Tag Archives: crime

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/19/18: Unethical Wedding Gifts, The Fairness Conundrum, What Really Makes Students Unsafe, And More

Good Morning!

1 A Not Exactly Hypothetical… A family member is getting married, and the social justice warrior spouse has decreed that no gifts should be sent, just contributions in the happy couples’ name to designated charities and causes, all political, partisan, and ideological. Does this obligate guests to give money to causes and organizations they object to or disagree with? One might be tempted to teach a life-lesson in abuse of power, and pointedly give a contribution to, say, The Family Research Counsel, the NRA, or Paul Ryan’s re-election campaign, but that would be wrong. Wouldn’t it?

2. “Progressive fines” poll update. The percentage of readers who regard so-called “progressive fines” as fairer than fining all law violators the same amount regardless of resources is about 6%, in contracts to 40% who think this is less fair. As I suspected, the schism is driven by the long-standing (and resolvable) arguments over what constitutes “fair” government policies, and whether it is the government’s job to try to make life less unfair. Is it “fair” to treat everyone the same, when we know that life doesn’t treat everyone the same? Are those who argue that life’s unfairness should be addressed by individuals, not society, taking that position because they are winners in life’s chaotic lottery? Can society and governments be trusted to address “unfairness” and inequality without being influenced by the conflicts and biases of the human beings making and carrying out laws and policies. I don’t generally care to spend a lot of Ethics Alarms time or space on abstract ethics questions, but some of them can’t be avoided. You can take the poll, if you haven’t already, here.

3. On the topic of fairness, here is a study that will make you bang your head against the wall: Following on the heels of this discouraging study I posted about on March 3 is this report by researchers at Stanford, Harvard and the Census Bureau, as described here by the New York Times. A taste sufficient to ruin your day: Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Business & Commercial, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Sports

Comment Of The Day: “NOW What? The Most Discouraging News Of All”

The post a week ago regarding the depressing stats tracing black economic progress over the last 50 years deserves examination indefinitely, until some answers besides “It’s all discrimination!”  are identified and confronted. I remain puzzled that the EPI study received such paltry coverage and discussion in the mainstream media, but to be fair,  there were more important stories, like a porn star suing the President.

Chris Marschner opened the topic for focus here, starting out with one area only, home ownership. I said I would post his comment as aq Comment of the Day to prompt similar exploration by the brain-trust here. Chris starts with home ownership. Other categories African Americans still lag in: health, wages,  educational achievement, wealth, employment, and staying out of prison. As Chris says,

“Each one of these issues must be examined individually and the solutions must be integrative.”

This should be a beginning of a discourse, not the end. (I apologize to Chris for taking so long to post it.)

Here is his  Comment of the Day on the post, NOW What? The Most Discouraging News Of All

On home ownership.

I once suggested that certain select section 8 housing voucher recipients be allowed to use the subsidy to offset mortgage payments. Currently, we are transferring wealth from taxpayers to landlords. Why should existing owners of capital be subsidized? Create an approximation of a reverse mortgage in which taxpayers buy a property and the housing voucher is used to amortize the equivalent of a mortgage back to the taxpayer. In this manner we put up the money upfront and the reciepient retires a mortgage equivalent using the voucher, their contributions, and behavioral requirements not much different than what currently exists for section 8 vouchers. Over time this would increase the rate of ownership, increase vesting in all neighborhoods, and at some point the total subsidy is ended for an individual when the mortgage is fully amortized.

Establishing effective criteria regarding eligibility is key. Criteria could include:

  • Must be a married couple,
  • Children, if any must attend school regularly
  • No illicit drug use
  • Recipients must be employed, with at least one full time.

Planning and execution of such a plan requires more than I can develop here.


Filed under Comment of the Day, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Race

NOW What? The Most Discouraging News Of All

From the Washington Post:

Fifty years after the historic Kerner Commission identified “white racism” as the key cause of “pervasive discrimination in employment, education and housing,” there has been no progress in how African-Americans fare in comparison to whites when it comes to homeownership, unemployment and incarceration, according to a report released Monday by the Economic Policy Institute.

In some cases, African-Americans are worse off today than they were before the civil rights movement culminated in laws barring housing and voter discrimination, as well as racial segregation....

Among the study’s shattering findings…

…7.5 percent of African-Americans were unemployed in 2017, compared with 6.7 percent in 1968 — still roughly twice the white unemployment rate.

