From The Ethics Alarms “Awwww!” Files: The Happy Shoplifter

At a Whole Foods in New York City,  a woman attempted to steal some food and was detained by supermarket security officers. Three police officers on the scene, however, chipped in and paid for the food she had been seen slipping into her shopping bag.

Naturally the heartwarming scene was  captured in a photo, showing the woman’s tears of gratitude. Their deed, as well as the woman breaking into tears, was captured in a photo that was shot by a customer who described himself as heartened by the unexpected gesture. “It was a nice moment for, you know, people, it was compassionate and the woman obviously was really grateful,” the amateur photographer said.

The police department approves, I guess.  NYPD Chief Terence Monahan tweeted, “Cops like Lt. Sojo and Officers Cuevas and Rivera of the Strategic Response Group are the kind-hearted cops who quietly do good deeds for New Yorkers in need.”

Is this the new department policy then? When officers decide that a thief is in genuine need, they will now pay for the merchandise stolen? I may have rolled out of bed bitter and jaded, but this seems like the “Awww!” Factor, where sentimentally appealing conduct is mistaken for ethical conduct. From the Ethics Alarms glossary: Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Open Forum Ethics III,” Migrant Thread

Mea culpa: I am only now catching up on all of the 144 comments in the December 19 open forum. Once again, the commentariat here covered Ethics Alarms with glory.

The first Comment of the Day from that post comes from a non-U.S. commentator, one of several here, whose perspective is often contrarian but always well-stated.

Here is Andrew Wakeling’s Comment of the Day on the post on the immigration/migrant thread in the post, Open Forum Ethics III:

There is something unsettling about foreigners (or rather those outside our community being accorded ‘rights’) that impose on ‘us’.

Migrants are drowning as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean and obtain a better life in Europe. I don’t blame the migrants for trying and some of them may well be escaping quite dreadful conditions. And as a European (at least until March 2019) I broadly support sustainable collective decency, admittedly being quite unclear how this should be done. I am not therefore unsettled by a European Court ruling that migrants rescued by EU vessels must be taken to a safe port. That seems to me to be a quite reasonable codification of a collective decision which I assume (without great confidence) has some democratic legitimacy. (ie. ‘We’ have decided.)

But I am more than unsettled by the claim, as in an NYT opinion piece today that migrant drownings show that: “European governments are avoiding their legal and moral responsibilities to protect the human rights of people fleeing violence and economic desperation”. Continue reading

Encore: On the Importance Of Christmas To The Culture And Our Nation : An Ethics Alarms Guide

[As promised, here is the Ethics Alarms Christmas package, lightly revised, last posted three years ago]

I don’t know what perverted instinct it is that has persuaded colleges and schools to make their campuses a Christmas-free experience. Nor can I get into the scrimy and misguided minds of people like Roselle Park New Jersey Councilwoman Charlene Storey, who resigned over the city council’s decision to call its Christmas tree lighting a Christmas Tree Lighting, pouting that this wasn’t “inclusive,” or the  CNN goon who dictated the bizarre policy that the Christmas Party shot up by the husband-wife Muslim terrorists had to be called a “Holiday Party.”  Christmas, as the cultural tradition it evolved to be, is about inclusion, and if someone feels excluded, they are excluding themselves.  Is it the name that is so forbidding? Well, too bad. That’s its name, not “holiday.” Arbor Day is a holiday. Christmas is a state of mind. [The Ethics Alarms Christmas posts are here.]

Many years ago, I lost a friend over a workplace dispute on this topic, when a colleague and fellow executive at a large Washington association threw a fit of indignation over the designation of the headquarters party as a Christmas party, and the gift exchange (yes, it was stupid) as “Christmas Elves.” Marcia was Jewish, and a militant unionist, pro-abortion, feminist, all-liberal all-the-time activist of considerable power and passion. She cowed our pusillanimous, spineless executive to re-name the party a “holiday party” and the gift giving “Holiday Pixies,” whatever the hell they are.

