Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/4/2019: Mass Shootings, Teddy’s Grace, Skaters’ Peril, California’s Cheat

“Never on a Sunday” just doesn’t apply to the ethics biz.

Historical note: in 1960, the English language version of the title song from the hist Greek comedy “Never on a Sunday” was constantly on the radio. My friends were singing it; the song won the Oscar for Best Song. Nobody seemed to mind, or bothered to tell all the kids singing the cheerful earworm, that the song was about a prostitute who wouldn’t accept payment to be boinked on a Sunday. The translated song’s word “kiss” was a euphemism.

1. That bastion of ethics, California! Senator Kamala Harris has come under fire for pursuing aggressive prosecution policies while California Attorney General, in stark contrast to he campaign rhetoric regarding mass incarceration of minorities.  Now the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has removed many of the more controversial arrest records during her term in office. from the  Washington Free Beacon:

The department removed public access to a number of reports on incarceration in the state, including when presidential candidate Kamala Harris (D.) was California’s attorney general. Twice a year, the CDCR releases information about the number of new individuals incarcerated in the California prison system as part of its “Offender Data Points” series. These reports provide important information on demographics, sentence length, offense type, and other figures relevant to criminal justice and incarceration.Until recently, these reports were publicly available at the CDCR’s websiteA search using archive.org’s Wayback Machine reveals that as of April 25, 2019—the most recent indexed date—ODP reports were available dating back to the spring of 2009. As of August 2019, the same web page now serves only a single ODP report, the one for Spring 2019. The pre-2019 reports have been removed….the reports contain information about Harris’s entire time as state A.G., 2011 to 2017.

As John Travolta memorably says in “Face-Off”: “What a coinky-dink!”

Is this a partisan abuse of power designed to keep information away from the public and the media in support of favored candidate? It is. An ethical recipient of this assistance would condemn it and demand the State records be restored.  In this case, however, it would be more in character for Harris to have requested the purge.

2. Another shooting, another misleading stat. Today’s shooting in Dayton, coming right on top of last week’s El Paso Walmart massacre, has revived the “mass shooting a day” trope that was used repeatedly in 2018. Thus USA Today wrote today that there have been 250 “mass shootings” in 216 days this year. That’s deliberately misleading and deceitful.

The trick seems to be based on the non-partisan Mass Shooting Tracker, which uses the definition of “mass shooting” that includes any time four or more individuals are shot, excluding the shooter. Thus the number is inflated with gang shoot-outs, domestic violence, and incidents like this one, from a high-crime section of President Trump’s favorite city, Baltimore, last month:

“Police responded to a triple shooting in Northwest Baltimore late Saturday that left two males with serious injuries. Shortly before 10:30 p.m., police were dispatched to the 2800 block of Boarman Avenue for a shooting. They found three males with gunshot wounds. One victim was shot in the leg, an injury that was not life-threatening.”

Do you think of the Gunfight at the OK Corral as a mass shooting?  It was by the USA Today standard, though only three men were killed. Two of the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday were shot, so it was a “mass shooting.”

When media outlets and politicians point to a true mass shooting like the one in El Paso, where 20 died and many were wounded by a madman, and say “this is the 250th Mass shooting this year,” that sounds like “we have had 250 shootings like this in 2019.”

And that’s what you are supposed to think. All the better to scare you into giving up your right to personal protection.

3. Teddy Roosevelt and “Mr. Dooley.” In Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “The Bully Pulpit,” she tells the story of how Finley Peter Dunne, the social critic, pundit and humorist who wrote in the voice of the fictional Irish barfly, “Mr. Dooley,” wrote a scathing review of then New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt’s account of his exploits in the Spanish American War, “The Rough Riders.” Dunne mocked Teddy as representing the war as a virtual one-man triumph, and suggested that the book would be better titled, “Alone in Cuba.”

Roosevelt wrote him soon after, saying, “I regret to state that my family and intimate friends are delighted with your review of my book. Now I think you owe me one; and I shall expect that when you next come east you pay me a visit. I have long wanted the chance of making your acquaintance.” They eventually met at the Republican Convention in 1900, and Roosevelt handed him a news scoop:  he would accept the nomination as President McKinley’s running mate.

They remained friends and correspondents even though Dunne, as Dooley, continued to lampoon Teddy. Dunne wrote later, “I never knew a man with a keener humor or one who could take a joke on himself with better grace.”