…The rate of home ownership, one of the most important ways for working- and middle-class families to build wealth, has remained virtually unchanged for African-Americans in the past 50 years. Black home ownership remains just over 40 percent, trailing 30 points behind the rate for whites, who have seen modest gains during that time.

…The share of incarcerated African-Americans has nearly tripled between 1968 and 2016 — one of the largest and most depressing developments in the past 50 years, especially for black men, researchers said. African-Americans are 6.4 times as likely than whites to be jailed or imprisoned, compared with 5.4 times as likely in 1968.

…The wealth gap between white and black Americans has more than tripled in the past 50 years…The typical black family had zero wealth in 1968. Today the median net worth of white families — $171,000 — is 10 times that of black families.

After all the rhetoric, all the safety nets, The Great Society, the Civil Rights Act, nothing. After busing, 50 years of affirmative action and diversity training in employment and educational institution admissions, nothing. After an explosion in the numbers of African American House members, police commissioners, judges, lawyers, doctors, big city mayors, and governors; after home rule in the District of Columbia, after Barack Obama…no progress. After 50 years that saw attitudes on mixed race marriages, cultural representation in academia,  media and entertainment, broadcasting and sports; after Barbara Jordan, Michael Jordan, Bernie Shaw, “The Cosby Show,” Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Serena Williams, Flip Wilson, Johnnie Cochran, Spike Lee, Oprah, Michael Jackson, “Hamilton,” “Scandal,” “The Butler,” “Hallelujah Baby!”, Rhianna, Beyonce, Jay-Z…how can this be possible?

Naturally, the Post article on the report’s first answer is simple: it’s racism, that’s all:

“We have not seen progress because we still have not addressed the issue of racial inequality in this country,” said John Schmitt, an economist and vice president of the Economic Policy Institute, citing the racial wealth gap and continuing racial discrimination in the labor and housing markets. “One of the key issues is the disadvantages so many African-Americans face, right from the very beginning as children.”

If that’s going to be the reflex response to this disaster, then the next 50 years will bring minimal progress as well. There is more, much more, to this multi-level failure of policy, planning, education, leadership and culture. I have mentioned before that just about 50 years ago I took an excellent course on the problems facing African-Americans in the United States. The Professor was a renowned expert in the field, Thomas Pettigrew. It was also the most depressing course I ever took. We studied how poverty and the lack of leadership and positive role models led to crime and destructive cultural norms; how this led in turn to prison and single parent, female-headed families, which encouraged single women to have children, which fed the cycle. We studied various innovative policy initiatives, and why they seemed doomed to failure. Continue reading


Filed under Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership, Race, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

Ethics Alarms Encore: “The Inconvenient Truth About The Second Amendment and Freedom: The Deaths Are Worth It”

[ I wrote this piece in 2012, in response to the reaction at the time from the Second Amendment-hating Left to the shocking murder-suicide of of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Jovan Belcher. Jason Whitlock, then a thoughtful sports columnist iin KC, wrote a much linked and publicized column calling for private ownership of guns to be banned. I was going to update my post, but decided to just put it up again. Some of it is obviously dated (the reference to juvenile Carl in “The Walking Dead,” for example), but I have re-read it, and would not change a word of its substance.]

The shocking murder-suicide of of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Jovan Belcher has once again unleashed the predictable rants against America’s “culture of guns” and renewed calls for tougher firearms laws. Yes, reasonable restrictions on firearms sales make sense, and the ready availability of guns to the unhinged, criminal and crazy in so many communities is indefensible. Nevertheless, the cries for the banning of hand-guns that follow these periodic and inevitable tragedies are essentially attacks on core national values, and they need to be recognized as such, because the day America decides that its citizens should not have access to guns will also be the day that its core liberties will be in serious peril.

Here is Kansas City sportswriter Jason Whitlock, in the wake of Belcher’s demise:

“Our current gun culture ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead. Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it… If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”

I don’t disagree with a single word of this. Yet everything Whitlock writes about guns can be also said about individual freedom itself. The importance of the U.S. “gun culture” is that it is really individual freedom culture, the conviction, rooted in the nation’s founding, traditions, history and values, that each citizen can and should have the freedom, ability and power to protect himself and his family, to solve his or her problems, and to determine his or her fate, without requiring the permission, leave or assistance of the government. Guns are among the most powerful symbols of that freedom. You can object to it, fight it or hate it, but you cannot deny it. Guns are symbols of individual initiative, self-sufficiency and independence, and a culture that values those things will also value guns, and access to guns.