I told Marcia straight out that she was wrong, and that people like her were harming the culture. Christmas practiced in the workplace, streets, schools and the rest is a cultural holiday of immense value to everyone open enough to experience it, and I told her to read “A Christmas Carol” again. Dickens got it, Scrooge got it, and there was no reason that the time of year culturally assigned by tradition to re-establish our best instincts of love, kindness, gratitude, empathy, charity and generosity should be attacked, shunned or avoided as any kind of religious indoctrination or “government endorsement of religion.”  Jews, Muslims, atheists and Mayans who take part in a secular Christmas and all of its traditions—including the Christmas carols and the Christian traditions of the star, the manger and the rest, lose nothing, and gain a great deal.

Christmas is supposed to bring everyone in a society together after the conflicts of the past years have pulled them apart. What could possibly be objectionable to that? What could be more important than that, especially in these especially divisive times? How could it possibly be responsible, sensible or ethical to try to sabotage such a benign, healing, joyful tradition and weaken it in our culture, when we need it most?

I liked and respected Marcia, but I deplore the negative and corrosive effect people like her have had on Christmas, and as a result, the strength of American community. I told her so too, and that was the end of that friendship. Killing America’s strong embrace of Christmas is a terrible, damaging, self-destructive activity, but it is well underway. I wrote about how the process was advancing here, and re-reading what I wrote, I can only see the phenomenon deepening, and hardening like Scrooge’s pre-ghost heart. Then I said… Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/16/18: Big Lies, Bad Precedents, And Good Bias (Apparently: I Guess I Just Don’t Understand)

Good Morning!

(You can tell I’m starting to feel better, because the morning warm-up is actually appearing before noon… I had an unavoidable early morning conference call, and I’m hoping to get the post up before I crash.)

1. Regarding the hypothetical Hillary pardon briefly discussed in the previous post…An esteemed commenter corrected me in the comment thread when I stated incorrectly that the object of a Presidential pardon couldn’t refuse the gift: the 1915 SCOTUS case of Burdick v. US says otherwise. The case is one more example of how a bad decision can become settled law. From the New York Times:

The story behind the 1915 case is little known but very relevant today. It involved the city editor of The New York Tribune, George Burdick, who…flatly refused to testify before a federal grand jury about his sources for an article on fraud in the United States Custom House in New York. He said he might incriminate himself in his testimony. The federal prosecutor saw a quick pardon as the answer to this problem, and President Woodrow Wilson agreed.

Wilson gave Burdick “a full and unconditional pardon for all offenses against the United States” he might have committed in connection with the article and for any other matter the grand jury might ask him about. That would seem to have let Burdick off the hook, but he still didn’t want to testify. He refused to accept the pardon, and was locked up for contempt.

The case went to the Supreme Court, which held that Burdick was within his rights and ordered him discharged. In doing so, the court embraced Chief Justice John Marshall’s 1833 definition of a pardon as “a private, though official” act of grace whose validity depended on its acceptance: “It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered; and if it be rejected, we have discovered no power in a court to force it on him.”

Marshall’s pronouncements, in United States v. Wilson, were pure dicta — nonbinding observations — but the courts treated them as gospel. In the Burdick case, the court likewise held that “a pardon, to be effective, must be accepted” because it “carries an imputation of guilt; acceptance a confession of it.” This made Marshall’s view the law of the land.

The problem is that both Marshall’s definition and the court’s 1915 reinforcement of it were bad history and tortured logic. Acceptance of a pardon should not be a confession of guilt, especially if there is documentation of innocence. The “imputation of guilt” would disappear if acceptance of a pardon were not required. If one has no choice but to take a pardon, it would become like a grant of immunity, and thus would be noncommittal.

There is nothing in the Constitution that gives a person the prerogative to turn down a pardon, and strong support in the Constitutional debates for the president’s having an unfettered power to grant one. “The benign prerogative of pardoning should be as little as possible fettered or embarrassed,” Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist No. 74. Even more to the point, the framers turned down an effort to limit the power to pardons “after conviction” because they wanted to make it useful for law enforcement. That is, of course, exactly what President Wilson tried, and was told he couldn’t do, in the Burdick case.

So Hillary could turn down a Presidential pardon for her crimes related to flouting the law regarding classified material.