This is the mark of both a secure and a wise leader, as well as one with a sense of humor and proportion. We have had few such leaders, and fewer such Presidents. Imagine how much better off President Trump would be if he had treated critics like Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee the way Teddy treated Dunne.  Imagine how much better off we all would be.

4. What? Young female athletes handed off by their parents to adult coaches and into unsupervised interaction with older male athletes are often sexually abused? How could that be?  Three-time United States skating champion and Olympic meal winner Ashley Wagner said  this week  John Coughlin, a male figure skater who commited suicide in January,  had sexually assaulted her when she was 17. (Wagner is  28 now.) Writes the Times, “The accusations have further raised concerns that the dynamics of figure skating feed a culture in which young women are all too vulnerable.”

Gee, ya think? It is, has been and will always be irresponsible parenting to send young athletes out of parental oversight into the clutches of strangers because the parents lust for vicarious fame and direct fortune.  At best, even if they avoid the molestation that is too common to ignore, they have been deposited into an unhealthy life path. Today’s Times recounts the story of how young Natalie Wood, being showcased to Hollywood studios by her aggressive stage-mother, was raped twice at an audition when she was 16. Her mother never reported it, lest Natalie be blackballed by the many Harvey Weinsteins in the industry. Women’s sports are no different.

As child star activist Paul Petersen wrote in the only guest post ever to appear here,

“In the Common Law, children are the property of their parents who, in law, “are entitled to the custody, income and services” of the child. The presumption is that parents will not willfully take advantage of their child’s vulnerability, and their inability to disobey. Sadly, the reality faced by children in today’s world is at odds with this presumption.”

This is a much a child endangerment problem as a sexual predator problem.

 

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/30/2019: The More Edition

 

More anti-gun posturing, more diversity deceit, more sympathy for parents who kill their kids in hot cars….more.

1. Leadership Ethics: California Gov. Gavin Newsom shows how not to respond to a tragedy. It has been apparent for some time that Newsom’s objective is to make Jerry Brown look like a thorough and moderate professional by contrast. His reaction to the fatal shooting in Gilroy, California, over the weekend, which took the lives of three people (including two children)  was a) to immediately politicize the tragedy; b) blame Trump, which is pandering gold; c) engage in outrageous hyperbole; d) recycle the silliest of anti-gun tropes, and e) do so while lacing his comments with profanity, because cursing makes bad arguments more persuasive, or something.

Most of his statement before the cameras was inarticulate, stuttering and emotional. Forget about the competent leader’s duty to show calm and professional demeanor so the public knows a capable adult is in control. This is how you signal virtue, and that you care. Once  the honorable Governor of California began talking in complete sentences, this was his approach:

“It’s just an outrage. I can’t put borders up — speaking of borders — in a neighboring state where you can buy this damn stuff legally. How the hell is that possible? [ Comment: How is it possible that states make their own laws, and California doesn’t get to dictate to Nevada? Let’s have a show of state hands to see how many states appreciate Gavin’s state creating a magnet for illegal immigrants, who then can proceed to travel where they wish.] I have no problem with the Second Amendment. [Note: That’s an obvious lie, but we can assume Newsom would say that he supports “sensible gun control,” which in eventually means “no guns.”] You have a right to bear arms but not weapons of goddamned mass destruction. [Note: No rifle, much less single shot rifle, is a weapon of mass destruction, and certainly not a goddamned weapon of mass destruction. This is disinformation, but hey, the governor is hysterical, so give him a break.] You need these damn things for hunting? Give me a break. [Note: The argument that the Second Amendment exists for the benefit of hunters is false, and dishonest, but anti-gun demagogues, especially Democratic governors—New York’s Governor Cuomo has made similar statements—keep recycling it. It convinces ignorant people, you see.] It’s just sickening… the leadership today that just turns a blind eye and won’t do a damn thing to address these issues. [ Translation: “Do something!”] What’s goddamned absent in this country right now is moral authority. [Comment: Whatever that means coming from an official of a party that ridicules and marginalizes religious faith.] California’s doing its part, but Jesus, these guys, the folks in the White House have been supporting the kinds of policies that roll back the work that we’re doing,. [Note: the “policies” Newsom refers to are known as the Bill of Rights.] It keeps happening, over and over and over again, on their damned watch. [Clarification: The shootings happened on Newsom’s watch as well, and before 2017, President Obama’s watch. Newsom didn’t make the “watch” argument then, for some reason]