Whitlock’s statement argues for building a counter-America in which safety, security and risk aversion is valued more than individual freedom. There is no doubt in my mind, and the results of the last election confirm this, that public support for such a counter-America is growing. The government, this segment believes, should be the resource for safety, health, financial well-being, food and shelter. It follows that the government alone should have access to firearms. This requires that we have great trust in central government, a trust that the Founders of the nation clearly did not have, but one that a lot of Americans seem ready to embrace. Giving up the right to own guns and entrusting government, through the police and the military, with the sole power to carry firearms represents a symbolic, core abandonment of the nation’s traditional commitment to personal liberty as more essential than security and safety. I would like to see the advocates of banning firearms admit this, to themselves as well as gun advocates, so the debate over firearms can be transparent and honest. Maybe, as a culture, we are now willing to make that choice. If so, we should make it with our eyes open. Continue reading


Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, U.S. Society

Ethics Quiz: Prosecuting Juliet In “Romeo And Juliet 2017”

Last month, on March 14, 11-year old Tysen Benz  read text messages saying that his 13-year-old girl friend had committed suicide. In apparent grief, the 11-year-old boy from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula hanged himself.  In reality, the girl had sent the fake news as a joke. Or as a cruel trick. Or because she was 13.

In the Shakespeare play, to fake her death Juliet took a sleeping potion that made her seem dead. (They didn’t have text messaging then.)

Now, if this was really “Romeo and Juliet,” Juliet would have killed herself too after learning that her boyfriend was dead. Instead,  she is facing criminal charges. Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Wiese says that she is responsible for Tysen’s death, so he is charging her with malicious use of telecommunication service, punishable by up to six months in juvenile detention. He is also charging “Juliet” with using a computer to commit a crime, which carries a sentence of up to a year.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Is this a fair, just and ethical prosecution?

Continue reading


Filed under Childhood and children, Law & Law Enforcement, Literature

From The Ethics Alarms “Blathering Makes You Incoherent So That Those Who Bias Has Made Stupid Think You Are Stupid, Making Them Look Stupid” Files: The Sweden Affair

Here is something apparently nobody noticed from the past two years: Donald Trump doesn’t speak in linear fashion, use words with precision, or think about what he’s saying until it has already left his mouth. Did you not know that? I’ve been complaining about it here for, oh, about five years. (That YouTube video above is Exhibit A) Yet every time he says something garbled and seemingly confused,  journalists and bloggers instantly take what he said literally, and go on a spree. Now, when most politicians say something that makes no sense, as when President Obama’s tongue slipped and he said there were 57 states or Joe Biden, who makes head-scratching comments almost every day, announced at the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner on March 17, 2010, “Barack Obama is the first African-American in the history of the United States of America!” ( Joe forgot that key word, “President”)  it prompts a brief mention, if at all. With politicians whom the news media has decided to take down, however, like Dan Quayle, Sarah Palin, and now the President, there is no such break. Of course these conservative fools meant what they said to express the most senseless thought imaginable.

Now Trump is President, so he is obliged to choose his words especially carefully, and be clear in his meaning. Well, he can’t. He’s communicated in this slovenly, stream-of-consciousness word cloud all his life, and its made him rich, famous, and President. He’s not going to stop. Now, by all means criticize him for this, but not for alleged statements that are bad guesses at what he might be trying to say.

This brings us to The Sweden Affair. Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership

More Fact-Check Ethics, And What It Tells Us About PolitiFact And How Fairly The News Media Will Treat Donald Trump

Just imagine how frustrating it must be to be a stopped clock and have people stiff claim you are wrong one of the few times you are right!

Just imagine how frustrating it must be to be a stopped clock and have people stillclaim you are wrong one of the few times you are right!

Constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh was intrigued when the infamously left-biased “non-partisan fact checking source” Politifact “fact-checked” Donald Trump’s recent assertion that “crime is rising.” The professor did his own fact-checking on the Tampa Bay Times’ verdict that…

“If you look at overall violent and property crimes — the only categories that would seem inclusive enough to qualify as “crime,” as Trump put it — he is flat wrong. In fact, crime rates have been falling almost without fail for roughly a quarter-century. We rate his claim Pants on Fire.”

Volokh’s conclusion? Trump’s statement can not be fairly called “Pants on Fire,” because in regard to violent crime, it’s true. Aggregate crime is not rising, but PolitFact’s statement—“If you look at overall violent and property crime”—is deceptive, and suggests that both violent crime and property crime are falling. (Uh-uh-uh! Bad Fact-Checker! Fact-Checker must not be misleading and deceptive!) Notes the professor: Continue reading


Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement