case, and dueling books on the incident either recount the accepted version that 38 people in an apartment building heard the 28 year-old woman’s screams as she was being stabbed to death but “didn’t want to be involved” and let her die, or adopt the revisionist theory that the apathy of bystanders was unfairly and inaccurately hyped by the news media. The incident on the Philadelphia bus tells me that the revisionists have a burden of proof that will be hard to meet. There was plenty of evidence already, like here, or here, or here, or here, or more recently here, that Kitty Genovese might not fare any better today. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Former Brooklyn Judge Frank J. Barbaro (Zimmerman Furies: Is This Your Future?)

We can hope.

From the NY Times...

 The judge’s conscience gnawed at him a little more every year after he retired from the bench. With every news article he read about a wrongful conviction, Frank J. Barbaro, the former Brooklyn judge and assemblyman, would return to a particular murder case in 1999, and question whether he had made the right decision to send a man to prison for 15 years to life. Not long ago, Mr. Barbaro, 85, decided to contact the lawyer for the man, Donald Kagan. He got a transcript of the trial, during which Mr. Kagan had waived his right to a jury and put his fate in Judge Barbaro’s hands.

“As I read it, I couldn’t believe my eyes,” the former judge said in an interview. “It was so obvious I had made a mistake. I got sick. Physically sick.”

Mr. Barbaro’s change of heart led to a highly unusual spectacle this week in a Brooklyn courtroom: He took the witness stand in State Supreme Court to testify at a hearing that his own verdict should be set aside. His reason was even more unusual: As a die-hard liberal who had fought as a politician against racism in Brooklyn and weathered the race conflicts in Bensonhurst, he said he had been biased against Mr. Kagan because he was white and the shooting victim, Wavell Wint, was black.

“I believe now that I was seeing this young white fellow as a bigot, as someone who assassinated an African-American,” Mr. Barbaro testified on Wednesday before Justice ShawnDya L. Simpson. He added: “I was prejudiced during the trial.” Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: Drew Curtis’ Fark

“Seduced by your teacher at 16 thereby robbing of your childhood, oh yeah that’s surely worth 10 million…”

Drew Curtis’ Fark, satirical news aggregation site, commenting on a mother’s 10 million dollar lawsuit against Brooklyn and the teacher who had repeated sex with the mother’s 16-year-old son, whom she was supposed to be tutoring.

Erin Sayer—teacher, child molester, sex fantasy. “How to GO kid! I’d hit that, for sure!”

Let me begin by saying that Fark is one of my favorite sites. It is consistently irreverent and funny, and its news links have inspired some of the most interesting exchanges on Ethics Alarms. Let me also say that I understand that the point of the site is to make snarky, often irreverent, sometimes obscene and intentionally outrageous tongue-in-cheek comments about news stories  trivial, major and odd, and that for the most part, it accomplishes its mission with wit and good humor.

This comment, however, is wrong, unethical, because whatever value it has as humor is outweighed by the harmful attitude it reinforces. Whether it is the  sentimental, , “Summer of 42” myth of the beautiful right-of passage of a teen-aged boy with the help of a loving, lovely, adult woman, or the macho “All right–I sure would have loved to have had a roll in the sack with MY hot high school teacher!” reaction of the locker room crowd, the idea that an adult teacher seducing and having sexual relations with a minor student is anything but sexual assault, rape, and a dastardly breach of trust, position and power does affirmative and continuing harm. The currency and resiliency  of this enabling attitude (read the comments to any online news story about a female teacher prosecuted for having sex with a student) emboldens sexual predators in the schools, reinforces an indefensible double standard ( a male teacher who has sex with a female student is an unequivocal villain, but a boy being raped by a female teacher is a lucky stiff) ) and worst of all, makes student victims more vulnerable.

The cultural assumption that a boy who is seduced by a teacher has been given some kind of gift is in the same category as the claim that women who are raped secretly “want it.” It is important that this theme be rejected, which means that websites like Fark shouldn’t reinforce it even in jest, because the jest does reinforce it.  Hitting communities, schools and teachers with tough jury verdicts is an essential part of eliminating this far too common crime in our schools. Ten million dollars in damages properly states how wrong and intolerable the conduct is, and like all forms of rape, it is nothing to laugh at.


Facts: Fark

Source, Graphic: Daily Mail

(Again, thanks to Jeff Field for catching a typo!)

In Brooklyn, Another Nightmare Prosecution

Prosecutors intentionally robbed Darrell Dula of a year out of his life. What should happen to them?

We continue Unethical Prosecutors Week with this jaw-dropping horror story from Brooklyn, New York.

In June 0f 2011, the accusations of a 22-year-old prostitute led to Damien Crooks and Jamali Brockett being arrested on charges of forcing the woman  into prostitution when she was a 13-year-old girl, and then raping, assaulting and sexually trafficking her for the next 8 years. She also accused  Jawara Brockett and Darrell Dula of raping her. They were also arrested and charged.

The day after she fingered Brockett and Dula, however, the 22-year-old prostitute confessed to detectives that she concocted the accusations against them.  “I once again asked [her] if she was raped,” a detective wrote in a police report after the interview. “She told me ‘no’…”   Then she signed a recantation.

Never mind. Even though they knew a conviction would be impossible after the alleged victim and accuser had recanted her own account, prosecutors continued to pursue the case. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Judge Barbara Jaffe

Yes, it's true this teacher wrote on Facebook that she wished her fifth grade students DEAD, but the comment was only meant for her friends to see, and hey, just because she hates them doesn't mean she can't teach it's OK. Right, Judge?

New York Judge Barbara Jaffe disagrees with me on the issue I discussed here regarding Natalie Munroe, the elementary school teacher who still has her job despite professing her contempt and dislike for her elementary students and their parents on her blog. Thanks to Jaffe, Christine Rubino, whose online comments about her students were infinitely worse, has won a court challenge to her firing from her job teaching at PS 203 in Brooklyn, New York. The judge is wrong, and I am right. The judge is also a fool.

Imagine: last March,  the day after a 12-year-old Harlem schoolgirl drowned during a class trip to a Long Island beach, Rubino posted a vicious rant about her fifth-graders on her Facebook page. “After today,” she wrote, ” I’m thinking the beach is a good trip for my class. I hate their guts.”

A Facebook friend quickly asked, “Wouldn’t you throw a life jacket to little Kwami?” Kwami was the child who drowned. The 38-year teacher replied: “No I wouldn’t for a million dollars.” Continue reading