This was pure, irresponsible demagoguery. As usual, the news media didn’t help by refusing to clarify that the “assault-type weapon” used in the shooting was not the  automatic, military  version of the AK-47 which is illegal, but the legal, single shot version. (“Assault-type” and “assualt-style” mean that the gun looks like an automatic, but isn’t. It is pure deceit. )That would require, however, exposing how ridiculous and dishonest the “weapons of mass destruction” line was. Continue reading

As I Was Saying…Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/11/2019 Continued: Dinosaur Ethics, Bakery Wars, Poor Kamala, and Crazy California

I’m baaack…

Sorry to do this, but there were too many items that I couldn’t post on in the time I had this morning, and if I don’t get them up now, they might get lost…

4. Poll update. I’m amazed that the Bouie op-ed suggesting that we dump Marbury vs Madison and just let Congress pass any unconstitutional law it wants is leading the “worst op-ed” race 3-1 over the “we owe it to all those countries we helped to get out of the Stone Age and to avoid having their citizens  being made into slaves or soap by Hitler toflood the U.S. by the world’s poor, criminal and uneducated” screed. I think Bouie’s fantasy is trivial in the end because it’s impossible, though characteristic of the new Left response to defeat, which is “If you’re losing the game, change the rules.”

The illegal immigration rationalizations are far worse, I think, because they make sense to the ignorant, the addled, and the Californians.

Governor Gavin Newsom released an outline of the state’s 2020 budget  that includes $98 million in new annual spending to make 90,000 previously uninsured illegal immigrants eligible for the state’s Medicaid program Who will pay for  it? Why, citizens who are fined—I mean TAXED…sorry. Chief Justice Roberts!—through an “individual mandate” for not buying health insurance as the law requires. This is pure madness.  California is promising benefits to law-breakers, incentives to breach our borders. What kind of pernicious brain virus would make a sentient human being think this is a good idea, or responsible governance?

[I just deleted an ugly, irresponsible, violent statement expressing how bad I think this is, how perverted the policy makers are who support it, and the fate I posited that the state deserves for moving in this direction. I am abashed that I think such thoughts. Close call.]

5. The Equality Act, and a vendetta. I  support the objectives of the Equality Act, which amends the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include invidious discrimination against anyone base on sexual orientation or identity. I wish I could support the Act itself, but it appears to be so broadly drafted that it would, for example,  force women’s sports to allow males identifying as women, males on the way to being women, and women who reached puberty as males to compete against the old-fashioned variety of female athletes, thus making women’s sports a farce.

I also worry that the LGBTQ Mafia is as interested in punishing holdouts against the emerging cultural norms and bending others to their will as they are in equal treatment under the law. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/10/19: On Chaos, Pots, Bigotry, Hate Speech And Proving the Obvious.

GOOD MORNING!

And hang in there, David.

1. Ethics and Mortality.  My first harsh experience with the random cruelty of life came in 1967, when Red Sox slugger Tony Conigliaro, young, handsome, dating Hollywood starlets, playing for his hometown team and already a local idol while looking like a cinch to have a glorious Hall of Fame career, was hit in the face by an errant fastball thrown by Angels pitcher Jack Hamilton. That moment violently changed the course of Tony C’s  life, which ended with him in a semi-conscious state at the age of 45 after suffering a catastrophic heart attack seven years earlier that left him brain-damaged and disabled. I get choked up every time I think about Tony, but his tragedy taught me hard lessons. Don’t be smug; don’t get cocky. Do all the good you can and make the most of your life as quickly as you can, because random disaster can strike at any time.

I’m not sure that I needed to have that lesson refreshed, especially since it was also a cornerstone of my father’s philosophy that included refusing to worry about what he could not control. Nevertheless, last night came the news that David Ortiz, Red Sox Nation’s beloved “Big Papi,” had been shot in the back in his home town of Santo Domingo.  The assailant was apparently a motorcycle-riding thief (whom bystanders mobbed and held for the police—don’t you love it when that happens?). So far the news on David is promising, but the bullet pierced his stomach and damaged his liver, gall bladder and colon.

Prior to the attack, it would have been difficult to imagine anyone with a better life than Ortiz. He was still young, rich, with a thriving and stable family, recognized everywhere, and universally admired and loved as a symbol of unity and community. Ortiz’s biggest problem, he said in an interview last year, was deciding among the many attractive options  open to him in baseball, business, philanthropy, broadcasting and entertainment.

Well, he’s got bigger problems now.

I just saw an internet poll in which only 54% of the responders knew who David Ortiz is. I wonder how many know about Tony Conigliaro.

I’m depressed now.

2. When trying to defeat Kettle, running Pot may not be the ideal choice. One of the most common mantras of the Trump Deranged is that the President lies so much. One would think, would one not, that this theme would make it incumbent upon those trying to defeat the incumbent to keep their own public lies, hypocrisies and misrepresentations to a minimum. This, apparently, they cannot do.

For a while there the New York Times appeared to have chosen Senator Kamala Harris as its favored candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination, but the paper shows signs of  concluding, as any objective observer should by now, that she is a loser. Harris also does not have a friendly relationship with facts, as a recent Times “factcheck” of her recent statements on the stump demonstrated.

They didn’t find that any recent contentious substantive statement by Harris were true. They did find that three statements were “misleading” and one was an “exaggeration” (when the Times purported to list all of Trump’s mendacities, fudges, fantasies, exaggerations and misleading statements were referred to as “lies”), but this one they didn’t bother to spin: Harris had tweeted,

“Members of our military have already given so much. Raiding money from their pensions to fund the President’s wasteful vanity project is outrageous. Our service members deserve better.”

This is false, sayeth the Times:

“To build his border wall without the approval of Congress, Mr. Trump will draw from an account for military construction projects, a Treasury Department forfeiture fund and a Pentagon drug interdiction program. He has not announced plans to “raid” military pensions.”

To be fair, most of the Democratic field has been lying at a prodigious rate.

3.  Shut up, RBG. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s  remarks at a judges conference in New York last week included praise for rookie Justice Kavanaugh for hiring only women for his team of law clerks.  “Justice Kavanaugh made history by bringing on board an all-female law clerk crew. Thanks to his selections, the Court has this Term, for the first time ever, more women than men serving as law clerks,” she said.

Wow, that’s excellent progress, since we all know that men are toxic, rape-prone, violent,  sex-obsessed blights on humanity, as, in fact, Kavanaugh was accused of being at his confirmation by Justice Ginsburg’s fervent supporters. Kavanaugh’s hiring choices appear to have been grandstanding and pandering to the admirers of RBG who called him a sexual predator.  Ginsburg’s comments are bigoted. Why is having women rather than men as clerks intrinsically  wonderful?

4. Again: Progressives neither understand nor support the First Amendment. At last week’ s California Democratic Party Convention, Resolution 19-05.94 read as follows…

WHEREAS, Protecting First Amendment rights is critical, but is also limited to exclude hate speech using the concept that offending statements first should be viewed through the lens of the party experiencing the hate, and that Jews, LatinX, African-American, Asian Pacific Islander, Muslims, Disabilities and LGBTI communities can be targets of oppression and hate speech for a variety of reasons.

It is fair to say that we have been sufficiently warned that progressives believe that only they are qualified to define “hate speech,” which includes, for example , “Make America Great Again” and “The Triumph of the Will,” as well as, to generalize, any speech they find inconvenient.  Such an exception in the First Amendment would permit the Left to muzzle dissent and opposition using the iron boot of the law…which is exactly what they seem to want to do.

Serious question: How can anyone in their right mind trust these people?

5. Just musing here...but is it ethical to spend scarce research funds to prove what is, or should be, obvious? I know, I know: lots of conventional wisdom is wrong, so many things that “everybody knows” turn out to be false when researchers look closely. Still—does the fact that dog-owners get more exercise than those without dogs really need independent confirmation? If I don’t take my Jack Russell Terrier, Rugby, out for a good 45 minute walk, he will do everything short of pulling a gun on me to exact his revenge. (My previous Jack, Dickens, did pull a gun on me once. I’m not kidding.)

Another recent study revealed the shocking conclusion that people who are attractive and conventionally good-looking have an automatic advantage in all aspects of social interaction over those who are not attractive or disfigured. Is there anyone on Earth who doesn’t know that? Beautiful people know it, and rely on it. Ugly people know it because they experience the bias every day.