2. Run, Kamala, run! One of the awful alternatives the Democrats have as they paint themselves into the requirement of nominating a woman as their candidate in 2020, California Senator Kamala Harris, highlighted her awfulness while questioning Ronald D. Vitiello, the acting director at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as he appeared before the Senate Homeland Security Committee as it weighed his nomination to become permanent ICE director. She deliberately compared ICE to the KKK in this exchange:

Vitiello: “The Klan was what we could call today a domestic terrorist group.”

 Harris: “Why? Why would we call them a domestic terrorist group?”

Vitiello: “Because they tried to use fear and force to change the political environment.”

Harris: “And what was the motivation for the use of fear and force?”

Vitiello: “It was based on race and ethnicity.”

Harris: “Right. And are you aware of the perception of many about how the power and discretion at ICE is being used to enforce the law and do you see any parallels?”

There are no parallels between the KKK and ICE, and Harris’s assertion that “many” see such parallels is one more example on the growing list of Big Lies being wielded by the Left to spread fear and misinformation. I heard Geraldo Rivera say this morning that Harris was “too smart” to make such a comparison, which he characterized as slander. Obviously she is not too smart to make the comparison, since she made it. She’s too smart to believe that the comparison is fair, but unethical and irresponsible enough to suggest it anyway.

3. Here’s one reason why I don’t have more Ethics Heroes. I’ve already written twice about the deteriorating saga of the kind homeless veteran  and the woman he helped who raised money to let him turn his life around.. It began as a heartwarming Ethics Hero saga, then rotted into a tale of greed, ingratitude, betrayal and exploitation. By August of last year, this was the suddenly depressing story…

Johnny is back living under a bridge, panhandling for change. GoFundMe is investigating whether McClure and her live-in boyfriend absconded with most of the donations, which eventually amounted to about $400,000. Johnny claims that his once grateful benefactor and friend have been spending the money that was supposed to ensure, in Kate’s memorable words, that “his life can get back to being normal….”

Now the story is worse still:

The New Jersey couple who became famous for raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for a homeless man after he helped with their disabled car — as did the homeless man himself — will all face charges for allegedly providing a false story in order to raise money for themselves, a source familiar with the case told NBC10. Mark D’Amico, Kate McClure and Johnny Bobbitt Jr. will face charges including conspiracy and theft by deception, according to the source. A complaint obtained by NBC10 alleges that the three conspired with one another to make up a false story in order to raise more than $400,000.

Sigh.

4. Now that’s acceptable gender bias discrimination. Somehow. I guess. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said Wednesday that a congresswoman besides Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) should be the House Speaker.  “There’s plenty of really competent females that we can replace her with,” Ryan told reporters, before listing people such as Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) as potential candidates, The New York Times reported. I dare anyone to try to explain what one’s sex organs and chromosomes has to do with being a capable Speaker of the House. Bias not only makes you stupid, it makes you ridiculous and hypocritical. As for Marcia Fudge: oh, GOOOOOD choice there, Tim!

Ethics Hero: Red Sox Rightfielder Mookie Betts

I guess in fairness I owe the Red Sox this one, after yesterday’s post.

Mookie Betts, the young Red Sox star widely assumed to be the American League MVP once the votes are tallied, had three hits in Game 2 of the World Series this week, and after the game, joined his cousin delivering food to the homeless outside the Boston Public Library. Betts did not summon reporters and photographers to the scene, in the immortal tradition of Babe Ruth, who always seemed to have a scribe nearby when he promised a sick kid at the hospital a home run that day. In the Boston tradition of Ted Williams, who regularly visited juvenile cancer patients without fanfare, Mookie did his charity work anonymously, wearing a hoodie so he would not be recognized. Someone recognized him nonetheless—this was Boston, after all, and Mookie is especially recognizable, so the local media got the story anyway.

Mookie seems too good to be true: he’s always modest and humble, he’s polite, he’s astoundingly talented, he’s nice, and he’s so  cute. I’m afraid to hope he’ll stay that way; Boston has had other lovable young stars who gradually became insufferable as their fame and paychecks increased (see Clemens, Roger). Mookie seems like the real thing, but you never know. For now, at least, he’s a terrific role model, not just for young baseball fans, but for other players and celebrities, present and future.

 

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/1/18: Ethics Is Like Making Hamburger…[UPDATED]

Hello September!

1. More fake news, future news, and “if you hate Trump, you’ll like this” news. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!

Ann Althouse performs an expert take-down of an inexcusable piece of hackery by Megan McArdle in the Washington Post titled “Poll by sinking poll, Trump inches toward impeachment.”

[The wrong link to Althouse was up yesterday: it’s fixed now.]

How I love it when other do my work for me: Ann has been getting increasingly eccentric, but here she is at her best. Read both McArdle’s trash and Ann’s defenestration of it, but here are some key points from Althouse:

  • “what made me want to blog this is the first line of the column, “By any metric, Trump is in trouble,” which is followed by:

A poll out from The Post and ABC on Friday shows that 60 percent of voters disapprove of the job he’s doing as president, a new low. But that’s just one poll; the polling average at statistician Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight shows Trump with a mere 53.4 percent disapproval rating, which is better than its 56.8 percent peak last December.

So there’s an obvious “metric” — the famous Nate Silver metric — by which Trump is doing better than last December, but “By any metric, Trump is in trouble”?!

  • But a presidency is not in good shape when the best spin on the new poll is “It’s an outlier! Only 53 percent of the country thinks the president is terrible.” The poll is especially ugly for Republicans with midterms looming in two months.

No. 53 percent didn’t say “the president is terrible.” They said “disapprove” when asked whether they approve of disapprove. And they might disapprove of other options too, such as impeachment or even (if it could be magically possible) Hillary for President.

  • More McArdle:

It’s all too easy to imagine a similar scenario for Democrats intent on impeaching Trump as they come up short looking for Republicans to help them make it across the finish line. But it’s not entirely impossible to picture a few Republicans going along….

We’ve gone from “by any metric” to “it’s not entirely impossible.” Come on! Were we not supposed to read this far into the column? WaPo is all headlines and first lines these days. Get your hit, and maybe you can face another day with Trump as President.

Ann’s last line is spot-on, and describes exactly what social media is like these days. Oooo! Trump flew the White House flag full-mast a couple of days early! What a monster! …What? People say Trump doesn’t like Jeff Sessions’ accent? He’s horrible!Hey! The Trump Administration is doing pretty much exactly what the Obama administration did, but it’s Trump, so now it’s wrong!”

2. More Aretha Franklin Ethics. Even a funeral of a beloved pop star can’t proceed without manufactured outrages, controversies and PC offenses. Bishop Charles H. Ellis, III, felt that he had to apologize for touching singer Ariana Grande like this after she performed during the funeral service for Aretha Franklin…

The funny thing is that this could indeed constitute sexual harassment in a workplace setting, if the singer decided that the touch—unconsented, arguably a mini-grope–was “unwelcome.” So the Bishop had to grovel, which he did, saying,

“It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast. … I don’t know I guess I put my arm around her,” Ellis said. “Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize….I hug all the female artists and the male artists. Everybody that was up, I shook their hands and hugged them. That’s what we are all about in the church. We are all about love. The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin.”

Continue reading

Well, It Was Heart-Warming While It Lasted: The “Ethics Hero Epic” Turns Sour

In the November 2017 post titled, An Ethics Hero Epic: Johnny Bobbitt, Jr, Kate McClure, And Americans, Ethics Alarms told the inspiring story of how homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt gave his last dollar (twenty of them, to be accurate), to stranded motorist Kate McClure of Bordentown, New Jersey, who was driving through Philadelphia to visit a friend when her car ran out of gas in a tough section of the city. In gratitude, McClure started a GoFundMe campaign for her rescuer, writing,

I would like to get him first and last month’s rent at an apartment, a reliable vehicle, and 4-6 months worth of expenses. He is very interested in finding a job, and I believe that with a place to be able to clean up every night and get a good night’s rest, his life can get back to being normal.

When I wrote the post, her campaign had attracted donations totaling almost $380,000.

Makes you want to cry!

Not as much as this does, though…

Johnny is back living under a bridge, panhandling for change. GoFundMe is investigating whether McClure and her live-in boyfriend absconded with most of the donations, which eventually amounted to about $400,000. Johnny claims that his once grateful benefactor and friend have been spending the money that was supposed to ensure, in Kate’s memorable words, that “his life can get back to being normal.” Continue reading