 

An Unjust “Three Strikes” Sentence Is Cancelled…After 23 Years

Ken Oliver (R) with his father, post-release.

The theory behind “three strikes” laws is that it  restrains habitual law breakers by upping the risks every time they engaged in their favorite pastime. It makes criminal culpability cumulative: three smaller crimes add up to the same punishment as one big one. These laws first arrived in the 90s, under President Clinton. I remember my reaction at the time was 1) maybe it will work as deterrenceand really reduce crime and 2) if a twice-convicted criminal knows that the third “strike” will send him away for a long time and commits a felony anyway, that’s his choice, and nobody should feel sorry for him.  I admit that I still have vestiges of this rationale lurking in my brain; it’s the Baretta Principle, from the TV show that made Robert Blake a star before he had his wife killed: “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”

Ironically, Blake did do the crime and never had to do the time, but then, he was a star. His career hasn’t been going so well, though.

There is some evidence that “three strikes” laws work. Some states, like California, have recorded dramatic drops in  crime rates since the enactment the measure.  In a 2011 report, Los Angeles reported crime had decreased by half since 1994, when its “habitual felon’ statute went into effect. Data from other studies suggests that this is an illusion. Continue reading

Happy Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/27/19: Conniff, Cohen, California, And Co-opting A Classic

Weekends, unfortunately, are only a rumor when you run a business out of your home…but I’m still HAPPY!

1. “To Kill A Mockingbird” ethics. I asked an old friend and talented director to give me her review of the controversial “To Kill A Mockingbird” on Broadway (previously discussed here, and here…). What I was most interested in was whether the new version (by “The West Wing” auteur and liberal political advocate Adam Sorkin) actually meets the contractual requirement insisted upon by Harper Lee’s estate, that “the Play shall not derogate or depart in any manner from the spirit of the Novel nor alter its characters.”  Well, I knew it would not be; Sorkin and the producer held out for being able to make a “woke” “Mockingbird” reflecting “current sensibilities,” and Lee’s greedy relatives wanted the money more than they cared about what Harper Lee might have wanted, like preserving the integrity of her novel.

Sure enough, my friend reported that the play was full of anachronisms and felt nothing like a story set in a small Southern town in the 1930’s. Most jarring of all, she said, was the oft repeated message that the racially prejudiced individuals in the town were “bad people.” This is the exact opposite of what Atticus Finch tells his daughter in the novel.

2. The GDP. Today the New York Times had the good and unexpected GDP news on its front page, so I’ll retract yesterday’s criticism  of the Times for burying that important news, and evidence of some Trump success. Instapundit pulled out this LA Times article  from 2017. It begins, Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/15/2019: Patriots Day! Jackie Robinson Day!

Good morning!

It’s funny: over at Ann Althouse’s blog, she’s complaining about how there’s nothing to write about. From an ethics perspective, I am finding too much to write about, especially since, unlike Ann, I still have to work for a living.

1. Quick: what does Patriots Day commemorate (and no, it’s not Tom Brady)? My home state of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine (which was once part of the Bay State), and Wisconsin observe the holiday, which honors the twin battles of Lexington and Concord, the confrontations with the British (on April 19, 1775, the day after “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”) that launched the Revolutionary War. I visited both battlefields more times than I could count when I was living in Arlington, Mass., right next to Lexington. That battlefield, what’s left of it, is in the middle of busy streets on all sides; it’s hard to imagine the scene as described in the song above from “1776.” Concord’s battlefield, in contrast, is almost exactly as it was in 1775.

All the publicity, even in Boston, about today will be dominated by the running of the Boston Marathon, but attention should be paid to the inspiring story of how ragtag groups of volunteers faced off against the trained soldiers of the most powerful country on Earth, sending the message that this rebellion would not be so easy to put down.  49 Colonists died, 39 were wounded, and five were unaccounted for. The British lost 73, while 174 were wounded,and 26 were missing.

2. It’s also Jackie Robinson Day. In every MLB game today, every player will wear Jackie’s number 42. The best way to honor Jackie for the rest of us is to tell his story to someone who doesn’t know who Jackie Robinson was, and it is shocking how many such people there are. The film “42” does an excellent job of dramatizing how Jackie broke the color barrier in baseball, simultaneously weakening segregation everywhere. The Ethics Alarms post about Robinson is here. Continue reading